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Wednesday 31 December
Chuffing taties! Loads of email! But first, Town fans of a sentimental tendency will be dismayed to note the departure of Alan Buckley from Rochdale after just six months in charge. Ever since Buckley was perhaps ill-advisedly sacked by the Mariners in 2000, those few GTFC supporters with a soft spot for the most successful manager in their club's history have been looking forward to seeing the stroppy old sod repeat his extraordinary achievements elsewhere. But financial restrictions spelt an end to his tenure at Lincoln in 2002, and with his latest charges hovering precariously over the league trapdoor Buckley and the Spotland club have ended their association by mutual consent. The guru of passing and movement recently received an award to mark his 1,000th league match in English management but his chances of inspiring another small club to more than a decade of overachievement now look increasingly slim.
Buckley's successor at Sincil Bank and one of his predecessors, Mr Big Keith Alexander, has spoken publicly for the first time since being rushed to hospital in November to undergo emergency brain surgery. The Lincoln boss who was also brought to Blundell Park as a player by Buckley in 1988 tells BBC Sport that he hopes to be back at work in around a month's time after recovering from his life-threatening double aneurysm at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital. "The first card I got was from Sir Alex [Ferguson]," reveals Keefer. "I don't even know the man. It's pleasing to know that people care."
It's taken longer than many Town fans expected, but completing a hat-trick of stories on managers with a Grimsby connection is a vote of confidence for Lennie Lawrence, whose Cardiff (or, as LL would have it, "a proper club") side have suffered a recent run of results that, although poor, has some way to go to match the tremendous sequence of one win in 20 league games that saw him given the heave-ho by the Mariners in 2001. "Lennie Lawrence is the man to lead us to the promised land," says eccentric Bluebirds chairman Sam Hammam. "I think the world of him." Bless.
One final story before we open today's bulging sack is that Darren Barnard could miss Saturday's trip to struggling Wycombe with some injury or other. Greg Young stands by to fill Dar-Bar's Welsh international boots should he fail to recover in time from whatever injury it is. As to the precise nature of said injury, we are all of us far from certain.
The first correspondent to take pity on the Diary, then, is Simon Bishop of Leeds he's called Simon Bishop and he lives in Leeds, I should add, lest you assume that he holds a high-ranking ecumenical role in urban West Yorkshire aka "the bloke that's mates with Dave who's the guy that took Si Wilson's cousin Laura out on a date". Phew! Simon has discovered trouble at t'mill in Wycombe: "Things are not looking rosy at chez Adams," he writes. "The ex-England man has lost patience with the eleven clowns that take to the field on Saturdays and has threatened to ring major changes and delve into the transfer market. Unless Senor Adams reckons he can buy players with Smarties or maybe magic beans, it could be loans that he is referring to."
So where's this leading? Mr Bish goes on: "PG has openly admitted that he would let Hockless and Town's other young starlets go out on loan but the problem has been a lack of interest. In light of Wycombe's predicament maybe PG could make a few calls and let them know about golden Graham's availability? A relegation dogfight (rather than reserve or Conference football) may be what the lad needs to gain some experience and character that would stand him in good stead for what could be a glorious future career. After all we'll have played Wycombe twice so no probs there and maybe he could do us a few favours by scoring a few against our rivals along the way not to mention pick up some tips from an ex-England legend. What do you reckon?" As long as the donkey's got them playing it on the ground now, mate, it sounds good to me.
Andy Holt of London whose Cod Almighty T-shirt appears to have given him a saintly aura has an explanation for Tony Crane's mysterious description of Phil Jevons' two goals against Oldham last week as "different gravy". According to Andy, the phrase "points to how our pole-like centre-back spends his Saturday mornings, at least on Saturdays with a home match. It is a phrase used by Soccer AM's Chelsea-supporting host Tim Lovejoy and I guess means something like 'a different class'. By now I guess you'll have had many replies to the same effect by others who subscribe to Sky Sports and read your diary, but how many of those replies will have made reference to the fact that Tony Crane's buttocks start just above his knee and balloon out from there?" The subject of Crane's arse is, I believe, one that has thus far received insufficient attention in the mainstream media, and Diary readers are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org with their observations on the issue.
"I'm in work, with no one else around," writes Pat Bell, "so in that state office workers are in between Xmas and New Year you imagine you are going to get loads done, but find yourself looking up Tommy Watson on Google instead, or working out Town's record in all the matches I've ever seen them in (we just avoid relegation, with about 50 points a season, which as they are nearly all away games is not too bad). Probably a bit late to start a campaign for the restoration of a Jan 1 fixture list, but you could invite anecdotes about the state people have been in when watching (or even playing in, if they feature in the Barnsley defence) the New Year's Day game. Nothing to contribute myself, having not got to such a game since I was about 13. Or how about matches where you've taken a non-Town fan, with embarrassing results. Soon after our haddock-waving cup run in the late 80s, I took a woman I was vaguely hoping to start dating to see us at Orient. She was going on about the poor passing in the lower divisions, so rather hoped the Buckley style would win her over. We lost 5-0." Ouch. Thanks Pat, and again readers are directed to email@example.com. I need some time to think about this one and I want to go and watch the Muppets on telly with Mrs Diary. Tell you what though if you ever want to interview Tommy Watson for your unofficial GTFC website, make sure you have a large overdraft facility.
"I see the auction for the gate naming has closed," writes Will Douglas, aka, morbidly, 'grimsbytillidie'. "I'm a bit narked I didn't win. I was unable to monitor the auction after the 22nd Dec when I was in darkest Devon and was outbid. Still, had I won I would have used my alter-ego and I'm not sure grimsbytillidie would have fitted on the sign too well. Probably worked out for the best..." Would you have gone above 160 quid though, Will? And when they auction off the naming of the refreshment kiosks, who's up for a whip-round to get one of them called the Tony Crane's Arse Snack Bar?
Today's last word goes to this website's resident poet Al Wilkinson, who writes simply: "We're going to New York on Friday." Whether Al is experimenting with an innovative new Japanese-style verse form or simply boasting is unclear, but I guess it means they won't also be going to Wycombe on Saturday. If you're talking honeymoon, though, Al, then I'm sure Diary readers the world over would join me in wishing you and Emma all the best, and don't forget to send us a photo of yourself wearing a Cod Almighty T-shirt in front of the Statue of Liberty.
That's yer lot then. Dunno whether there'll be a Diary tomorrow it depends on how hung over I am, what's on the telly, and whether there's anything to put in it, so I shall now wish you all health, happiness and good lovin' for 2004. Thanks for all your emails, today and indeed all year long I'm grateful to all of you just for reading and it's lovely to hear from you now and again. Have good 'uns!
Tuesday 30 December
What did you get for Christmas? What are you doing for New Year? What the flipping heck was Tony Crane talking about on Saturday when he said: "Jevvo's two goals were different gravy"? The Diary is lonely and cold and bored, and wants you to send email. firstname.lastname@example.org is the address.
Monday 29 December
It's not quite chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but the smell of freshly baked bread wafts agreeably through the corridors of Chateau Diary this morning as yours truly makes first use of the breadmaker my mum gave us for Christmas. Mrs Diary isn't too happy, principally because you can set the thing the night before to have bread ready when you wake up in the morning, and until now she has always enjoyed turfing me out of bed early on Saturday mornings to make bread manually, but there you have it. Her needs are my kneads.
Into this domestic idyll intrudes, as ever, the ghost of Christmas past and future that is Grimsby Town Football Club and its variable fortunes. Watched by a now colossal home crowd of 6,172, the Best Disciplined Club in the League (© 2003 P Groves) acquired a fifth red card of the season on Boxing Day as Tony Crane was not unreasonably dismissed for a last-man foul on Oldham's Jermaine Johnson early in the game, at which point the Diary sat back and vowed never to inflict an attachment to the Mariners upon any future son or daughter. Despite the worst efforts of Simon Ford, though, Town battled strongly to secure a 3-3 draw courtesy of two excellent goals from Phil Jevons and one from Michael Boulding.
Forty-eight hours later a Macca-free Mariners XI kicked off at London Road and made it two Christmas points out of six by claiming a goalless draw. "That's something like 10 clean sheets in the last 15 or 16 games," reckons PG, speaking on Town's official site, "so we're on the right track," but with just one win in the last eight league games the Town boss is also mindful of the need to turn draws into wins. John McDermott's absence which at least gave the excellent Marcel Cas a game was due to "the early signs of a hernia," adds the OS.
What else? Tidings of comfort and joy and former players. I think Daryl Clare scored a hat-trick at some point, and looks increasingly likely to be playing league football next season as Chester storm the Conference; Lee Nogan got two for York yesterday in their win over Alan Buckley's Rochdale who have now signed Kevin Donovan on non-contract terms; and Luke Cornwall, who scored four times for Town in an excellent loan spell in 2001, is being released by Bradford just six months after joining the West Yorkshire strugglers on a free transfer from Fulham.
There may be more to tell, but I feel like going back to bed. Hope you've all had a lovely Christmas.
Tuesday 23 December
Like the Diary, GTFC will be spending the festive season in financial chaos, except that the Mariners were promised a £330,000 loan and then had it snatched away, and the Diary has just spent too much money on whisky. As recently as 15 December the club received a letter stating that the money was on its way, reports the Grimsby Telegraph. "Everyone has been told it was coming and all of the clubs have put it in their cashflow," fumes Peter Furneaux. "Then we get a new letter and, whenever you ring the Football League to try and ask why, everyone is on holiday for Christmas." The loan had been pledged by the Football Foundation an organisation also known within the game as "some half-arsed PR effort set up by the FA and top English clubs to direct back to football's 'grass roots' a tiny proportion of the cash they creamed off by setting up the Premiership in the first place".
Town's annual general meeting went ahead as promised last night, with the key item of business apparently being the unanimous re-election to the board of Michael Rouse and John Fenty. I won't pretend to know why they were up for re-election in the first place. The club's financial woes continue, with four players still on ITV Digital wages, this season's gates being the lowest for ten years and Portsmouth being the tightwads who have reneged on our parachute money, with Harry Redknapp presumably keeping it for his wife's Christmas presents. The most alarming news is that players whose contracts expire in 2004 are unlikely to be offered new deals until near the end of this season, by which time our lad Boulding could easily have had his head turned by the prospect of another run-out in the Intertoto.
Let's have a look how the bidding is shaping up in the Blundell Park branch of Sotheby's, as a second auction has begun since we reported that one lucky Town fan will soon be able to have a gate at BP named after them (non-transferable to any future new stadium). Actually, luck has nothing to do with it; it's down to who bids the most money. Although rich and poor is just a matter of luck, really. Anyway... the leading bidder is currently the rather morbidly named 'grimsbytillidie', who has offered 155 quid; while the second auction for a place on the team coach as the squad travels to an away game is creating more interest, with 'Jonno11' leading the way on an outrageous 405 of your europounds. "But remember," adds the club's blurb, "youll be representing the Club when you're on that coach, and in the hotel for your pre-match meal, so you'll have to conform to the dress code, and act in the same way that you would wish professional footballers to act! But you'd want to do that anyway, wouldn't you?" Well, no, actually.
The word 'sorry' is spoken by the Cod Almighty ladies' and gents' outfitting department to any Diary readers who have ordered T-shirts that haven't arrived yet. Demand has been heavy for the two wonderfully stylish and witty designs available at just £5.50 each, in medium, large and extra-large, with all profits going to fund the hosting of this website and another batch has had to be ordered from the printers. Apologies all round for the wait but the CA team promises that you won't be disappointed. With the T-shirts, I think they mean, not Town's results over the holiday period or your career or anything like that.
Any road up, as we don't say in Grimsby, that's all you're getting out of me this side of Thursday. Those who are going, the Diary might just see you in the Rutland on Boxing Day; those who aren't can read about it here afterwards. Either way, thanks for reading, and a very happy black and white Christmas to you all. Take care.
Monday 22 December
Right... time to compensate for your Diary-free weekend with a bumper Monday edition, I feel. Sorry about that, but I was divided between three cities and had no access to a puter in any of them. Actually, technically, I could have written something yesterday instead of sleeping most of the afternoon, but there wasn't much to say after Saturday's postponement, except possibly: "Darren Ferguson and Chris Armstrong, who would have been suspended had the game gone ahead, will be eligible to play for Wrexham when the fixture is rearranged. Bollocks!"
Meanwhile, that which was waterlogged on Saturday is frozen on Monday, as the old saying goes, and Town's reserve match against Barnsley, which was scheduled to go ahead at Oakwell this afternoon, has been called off and rearranged for 5 January, reports the club's official website. Not that Tony Gallimore will feel the cold.
Town's supporters' trust is inviting fans to step up and take a spot-kick in the Boxing Day clash with Oldham. But Alan Pouton hasn't lost his bottle or anything it's all part of the trust's Fans' Day activities that will celebrate the role of supporters this Friday and raise much-needed cash for the club. GTST needs five volunteers to try and beat its celebrity goalkeeper, the legendary Nigel Batch, from 12 yards out, and if you fancy your chances then email email@example.com with a contact phone number, close your eyes, and just welly it.
Speaking of Mr Alan P, the Grimsby Telegraph today leads with the news that the fragile, waif-like midfielder will be forced to play two games in three days over Christmas just a few minutes after recovering from a life-threatening cough. "We were going to change things around," says PG, "but whether we get that luxury now, with the numbers that we have, we'll have to wait and see." Try the sofa in the middle of the room, Paul the feng shui is loads better. Jason Crowe's various suspensions prevent him from relieving Pouts this week, as it were, though it remains to be seen whether the manager will suddenly remember that Stuart Campbell plays better in central midfield and that Marcel Cas can be one of the best wingers in Division Two.
And speaking of both Marcel Cas and the Grimsby Telegraph, the Diary is compelled to congratulate the latter on the magnificent headline appended to the column of the former last Friday. The Dutchman was pondering his chances of appearing in Saturday's ill-fated meet with Wrexham, and with it the possibility of doing some footballing damage to the north Wales side, inspiring the GT to produce the marvellous headline CAS'LL MAIM POOR WREX. Well, I liked it, anyway.
Back on Town's official site we find the players keeping busy after Saturday's washout with a visit to the absurdly named Diana Princess of Wales Hospital. A selection of photographs shows Mr Groves and his players bringing some festive cheer to staff and patients at the Grimsby infirmary, with one young patient bearing an unsettling resemblance to Cod Almighty's Simon Wilson and an inmate of the children's ward apparently attempting to remind the GTFC boss that Stuart Campbell plays better in central midfield and that Marcel Cas can be one of the best wingers in Division Two.
An email reaches Diaryland from a certain John Garden, who has an observation to make on one of GTFC's latest fund-raising auctions. "I think Town should name one of their gates for Town maestro Joe Waters. Or is that a scandalous thing to suggest? Yes, very poor, I know. I'm sorry." So are we, John... so are we...
Today's final word goes to firstname.lastname@example.org, who writes: "Your friend has invited you (email@example.com) to sign up for Yahoo! Messenger." Being wholly unaware of having any friends, the Diary finds this not a little mysterious, until the email continues: "Message from : hi its dan here. hope codalmighty has some awards ceremony for the year. The Vines get my vote. and Mike Edwards. yup". I guess this is Dan Humphreys, from whom we've not heard in many a long moon, and it's not a bad idea he has there, although the Diary is less than convinced as to The Vines' adaptability when playing left-back or Edwards' ability to create melodic dynamism with an unexpected chord change. Any readers wishing to nominate Town players, ephemeral rock bands or anything else for a CA awards ceremony and perhaps to suggest categories and stuff are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org at their earliest convenience.
Friday 19 December
Halfway through the film yesterday, it finally came to me. Samwise Gamgee looks uncannily like Dave Boylen. After two and a half movies, representing about eight hours of Middle Earth time, I could finally concentrate on the plot. And a damn fine fillum it is too, getting three thumbs up from your, now-regular, stand-in Friday guest diarist. I suppose I should be opening up a competition now for you readers to suggest your Lord of the Rings Town look-alikes, but frankly, I can't be arsed. Oh, go on then, a walnut whip to the best one, and my decision is final.
After your regular diarist's Christmas ghost story on Tuesday, I was planning to do a report on the GTFC office party but it clashed with Melton cattle market so I didn't make it this year. However, in the best tradition of journo hackery, I had already written a few choice soundbites and it would be a shame to waste them. Heard from a popular senior player, recently returned from injury, as he showered before the do: "Gimme a capon, some roguish companions, a wench, and a bottle of sack. Take me to the alehouse, take me to the whorehouse. And if I vomit, keep me off of my back." More on that story, later.
Paul Groves was verging on the very brink of garrulity in his interview with the official website today. Over 400 words tumbled forth as he explained that he really wants to replace the suspended Crowe with Marcel Cas, but as he can't play in the middle he will probably have to make do with old Disco Des Hamilton. Groves also mentions that Alan Pouton has been feeling alternately "sore and stiff all this week" (which neatly provenances the sound bite in the previous paragraph, don't you think?), and then goes in to Ranieri mode explaining that he wants two players fighting for every position in the team. Paul finishes off by telling us that Wrexham's 'best player', one Darren Ferguson, may or may not be suspended tomorrow. This may be a very pathetic attempt by Paul to ingratiate himself with Darren's dad, but I doubt it somehow.
A quick trip to Wales tells me that Darren is indeed serving the last game of a three match ban tomorrow, and that Wrexham's striker Chris Armstrong's poorly knee will not be better before Boxing Day. On the upside for Wrexham, centre half Steve Roberts has "had several good rehab sessions this week" according to their physio Mel Pejic. So he should be sober, but how is his knee, Mel?
Any old road, I have to go and bake the bread, drag out my old Loudon Wainwright III albums, and raise the Rohirrin before lunch, so I'll love you and leave yer. Have a good weekend.
Thursday 18 December
Ah, sod you then.
The versatile Mr Jason Crowe will miss four of Town's next five games with the three-match ban for his sending-off at Bournemouth following soon after his suspension from this weekend's proceedings for receiving five yellow cards this season. Gosh. The former Portsmouth and Arsenal polyglot will miss the visit of Wrexham this weekend for his sequence of bookings and return only for the Boxing Day encounter with Oldham before missing the three subsequent games as the longer ban stamps in. Sorry, kicks in. Good job Pouton's back, really, though saying that, Paul could reinstate Cas and move Campbell to the middle. In an imaginative new fundraising venture Crowe will be available during his suspension to any Mariners fans keen to secure his services to teach trampoline or tenderise steak.
The Wrexham match also marks a repeat of the 'Ladies' Day' promotion, whereby the club offered discount tickets to women attending last month's game against Tranmere, in a bid to encourage "the awareness and participation of females in football", and then reported Town's defeat on its official website with the headline Ladies Day Ends "Bosoms" Up! Women will again be admitted this Saturday for just five quid, with girls under 16 getting in free; and Mariners Bet is listing odds on which female body part the OS will choose for another killer headline should Wrexham take all three points.
Until such time as it becomes a criminal offence punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment to move a football match away from Saturday afternoon when it isn't on the telly, Sunday afternoon is at least preferable to Friday night; and this is exactly the fate that has befallen Town's return trip to Oldham in 2004, which will now take place on Sunday 8 February. Don't think I'm doing anything that day, but the Diary will have to check its diary.
I was considering abusing my position as Diary by asking you my readers for some help with Mrs Diary's Christmas presents, but knowing my luck the day I asked would turn out to be one of the two or three times a year my small but perfectly formed better half chooses to see how I spend most of my life and actually looks at this page. Hey, but if I am prepared to bid 32 quid then I will lead the auction to have an entrance to Blundell Park named The Mrs Diary Gate, for this is GTFC's latest QXL extravaganza, and it makes a change from the unloved shirts of loan transients. If you bid and win, by the way, you don't have to call it The Mrs Diary Gate, but I would be much obliged if you did.
Wednesday 17 December
One of the strangest things that ever happened to me was on Cleethorpes seafront about 15 years ago. I was seeing this girl who lived in a distant city and she was visiting for the weekend. We went out for a walk one night and ended up on the sea wall. It's misty and cold with that Arctic wind off the estuary; the sky is deep, indigo, marbled, restless. We stop for a cuddle to the almost plaintive rolling note of the lonely foghorns out on the water and the murmurs of the tide, shifting, ebbing and flowing like teenage dreams. The moment could be hours long or gone in a blink. And a man with a dog descends the footbridge that crosses the railway at the end of Fuller Street, slowing as he sees us, pauses, then stops. Some seconds pass. "I thought for a minute you two were ghosts!" he finally blurts.
Marcel Cas's knee is OK and Cardiff aren't signing Stuart Campbell.
Tuesday 16 December
A line-up featuring Matt Tees, Harry Wainman and John Cockerill sounds like the fantasy of a wild-eyed Mariners nostalgic unexpectedly made team manager and given a DeLorean sports car with some interesting modifications, but this is the precise assemblage that Grimsby Town Supporters Trust has now signed up as honorary members. The next issue of the GTST magazine In Cod We Trust will carry an exclusive interview with Cockers after the former GTFC midfielder and mullet-wearer this month became the third fans' hero to join the trust. Meanwhile, the draw for the trust's Fans' Day lottery takes place at the Imp at 9pm tonight. Tickets will still be available at the venue right up until the draw, and prizes include a pre-match meal, tour of the ground, signed Georges Santos shirt, DVD player, and, ooh, loads of other stuff. "Members and non-members alike are most welcome to attend," confirms the GTST website.
Bloody hell! A rag and bone man just drove past! I didn't think they still existed, still less persisted with that unintelligible bisyllabic chant thing. Is it supposed to be "ragboooooone"? This guy sounds like he's calling "Paul Groooooooves!" That reminds me, actually I dreamt last night that I was Christmas shopping with Paul Groves. It helps me that I can share these things.
Hopes that Town's reserve side would get their promotion campaign back in gear yesterday after last week's home defeat by Boston were dashed as the seconds crashed 2-0 at Notts County. Ooh, sorry, Pat. A side that featured Simon Ford in defence, Paul Groves and Graham Hockless in the middle and Darren Mansaram up front failed to score for the first time this season. There were seven other players as well, by the way; I was just drawing attention to those with recent first-team experience. If you'd put out a team of only four players then losing 2-0 would be quite a respectable outcome.
Graham Taylor, who is yet to become an honorary member of the supporters' trust, is the man at the middle of today's most outlandish rumour in football. The former Mariners full-back, who also managed England in the early 1990s, was both a player and a boss at neighbouring Lincoln, and this is apparently evidence enough for the Sun to run a story that he will now return to Sincil Bank as a temporary replacement for current Imps supremo Keith Alexander while he recovers from emergency brain surgery. That's Alexander, not Taylor. The club has moved swiftly to deny the claims, adding that "Keith has seen the reports and is upset by them"; and Taylor, likewise, has been quick to confirm that his current career plan remains unaltered, and he will continue to repeat the phrase "very much so" several hundred times on Radio 5 Live every Sunday afternoon.
If you were getting married in less than two weeks' time, you wouldn't expect to have the time to email a smug daily columnist on an obscure website devoted to a second division football club about the minutiae of fitness problems among the playing staff. Unless it were the columnist you were marrying, perhaps; but Al Wilkinson knows full well that the Diary is spoken for, and so we all of us owe him an infinite debt of gratitude for taking time out from trying on silly clothes and ordering serviettes to clarify the situation vis-ΰ-vis Simon Ford's legs, which we touched upon yesterday. As it were. "I believe it was his hamstring," says Cod Almighty's answer to Roger McGough. Cheers Al!
Monday 15 December
Jason Crowe is denying the stamp on Bournemouth's Brian Stock for which he was sent off in Saturday's goalless draw at Dean Court. "I've spoke to Jason," says Paul Groves on Town's official site, with little heed for the niceties of the past participle. "He says that he has caught the lad but he's trying to hurdle over him." The manager was speaking immediately after the match, without the benefit of the video, and was still looking under the cushions for the remote when speaking to today's Grimsby Telegraph, but says: "From what people have told me it does sound like he's made contact and there was some form of infringement," and rules out an appeal against the decision, meaning a three-match ban for the central midfielder/left-back/right winger/handy knife sharpener. Whether this will entail some form of punishment for Crowe is uncertain, but having downloaded and winced at the video myself this morning, the Diary would be hard pressed to make a case for anything other than the maximum fine of two weeks' wages.
Al Wilkinson has emailed to point out the Diary's error in reporting the foul by Stock to which Crowe was retaliating. "I believe the challenge was on Pouton, not Onoura," he writes, and he believes right. After this sort of public humiliation, right here in my own glass house, you might have thought the Diary would hesitate before picking up another armful of rocks to chuck at other websites, but if you did then you don't know me that well, as I would not be following the holy calling for which I was placed on God's Earth if I refrained from pointing out the killer headline GROVES RUSHES TO GROVES' DEFENCE on the Grimsby Telegraph site. Well, it's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
Simon Ford continues the comeback from his long-standing knee injury, or was it a groin injury, I really can't remember any more, as Town reserves make the short hop to Notts County this afternoon and attempt to get back on track following their 3-1 routing by Boston last week. Mr Paul Groves is also named in the starting line-up, but messrs Jevons and Pouton appear to have left the B team behind them forever.
"If you are going to take up the cudgels against the BBC's use of English on Ceefax," writes Pat Bell in an email to the Diary, "can I point out the desperate overworking of the verb 'crash', as in 'Grimsby crash out of cup', usually when 'knocked' would do just as well. A crash implies drama if we get knocked out by Louth, or beaten by several goals, crash is fine, but crash just doesn't work as a synonym for 'team/player entirely predictably and mundanely eliminated from knockout competition'. What's worse is that when you start noticing crashes, they become absolutely unavoidable." This is true, Pat, or at least has been since Peter Handyside and Lee Ashcroft left the club.
Saturday 13 December
Jason Crowe becomes the fourth Town player this season to be sent off, immediately after Bournemouth's Brian Stock is also dismissed for a foul on Alan Pouton, all of which sound and fury signifies a nil-nil draw at Dean Court the excellent result of a surprise GTFC line-up in which Alan Pouton figures for the first time in nine months and Paul Groves addresses the dilemma of whether to field Onuora or Phil Jevons alongside Michael Boulding by selecting both, at the expense of Iain Anderson, who drops to the bench. My goodness, that was a long sentence. Better make the next one shorter. The point gained keeps the Mariners in 15th place in Division Two, still just six points off the play-offs and seven above the drop zone.
As if driven to a frenzy of destruction by the bad vibes emanating from Dorset, former Town defenders (after a fashion) Georges Santos and Jason Gavin also pick up red cards in the course of their endeavours for Ipswich and Bradford respectively. Leicester's Danny Coyne samples some rare Premiership action courtesy of another marching order, this time for his elder and better Ian Walker, but quickly allows Birmingham to double their lead at the Bowl of Crisps. In the former Humberside derby Hull and Scunny draw one-all at Glanford Park, which isn't bad for either, while Lee Nogan hits the mark as York record the same scoreline at Torquay, and in the Conference Jake Sagare comes off the bench to record his first goal for Halifax in a 2-0 home win over Exeter.
Well, thanks to Richard for another excellent guest Diary yesterday crowned by a quite super final paragraph, I feel and to all of you again for reading and keeping the fishy faith. I'm going off now to make some tea and then drink lots and lots of Guinness. Until next week: t'ra!
Friday 12 December
Hello there, it's your regular stand-in diarist here. But today, Matthew, I'm going to be the guest diarist, so I'm all dolled up in a big hat, 'specially. Outside it's raining again you know that fine rain that really
soaks you through. So settle down a minute with me, and let's sort out what's happening, because there seems to be some daft rumours flying around. In descending order of daftness they include a January Boulding transfer to
Sunderland, Town signing a striker, and Pouton warming the subs bench this Saturday. Oh, and a few people think that the upcoming AGM will last more than 25 minutes, and that it will be more than the obligatory rubber stamping exercise by the officers of the club.
Out of that lot I'm only interested in Pouton. The way my thinking goes, is that he can't be ready to play (even if he's fit he needs a couple of seasons passing and shooting practice), but he could be very good value on
the long coach journey, as a sort of inspirational team jester. The role of jester has been sadly diminished over the past few hundred years. Henry VIII
had a great one, called Will Summers, who not only told the jokes, but also formulated policy. He wasn't half as good a King after Summers popped his clogs. That EU crowd meeting up this weekend to discuss the draft constitution could really do with a jester (I would send Austin
Mitchell or Dennis Skinner to fill that role). But, on balance, I think our Alan is needed to organise the card game, tell a few jokes, and put the wind up Disco that his place in the team is coming under threat. So I really
hope he's on the bus wearing the appropriate GTFC hat.
Speaking of injury returnees, it seems that 'young' Simon Ford is getting dangerously close to match fitness. Pontoon regulars are meeting in the Imp car park at 7pm next Wednesday to practice their chorus ("man on!", "wake
up Ford!", etc). Newcomers always welcomed, and refreshments will be served.
But, I hear you sigh, what about tomorrow's big game? Well, in an interview with young Richard Lord, published on the Official Site Mr Groves is his usual self flirty one minute, and coy the next. Having bumped in to Master
Lord myself in the Pontoon the other week, I can see why he has that effect on older men. Anyway, Paul tells him that Marcel Cas is unfit with a sore knee, and that Michael Boulding is fit to play. Quoting from the interview:
"Of the striker selection headache facing the manager, Groves continued: "We
won't be making any early decisions because that will give them (Bournemouth) a bit of an insight to what we're doing. You try and keep your cards close to your chest. We'll pick the side as and when we get down there." Hey Paul, you seem to be getting muddled with the brag game on
the bus, just keep the team sheet in your inside pocket, them Cherries will never find it there.
Before I go, gentle readers, I'd like to respectfully remind you that supporting Grimsby Town is not all about success. In fact, it's got barely
anything to do with success. We support them because we love them, not because theyre good. And this season is really special, because we never know what will happen from match to match on our day we are the best in the division. And I've noticed one or two pundits recognising that we are under-achieving lately. So we might be marooned in mid-table obscurity, but we are better than that. And even more importantly those pesky Owls are a
couple of places below us. Grimsby Town until the sky goes out, and the
sea stops. That would be my choice for the next Cod Almighty T-shirt. See
Thursday 11 December
Only kidding! Marcel Cas did not, after all, figure in the starting line-up for yesterday's reserve match against Boston. If he had then perhaps Town's stiffs would not have succumbed to a 3-1 home defeat against the second string of a struggling third division side, but I guess we'll never know now. Darren Mansaram briefly hauled the Mariners level with a goal described by Town's official site as "brilliant", though a side that began with Paul Groves and Simon Ford among its number could not hold back the onslaught of the mighty Pilgrims reserves. Call me a cynic, but I tend to assume the worst of intentions and disbelieve what I am told.
The transfer window had better look out, because former Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Brian Mawhinney wants to hurl a rock through it. The window was imposed on England and Scotland in 2002 as part of FIFA's ongoing campaign to smoke a lot of dope and do the first thing that comes into its head, and since then the domestic transfer market has collapsed by 49 trillion hundred per cent. And unless the window is scrapped, the wealthy Arsenal fan who was appointed to look after the interests of the financially destitute Nationwide League is threatening to withdraw the league from the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee, the collective bargaining agreement that determines the terms and conditions of players' contracts! "We, for our part, are not content to play a submissive role in this matter," Sir Brian has declared, with a big dagger clenched between his teeth. I just can't imagine how he failed to sort the Irish thing out, can you?
The young and starstruck among you will be elevated into paroxysms of delight by the news that half a dozen Mariners will be in the club shop this evening for late night opening. The world's leading retail outlet for Grimsby Town FC merchandise is declining to lock its doors until eight o'clock, and consumers arriving between six and seven will be able to meet, chew the fat with and be autographed by any or all of John McDermott, Darren Barnard, Kirk Wheeler, Iain Ward, Jonny Rowan, Iain Anderson and Alan Pouton. And remember a Pouton signature given during his current, popular non-playing period is sure to be more valuable in the long term than one signed when he returns to the first team and everyone remembers he can't pass a ball.
The Diary must apologise to Paul Ketchley for having appeared to ignore an email he sent. Paul mailed in response to Mel Thurby's remembrances of Mariners past but, for reasons unknown, Yahoo misdirected his post to my spam folder, where it lay unread and unloved for nigh on one week until being discovered five minutes ago. So, belatedly: "Mel isn't the only one who remembers Bob Crosbie banging them in (only I was in the Osmond stand in those pre-away fan days)," recalls Paul. "But he might spell the name right Crosbie not Crosby was a bullet-headed Scot brought in by Allenby Chilton and fed crosses by Johnnie Scott. Let's not mention Jeff Whitefoot or I'll wax lyrical about the good old days." Thanks for that, mate, and like I say, I've no idea why the spam filter caught it. Paul continues: "Get a FREE Debt Analysis with No Commitment Required! We Can Help Press Here By directly negotiating with the IRS and State authorities we can settle your debts for far less than what you currently owe!"
Wednesday 10 December
The very wonderful Mr Michael Boulding stands a good chance of recovering fitness in time for the long trip south to face Bournemouth this weekend. That's the verdict of assistant manager Graham Rodger, who tells today's Grimsby Telegraph: "Because of the nature of the injury we're hoping to see him train tomorrow, be fit and be on the coach with us on Friday." The GTFC number two adds: "That's not rubbish," which sounds unnecessarily defensive to the Diary but perhaps recognises the fact that scores of Town fans dislike him just for the sake of having somebody to dislike. Phil Jevons who, conversely, proves that the key to Pontoon popularity is to not do anything fears that a comeback for Boulding would curtail his own return to the first team, and seeks to assuage concerns that he lacks the physical presence to provide a suitable counterweight for the 12-goal hitman by explaining: "I think I can. Why not?" Well, I must admit, that's me convinced.
Marcel Cas is another whose esteem among supporters has been boosted enormously by his omission from the first team, and his relegation to the reserve side that will face Boston this afternoon will doubtless have Town fans prostrating themselves at his clogs. The Dutch winger joins injury returnees Alan Pouton and Simon Ford in the second XI, whose Blundell Park kick off against the Pilgrims falls at two o'clock. United's former Town keeper Steve Croudson makes his first return to the club of his dreams since being cruelly released in the summer and left to sleep in the gutter. Still, at least it was warm.
In a move surprising only for the length of time it took, former Town jellyfish Kevin Donovan is finally training with Alan Buckley's Rochdale. The Lancashire club's official website professes uncertainty as to the manager's intentions, citing the possibility that Donovan's appearance at Spotland may be only to keep fit. But is this not precisely the reason Kev-Dov rolled up at Blundell Park a fortnight ago, immediately after his release by Barnsley? Either Buckley is aiming to link up with him for a third time or Dale's training facilities do to Town's what we do to the visiting fans' fish.
Speaking of footballers who play for Grimsby and then Barnsley, the contracts of Tony Gallimore and Peter Handyside are again being extended by the Oakwell club. When the lagered-up left-back and the bastard son of Alan Hansen joined the Tykes in the summer, the club was prevented by its financial woes from offering them anything other than monthly deals. Now that Barnsley are reported to have been given some more money from somewhere, as always seems to happen in these cases, you might think a longer contract would be on offer, but the former Town defensive duo are still living from month to month. If you're going to put a former Leeds chairman in charge, though, then what else can you expect but to be robbing Peter to pay Peter?
Bernard Manning and Barry Fry have proved to the world beyond all doubt that a great big belly need be no barrier to the pursuit of excellence in one's chosen field, and acting on literally one or two requests from readers, Cod Almighty is now happy to announce that their hefty guts ought no longer to hinder their quest to be snappily dressed. To save you reading back over that sentence two or three times, I will paraphrase it and announce simply that CA's cool as fuck GTFC T-shirts are now available in extra large. Buy! Buy! Bye-bye!
Tuesday 9 December
First up, my apologies for the lateness of today's Diary. It was my little brother's 21st last night and I was forced to drink beer! Before I knew it I was married to a sycamore in Great Limber and spent most of this morning dashing between the bathroom and the solicitor. I tried texting Cod Almighty to call for a guest diarist, but the bastards are now insisting on 24 hours' notice. So here I am, bloodied, late, but unbowed and ready to bring you another day's news on the football club we all love and cherish as our own.
Not that there is very much of it, anyway. Michael Boulding's hip, and how could he not be with that hair, so we all knew that already; and as for his hip injury, your guess is as good as mine is as good as Paul Groves's. The Town gaffer eventually popped up in later editions of yesterday's Grimsby Telegraph to shrug his shoulders, and so we're all going to have to keep sweating on Mick for another day or two. I dunno if you ask me, this alternative medicine lark really is going too far.
So we're left with the Mariners' globetrotting Welsh left-back Darren Barnard talking to the Telegraph about the possibility of his going head to head and cheek to cheek with top model David Beckham in the qualifiers for the 2004 World Cup, which begin after Euro 2003, and for which England and Wales were of course drawn in the same group. "I think playing left back and marking David Beckham, it will be the second time I've done it, will be nice and interesting," says Dar-Bar, who now has 21 international caps and 17 chickens.
A lucky dip into the Diary's inbox comes up with two apples and an email from Tony Rogers, who writes: "Given the Diary's eye for the BBC's more unusual/useless use of English (if I am to include the BBC Humber site as part of the BBC's family), what do you make of Auntie Beeb's increasing use of the phrase 'won it' on Ceefax? For example, 'Brett Ormerod won it for Southampton with a late winner'." Well, Tony, I have no objections to the phrase in its own right, but the example you give is clearly tautological. "Brett Ormerod won it for Southampton with a late volley" would be quite acceptable in my book. What does get my stylistic goat about Ceefax, though, is the way they use the word 'admit'. Now the word 'admit' imputes a certain degree of shame or culpability to the act or intention being admitted, does it not? "Michael Howard admitted yesterday that he nightly quaffs the blood of young virgins," that sort of thing. But Ceefax uses it as a straightforward synonym for 'state', with no moral aspect, as in: "John McDermott admitted yesterday that he was happy to sign a new contract with Grimsby." This is plainly wrong. Now if he'd said he wanted a transfer to Hull, for example, 'admit' would be entirely apposite.
Today's final fling is with Grimsby Telegraph columnist Pete Green, who takes issue with Justin Skinner's dismissal of Coventry away in the third round of the FA Cup as "a rubbish draw" which would of course have been Town's glamour fixture had the Mariners prevailed at Peterborough on Saturday. "After losing all my local away games when we were relegated," writes Pete, "and there only being ties with Kidderminster and Bromsgrove to hope for in the first two rounds of the cup, Coventry away would have just done me nicely." Sorry mate, but if you will insist on living in the midlands then you deserve everything you get.
Monday 8 December
Viewers of BBC1 yesterday afternoon, of which the Diary was one, saw former Mariner Steve Chettle playing his part as non-league Burton Albion managed what Town could not in conceding fewer than eight goals against Hartlepool. The injury-prone central defender appeared to have given away a penalty midway through the first half of the FA Cup second round tie as Pools striker Eifion Williams plunged to the ground under Chetts' challenge, but the referee joined the unusual alliance of the Diary and temporary BBC pundit Neil Warnock in believing that Williams had 'made the most of it', as they say. The Conference side lost out 1-0 through a Joel Porter strike on 70 minutes and that rubbish Paul Robinson spurned a chance to double the lead by firing straight at the Albion keeper. Pah. He's rubbish, he is.
GTFC have announced a date for the club's 112th annual general meeting, or should I say, given that the club is 125 years old, 'annual' general meeting. Cod Almighty is hoping to send a delegate to the Park on 22 December and report back on proceedings, assuming of course that kindly old Mr Furneaux won't be deploying large bald men with convictions for assault to refuse admission to shareholders wearing torn jeans, tatty trainers and a baggy Ramones t-shirt. And speaking of the chairman, which we were, crinkly Pete is to participate in one of those Q+A things like wot Paul did the other week. Email email@example.com with your questions, or if you can be arsed and you want the club to get an extra 0.0001p from advertisers, then hit the OS and use their email link instead.
Now we have only this chilly Monday afternoon to report Paul Groves' all too familiar taking of stock from his side's FA Cup defeat to Peterborough on Saturday. "We probably had as many chances as them," the Town boss says on the club's official site, "but you've got to finish them and that's what cost us." Close your eyes and it could almost be Alan Buckley ten years ago. Mmmm soup.
I'm trying to find out whether the hip injury that kept Michael Boulding away from London Road looks serious enough to spare the Bournemouth defence this Saturday as well, but there's nothing on it anywhere yet. The news of the swift one's exclusion from the Mariners' FA Cup squad, incidentally, emerged six minutes and 23 seconds after Friday's Diary went live, by which time I was mentally down the pub; so if you recklessly but admirably rely only on me for all your GTFC news and were then hospitalised with extreme shock when Phil 'The Deflector' Jevons scored Town's first on Saturday, then my apologies are due (subject to availability). Please allow 28 days for delivery.
"I didn't agree with Mat Hare's anti-FA cup article," writes Justin Skinner in an email to the Diary. "However, I see the winners of the Peterborough-Grimsby fixture... er, well, Peterborough... have been drawn away at Coventry in the next round. I'd have been a bit miffed if it would have been Man Utd away, Liverpool at home. Even a fixture against Scarborough or Telford would have been interesting. But Coventry away? That's a rubbish draw. They can keep it." John Arrand is still more forthright: "I have no contrary evidence so I think I'll just have to accept you're right," he says. "Bollocks." If only things were so simple with Mrs Diary.
Saturday 6 December
Town exit the FA Cup at the second round with a 3-2 defeat at Peterborough. But hey, there's more to life than football, isn't there.
Friday 5 December
A big happy birthday to Diary reader, lifelong Town fan and nice fella Mr Craig Oman! Craig isn't allowed on the internet at work but his lovely girlfriend Charlotte prints out the Diary for him every day, so hey, you kids have yourselves some fun!
Well, yesterday's injury scare was all a bit of fuss about nothing, or so BBC Humber would have us believe. The Hull-based public service news source reports today that Marcel Cas and Iffy Onuora have shrugged off their knee problems, if that's anatomically feasible, and are back in contention for tomorrow's FA Cup tie at Peterborough. And a Diary gold star for BBC Humber this afternoon, as the two sentences it devotes to the story are both syntactically flawless. Well done! Carry on like that and I'll think about buying a TV licence.
The situation is less happy down at that London Road, where the splendidly named on-loan Fulham winger Callum Willock, who has scored twice for the Posh so far, will miss out with a spooned hamstring sash; but Cod Almighty gurn star Mark Tyler will reclaim the keeper's jersey from former Ipswich stopper James Pullen, who was linked with Town in the summer despite being made to look silly by Paul Groves at Portman Road last season. As in Groves scored by striking the ball into the goal between Pullen's legs or something, not as in Groves tricked Pullen into wearing deelyboppers and a lavender tutu.
Barry Fry is hopping mad, meanwhile, about the game's early kick-off. Cambridgeshire police have brought the match forward to 2pm, and the jocular, foul-mouthed Peterborough boss is in need of some stress management training. "All the police have to go to Huntingdon 20 miles away," explains Bazza. "It's not the first time it's happened and I complained bitterly." The Diary believes Fry has misinterpreted tomorrow's protest at the headquarters of local vivisectionists Huntingdon Life Sciences as a group of militant vegetarians attempting to force the closure of his favourite meat pie shop.
Al Wilkinson has emailed the Diary with what sounds like the final word on the Lennie Lawrence revisionism controversy. "There's a simple answer to the argument," he boldly asserts. "An overpaid, over-rated Chinaman was used ahead of a fit reincarnated Hansen, who then understandably saw his arse and buggered off. Lennie let Handyside go, nuff said."
And lastly today, a further point from John Arrand with which we didn't have the space and time to deal yesterday. "Last week I think you stated that the last time we played Tranmere at BP Clare and Jeffrey were subbed at half time," he says, "but I don't believe you." Gasp! Well, you're quite right, John - in thinking I stated that but not in refusing to credit it, cos I remember the gloomy mood that descended when Jason Koumas gave the almost-Scousers the lead as clearly as the excitement that replaced it when Livvo and Luke Cornwall came out for the second half; and the estimable Soccerbase.com backs me up. This is, I believe, my cue to adopt insufferable smugness and John's to then produce a killer piece of contrary evidence that makes me look very stupid indeed.
Thursday 4 December
First of all, Belle and Sebastian were pigging brilliant, and Stuart Murdoch is totally the best singer in the world, and anyone who says their new album is anything less than magnificent must be some kind of Lennie Lawrence supporter, if you ask me. But more on that story later, as Richard would say Kirsty would say. Speaking of Richard, citizens of the free world owe him an eternal debt of gratitude and praise for yesterday's guest diary, even if he is almightily displeased about the way it was edited and the blowing of his anonymity. Sorry, fella - out of my hands, not my area of responsibility, see. Ooh, it's all gonna have to come down, that. Cost yer, that will - if you want it doing properly, like.
Aaaaanyway... three players are battling the forces of terrorism ahead of Saturday's trip to Peterborough in the FA Cup. Sorry - I meant knee injuries. Easy mistake to make. Marcel Cas, Iain Ward and Iffy Onuora will undergo fitness tests before the squad travels south, but two of them probably wouldn't play even if they're fit, so it's not as if we're stuck in a lift with a man carrying a small biological warhead in a briefcase or anything. I really must apologise for all this apocalyptic paranoia, but that's just how the world seems to be these days. Still, you've got to keep smiling.
Another sign of the times is the straitened circumstances of English professional football outside the corrupt and frankly tedious pantomime that is the Premiership, sponsored, appropriately enough, by a company whose good fortune is dependent on people buggering up their lives with debt. But in the nuclear winter of ITV Digital fallout - whoops, there I go again! - Grimsby Town have clearly read their 'Protect and Survive' manual and are coping better than most, as the club's annual report reveals the board's success in stemming financial losses - an achievement made all the more remarkable given all the miserable bastards in Grimsby who won't support their team. "We only lost £73,800 last year, compared to the loss of £1.162 million in 2002," chairman Furneaux announces to BBC Humber. "Obviously we're never out of the woods and we want to get the best team we can and by doing so we sail very close to the wind." I dunno what'll fill your stocking in three weeks' time but the Diary is asking Father Christmas for one of these boats that can sail through woods.
It hasn't been plain sailing for the non-playing staff at GTFC, though, as redundancies and wage cuts have rocked the club's infrastructure like a bomb in a big truck - one consequence of which, as Rich reported yesterday, is the departure of Town's excellent commercial manager Tim Harvey, who may have decided to double his salary by training as a car park attendant. The club has now revealed that his replacement will be the Mariners' former left-back/left winger David Smith, who starred in the two Wembley visits in the 1997-98 'double' season. The player joined Swansea after being released by Town in 2002 and returns as assistant commercial manager presumably on the grounds that his stint as PFA rep at Blundell Park at least proves he can read and write.
Diary readers are rounding on Lennie Lawrence after Mel Thurby's impassioned defence of the former Town manager earlier this week, and the first is John Arrand. "Firstly," he writes, "people talk about Lennie taking us to the top of the table as if it was some sort of noteworthy achievement but we'd played five games (at least one more than everyone else apart from Barnsley) and our wins were all 1-0ers with the woodwork and Coyne coming to our aid - it was nothing more than a reasonable run of fairly fortunate results that happened to come at the start of the season. Can Mel tell us where we were come Christmas that season?
"Secondly, Mel claims that 'over half the 1st team that had been
unavailable to Lennie for most of the season' came back to fitness under Groves. Over half? Yes, at the time Lennie was sacked we were missing key players like Allen, Pouton, Macca and possibly Coldicott but in the run under Lawrence where we went 1 win in 20 he generally wasn't playing Allen and Coldicott anyway, and he generally played Pouton wide on the right because bizarrely he was playing Butterfield and Menno in the middle. Also, Pouton was injured in about the 17th game of that run and Allen in about the 15th so I would say most players were actually available to Lawrence during that time. The reason we stayed up that season wasn't simply that those players came back from injury, but that Groves actually played them, and in the right positions too, dropped Menno, stopped playing Butterfield in the middle and moved him wide, played Boulding up front, signed Todd and to a lesser extent Cooke. So he didn't exactly have it all presented to him on a plate!"
Thanks for that, John; and speaking of Mr Butterfield, did anyone see the Palace-Villa highlights last night? Ooh look, Danny, that's J Lloyd Samuel - he plays for England under-21s, you know... oh, he's gone.
Mark Wilson has another take on the whole accursed business of Robin Lawrence. "Far be it from me to try to separate squabbling chums," says his email, "but it was neither Mr Lawrence or Mr Groves who kept us up a couple of seasons ago, it was Andy Todd." Ah, but who signed him, Mark? "Secondly, I couldn't agree more about how poor Town fans' memories are re Jevons. He might be banging them in for the reserves but the first team has proved an entirely different kettle of fish for him as it did at Hull. If he can't score in the third division why is he going to in the second?" Thank you, Mark! A lovingly hand-crafted 'The Diary Agrees With Me' badge is winging its way to you.
"And finally," continues MW, "did you know that John Cockerill now drives a lorry for a Grimsby-based company and he turned down a job at Rochdale with Alan Buckley as truck driving was more lucrative. I didn't either until my brother (who works with him) told me!" I didn't know that, actually, and what with Mr Harvey's departure as well, it raises the interesting question of alternative careers that might be pursued by current GTFC staff. You know the email address...
Wednesday 3 December
Before we start today's diary, Cod Almighty feels moved to point out that we have a lately organised guest diarist today. The Diary, you see, is swanning around in Sheffield after watching a modern popbeat combo called 'Belle & Sebastian' last night. But anyway, without further ado, we hand you over to Mr Richard Dawson.
"I don't know why I did it. I don't know why I enjoyed it. And I don't know why I'll do it again." So might have said any or all of the damp and dispirited Town fans as they trudged out of Blundell Park last Saturday. Sitting here in darkest, dampest, Lincolnshire this morning your stand-in diarist is struggling to get excited about anything - least of all Christmas, and the FA Cup second round tie at Peterborough this weekend. Still, I tell myself, things could be a whole lot worse. Like if I was a Leeds fan, for example. The Bahraini Leeds fan sheikh made a statement yesterday saying he was exploring options to assist Leeds that may or may not lead to a bid offer. "Frankly, that was a bollocks statement that meant nothing," said a refreshingly frank city analyst in today's Independent newspaper. Just what I thought.
Leeds reportedly owe about £78m (down from £81m a week ago mainly, I suspect, due to their continual need to fine their playing staff for endless crimes and misdemeanours off the field). The Grimsby Town accounts which dropped onto my doormat last Saturday morning show accumulated losses of £1,060,542 - a hundred grand or so worse than at the end of the previous season. These figures don't include the Jarvis sponsorship monies, of course, which will be accounted for in the current season. So our debt is about the same size as the rounding errors on the Leeds books.
But that million quid churns my stomach now that the bottom has dropped out of the player transfer market, and the days of TV money are over. I'm proud of the way that the club back office staff and directors have continued to soldier on despite the gnawing realisation that the club they work for is technically insolvent, and there is no apparent escape route. I've managed companies in a similar financial situation, and the longer it goes on the more it drags you down. So I understand entirely why Town commercial chap Tim Harvey is throwing in the towel, and leaving the club. Good luck Tim in the new job, and thanks (metaphorically in these straitened times) for all the fish. There's a delicious rumour circulating about his replacement, but I'll stay coy today, restraining myself to only mention that he's got a sweet left foot. I hope he's in it for the long haul though.
Anyway, enough of this gloomy talk, we have a 3-2 away win at 'Uddersfield to celebrate today. The official site tells me that Jevons scored twice, and Mansaram scored an 'impressive' third in a private practice match yesterday. Alan Pouton waddled his way through 55 minutes of the game to continue his comeback. But hang on - the rumour of his post-injury girth increase, put about by Mr Butcher last week, may be slightly spurious. One of my snouts, who attended the same reserve match at Lincoln, claims that Pouton cut a much more lithe figure than Tony suggested in his match report. Anyone out there who has knowledge of the current Poutonian circumference please email the Diary. Sadly the official site does not give a stepover count for yesterday's appearance, or mention who else took part for Town.
Oh, in case you're curious, the opening quote was lifted from a Simpsons episode. I'm not bothering to hang on for what dross the Grimsby Telegraph is spinning today. So I'm afraid you'll have to look for yourselves as I'm off to frighten some villagers with my chainsaw. See yer.
Tuesday 2 December
"Football, beer and betting - what more could you want?" It's not Mat Hare; it's Town's official site - which announces a bit further down the page that a GTFC reserve squad featuring injury returnee Mr Alan Pouton travels to Huddersfield this afternoon for a behind-closed-doors friendly at the McAlpine Stadium. The match goes ahead at 1pm and was arranged by Terriers boss Peter Taylor - once linked with the manager's job at Blundell Park - as extra practice for his players, having been excused FA Cup duty this weekend courtesy of a 1-0 defeat to Accrington in the first round. And did you see the winning goal? Cor!
In a rush of festive cheer Town are opening the club shop late on Thursdays between now and the Queen's Speech, 'late' being until 8pm, and with first-team players around to sign autographs and stuff between 6 and 7pm, cos they all have to be tucked up in bed with their cocoa by 8, y'see. In Alan Pouton's case, for some reason, that is a particularly charming image. All the cash you spend there goes to help the club, of course; whereas all the cash you spend on these two fantastic Cod Almighty T-shirts just goes to pay for the hosting of this website - but just ask yourself what all the cool kids will be wearing for the Oldham game on Boxing Day. Not to mention all the hypothermic kids.
Mel Thurby has taken the Diary's rather brusque dismissal of his Lennie Lawrence panegyric (and there's some homework for Stu Morton) with admirable good grace. "In the season that Groves took over from Lennie," he writes, "we avoided relegation, due to the fact that over half the 1st team that had been unavailable to Lennie for most of the season, came back fit when Groves took over. It was at the end of the next full season that Groves was in charge that we got relegated, you can hardly blame Lennie for that!!" Sir, I can and I will! It's sort of like the railways. The Potters Bar train crash - just to choose a random example in no way connected with Town's sponsor - took place after Labour came to power, but it's ultimately the Conservatives' fault, because it wouldn't have happened had they not privatised the railways. OK, so Labour should've renationalised them, but, erm... the taxpayers wouldn't stand for funding Zhang Enhua's wages, or something. Yeah.
"I forgot to thank you for the compliment," continues Mel T. "Jedi maybe, young, ummm, nope... I've been watching Town since Bob Crosby was smacking them in at the Pontoon end (once saw him burst the net at that end taking a penalty), suffice to say I first watched Town with my dad when I was 5 years old, in the early 50's. Nuff said!" Yeah, but I couldn't really introduce a Return of the Jedi quote by saying "middle-aged jedi", could I.
Finally, I hereby announce that because Mrs Diary and I are off to Sheffield to see Belle and Sebastian, this week's guest diary will be brought forward to tomorrow. Well, that's what I've told the CA editors, anyway. Well, asked them. Nicely. And made them all a cup of tea. And washed their cars. If all of that does the trick then I'll be back on Thursday. See ya.
Monday 1 December
Unhappy though Paul Groves may be, his natural conservatism is likely to preclude major changes to the GTFC team after Saturday's rubbish home defeat by Tranmere. "I'm not happy with the performance," the Town manager admits to today's Grimsby Telegraph, but adds: "I won't be making big changes. It's not as if we've played so poorly that we have to look at changing it." No mention is made of whatever alternative methods Paul may have in mind to improve the results.
For its part the Telegraph headlines an editorial piece IS IT TIME TO START WITH PHIL JEVONS? Assuming that the wise old hacks at Riby Square know better than to actually believe their own laughable assertion that "a Kabba, an Oster or a Lester would have found a way through on Saturday but only Jevons has that kind of class in the final third", one can only assume that the paper is hitching itself to the populist Jevons bandwagon to get back in with the fans after the Ambulancegate debacle. Anyway, look - all of you, look - Jevons is not the answer, any more than Terry Cooke was last season. I don't care how many he scores for the reserves; when he gets through on goal in a first-team game, he scuffs it weakly wide or straight at the keeper. Yes he does. You are simply choosing not to remember. Any chance of taking the Telegraph piece seriously, furthermore, is torpedoed by its claim that Saturday's weather "produced a compelling argument for summer football". Oh, just give over, you big jessies.
When you feel an urge to read embittered invective against those who earn a living from writing badly, the Diary may be your first port of call, but in the interests of karmic balance I feel compelled to point out, before we try to forget Saturday's match forever, a quite good report on the game from the Liverpool Daily Post. See - it can be done!
Stacy Coldicott has joined Alan Pouton and, er, most of the other players on the Mariners' training ground. The underrated midfielder, whose defensive presence is greatly missed this season as Des Hamilton struggles to recapture the form that once earned him a £1.5m transfer to Newcastle, has of course been sidelined with a broken leg since, ooh I dunno, ages ago now, but has begun something called "straight line running", according to an interview in Saturday's Sports Telegraph. I suppose it sounds a bit cooler and sportier than saying "running in a straight line". "There's still some healing of the bone to take place," explains Stace, "but the specialist has assured me that shouldn't be a problem." Young centre-half Simon Ford - well, young-ish now, really - could be fit enough to resume first-team duties within a fortnight, meanwhile, but the Diary for one would be mightily alarmed to see him recalled at Mike Edwards' expense.
"Didn't he get us to the top of the 1st Division, what has Groves done?" writes Mel Thurby, spurred into email action by the Diary's scornful treatment of Lennie Lawrence on Saturday. "Oh got us relegated, and didn't Lennie get Cardiff promoted? Yes he did, not really a loser then, more like a winner! One of the better managers we have had at this club for sure." Thanks for your mail, Mel - it's always good to hear from someone new - but if you ask me, see, Coco the Chimp could have got Cardiff promoted with the 56 scrillion quid Lawrence was given to spend, on top of already having the best striker in the Nationwide, and would probably have done better than finish sixth and scrape through the play-offs. And Groves didn't get Town relegated - Lawrence did; it's just that Groves happened to be the manager when it occurred. Mel, young jedi, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.