Knowing us, knowing Andy Holt

Cod Almighty | Article

by Andy Holt

26 April 2022

Andy Holt left the town in 1993 but he says a bit of him always remains Grimsby and forever will. Now living in Queensland, Australia after more than ten years in New Zealand getting to games has proven tricky for a long while. But checking the game's result is always the first thing he does as he wakes of a Sunday morning.

Why are you a Town fan?Andy Holt
My dad grew up in Manchester, a United fan. I was always brought up to follow them. When I was about 8, I guess, my uncle (mum's brother, not dad's brother), who was a regular at Blundell Park, took it upon himself to educate me. His son was either very young or not yet born at that time and he decided I should be supporting my home town club so took me under his wing. I can't remember exactly when it was, or even for how long it went on, but him taking me along to games is what I can point to as being instrumental and foundational in painting me black and white.
Leaving home and heading to university at 18, the place I called home grew in importance. I was suddenly surrounded by people from other towns, other cities, even other countries and that tether binding me to my roots was more significant than ever. Local pride is somehow more essential when you're not there any more.

Where was your first seat/standing position and where do you like to sit now?
The first few seasons I went to Blundell Park was with my uncle, mid-eighties-ish. I can't remember whether my first games were in the Pontoon or the Osmond, but either way where I sat was the same.

My uncle would sit me on the railing at the front just to the side of the goal, fetch me a lava-hot Bovril and a Mars Bar and tell me he'd see me at full-time. He'd then disappear into the sea of faces behind me leaving me with a perfect unobstructed view mere feet from the action.

I've not been to Blundell Park recently. The last time would have been in 2007. Living first in New Zealand and now in Australia does make it tough to get to matches. And I lived in London for many years before I emigrated, so most of the matches I got to watch were away games. I did have a season ticket for one year though.

As soon as my wife and I decided we would move overseas I knew I had to have a season ticket, just once. So I spent every other Saturday for the whole of 2005-06 driving up the A12, M11, A14, A1 and A46, picking up my dad, meeting some of the Cod Almighty crew at the Rutland, watching some football and then heading back south again. Oh, and as for where we sat? Pontoon. One row from the back. To the left of the goal if you were to look from the pitch, I think. Although that last detail may be muddied by the sands of time.

How did you get involved with CA?
One of my oldest friends from school introduced me to the Grimsby Town email mailing list, and as a result of that we developed a group of friends that we met up with pre-game a bit, mostly at away games for me. At the time we were variously located in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Watford, Manchester and Leeds (I think that's all of us and where we were), and we chatted all day every day by email, both on the mailing list and also outside of it when we wanted to go off-topic or raise an eyebrow at someone else's comment on the list.

Over the years some of us had been involved with (or even started) the Fishy, back when it was the Electronic Fishcake, and as a group we wanted to do something together. We had been talking about doing something fanzine-y for a while and we finally got our arses in gear in 2002 and put our various skills to use.

Have you got any Cod Almighty T-shirts?
I actually don't have any anymore, which is shocking. I could probably find a spreadsheet of who bought them (at least the years until I left English shores) and also a map showing where in the world we'd shipped them to. I might even be able to find a folder somewhere with photos readers sent in of them wearing them in various global locations. But as for owning any anymore? Nope. Lost over the years.

Which Cod Almighty feature would you like to see return?
Now call me biased, but there's one or two series I am to blame for that could do with revisiting. Thinking about it though, I'm not sure how I ever got these past the editor to be honest.

Long-time readers might remember Coco the Chimp, the gambling ape. To fill in the newcomers, another CA founder-contributor wrote gambling systems on the side. I presupposed that a chimp picking matches randomly do could a better job. One random number generator (called Coco) later and we had a weekly head-to-head series.

Other idea that needs a return, and one that must have the other CA founders rolling their eyes and shaking their heads in shame and embarrassment is Moley Merkin QC. Microsoft Word used to have a tool called "Summarise" or something. Theoretically it took a document and extracted the pertinent points. My idea was that it would reduce Tony's match reports into something bitesize for those with little time. What it actually did was reduce Tony's erudite essays to the ramblings of someone akin to Rowley Birkin QC (see: Fast Show). Thinking about it, I reckon the idea was just before its time. It would be an ideal solution for today's tl;dr generation.

Are you bothered which division Town are in?
Not really. It's nice to win and get promoted and stuff. Everyone loves a successful season when there are more smiles than groans. But ultimately experience tells us that promotion leads to a place where that balance shifts away from the preferable. Over the years as a Town fan I've learned we win some, we lose some. We go up and we go down. Enjoy the winning because it won't last. Don't dwell on the losing because it won't last.

Having said that, the last 20 years have tried to persuade me otherwise, of course.

Which Town player have you found yourself near and where?
It's not exactly a Town player, but rather a Town player's family. Away against Watford in the last game of the 1998-99 season, Gally was having a bit of a mare. We were sat reasonably close to the left-back part of the pitch and a few of us started querying his blood-alcohol level. Well, until the lady in front of us turned around, that is. "Do you mind? I'm his mum!" Oops.

Have you ever exchanged words with Alan Buckley? 
When I was in middle school (I guess I was 9 or 10) Alan Buckley came to our school and gave a talk and handed out some prizes or certificates or something. The following week he attended our Boys Brigade prize giving, and gave the same talk.

I got prizes at both events, went up and shook his hand. He said "well done" and handed me the WH Smith gift card or whatever it was but he didn't recognise me the second time. Gutting. I remember asking my mum why he wore the same jumper to both occasions.

Which former player do you loathe and why?
I mean, loathe is a very strong word. I am not sure I loathe anyone, but I have a pretty strong dislike of Danny Butterfield. Now I am sure he's a very nice person but how he stole a living as a player is beyond me. Of course, I must have been missing something because he went on to have a successful career at a higher level than he played for us, but he must have found a manager that was a sucker for aimless balls hoofed down the inside-right channel.

And how anyone ever thought to play him in central midfield is a mystery worthy of a Netflix documentary. I'll never forget the time Lenny played him there away at Blackburn in the 2000-1 season and he spent the whole match chasing shadows, never getting close to either the ball or a Blackburn player.

What or who did you get wrong? 
I never gave Jones the Lump the credit he deserved. He was wasted on me. Reddy was always more my cup of tea. The pace, the balance, the clinical finishing. Sublime. Just slide the ball into his path and watch him go. He and I played a similar style of football in the same position, on the shoulder of the last man, hair-trigger acceleration begging for a through ball or one over the top. (As an aside, I'd be remiss not to note at this point that he had a lot more skill than me and an awful lot more finishing ability). Lumpaldinho though, just plodded through games. I didn't get it.

Who is the best player you've seen playing in a Town match?
I remember making the trek down to watch Town play Portsmouth in the summer of 2001. August bank holiday weekend. They had Crouch and Burchill up front and Prosinecki stood in the centre circle spraying balls out wide. He must have run twice in that game. But then again, he didn't need to. A majestic performance.

Are you a forgiving soul? What is the longest Town-related grudge you hold.
I don't think any of us will ever forgive Dave Challinor, will we?

Have you ever walked around Chapman's Pond?
I lived in Grimsby from when I was about 18 months old until I moved to London in my early 20s and it wasn't until we pulled together the first ever "Grimmo Dictionary" for CA that I'd even heard of Chapman's Pond.

To be honest, I think I'd struggle to find it on a map. I know it's somewhere between Grimsby Road and the Humber, and probably more Isaac's Hill end rather than Park Street, but other than that? Nope.

Have you infected anyone with the Town? How are they today?
I am proud to say that a native of San Francisco I worked with in London still looks out for Grimsby's results to this day. I took Jesse along to watch us win against Brentford one rain-soaked night in November 2003. It was his first ever experience of "a true English football match" as he put it. He turned up with an umbrella but then refused to use it when he saw no-one else had one. We watched us lose 3-2 in bitter cold of the FA Cup at Peterborough a week or three later.

But the real turning point was what he calls his pilgrimage, when I took him to Grimsby for a weekend later that season. February 2004. A nose-freezingly cold day. A visit from Barnsley. Jevons (4). In his CA article he called it his "personal Graceland" and Jevvo "the King".

When we find ourselves in times of trouble do you have you a secret second team that you turn to?
The paternal link to Manchester United thrust upon me holds tight, but to some degree it also depends where I live. At uni I looked for Coventry's results. When I moved to London I flitted between affinities depending on where in the city I moved. In New Zealand I tried to follow Wellington Phoenix and now my closest team is Brisbane Roar.

Six degrees of separation: friends and family connections giving you an "in"…or not
I went to school with Trevor Whymark's daughter for a while. I had a massive crush on her (not because of who her dad was, I must stress) and remember knocking on their front door on Wybers Way one day after school asking if I could speak with her. Trev said no. I never understood why. It failed to dampen my affection for his daughter but Whymark left Town soon afterwards and the family moved south. The events are not related.

Have you ever watched Town from the wrong end? How did you survive?
Over the winter of 1996-97 I was in my final year at university. My girlfriend at the time was a Sheffield Wednesday fan. When Grimsby were drawn away at Hillsborough for the FA Cup third round tie we agreed that we'd have Christmas at home with our families and then make our way back to uni together after the game before the start of the second term. If I remember correctly her dad also made the trek up from Surrey where they lived for the game and so I ended up being out-voted 2-1 regarding which end we'd sit in. As a result I had to endure a long 90 minutes watching us completely outclassed, surrounded by Owls fans, conceding time after time after time as we were torn apart. I survived through gritted teeth. In silence. She and her dad were less than magnanimous. I still maintain we scored the best goal in that 7-1 loss though.

Where have you been the most miserable when following Town?
The lowest of lows following the highest of highs. One minute in May 2006 we're looking at promotion. Two swift goals later, we're pegged back, Orient claim a win and it’s the play-offs for us. I was away for the weekend with a big group of friends staying just outside Windsor. I was not good company that evening.

Side note, how did I never realise Chris Doig played in that Northampton team that denied us that day?

And what's the high point?
Seeing Grimsby win at Wembley. Of all Town's many and frequent visits to Wembley I've only been there for one. The first one. I still remember that feeling of exhilaration as Wayne scored the golden goal.

If you could turn back time?
There are so many mistakes that have been made over the past 20 years that I'm not sure where to begin.

The stories we hear about losing quality players because of daft contract decisions is galling, but ultimately I think the way the 2015-16 team was disbanded is a change I'd make in history if I could.