The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Not with a bang but a grumble

11 April 2019

Casual Diary writes: There has been much debate this week over the position of the manager, the team’s commitment and who should be playing.

As a regular attendee of away games, there is an increasing disparity in the level of support the team receives on its travels compared to Blundell Park. I sit in roughly the same place I previously stood in the Pontoon, apart from a season- long exile in the naughty boys corner of the Main Stand. I approach home games nowadays with trepidation. It isn’t because I no longer attend expecting a Town victory: decades of Fenty failure mean that ship sailed long ago. It’s because I know It will be take a Herculean effort not to bite when those around me shout out something so stunningly ridiculous it deserves a response.

During Saturday's admittedly soulless performance a regular moaner in my vicinity repeatedly shouted to the manager to remove his hands from his pockets. Now I may not have even taken the time to go on a McDonalds coaching course but I played at a reasonable level (Div1 Sunday). And I am pretty sure that Michel Jolley taking his hands out of his pockets would not have transformed Cardwell into Harry Kane nor improved 38-year-old Danny Collins' pace or spring.

This is just one example of the many just pointless moans you get at Blundell Park. Each game we are exhorted to be the twelfth man when in truth most games at BP are played in a disenchanted silence, or we actually become the opposition 12th man with our disgruntlement.

The contrast with the support received away is stark. The game at Blundell Park on Saturday was not vastly different from the game at Boundary Park the previous week. In each game Town had two decent chances to take the lead before the opposition scored. Had we done so it may well have been a different game. At Boundary Park even after having spurned two more very good chances to equalise and conceded a soft second the support never faltered. Not only did it not falter, after the second goal it got louder with particular emphasis on support for the manager. The support was indeed so good that fans of Oldham were quick to praise it on social media, many describing the best support at Boundary Park that season.

Oldham was not the only example this season. We got absolutely buried at Bury (no pun intended). The support did not degenerate into the shouting of pointless tips to the manager or wholesale criticism of individual players. Now I am not saying that those who follow away regularly are better supporters than any other Town fan but they are certainly less critical. There are of course incidents were this is not true but that is usually when we have a significantly larger following than say 750.

It may be the case that it does not make any significant difference. Town’s away form is hardly anything exceptional. But it does make a more pleasurable experience, and therein lies the lament.

It used to be the case that the atmosphere created at Blundell Park was borderline intimidating. The noise generated from all corners of the ground was second to few and certainly none at the level we currently languish. Even in previous stints in the bottom tier, a visit to Blundell Park meant noise from the Main Stand corner, The Pontoon and the upper and lower Findus. Going back further, the Barrett Stand was not a place a visiting winger or fullback could perform without being aware of the hostility just a few feet away even in run-of-the-mill games.

It is this lack of atmosphere that to me epitomises the malaise and downward spiral the club is currently trapped in. The years of Fenty failure have left the support accepting of the previously unacceptable. Our previous visits to the bottom tier of English football have all been brief: 1968-72 being the previous longest stay. We have now been down for 13 years, including six outside the League. There is no sign of the majority shareholder either investing or selling, each investor dismissed without explanation as not good enough.

The new ground seems as far away as possible despite access to a site at Freeman Street, potential Council and outside investment and a stunning drawing of how it could look. Instead the story in the Telegraph has been met with silence while fans become ever more disenchanted and dismissive of the club, the team and, most sadly of all the Mariners Trust: the organisation set up to represent their views.

From 1970 to its demise I regularly bought the tootball paper of a Saturday evening. From 1970 to at least the mid-1990s I used to read the reports of the Scunthorpe games. Played in front of 2000 fans on a good day and usually ending in a loss. I wondered what made those people turn up week in out. They had been in the bottom tier for all but one season. They often finished in the bottom half flirting with re-election. They were all but finished as a club. Scunthorpe was an also-ran, along with the likes of Crewe, Newport, Halifax and Hartlepool. I would not have dreamed it at the time but after 13 years of Fenty failure I know exactly how their fans felt.

See you at Morecambe. UTM