Cod Almighty | Diary
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?
16 May 2018
When an overachieving football club becomes an underachieving football club, it's understandable if the gaze of its supporters comes to rest disproportionately more on the recent past than on the present.
This was what Paul Hurst had in mind when he said Town fans had been "spoilt". Even today, with Hurst on the brink of a Buckleyesque achievement in taking little Shrewsbury to the second tier, many of his Grimbarian naysayers continue to downplay his merits with the argument that his teams weren't very entertaining to watch. Well, duh: Town were a non-League football team; there's only so much skilful play you were likely to see. We were comparing the underachieving Mariners of the 2010s with their overachieving predecessors of the 1990s. It wasn't fair or reasonable for us to do so, but it was understandable.
This is also why we seem increasingly to be bombarded with reminders that it's 20 years or 15 years or 30 years to the day since something happened which was much better than everything that happens now. Happy Phil Jevons Day. Happy Wayne Burnett Day. Happy days are here again – not down there on the pitch; just when our memories are jogged by a tweet and an archive photo.
Yesterday we were asked to join in a collective act of reminiscence for a far more recent happy day – that of the 2016 Conference play-off final – though given all that has happened since, it seems a lot more than two years ago. We know James McKeown is a good goalkeeper, but as we hold our breaths on his contract negotiations we know that the question of whether he remains in DN35 is far wider-reaching than that.
Rather than wait another two or three weeks for his due date, your original/regular Diary's first-born, Baby Diary, came into the world on a Saturday afternoon when Town didn't have a game, which was very considerate of him. His first GTFC matches were three years ago, in the play-off campaign that ended at the hands of Bristol Rovers. (Ten minutes after he burst into tears at the end of the penalty shoot-out, he had an ice-cream in his hand and he'd fairly comprehensively moved on. We could probably all learn something from this.)
Baby Diary will be 10 later this year. When Nathan Arnold scored that goal, it was the first time he'd seen his dad cry. Last night we re-watched Town's How We Were Promoted video and I got a bit emosh all over again. On the morning of the game he told me he didn't want to go this time, because why go all the way to London to see us lose on penalties again. We won't, I told him. How do you know, he asked. I just know, I said. This time we're going to win. I just know.
Watch a match again on video and the outcome feels somehow preordained, as if it could never have turned out any other way. But if Arnold and his brothers hadn't been successful that day, my first-born might never have trusted me again.
Look at our final league table of the current season and Town's 18th place looks comfortable, as if we'd never been in danger of sliding out of the 92 again, perhaps to settle thereafter into a continuing decline in the way of Stockport or Bradford Park Avenue. But if we hadn't won that penalty against Chesterfield five weeks ago, there might have been no way back.
Gentle Oldhamesque stability is not the GTFC way. We do not exist in gentle stasis, nodding like cows chewing the grass. We are forever in the lowest depths or the utmost heights. And if neither condition is justified by events, we will dismantle the world we see around us and reassemble it in an altered form in order to continue the Grimbarian's binary think-habit of despair or euphoria.
For current evidence you need look no further than the extravagant prognosis for next season being put forward by many Town fans on the back of the briefest spell of good form at the end of the current term.
Just like you, I'm impressed by Michael Jolley, and we would all love to see his side kick on to the right end of the fourth division table next season. Either way, I'll settle for a year or two of neither under- nor overachievement. Continuing to exist will do me for a little while, at least. With everything that goes on around our football club, that would be an achievement in itself.