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Wednesday 30 April
Just a few months after revealing to Cod Almighty that he had turned down offers to play in the Premiership in favour of remaining with the Mariners, John McDermott has admitted having spoken to other clubs recently; and BBC Humber Sport is linking the player with a move to third division Hull. The sceptical and/or optimistic among you will already have noted, however, that Hull is one of the other two league clubs covered by BBC Humber Sport. Macca confirms that he has already been offered terms by GTFC, but reveals: "It's not a secret that I've spoken to other clubs," to which the Diary responds: "It bloody was to me!"
Epoch-defining Gallic superstructure Georges Santos has been named Town's player of the year, with tricky striker Darren Mansaram scooping the young player of the year accolade. Last night's awards ceremony at Cleethorpes Winter Gardens last night saw over 500 Town fans tempted out of their armchairs by wholesome family entertainment from super local tribute band Y'Abba D'Abba - not to mention, of course, the chance to see their heroes receive due recognition for their travails. Santos raised hopes that he will sign a new contract with the Mariners by discussing the club's prospects for next season with the Grimsby Telegraph. "If we have got a good squad I think we might be able to go up," said the mountainous centre-half. "I'm sure the chairman and the club will give everything to Groves to help bring people in." The Diary points out that Georges will find it harder than ever to tear himself away from the area now that he has experienced the Winter Gardens.
Thirdly today, an appeal for Diary readers to spend your remaining spare moments on another section of Cod Almighty - namely Mat's betting tips. Poor Mat is feeling all unloved and vulnerable at the moment cos he thinks loads of people read the Diary and nobody reads his stuff. If you are not already familiar with his epic gambling tussle against a random fictitious chimpanzee, then I appeal to every instinct of decentness within you to acquaint yourself with this highly entertaining inter-species contest, and perhaps then to email Mat at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell him how great he is. His web access is kind of sporadic, so loads of you could mail him before he realises I've asked you to, and it would be quite funny. Cheers!
Tuesday 29 April
Terry Cooke follows his agent's instructions and finally does the public self-pity thing today with a heart-rending interview in the Telegraph. "It's been a very frustrating season for me. I've been working hard and in training and keeping my head down and my mouth shut," says the former Wigan winger, choking back the tears. "But nobody's offered me anything and at this stage it looks like I'll be a free agent in the summer." The Diary thought Cooke's selection at Reading last Saturday meant Paul Groves still had an open mind on whether to retain the player, but there you go. Or there he goes, anyway.
The streets of Cleethorpes will be positively thronged with nervous Brightonians this Sunday as the south coast club has already shifted its entire ticket allocation for the final match of the season, reports BBC Humber Sport. Two thousand two hundred away fans will make the long haul to Blundell Park to see whether their side can leapfrog Stoke into 21st place and secure a second season in Division One. Town are odds-on to let Brighton win, but the visitors' fate will also depend on the Potteries side losing to Reading; and the Diary is probably not alone among Town fans in wishing the Seagulls the very best of British. Luck, that is, not weather. They probably get enough sunshine already.
Nottingham Forest's Jack Lester will be doing his falling over at a new club next season after the former Mariners forward emerged as the only one of six out-of-contract players at the City Ground who will not be offered a new deal. Although Town's official site strongly suggested earlier this season that Mr Groves would be keen on bringing the Doncaster-born frontman back to Blundell Park, the player is being linked instead with a move to first division Coventry - who, if recent press reports are anything to go by, are about £20m more skint than Town; but they have a big ground, so they can sign more players. Isn't that how it works?
Always ready with an explanation, Diary reader Mark Wilson has emailed with a reading of Michael Keane's body art. "I would suggest that Keane's tattoo reads 'Place weight of avoiding relegation here'. Grovesey has one and Andy Todd had a matching one last year." I'll buy that for a Euro; after all, it would also shed some light on why the player-manager was so quick to disrobe at the end of the Walsall match. "Roll on away games in Bedfordshire and west London!" adds Hertfordshire-based Mark, rather selfishly; not that the Diary is bitter about losing several of his own local away games or anything, you understand.
Monday 28 April
Town's accounts receive a much-needed boost with the news that Sky TV is to screen this Sunday's first division swansong against Brighton. In the second flight's one remaining promotion/relegation/play-off place issue, the Seagulls will stay up if they take three points from Blundell Park and Stoke lose at Reading; and the prurient Sky cameras have been unhealthily keen on final-day close-ups of fans' relegation agony for some seasons now. GTFC will receive £60,000 in rights money from the megalomaniac broadcaster, which might go some way towards keeping Georges Santos at the club next season.
Those Diary readers of a more trainspottery bent will doubtless be grateful for the knowledge that two of Town's former loan players etched their names indelibly onto the scoresheet over the weekend. Jason Gavin, the Middlesbrough defender who spent two months with the Mariners over the winter, was on the mark for his current loan club Huddersfield against Port Vale; but a better guide to his playing ability is probably to be found in the five that Vale knocked in. Meanwhile another central defender, Andy Todd - the man who brought us such joy at Molineux a year ago - did his bit to redeem the Diary's disastrous season in fantasy football by converting a cross from Damian Duff in Blackburn's 3-2 win at Leeds. Good gracious - ace alliteration.
Let's take the pressure out of the Diary's bulging inbox now, and tear it open lasciviously with our teeth. First up, a reaction to wot I wrote on Saturday: "another fine Diary, my friend," begins the email, "wonder if you'll get any mails accusing you of racism for that first sentence?" Surely only a lover of cryptic crosswords would make the connection though? Another reader asks: "Could the Diary put out an appeal to find out what Keane has tattooed across his shoulders please? From where I was sat it looked like Arsenal, in that big fancy typescript that tattooists like to use." Any readers who have an intimate familiarity with Michael Keane's body are asked to email email@example.com and put our correspondent out of their misery.
Saturday 26 April
Georges Santos has emerged as the ace of spades in the Town's Most Wanted pack of cards. Possibly in a bid to pre-empt any further efforts by local media to whip up supporter discontent, the club has gone public with its desire to retain the services of the rugged Frenchman. Mariners chairman Peter Furneaux explains that the player is "off back to Belgium at the end of the season," which, given that the player's family was last seen in the south of France, sounds a little ominous. "The club have asked him how much he wants to stay at Blundell Park," announces Town's official site, presumably hoping Santos will stretch out his arms as wide as he can and say: "This much!"
The Grimsby Telegraph, meanwhile, turns its attentions to Phil Jevons, the former Everton striker who promised Grimsby so much but delivered so little. Jevons, lest ye forget, has spent nearly all season on loan at Hull, where he has vindicated Town's decision to let him spend nearly all season on loan at Hull. "Jevvo will stay with Hull until the end of the season and then he will come back," says Paul Groves, never one to digress. A return to the first team at Blundell Park is doubtful on financial as much as footballing grounds, as Everton are due another wodge from the Mariners' barren coffers if the Scouse underachiever plays many more games. The word we're looking for is limbo, and I'm not talking bending yourself in half under a pole.
Several first-team regulars, meanwhile, turn out among the reserves at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon, where the Mariners succeed only in confirming their final bottom position in Division One with a game to spare. Greg Young makes his debut in defence, Graham Hockless his in midfield and Jake Sagare his up front; but the biggest surprise of the day - apart from Town scoring a goal - is on the right of midfield, where Groves displays an admirably bloody-minded sense of humour in giving arbitrary fans' favourite Terry Cooke a full 90 minutes away from home. The match is over by midway in the first half as Reading amble to a two-goal lead, though Michael Keane pulls a token one back in the 90th minute. An hilarious 7-2 away win for relegated Sheffield Wednesday over serial thrashees Burnley takes the Owls five points clear of Town in 23rd place, if anyone still cares.
A casual glance down the leagues to see how Division Two will look next season, and Wrexham join Rushden and Hartlepool in confirming automatic promotion from the third, while Scunny and Lincoln - probably spurred on by Town's relegation - both record wins, with Laws's lot now certain of a play-off place in sixth position and Big Keith's boys a good bet to join them in seventh. The results raise the tantalising, not to mention congestion-causing, prospect of an all-Lincolnshire play-off final with the winners joining Town in the second division. C'mon you Imps!
And finally, Richard Dawson emails the Diary simply to say: "Please stop making ageist comments." After reading back over recent Diary entries, I can only conclude that exception is being taken to the epithet 'aged' as applied to Peter Furneaux on this page yesterday. Which was, of course, intended to indicate respect for the GTFC chairman's wisdom and experience. Any old how, Richard, no offence - you're as tough as old boots, anyway, my old mate, and an old hand at winding me up, eh. I'll buy you a pint though, just for old times' sake.
Friday 25 April
Town fans could catch a glimpse of the club's future in the last two games of this season as Paul Groves hints at blooding some youngsters. Yuck. I hate that expression. Simon Ford and Michael Boulding joining the legions of the crocked, says Groves, "might give a chance to some of the younger lads to have a run in the team." Wes Parker and Chris Thompson could come in, while the Grimsby Telegraph reckons free-scoring reserve midfielder Graham Hockless is one of four bright young things who could be set for a first-team debut. Central defenders Greg Young and Kirk Wheeler and winger Stephen Downes are the other names suggested as the squad is prepared for tomorrow's trip to Reading, whose play-off rivals were already drafting official complaints to the league about Town's under-strength team until it was pointed out that Town had been fielding under-strength teams all season.
Peter Furneaux will be pleased with the outcome of yesterday's meeting of Football League chairmen in Leicester. The 72 men in suits voted to adopt sanctions against overspending clubs that enter administration - a measure for which the aged GTFC chairman, after watching the likes of Bradford and Leicester swan into Blundell Park and beat Town with players they don't have to pay for, has been one of the loudest advocates. The Diary only wishes Pete had thought of it a year ago.
Of less certain benefit to the Mariners will be the other two major measures approved yesterday: a wage cap, beginning in Division Three and extending to Two and One in the 2004-05 season; and a frankly stupid overhaul of the play-off system proposed by those losers at Crystal Palace, whereby teams finishing as low as eighth in their league may be promoted. If Town finish eighth next season and return to Division One via the play-offs, please do not remind me that I wrote this.
Thursday 24 April
A very late Diary today, as Cod Almighty has been down - a bit like the football team that is the subject of the site, though whether Town will follow our lead and get back up again is a moot point. Apologies from all of us at CA, anyway (although it's the bloody ISP that should be doing the apologising).
The news, then, and a Georges Santos interview in the Grimsby Telegraph demonstrates the media's ability to present a story to suggest just about whatever they want. BYE GEORGE? is the headline chosen by the boys at 80 Cleethorpe Road; but a reworking of the story on the Planet Football site is headed SANTOS HINTS AT GRIMSBY STAY. The interview even appears on Fox News in the USA, trailed with the words SANTOS SUPPORTS WAR; CALLS OWN PRESIDENT COWARD. The gist of it all, as you've probably guessed already, is that he might sign a new contract or he might not; but he hasn't been offered one yet. "I'm looking to play football," explains the player, helpfully.
And if the Telegraph's rabble-rousing intentions are hinted at by the spin of its headline, they are confirmed by the story itself, which begins: "Cult hero George Santos is set to lead the Grimsby Town exodus this summer after admitting he will keep his options open". Read back over that and see how the possibility that the player will leave ("will keep his options open") is made to sound like a near certainty ("is set to lead the...exodus"). Later in the report the Telegraph relapses overtly into the catchpenny shit-stirring that besmirched its name during the John Oster transfer saga in March, this time with the somewhat lame observation/instruction that "Town fans will be dismayed at the news that some of their top stars could leave". Any credibility the story may have retained is lost when, as the fate of other players is discussed, it expects us to believe there are clubs queueing up to sign Tony Gallimore.
Michael Boulding (who isn't out of contract for another year) will miss the last two games of the season because of the ankle problem with which he probably ought to have missed the last ten. The club's announcement that Boulding will sit out the formalities against Reading on Saturday and Brighton a week on Sunday is proof - if proof were needed after the Walsall match - that the nippy frontman has been carrying his injury through recent games, the rationale presumably being that a Boulding with only one leg is still faster than a fully fit Livingstone. You take care now, Mick.
As if writing about all 49 of Town's league and cup games this season were not enough, Cod Almighty's renowned match reporter Tony Butcher went to see the comeback of Steve Croudson for the Mariners' reserves at Lincoln yesterday and has shared his observations with the Diary. Paul Wilkinson's side ran out 2-1 winners with goals from Chris Thompson and Graham Hockless; and Wes Parker receives praise from the Man With The Sensible Hair. As for the returning custodian, "Croudson caught two crosses, made one excellent save, one decent save, missed one cross, dropped one cross and could do nothing about the Lincoln goal (a curling screamer into the top right corner)." But what about the stuff that really matters, Tony? "Sagare has fabtastic bulbous hair...and Heggarty has ginger hair...Groves wore a very subtle plum jumper which perfectly complimented Rodger's pale pink shirt. We shall conveniently ignore Groves' blue check shirt, which was a fashion mistake." Our man at the Bank adds: "I used the chairman's toilet too." The Diary will pass on your donations towards Tony's £30,000 fine.
Working on his Ray Wilkins impression, Tony remarks that Thompson's goal was "super". "Hockless," he continues, "scored a great goal from the edge of the box and just missed with a slicing free kick from 25 yards. Rowan played in centre midfield and was not very good." But there's more. "The really interesting stuff was in the stands. Coyne was beseiged by two six-year-old boys wearing Croudson shirts. Keith Alexander put a consoling arm around Groves when they met. Greg Young's dad told me his son used to be a left back and might be playing this weekend (he really perked up when his son was taken off after 66 minutes)." The Diary remains disturbed to note the absence of Billy Mehmet but was interested to see Chris Ward on the Lincoln team. Chris was my mate from Irthlingborough who showed me Nene Park all those years ago, and I always wondered what he ended up doing with his degree in food studies from Humberside Poly.
Finally, the Diary receives an email from Alistair Wilkinson - and in prose. "I believe it's for Neil Mann," writes the Cod Laureate, "the son of our former assistant. He who shouldn't have been let near a fork truck." I assume this is about the testimonial Town are playing in at Hull this summer, although judging by the last bit it could be that storyline from Holby City that we were looking for.
Wednesday 23 April
The increasingly vocal Peter Furneaux is in the headlines again today, restating his case on BBC Humber Sport that clubs who enter administration during a league season ought to be docked points. The Mariners chairman is quite understandably pissed off that while he's been busting a gut to keep the club solvent, other first division outfits have built up Town-beating squads by splashing the cash like a trawlerman down Freemo and then getting most of their debts cancelled when the administrators come in. Furneaux insists that this buys his rivals "an unfair advantage", and that's even before what Bradford spend on referees. The Diary noted with interest that the manager of Sheffield United was saying much the same thing as his side took on debt-ridden Leicester the other week. Players were one thing, but for God's sake, can Town not even have ideas now without Warnock nicking them?
Steve Croudson is ending 15 months of thumb-twiddling this afternoon by turning out for Town reserves at Sincil Bank. The 23-year-old keeper has endured a frustrating time of it recently, with a shoulder injury that began as a niggle and ended up as a painful nightmare that went on and on and on, just as if it were a song from the last Ash album. On the plus side, though, he must be a world-beater at Grand Theft Auto 3 by now. Croudson has only the arse-end of this season in which to prove his fitness and earn a new contract, since his current deal is set to expire this term; but as the newly relegated Mariners look to make cutbacks and perhaps find a new home for Danny Coyne - reputedly the highest-earning player on the staff - the smart money is on the Kitten to become Town's first-choice stopper next season.
Town have wasted no time, meanwhile, in preparing for division two football by agreeing to a pre-season friendly against division three Hull City. The Yorkshire side's enormous new Kingston Communications Stadium, built for them by the council, will be graced by the Mariners on Wednesday 23 July for the first time - "and only" or "of many", according to your disposition and outlook on the world. "The Mariners make the short journey across the Humber Bridge as part of Neil's Testimonial," says Town's official site by way of unexplanation. Hamilton? Armstrong? Or that crap ref from Scunny? I think we should be told.
Paul Raven, who if speed of foot were speed of thought would have special educational needs, has been offered an extended contract by his new club Carlisle. The sluggish defender joined the Cumbrians after leaving Town on a free in February, and his match-losing performance in the recent final of whatever the Auto Windscreens Shield is called now has failed to deter the third division strugglers from waving a new two-year deal in front of his nose. I suppose we'd better find out what it's called now, actually, hadn't we.
In other transfer news, the Diary has apparently been linked with a big-money move to a commercial GTFC website. After all, writing for Cod Almighty has only been about putting myself in the shop window. Bye! Now you must all love me like you do John Oster. No? How does that work then? Seriously though, readers, it would take a hell of an offer to better the deal I'm on at CA. One can of London Pride per season is not to be sniffed at, you know.
Finally, thank you for filling me in on Monday's Corrie. Oooh, that Peter, eh. A reader has also emailed to ask: "Can you put out an SOS to find out what happened on Holby City last night please?" My God...what have I started?
Tuesday 22 April
Town chairman Peter Furneaux promises new signings and a "new beginning" for the Mariners this summer as the dust begins to settle on the club's relegation to Division Two. The man with the unenviable task of running a professional football club in a town where nobody likes football also reveals that a big new sponsorship deal is imminent. Speaking in today's Grimsby Telegraph, Furneaux counters his detractors by pointing out the combination of circumstances to have conspired against Town this season (ITV Digital, big clubs being allowed to write off debts, nobody in the town liking football) and the fact that the board has invested as much in the club this season as was taken in gate receipts. "Despite the size of our income compared to other clubs," says Mr F, "and some have wage bills five times that of ours, we have still given these so-called major sides a game." The Diary is hard pressed to think of many such occasions this season but admires the chairman's spirit nonetheless.
Meanwhile Paul Groves, who handed ammunition to his detractors by refusing to go over and clap them after yesterday's fatal defeat to Walsall, has been explaining his feelings - far from an everyday occurrence, but it's not every day you get relegated, I suppose. "What do you expect?" says the troubled player-manager, on Town's official site. "Do you expect me to accept that we're relegated and I'm happy with that? No thank you. I'm going to show my frustrations - I'm going to show my emotions." When the Diary said Town's style was too English, this isn't quite what it had in mind.
Team captain John McDermott joins in the group hug. "I feel for Grovesy," Macca tells the Telegraph. "I really do. He's a good coach and a good manager - but look what he's had to work with." The player also acknowledges the feelings of supporters. "What can we say to the fans? They're feeling as low as we are. They played their part this season, especially away from home. At home this year we've let them down at times." True, but considering some of what his team-mates and manager have had to put up with from the stands, Macca deserves a new contract for his remarkable generosity of spirit alone.
In all the weekend's excitement of travel, drinking, relegation and MY BIRTHDAY, the Diary clean forgot to mention one or two other titbits that cropped up - the most gratifying of which was the return of the Grimsby Reaper to claim the soul and livelihood of Crystal Palace manager Trevor Francis. Francis becomes the latest in a long and illustrious line of bosses to have been given their marching orders immediately after a match against the Mariners - although to the best of the Diary's knowledge he is the first to be sacked for only beating Town 4-1. Still, as Walsall proved yesterday, they all count. Taste that scythe, Trev!
Somewhat less exciting, though possibly just as bizarre, was the appearance on the scoresheet of former Town midfielder and Olympic pointing champion Tommy Widdrington, who bagged two for Hartlepool as Town's east coast rivals drew 2-2 at home with Rochdale. The Diary remembers Widdrington's behaviour on 4 May 1997 and strongly urges fellow GTFC supporters to give the player the reception he deserves next season.
Following my Michael Boulding mix-up at the weekend, the Diary is pleased to observe the Guardian's Jeremy Cross go one better and prove his worth as a professional sports journalist by writing the wrong name for a player at Grimsby Town Football Club. In yesterday's Guardian match report on Town's clash with Sheffield Wednesday, the long-range volley from Chris Bolder that was the only half-decent bit of football all afternoon was attributed to the player's brother, who turns out for first division Derby County. So unfamiliar is Cross with the GTFC squad, then, that one may be tempted to observe that he doesn't know them from Adam. Which of the brothers will be insulted remains unclear: the Rams midfielder is the better footballer, but which is better looking?
Oh, did anyone see Corrie last night? I was on my way home and missed it, so if you could email a synopsis to firstname.lastname@example.org that would be super. Ta.
Monday 21 April
It's the daddy of all foregone conclusions as Town drop to Division Two after losing 1-0 at home to Walsall (although results elsewhere render the outcome at Blundell Park irrelevant). A bright first-half performance ultimately counts for nothing as the leathery types grab a scrappy, bundled goal almost straight from the restart, the handball in the build-up being one of approximately 817 committed by the visitors in total. Despite the sterling efforts of Michael Keane, the Mariners are overrun in midfield; and a switch to 4-3-3, as always, makes matters worse. Ominously, Paul Groves discards his shirt and makes straight for the tunnel at the final whistle.
Cheer up though, everyone - Wednesday are down as well!
And, er, yeah, all right - it was Bolder who had that ace volley saved at Hillsborough the other day, not Boulding. But I have to say, I was very, very, drunk.
I don't know what else to say now, really. Not that that usually stops me, but hey. Keep the faith.
Saturday 19 April
Stoke and Brighton get the result they were both praying for at Hillsborough as Town and Sheffield Wednesday contest a closely fought goalless draw, the highlight of the match being a 20-yard volley from Michael Boulding brilliantly saved by Kevin Pressman. Neither Town fans getting behind their team nor the visitors' commendable workrate are enough to break down the home defence, though; and Stoke's win against the mercenary franchise operation takes them six points clear of the Mariners with three games to play. We think it's all over.
And yeah, OK, I'm typing this on Sunday, but it's my birthday, so you have to be nice to me.
Friday 18 April
"Grimsby Town's First Division future is still uncertain. The fitness of one man could help determine the end of season outcome." Far from being promotional hype for the long overdue Hollywood blockbuster about the Mariners' epic tussles with relegation, this is in fact the rather grandiose manner chosen by BBC Humber Sport to inform us of the club's latest injury concern. So who is this pivotal figure upon whose presence the very future of the club depends? Rejuvenated player-manager Paul Groves? Towering centre-half Georges Santos? Ever-reliable captain John McDermott? No - it's, er, Simon Ford actually - the defender whose sporadic voyages into cosmic realms unknown have, if we're honest, cost Town a point or two over recent weeks. The young space cadet is carrying an achilles injury and is touch and go for tomorrow's do-and/or-die visit to Sheffield Wednesday. Steve Chettle stands by to deputise.
Elsewhere in the side, Santos has shaken off the hamstring injury that kept him out of the calamitous defeat by Crystal Palace last weekend; while Richard Hughes, Stuart Campbell, Tony Gallimore, Michael Keane and Steve Livingstone will all be in contention, having all recovered from their nasty digestive infection. One hopes that, having suffered from the runs, Livvo in particular will recall the meaning of the phrase in a football context.
Correspondence reaches the Diary inbox from two Wilsons, the first being Mr Cod Almighty himself, Simon, of Leeds, West Yorkshire, who observes: "Say the name of yesterday's featured trialist out loud. 'Billy Mehmet'. Sounds like too much like Billy Nomate to me." You'd think, with a job to hold down and a two-month-old baby to care for, that he wouldn't have that much time on his hands, wouldn't you?
Today's second Wilson with something to say is Mark, of Tring, Hertfordshire, who has a sad tale to share with us all. "Having forced a number of people to bear their souls about betting on Town I feel I should cleanse myself and be honest. It's all my fault, and it's not because of a bet...". Here, presumably, the reader is invited to imagine a swirly passage-of-time visual effect like they used to do on the telly. "A couple of years ago," continues Mark, "my in-laws bought me a Town baseball cap that was stylish, subtle and wearable (not always the case with Town gear). The first official outing for this piece of footy haute-couture was away at Palace on a Tuesday night where I arrived 15 minutes late for the kick-off due to the M25 and then had to sit through Town being hammered 5-0. I knew as I left Selhurst Park that the cap had to go, it was evil and it contained the spawn of the devil. But I didn't bin it, I kept it, it hangs on a door not ten feet from where I now sit. Malevolent, laughing at Town's plight...I'm sorry." Your baseball cap may be very naughty, Mark, but only those Burberry ones can be deemed truly evil.
And there's more! "There is another potential reason for Town's woes: Bill Shankly said that teams should wear red socks as it was easier for players to pick each other out when they were running with their heads down," reveals our man in Herts. "What Bill says goes in my book. You will recall that up until recently Town wore red socks. I rest my case. And apologies to my brother who has to hear this theory every time we talk about Town." As one who has often mourned the passing of red socks from the Mariners' kit (or stockings, as they were amusingly known at the time), the Diary is seriously grateful for that nugget.
And that's all for now, beloved readers. Tomorrow's Diary will appear as soon as I can find a computer after leaving Hillsborough; and Monday's will be another Saturday-style teatime Diary, in that fun-time Dukes of Hazzard slot, when I get round to my mum's after the Walsall game. Keep the emails coming in, keep watching the skies, and let me know if you see Simon Ford.
Thursday 17 April
The puke-and-poo bug that for the last week has had the Town changing room resembling the Diary's bathroom on Saturday and Sunday mornings appears to be on its way, as its chief victims Richard Hughes, Michael Keane and Steve Livingstone are all set to return to training, reports BBC Humber Sport. Tony Gallimore's less than adequate performance against Crystal Palace last Saturday was also thought initially to have resulted from the mysterious virus, but the club doctor's prescription for the languorous left-back later turned out to be an emergency course of canine mane.
If the league table were decided on the basis of trialists with ace names, rather than who has the most money, then Town would be up there in the play-off places instead of staring down the barrel of a large and scary Division Two-shaped firearm. A report running on the Mariners' official site about yesterday's reserves fixture against Notts County drops it in all casual, like, that "a late strike by trialist Billy Mehmet earned Town a draw". Where did he come from? Nobody knows. The Diary's search on Google can't quite decide between West Ham United and Nuneaton Borough. Always the way, isn't it. But considering there is a chance that GTFC will sign a player who sounds like a Turkish version of my uncle, remarkably little fuss is being made here. Come on, Town - if you have names like Billy Mehmet and Kalam Mooniaruck kicking around, then you don't release the news quite so apologetically, I would say. Incidentally, Danny Invincible is set to leave Swindon on a free after rejecting a new contract.
Oh, and sorry I didn't update yesterday's Diary with a team sheet for the reserves match, as I so tantalisingly suggested I might. I ended up going to get my hair cut instead; Michelle is the only stylist for miles around who can do an inverted bob properly, and today is her day off. The disappointing news from the match was that Steve Croudson didn't play after all, despite the Diary's lengthy fanfare and fond reminiscence of his debut four years ago; but the Telegraph reckons he'll be back next week as Paul Wilkinson's side take on Lincoln at Sincil Bank. Yay!
Anyway, the reserves' 1-1 draw - in which no less than four forwards started the game for Town: Mehmet, David Soames, Jonny Rowan and Jake Sagare - means they won't get promoted to whatever the reserves version of the Premiership is, apparently; but the fact that they were still in with a shout with only two games to go seems to suggest that Wilko has done a pretty good job this season, despite his side losing 7-0 at York in October because he forgot to put a keeper on the bench. Clearly you live and learn.
Wednesday 16 April
Those of you wishing to plough more of your hard-earned into the football club you love will note with interest today's announcement from GTFC that the 363,000 newly released shares will "be allotted in multiples of £100 with a minimum investment of £100" - probably to save on the admin costs involved in sending out loads of official reports and legal financial gubbins to people like the Diary's little brother, who holds a single £1 share. "The Club would be pleased to consider requests in writing stating the name and address of the proposed shareholder," declares the boardroom communiqué, like they're gonna weigh up every application on its merits and send your money back if your syntax isn't up to it. The Diary fancies a better return on investing in hydrogen fuel; but that said, I am a self-confessed financial illiterate. I don't even own a wallet, for God's sake.
If you watched the goalless draw with Wolves on 4 May 1999, then your abiding memory of the game will be the performance of a young debutant betwixt the Town sticks, who kept out absolutely everything the horrible big club could throw at him with an astonishing display of agility and athleticism, prompting his overjoyed mates from the youth team to run onto the pitch and mob him at the final whistle. Steve Croudson's career hasn't quite gone swimmingly since then, with first Mr Coyne and then a long-term shoulder injury keeping him firmly out of the first-team picture. Today's Grimsby Telegraph, though, reports that the Kitten's comeback is almost upon us and indeed that he may play for the reserves this sunny afternoon. "It's been the worst year of my life. It's been awful," says the 23-year-old stopper. "I'm ready and I'm as excited about playing now as I was when I made my debut three years ago." See, the poor lad has even lost track of time! Good luck, Steve.
Croudson could be bawling at defenders and randomly jumping up to tap the crossbar by the time you read this Diary, in fact, as Paul Wilkinson's put-upon squad of young 'uns kick off against their Notts Counterparts at Blundell Park at two o'clock. We don't know who else is in the team yet, but if my sunlight allergy continues at its current ferocity then I might alter this paragraph later on, when we do.
More about your ill-advised gambles on Town's first division status now, and an email reaches the Diary from Mr M Kolder. "I see in your recent Diary entries we're all bonding by sharing the blame for our beloved Town's impending relegation," he begins. "Well, I'd like to
contribute by taking a portion for not having a bet on the survival of GTFC. Last season a troublesomely annoying colleague with no affiliation or knowledge of football bet me ten pounds that we'd be relegated. I took him up on that offer and bought an awful lot of chocolate with the proceeds of the aforementioned wager. This season when the same colleague, wanting to win back his losses, approached me with an offer for the same bet I was reluctant and refused the bet. We all know what happened next. I confess, it's my fault." Hence the pseudonym, eh. Keep them coming in, people - if you've won or lost money, chocolate, whisky or just plain old credibility on the outcome of a Town match (or season), email email@example.com and tell us.
Tuesday 15 April
Running through my head today is the mystery bug that has members of the GTFC squad dropping like flies. After Richard Hughes was forced to withdraw from the devastating 4-1 defeat against Crystal Palace last weekend with symptoms that I won't go into in case you're in the middle of your lunch, his fellow midfield loanee Michael Keane is also coming down with it, says today's Grimsby Telegraph, as are Tony Gallimore, Steve Livingstone and Shaun Allaway. Training was cancelled yesterday in an effort to prevent the illness spreading still further. "We've had to clear the place and we've virtually closed the building," laments Paul Groves. "It's driving me mad, going out of my head."
I keep closing my eyes but I can't block you out, Georges Santos, and the good news is that Sheffield Wednesday could be experiencing similar feelings this Saturday, when Town's very own Angel of the North, after sitting out the Palace match, could return to the side that visits Hillsborough. BBC Humber Sport reports that Santos - who was all mixed up, feeling cornered and rushed, but is now reported to be ready to extend his contract with the Mariners - is expected to return to training today after recovering from a strung ham. The player is thought to be invulnerable to the bug that is sweeping through Blundell Park after threatening to deck any germs that come near him.
If I'm asking for help it's only because there isn't a great deal of black and white striped news to report at the moment. I'm in serious shit, I feel totally lost, so keep your emails to the Diary coming in. Today's is from Cod Almighty's gambling man Mat Hare, who would like to make Danny Ashmole feel better by sharing the culpability for Town's imminent descent. "If Danny Ashmole thinks his fiver is to blame for us being relegated to Division 2 then I wouldn't be surprised to see us in the depths of the Ryman League soon," says Mat, cheerfully, "because like Danny I too bet on us staying up. I had £20 on with a Wolves fan and a tenner with an Arsenal fan. So I must take 6 times as much of the blame as Mr Ashmole. Sorry!!" Hoping to wash away all the shame, Mat also reminds me that that I had a bet on with a Walsall fan of a bottle of Jack Daniels; but this wager rested only upon which of the two clubs would finish higher in the league and not upon the preservation or otherwise of Town's first division status, so the Diary can accept no responsibility for anything. Not even the war, as it happens - I voted for the Socialist Alliance, and I bet there aren't many of you can say that.
This is not enough as far as Mat is concerned, though; he also draws our attention to today's Sun newspaper, where GTFC are immortalised in Striker, a computer-generated cartoon about an imaginary football club, Warbury Warriors, who last year were relegated from the Premiership. The ignominy of Warriors' plight is highlighted by a 2-2 draw with Grimsby, in which forgotten striker Jonny Rowan puts Town ahead only for Tony Gallimore to gift an equaliser for our fictitious opponents. That man Macca (apparently wearing Darren Barnard's shirt) restores the Mariners' advantage but Warbury grab a predictable equaliser - presumably in the third minute of injury time.
I can try to pretend, I can try to forget about Town's relegation struggle, and sometimes things happen that help you get some perspective. The Diary would today like to pay tribute to one of a very small number of public figures who have spoken proudly of their Grimbarian roots - namely the Labour peer, leading trade unionist and Town fan Lord (Derek) Gladwin of Clee, who has died aged 72. The Diary's mum says that even at the peak of his political career in the 1970s, Lord Gladwin - a former pupil of what was then Carr Lane Juniors and Wintringham Grammar and one-time Grimsby dockworker - often found the time to get back home and support the Mariners, and for that as much as for his devotion to the cause of the working people, the Diary salutes him.
Monday 14 April
As GTFC staff and supporters alike sift through the wreckage of their first division status in the wake of Saturday's devastating bombardment from Crystal Palace, it falls to club captain and ageing superhero John McDermott to tell his colleagues they were shit. "If we play like that against any of the other teams we are down, and it is as hard as that," the ace right-back tells today's Grimsby Telegraph. "We cannot beat teams on that performance." Paul Groves has a go at the rallying cry thing but his way with words falls sadly short of the standards set by his managerial skills. "The goals that we conceded in the first half did not give us an opportunity to get anything from the match at all," he mumbles. I'm not quoting anything else from the Telegraph today because right at the moment their site has a really annoying pop-up ad.
In the absence of any further revelations from Camp Grimsby, we turn, as ever, to our faithful readership to plug the void; and first up is an email from one Patricia Moore in response to Saturday's Diary. "Dear Diary," she writes, "did your trip to the National Space Centre help you discover the location of Irthlingborough? Is there also a 'Littlegreenmanborough'?" The answer is no, I'm afraid; but it is true to point out that in Northamptonshire, no-one can hear you scream.
"Well," writes Danny Ashmole, "it looks like Town are going down, and...well, I have a confession to make: I'm afraid it's all my fault. As a superstition, I do not bet on the Mariners, as they always lose when I do. Earlier this season, some fool at work was giving it all the 'you're going down this year...bookies' favourites'. This irked me greatly, so I bet him five pounds that, as usual, Grimsby would escape relegation. Now I feel awful. Do any of your other readers feel it may be their fault? If so, this may go some way to assuaging my terrible guilt." So let's have your emails. You heard the man: is it your fault Town are going down - or do you not work for Carlton or Granada?
Finally, a word from Richard Dawson (and these made-up names are just getting silly now). "According to high-level Grimsby Road after-match sources, Galli was proffering excuses for his 'abysmality'. In no particular order these are alleged to be: (1) I had a 'bad chip' and was up all night 'going at both ends'; (2) on Friday they offered me a contract worth half my last one; (3) Butterfield organised a conspiracy to ensure my weakness against good players would be ruthlessly exposed. This was in revenge for flushing his head down the loo in 1998." We're offering him a new contract? "I suggest the word allegedly might fit in to one or two of the sentences," adds Richard cautiously. "Items one and two are genuine rumours. Item 3 came to me via extra-terrestrial communication. Abysmality is a word of my own invention." To which I can add nothing other than to enquire whether the correspondent has also visited the National Space Centre recently.
Remember, readers, if you're suffering from the relegation blues, existential angst, sexual frustration or chronic schizophrenia, there is no email you could write that would be too silly for the Diary to publish. firstname.lastname@example.org is the address; denial and mild hysteria is the game.
Saturday 12 April
I'm not entirely sure what a death knell sounds like, but it probably shares something of the mournful timbre of Town's 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Crystal Palace this afternoon, watched by 4,707 people. Paul Groves springs a surprise by reverting to a 4-4-2 formation, only for his side to effectively relinquish first division status by shipping three first-half goals. Steve Chettle, on his return to the side, pulls one back soon after the break but a late strike from Dougie Freedman brings it all to an end. The result sees the Mariners crash to the bottom of the league, and although other scores mean the distance from safety remains at four points, there is little in today's outcome to suggest that Town will take enough from their remaining four matches to stand a chance.
Diary reader Bob Scaramanga, though (well, that's what it says here), reckons it's not all bad. "I think playing in Division Two next season would be better than being in Division One because Division One is rapidly disappearing up its own arse in
a pathetic attempt to become the Premiershit," he writes in an email to the Diary. "We want to be down there where the real football takes place, unencumbered by all that money that's ruining
the beautiful game." Quite a valid perspective, you might think. "In fact," he continues, "sod Division Two - let's get this team back into Sunday League. Yes!" Oh well.
Thanks to Miles, anyway, for writing yesterday's Diary, and doing it so well once again. The National Space Centre was dead skill, as we used to say when I was a little 'un caked with the mud of Grant Thorald Park; and I have to admit not knowing until now that the rings of Saturn are only 100 metres thick - almost exactly the same distance as the length of the pitch at Blundell Park. Which sounds like a cue for some witticism about Tony Gallimore or something, but I can't really be arsed today.
For those who are wondering, by the way, Irthlingborough is in Northamptonshire, about five miles east-north-east of Wellingborough, close to the junction of the A6 with the A45. It is also the smallest town in England to host a league football club. The Diary once spent a night there, some time around 1990, and visited the building site that was soon to become Nene Park, little suspecting that its then Dr Martens side Rushden & Diamonds might one day host a league fixture against Grimsby Town. Ah, football. In the immortal words of Peter Cook's pretend Scunny manager Alan Latchley, "She's a cruel mistress. She's more than a mistress - she's a wife, she's a daughter, she's an errant child!"
I don't know about you, but I could use a drink.
Friday 11 April
Hello readers, it’s Miles here again, cropping up like the proverbial bad penny. That’s ‘bad penny’ as in the coin, by the way, not some kinky pseudonym you might find on a card in a phone box.
Well, it may not have escaped your notice that it’s Friday, and Paul Groves will no doubt be getting that usual Friday feeling. But no chocolate and honeycomb-related elation for him, no. Mr G’s pre-weekend mood is hamstring and ankle-bone-related despondency. Convoluted intro over, let’s have a look at the team news for tomorrow: Expeditious Michael has not been training this week, in a hopefully-not-vain effort to get that ankle of his ready for tomorrow’s match in which, the local rag muses, he might start up front with young Master Mansaram. Stu Campbell (ankle) has also taken a knock to the region surrounding his talus, and joins Santos (hamstring and groin) and Hughes (thigh, keyboards and backing vocals) on the fifty-fifty list. And, in fact… (he said, sticking a forefinger in his ear, news reporter-stylee) …I’m just hearing that our resident Gaul has joined the 0-100 list, and will be replaced tomorrow by Steve Chettle, whose back we hope will last the ninety.
The visitors, meanwhile, are sure to save a seat on the coach for good old fans’ favourite Daniel Butterfield, who will no doubt get rapturous applause from all sides of Blundell Park. Well, if he scores an own-goal hat-trick, anyway. In his interview on the official site, gaffer boss chief Grovesie acknowledges that Danny is “good and versatile”, but that he will have “no friends on the pitch” which sounds a little ominous to me. I’d stay on the coach if I were him.
If the team selection migraine is getting too much for Paul, he could do no better than spend a few minutes in the company of the last of the loan-hicans, Michael Keane, who has plaudits aplenty for his temporary boss. "Paul Groves reminds me of David Moyes when I first went to Preston. I'm sure he'll be the next David Moyes and go on to do well. I've been very impressed.". In the same article (which the Diary has inadvertently lost the url for - sorry!) the aptly-named Keane also exalts the club, the players, and all the backroom staff. If Michael’s footballing career doesn’t take off as it should, he’d make a great team psychologist.
Well, that’s about it. Remember to scream at the top of your lungs tomorrow between 3pm and 4.45 - even if you’re in Sainsbury’s or your local library. It still might help.
Thursday 10 April
If at first you don't succeed in persuading shareholders to agree to the release of £363,000 of unissued capital, try, try again. That's the beautiful message from today's EGM at the club, where our indefatigable board has finally convinced its fellow investors, after years of trying, to put the club's interest before their own and let men with more money than them give some of it to Paul Groves to buy players. A bit late to buy players and keep us in Division One this year, admittedly, but if Paul can spend a bit in the summer then we might come back up again, is the idea, I guess. Rumours have begun that those present celebrated by tearing down a statue of Bill Carr. I think EGM stands for extraordinary general meeting, which always seems to suggest that the chairman will unicycle around the table juggling marmosets while everybody else paints their eyebrows mauve, gets naked and sings a medley of tunes by Sultans of Ping FC. No...? Just me then, obviously.
The Diary is delighted to note, a propos of the above, that the BBC Humber Sport website is getting the hang of rendering direct speech, with the happy result that its Peter Furneaux quotes now read distinctly less like passages from e.e.cummings. The site has made great strides towards intelligibility by cunningly deploying ellipses in today's Furneaux quote. "For the future," he begins, "for the next year of the club, because of course we've taken a tremendous blow not having the monies from ITV Digital...these worries could be resolved and money allowed to come into the club from people...that wanted to assist it." Excellent. For our next lesson we will see that where a section of direct speech straddles one or more paragraph breaks, any paragraph that continues the quote should begin by opening new speech marks.
Lovers of sterile, passionless environments for football will be disappointed by today's announcement from the club that plans for the new stadium at Great Coates have suffered another setback. A load of legal and procedural bollocks that the Diary has absolutely no chance in hell of understanding means that planning officers from North East Lincolnshire council will advise their committee to refuse permission for the ground when they meet tomorrow. I thought all this sort of stuff had been sorted already actually - didn't you? Anticipating another misdirected fan backlash, the club is vowing to "leave no stone unturned" in its efforts to get the ground built - which sounds no different from all the other assurances given about this tortuous construction project since it began in 1988 or whenever; but the Diary likes Blundell Park, so what the hell.
New ground or no new ground, Town have taken another step closer to Division Two since Rotherham's unsurprising decision to lose 2-0 to Stoke last night. The result carries the earthenware fetishists above Brighton and out of the bottom three, a formidable four points above the Mariners. As ever, though, the Diary seeks causes for optimism and notes that four of Town's remaining five games look 'winnable'; and there are, in any case, those who have whispered tentatively that relegation might not be the end of the world after all, you know. Are you one of their number? Email email@example.com to tell us why you think it'd be good playing in Division Two next season.
In all that excitement, you could be forgiven for having overlooked the latest triumph for Paul Wilkinson's bright young reserve side, a.k.a. next season's first team, who ran out 2-0 winners at Hartlepool yesterday afternoon with Giovanni Carchedi bagging both goals. "We played really well, we passed it well, and it's another great performance," purred Wilko. Trialist spotters will note the presence of young Middlesbrough striker Chris Garbutt (it's always Middlesbrough, isn't it), while Kevin George still seems to be poking around. American forward Jake Sagare, who also featured, has presumably gone back to being a trialist after that emergency one-month full-time contract expired, a bit ago.
That's all from me until Saturday, then; tomorrow is Mrs Diary's birthday, and we are celebrating with a visit to the National Space Centre in Leicester, because space is brilliant, and I'm after Simon Ford's autograph. Anyone fancy writing tomorrow's Diary? Drop us an email, usual address, and we'll sort everything out for you. Toodles!
Wednesday 9 April
Things look bleak again for Town after Wolves dealt the team its second defeat in four days at Blundell Park last night, handing the initiative in the first division survival fight to Stoke, who play their game in hand tonight at home to Rotherham. The abject dogs of Molineux took an early lead against the run of play through Nathan Blake, and then restricted Town to roughly no shots on target. "We didn't get in and around the back enough," admits Paul Groves, "and when we did the quality wasn't good enough." The match was watched by a risible 4,983, the remainder of the local population being split about 30-70 between people who don't like football watching Man You's annual quarter-final defeat in the so-called Champions League and people who don't like football doing something different.
Tuesday 8 April
Not much in the way of GTFC news today - short of John McDermott joining Georges Santos and Simon Ford as doubtful for tonight's game against Wolves - so I'm handing over today's Diary to you, the people, and the six emails you've sent since yesterday, as Strawberry Switchblade once sang. 'Since Yesterday', I mean; they probably received a lot more than six emails when it came out.
First up, Cod Almighty's very own Si Wilson, who responds positively to the news in yesterday's Diary that Town's chairman wants the league to dock points from clubs in administration: "I agree with Mr Furneaux's remarks. I would have agreed with them in a more whole-hearted manner if Leeds hasn't trounced Charlton at the weekend and reduced their chances of relegation and the inevitable administration that would have ensued." The Diary can only assume from this unreasonable outburst that Mr Wilson has had some kind of altercation with his Elland Road-frequenting in-laws.
The bulk of your overnight correspondence, however, concerns the Diary's ongoing cranial pain, and let me say immediately that I am deeply touched by your concern - even Si's, who suggests a sequel to Being John Malkovitch: "Was it like having a disco in your brian? Groovy!" The entirely diverting image of many young people strutting their stuff inside the manager of Scunthorpe United has made me feel better already.
Marnix Kolder, meanwhile, presents a similarly entertaining slip of the pen. "It could be the bends. Have you been diving for an excessive amount of time recently resulting in a build-up of nitrogen in your bloodstream that cannot be held in solution at 1 atmosphere leading to nitrogen bubbles in your blood that could mean headaches ultimately followed by either a heart attack or a stoke?" That reminds me - Ade Akinbiyi, acquired on loan by Town's relegation rivals on deadline day, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with damage knee ligaments!
"Dear Diary," begins a correspondent identifying himself only as Dave, "On Saturday, you mentioned that there were 'bright colours floating
around the room'. From this i can conclude one of two things: either you have been dropping tabs of LSD (then, presumably, picking them up again, blowing the dust off, and ingesting them); or that this is the early stages of you transmogrifying into a higher, non-corporeal form of life. If it's the latter, please let me know how it's done, as travelling the universe using merely the powers of thought has to be better than sitting behind a desk all day." Sorry, mate - trade secret.
Zebedee Flowerbud, meanwhile (I'm not making this up, though I presume he is), blames it on the Diary's lifestyle. "Over the past few years, I believe you may have indulged in extremely heavy drinking sessions, yet have awoken the following morning as bright as the proverbial button. Now, despite you lessening your alcohol intake, you are suffering these awful cranium crushers. I feel that your headaches may be caused by Karma." Don't know about the rest of you, but I suspect Mr Flowerbud to be a lightweight of the highest order whose diagnosis is informed only by his own feelings of inadequacy at being unable to hold his beer.
And finally, our old mucker Mark Wilson, who is, or seems to be, a real person, but begins by urging: "please don't quote me verbatim on this". I'll try and paraphrase, then. Mark praises the efforts of Messrs Keane and Hughes in the Town midfield at Leicester at the weekend and argues that, far from "strolling" to their win as the Diary so blithely decided on Saturday, the home side could have been a goal down at half time but for some dreadful shooting. I'm going verbatim for the next bit though, Mark, because I like it. "If you get a ground like the Stadium of Crisps by going bust," writes our man in Hertfordshire, "can we get the administrators in pronto please!" Carlisle's Paul Raven, he adds, was found a little wanting for pace on both Bristol City goals in the LDV Vans final on Sunday. "Regards to the lovely Mrs Diary," concludes Mark cheekily. I could get quite used to letting other people write this column for me, you know.
Monday 7 April
If, like the Diary, you get dead riled by teams like Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday racking up squillions of pounds of debt and still being able to sign players, buy referees and beat Town, then you'll love the ace new beat-the-cheats idea from Mr Furneaux and the board. At a Football League meeting later this month Town officials will propose that clubs who fall into administration or receivership be docked 10 points. "Why should a small club like ours pay its debts and expect to compete while others are paying just 10p in the £1?" says the chairman, in the Grimsby Telegraph. "Why should those clubs that try to pay their debts be disadvantaged and why should those who don't be allowed to prosper?" More power to you, Pete. The Diary trusts entirely that if the motion is carried then it won't come back to haunt you one day.
There could be trouble at the back for Town as the team prepares to take on Wolves tomorrow night at Blundell Park. Central defenders Simon Ford and Georges Santos are both of questionable fitness for the game, reports BBC Humber Sport, following injuries sustained in the weekend defeat at Leicester.
Speaking of which, I'm still getting the headaches, but I can see all right now. Does anyone know what it might be? I can't be arsed to go to the doctor with it. Email your diagnosis to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday 5 April
The Diary is forced to pull out of a journey to Leicester after succumbing to severe headaches and seeing weird bright colours floating around the room, and this time it wasn't the beer. Weird, eh. Anyway, the Foxes stroll to a 2-0 win over Town courtesy of second-half goals from Trevor Benjamin and Callum Davidson. The Mariners' new loan signing Michael Keane lines up in midfield and Michael Boulding returns to the fray as a substitute, but to little avail as this one goes with the form book.
The bottom four in the first division have diverged a little after this weekend's results. Brighton now lie two points clear in the escape pod following an excellent 2-1 win over Reading last night, while the Wednesday lot chalk up a dismayingly impressive 4-2 win over Franchise FC this afternoon, and Stoke take a point at home to Gillingham. The Sheffield club remain two points adrift of Town at the bottom, while Stoke in 22nd place inch a point ahead of the Mariners.
Elsewhere in Division One Burnley probably set some kind of record with their second 11-goal thriller of the season, their 6-5 defeat at Blundell Park in October being matched by a slightly less even balanced but no less remarkable 7-4 home defeat to Watford. Flipping 'eck, Tucker!
Friday 4 April
Good news from the treatment room! John McDermott, Richard Hughes and Michael Boulding have all returned to training after their various tweaks and niggles, and should all play some part in tomorrow's game at Leicester. The Diary expects Hughes and Macca to retain their starting places and Expeditious Michael to claim a width of the subs' bench.
The Crisps will be missing Scottish international midfielder Billy McKinlay and striker Paul Dickov, who are serving bans for whispering during assembly. Dickov's fellow frontman Brian Deane - the sort of big bugger who always scores against Town - is doubtful with a string of ham, and Matt Jones also misses out; Alan Rogers will probably return to the side in his stead. That means in the place he would have played in. Which is midfield.
If only he was forgotten man Phil Jevons returns to public consciousness today by issuing a come-and-keep-me plea to Hull manager Peter Taylor - the man who broke the bank at Leicester. The lackadaisical striker has not made an enormous impact in his season-long loan on the north bank, but now that the dreadful prospect of returning to Grimsby is looming, Jevons suddenly seems to be enjoying life in the former fishing port. "I would love to be a part of this club," he tells BBC Humber Sport today, adding the usual guff about the Tigers being potentially as big as Barcelona.
And that is all the news in the bewildering world of Grimsby Town Football Club. Hope you all have a nice weekend.
Thursday 3 April
"The players which the manager wants are being spoken too at the present time in the order of, what he sees as priorities in order that they can be assured of their future which is within the context of what the club can afford." That's the latest string of gibberish from BBC Humber Sport, the website that is rapidly becoming to the English language what Bobby Cumming was to the other team's ankles. The quote is attributed to Peter Furneaux, and skilled readers can just about make out from the context of its appearance that the Town chairman has given the go-ahead to Paul Groves to open talks with some of the club's 900 nearly-out-of-contract players. The Diary trusts that the names of John McDermott and Georges Santos will be first on the list of appointments.
The new peace agreement between GTFC and the Grimsby Telegraph comes under immediate pressure as the local paper for local people reports, in an odd kinda way, that 1,000 tickets for this weekend's game at Leicester will be available at the ground on the day, while the club announces that Leicester have remembered we don't have any fans and can't be arsed to open the kiosks. Embedded journalists are reporting from the GTFC regiments that the Foxes defence will be shocked and awed by Steve Livingstone, let in 12 goals in the first five minutes, and then surrender.
Whispers reach the Diary that the latest half-decent young 'un to make the premature step-up from reserve team duty to first team action could be Graham Hockless, who did his cause no harm at all by netting both goals in the second string's 2-0 win over Hull yesterday afternoon. The player's claim for a place at the Stadium of Fried Potato Snacks this weekend is strengthened still further by the happy coincidence of his being a midfielder - the area in which the Mariners find themselves particularly light just now - and one observer informs me, furthermore, that Hockless is comparable in stature to Mrs Diary, who towers at a perfectly formed 4'11". As Dave Boylen, Joe Waters and Dave Gilbert all demonstrated gloriously, small is beautiful where the Town midfield is concerned.
Next, the latest moves in the global capitalist conspiracy to destroy small football clubs. The likes of Grimsby are under renewed attack from two angles this week: on one side, the European Commission, which is seeking to trump all the wonderful things it has already done for football by outlawing the system whereby TV rights are sold collectively on a league-by-league basis and the cash is shared out among the clubs. The Commission wants clubs to sell broadcast permissions individually instead, meaning the biggest clubs get even bigger and the smallest are ground into the dirt. Isn't it lovely how free trade is making the world a better place for everyone.
At the same time the big clubs want even more Grimbarians to watch them on the telly instead of going to see Town and are seeking to overturn the regulation that prevents their matches being televised at three o'clock on Saturday afternoons. The demand has come from Peter Kenyon, chairman of tedious overachievers Manchester United, who last year showed his love of English football by calling for half of its clubs to be thrown out of the professional game. "Anyone with a wider perspective and the best interests of the whole game at heart would have to realise that the Saturday afternoon blackout is sacrosanct," pointed out Football League spokesman John Nagle. "Is that an iceberg ahead? But they said this crate was unsinkable!" MUFC TM ® announced half-year profits this week of £31.1 million.
Finally, some of you may have seen it already, but Cod Almighty now boasts a relaunched poetry section following the prosodic extravaganza that was Diary Poetry Week. Those would-be laureates who sent us verse after the week was over will now find it lovingly rendered there. Have a read, and if Town's plight moves you to metre then let us have a gander - by either emailing the Diary or pasting your shit into the CA feedback form. Fare thee well.
Wednesday 2 April
Michael Keane returns from Ireland under-21 duty to find himself in line for a GTFC debut at Leicester following a training injury to fellow loan midfielder Richard Hughes. Hughes went over on his ankle the other day after taking on one cone too many and so the Preston man, fresh from not playing for his country in Albania, stands by for action at the Bag of Crisps Stadium this Saturday. The Portsmouth man joins Alan Pouton, Stacy Coldicott, Darren Barnard and John McDermott swapping holiday brochures in the treatment room.
Club officials have sat down with their counterparts from the Grimsby Telegraph in a bid to settle their differences over a nice cup of tea and a posh sandwich from outside caterers. The GTFC hierarchy, like the Diary, was less than happy with the newspaper's dubious coverage last week of Town's failure to sign John Oster on a permanent basis; but the two parties have been very grown-up about it all and decided that the best way to live together in peace is to talk, not fight. Town's official site carries a 'joint statement', which is not an utterance by John Walker but a mutual declaration that "GTFC and the Telegraph both want to see a successful conclusion to the season and will continue to work together to that end." Are you watching, Tony Blair?
Fans of forward-line complacency will be excited by the official site's headline Jevons Back At BP?, but the story turns out to trail only the prospect of the sluggish scouse striker playing for Hull reserves this afternoon against his erstwhile Grimsby colleagues. No news is yet available regarding the participation of trialists, probably because it's a bit late in the season to be signing anyone now.
Tuesday 1 April
After receiving literally two emails from readers less than amused by the kerrrazy April Fool's Day stories circulating the internet, today's Diary has elected to desist from joining in the 'fun'. In any case, we at Cod Almighty, like GTFC themselves, aim to make you smile all year round; just as every day is Valentine's Day when you're Mrs Diary, every day is April Fool's Day when you read the Diary. Or something.
But there is news of a less than rosy nature to impart; to wit, that the Mariners' universally adored right-back, club captain and saviour of all humankind John McDermott is what they call an early doubt for Saturday's visit to Leicester. Macca has withdrawn from training with a dicky hamstring picked up in the Burnley game t'other week, says BBC Humber Sport, and may miss out this weekend. It also says Stuart Campbell has recovered from his injury, but I didn't even know he had one, so we won't dwell on that.
Those among you who like to track the careers of former Town players will be bidding big for a place on the next space shuttle, as Hamilton Academical's John Walker has hit today's Scottish headlines by failing an SFA drugs test. The former Rangers midfielder, who scored one goal in three appearances during his stint with the Mariners in 1995 and 1996, was randomly selected to wee into a jar after playing against Berwick on 8 March and could be fined or banned after a hearing next week. The precise substance in question has not been reported, and the Diary always thinks it's a bit daft to punish footballers regardless of their drug of choice; having a toke could hardly be considered performance-enhancing, after all, unless you are looking specifically for some serious creativity.
Not for the first time, the Diary is ashamed to hold its head up in public today after its hometown was nationally disgraced by a fellow Grimbarian. A feature on Radio Five Live last night highlighted the increasingly global nature of Premiership support these days; and to illustrate the point, the reporter spoke to an assortment of Liverpool 'fans' who gave their origins as Germany, Sweden, Thailand and...Grimsby. Imagine yourself as the reporter. Would you have (a) asked the Grimbarian why he didn't support Town? or (b) just smacked him in the gob?