Cod Almighty | Diary
14 November 2017
Middle-Aged Diary has a vivid memory from our defeat by Cheltenham in the 2006 play-off final. With the exception of goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall, Town had been abject all game. With minutes to go, we trailed 1-0.
Then Curtis Woodhouse got the ball, 40 yards from goal. He chested the ball down and made a beeline for the Cheltenham goal, gathering steam. We rose as he neared the penalty area, defenders converging on him, space and opportunity opening up. But, in his own mind, Woodhouse was an unstoppable force. Blind to other options, he drove into the Cheltenham defence. Like someone pricking an already-sagging balloon, he was dispossessed, the chance gone.
Some might admire the drive, the passion. In a younger player, you might have said "he'll learn". To my mind, though, it is of a piece with the manager of a team in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division who can say: "I'm a leader... but there's probably three managers in the world who I'd work with as a number two, and Russell is one of those three" – an example of monstrous self-regard.
The memory is only partly provoked by the hour of speculation that Woodhouse could have been rejoining Grimsby as a first-team coach. In a needlessly obnoxious statement – so rude, in fact, that you wonder what they might be trying to hide – the club has dismissed the idea.
Really, though, my thoughts are still with the 255 Town fans who turned up at Exeter only to find that the players had not. It has set me thinking of let-downs. They come in two flavours.
There are the big occasions, like the Cheltenham game, or the relegation-consigning defeat at Tranmere two years before, when the team simply shows no recognition of what the game means. Town took the lead at Tranmere – just three players celebrated. And I think it was Woodhouse, again, who told the press that the players' night out after losing to Cheltenham was one of the best he had experienced.
Then there are games like Saturday's, where you travel with no expectations, only a faint hope that it might not be as bad as you fear, then find that the reality leaves you numb, with the feeling you have been cheated of a day. It goes the other way often enough, of course, that there will still, always, be a next time. But let's wallow in our self-pity a little longer: what are your most dispiriting moments following Town? Which matches have taken the most inordinate effort to attend and left you feeling too despondent even to be angry?