The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Black and white and red all round the shins

23 November 2018

I’m in my mid-thirties, so I don’t class myself as old or young in footballing terms. I’m not a dinosaur pining for the good old days but, man, if there’s one thing that’s really pissing me off these days it’s international teams doing everything they can to play their matches in kits that are just one colour.

Forget the red shirts of ’66. Forget the blue shorts of ’96. England now play in all white wherever possible. The Netherlands don’t care for white shorts any more – it’s orange all the way down. I know France are Les Bleus but, come on, you used to wear white shorts too. And what was with Croatia’s all-black outfit last Sunday? They had red socks, I suppose.

Your West Yorkshire Diary enjoys the fact that Grimsby Town play in black and white stripes. Only Newcastle and Notts County in England's top 92 share the same colours, and that’s why the red socks are so important. It makes us unique – just as our badge is unique. Just as our ground is unique. Just as our traditions are unique. Football is about identity, and we’ve got a strong one. Black and white stripes. Black shorts. Red socks. Three fish on the shirt. We only sing when we’re fishing. Why would anyone want to watch a team that looks like any other team, playing in a stadium that looks like any other stadium?

A few years ago I accidentally stumbled upon the Homes of Football exhibition in Ambleside, which then moved to Manchester. It was brimming with pictures of old football grounds, brilliantly captured by Stuart Roy Clark. The unsymmetrical charm and adorable imperfections of many of this country’s old grounds were recorded, including the likes of Roker Park, the Vetch Field and the Baseball Ground. You can find some wonderful images of Blundell Park on there but it’s well worth having a browse beyond our spiritual home to remind yourself of how football looked and felt before it became awash with cash.

I think football has become better in some respects, and I’m not totally against change (if you can’t keep up with the lingo then check out our guide to modern football) but the driving force behind change hasn’t always come from the right place – and that spews out quite obviously when you take a snapshot of today's riches at the top and the struggles at the bottom. After looking at all those brilliant photos of long-gone grounds it makes me wonder, in this world of identikit stadiums, perfect pitches and prawn sandwiches, whether the concept of home advantage has been diluted. Anyone with any facts and statistics on this is welcome to get in touch with us.

An uncomplimentary feature that’s slowly been defining our identity these days is our lack of goals – particularly in the second half. It's something we've been able to turn around in recent matches; there were three to enjoy in the FA Cup victory over the franchise, and then Akheem Rose followed that up with a late strike to win all three points against Creepy Crawley last Saturday.

Now that we've addressed the problem at home, it'd be really good to see us flip the form book on its head and catch everyone by surprise by scoring the other side of half time on our travels, starting tomorrow at Northampton. As things stand, Charles Vernam's injury-time strike at Macclesfield remains the only second-half goal we've scored in the league on our travels. In fact, we've scored just two goals in our last seven league games at any time, and one of them was an own goal.

I obviously have one clear memory of playing Northampton. It came at a time when it was regarded as neither silly nor extraordinary that two such clubs could compete for the right to play in England’s second division. Eight months after that Wembley win we found ourselves in the play-offs and pushing for the Premier League. I have an old copy of the Sports Telegraph which has us sitting fourth in the table on Saturday 16 January 1999 after beating Oxford 1-0.

Back to today, and Michael Jolley appears to have the majority of his squad available, bar Reece Hall-Johnson, Akin Famewo and long-term absentee Elliott Whitehouse. As someone who can't get to matches much these days, I struggled to work out what formation we were playing and who was playing where when our line-up was announced last weekend against Crawley. To be honest, I haven't got a clue who'll start for us.

McKeown, Collins and Thomas appear to be the first names on the teamsheet, closely followed by Clifton, and I'd imagine Embleton will slot straight back in. After that, who knows? Maybe that's a good thing. If we can't work out who'll start then Keith Curle has no chance. Expect a low-scoring first half; eight of our nine away games have featured just one goal or no goals at all by the break, and the stat is exactly the same for the Cobblers' home record.

Who knows what'll happen in the second half? If you're going, the message is always the same: I hope you're rewarded. Just when you think we're predictable, we do something a bit unpredictable – and it's these moments of unpredictability that we live for. It’s what keeps us following the team, week after week, across the country.

Here's to a first-half goal fest and three points. UTM!