The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

What if Hoban had blasted it over?

15 May 2019

"That's it! That's it! He's done it! Grimsby Town are back in the Football League!"

Three years ago today, John Tondeur's goosebump-induicng commentary heralded a new world for Town. Six seasons in football's forgotten land, purgatory complete, lessons learned. There are obvious moments of joy in that game but there are two that have stayed with Thunderdiary.

The first is Nathan Arnold's ball straight from their kick-off after the first goal, which set Pádraig Amond free to tee up Jon Nolan and then Gregor Robertson for the cross that led to the second. The other is Craig Disley's little push-pass which got the ball on the floor and allowed Nolan to roam before the third.

So what of the 36 months since? Well, since returning to the promised land, the Mariners have fielded 71 different players in the league, five of whom took part in that play-off final. Of those 71, James McKeown and Danny Collins have played across all three seasons, their teammates including the likes of Luke Maxwell and Easah Suliman.

If you've been to every league game, you've seen precisely 46 wins, seeing Town pick up 169 points (at 1.22 per game) and score 146 goals, at just over 1 per game. Of those, Omar Bogle has 11 per cent, despite not having played for us since January 2017.

I can pick out maybe one or two games per season that have raised neck hairs – Stevenage 2016, Notts County 2018, for example – while the rest tend to meld into one monochrome mush. There have been fleeting cameos from the likes of Jamey Osborne, and solid one-season successes such as Danny Andrew, but lots of players have come and gone.

With more players under contract this summer, the revolving door may be a little quieter, but with more outgoings this week Jolley will have to acquire more players than first planned.

So on the pitch it's been fairly mediocre. Off it? Unimaginative, divisive and lacking purpose. New ground, no ground, non-investment, losing trust – it's probably been a little more exciting than some of those 138 matches, but the lack of creativity and five-year-planning means the next three years will see more of the same.

Of course, the only remaining player from that emotional Wembley day is our goalkeeper. Player of the year for two of the three Football League seasons since, McKeown has produced some memorable performances and is firmly what we would all call a "Town player".

It appears, however, that all is not right with our number one, the aforementioned JT tweeting yesterday that he could be on his way this summer. I'm not one for coincidences but the appointment of Paul Hurst yesterday as the manager of our favourite ironmongers means James wouldn't have to travel very far.

If McKeown were to leave, then the final heartbeat of that wonderful team would be gone, consigned to retrospective diaries as a reminder of glory days gone by.  But players do come and go. Fans don't. The players that day will always remember it, but Arnold has scored other important goals since and Podge is back at Wembley next week. 

Us? That day, that glorious, enthralling, beautiful day. That day will stay with us forever.