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Monday 30 June
Even the most optimistic of Town fans would have to concede that it's not every day an ex-Premiership £1.5m midfielder joins up with the club, so let us pause for a moment and consider Des Hamilton, who is at Blundell Park today for the start of pre-season training. The former Newcastle man was on the brink of signing on loan for the Mariners in March only for the deal to collapse because of John Oster's detestable narcissism, but Paul Groves is "confident" that Hamilton will now join Town on a Bosman. Kenny Dalglish was the manager who paid a million and half to take the player to St James's Park from Bradford in 1997, but Hamilton failed to make an impact in the north-east and went out on loan five times before moving to Cardiff on a free two years ago, where he was again kept out of the first team, this time by injury. At 26, time is still on Hamilton's side, and the Mariners' official site describes him as "a player with a great engine and is not afraid to make tackles when and where they are needed."
Groves is also chasing "a tall 'target man' with a big reputation in the lower leagues", adds Mariners Net, promising to be second with the news when it breaks, and some rumours are naming Scunny's free-scoring Martin Carruthers as the man in question. Iron manager and comic genius Brian Laws was quite irate at the player's Bosman departure from Glanford Park last week after he verbally agreed a new contract. "He also texted me so it's almost in writing!" joked a furious Laws. Carruthers is only five foot eleven, though, and whenever Scunny get a decent player he is linked by default with a transfer to Town; so the Diary is taking this one with a modicum of sodium chloride.
First with the news, of course, will be Town's official text message service, which reminds me to try and find a new network because Vodafone has completely dobbed up the way PAYT top-ups divide between calling credit and service credit. Yeah, like I'm gonna make 18 quid worth of calls in a week. Any suggestions, you lot? I'm not going with Orange because that devil child in the adverts scares the shit out of me; and 3 or Three or whoever they are have got no chance since I heard their radio ad promising footage of "the latest footy goals". I kid you not.
Er, back to the latest footy signing soccer transfer news scoop, then, and BBC Humber Sport reckons a Mr S Coldicott - hubby of Steph of TV's Big Brother fame! - could sign a new contract today. Well, actually, all it says is "Grimsby Town are hopeful midfielder Stacy Coldicott will re-sign for the club today", which doesn't tell you anything at all, does it. Steph has apparently been installed by the bookies as third favourite to win BB, notwithstanding her recent utterance "It doesn't look like a chicken, does it? It looks more like a bird." They do things differently in the midlands, you know.
"Yes the tennis tournament is very dull," writes Alistair Wilkinson in an electronic mail - or 'e-mail' - "but my grandmother does enjoy it." There she differs from the Diary, which has a series of Reasons I Hate Wimbledon; and number four is Cliff sodding Richard, the not-quite-living embodiment of every vile cultural prejudice ever held by the typical attendee of the All England Championships. Peter Pan of pop? Shove it up your arse. Garden gnome of pop, more like. With a swastika on its hat.
Oh, and the Grimsby Telegraph says Georges Santos isn't going to sign a new contract. Yawn.
Sunday 29 June
Splendid news for Town fans with no lives! Yep - just because we're out of Division One, doesn't mean we can't still play football on Friday nights; and September's jaunt up the east coast to Hartlepool has been brought forward by 19 and a quarter hours to the evening of the 12th. Ah well, you may be thinking, at least Town will get a few grand out of the TV fee. But how wrong you would be, for it isn't even gonna be on the telly; Friday night togger just seems to be the done thing up Cleveland way. "After the success of Friday night football last season we will be hoping for bumper crowds at Victoria Park in Division Two," reads a statement on Pool's official site. Either way, it's not going to be much fun to get back from after the match.
Ironically - heh! - the Diary stayed in on Friday night because most of our mates who live close by were at Glastonbury. Me, I'd sooner go and see local bands than shell out a huge wodge of my not-so-hard-earned for all that corporate bollocks, but there was nobody decent on. Mrs Diary and I had a lovely afternoon shopping yesterday, you will be pleased to learn, from which I returned with a book of old postcard photographs of Lincolnshire railway stations, from Cleethorpes to Stamford and many points between. I think the close season is starting to take its toll on my sanity.
Not to mention Peter Furneaux's patience with Danny Coyne, as an interview on Mariners World finds the Town chairman a tad testy over the uncertainty surrounding the player's future. The club gave permission for Coyne to speak to other clubs, explains Pete, and agreed to cancel his contract if he got fixed up by 20 May. That hasn't happened, despite reported interest from Burnley, Ipswich and Coventry; and Town could obviously do with knowing whether he's coming or going, so as to sign a replacement if required. "We can't prolong this forever," the chairman spells out. In the meantime, he adds, the club will try out a younger keeper in pre-season - presumably Andy Pettinger - to see whether he'll be up to first-team football come August. We can only assume, then, that the Welsh one will have to report to BP for training tomorrow with the rest of the squad.
The disaffected youth of Lincoln could be set for lessons in crossing the ball and shirking tackles as part of the 120 hours' community service to which Adam Buckley was sentenced following his trial at the city's magistrates' court on Friday. The former Town winger pleaded guilty to stealing from other players during his spell with Lincoln City, with the judge presumably exercising leniency in his sentencing given the post-ITV Digital wages the Imps are paying. Indeed, so desperate is the financial situation at Sincil Bank that destitute one-time Mariners centre-half Matt Bloomer is thought to be considering a transfer to one of the Indonesian sweatshops that manufacture his kit.
Number three in the Diary's series of Reasons I Hate Wimbledon is the sexism. The way the scoreboards and umpires still refer to Miss Dokic or whoever, but when it comes to the men it's just plain old Agassi. I mean, hello? Are we stuck in the 1950s here? And the big strong macho men like Timmy Henman can breeze through five sets, but the delicate little flowers like Venus Williams had best just stick to the three, poor dears. Pah! I know that bit's not just Wimbledon, but hey. Five sets would be a proper test of athleticism and sort out the real women from the mimsy, malnourished pre-pubescent girls who should probably be revising for their SATs or something instead.
Friday 27 June
Paul Groves will be hoping to concentrate on the management side of his job next season if his intentions in the transfer market are anything to go by, as the Town player-boss is in talks with two more midfielders. No names are being mentioned, as ever, but Town's official site says our esteemed leader is "confident of signing at least one of them." With the existing squad Blundell bound on Monday, Peter Furneaux's stated aim of 10 new names on the teamlist for the start of pre-season training is looking about as likely as a dangerous set piece from Tony Gallimore; but the Diary remains reasonably optimistic about next season for the time being.
Alan Buckley's assistant manager at Rochdale will be Tony Ford, the Grimsby-born MBE who in 1977 became Town's youngest ever debutant at the age of 16 and remains the only English outfield player to have made 1,000 senior appearances. Ford was previously a player and assistant boss at Spotland under Steve Parkin, with whom he left to join Barnsley in 2001 only for the duo to be sacked after less than a year as the crisis-stricken Tykes plunged down the league. "I'm really glad to be back at Spotland," says Dale's old and new number two. "I've had some good times at the club and hopefully Alan and I can bring them back." You probably don't remember a very young Diary getting your autograph at the Old Clee summer fayre in about 1980, Tony; but all the best, mate.
Sam Metcalf wants to share something he hates about Wimbledon; to wit, "the way the crowd nearly shit themselves if someone slips over a little bit. For fuck's sake...they should watch me on the way home on a Saturday night - they'd be in a right mess." The Diary can relate to that wholeheartedly, Sam; but today's Reason I Hate Wimbledon - number 2 in our series - is that it makes people moan about the weather. Now it's been a relentlessly glorious couple of months if you like a bit of sunshine. Yes it has. It hardly rained at all in May. And now there's been a drop or two and the tennis has been late starting, everybody is all "oh, typical English weather, eh, ha ha, aren't we rubbish in this country, ho ho," and come September everyone will be on about what a miserable summer it's been, entirely regardless of whether it has or not. It gets the Diary's goat. And I blame Wimbledon.
It's not just Sam's legs that are the worse for his boozing; if Paul Thundercliffe is to be believed, then his memory is going as well. "It was a Dave Gilbert screamer that settled the last Donny match," he insists. "Alexander failed to score in what would have been his fourth successive scoring match as substitute. And it wasn't Uriah Rennie, but a rather small Indian chap. And I know all this because I used to tape the Town goals off Goals on Sunday, and then watch the clips 45 times. A night." There's no wonder your eyes went dicky, lad!
Keith Collins has another juicy Donny reminiscence for us. "I remember the last home game of the '78-79 season," he writes, "and we had already been promoted from Division Four and we played Donny. We lost 3-4 and a certain Jack Lewis scored a hat-trick but not for us. I have got the highlights on video from the telly and at one point it was snowing so hard (May 5th) that the camera couldn't see across the park. Drinkell, Ford and Cumming were our scorers (I looked it up)." Crikey! The Diary can't remember the snow.
Speaking of things that get my goat, which we were, Sir Michael Shelton has emailed on the subject of Town's itchy-footed custodian. "I was wondering whether the Diary feels a bit let down by Danny Coyne," he writes perceptively. "I've not been much of a supporter of Peter Furneaux to be fair, not least because he clearly was created by leaving a grape in the sun until it shrivelled into the shape of his head, and because I was a big fan of Bill Carr." You do realise it was Carr who was blocking the sale of these shares for all that time, Sir Mickey? "But all my feelings apart, I found part one of the interview with him on Mariners World pretty revealing. Danny was a great player for Town, but if he doesn't want to play here and he's dragging his feet over making a decision I can't help feeling Town are being screwed. Town don't know if they need to find a replacement keeper or not, if he stays he's hardly showed us he's committed, and all the while Town are paying his over-the-top wages. Screwed by a Welshman. Yuck." Yeah, but at least it's not Robbie Savage.
Thursday 26 June
Town's official website is at it again with those cheeky headlines. All Change In The Grimsby Town Boardroom, it teases, the story turning out to be the building work going on at Blundell Park that will see the directors decamp to the former lottery office because the current boardroom is to become the matchday sponsors' secret den. Extra kiosks and bars are also being provided. "We are providing better facilities and we want people to come and support the club," says Town's indefatigable commercial manager Tony Richardson, though the Diary suspects it will take more than a microwaved pie to attract Grimsby's tens of thousands of miserable bastards who never watch football and still think the Mariners are always bottom of Division Four.
You know those crowds of people who stand around cheering with banners and things when somebody gets evicted from Big Brother? I just was saying the other day how they can't be real people and Channel 4 must pay them, because surely nobody is so devoid of a life as to do that by choice and without remuneration. Yeah, I know, pots and kettles. Mrs Diary initially agreed - until discovering that the Big Brother house is in Borehamwood, where she knows from bitter experience that there really is nothing better to do. Anyway, Steph Coldicott's inoffensiveness strategy, whereby she seeks to avoid eviction by never saying anything to anybody ever in case they don't like it, has backfired, as Wife of Stace is one of the inmates nominated for removal in the next vote. Apparently. I guess somebody just didn't like her face. Not the Diary's kid brother, though, who has posited the interesting hypothesis that Mrs Coldicott is in fact a babe.
"I remember the last time we played Donny very well," writes Sam Metcalf in an email to the Diary. I bet we didn't always play Donny very well though. "Keith Alexander scored an absolute screamer from the corner of the 18-yard box - I personally think it was a poor touch as he always used to head for the byline before realising where the goal was, but there you go. Also, I'm pretty sure the game was refereed by a certain Uriah Rennie." Well well.
Seeing as there isn't much news right now, and the All England Lawn Tennis Championships are proceeding apace, the Diary has decided to run a daily series entitled Reasons I Hate Wimbledon. Today, then, number 1 in the series: rubbish reporting. For there is something about Wimbledon fortnight that compels the BBC to jettison the quality threshold that generally applies to its sports journalism. How else could it be, reader, that the Beeb can see fit to give airtime to a sports psychologist analysing Mr Rusedski's entertaining stream of profanity with the dazzling insight that "Greg lost control of his emotions out there"? If I had a TV licence then I would have ripped it up in disgust.
Wednesday 25 June
Doncaster are back in the Football League next season after a five-year spell in the Conference - and the stellar magnitude of their return to the big time is emphasised today by the League Cup draw, which has handed them a glamorous first-round tie at home to Grimsby. The Diary, for one, is sentimentally chuffed since Rovers provided the opposition the very first time I was taken to see the Mariners with my little stool to stand on so I could see above the bald heads and pipe smoke in the Barrett Stand. Nostalgia addicts with good lower-body muscle tone will also be delighted by the chance to stand on terracing at Belle Vue, whence Town will be bound on 12 or 13 August for the first game between the two sides since 1990. "We'll be going all-out to beat Grimsby," enthuses Donny chairman Dave Ryan. "We've had many battles in the past and I think the last time we played them we beat them." It was 2-1 to Town actually, Dave, but since we're both quite excited I won't take the piss or anything.
Those of you who suspect that footballers invariably spend the summertime in generic Mediterranean tourist traps are in for as big a shock as the Diary received last night after watching The Trouble With Sleep on BBC1. Imagine, if you will, my surprise when the end credits of this absorbing hour-long documentary about sleepwalking revealed a certain Simon Ford on the production staff. Impressed though I was with the versatility that enables the Town youngster to switch from centre-half to executive producer, his empathy for his subject matter is bound to have been limited. After all, the people featured in the programme often seemed to be awake when they ought to have been asleep, whereas Simon...
Tuesday 24 June
The hundreds of Town fans who are becoming part owners this summer as the club finally flogs the rest of its share capital will be holding their breath for complimentary G&Ts as they receive invites to Blundell Park to meet the board and coaching staff. "We'd like to welcome the new shareholders to the club," announces chairman Peter Furneaux, "and we think the best way is to call a meeting and introduce the key figures to them." All the cash raised in the share issue has been pledged to Paul Groves to rebuild his side for a promotion challenge - and over £50,000 has been taken so far, with many applications still to be processed when the admin girls get back from Corfu or whatever.
Mariners legend Alan Buckley, newly back in the game at third division Rochdale, says he will appoint an assistant by the end of the week. The uncompromising former Town boss took over at Spotland earlier this month, prompting immediate speculation from those of a black and white tendency as to the identity of his number two, with John Cockerill, Tony Ford and John McDermott among the names mentioned. Macca is of course out of the picture now; but despite Ford's previous spell at Dale as a popular assistant boss to Steve Parkin, the Diary is tipping Cockers to resume the managerial career suspended in December 2001 when Town correctly ejected brazen charlatan Lennie Lawrence.
All of which eases us seamlessly towards Lincoln magistrates' court, where Buckley's progeny Adam is to face four counts of theft this Friday following his arrest last month in Grimsby, reports the Grim Tel. If earlier releases from Lincoln are anything to go by, then the 23-year-old left winger stands a fair chance of acquittal given his recent departure from the cathedral city's football club. Another one-time GTFC manager, Brian Laws - one uses the term loosely - is set to be called as a witness for the prosecution and allege the theft of one third division play-off semi-final from Glanford Park.
Monday 23 June
First of all, a big thank you to Mr Miles Moss for finely fulfilling Diary duties dast Driday. Damn. As Miles explained at the time, I was offline all day because BT asked a group of very loud men to dig holes and stuff outside my house and try and chat up Mrs Diary, and decided not to give me any advance warning. And yeah, I know, there was no Diary at the weekend, but I was just having a life, and you're not going to begrudge me that once in a while, are you. Not that there was much to report on the GTFC front in any case.
So, yeah. BBCI Humber, which is what we really ought to call BBC Humber Sport, today threatens to reignite the inferno that is Town fans' outrage at misleading headlines by running a story in which Georges Santos reiterates that he may not return to Blundell Park and headlining it Santos to return to Blundell Park. Which, in the race for qualification to the misleading headlines Champions League, is surely battling it out with Daily Mail splashes about asylum seekers. Turns out, anyway, that sightings last week of the turbulent continental at a Grimsby gym are not to be taken as meaning large Georges will be a Mariner next season, as he was only picking up his toothbrush or something. The player insists - despite an apparent lack of interest from other clubs - that his future remains undecided, and his agent is on holiday, so there's still nothing doing.
One-hit wonder Phil Jevons could return to the Town team next season. The inconsistent striker was set to see out the final year of his GTFC contract in the reserves after the club recently admitted its inability to meet ITV Digital-era appearance payments due to both the player and his former club Everton; but the Grimsby Telegraph reports that moves to renegotiate Jevons' terms are progressing smoothly. "Phil Jevons wants to play football and he is prepared to negotiate a new contract with us," confirms Town chairman Peter Furneaux. The player has, of course, just returned from a season-long loan with third division Hull, where he was found to be not as good as Jamie Forrester; but Furneaux adds hopefully: "He had some personal problems which caused his form to dip but he says all this is behind him now and he wants to play."
Steve Beer emails the Diary with some happy thoughts on Town's new midfielder Marcel Cas. "I've just seen Cas's goals on Mariners World from when he was at Notts County, and they are really incredible goals," he writes. "I think anyone who sees them will be filled with excitement and optimism for the new season - I definitely was. Watch the second goal, the way he just ghosts past all the defenders with such pace. He reminds me of Kevin Donovan, but faster." The Diary remains dubious as to the reliability of video footage, what with all the nonsense about that Saddam Hussein statue; but I could do with some reassurance about Cas, because I was in Nottingham at the weekend and the County fans seemed to think he was crap. I really must get a half-decent web connection and subscribe to Mariners World; saying that, I'd have to donate the Jarvis shirt to charity or summats.
Over to Mark Wilson, then, to undo all Steve's good work. "I am pleased to read that Peter Furneaux is enthusing about Mr Cas," he writes. "I asked a work colleague, who is Sheffield born and a die-hard Blade, what he thought of our new signing and he replied that he 'had never heard of him'. Oh good." Thanks Mark!
Today is the first day of Wimbledon, and we're not talking franchise football. I dunno why everyone wonders why Britain is so rubbish at tennis: obviously it is because only posh people play it, and posh people are congenitally rubbish at sport. That aside, the Diary is delighted to receive a mail dealing with the sport that briefly obsessed Martin Amis when he wasn't banging on about deadheads and nukes. "Dear Diary," it begins, "I have just been watching Greg Rusedski win the tennis in Nottingham. His American opponent was called Mardy Fish. Now if this guy hasn't got ancestors from Grimsby then I'm a Dutchman. Yours sincerely, Pietr van Buist."
Friday 20 June
A press release from Premium TV - owners of all the official sites in the universe - boasts that yesterday "3.6 million fans from across the globe attempted to log on between 10am and 11am", to get the new fixtures. The strain of over 60,000 people hitting them every minute almost broke their server, apparently. Similarly, the Diary was so popular at lunchtime yesterday, that he pulled a groin muscle under the effort of over seventeen people trying to read him at once. Consequently, your diarist for today is me, Miles Moss again. Hello! Actually, the real reason for Mr Diary being unavailable is something to do with the appearance outside his living room window of several burly builders' arsecracks (that's the builders who are burly, not the arsecracks). In between mandatory frequent tea breaks, owners of said butt cleavages whipped out some noisy machinery and proceeded to rip out the Diary's phone lines. Normal service should be resumed as soon as possible, but in the meantime, please bear with me.
So, what exactly hasn't been happening then? Starting on a snippet of pure speculation, the rumours are that every Grimbarian's favourite Cape Verdean, Georges Santos, is back in town. He was allegedly spotted sneaking into Blundell Park earlier this week, and last night reportedly made his second trip to a local gymnasium, where he pounded the machinery while wearing a Grimsby Town strip, holding a signed contract in one hand, and shouting "I've just signed up for the Mariners again, me!". Well, OK, not the last bits. Conclusion-leapers will be assuming that these sightings are a precursor to a new contract being signed, but of course he might just be on holiday in Cleethorpes. Well, the south of France isn't much cop at this time of year, is it.
Meanwhile, a bloke who actually has signed for Town - namely Marcel Cas - has a signed shirt up for auction on the official site today. "Fucking hell!" exclaims Cod Almighty puntmeister Mat Hare, "They aren't wasting any time are they? When he signed his contract was there a bit of carbon paper between it and a shirt?" he asks, rhetorically. I can add no more to that. Except to say that season tickets have been selling like hot cakes since Cassa and Macca signed, the GT's virtual back page tells us, with 20,000 quid taken in a two-day period this week. So far a total of about 450 season tickets have been sold.
The Coyne saga continues, too, with Peter Furneaux warning Danny Boyo that he may not be first choice keeper if he fails to get a place at one of those other teams he's come out of the closet about recently. "We only want players whose heart is in the club.", says Mr F., going on to state that all the transfer speculation is down to Coyne himself, and Town are not trying to get rid of him at all. Ooh crikey.
Finally, the Cod Almighty team are big fans of fan power, and pleasing news comes from Gillingham today. No doubt you're aware of the recent storm which erupted when it was proposed that the club change their traditional blue strip - which they have worn for over sixty years - for an all white affair. Sponsors Sea France were thought to be behind the plot to match the team's strip with their corporate colours, and consequently received faxes and letters threatening a boycott of their services. Despite personally preferring the proposed white strip, chairman Paul Scally has now confirmed that the Gills will play in blue next season. Corporate power nil, fan power one. Go on!
Thursday 19 June
Town begin the new season on 9 August with the longest journey of the year in the 340-mile trek south-west to Plymouth, with Port Vale the first visitors to Blundell Park a week later. The campaign ends - pending the play-offs, of course - on 8 May with a trip to Tranmere, Brentford providing the opposition in the final home game on 1 May. If I write any more than that then my eyes will be pecked out by league falcons, as the fixture list is, of course, "copyright of The FA Premier League Ltd and The Football League Ltd 2003". It is also "compiled in association with Schlumberger", apparently, which sounds like a glamorous brand of vodka - and could well be, given that the fixture planners have neglected to pair the Mariners with any of the four local-ish sides on any of next season's bank holidays. A full list can be found on Town's official site.
The mystery continues over the 'parachute payment' that may or may not have been due to GTFC following the club's relegation. Peter Furneaux is quoted today by BBC Humber Sport claiming that Town are due £100,000 following first division clubs' agreement to the payments at a meeting in March. The local Beeb site states outright that "some clubs appear to be welching on the deal" - but in an earlier report had claimed that the payment was in jeopardy because "there is no agreed mechanism for the cash to be handed over". The Mariners chairman's case is not exactly strengthened by his admission that "there was a separate meeting afterwards which I didn't attend" at which arrangements for the transfer of the money may or may not have been made. If I were being paid to write this, I'd look into it a bit further; but I'm not, and I've got a lot to do today. Oh, and it might have been £120,000 according to some reports.
Masters of financial conjuring and presumed bribers of officialdom Bradford City are to sign Fulham striker Luke Cornwall, who in a 10-game loan spell with the Mariners in 2001 scored four goals including a bit of a peach at the Hawthorns. The player has seen out what must have been a rewarding contract in west London - in six years with Fulham Cornwall managed one league start - and moves to Valley Parade on a free transfer.
We have a first email to the Diary about Town's new signings, and Mark Wilson dampens the excitement surrounding Marcel Cas by stating simply: "A winger who can't shoot or cross? He'll fit in a treat then." What does anyone else think of the transfer show so far? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your views.
Wednesday 18 June
If sucking up to Burnley the other week was a coward's way of stating his intentions to walk out on the club that resurrected his career, Danny Coyne has now sent his agent to do his dirty work and tell GTFC straight out that he has no intention of starting next season in Division Two with the Mariners. "Danny actively seems to be seeking a new club," explains Peter Furneaux on BBC Humber Sport, "and therefore his interests do not lie with Town at the moment, and as he obviously wants to move elsewhere we should be looking at another goalkeeper." Not that the club will be sorry to see Danny leave - as we have frequently pointed out here, the player's ITV Digital-era wages are thought to be the highest on the payroll - but the Diary for one is disappointed to see this sort of carry-on from a player so admired by supporters - and who was going nowhere fast before Town gave him a job.
The Grimsby Telegraph gives some good context on the signing of Marcel Cas in a brief but absorbing interview. The player left Notts County for Sheffield United in February after the financially troubled club was forced to drop him rather than pay his appearance money; but Cas was frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities at Bramall Lane. "Sheffield offered me more money to stay," he reveals, "...but this was the chance to play and that is what I want to do." Oooh, unlucky, Neil. "He is a hungry footballer and that is what we want," adds Mr Furneaux. If the top bods from Carlton and Granada ever show their faces around Grimsby then Cas will presumably be giving a whole new meaning to the phrase 'business lunch'.
Coyne's one-time deputy Steve Croudson could be set to take lessons in tirelessness from Lee Nogan at third division York, according to press reports from the minster city. The talented young keeper - amazingly released by the Mariners last month - is one of three stoppers being mulled over by York and is also being sounded out by Lincoln and Boston, apparently. Is it just me, or is this one going to come back to haunt us big time?
"I see you are after people to recommend football reads," writes Dave Chambers, past whom not much gets. "If it's not too late I would put forward My Favourite Year. I have a copy - or used to have a copy until a friend borrowed it three years ago. I see it on his bookshelf every time I go round, sat in the same place on every visit. This suggests to me that despite the immense enthusiasm that saw him begging to borrow the book, he has yet to read it. I see the book in Waterstones every once in a while and if people can get past the front cover flash warning you 'edited by Roddy "The Commitments" Doyle' then they will find some bite-sized pieces from authors recollecting their favourite football season." Thanks for that, Dave; the Diary concurs wholeheartedly, and not just because there's a chapter on my favourite non-league side St Albans City.
"I watched a bit of Sky Sports' 'masters football' last night," writes James Burke, "the fun 7-a-side tournament for old footballers. Dave Smith was playing for Coventry, and Neil Woods for Ipswich. I found myself wondering why the Mariners don't have a team. Then my girlfriend pointed out that it was probably because all the ex-Mariners are playing for someone else. I tell you what though - you could probably put together one hell of a Grimsby team." And the Diary can think of just the man to do it if he weren't otherwise engaged at Spotland.
Tuesday 17 June
Prepare for lots of puns about clogging, tulips, caps, porn and cheese, as the latest comrade to join the Grimsby revolution is Marcel Cas, a 31-year-old right winger/utility player of Dutch extraction. The player joined Notts County from RBC Roosendaal in 2001, scoring eight times in 60-odd games before spending three months with Sheffield United at the end of last season, and has today signed a two-year deal with GTFC. Like last week's arrival Tony Crane, Cas boasts a stature that compares favourably to the Dock Tower. He can't cross or shoot but tackles strongly and is understood to move like shit off a shovel. The Diary notes that his six appearances for the promotion-chasing Blades saw Mr Warnock taste two draws and four defeats but trusts that this is mere coincidence.
Leicester have edged ahead of Ipswich and Burnley in the queue to sign Danny Coyne, if reports in today's national press are to be taken at face value. Both the Mirror and the Independent report that Town's notoriously available number one could be off to scoff a load of crisps in the midlands, with the broadsheet rehashing the bizarre yet oddly persistent story that white elephant striker Phil Jevons could also be set for a season-long loan move to the Walkers. I know it's silly season, but that's just silly.
"At the end of the day, I'm quite happy." The words not of Angelus, Nosferatu, Lestat, Elizabeth Bathory, Vlad Dracula Tepes or Norman Lamont but of John McDermott, who has spoken to Radio Humberside of his less than boundless joy at signing a new two-year contract with the Mariners yesterday. "I never ever used Grimsby as a backfall," insists the record-breaking right-back, sounding a little anxious for fans to forget his mardy May. No need to worry though, John; the thought never once occurred to us that you were using Grimsby as a backfall.
Blundell Park ground staff may wish to take note of a legal ruling that the word Paki counts as racist under the Football Offences Act (1991), overturning an earlier verdict that cleared a Port Vale fan charged under the Act for chanting: "You're just a town full of Pakis" during a match against Oldham last October. GTFC stewards last season refused to take action against racists in the Pontoon who directed the same chant at Leicester fans, but the High Court yesterday ordered Stoke magistrates to overturn their acquittal of 21-year-old Sean Ratcliffe of Newcastle-under-Lyme and convict him. "In my view Ratcliffe's behaviour falls squarely within the definition of the act," said Lord Justice Auld in judgement.
"Sorry if I'm a bit late," writes Sir Michael Shelton in an email to the Diary, "but I thought I might double the quantity if not quality of book-related replies from non-members of the Cod Almighty team. Football Shorts by Vin Stanley is worth a read. Guaranteed to make you peas yourself." Now the Diary owns and did enjoy a volume by that title, but is unable to ascertain whether it be the same book because my little brother borrowed it about four years ago and still hasn't given it back. "Actually that's a lie and I certainly won't be held to the guarantee," adds Sir Mike - about the involuntary urination thing and not, presumably, the Diary's brother thing, "but I would quite like to know if any of you have experienced something so funny it genuinely did make you wet yourselves." Well, there's this story about Leicester signing Phil Jevons...
Si Wilson, meanwhile, skews the proportion of recommended reads back towards the CA team by remembering another set text from his own bookshelf. "Blowing The Whistle by legendary German nutcase goalie Harald 'Toni' Schumacher," he enthuses. "You have to read it to believe it. Corking!" It's just a good job Si didn't take a leaf out of Patrick Battiston's book and invite to his wedding everyone who'd ever tried to murder him.
Monday 16 June
John McDermott appears to have had his heart's desire granted in the shape of a new two-year contract from second division promotion hopefuls Grimsby Town. Local radio reports and official text messages suggest that the veteran right-back - currently with second division relegation favourites Grimsby Town - will leave the Mariners on a Bosman to commit his future to the Mariners this afternoon. Along with Georges Santos, Macca was one of Town's top priorities for retention among the club's out-of-contract legion; and if it goes through the deal will end months of speculation about the player's future that have made the Beckham saga seem almost interesting by comparison.
Paul Groves, who under normal circumstances is to controversy what George Bush is to intelligent diplomacy, has made an unusually outspoken attack on the Football League's decision-makers for "passing the buck" over proposals to reorganise the play-offs, penalise clubs in administration and introduce 'parachute payments' to relegated clubs. "They need to make some decisions," Town's gentlemanly player-manager tells today's Grimsby Telegraph. "That's all we're asking for." It looks like the Mariners will miss out on a £120,000 sum that would have been dished out had the parachute thingy been approved rather than delayed at a meeting of the league's big cheeses last week.
Mark Wilson, meanwhile, appears to have had his heart's desire granted in the shape of several emails to the Diary about people's favourite football books - and one of them is even from someone outside the Cod Almighty team! "I'll go along with the Gary Nelson books, especially the first. The reference to Grimsby is far from patronising," writes Pat Bell, correcting yesterday's Diary; "he describes the miracles Buckley worked in his first spell and then recounts in detail a match at the Valley where we absolutely slaughtered them and lost 2-1 (that was Laws' first season in charge).
"I was at that game," continues Pat, "and remember our goal well as it was pretty typical of both how we played (at times) and the reaction from some of our support. We were attacking, and a half clearance reached Livingstone about thirty yards out. There was a rise in excitement as everyone urged him to shoot. This was followed by a groan, as he instead slipped the ball out to Gilbert on the wing. Supporters overcame their disappointment as Gilbert took control, and urged him to shoot, from a wide angle. There was a groan as instead he crossed, and another groan as it seemed to have gone too long. A lot of people were still groaning when the ball hit the back of the net, Gilbert having picked out a late run beyond the far post by Childs.
"Back to football books, and I'd also recommend The Far Corner by Harry Pearson, about football in the north east. He's a really funny writer, and for parochial interest, there is the odd reference to Bill Brewster and also an index entry that reads 'Sean Cunnington, unwittingly helps win swearing contest'." Well, that's sold it to me. "Another book I meant to mention was, I think, called A Goalkeeper's History of Britain. I'm a bit vague as I got it from the library, and can't remember the writer's name. Anyway, he sort of traces post-war attitudes in Britain, with the loss of empire and economic decline by reference to the leading English goalkeepers of the period. That makes it sound a bit pretentious, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who objects to you highlighting Jarvis's unsavoury business practices, but it's quite funny and insightful (if that's a word)." Indeed it is, and thanks for that, Pat; I've still got some book tokens from when I 'left' my last job so I might just have a look at those.
My Cod colleague Si Wilson is another who enjoyed Gary Nelson's work, describing both books as "brilliant reads" - and also recommending Pete Davies. "All Played Out is a wonderful account of Italia '90," he purrs, "bringing back hazy, heated memories (make of that what you may), while I Lost My Heart To The Belles is a soothing summer read, even though I believe it was the inspiration behind Playing The Field (which was actually about football in the first series - and
entertaining - but thereafter solely concentrated on plots about bored housewives shagging around)." Which still sounds quite entertaining to me, but there you go. It's still better than The Manageress...
"I was going to recommend Mark Hodkinson's Life Sentence as the best football book in the world ever, but you beat me to it," writes Miles Moss, who bought the Diary a copy of Mark Hodkinson's Life Sentence for my birthday last year. "Instead, let me recommend Andrew Ward's compilation of interesting, unusual or downright bizarre fixtures, Football's Strangest Matches. It's not deep, it's not going to change the way you think about football, but it's a great dip-in book, perfect for holiday reading. Or to have by the toilet at home. I think you can get it from Past Times, of all places. Ooh, and Grimsby get a mention in it twice." If only we Grimbarians were as easily pleased by our football team as we are with our reading.
And finally, Sam Metcalf offers "a quick yet hearty 'bravo!' for mentioning the very wonderful Isla Fisher in the Diary!" I would gladly mention her every day of my life, sir. Incidentally, Sam is co-promoting a gig this weekend headlined by Fosca, who Mark Wilson may or may not have heard of but are the Oscar Wilde of indie pop and hence entirely brilliant; and the Diary urges anyone on the same planet as Nottingham to sit up and take notice.
Sunday 15 June
Good afternoon, and what a glorious Sunday it is. Hazy sunshine, the gentle ripple of birdsong, and the Diary's front room reverberating agreeably to the sound of the Ramones. We've even discovered a nice pub recently - y'know, that hasn't been vandalised like the Hope & Anchor, God rest its soul - but I intend to observe the first rule of travel writing and not tell you where it is, so it doesn't get overrun. Mind you, that rests upon the questionable presupposition that loads of people are reading this; and the Diary suspects that its readers tend to apply the first rule of travel to Cod Almighty. But what the hey - you wanna know about the Town, so I'll tell you.
Just one story this weekend, really, and one guaranteed to stoke up some parochial excitement on the streets of the former Humberside, if not panic in Carlisle, Dublin and Dundee. Yep: the word on Riby Square is that one of the Mariners' new signings is expected to be a foreign gentleman! Paul Groves makes his usual pledge not to reckon up the sum total of fowl, so that's all anyone knows so far. The Telegraph adds that a player from Town's out-of-contract army is also expected to sign a new deal next week - probably one of their mates Macca and Stace.
Remaining for the moment with matters Coldicottian, the Diary receives word from the town of Tring - the place our friend Mark Wilson calls home, and the place, coincidentally, where Mrs Diary's eccentric twin sister had lunch or something the other day. Mark is none too chuffed about this column's coverage of Big Brother, among other things. "You will recall that some time ago I suggested that we could keep the Diary going over summer as it wouldn't be hard to find 300 words of crap per day," he writes, and I do. "What I didn't realise was that you were going to take me literally and fill my day with Big Brother, Coronation Street and bands I'd never heard of. I read the Diary to get away from the first 2." But surely every band is at some point a band you've never heard of?
"But you have inspired me to suggest that as summer hols approach we could use the Diary to recommend football-related reading whilst we fry on the beach, and it may lift the tone a little," sniffs Mark. "I'll start!" Right you are then. "The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss - tiny provincial Italian team make it to Italian Serie B against all odds and American journalist writes diary of season in the 'big time' that goes up and down like a rollercoaster (sound familiar). It is the best book about football I have ever read, worth a read. Also, both of Gary Nelson's books Left Foot Forward and Left Foot in the Grave - books about how unglamorous being a lower division footballer is and a good read." Isn't there a "no disrespect to the likes of Grimsby" passage in one of those? "And finally, Steve Claridge's autobiography Tales from the Boot Camps. Bad football, very bad gambling, Barry Fry is a nutter. A belter."
Well, Mark, it's a cracking idea to get you all talking again - there's been about as much email to the Diary lately as there are weapons of mass destruction turning up in Iraq - so I'll add Mark Hodkinson's excellent Life Sentence, a kind of year in the life of Rochdale FC, and Great Balls of Fire by Alan Tomlinson and John Sugden, a compelling exposť of the corrupt heart of FIFA. Over to you lot then; mail your fave footer reads to email@example.com. And may I finish by saying that as the holder of degrees in English literature, the Diary is fully supportive of Mark's mission to raise the cultural and artistic tone of this column.
So over to the Big Brother house, and Steph Coldicott has clearly learned a thing or two from being married to our Stace. "Late on Friday afternoon 'elf-like' Steph was seen showing off her footie skills in an It's a Knockout-style game devised by the inmates," writes Cath Martin. "In a round entitled 'hoop ball' Steph followed the less than enthusiastic attempts of Soppy Nush and Orange Tania with a blinding right-footer which sent the ball scorching through the hoop. Scoring two goals out of three she was thought to look 'over the moon' with her performance. She may have thanked her husband for his support and encouragement...but the sound went and I turned over to watch Home And Away...apparently Charlotte wants Flynn's sperm...!!!" I'm sorry, but even the Diary has to draw the line at Home And Away, which has somehow never been the same without Isla Fisher. Incidentally, the Diary receives word from sources in the Coldicotts' home town of Redditch that Stace wants to patch things up with Mrs C; in which case, good luck to him.
"God but it's tedious," concludes our correspondent. "Why couldn't she be a newsreader or something!" Just think of all the Diary readers you're sparing from that tedium, though, Cath. We appreciate your sacrifice, don't we?
And finally to Tim White, who wishes to bring our attention to the scandal of inappropriate stationery at Fortress Blundell. Tim is distressed to note that the letter acknowledging his purchase of shares in GTFC is printed on headed paper that still carries the logo of former sponsor Dixon. "Forgive me if I'm wrong," he writes, "but are we not now sponsored by Jarvis?" Looks like your guess is as good as anyone's, mate.
Friday 13 June
The latest name to pop up in the press in relation to Paul Groves' transfer quest is that of 21-year-old Steven Clark, a right-sided midfielder currently in the service of third division Southend. This one is brought to us by BBC Humber Sport, which in turn holds that the story originates with "reports in the South East". So everybody's talking about it, but nobody really thinks there's much to it. A bit like Big Brother. Groves now makes a point of concealing his intentions in the transfer market, and where names are named in advance of any deal the 'reports' have usually been wide of the mark. Whether this one will break the mould remains to be seen. Clark has been doing his thing at Roots Hall since November 2001, when he joined the Shrimpers on loan from West Ham before signing permanently two months later. He once scored a goal too.
The Humberside people also bear grim tidings for Town's prospects next season. "Santos has a new agent, former England international Mick Mills," say the sandwich boards they are wearing while standing on street corners shouting at people about brimstone and stuff, "and he's looking for first division wages for his man." No other clubs are cited as expressing an interest in our schizoid defensive titan, and no quotes appear from Mills, Santos or anyone else. Make of that Twelfth Night, or what you will.
In the summer's other tedious tale of contract renewal, John McDermott's prospects of moshing to the Sisters of Mercy at Spiders next season while drinking 80p-a-pint beer look to be dead and buried after Hull yesterday completed the signing of Tottenham right-back Alton Towers. Other clubs are still believed to be interested in snapping up the ageing Mariners captain, but nobody's saying who. Maybe it's all a cunning strategem by Macca's advisers to hurry Town into offering the two-year deal the player most earnestly craves. Maybe none of this is real and death is just like waking from a dream into a higher order of consciousness and reality that in our current, spiritually impoverished, earthbound state we can only begin to imagine.
Speaking of which, some Cod Almighty readers have not yet received their season ticket renewal packs and are a-wondering just what's going down Cleethorpes way. Feeling their pain, we contacted the club today to try and get the lowdown. And lo, down at Blundell Park they say any season ticket holders who have not yet received their packs should email the ticket office at firstname.lastname@example.org, who promise they will "sort it immediately". Hope that helps.
Thursday 12 June
Expect Danny Coyne to issue an urgent statement to the media outlining his lifelong love for all things Suffolk-related now that Ipswich have 'joined the chase' for the Welsh stopper. The Portman Road outfit have had their eye on Coyne since last summer, reports today's Grimsby Telegraph, and are now set to battle it out with Burnley - coincidentally, another club Danny has admired since early childhood - for the player's signature. With Town eager to get the high-earning custard custodian off the payroll and only a year remaining on his contract, it is not expected that a transfer fee will be involved.
The Mariners could miss out on a £100,000 'parachute payment', claims BBC Humber Sport, because of what looks like basic administrative incompetence at the Football League. The report speaks paradoxically of the relegation handout having received "unanimous agreement by the 22 First Division clubs", which makes it sound like the other two forgot about the meeting and nobody noticed. And the act of wealth redistribution is now apparently in jeopardy because "there is no agreed mechanism for the cash to be handed over", according to BBC Humber. Which sounds a bit mad, doesn't it. I really must remember that one next time I lose a bet or run up a huge bar tab.
Remaining with matters fiscal, Town's new sponsor Jarvis - which was recently handed a lucrative government contract to provide consultancy to 'failing' secondary schools despite having no prior involvement in education - has reported a 37 per cent rise in pre-tax profits. The firm's cash registers rung up a resounding £62.7m in the year ending March 2003.
And finally, today's Diary is mulling over a £30m transfer to Barcelona.
Wednesday 11 June
Stacy Coldicott is the latest of several out-of-contract Town players to go public with his plea for a new deal, telling the Grimsby Telegraph: "I want to come back to Grimsby and crack on there - but it's out of my hands." Except it so totally isn't, dude, because Stace has been sitting on a new offer from the club for a good week or two and is just waiting to see what else comes in. "I've had a sniff from a third division club and an enquiry from one in the first division," explains the baldy-bonce midlander. Yeah, thought so. And if the News of the World comes good with 50 grand to spill the beans about his estranged TV star spouse, it might help cushion the blow of football's 'new realism', eh.
Speaking of Steph, Cath Martin has emailed to clarify the cake/Tania confusion that yesterday forced the Diary into a humiliating public climbdown. "I can see how a mix-up could occur when dealing with such highbrow viewing," writes Cath, command of irony betraying her non-Grimbarian roots. "Steph failed to answer a question in a game of pass the parcel therefore causing her exclusion from the secret 'games and chocolate room'. The delightful orange-coloured Tania took pity on the losers and smuggled out some cake. Steph was then seen lurking in a corner, where she thought the BB cameras would not reach, scoffing the said contraband. I hope this answers your questions and you can now move on to report on the more mundane aspects of life." Indeed: the Diary's thoughts are already returning to the Mariners, and more specifically the question of whether the nifty surveillance methods that collared Steph might be adapted to supervise Tony Gallimore on Friday nights.
Saloon are a five-piece band from Reading with a string of wonderful singles and one superb album to their name. They combine sweetly sung guitar pop with lulling, hypnotic retro synth noise to create winning, insistent songs that perfectly balance power with subtlety and feel like champagne-flavoured ice-cream on a breezy September balloon ride over sunny French countryside. They are also the reason today's Diary is quite short, because I'm off to see them tonight and I have to go and get sorted out now. If this leaves you at a loose end then why not spend the afternoon listening to Saloon mp3s. You will understand.
Tuesday 10 June
As you are probably aware by now, Town's new signing is 20-year-old Tony Crane, a centre-half released by Sheffield Wednesday after 24 league starts and four goals. He is a right big bugger, apparently, and can also play in midfield or as a long ball recipient up front. Wednesday fans appear not to have rated him too highly, with the exception of one excitable supporter who last season contributed his name to a BBC Sport Online debate about possible future England players. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the signing is the three-year duration of Crane's contract, which seems a tad extravagant these days. Less unexpected is the rash of dodgy headlines reporting the transfer, with Crane takes flight from Owls (BBC Humber Sport) not quite as lame as Now that's a big Crane (Grimsby Telegraph) nor as clumsy as Town Get Crane In For A Lift (GTFC official site). The Humbersite, incidentally, reckons two more new arrivals could be joining young Tony by the end of the week. "I don't think we'll get beaten in the air very often! I'm strong and aggressive and that's Continued on page 35," Town's new signing seems to have told the Telegraph.
Speaking of our chums from Hillsborough, Wednesday chairman Dave Allen is apparently suggesting that his club replace 'Wimbledon' in Division One next season if the latter are forced to withdraw from the league - just to "keep things simple". "Simple would be gaining enough points from 46 games in a season to not get relegated," opines Simon Wilson in an email to the Diary with the subject line "Up, down, turn around", which has very agreeably got The Vaselines playing on my mental jukebox. "Carrying on the Wimbledon connection", continues Si, "the Diary is right about two teams merging - the newly formed team takes the place of the lower of the two teams. However, I do remember franchises not being allowed a few years ago until some suit decided it was in the interests of the game for Wimbledon to decamp to Milton Keynes. So if they can make one precedent for The Franchise, who's betting they won't make another?" I'm sure you were wearing a suit at Andy's wedding though Si.
More emails have flooded in to correct yesterday's story about Steph Coldicott smuggling cake out of the Big Brother house. It appears that the chocolatey confection was in fact smuggled to Mrs Stacy by somebody called Tania. I can only apologise. Well, I can blame my source as well; in this instance the story did not originate with the Diary's usual BB correspondent Cath Martin, who wishes it to be known, incidentally, that she can do Araucaria's crosswords in the Guardian - the sign of a truly intimidating intellect - and "also watches really clever stuff on the telly". Hang on a minute though - why did Tania have to smuggle cake to Steph? Has Steph already been evicted or something, or was she just not invited to the cake party? I want answers, damn it.
Monday 9 June
The moment Town's less cynical supporters have been awaiting for weeks could fall within the next few hours, as the first of the 10 new players promised by Peter Furneaux is set to arrive at Blundell Park this afternoon, says the Grimsby Telegraph. A "mystery youngster" - thought to be a Division One centre-back rather than Shaggy out of Scooby Doo - appears to have agreed terms with the Mariners; "all being well it should be completed today," says Paul Groves, who has learned from bitter experience not to enumerate poultry prior to its emergence from the shell and is refusing to name names. "He's not a name but people in football will be aware of him. He's a younger player that's played a few games - including against us here last season," adds the boss, almost as if he knows full well that his words could be a cue for Diary readers with time on their hands to spend the afternoon interrogating Soccerbase.
Those who believe Michael Keane is most accurately characterised as "Alan Pouton with a left foot" will be nodding smugly to themselves at the weekend's news that Keane is getting told off for being dead naughty and could be grounded for the start of next season. The 'tough-tackling' Preston man - who still tops Paul Groves' midfield wishlist despite turning down a permanent move to Blundell Park - faces the horrors of an FA misconduct charge, reports the Grimsby Telegraph, for the 'provocative' celebrations that followed his goal against Brighton on 4 May in the final game of his loan spell with the Mariners, and might be looking at a ban. As one recent contributor to Cod Almighty's letters page pointed out, similar offences by other teams' players appear to have gone unpunished; so the FA is presumably waiting to see whether Keane signs for Town or stays at Deepdale before deciding on 12 concurrent life sentences with hard labour, solitary confinement and lumpy mash, or just a mild ticking-off.
On now to the money markets, and the international finance arse. From what the Diary understands of a report on Town's official site, all seems to be running to plan with the club's new share issue. There's something about outstanding letters that I don't really get - Sylvia Plath's were always my favourite - but it looks like the sale of unissued capital has raised about 50 grand so far, all of which will go directly to Mr Groves for rebuilding the squad. This is "in order to get back in a higher league," according to Mr Furneaux, "which is where we want to be." Well, if hundreds of people seemingly held me responsible for everything from the collapse of North Sea fishing to the global proliferation of chemical and biological weaponry, then I'd probably restate the obvious too. Should every new share in GTFC be sold, the chairman's dreams will be £360,000 closer to coming true.
Which is all very well, but the club is still too skint to keep David Beckham, apparently. Or could it be Michael Owen who is about to walk out of Blundell Park because of Town's cash crisis? "Grimsby Town face losing an England international," reports today's Grim Tel, "because they can't afford to keep him." And guess what? You've never heard of him! Matthew Stares is apparently too old at 18 to get another year as a trainee and apparently not good enough to get a pro contract. Which is terrible, because he has played for England Schools' under-18s and English Colleges, and I bet everyone who has ever done that has gone on to become a full England international and marry a pop star and make their club a leading global brand forever and ever. Yeah.
More news from the sham of a football club that its billy-no-mates owners still insist on calling Wimbledon, and Luton's new owners are pondering a bid to buy it out of administration and merge with it in a bid to secure "a back-door promotion" to Division One, as one interested party has phrased it. The Diary is convinced that League rules state that any new club formed by a merger would be placed in the division previously inhabited by the lowest-ranked of its constituent clubs, but they said Milton Keynes would never happen, and hey, it's 2003, so why let principle and tradition stand in the way of a clutch of greedy bastards in suits. In the wake of its 999 call to the administrators last week, the franchise club is also offering refunds to 'fans' who have bought season tickets for the MK hockey bowl and are worried that the move may not happen or that justice might be done by the club getting thrown out of the league.
And over in the Big Brother house, the name of Steph Coldicott has received its first black mark after Wife of Stace smuggled chocolate cake out of a party, or something. Mrs C now faces a Channel 4 misconduct charge and could be hit with a three-task ban.
Sunday 8 June
Well, it's a late Diary, and I haven't got time to write anything in it really, other than to share with you the news from Andy's wedding that Cod Almighty's imaginary simian tipster Coco the Chimp featured to great effect in Mark Stilton's best man speech, and that the bride's father and the vicar or whatever managed to elicit numerous sharp intakes of breath with jokes about Grimsby, respectively, being in Yorkshire and being about to plunge into Division Three. At least we think they were jokes. Dinner with Mrs Diary's family today passed without incident. I am off to watch Corrie and then nipping to see a band, so we'll catch up properly tomorrow. Byeee!
Friday 6 June
Wes Parker's ears prick up at the news that a switch across the Humber Bridge for John McDermott could still be on the cards, according to Hull boss Peter Taylor. In a transfer affair becoming every bit as tedious and protracted as the David Beckham one, Macca's move to the KC Stadium was thought to have broken down after Taylor turned his attention instead to released Tottenham right-back Alton Thelwell, but hasn't, after all, actually. "Our talks have not really progressed as we'd hoped," the man who broke the bank at Filbert Street admits to the Hull Daily Mail, "but there is still a chance something might happen." Bored now.
A flitting flutter around the leagues today, and the administrators are speeding off to the club everyone who knows what's what loves to hate, Charles Koppel's franchise outfit formerly known as Wimbledon. The Milton Keynes side has been brought to its knees by Dons fans' magnificent boycott last season in favour of their new club AFC Wimbledon - but will probably recover next season because the suits always win. Further proof that all businessmen were bullied at school comes from the arrogant sod who runs Gillingham, Paul Scally, who has changed the colour of the Gills' home kit to 'reflect the corporate identity' of new sponsor Sea France - and faced with protests from justifiably pissed-off fans is now threatening to run home and tell his mum. And sell the club. And former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale is in talks to take over second division Barnsley, where he will not, presumably, find another 90 million quid waiting for him to flush down the bog.
Yesterday's meeting of Football League chairmen, meanwhile, failed to ratify recent proposals to penalise clubs that fall into administration and extend the play-off system from four to six teams. The measures will now be discussed again at a league EGM in September, meaning the play-offs will remain unchanged for the 2003-04 season. That'll be Town finishing seventh in Division Two then.
And finally, the Diary, on behalf of all the Cod Almighty team, would like publicly to congratulate our CA colleague and simiophile Andy Holt on his marriage tomorrow to the delightful Joanne. He'll have his work cut out bringing up the kids to support Town when they move to New Zealand though. All the best, both of you, and we'll see you in church. Andy's London wedding means there may not be a Diary this Sunday, as Mrs Diary has used our voyage to the south as an opportunity for us 'to lunch' with her family in Hertfordshire. I'll try and get online at some point, but if I don't you'll know why. Bye!
Thursday 5 June
The nice thing about being the Diary rather than a professional sports writer is that I get to punctuate my writing about the Mariners with all manner of self-indulgent digressions: "Ooh, have you noticed the mating season's started" this; "I think hoi sin sauce is the best accompaniment" that; "look at the fluffy little yellow ones" this...and so on. If I were a professional sports writer, though, the nice thing about it, apart from having some money, would be writing things like: "In a scene straight out of a James Bond spy thriller penned by his namesake, chief executive Ian Fleming headed for a secret meeting with Bolder at a car park on the north bank to wrap up the deal." For this is the ace way the Grimsby Telegraph reports that Chris Bolder has followed Greg Young's lead by agreeing another year's contract with GTFC; and so keen was the club to wrap up the deal before the player left on his holidays that Fleming apparently intercepted the player at the Humber Bridge on the way to East Midlands Airport. Way cool. Bolder's fellow 'promising youngster' Kirk Wheeler has also signed up for another year.
Season ticket holders are being offered the chance to personalise their seats at Blundell Park next season. For just £25, or £15 for the promising youngsters in your family, the club will lovingly etch your name onto the polypropylene and leave it there for the entire duration of the 2003-04 campaign. Inspired by the possibilities, Cod Almighty is inviting you to go bonkers in Photoshop on the stadium furniture; but since there is as yet little chance of these designs being implemented, the Diary is keen to guide your attention to the club's offer, further details of which are being sent out with season ticket renewal forms.
Former Town frontman Lee Nogan has done more than he usually managed when going up for headers at Blundell Park and landed on his feet. The player looked all set to shuffle quietly out of professional football when his playing contract with York expired the other week; but after the surprise replacement of Minstermen boss Terry Dolan with 27-year-old Chris Brass as player-manager, old Tireless found himself looking at a new deal - with extra duties as Brass's assistant thrown in. The new management duo has its work cut out to rebuild a team, with less than 10 senior pros remaining on the books at Bootham Crescent.
One sharp-eyed Diary reader has alerted us to an interview with Jake Sagare on Town's official site. "The fans here aren't anything like the Grimsby fans," says the disappearing American forward. "They cheer for goals and when you kick it high and hard. They don't have a clue about how to
play the game." Our correspondent adds: "No doubt the OS edited out the bit where he said: 'The Portland Timber fans don't whinge and boo their own team. And they don't start shouting "sack the
board" every time the kiosk runs out of Bovril'..."
And finally, the Diary's Big Brother correspondent Cath Martin (hello!) reports that the conjugal friction between Steph and Stacy Coldicott has clearly failed to dim Mrs C's affection for the Mariners, as she is today resplendent in a black and white bikini. Now if I were Town, I'd be seeing a marketing opportunity here.
Wednesday 4 June
Despite the disappearance and resignation of Stephen Venney, the Jarvis employee and convicted fraudster who set up Town's new sponsorship, the club has been keen to reassure supporters that all is well with the deal. Nevertheless, there remain some who suspect shadiness, and they will be intrigued by a tale from Diary reader Mike Dunderdale. "My ex-housemate runs a wine bar in London," he writes. "One of his customers, when taking part in a business card draw, asked if he could put some of his clients' cards in. Housemate said yes, then exclaimed as he saw that it was a Jarvis logo on the client's card: 'They sponsor Grimsby! I saw the strip unveiled against Brighton...'
Mike continues: "The customer says: 'You what?' and goes outside to phone the Jarvis bloke, who is very high up in the company, and has been a Brighton supporter for 75 years." How old is this guy? "Heated phone call ensues. Turns out that the guy who organised the sponsorship deal sent a cheque to Town up to his purchasing limit, and then disappeared with a load of housing bonds bought with company money. Jarvis are keeping quiet on this, due to not wanting further adverse publicity, but the guy informs my mate that the deal is definitely only for one year.
"If it's true it's just typical of the things that happen to the club. If not, then it was a laugh for a few minutes, in a gallows humour style of things." I'm laughing uneasily, Mike. Many thanks for sharing that with us. Stephen Venney is sounding more like That Joe Carter out of Corrie every day.
Another email reaches the Diary, this time from James Booth in Toronto, Canada, a city cursed with the Sars virus but blessed with the Diary's current favourite band in the world, who were absolutely stunning at the Charlotte in Leicester the other week. Anyway...James has chanced upon what he describes as a "typical media mention about Grimsby" on the Soccernet site. It reads as follows. "They may have been pioneers of European football, but half a century on, Wolves versus Honved sounds a particularly irrelevant pre-season friendly. After all, where are Honved now? And where were Wolves? Getting pipped to promotion by Aldershot, to be precise. Visiting the Nationwide League's symbolic outpost, Grimsby." We always know where sentences like that are leading, don't we.
While there's not a lot of news, I would like to draw your attention for a final time to Cod Almighty's Messageboard Nesbit of the Season competition, in which voting closes tonight; so if you haven't already selected your top three contributors to online idiocy then hurry, do. I have also been asked to urge you all to suggest questions for this site's forthcoming Tony Butcher interview, in which the doyen of amateur match reporting will be strapped into a dentist's chair and made to drink orange juice while listening to Beethoven's ninth...erm, I mean sent an email with lots of questions in it. So let us have 'em please, using the feedback form. Ooh, and do you like the redesign of the site, by the way?
Beep beep! And...yes, as we type these very words the Diary has received its first ever text message. In its capacity as the Diary, I mean. A reader is down the pub, watching Big Brother on TV, and informs us: "Steph is wearing a cub scout outfit. For some reason." I love this job.
Tuesday 3 June
Town's Stacy Coldicott could be set for a dream move to Spain's glamorous Primera Liga after the player's wife announced her love for Barcelona. Steph was distinctly heard to voice her partiality to the city in last night's Big Brother, and the Catalan giants' press office is yet to deny rumours of a move for the Redditch-born midfield workhorse. Stacy, that is, not Steph. Well, that's how it works with David Beckham, isn't it?
Rather more plausibly, if you insist on burdening my poetic soul with your wearisome demands for prosaic fact and reality, Danny Coyne might be off to Coventry, reckons the Grimsby Telegraph. Mind you, their insistence that John McDermott was certainly, undoubtedly, effo deffo going to Hull turned out to be pretty fanciful, didn't it. The Diary is delighted to note the Telegraph's report recalling that Coyne "issued a 'come-and-get-me' plea" to Burnley at the weekend - which, given what I wrote at the time, means that either I am quite extraordinarily perceptive or Stuart Rowson is playing games with me. Either way, it's pretty satisfying.
Mention of Stu reminds me that Sheffield Wednesday have "entered the race" - as it would be phrased if the Diary were a tabloid - to sign John McDermott, according to BBC Humber Sport. After all this fart-arsing about, though, the Diary officially no longer cares what Macca does. He'd be a rubbish signing for Wednesday anyway, in the same way he would have been a really good signing for Hull. Does that make sense? It does to me, damn it.
TEAmtAlK, or however the hell it is they mix upper and lower case letters, seems to have stopped making up really laughable stories about Town in recent months, but worthy of mention in today's Diary is its new amusingly misspelt headline. It's nice to know they've still got it.
And finally, I have been asked to make clear that if Town start running out next season to records by The Verve then the Diary, for one, will either take an overdose or go and support Hull - both painful, but both preferable. Goodbye for now.
Monday 2 June
Michael Keane has said no to a permanent switch to Blundell Park - but Paul Groves isn't taking it for an answer. The tattooed midfield livewire is some way down the pecking order back at Preston but wants to fight for a first-team spot and has told Town he's going nowhere. "At this moment in time the deal is not happening," Groves admits to the Grimsby Telegraph, "but we shall be trying to resurrect our bid to sign him permanently." The Diary admires the manager's determination but can't help wondering what else Keane could be offered to make him change his mind. A more relaxed training regime? A house on Seaview Street? A highly sensual back massage? Good luck there, Paul.
Great news for Adam Buckley! The former GTFC winger, who briefly fulfilled official fan scapegoat duties during his term at Blundell Park, was recently arrested on suspicion of theft from his employer, Lincoln City FC, who promptly released him on a free - but his dad's appointment as Rochdale manager yesterday virtually guarantees Adam another two years in the professional game. In an appointment that looks good for both parties, Mr Alan Buckley introduces Spotland to the virtues of passing and movement after a year out of the game following his dismissal by the Imps last summer. Speculation has already begun among fans as to which of his former charges will be the first to join up with Al in his new post, with his newly unemployed offspring surely among the hot favourites. Tony Ford and John Cockerill are among the names mentioned as potential assistant managers, with John McDermott a reasonable tip among the outsiders.
The first name among Town's out-of-contract army to sign a new deal is Greg Young, the, er, young central defender who made his debut in last season's penultimate fixture at Reading, which "did show that there is a big step up from the reserves for him to make," says Paul Groves, euphemistically. The term of the player's new deal is not known, but given that he turned 21 last season one would expect Young to be making that step fairly soon or not at all.
Did you realise what a significant milestone has almost crept up unnoticed? Miles Moss did. "September 20 this year (that's '9/20' to Americans)," he writes, "will be the 125th anniversary of the formation of GTFC by the pissed-up members of Worsley Cricket Club." Praise my soul! That also makes it 25 years since the Diary became a Town fan. "I wonder if the club has any plans to mark this occasion," continues Miles. "Perhaps Cod Almighty readers might like to suggest appropriate celebrations." What a fine idea; and since this is clearly an issue of broader significance than befits the parochial little Diary, I would urge you all to pass us your suggestions using the CA-wide feedback form. I have dutifully trawled the murky waters of my mind for ideas but most of them so far seem to involve Carrie-Anne Moss in a PVC catsuit, which is more pleasant than it is relevant.
Orva to the Big Brotha hoose now for a brief update on Steph Coldicott's progress. The estranged wife of Town's occasional midfield destroyer appears to have kept a low profile so far, but the Diary's source - hand-picked for their high boredom threshold - informs us that after Steph's team won a tug of war, "their prize was to go into this secret room and have a disco. Steph stood at the side for a while, but was then seen to strut her funky stuff. Her dancing is a little wedding-esque." Younger readers may be intrigued to learn that Channel 4 was once known as a risk-taking, cutting-edge broadcaster.
Sunday 1 June
Here it is at last then: the Diary does Sunday. Hope your weekends have all been nice. I went to see that Matrix Reloaded on Friday, which was quite cool, and led me to suspect that the Premiership is all an elaborate illusion sustained by virtual reality software and its fans are unknowingly spending their entire lives with electrodes in their heads sitting in jars in Rupert Murdoch's shed. Which I know sounds a tad far-fetched; perhaps two hours of Carrie-Anne Moss in a PVC catsuit had left me feeling a little giddy. On Saturday I went shopping, but didn't have buttered scones for tea, sufficing myself with several pints of Grolsch and a vindaloo. Life's tough; at any rate, it was in the Diary's bathroom this morning. Today I have had a lovely hour-long walk round the woods with Mrs Diary, which may not kid my body into believing I have a healthy lifestyle but works wonders for blotting out the ugly struggles and realities of life - having no money and being a Grimsby fan - and it's a lot cheaper than a Sky dish.
So what news from the hyper-real world of the Mariners? Exasperated at its supporters' tendency to assume the worst at all times - I mean, you'd think they'd be used to it by now - the club has issued statements clarifying the situation regarding Paul Wilkinson's redundancy. The announcement earlier this week that Town were releasing the reserve team coach resulted in a more than usually virulent outbreak of messageboard hysteria in some quarters, with a number of fans who are clearly in need of some primal scream therapy and/or a big hug variously prophesying the disbanding of the reserve team, the formation of a breakaway club, anthrax attacks in Thrunscoe and the destruction of the planet Earth by an enormous cosmic Polo mint. None of which, says the club, are on the agenda at the next board meeting.
If the Diary were a tabloid then we would be reporting that Danny Coyne has "issued a come-and-get-me plea to Stan Ternent", as Wales' fourth-choice number one - who has privately said there's basically no way he'll still be playing for Town next season - has been speaking of his lifelong admiration for Burnley Football Club, two weeks after a rare Diary exclusive broke the news that the Clarets fancy him. "Burnley are a massive club," the waning custodian tells the Grimsby Telegraph. "And from what I hear about the manager, and what I've seen, he has a great reputation, and is ambitious himself, which would match my ambition." You know the sort of thing. We all know deep down that Danny has been experiencing serious second-album trouble in the last year or so, struggling to live up to the form that made him fans' player of the season a bit ago; and the Diary reckons if he's going to release The Second Coming then let him do it at Turf Moor.
And that's all the Diary has to say this glorious Sunday afternoon. I'm going to wallpaper the bathroom. That isn't a joke or a reference or anything - I really am.