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Monday 31 March
After the Diary fought Town's corner last week against an onslaught from the Grimsby Telegraph over the John Oster transfer saga, Mariners chairman Peter Furneaux weighs in with a rare public attack on the local rag. In what looked like a cynical attempt to turn fans against the club at the most critical stage of Town's relegation struggle, the Sheffield Wednesday-supporting Telegraph ran an inflammatory piece claiming that the Grimsby board were unwilling to fork out a small fee to keep Oster at Blundell Park. When the transfer collapsed on Thursday, though, it emerged that the player had agreed terms but was unwilling to risk playing in the second division next season. "There was a failure by the Telegraph to check the facts with us," says a rightly pissed-off Pete F. "Everybody at the club is very upset with the way the matter was handled by the Telegraph." A full statement from the chairman is to appear on Town's official site later today.
The chastened Telegraph wants to change the subject now, and does so by reporting that the playing contingent who are out of contract this summer could be facing big pay cuts if they are retained at all. The current deals of almost half the playing staff are due to expire in the close season, and the future of players like Tony Gallimore and Steve Livingstone will hang in the balance as the club cuts its cloth according to the fact that only 5,000 people care enough to go and watch them. "The reality is that some of those players will have to take a cut," says Paul Groves with a sigh.
Also in today's Telegraph is a nice little Stuart Campbell interview in which the increasingly visible midfielder plays down his personal ambitions to become leading scorer of the entire world, emphasising instead the need for togetherness, team spirit and lots of hugs as the Mariners approach the run-in that will decide their first division future. "You put your goals to one side at a time like this," insists the selfless Scotsman. "Everyone is marching together."
Similarly obsessed with matters military is the grandmother of Cod Almighty founder, retired media tart and new father Mr Simon Wilson. "I was reading in the paper yesterday that the Town game was called off due to the war," said Si's nan at the weekend. Her perplexed grandson requested further information. "Some players were called up," she explained. "For international matches," said Si, "not the army." I think she's from Scunthorpe, bless her.
And finally, the Diary has decided that it will no longer be carrying any news related to John Oster that is not also directly related to GTFC. I am sick of hearing what a great game he had for Wales, and I am deeply pissed off with the way he has treated our club, so sod him. The ungrateful little shit can do what he likes.
Saturday 29 March
Moribund Sheffield Wednesday scrape a 2-2 draw at home to Watford in the first division but remain five points adrift of the Mariners having now played a game more. With 32 points from 40 games, fans of the South Yorkshire underachievers could finally be facing up to the increasing possibility of second division football at great big Hillsborough next season.
Treacherous narcissist John Oster was the surprise name in the starting line-up as Wales romped to a 4-0 victory over Azerbaijan in Cardiff this afternoon to preserve their 100 per cent record in Euro 2004 qualifying. The Sunderland winger - whose grossly inflated sense of self-worth led him to turn down a move to Grimsby this week, causing two other loan transfers to collapse and all but kill off Town's bid for survival - was handed his first start for his country since 1999 by Welsh manager Mark Hughes. Like we care.
Friday 28 March
The Grimsby Telegraph's campaign to undermine its local football club runs into problems with the revelation that Town's failure to sign John Oster permanently was due to the player's fear of second division football rather than the club's unwillingness to fund the deal, as the paper reported earlier this week in a calculated bid to enrage supporters. Mariners boss Paul Groves has confirmed that the GTFC board was ready and able to meet Oster's wage demands but that the transfer finally foundered yesterday on the Welsh international's reluctance to sign for a club that could be in Division Two next season. This would explain why the player didn't move to Stoke or Cardiff either, which the Telegraph had provocatively suggested was a strong possibility. Conspiracy theorists are invited to speculate on possible links between the paper's recent determination to do down the Mariners and the fact that one of its senior sports reporters is a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday fan.
The collapse of the Oster deal also scuppered Groves' plans to bring in two other players. Had the Sunderland winger signed for Town, his two earlier loan periods would no longer have counted against the overall limit on loan players Town could bring in this season; but as it stands, Michael Keane's arrival from Preston has maxed it out, meaning deals to borrow Des Hamilton from Cardiff and another unnamed player had to be called off at the last minute, reports BBC Humber Sport.
Keane has been named among the Irish substitutes for tonight's under-21 international in Georgia. That's the one in eastern Europe, not the United States' deep south. Town's new loan midfielder is also expected to figure as the Republic's youngsters take on Albania next week in their bid to qualify for next year's European u21 championship.
Town fans can raise cash for the GTFC Handicapped Supporters Club, and have a ripping good read too, by buying a copy of Park Life, a one-off Mariners magazine that hits the streets of Grimsby tomorrow. Or the shopping centre, to be precise, as copies will be available on Saturday only in the town's 80s-tastic 'mall' Freshney Place, on a stall outside Marks & Spencer, so you can pick it up after you've bought your mum a sensible new blouse for Mothers' Day. The mag features interviews with Paul Groves, John McDermott, Danny Coyne and Bobby 'Dangerous' Cumming, lots of news and other features, and a piece giving a brief but intimate glimpse into the private life of the Diary, and can also be purchased at the club shop from Monday or by post (email email@example.com for details). And it's only a quid! Stop wasting your money on the lottery and buy Park Life instead.
Thursday 27 March
As today's transfer deadline approaches, the gaps in Town's injury-ravaged midfield are plugged by two new loan midfielders, namely Cardiff's Des Hamilton and Preston's Michael Keane. Former Newcastle man Hamilton has failed to feature for the second division club since the turn of the year, but Ireland under-21 international Keane is said to be one of the most promising young players in Division One. "One thing that has to be said about them is that it's a massive plus that they wanted to come," Paul Groves tells today's Grimsby Telegraph, not exactly sending fans' expectations through the roof.
Meanwhile the Telegraph gleefully parades a series of ill-informed txtmsg-style letters from supporters who have unquestioningly bought every word of the paper's report yesterday that the GTFC board is unwilling to stump up ten bob and a Milky Bar to keep John Oster. The Diary would like to point out, explicitly this time, the GT's recent record of inconsistent and contradictory reporting of the Oster situation - not to mention the reliance on unnamed sources and lack of supporting quotes in yesterday's piece - and urge fans to pause and consider who it is that they support: Grimsby Town Football Club or the Grimsby Telegraph?
Trialist news now, and Crewe's former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder and 500cc Superbike racer Wayne Collins was the surprise name in yesterday's reserves game at Mansfield. Collins is being allowed to leave the second division club on a free transfer after an ongoing fitness problem, which conveniently qualifies him immediately for service with the Mariners. Middlesbrough defender Kevin George played the second half and "did well", according to Town's official site; but the Diary's favourite discarded second division midfielder Wayne Gill sadly made no appearance. Town lost 3-2, with goals from Stephen Downes and Chris Thompson.
The polling booths have opened for the Supporters' Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year award, with voting slips being available at forthcoming home games and fans also invited to vote online. Presentations will be made at a simply fabulous-sounding event at the Winter Gardens on 29 April, boasting 'entertainment from the superb "Y'Abba D'Abba",' says Town's official site, 'and a disco.' My goodness! Tickets are priced at a cautious £2.
Wednesday 26 March
The Grimsby Telegraph today ends its indecision on the John Oster transfer saga, claiming that GTFC won't stump up to keep the lad at Town despite his now being available on a free transfer. To make matters worse, Stoke and Cardiff are said to be sniffing around, though there is no word yet of a move for the player by Sheffield United. "Relegation will cost Town £1 million," says the paper, clearly in the mood for some shit-stirring, "but the club are refusing to cough up the minimal cash to keep their star man." Determined to ensure the infuriation of the Mariners faithful, the report adds that this "will infuriate the Mariners' faithful". Elsewhere in the Telegraph, fans are variously instructed that they will be "dismayed" and "incandescent with rage" at the news. Yeah, whatever.
Paul Groves' tenacious hunt for a midfielder or two continues as tomorrow's transfer deadline looms - the manager is "looking to bring in players tin his week", according to BBC Humber Sport - but in the meantime the Diary warmly welcomes Kevin George back to Cleethorpes. The Middlesbrough defender played some games on trial a bit ago, and Paul Wilkinson liked him, so he's come back for another go. Why we let him go back to Middlesbrough in the meantime if he's so amazing is uncertain, but hey. Kev is set to line up for the reserves in this afternoon's visit to Mansfield.
Phil Jevons - you may remember him from such freakish incidents as the last-gasp 30-yard winner at Anfield last year - could be set for a permanent move to big-time third division club Hull City, where he has been on loan nearly all season to very little effect. The Tigers' former England manager Peter Taylor has realised that Jevons is actually there, and thrown his support unambiguously behind a bid to keep him, saying: "Next season, who knows?" With the lazy-arse striker's former club Everton due appearance money and the player on a fair whack wodge-wise, cash-strapped Town will be glad to see the back of last season's cup hero.
A word now from the pharmaceuticals industry, and that means email from Diary reader Mark Wilson, who has weighed in with another entirely plausible contribution to this week's heated debate. "Hospice is the liquid waste expelled by larger members of the equine family," says Mark's email, just as I fixed myself a glass of lemon barley water.
Tuesday 25 March
More bad news from the treatment room today, as one of Town's legion of Welsh internationals, Darren Barnard, has been ruled out for six weeks with the shoulder injury that tore him screaming from the Rotherham match last week. "It leaves us in the mire," admits manager Paul Groves on the Grimsby Telegraph website, now that it has finally stopped redirecting my browser to the Bristol Evening Telegraph.
The Riby Square Thunderer also finds the space for a heartfelt plea from Barnard's wounded comrade Stacy Coldicott for the Mariners to offer him a new contract. The crocked midfielder, who has gone from official fan scapegoat to revered war hero after breaking his leg against Burnley at the weekend, whimpers: "I like it at Grimsby. I've always enjoyed it here and obviously I want to stay. I hope there's no change." Stace is one of 11 players out of contract this summer, adds the report.
Town's official site, meanwhile, sees fit to disinter the manufactured controversy that surrounded Stuart Campbell's goal that never was at Selhurst Park in January. For those of you who don't remember, the rather feyly nicknamed 'Camby' scored against the club formerly known as Wimbledon, but it went down as an own goal, or something, and he still isn't letting it lie. "It was nice to get another goal on Saturday," says the hero of Turf Moor, "that's my seventh, contrary to reports in some of the newspapers. I got officially credited with the goal at Wimbledon, but nobody else seems to know." For God's sake, man, get over it!
The system of 'parachute payments' that gives relegated Premiership clubs a stack of cash to kick ass in Division One and go straight back up is to be extended further down the Football League. Under a new agreement, the three clubs promoted to the Prem this season will each contribute £100,000 to a fund that will cushion the financial blow of relegation to Division Two suffered by Sheffield Wednesday and two other clubs. "The introduction of parachute payments is seen as an essential part of helping clubs to cope with the additional wage burden they carry with them from a higher division to a lower one," says league spokesperson John Nagle. "Distributing Premiership TV money more fairly throughout the game would rid us of the need for this stupid system in the first place," says the Diary.
A quick dip into the Diary's inbox now - and it will have to be quick, as I am typing this in Chesterfield library (long story) and don't have very much longer to do it - and a flurry of emails has arrived in response to yesterday's random question "What is a hospice anyway?" Mat Hare writes: "Was she not one of the famous five that had hits such as 'Wannabe'? It was her, uglyspice, miserablespice, idon'tfancyyoursmuchspice and facesetonfireandputoutwithashovelspice. She was the slutty one, obviously." Tony Butcher, meanwhile, defines hospice as: "A home for the destitute (GTFC) or terminally ill (Sheffdefiled Wednesday)." Can I borrow your nail file, Tony?
Monday 24 March
Hello! It's your regular Diary back again, and a hundred thanks to Miles for filling in for me over the weekend. Didn't he do well? So well, in fact, that we have only one complaint from a reader, namely John Arrand, who has emailed to say: "Contrary to the impression given in the Diary, Oster's loan would have expired before the Wolves game even had it not been rescheduled." Hey, I'm sure you didn't miss me too much though. Oh, and sorry we're running a bit late today - Mrs Diary was indulging in a rather large download.
Now the Diary, as you know, has been quick to defend Stacy Coldicott from some of the rather excessive 'treatment' he has received from fans this season; but were the Diary a gambling man, he wouldn't take tips from the shiny-bonced midfield scapegoat. Because whatever attributes Stacy has, luck is not among them, as it emerges that the new injury that cruelly curtailed his defiant and magnificent show against Burnley on Saturday is nothing short of a broken leg.
And with Darren Barnard crocked and Alan Pouton already expected to miss the rest of the season with injury and suspension, Paul Groves will have to move quickly for midfield reinforcements if he wants to retain the 4-5-1 formation that has been instrumental in Town's four-match unbeaten run. Efforts are continuing to bring John Oster back to the club for a fourth time (I think it'll be four anyway - the Diary is losing track) but Groves is looking to the loan market again for a central midfielder ahead of Thursday's transfer deadline. "It leaves us a little bit light in there," comments the Town boss with characteristic restraint.
In a new bid to inform the people of Grimsby that their town gives its name to a professional football club - and raise a few pounds for charidee, mate - said club has announced a 'Wear Your Shirt Party', whereby fans are invited to quite liderally show their colours, by donning Town tops this Wednesday night. Supporters can enjoy a range of special offers and GTFC-related fun, while also bringing in cash for the worthy cause of St Andrew's Hospice, beginning at 8pm at the Chicago Rock Café. A win-win situation for the club and the hospice, then, but perhaps a tad harsh on the punters, who have to spend the evening in the Chicago Rock Café.
Were the Diary a gambling man (if a betting obsession is good enough for the official site, it's good enough for me), he would wager that the Chicago Rock Café is not the sort of place one might find Gullivers veteran Stuart Morton, who has emailed with praise for our efforts. "Felicitations," begins Stu polysyllabically. "After Tony [Butcher]'s reports having become the web highlight of the week, the Diary has now become the web highlight of the day. Brilliant stuff." Awww - cheers, Stu! "Maybe see you at the Palace or Wendy game," adds the very lovely Mr M, "as I'll be over." The Rutland it is then, Sir!
And your random question for this week: what is a hospice, exactly? Answers to firstname.lastname@example.org, if you please.
Saturday 22 March
Well, I hoped to see you soon, and here I am. Yes, it's Miles here again, back by popular demand. Well, OK, actually back due to the fact that your usual Diary finds himself in a place with no computers. He does have a mobile phone though, and with it he asks me to say hello to you all. Hello!
There's a good news/bad news air to Saturday's results: the Mariners take a good point away from Turf Moor, but Stacy Coldicott gets what looks like a nasty injury; Wednesday were soundly thrashed and are now six points behind Town; Brighton were behind, and then ahead, before Ipswich scramble a draw; but Stoke is the taboo word in my house this weekend - their victory at Watford puts the Mariners back into the Division Two waiting room on goal difference.
Those among you with an unhealthy obsession for ex-Mariners will have noticed that Willie Falconer netted the third of Clyde's goals this afternoon. If anyone has access to Scottish Division One highlights, please email Cod Almighty and tell us all how on Earth this happened. That Kabba bloke scored again, too, but we'll gloss over that one if you don't mind.
Friday 21 March
Hello. My name is Miles, and I'll be your Diary for today. We'll be cruising at an altitude of 21st place, and duty free will be available shortly. May I take this opportunity to wish you a pleasant read.
Recognition at last! The League Managers' Association - a panel comprising Howard Wilkinson, Barry Fry, George Burley, Dave Bassett and Sir Alex Ferguson - awarded Town the Scottish Life Performance of the Week Award. The 1-0 win over Rotherham was deemed the best thing to happen all week in football, and wins Paul Groves an engraved crystal football. The Diary only hopes the award doesn't also come with a Manager of the Month style hoodoo.
Should such a curse apply, tomorrow's opponents Burnley will be the first beneficiaries. Paul Groves has acknowledged that it's not going to be an easy trip, but will no doubt be wishing to avoid another 4-0 whupping. There is a positive tone though: "If we play as well as we have been doing of late, we go there and give ourselves a good chance," he adds. Hasn't that always been the frustrating thing about Town though, eh? Early news is that Darren Barnard, Stacy Coldicott and, most worryingly, Danny Coyne are the players with pencilled-in question marks next to their names on the teamsheet. Should everyone be passed fit, we can expect an unchanged side, including Richard Hughes, who has delighted everyone by agreeing - nay, actually being 'happy' - to stay until the end of the season. Unless a similar deal can be struck with John Oster, however, this may be his last match in a black and white shirt. Well, until Mick McCarthy decides to gift-wrap him and post him to Cleethorpes, anyway.
Oster would have played in the postponed Wolves match, of course. This fixture has now been given a new date, and the gold-clad underachievers will now resignedly trudge to Blundell Park on Tuesday 8 April.
There's a glorious spring day-like atmosphere around the treatment room, meanwhile, with good news for Mick Boulding and Steve Croudson. Boulding has finally given his pain-in-the-arse ankle the elbow, and hopes to be ready for the April 5 Leicester match. And the best news of all is that Stevie Croudson's career-threatening shoulder troubles seem to be over. An expert in how arms join to torsos reckons he can start playing again within weeks. Little Stevie can now put a year of misery behind him, and hopefully start playing for Grimsby again. Oh the irony.
Finally, the Diary was amused last night to hear on Five Live that the Stock Exchange, of all places, was the chosen venue to announce that Terry Venables and Leeds have ended their miserable relationship. Just in case you had any doubts over the extent to which money is taking over football.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I have. Hope to see you all again soon. M.
Thursday 20 March
An early Diary again today, as I'm on the road this afternoon to see some bands tonight in Leeds. Then I'm getting trashed in Sheffield again tomorrow - so you shall have a guest diarist tomorrow, on a little dishy: namely Cod Almighty's puzzlemeister laureate Miles Moss - more of whom later.
Right - my coach is at 2 o'clock so I've got to hurry. First up, Town's home game against Wolves scheduled for 29 March has, as expected, been postponed due to international call-ups, Town having two players (and Oster) in the Wales squad, and Wolves having some as well.
Leicester midfielder Junior Lewis - who just a few weeks ago considered himself rather too special to go out on loan to the likes of Grimsby - has gone out on loan to the likes of Swindon. Since snubbing the Mariners, the arrogant sod has been told he has no future at the Walkers Stadium, much to the mirth of the Diary, and has now been forced to dirty his knees in an even lowlier setting than Cleethorpes.
Diary Poetry Week gathers further momentum, with two more pieces from the ever prolific Alistair Wilkinson - one an epic report on the win at Rotherham; the other a haiku. Cod Almighty tipster Mat Hare has chipped in with a humorous limerick and another, more humorous, limerick; while Miles Moss has come good with the best effort of the week so far, a brilliant GTFC-flavoured reworking of Philip Larkin's 'This Be The Verse'. Well done again, all of you, and keep them coming in to email@example.com.
Finally, the Diary would like to thank Keith Collins and Guy Keeble for pointing out the error in early editions of yesterday's Diary, which referred to John Oster's "headed goal" against Rotherham. "I do understand that if you were at the game itself," adds Guy sympathetically, "you may have innocently made this mistake due to the madness which ensued!" Afraid I just copied it from Ceefax, Guy, but it was still pretty wild in my sitting room.
Have a great weekend, everyone, and stay beautiful.
Wednesday 19 March
Today's lovely spring sunlight is all the brighter for Town fans, whose team now look down on the first division relegation zone from the lofty heights of 21st place. A last-gasp volleyed goal from John Oster at Rotherham last night was enough to give Town all three points - and for the Mariners to unseat Brighton from the safety position after the Seagulls' 2-1 defeat at Sheffield United, who the Diary won't hear a word against. Also worthy of mention in this context is a hamstring injury to Brighton's decent player Bobby Zamora, who hobbled off the Bramall Lane pitch after 48 minutes. Hey, at this stage of the season we'll take anything we can get.
The pioneers of avant-garde copy-editing at BBC Humber Sport have gone quite mental with the excitement of Town's elevation above the drop zone, quoting Paul Groves on the Rotherham match: "But in the second half, certainly for the 15 minutes we had bother with the ball there, what we did, I think, we killed off their spirit, they had to change it and when they changed it. We was out all day long down that right hand side." Remember - that's your licence fee.
More good news blows gently this way from a southerly bearing, having originated in the larynx of Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp, who has given his blessing for Richard Hughes to stay with Town for the rest of the season. The young midfielder has made a broadly favourable impression in his loan spell so far, and must now decide whether to stay with the Mariners until May or return to Fratton Park and wait for Neil Warnock to sign him.
Still less certain, as ever, is the situation of John Oster, which would appear to depend upon the wishes and whims of new Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy. Groves has been on the blower to McCarthy, who, with the indecision that has become endemic in the mobile phone era, said: "Err, oooh, I dunno, ring us again later, yeah?" Rest assured, though, that the Diary will bring you all the updates just as quickly as we can nick them.
Diary readers, meanwhile, are just crazy for the verse thing, if your responses to Diary Poetry Week are anything to go by. The admirable contributions received already this week have been supplemented today by several new stanzas - one from Miles Moss about Alan Pouton's mysterious appearance in the squad for last night's match; a collection of haiku from various poets in praise of Paul Groves and sausage rolls; and two more from the prolific pen of Alistair Wilkinson, one about losing and one about winning. Everybody have a read, won't you, and please keep emailing them in to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's fun, this.
Tuesday 18 March
Paul Groves, upon whose decisions depend the happiness of more than one life, has no new injury worries ahead of tonight's visit to Rotherham - other than Alan Pouton, who begins a four-match suspension anyway. Stacy Coldicott has resumed training and returns to the squad following his recent absence with a groin strain or something, but Groves will feel under pressure to keep playing in midfield after his big goalscoring contribution to recent fixtures. Rotherham, meanwhile, are wrestling with doubts over several players, including influential midfielders Darren Garner and Andy Monkhouse, but Chris Swailes and Darren Byfield return from one-match suspensions.
Over to schadenfreude corner now, and former England midfielder Lee Sharpe - who spent an intriguingly brief period on trial with the Mariners in 2002 - has signed for Icelandic part-timers Grindavik. With their 1,000-capacity stadium, it is thought unlikely that Sharpe's new club will be in a position to pay him £4,000 for playing in a friendly, as the player was rumoured to have demanded from Town last summer.
Diary Poetry Week continues apace today with another contribution from Alistair Wilkinson, whose Miltonic account of Town's weekend win over Watford started the lyrical ball rolling yesterday. Al's new piece, entitled 'Why am I a Town fan?', deals movingly with those moments of doubt when you wonder why you bother at all (the Diary is reminded of the dearth of cheese and onion pasties at Vale Park in 1999), so please read it by clicking here. Marnix Kolder, meanwhile, has submitted an ingenious satirical piece of fixed-form verse that will make eminent sense to every Diary reader; find out by clicking here. Should the fair works of these two bards move you to metre, then pray email your odes to email@example.com.
Monday 17 March
The Town directors are to make another of their occasional bids to unlock the boardroom stalemate that continues to financially paralyse the club, reports the Grimsby Telegraph. At present potential new investors are barred from buying into the club's several hundred thousand pounds worth of unissued share capital until a 75 per cent majority of existing shareholders authorises the sale; and successive attempts to release that share capital have been blocked by a group of shareholders - who are not currently board members - unwilling to see their stake in the club diluted. But an emergency general meeting on 10 April will seek to have the sale authorised. Hey, now did that sound like I know what I'm talking about, or what, eh?
Good news and bad news on the injury front, meanwhile, with fears allayed that Michael Boulding could have missed the rest of the season with his dodgy ankles but danger arising that Alan Pouton faces a lengthy absence after knackering his knee again. Boulding has been told by a specialist that he won't need an operation, just an injection and some modified footwear; and Town's official site speculates that he may be back in training next week with a view to playing against Leicester on 5 April.
It looks like Playstation practice aplenty for Pouton, though, after the player was subbed off in Saturday's win over Watford. A recurrence of his ongoing knee problem means Town's talismanic midfield paradox could be out of action for some time, but at least the injury coincides with a lengthy suspension for the player in a wonderfully fortuitous Roy Keane-type scenario. "It doesn't look good for Alan. It looks like it's the same type of injury as he got before the derby game, the Boxing Day," says Paul Groves on BBC Humber Sport, where they haven't quite got the hang of editing direct speech.
The Hull-based local news source also reveals that GTFC directors are to meet today and discuss the retention of players for next season - despite chairman Peter Furneaux's recent statement that no such decisions would be taken until we know which division we'll be in next season. About half the first-team squad - including record appearance maker and captain John McDermott - are out of contract at the end of the current campaign; so if during the next few weeks Tony Gallimore suddenly remembers how to tackle, you'll know why.
The Osterometer needle twitches hesitantly in its mid-range today as Town's wonderful winger admits his own uncertainty as to his stay at Blundell Park being extended. "I just don't know what will happen," Oster tells today's Telegraph. "I haven't spoken to anyone at Sunderland...I honestly don't know what's going to happen." Who said today's players don't know how it feels to be a fan?
A glance across Saturday's results reveals that the only former Mariner to have scored in the top four English league division professional table leagues was Paul Harsley, who the Diary once saw turn out for Town reserves and now plies his trade with second division Northampton. Harsley scored the equaliser in the Cobblers' weekend visit to Cheltenham - a match watched, incidentally, by 70 more spectators than could make it to Blundell Park to see Town beat a team that's in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Speaking of the Watford match, again, Cod Almighty is proud today to boast not only Tony Butcher's typically idiosyncratic and brilliant match report in prose but also a splendid poetic account of the game from Diary reader Alistair Wilkinson: "Groves and Macca leading by example/Their lung bursting energy more than ample," muses Al. You can read his epic in full by clicking here, so please do; and hey, while we're at it, readers, let's have a Diary Poetry Week! Send your lyrical tributes to the Mariners to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll publish them here.
Saturday 15 March
Paul Groves' Indian summer continues as the 37-year-old Town player-manager fires his third goal in five games and his second of the week to give his side three points against Watford at Blundell Park this afternoon. A pitiful sub-5,000 crowd sees the same 4-5-1 line-up that came so close to a win at the City Ground in midweek survive intense periods of pressure from the Hornets before PG back-heels home from a John Oster cross on 64 minutes.
The win lifts Town off bottom spot in Division One as good old Ipswich emerge victorious from Hillsborough this afternoon. Brighton's tremendous run of form continues with a 1-0 win over Forest, while Stoke pick up a good point from their clash with Sheffield United to remain ahead of the Mariners on goal difference.
By the way, the wedding was quite nice, as it turned out. The Diary made friends with a Lincoln fan called Andy who apparently slacks his way with impressive nonchalance through evening shifts editing FT.com; and by the time the live band declared their nefarious intentions by opening with a Travis number, the Diary was too leathered on Murphy's and scotch to care.
Friday 14 March
An early edition of the Diary today, as I'm being dragged off to a wedding this afternoon, and am not entirely happy about it if truth be told. The difference between weddings on Fridays and football on Fridays, as far as the Diary is concerned, is that at least football is OK on other days. Well, usually.
So to the team news for tomorrow's fairly important home game against Watford, and Town may stick with the starting XI that performed so well against Forest on Monday night. Midfield scapegoat Stacy Coldicott is still feeling his achilles, as it were, and Michael Boulding is still knackered; but Darren Mansaram, Richard Hughes and John McDermott should all overcome minor niggles to play, reckons BBC Humber Sport. Paul Groves' major quandary should, then, be whether to redeploy at Blundell Park the 4-5-1 formation that has worked superbly in the last two away games.
Watford defender Sean Dyche is set to play, despite being struck in the face this week while playing for the reserves by an elbow not believed to be Steve Livingstone's. Despite having reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, the Hertfordshire side are without a win in five league games, which makes them odds-on favourites to take all three points tomorrow.
Jason Gavin has joined second division strugglers Huddersfield (see where a new ground can get you?) on a month's loan. The Middlesbrough defender, who passed a similar spell with the Mariners in December, trialled with Sheffield United recently; but the Blades decided not to try and sign the player after realising that Town never actually wanted to keep him.
Right, that's it. Get me to the church on time and all that. For its part, the Diary remains married to Town, for better and for worse. And we all know which it usually is.
Thursday 13 March
In this season of outrageous fortune, the latest sling and/or arrow to pierce Town's frail armour is the news that Michael Boulding - the only player on the books who knows how to score goals - could require surgery on his troublesome ankle that would sideline him for flipping ages. The player is to consult a specialist this week to determine the full extent of the injury, which has already excluded him from the Mariners' last two games. Town's official site points out that the ankle in question is not the one that forced Boulding out of action in February; while BBC Humber Sport gloomily and rather mysteriously suggests: "Nobody is saying, but the suggestion is that there are worries at Blundell Park that Boulding might need an operation which could jeopardise the rest of his season."
And if further evidence is needed that the fates are not merely conspiring against the Mariners this season but are already crouched behind a grassy knoll with a loaded rifle, Alan Pouton has been banned for four games following his second red card of the season against Sheffield United - and may miss a further two matches as the FA considers a disrepute charge. On 27 March the ruling body will consider lengthening Pouton's ban in punishment for throwing a captain's armband loaded with anthrax at a linesman following his first red card of the season (which was in a 3-0 defeat against Preston at Deepdale, not a 3-3 draw, as Town's official site has it).
Today's trialist news comes in an email to the Diary from Cod Almighty match reporter Tony Butcher, who is anxious to correct the impression given on this page yesterday that Leeds striker Michael Ward played some part in Tuesday night's reserves game against Scarborough. The player didn't actually come off the bench, says Tony, adding: "Well, he did, to go to the toilet and have a little jog up the touchline, but he absolutely did not 'get on'. Which is a great shame as he has Premiership hair, a sort of haystack Alan Smith." (Mr Butcher also informs us that Jonathan Rowan "ran around for 4 minutes," and states pointedly: "No Wayne Gill.") Many thanks for that, TB; looks like the Diary was a bit premature with its source.
Finance now, and the Football League has been forced to deny that its current internet deal could follow the same ignominious course as its last TV deal. Some recent reports have suggested that struggling cable firm NTL (the Diary refuses to recognise the trendy lower-case trade names) was about to pull the plug on Premium TV, its subsidiary firm that gives money to clubs in exchange for letting it fill their websites with adverts for betting shops; but league spokesman Ian Christon has rejected the stories, insisting: "There has been no indication that Premium is on verge of collapse." In a scenario all too familiar to anyone who has worked in new media, the deal has already been restructured once owing to cashflow problems, giving clubs a percentage of future income rather than money up front. The collapse of the Premium deal would leave Football League clubs - still reeling from their nauseating treatment by the scumsucking lowlife of Granada and Carlton TV - out of pocket by a further £35m.
Wednesday 12 March
The Osterometer needle turns hesitantly back towards the 'yes' end of its crazy-ass scale as the Grimsby Telegraph - who else? - speculates that both John "Urrgh, you smell!" Oster and Richard Hughes may remain with the Mariners beyond the term of their current one-month loans. After first reporting that Sunderland would accept just £75,000 for little John, and then reporting that no, they wouldn't, the Telegraph today teases readers with the possibility that Howard Wilkinson's sacking will have changed the picture again; and to be fair they have a quote from Paul Groves on their side. "At some point we have to make contact with Sunderland with regards to John," says the Town boss, "and when a new manager comes in you never know what will happen." You don't suppose, reader, that Oster stories sell papers in Grimsby? Ah well - as commercially-driven journalism goes, it beats misleadingly whining on for months on end about paedophiles, asylum seekers and 'teenage yobs'.
Anyway, there's a reserves match to tell you about. It happened last night, at Blundell Park, and Town beat Scarborough 1-0 with a goal from Kirk Wheeler. Michael Ward and Kevin George - on trial, keen-witted Diary readers will recall, from Leeds and Middlesbrough respectively - came off the bench at some point; and Terry Cooke was nowhere in the vicinity, Humberside police have confirmed.
Cheeky little tearaway Alan Pouton is still waiting to hear from the FA as to his punishment for stealing a bottle of milk from old Mrs Johnson's doorstep on his way to school the other day. The verdict was originally to be announced yesterday, explains Town's official site, but won't now be known until later today, presumably after one member of the jury expressed doubts about banning Alan for six matches, so all the others have to spend ages wearing him down, like on the telly. The Diary notices the recent re-emergence of hair on Alan's head and firmly believes his rejection of Danny Mills/Seth Johnson psycho chic will do the player a power of good as he faces the disciplinary people. Maybe you could go a step further, Al, and tiptoe shyly into the room clutching a slender volume of verse by Emily Dickinson.
Tuesday 11 March
Despite having just scored perhaps the finest team goal the Diary has ever seen from the Mariners, Paul Groves will still take a bottom-placed side into Saturday's clash with Watford following last night's entertaining 2-2 draw at the City Ground. Forest took the lead from a deflected and wrongly awarded free kick; but just before half time Groves applied the finish to a fantastic move of many passes like that cool one Brazil did in the 1970 World Cup. After the interval Alan Pouton expertly drilled home a loose ball from 20 yards, prompting an excellent rearguard action; but Town's maddening propensity to concede late goals re-emerged in injury time, when slack defending by Simon Ford allowed Gareth Williams to force in an equaliser from a crowded box (and the Diary would like to point out an unpunished foul on John Oster in the build-up to this goal). "To concede so late on was very disappointing but we battled well and deserved to hold on," said Groves after the game.
The Independent today damages its chances of becoming the new official newspaper of the Diary by continuing the time-honoured media tradition of not knowing the names of Grimsby players, as its so-called professional journalist Jon Culley appears to believe Town have a midfielder called Andy Pouton, and the sub-editors are apparently too lazy or ignorant to put him right. As a paid-up NUJ member, the Diary urges its colleagues in the strongest possible terms to get their bloody posh southern house in order.
Alan Pouton, meanwhile, today discovers the extent of his punishment for his sending off against Sheffield United last week. Alan received a straight red card in the match, and may face further FA disciplinary measures beyond a three-match ban because it was his second of the season, reports Town's official site. BBC Humber Sport, meanwhile, says Alan has already received a four-match suspension; while the Grimsby Telegraph speculates that he may have to sit out as many as six games. Whichever way you look at it, it bodes dodgy.
Town trio Darren Barnard, Danny Coyne and John Oster have again made the cut for the Wales squad, all three being called up for the principality's forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan in Cardiff on 29 March and Serbia & Montenegro in Belgrade on 2 April. The Mariners' home game against Wolves coincides with the Azerbaijan match and is expected to be postponed.
And on a lighter note, Junior Lewis has been told by Leicester he can leave the club on a free transfer. The idle, arrogant midfield get recently turned down a loan move to Town in favour of doing nothing at the Walkers Stadium, but after the Foxes made it clear to the player that he had no future with them, he'll be doing nothing at the dole office from now on. Or at the Kingston Communications Stadium, as Lewis has now been linked with a move to third division Hull to link up again with Peter Taylor, who wasted loads of Leicester's money on him. No sniggering at the back there.
Monday 10 March
Sorry the Diary's a bit late today - my computer keeps crashing.
Former Mariners Lee Nogan and Paul Harsley will have enjoyed their moments in the goalscoring limelight over the weekend, but it is Steve Kabba who finds himself thrust into the national media spotlight today following his match-winning performance for Sheffield United in their FA Cup quarter final win over Leeds yesterday. In admitting his erstwhile unawareness of Kabba's existence, Match of the Day's studio guest Mick McCarthy spoke for the nation yesterday - except for Town fans, who executed the nod-and-sigh combination in which they have received so much practice this season. The Diary's beloved Guardian does itself no favours in this house by praising Blades manager Neil Warnock for 'discovering' Kabba while also being characteristically snooty about Town: "Warnock was indebted to a striker signed from Crystal Palace for £250,000 last November," writes Daniel Taylor, "after being deemed so peripheral at Selhurst Park that he was farmed out on loan to Grimsby." At this rate I'm switching to the Independent. Warnock, meanwhile, celebrates by appearing on Radio Five Live this morning to discuss his love for Donny Osmond and writing poetry.
Stacy Coldicott and Michael Boulding are Town's two injury doubts as Paul Groves tries to get back his team on track in tonight's televised clash with Nottingham Forest. Terry Cooke is fit but is expected to be excluded from the line-up for no reason at all. Groves admits today in a badly edited quote on BBC Humber Sport that the team has to defend better after conceding 83 scrillion goals in the last month. Glad you noticed that, Paul. His Forest counterpart Paul Hart is set to name that same side that won 4-1 at Gillingham last Tuesday. Scared yet? I know I am.
Embittered former Town striker Bradley Allen - currently high and dry in Bristol Rovers reserves as a result of a funny clause in his contract - enlivens a quiet Grimsby Telegraph today by saying lots of current players may leave the club if GTFC don't offer them something new when their deals expire this summer. "If it's possible to try and get something with another club, if Town aren't forthcoming with new terms, then they should," reckons Brad. Well, duh!
Saturday 8 March
Another miserable day to be a Town fan sees the Mariners dive a point clear at the foot of the first division table - and three points adrift of the safe haven of 21st place, to which the team somehow clung so obdurately for so long earlier this season. Brighton - the Diary's second preference among the bottom four to stay up - stroll to a 2-0 home win over Rotherham, while Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke take an unlikely point each from their visits to Leicester and Ipswich respectively. It's also a miserable day to be the Diary, as I've suddenly landed two editing jobs with very tight deadlines and have had to spend the whole of Saturday stuck in front of this bloody computer screen. Go on - feel sorry for me.
Friday 7 March
The needle on the Osterometer swings firmly back to the 'no' end of the scale today, with the Grimsby Telegraph performing a tidy u-turn in now reporting that Sunderland intend to keep hold of little John beyond the expiration of his contract this summer. "I was sat next to the Sunderland chairman Bob Murray at the Worthington Cup Final in Cardiff and asked him several times about the player," GTFC chairman Peter "What's another year?" Furneaux tells the paper. "I made the enquiry, and asked him again, but he made it absolutely plain that the player is not for sale." The Telegraph claimed the other week that the lowly Black Cats would release the player to Town on a permanent basis for just £75,000 - so be sure to hit the Diary next Monday, when we reveal that the Mariners have swooped to sign Oster permanently after Sunderland forgot where he was.
At the end of a week that has seen the threat of relegation to Division Two loom a great deal larger, the chairman has also spelled out the financial consequences of the big drop, and boy, it ain't pretty. The 75,000 quid that won't secure Town the services of John Oster might have been 75,000 quid we haven't got, and the Diary is no mathematician, but it's less than 900,000 quid we haven't got, this being the tidy sum Mr F says demotion will - sorry, would cost the club. In another Grimbo Telegraph story the Town supremo explains that this is why the club has yet to open talks with the players out of contract this summer. "To start to commit ourselves further at this stage," he reasons, "is a position that no prudent businessman would want to be in." And who could argue with that?
All of which doomy musings cast something of a shadow over the latest Diary reader's suggestion for how to spend the football-free months of the summer that stretch out before us like a big stretchy thing. Mark Wilson of Tring, Herts, has emailed with an activity for the barren epoch that is the close season. "I'm feeling sorry for myself," he warns. "Study your road map of the UK to work out how to get to all the second division grounds you'd forgotten about." This sounds overly optimistic to the Diary, Mark, as you are presupposing that we will still have a club and a team to play in the second division. Are you on drugs? And if you are, can I have some?
Thursday 6 March
As if life couldn't get any worse after the last two matches, Town fans wake up today to find their team bottom of Division One. A certain appalling record - that of Town's defence, not the last Stereophonics album - means that wins last night for Stoke and Sheffield Wednesday, who stuck five past the rubbish Coventry side that strolled to victory at Blundell Park last Saturday, have dumped the Mariners into 24th place on goal difference. Optimists will point out that the right set of results in the next round of matches could take Town back out of the bottom three - but does anyone seriously expect us to beat Forest next Monday?
And the bad news for supporters hoping for an end to those back-four blues - they're like twelve-bar blues, except your defenders don't wake up this morning, this afternoon, or ever - is that Tony Gallimore will not receive an FA ban despite picking up his fifth booking of the season in Tuesday night's thrashing by the flashing Blades of Sheffield. Some rule or other means that because his first four yellows came before the end of February, and the atmospheric pressure was above 1022 millibars, Town's lovable left-back will just get told off instead. Lovable if you're the other team's right winger, anyway. Or his mum.
At this rate fans might be tempted to simply give up on the first team and support the reserves instead, who proved that they at least know what winning means by running out 2-1 victors over Mansfield yesterday. Jonny Rowan and Graham Hockless found the net for Paul Wilkinson's second string, which he has detuned to G# in an effort to produce a Sonic Youth stylee atonal drone and distract the opposition goalkeeper. Trialists Kevin George and Mads 'Stan' Mortensen - who the Grimsby Telegraph says won't be offered a contract, so that was a waste of time - started the match, but Diary readers will again be disappointed by the notable absence of Manchester United forward Kalam Moon Anorak and legendary midfield non-player Wayne Gill.
Stockport defender Dave Challinor has washed his hands of responsibility for his livelihood-wrecking challenge on Martin Pringle in Town's great escape from relegation a year ago. "I know my conscience is clear about what happened," the player tells the Stockport Express, now that Pringle has dropped his plans to sue. "There was no malice on my part. I’m not that sort of player." Well, the Diary is convinced by the sheer simplicity of Challinor's alibi. If Jeffrey Archer had only thought of telling the jury: "I'm not that sort of ruthless, lying, despicable conman," then he need never have been sent to rot in a Lincolnshire prison. Sorry - tautology.
Wednesday 5 March
Town supporters spend Ash Wednesday raking over the charred remains of their hopes and dreams after that defence shipped its 956th goal of the season in last night's 4-1 hammering by Sheffield United. The Diary holds up its hands to admit its error in predicting a red card for Georges Santos, as it was silly boy Alan Pouton who got his marching orders for a reckless foul on Rob Kozluk, for which he probably still received a standing ovation from the Pontoon and a sponsors' man-of-the-match award. Steve Kabba Chameleon was booked for taunting Town fans after his goal, though, which is quite funny.
Unless the Mariners appeal against Pouting's sending off, the erratic midfield powerhouse will pick up a three-match ban for last night's misdemeanours, sitting out the away games against Rotherham and Burnley later this month, reports the Grimsby Telegraph, and Leicester on 5 April.
Before the tribulations of next season, though, there remains the fraught problem of how to spend this summer. Tasty Sam from Nottingham writes: "What about adopting an Australian team? I used to follow Moroolbark with an almost worrying enthusiasm." Worrying being the operative word, sir; the Diary has no intention of involving antipodeans. Meanwhile Cod Almighty's bored match reporter Tony Butcher, a key proponent of the theory that Peter Handyside will come home this summer, has emailed to say that the ace former Town defender does still have a crash pad in Cleethorpes - the same one to which the Diary's kid brother once delivered a parcel when working as a postman one summer. Which, I suppose, is another way of spending the summer. "It could be down Rosemary Way," adds Tony, "rather than south of the border down Mexico Way, which isn't in North East Lincolnshire anymore after those darn Texan vermin stole it back in 1836." Is that another Pink Floyd lyric?
And finally a nugget of trivia, thanks to Cod Almighty's Statto Andy. On this day seven years ago, Steve Chettle scored for Nottingham Forest against Bayern Munich, in Munich, in the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup. Well, anything to take our mind off the present. I'm off to do the ironing.
Tuesday 4 March
Three days after Paul Groves was able for the first time all season to select his team from an injury-free squad, four players are reported as doubtful for tonight's clash with Sheffield United at Blundell Park. If BBC Humber Sport is to be believed, then Stacy Coldicott, Richard Hughes, Michael Boulding and Simon Ford are all less than certain to face the Blades; but if Saturday's debacle was anything to go by, Mr Groves actually selects a better team when he has less players to choose from. A bit like Mrs Diary, then, whose Jedi-like car parking skills ("You've switched off your targeting computer!") become sharper still in a tight space. Paul's hips are less attractive, though.
Speaking of Sheffield United, Lincolnshire isn't the only place you'll find poachers this week. Hey, just a bit more work on these links and Peter Levy and Christa Ackroyd would be proud of them. The Bramall Lane outfit - who attained global notoriety earlier this season by repeatedly waiting to see who Paul Groves wanted to sign and then signing them - are at it again, giving a trial to former Town loanee Jason Gavin. The Middlesbrough defender spent a chequered two months with the Mariners at the end of 2002, with fans not exactly clamouring for the loan to be made permanent. Carry on, Colin W!
South Yorkshire's favourite long-ball thugs have also signed Blackburn defender John Curtis on loan in time for tonight's game. Other changes to Colin W's squad from the line-up that beat Rotherham last Friday are thought unlikely. The Diary is feeling gloomy and predicts two goals for Steve Kabba and a red card for big Georges.
Further evidence of the havoc wrought on football by the serpentine slags of Carlton and Granada arrives with the news (from Town's official site) that a player of Bradley Allen's quality can't get a game. The former Town striker, now on the books at Bristol Rovers, will be entitled to a new contract if he plays two more games for the Pirates and they retain league status. With the club in no position to risk such a modest financial commitment, Brad is playing with the stiffs for the rest of the year. As it were. Is it just me, or wasn't everything just a bit nicer when we only had the three TV channels?
Let us look forward, though, friends - to the summer, and the Diary's request for suggestions as to how it could be spent. Richard Dawson has emailed with five ideas: "1: Compose a haiku in honour of Groves. 2: Hang around the fabled 'Lilleshall gates' trying to work out what
happens inside. 3: Obtain estate agent brochures for terraced properties within sight of BP. 4: Mow Handyside's lawn, clear his gutters etc in preparation for him opening up his Grimsby home again. 5: work on design for replacement scoreboard at BP (only Blue Peter
technology allowed)." Thanking you, Richard - though if we stay up I fancy a tanka may be in order. Is that true, then - does Peter Handyside still have a house in Grimsby? Answers to this, and any more thoughts on avoiding a bummer in the summer, to email@example.com please.
And that's all for today. The Diary is going off now to hold its breath until 9:30pm. Unless, of course, it's all over by half time.
Monday 3 March
Oldham midfielder and Diary cult hero Wayne Gill may still join the Mariners! After February's avalanche of emails from Diary readers desperate to know what transpired from Wayne's recent trial at Blundell Park, Town's official site has finally capitulated and admitted that the player fell ill and was unable to play - but may return for a second try, according to reserve team coach Paul Wilkinson. Cynical Pontoonites who witnessed the side's most recent excuse for a performance may mutter that Gill's trial is a case of a second division player for a second division team; but we're having none of it. Knock 'em dead, Wayney boy! Half a dozen Diary readers can't be wrong.
The OS also reveals that Leeds striker Michael Ward, presumably not unpleasant enough to make the grade at Elland Road, begins a week's trial with Town today, and may be joined by two young 'uns from Sunderland, who, let's face it, don't know a good thing when they've got one.
In 1998 Lee Ashcroft cost the Mariners half a million quid of gate receipts from the Wembley games; in 2003 he has resorted to non-league football in a bid to get his career back on track while remaining in his native north-west. After unspectacular loan spells with Huddersfield and Port Vale, the former Town forward and supporter of the pastry industry has had his contract with Wigan paid up and is now turning out for Conference side Southport, making his debut in the Sandgrounders' 4-0 home defeat to Doncaster on Saturday. Funny - I thought that was Chelsea's nickname.
A dip into the Diary's postbag now, where we find mournful comment from its stand-in Andy Holt, who very kindly wrote this column last Friday while I was otherwise disposed. "Did you notice that that young guy from Bolton I mentioned Hull had signed on loan on Friday scored two on Saturday?" writes Mr H. "I should have kept my gob shut." Indeed, Andy. As your regular Cod Almighty diarist once discovered to his and Grimsby's cost after dismissing Sheffield United's chances of signing Steve Kabba, the major responsibility of the role is not to tempt fate.
And finally, beloved readers, the Diary seeks your advice. As the weather has turned milder, the spring equinox drawn nearer, and Town's annual survival struggle edged closer to its nerve-shredding denouement, our thoughts have turned to the hazy, crazy, football-free days of summer - and more specifically, to the issue of how the Diary can spend the close season. I don't mean holiday destinations; I mean what to write about. In the summer entire weeks can pass, civilisations rise and fall, without a whisper of news from Blundell Park - so what should the Diary do? Suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org please, and can we just point out in advance that "get a life" has been done already. Ta!
Saturday 1 March
The Diary recovers from a severe cheap vodka-induced hangover just in time to see Town be absolutely crap and lose again, 2-0 at home to a poor Coventry side who come into the game on the back of a five-match losing (and non-scoring) streak. Able to choose from a full-strength squad for the first time all season, Paul Groves selects an entirely inadequate midfield devoid of wit, wisdom, width, and in Alan Pouton's case, match fitness; while the Cooke Report is that Terry is once again absent even from the bench. As was the case when the two sides met at Highfield Road way back in September, Coventry spend most of the afternoon cheating - rewarded with a yellow card for Youssef Chippo and a second-half penalty which John Eustace converts for their second - the difference being that the Mariners deserved at least a point from the away fixture. The midlanders' first comes from a Simon Ford own goal on 17 minutes; and the only consolation for Town fans is that Stoke, Wednesday and Brighton all lose - but first division survival looks unlikely with the team in this sort of form.
Elsewhere - the third division, to be precise - a Carlisle defence with former Mariner Paul Raven at its heart is ripped apart by up-and-coming Hull, with the prolific Jamie Forrester netting once in t' Tahgers' 5-1 romp.
Robert Taylor, who in his short time with Town last season and this all too briefly hinted at becoming the new Clive Mendonca, is attempting to resurrect his injury-ravaged career with Scunthorpe, and good luck to him.
And finally, a big thank you to Mr Andy Holt, who filled in so very capably for the Diary yesterday when I was off getting trolleyed on aforementioned cheap vodka. My one minor quibble is with Andy's spelling of 'emanating' as 'eminating', which Freudian slip I fear may result from his secret devotion to gay pop superstar Eminem; but all round, Andy, it's a sight better performance than Town's today. Cheers fella!