The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Pissing on lions at Trafalgar Square

11 January 2019

"I don’t know what your problem is with B-teams," replied a Watford-supporting colleague, who hasn’t been to a single Watford match since they returned to the Premier League because – and I quote – "we are boring as fuck these days".

Yes, we had a good debate about B-teams in the office earlier this week. It's his opinion that B-teams would be good for the game because they’d allow big Premier League teams the chance to give those hundreds of young players they stockpile a chance to play proper first-team football.

Good for the game, or good for the small handful of teams that think they run the sport? Many of those young players can already enjoy the chance of playing proper first team football in the lower leagues through the existing loan market, so what's the real problem here? And why is it up to clubs like Grimsby to solve a problem that Premier League teams brought on themselves?

He didn't understand why playing B-teams would devalue my club. He didn't understand how B-teams could ultimately kill clubs and the communities they serve. In fact, it surprised me how little he understood or even cared about the plight of us "boring teams that spend their whole lives scraping survival."

Now, he's either saying these things because he either believes them, or because he enjoys winding your West Yorkshire Diary right up. And I’m fairly sure it's the latter. But it did make me consider the wider issue here, which is that, like it or not, there are plenty more people that think like him. In fact, the majority of ignorant armchair football fans probably think like him, and ignorant armchair football fans will quite comfortably outnumber us ardent, match-going, dyed-in-the-wool football fans.

It makes you wonder what football will be like in 2030. Our away match at Stoke Under-21s hits the headlines after its attendance of 504 was actually higher than its viewing figures on some obscure internet channel, despite it being a Thursday 5pm kick-off. The first £1m-a-week player is caught pissing on those lions at Trafalgar Square while shouting "I do what I want" on a night out and no one even cares. And by taking over the reins at Rotherham, Steve Bruce becomes the first man to have managed every professional football club in the North. His stint with Town, after Michael Jolley returned to stock trading, ended following the notorious "Bruces Out" campaign led by that angry shouty bloke in the Main Stand.

Whatever form that tenebrous world may take, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Mariners will still be playing at Blundell Park and John Fenty will still be bleating on about Peaks Parkway – perhaps while perched on the edge of a snooker table.

Right, onto today’s stuff. Michael Jolley has been announced as the fourth division manager of the month, which was the correct decision in my totally biased view given the competition. It was a season-defining December, which flipped us from being relegation candidates to the team capable of making a late surge for the play-offs (because, we're told, there's always a team that comes from nowhere).

Meanwhile, Wes Thomas’s super strike at Port Vale has been nominated for the fourth division’s goal of the month. It's a lovely strike and, for once, the camera angle does it complete justice. This award won't be judged by an "expert panel" so the decision rests with the fans. It was a goal worthy of your time to click a link and register your vote, so don't forget to do it. You may have to scroll down the page a bit – and, if you have time, the other two strikes he's up against are worth a watch.

Tomorrow sees the visit of Macclesfield Town – an admirable team from Cheshire that, despite tight finances, always finds a way to compete at our level. Our first ever meeting was relatively recently, in September 2004, and in that time we've come up against them 21 times, winning five and losing eight.

Interestingly, they did the double over us in our promotion season, which I totally didn't realise. They themselves got out of non-League last season by winning the division under John Askey, who, it was rumoured, had been approached to take the vacant manager's job at Town last February. He remained at Moss Rose and led his side to automatic promotion, before he headed to Shrewsbury in the summer. There he lasted 21 games and, spookily, matched our record against Macclesfield by winning five and losing eight.

The Silkmen are now managed by Sol Campbell, who didn't get the Town gig last season. There were pangs of relief when we passed on the former England defender, who released one too many weird videos for me to believe that he was the sound and sensible choice to repair our broken club and take it forward.

However, he's made a fairly decent start to the job given their atrocious start to the season and Macc now look good to make a fist of this relegation fight. Plus, when you consider that we've actually lost our last four home games against the Silkmen – all while we were non-League – Saturday's game might not be quite as simple as we're hoping.

Despite that record, there's no part of me that has ever considered Macclesfield a bogey side. Maybe that's because, as a League club, we've never lost to them at Blundell Park in six games. However, we've drawn five of them. Our one victory against them in 10 on home soil came in 2005-6 when Gary Cohen, Tom Newey and the Lump registered in a 3-1 win. The Silkmen's scorer that night was none other than a young (but still hefty) Jon Parkin.

There’s an outside chance that we might be able to name a central defender in the starting XI tomorrow, if one of Danny Collins and Akin Famewo pass late fitness tests. Maybe both will strut out of the tunnel. Harry Davis is still out following concussion protocol while Alex Whitmore and Andrew Fox are serving suspensions.

If you haven’t yet got your ticket for the game, don’t forget you can get a few quid off as the club reduced prices on the back of that fantastic showing at Palace. The fans put a real shift in last Saturday to make a game in the arse end of London with no hope of returning to Grimsby that night using public transport, and we're all skint following Christmas, but for once we have a group of players that means, whatever the result, it’ll be money well spent because you just know they’ll give their all.

Enjoy the match and UTM!