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Friday 28 February
Hello, I'm Andy Holt. You may remember me from other Cod Almighty articles such as 'Out of Africa' and '180 minutes of fame'. With the regular Diary
off gallavanting today in the wilds of the Land of No Internet I've been asked to step into the breach. Be nice to me, I'm new at this.
With tomorrow's match against Coventry looming large on the horizon all eyes are on Mr Groves for any indication of a likely starting XI. Not much news seems to be eminating from BP however, although it seems likely that Pouton will return after injury - again. Whether he'll last longer this time without breaking again remains to be seen. Let's hope so - we'll need his dynamic style when Warnock's bullyboys visit on Tuesday evening.
But back to tomorrow, Mansaram is back from his camping/cloning trip to Lilleshall and may figure, and the Livvosaurus is back from his suspension. Which is a shame. Everyone at Cod Almighty Towers has their fingers, toes, eyes and purposes crossed that the manager has seen the light in the absence
of the monolith.
And speaking of the manager, it's his 37th birthday today. Happy Birthday, Paul. Here's hoping the team present you with 3 points tomorrow in lieu of a pressie. Another three on Tuesday would be nice too, mind. Rumours abound that senility is setting in early however. Other than persisting in picking
Livvo, an interview on BBC Humberside reveals that Mr Groves is somewhat confused. You have to stop who? In the same article John 'speaks the obvious' Oster makes it clear that Town need to get some points from the next two matches.
It has come to the caretaker-Diary's attention that Groves' goal on Saturday was Grimsby Town football club's 6000th league goal. The OS quickly points out that this is including the expunging from the records of the two goals Town scored in the 1939/40 season which was cut short by the actions of a
In a bid to get him some valuable first team experience, Jonny Rowan's name has been circulated to all other league clubs. The aim is for him to go on loan and practise scoring, I think. Rumours that it's an infiltration technique in use by an agent of the men in dark sunglasses who have been seen in the vicinity of the reserve team squad are feared to be untrue.
Oh, and the Wolves match on March 29th might be off. Something to do with international call-ups or something. The stand-in Diary is not amused by this news as he intended to be in Grimsby to attend that match. But it all still depends on who is picked in national squads, of course.
In other news, Hull have signed another striker! Peter Taylor's ideal formation of 0-0-10 is well on track after capturing 19 year old Jonathan Walters on a month's loan from Bolton. With no professional goals to his name he'll fit right in at the Kingston Communication Stadium.
Thursday 27 February
You say yes, I say no, you say John Oster has a year and a half left to run on his contract, I say it expires this summer. If The Beatles were here today and decided to write a song about Grimsby Town FC chairman Peter Furneaux, that's how it might go. The Mariners supremo is quoted by BBC Humber Sport today as expressing the belief that our cherished loan wunderkind has "still got 18 months of his contract to run at Sunderland," whereas every source of information the Diary can lay its grubby paws on insists, cross its heart and hope to die, that the new contract Oster was given by the Black Cats last summer was just one year in duration. Somebody's got it wrong - and we wanna know who.
Any old how, Mr Furneaux's main purpose in talking to Auntie Hull is to express pleasant surprise that Town fans have already started discussing ways to raise the 75 big ones that the Grimsby Telegraph reckons Sunderland would accept for little John. Like the Diary, though, PF is quick to point out that the biggest stumbling block is likely to be the player's own wishes. "Also," adds the chairman wryly, "there is a remote possibility that Grimsby may not be in the first division next season." You have to love that Grimsby humour.
Meandering midfielder Mads Mortensen may have come a step closer to earning a contract with the Town after scoring half of the reserves' goals in last night's 5-2 defeat at Darlington. The Charlton man's strike was matched by a contribution from Chris Thompson; but the Keeganesque second string were never in the match after going 4-0 down within 20 minutes. The line-up cited by Town's official site, tragically, carries no mention of Mortensen's fellow trialist, the extravagantly monickered Kalam Mooniaruck - nor of Kevin George, Robert Dickinson, our old chum Wayne Gill, or any of the other 56 scrillion trialists to have flashed a bit of leg at GTFC of late. Saying that, there was somebody called Heggarty in there, who the Diary vaguely recalls came out of non-league in Nottinghamshire or something. Whatever.
Marnix Kolder, the Diary's Essex correspondent, has been doing a bit of digging, meanwhile, and ended up disinterring a 300-year-old corpse. According to a website he has discovered, Mads Mortensen sadly passed away on 11 April 1706. "It appears we're looking to extend our signing policy to include the undead," laments Marnix. Perhaps so, mate, but remember that even your average 300-year-old corpse would boast greater mobility than Danny Butterfield.
In recent months Town's official site has got the traditionalists among us a bit worked up by airing such suggestions as replacing Town's kit with chocolate and blue quarters and playing Robbie Williams hits when Town score a goal - and the latest heated debate to warm up your typing fingers concerns a redesign of the club badge, which two or three daft kids think might help get us into the second group stage of the Champions League. Email email@example.com with your outrage, if you can be arsed.
Rightio - the Diary is off to celebrate its 10th anniversary (since it got together with Mrs Diary, not since it went online) by drinking loads of beer for three days, as a result of which I will be unavailable to write this page tomorrow. Prospective temporary diarists are requested to email firstname.lastname@example.org with CV, photograph, and covering letter explaining in 100 words why you would just totally kick ass. Toodle-oo!
Wednesday 26 February
Graham Rodger has requested a personal hearing as the FA investigates his role in the touchline melée that, depending on your point of view, marred or enlivened the Stoke game on 8 February. Following a vicious, Livingstonian aerial assault on Chris Thompson by Potters defender Wayne Thomas, staff from both dug-outs became involved in a bit of a set-to, as a result of which Town's assistant manager is being charged by the governing body with bringing the game into disrepute. Curiously, though, the FA has failed to lay the same charge against either Thomas or referee Clive Wilkes, who failed to punish him appropriately. If he is found guilty at the hearing on 25 March, Rodger could be forced to sit in the stands for several games; but the entirely fair and even-handed football authorities are expected to take into account the fact that this would hit a player-managed team especially hard - and ban Rodger from the dug-out for the rest of the season.
Today's John Oster news is that fans are already discussing a whip-round to raise the £75,000 that the Grimsby Telegraph believes will secure the young winger's services beyond his current month's loan. BBC Humber Sport cites the case of Bob Tindall, a Town fan whose father-in-law was instrumental in helping to raise the £10,000 that secured Joe Waters' services in one of many similar fans' whip-rounds in GTFC history. Bob points out that "for the two games at Wembley there was a total of 50,000-plus fans went" - and believes the part-time army could be the key to keeping little John. For its part, the Diary is waiting to see whether little John actually wants to stay before putting its hand in its less than copiously stocked wallet.
A further theory as to the destiny of erstwhile Grimsby trialist and plastic bag photographer Wayne Gill arrives in the Diary's inbox from Anthony Wood of Doncaster, who points out another website in returning to the hypothesis that the Oldham midfielder's recent lack of first-team football is owing to his second job as a software developer. "He obviously knows little about software," adds Anthony, though, "as he was throwing his support behind Bill Gates!"
And finally, an email from a Mr N Picker, who writes: "Many thanks for the link to the Lilleshall Scouts website in yesterday's entry. I have to say though, that my puerile enjoyment of the amusing word 'beavers' therein was rather spoilt by the site's overexuberant use of the apostrophe when mentioning plurals of days of the week. "Scouts meet on Thursday is"? "Cubs meet on something belonging to Tuesday"? Well! There'll be no sewing on of 'Grammar And Punctuation' badges for that website manager. But hey, I suppose I should be telling them that, not you, shouldn't I."
Tuesday 25 February
Today, gentle reader, the Diary asks: what would you do if you had 75,000 quid? You could buy 329 ounces of gold, at current prices.
You could enjoy six pints of Old Mill in the Rutland every day for 20 years (not allowing for inflation). You could improve the pop charts immeasurably by purchasing 6,983 copies of the Comet Gain album Realistes (on vinyl). You could hire a management consultant for 37 minutes. You could buy three quarters of my house. But if today's Grimsby Telegraph is to be believed, you could instead buy John Oster from Sunderland for Grimsby Town, for that is the knock-down fee, says the paper, for which the doomed Premiership outfit would be persuaded to part with the wizardry of Os. "I don't think I'd be doing my job properly," admits Paul Groves, "if, in some shape or another, I didn't try and keep him." An octagon would be just fine, Paul.
The Telegraph also announces with justified grandeur that the Mariners approach the 'double header' of home games this Saturday and next Tuesday with "a fully fit squad for the first time this season". This is thanks to the recovery of Darren Mansaram at Lilleshall (more of which later) and the return to fitness of Town's gorgeous midfield idol Alan Pouton, who has resumed training today - with the youth team, apparently.
Town have launched an urgent appeal for replacement bolts for the revolving doors in the Blundell Park changing room as two more trialists arrive at the club. Charlton's 28-year-old midfielder Mads Mortensen is joined by the magnificently titled Kalam Mooniaruck, a young forward straight outta Manchester United, who holds England under-17 caps but has already spent fruitless trial periods with QPR and Rotherham. The hopeful duo may take some part in the reserves match at Darlington tomorrow - but as prior experience has demonstrated, supporters are best advised not to take anything for granted where the reserves or trialists are concerned.
Speaking of which, the Diary has received further correspondence on the subject of Wayne Gill, the Oldham midfielder and aviation software developer who recently tried out for the Town. This time it's from Cod Almighty's self-styled tipster Mat 'The Hat' Hare, who points us to a website that proves Wayne "would rather photograph carrier bags in a tree then play football for Grimsby Town". Shocking, Matthew - just shocking.
On the subject of Lilleshall, pondered on these pages only yesterday, Diary readers are equally forthcoming. Our friend Louis T Spangler has emailed a theory involving the 1930s crash-landing on Bryher in the Isles of Scilly of a spacecraft of medical supplies bound for Alpha Omicron XII - which is frankly ridiculous, as most experts now maintain that the craft was actually en route to Alpha Omicron XXIV - while M Kolder of Essex has discovered a website that reveals links between the FA's fitness centre and a shadowy right-wing cult implicated in the brainwashing of young children. Meanwhile, John Sowerby of Miami, S Yorks, reveals: "Lilleshall is the central cloning facility for the FA. All footballers in the UK are cloned on registering with the FA, and the clones stored until needed. In the event of major injury, the player goes to Lilleshall, undergoes memory transfer to a fully fit clone, then destroyed, with the clone taking his place. In Livvo's case, each time they've had to find his brain first, which is why it takes so long." Keep it coming!
Monday 24 February
Paul Groves, who clearly reckons he's on a roll after just signing two players in one day, has told Radio Humberside that he is now looking to secure the services of John Oster on a permanent basis. The Sunderland and Wales winger was one of the two loanees to arrive last Friday, despite his earlier insistence that he would stay and fight for a first-team spot at the Stadium of Light; and the Diary wouldn't bet against Oster lowering his expectations still further and Paul pulling it off, as the Town boss seems to know what little John wants somewhat better than the player himself. Either that or he's finally mastered the Jedi mind trick.
The recently formed Grimsby Town Supporters Trust is putting temptation in the Diary's way by unveiling a new beer to coincide with its official press launch. Town fans are invited to suggest names for the ale, developed by Tom Woods Brewery, in a Grimsby Telegraph competition; and a number of local public houses have already agreed to take the brew, says the trust. The launch is a-happening at 12:30pm on Thursday 6 March, at the Number 1 – that pub next to Cleethorpes train station – and the Diary is misty-eyed, not to mention moist-tongued, at the memory of Mariners Gold, the Town-flavoured ale once prepared by Cleethorpes brewery Willy's. For some of us, supporting Town and drinking beer go together like, er, supporting Town and being miserable.
Darren Mansaram has returned, refreshed, from Lilleshall after treatment on his ankle injury and could be set for a return to action as Town take on Division One's lack-of-form team Coventry this Saturday. Ah, Chris Thompson, it was all too brief. The Diary would love to know what actually happens at Lilleshall, for that matter, as the place has such an esoteric ring to it; the very name Lilleshall, like Lourdes, conjures up all kinds of magical, mystical, spiritual healing-type shit. Can anyone enlighten us? Email email@example.com if you can.
Town will not be signing Ipswich midfielder Jim Magilton, reports seemingly under-resourced football news outlet Teamtalk today. And there we all were thinking it was a done deal, eh.
And finally, the Diary is delighted to hear from Louis T Spangler, who sheds some light on the mystery of erstwhile Grimsby trialist Wayne Gill. Louis has tracked down Wayne to the Sports Aircraft Association of Australia, where he has been busy working on WX Decoder, a software application for decoding Australian Aviation weather briefings. The utility – available free for personal or non-commercial use – takes the standard technical briefing and rewords it into plain English. "So there we have it," writes Louis, "once again a potentially good footballer is snatched from under Grimsby Town's collective nose. When will the English FA do something about this brain drain into sports aircraft weather reporting software? The mind boggles." Isn't it always the way.
Saturday 22 February
A Town team with only one forward leads for most of the game at Portman Road this afternoon before returning to the bad habits of earlier this season and conceding an equaliser at 4:50pm. Lone striker Michael Boulding restores the Mariners' lead on 24 minutes after an early Paul Groves strike (yay!) is quickly cancelled out by Darren Bent, who is also responsible for Ipswich's second. John Oster (yay!) and fellow loan signing Richard Hughes make the team at the expense of Chris Thompson and Terry Cooke, seemingly considered an extravagance in away games.
And the Mariners' ongoing defensive ineptitude has finally seen them drop into the bottom three, as Brighton notch a third consecutive win, at home to Millwall by a goal to nil, and clamber up to 21st place. That's right - Brighton. Stoke's goal difference descends to the profundity of Town's as they get lamped 6-0 at Forest; while elsewhere at the foot of the table, the Wendys scrape a goalless draw at rubbish old Palace - which, admittedly, is more than Town ever manage there. But Diary readers of a superstitious bent - sorry, bad choice of word - may be encouraged to note that in a 1963 photograph that appears in the current When Saturday Comes, a set of league tables displays GTFC lying where other than fourth from bottom of the old Division Two. Well, it'll do me.
Ex-Town midfielder Tommy Widdrington, who if pointing were passing would have been one of the game's greats, makes a rare appearance on the scoresheet for Hartlepool, who trash Swansea 4-0; while his former teammate Jamie Forrester nets a penno as the third division's biggest lower mid-table club Hull stutter to a 1-1 home draw with Cambridge. It's love-all in the Lincs derby 'twixt Scunny and Lincoln, and Boston further ease their relegation worries with an excellent 3-0 win over Kidderminster.
A-ha-haand finally, a lighter note on which to dull the maddening pain of today's news. Following the Diary's appeal for information on Thursday as to the fate of Town's recent trialists, Mark Wilson has emailed to explain that following his unsuccessful trial with the Mariners, Leon Trotsky signed for a Mexican club before being killed in a bizarre ice-pick accident. "Rumours are rife," adds our man, "that the 'accident' may have something to do with a disagreement he had whilst in Moscow." Thanks for that, Mark - it's certainly as plausible an explanation as any we've heard. But what's happened to poor old Wayne Gill, eh? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your conspiracy theories.
Friday 21 February
You'll never guess who Town have just signed! It's John "No way am I going back to Grimsby" Oster, no less, back for a third month's loan. The player was recalled by Sunderland boss Howard Wilkinson at the end of December to improve his rubbish team, and made an immediate impact by crossing for Kevin Phillips to score an equaliser against Bolton in an FA Cup tie. Wilkinson confirmed his renowned managerial acumen by dropping him again, and his team are now bottom of the Premiership. Oster, though, insisted as recently as last week that he had no intention of returning to Blundell Park - but hey, his volte-face is our gain. Because the Welsh international winger has already spent two months with the Mariners this season, Town would have to sign him 'permanently' for him to stay longer than this month; but new scientific research has revealed that Grimsby supporters have evolved an advanced psychotemporal function that prevents them thinking more than a week into the future.
And that's not all, folks - we've finally bagged a central midfielder too. Twenty-three-year-old Richard Hughes is quite liderally not in the same league as earlier loan targets Carlos Marinelli and Michael Stewart, but he is a former Scottish under-21 international and scored 14 goals in 123 league starts for Bournemouth (bless 'em) before joining Portsmouth last summer. He hasn't played for them much - probably owing to his British origin and relatively small transfer fee of £100,000 - but figured in the league leaders' 1-0 win at Blundell Park back in August. Before his spell at Bournemouth, Hughes was on the books at Arsenal and Atalanta.
Both Hughes and Oster are expected to line up in tomorrow's team to face Ipswich, and Alan Pouton may be back in contention. Town have no new injury worries, and it's not every day you can say that. Pablo Counago begins a four-match ban for Ipswich, while defender Herman Hreidarsson serves the second game of his, and tasty young striker Darren Ambrose is doubtful after getting hurt in his side's 4-2 defeat by Wolves the other night.
Today's sharing of happy tidings concludes with an amusing website for you to look at. Make sure you keep on reading to the bottom of the page.
Thursday 20 February
Shaun Allaway, Paul Hyam, Kevin George, Ashley Hildred, Kirk Wheeler, Greg Young, Jonny Rowan, Andy Brabs, Jake Sagare, Graham Hockless, Stephen Downes, Robert Dickinson, Andy Pettinger, James Davy, Joe Lightowler and Giovanni Carchedi are the players who featured in yesterday's climatically unscathed reserves game with York, according to the Mariners' official site. The "pick of the bunch" of trialists on show was Kevin George, says the report - but given that he and Dickinson were the only trialists in the line-up, it was not a particularly difficult bunch to become the pick of. Whatever happened to Jimmy Ghaichem, Andy Kelly, Danny Self, Wayne Gill and, for that matter, Leon Trotsky? The Diary demands answers, damn it. Oh, Town won 2-0 by the way - Wheeler and Downes.
Evanescent Town hero Martin Pringle is at the centre of a legal flare-up over the career-wrecking foul by Stockport defender Dave Challinor that, er, wrecked his career. The surprise is that it is neither Challinor nor the pinhead of a referee who declined to punish him for the assault who are being sued, but former Tottenham and England defender Gary Stevens. Insurance firm Sportsure is umm-ing and ah-ing about paying out on Pringle's claim, and the player's advisers are talking about an action for negligence against Stevens, who sold Pringle the policy in question. The Diary only hopes Mart has better solicitors than the Football League's.
Don't know if you've noticed, by the way, but the Diary now has its own email address. If you want to comment on anything that appears on this page, or even contribute titbits of news and goss, then email@example.com is the destination. Look forward to hearing from ya.
Wednesday 19 February
Following last week's exclusive pondering by the Diary, the virtual hills are alive with the sound of Jack Lester coming back to Grimsby. While Town's official site admits that "Groves...would love Jack to return", the club also points out that the jelly-legged striker has a suspension coming up. "The Mariners have needs here and now," it continues, sounding for all the world like an episode of Trisha.
The Grimsby Telegraph reckons Alan Pouton could be back in contention for this weekend's visit to Ipswich. The inconsistent but influential midfielder made a match-winning return from injury against Stoke the other week only to limp out of training and miss last Saturday's crappy effort at Gillingham. Lincolnshire's leading source of scare stories about crime and asylum seekers then reveals that Paul Groves has enquired after borrowing Matt Jansen, but the brilliant Blackburn striker has become the latest in a long line of players to kick him in the teeth. And Mark Clattenberg didn't book a single one of them.
Town reserves take on York at Blundell Park this afternoon, and among their number will be Ipswich's Robert 'Cheap as chips' Dickinson, and about 35 other trialists. The low pressure area to the south-east will bring a mass of cold continental air over the area; hence the maximum temperature is expected to be five degrees celsius, with a minimum of just two - but with 25mph gusts blowing off the North Sea, the wind chill factor means it will feel considerably colder. The air pollution index, meanwhile, is 4, which probably means another ammonia leak at Birds Eye.
And finally, congratulations are once again in order here at Cod Almighty. Raise your glasses, please, ladies and gentlemen, to young Louis Moss, born at five past nine last night to television star and CA's alliterative puzzle compiler Mr Miles Moss and his lovely better half Cath. There's a battle for this one's soul, though, folks, cos his mum supports Man City...
Tuesday 18 February
Another trialist turns up at Blundell Park with his possessions strewn about his feet and a sign saying WILL PLAY FOR FOOD. Ipswich midfielder Robert Dickinson has been told his contract won't be renewed come the end of this season, and after failing to get fixed up at Rotherham and West Ham has rolled up in North East Lincs. "Robert's got bags of ability but maybe he's one who needs to step down to come back up again," says Ian Smith of Town's youth academy, seemingly unaware that Ipswich and Grimsby are in the same division. Smith goes on to assure fans that Dickinson fits GTFC's honourable tradition of pacifism, pointing out that the player is "a bit on the small side and needs to develop physically as well."
Tricky young striker Darren Mansaram, meanwhile, has gone to Lilleshall for treatment on his damaged ankle - but might just possibly, maybe, perhaps, be back in contention for this weekend's visit to Ipswich, but don't hold your breath.
Flushed with the success of its youth programme - which since Town were diddled out of most of their income by Carlton and Granada has provided indispensible back-up for the first team - the club is appealing for cash to keep the whole set-up ticking along. A new 'donation hotline' allows fans to contribute in multiples of 20 quid towards the search for 'another Jonny Oster or Gary Croft'.
But the spirit of Robin Hood is alive and well this week, and Town could be set for a windfall from elsewhere. Perhaps inspired by the glorious success of the London congestion charge, two Labour MPs have remembered that it is sometimes possible to make things better, and have tabled a motion that would redistribute 10 per cent of Premiership broadcasting income among football's have-nots. An existing agreement sees five per cent of the cash handed to the game's grassroots, but the new measure - proposed by James Purnell and Andy Burnham - would hand Nationwide League clubs the same amount again. "The whole thing smacks of politicians being very good at spending other people's money," spluttered an outraged Richard Scudamore, Premier League chief executive. Better that, though, Mr Scud, than your lot just spending it on Titi Camara and Bruno Cheyrou.
Monday 17 February
Today's big story, so far as GTFC and the internet are concerned, is of the latest midfielder to state a preference for sitting on his arse over playing football. This one is Manchester United reserve and Scottish international Michael Stewart, who would really rather not get his precious little kneesie-weesies dirty with that nasty Blundell Park mud, thank you very much; so it's back to the drawing board for Paul Groves in his search for loan players. Stewart has made three full appearances for the Home Counties club this season, and is really good in the Diary's game of Championship Manager but won't leave Hamilton Academical to play for me.
Groves, meanwhile, is sounding less than chuffed with his players after Saturday's rubbish 3-0 defeat at Gillingham. In a rare public criticism, the Town boss tells today's Grimmo Telegraph: "We were very disappointed with the goals...there aren't too many positives to take from the game and we didn't cause them too many problems." Mr Paul is threatening to wield the axe for this weekend's scary-looking visit to Ipswich - but who can he replace anybody with?
Speaking of the Gillingham game, Cod Almighty astrologer Mystic Mick is celebrating a third correct prediction on the trot - but the Diary has checked the accuracy of the guesses we made on Saturday about the match, and notes with pride that we were correct in supposing on the one hand that Simon Ford had a real smeller, and on the other that one of the goals came from a dodgy free kick. Admittedly it was the third rather than the first, but that's still pretty good going, eh. We were wrong about Chris Thompson reverting to mediocrity, but hey - good on him.
Saturday 15 February
Let's play a game! The Diary didn't see this afternoon's 3-0 defeat at Gillingham, but is going to guess that Town started quite brightly but gave up all hope after the Gills' early first goal, which we guess resulted from a dodgy free kick; that after the second, Town had two shots on goal, both of which flew some distance over the bar; that ultimately we were indebted to some fine keeping from Danny Coyne for keeping the score down; and that Chris Thompson had a very quiet game, and Simon Ford had one of those off days again. So let's wait for Tony's match report tomorrow and see if we were right. Well, Town have just confirmed themselves as the biggest away-from-home pushovers in the world and handed the initiative back to Stoke; we have to amuse ourselves somehow.
Around the grounds now, and Chris Bolder's brother Adam does his bit for the family cause by scoring both goals against Sheffield Wednesday in 10-man Derby's 2-2 draw. Bradford, meanwhile, finally edge ahead of Wednesday in the closely-fought race to become Town fans' most despised opponents by letting Brighton beat them 1-0 on their own patch. Down in the third division former Town striker Jamie Forrester finds the net for Hull, but east Yorkshire's sleeping giants go down 3-1 to north Lincolnshire's catatonic dwarves Scunthorpe.
For the second time this week, the Diary turns to its births, marriages and shackings-up-with page - this time to congratulate Cod Almighty's founder Si and his missus Sonya on their new signing, Emily Wilson, born into this crazy old world at half past one this morning. Here's wishing you all the love, kids. And if little Em has a lifetime of supporting Town to look forward to, God help her.
Friday 14 February
Town's assistant manager Graham Rodger marks Valentine's Day by kissing and making up with Stoke boss Tony Pulis. Following a violent turn of events on the pitch, the two had something of a tiff in last Saturday's match between the two sides, with Rodge being sent off for his indiscretion, but have since patched things up and seem really good together now. "There was a coming together with Tony Pulis," Grezza admits to today's Grimsby Telegraph, "as you would expect from two people passionately involved in football." But the long-ball Potters supremo has now agreed to back his erstwhile antagonist in an appeal against his dismissal. Bless.
Fans' official scapegoat of the moment Stacy Coldicott is set to return to the Town line-up for tomorrow's visit to Gillingham. The unreasonably harassed midfielder will probably replace Alan Pouton, who is crocked again, for his first appearance since the 3-3 draw at 'Wimbledon' on 11 January. Otherwise it looks like an unchanged side for the Mariners, with Chris Thompson and Terry Cooke looking to retain their places after great displays against Stoke.
This, of course, is pending the results of Paul Groves' search for new loan players, which is set to continue right up to today's 5pm registration deadline. The boss has made a good job of keeping his targets secret this time, and Town's official site is lapping up the fact that the Diary and other sources can only resort to guesswork. Fair enough comment, we reckon - if you want the very latest news, the OS is the place to be. If you want recycled old tosh laced with unpleasant sarcasm and the occasional indulgent digression into hopelessly idealistic politics, stick with the Diary.
Meanwhile, Kevin James is doubtful for the Gills; but Chris Hope, Paul Shaw, player-boss Andy Hessenthaler and - arguably the best name in the Nationwide - Nayron Nosworthy are all set to overcome injuries. Quite good striker Marlon King is ruled out for the season, though, with cruciate stuff. The Diary is scared, anyway. We never win down south.
Thursday 13 February
Town's feverish search for firepower gains urgency with the news that David Soames limped out of yesterday's reserve match against Lincoln with an ankle injury. The extent of young Digger's damage is not yet known, but with Michael Boulding, Chris Thompson and Jonny Rowan as the only Town strikers still available to play, Paul Groves will be stepping up his hunt for a loan forward in the days ahead. Wednesday's match finished 2-0 to the Imps, thanks to former Mariners Adam Buckley and loanee Luke Cornwall, whose four goals at the end of the 2000-01 season went some way to preserving Town's first division status that year. Trialists Andy Kelly, Kevin George, Jimmy Ghaicham, Danny Self and Nathan Fleetwood all played, with reserve team coach Paul Wilkinson insisting: "It was an excellent performance despite the result."
And with Man City's sublimely talented Darren Huckerby moving to Nottingham Forest for the rest of the season, Jack Lester having a big barney with Forest boss Paul Hart, and chunky Lee Ashcroft still sans club, Groves may now have a chance to recreate the Lester-Ashcroft striking partnership that occasionally looked quite good for Town about twice a few seasons ago. Not that we want him to, like – it'd be too much like copping off with your ex who was occasionally spectacular in bed but just really annoying the rest of the time.
Groves' ill-starred hunt for a midfielder, meanwhile, is set for immediate resumption, with Alan Pouton getting broken again. The iconic ballwinner made a man-of-the-match return to action in last weekend's victory against Stoke, but this is Grimsby, and he's since knackered his knee once more. "We're looking for reinforcements in every department," the manager says in today's Grimsby Telegraph. "We've made enquiries and we really need a couple in."
Not included in that couple will be Sunderland's John Oster. After seeing his career resurrected by a two-month loan to the Town earlier this season, and coming off the bench in Wales' 2-2 draw with Bosnia last night, the young wing wizard dashed hopes of a third spell at Blundell Park by telling the Grim Tel: "Going to Grimsby was always going to be about me getting some match practice." Oster will instead turn his energies to the entirely hopeless task of getting Black Cats boss Howard Wilkinson to recognise his talents and play him occasionally. Town left-back Darren Barnard was an unused sub in Cardiff, by the way; while poor old Danny Coyne – clearly no carpenter – didn't even make the bench.
Paul Raven is in talks with Carlisle after the apparent breakdown of his proposed move to Rotherham. The Cumbrian club is hoping to sign the experienced centre-back, released by Town the other week, in time to face Oxford this Saturday – the very club he was about to sign for last season when his phone rang halfway down the M1 as Town's attempt to sign M**lon Br**mes broke down.
Also down in the basement drop zone trapdoor thing, Bristol Rovers striker Bradley Allen is doing the slag-off-Town-to-his-new-mates thing. "I would say this club is bigger than Grimsby," he tells the Bristol Evening Post today. "And Bristol doesn't smell of fish. And it's warmer. And got loads of cool clubs and that," he didn't add.
And finally, the Diary would like to congratulate its fellow slacker and Cod Almighty tipster Mat Hare, who has today announced his imminent shacking-up with lovely girlfriend Cathryn. Awww!
Wednesday 12 February
On Sunday he wanted a midfielder; on Monday he wanted a defender; and today the topsy-turvy world of GTFC sees Paul Groves again switching the focus of his player search towards a forward. Fears early this week that occasionally fit centre-half Steve Chettle would need a hernia operation have dwindled; and with two regular frontmen, Steve Livingstone and Darren Mansaram, suspended and injured respectively, Groves has decided to turn his obsessive scouting impulses elsewhere. "We're very light in the striker department," the manager has told Radio Humberside.
This despite the tremendous performance of Chris Thompson up front at the weekend, and the words of reserve team coach Paul Wilkinson, who believes Jake Sagare - the American forward given a short-term contract last week - will soon be knocking on the door of the first team's bijou maisonette. "We would be looking for him to be in or around the first team squad fairly soon," says Wilko in a quite good question-and-answer thing on Town's official site.
Mr Wilkinson takes his side to Brigg this afternoon for a friendly with good neighbours Lincoln City. The half-dozen trialists who flooded into the club recently, taking our jobs, cheating the benefit system, threatening our way of life and mugging our babies, were denied a chance to shine last week when Town's meteorologically persecuted reserve team suffered its 108th postponement of the season; so today's fixture gives the Pauls a belated chance to check out Messrs Kelly, George, Ghaichem, Self and Fleetwood.
Tuesday 11 February
Rumours are afoot that Town are preparing a bid to bring Welsh international winger John Oster to Blundell Park once more. As everybody reading this will know full well, little Johnny passed a spectacularly brilliant loan spell with the Mariners in November and December, scoring lots of goals, only to be recalled to Sunderland because they were doing rubbish and then dropped again by manager Howard Wilkinson, presumably for being any good. The player is out of contract with the Black Cats at the end of this season - and Town boss Paul Groves may be attempting to secure Oster's release to join Town on a similarly short-term deal.
Speaking of Welsh internationals, Town's taffy twosome Darren Barnard and Danny Coyne are Cardiff-bound as we speak. Wales take on Bosnia in a friendly at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow night, and places on the bench are beckoning for the pair on 'em.
The Diary is fascinated to learn that our old mate Mark Lever was sent off at the weekend - while playing for our old mates Ilkeston Town. The former Town defender recently left Mansfield after the Nottinghamshire club became the only side in the four divisions to have conceded more goals this season than the Mariners, and has since become the latest of many men to journey betwixt the two Towns. Ilkeston were managed at one point by Keith Alexander, who once played the Livvo role up front for Town and as current boss of Lincoln is putting Alan Buckley's previous efforts at Sincil Bank to shame. And who could forget the, erm, distinctive goalkeeping of Andy Love? Lever was dismissed 20 minutes into a home game with Welling that ended in a 6-1 defeat for Ilkeston, sending them to the foot of the Dr Martens League Premier Division. Hecky thump!
Monday 10 February
After being knocked back by a series of midfield loan targets in recent weeks, Paul Groves is giving up and will try to sign a defender instead. The manager's decision is also based on the return to fitness of Alan Pouton and the predictable loss of another centre-half: "My priorities may have changed a little now. Steve Chettle got injured yesterday and it may be a hernia," says Groves. "Simon [Ford] and Georges [Santos] have played well, but if we lose one of them we are going to be short in that area."
Gifted winger Terry Cooke - whose mysterious inability to hold down a place in the side has led to all manner of unsavoury rumours about rifts with Groves - receives praise from his manager today following his laudable contribution in Saturday's crucial win over Stoke. "If Terry Cooke plays like that week in week out, Terry Cooke will be in the side," says the Town boss. "That's the sort of standard that Terry Cooke's set, and that's the standard he needs to maintain." Experts believe the intense psychological pressure of Groves' position is affecting his grasp of personal pronouns.
Graham Rodger is to appeal against his sending-off at the weekend, reports BBC Humber Sport. The articulate but easily riled assistant manager was sent to the stands for chucking a mental when Stoke right-back Wayne Thomas impeded Town's Chris Thompson with extreme violence, only to escape with a booking. Rodger hopes to avoid a touchline ban and all that gubbins.
Saturday's strike pairing of Thompson with Michael Boulding - who proved themselves no respecters of Grimsby tradition by both scoring goals - has turned right-wing broadsheet the Daily Telegraph giddy with admiration. Reporter Peter Keeling writes in today's Torygraph that the diminutive twosome "looked capable of blending into one of the best striking pairs in the Nationwide League".
The Mariners' reserve fixture with Hull - who have a big new stadium, you know, so they must be good - has been rescheduled for Wednesday 2 April. The match was originally fixed for 29 January but was postponed after a heavy shower of frogs and fish left the playing surface unsafe.
And so far as the Diary is aware, the only former Towner to find the net over the weekend was Clyde striker Willie Falconer, whose unsuccessful loan period with the Mariners late last season you will have almost forgotten already.
Saturday 8 February
First-half strikes from Michael Boulding and Chris Thompson - the first senior goal of his career - combine with a rare clean sheet as Town complete a league double over Stoke, leapfrogging the Potteries outfit back into that cherished 21st place. Terry Cooke, Georges Santos and Alan Pouton all return in today's line-up. Joint winners of this week's Tony Blair Award for Spineless Capitulation are Norwich, who allow Sheffield Wednesday a point after leading 2-0, and Wolves, who roll over at Brighton like the abject dogs they are, obliging the bottom club with a 4-1 surrender.
The two third division derbies elsewhere in the region throw up two rather pleasing results, with Hull losing 1-0 at home to Lincoln - despite having a big new ground! - and troubled Boston relieving themselves all over Brian Laws' conflagration by a similar scoreline.
Friday 7 February
Town have signed a player! American forward Jake Sagare has, incredibly, been on trial at Blundell Park since late September - and after about 831 appearances for the reserves has just been rewarded with a full-time contract for a whole month, possibly as a gesture of UK support to President George Bush as he attempts to create a peaceful world by killing loads of people. Yo, Jake: the Diary hopes you optimise your endzone offensive potential with total goalstrike maximisation events.
Elsewhere, there is as yet no word from the latest midfielder due to reject a loan move to Grimmo. Michael Boulding, Alan Pouton, Stacy Coldicott and
Darren Barnard were all expected to return to training today; but whether any of them will make Saturday's big relegation clash with Stoke is kinda doubtful. Darren Mansaram is sidelined for two weeks with ankle ligament damage, and Steve Livingstone begins his three-match ban for not hitting Robert Molenaar in the face. All of which is probably a realistic explanation for Town suddenly hearing Jake Sagare noisily clearing his throat in the changing room.
And if Mr Groves wants another forward to join Sagare on the bench tomorrow then he may already have been alerted to the availability of Lee 'Peggy' Ashcroft, the fabulously gifted former Town striker who never got around to cutting down on his porklife, mate, and getting some exercise. The player has had his contract paid up by Wigan and is a free agent. Town spent a now-unthinkable half a million quid on Ashcroft in 1998, way back before Carlton and Granada reduced the club to its current state of destitution, in an uncanny precursor of the Diary's mate spending 60 notes on a pair of Levi's recently and then being made redundant.
Daryl Clare's confectionery-related antics have hit the rarefied heights of TV's They Think It's All Over. The former Town forward, now plying his trade to great effect with Chester City, was recently captured on camera commemorating a goal by stuffing a Mars bar down his gob in a witty retort to his manager Mark Wright, who believes Clare (like Ashcroft before him) could maybe shed a pound or two; and the novelty celebration made it onto the BBC's repetitive, laddish sports quiz show this week. Well done, Daryl!
And finally, the Diary is doing a little interview with Radio Stoke about tomorrow's match! Readers in north and mid-Staffordshire and south Cheshire can hear us rap between six and seven o'clock this evening on 94.6 or 104.1 FM.
Thursday 6 February
Diary readers may wish to buy an entire Polish salt mine to provide seasoning for today's lead story, which is that Town are being linked with a move for Swedish international Stefan Schwarz. According to Planet Football, the veteran midfielder is in talks with Sunderland over the termination of his contract, with his agent claiming Schwarz wants to play abroad for a bit longer before returning home. The player has also appeared for Valencia, Fiorentina, Arsenal, Benfica and Malmo, and has 65 international caps to his name.
Should he indeed amaze the world and sign for the Town, Schwarz would not, of course, be the first Swedish international to do so; that honour falls to Mr Martin Pringle, who has today announced his retirement from the game at the age of 32. Pringle contrived to become a Grimsby legend last season by playing just two hours and 19 minutes of football, after his loan from Charlton was prematurely ended by a monstrous two-footed assault from Stockport's Dave Challinor. The skilful striker returned to Sweden after his release by Charlton early this season, and was initially looking to resume his career but has now decided to call it a day, probably in despair that the referee who didn't even book Challinor for his murderous lunge is still being allowed to ruin GTFC.
Back to the present, then, and good news for one of Pringle's successors Michael Boulding, who has been given the all-clear by a specialist to resume training after being diagnosed with a bruised ankle bone, and is now back in the frame for Saturday's crunch clash with Stoke. That's probably not the best phrase to use today, actually, is it.
Town fans planning a visit to Suffolk on 22 February to watch the Mariners take on Ipswich will welcome today's news that the Bank of England has made a surprise cut in interest rates by one quarter of a percentage point to 3.75% - making the cost of borrowing the lowest since 1955 - as the admission price at Portman Road has been revealed as an overdraft limit-busting 24 English pounds. Holy John the Baptist on a unicycle! What do they do with it all?
The Football League has confirmed that all first division matches on the last day of the season, Sunday 4 May, will kick off at 1:30pm. Town will take on Brighton in a potential decisive relegation match, and North East Lincolnshire NHS Trust has already been placed on standby, cancelling all holidays for emergency staff and allocating all remaining resources for the current financial year to the purchase of new defibrillator equipment.
Wednesday 5 February
If at first you don't succeed, try and sign someone else. For the fourth time this year Paul Groves has agreed a deal with a club to loan a midfielder and is waiting for a decision from the player to come up to Cleethorpes for a month. As yet no names are being mentioned by anyone, anywhere in the media. "We're hoping that we'll get a decision before the weekend," Groves says, again, in today's Grimsby Telegraph. The Diary is hoping so too, if only so he doesn't play Chris Bolder on the left of midfield again.
Stacy Coldicott has won something called the PFA Fans' Player of the Month award, for January. Hmmmm. Now for one thing, Stace only made two appearances in January; for another, you vote for the winner on a website. Loath though the Diary is to make hasty accusations, we strongly suspect our fellow Town supporters of having discovered irony. If nothing else, it'll make for an interesting ceremony when our beleaguered midfield destroyer receives a trophy as the Mariners take on Coventry on 1 March.
The throng of players who turned up for trials at Blundell Park this week will have to wait a little while for a chance to display their awesome skills, as this afternoon's reserves game at Hartlepool has been - you guessed it, bucko - called off because of the weather. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, a group of men in black suits, black ties and shades were spotted in an internet café close to Victoria Park yesterday checking out the Met Office website.
Tuesday 4 February
Blundell Park could pass as the Old Bailey this week if the number of trials being held there is anything to go by. Mansfield midfielder Jimmy Ghaichem, defenders Andy Kelly from Middlesbrough and Danny Self from Norwich, and left winger Kevin George (origin unknown) have all followed Oldham's Wayne Gill down the M180 since yesterday. The Diary's usual sources of information have turned up very little about all of these players; a good thing, then, that Googlism is around to explain that Kevin George "is the best palm butter cook in the Washington DC area" while Andy Kelly "is a very melodic bass player", "is usually available by pager" and "is going to be stopped Friday night". Can they stop Galli while they're at it?
Monday 3 February
Argentinian starlet Carlos Marinelli has sensationally snubbed a dream move to glamorous Blundell Park to join lowly Torino of Italy's obscure Serie A league. The Middlesbrough ace was approached last week by Mariners boss Paul Groves but became the third midfielder in as many weeks to turn down a loan switch to North East Lincolnshire, bizarrely preferring Turin to Cleethorpes. Without a trace of irony now, though, the Diary applauds Groves for his ambition; if we have to be snubbed then we'd much rather it be by a player once described as the new Maradona than by Junior bloody Lewis.
A few pages later in the Town manager's Little Book of Available Midfielders, then, we find that Wayne Gill of second division Oldham has today joined the Mariners on trial. The player began his career with Blackburn but was unable to break into the first team before moving to Tranmere prior to his Boundary Park switch. Unusually for a 27-year-old, Gill has made less than 30 first-team appearances in his entire career - but scored seven goals during a 12-match loan spell with Blackpool in 2000.
It could have been a different story, in any case, had that Marinelli cove read yesterday's Observer Sport Monthly before his ill-considered decision. Groves' name came up as the magazine listed its pick of the best managers outside the Premiership, just missing out on a place in the top 10 but receiving an honourable mention nonetheless, alongside Leicester's Micky Adams, Cambridge's John Taylor and Carl Shutt at Kettering.
Nippy forward Michael Boulding is targeting a return to action in time for this weekend's crucial relegation clash with Stoke after missing out on Saturday's defeat at Portsmouth with an ankle injury picked up in training last week. "I'll have a scan on Monday just to make sure," the player tells today's Grimsby Telegraph, "but I think it's okay and I should be ready to play against Stoke."
The Diary is interested to learn that Town's relegation rivals Bradford secured their victory against Ipswich on Saturday only by virtue of a sending-off for their opponents following an 'alleged' elbowing incident, leading to furious accusations of cheating. Something of a pattern emerging there, eh.
And finally, Cod Almighty's resident statistician Add-It-Up Andy has informed the Diary that the attendance of 19,428 at Fratton Park on Saturday was Portsmouth's biggest of the season so far. The Hampshire club are presumably expecting a 100 per cent capacity crowd later this month, then, when their scheduled opponents are playing in the FA Cup and Pompey spend 90 minutes stroking the ball into an empty net.
Saturday 1 February
Town slump to an entirely predictable 3-0 defeat at Portsmouth - with the team's best player of recent weeks Terry Cooke mysteriously relegated to the bench and Michael Boulding absent from the matchday 16 - confirming the Mariners' reputation as the perfect tonic for clubs in poor form to rediscover their winning touch. With Stoke grabbing a last-gasp draw at Norwich, GTFC finally lose their tenacious hold on that precious 21st place, dropping into the bottom three on goal difference.
Paul Raven - the injury-prone and kinetically challenged central defender signed by Alan Buckley shortly before his sacking in 2000 - is training with Rotherham following the mutually convenient termination of his contract with Town yesterday.