The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Fan of the future, past and present

10 July 2019

A letter to my six-year old self

26 March 1982

Dear Me,

Well, tomorrow is the big day – your first Town match. You're going to stand on a box in one of the corners of a place called Blundell Park. It will be the first of over 400 visits you will make, watching the game from all four sides of the ground.

Dad's taking you, as he will sporadically for five or six years, just enough to whet your appetite. You'll get the buzz, the programmes, the shirts (the Adidas and Hobbott ones will never be surpassed) and the yearn on away Saturdays. You'll see your brother be a mascot and then you will two months later, walking out to barely 2,000 people just like you, because tomorrow you join them in becoming a Town Fan.

Although going to the football with your dad and brother makes you happy, you'll cry when Town are relegated in six years' time, the missed penalty making your younger brother swear. That doesn't change. The swearing or the tears.

As you leave little school, Town are managed by a man who will have a massive impact on your life. Alan Buckley will create football teams that will absolutely enthral you. The ebb and flow of the football met with the tides of fans in the Pontoon – you at the centre, starting songs and living every minute. Match after match of passing and movement, win after win, promtion after promotion. It's so good that Dad starts taking you and your brother to some away games, which are a diferent experience altogether.

In between games you will scrutinise the Sports Telegraph (please keep them all), flick through Ceefax and meticulously pause-record a programme called Goals on Sunday at around 12:47pm every Sunday. And then watch the 68 seconds over and over again before trying to reenact the action on the Green.

The time will come to leave home and become a grown-up (note: do not mash potatoes in a colander). This you will find hard, but there will be comfort in newspapers posted, weekly updates on the phone and letters from friends. Being a Town Fan gives you a link with home.

This link becomes stronger when you go and work in London. You go to more away games than home games, and in 16 years you will walk along Wembley Way for the first time ever and wade into a sea of black and white. I won't reveal the details but let's just say it's a golden experience.

You'll move back to Grimsby in the new millennium (don't worry about the whole bug thing, everything's OK) and get a season ticket again for the first time in a decade. And as you start jobs and meet friends and start a family, that bond that is created tomorrow remains as strong as ever.

When you go to Anfield, when Town play Spurs, when you have an amazing boys' weekend in Swansea, when you have stolen weekends with friends that have a Town match as their anchor, this bond is strong. Sometimes the football won't be brilliant. But that doesn't really matter. Walking through the crowds along Grimsby Road and into Blundell Park will always feel, well, just right.

And then, and then, you will do for your son what dad did for you. You'll take him to his first Town game and he will get his first shirt, programme and memories – scarred with tears one year, joy the next. He enjoys going with his dad, you'll have season tickets 80 yards from where you will stand tomorrow.

You'll laugh at the characters who sit nearby. Wait enthralled to see if Man on the First Row offers the ball to an unsuspecting visiting defender for him to take a throw in and then drops it, his timing perfect. You'll laugh with your boy at the names they call the linesma.  Sometimes Dad will be there too.

Through all this you'll write about Town, commentate on Town and write a book about Town's greatest manager. You'll watch old videos of clips – the same clips you used to record – on your phone (don't ask) and as you grow older somehow your love of Grimsby Town will get stronger, an important constant in a turbulent time.

But all that is to come. For now, enjoy the blur of the game. Learn how it's played, its rhythm and the surrounding soundtrack of cheers, groans, swearing and heckling. Breathe every minute in. Sing every song, kick every ball, cheer every tackle. Tomorrow it begins, tomorrow you become a Fan of the Future.

You are Town.