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Friday 30 May
Jake Sagare arrived on these shores last September for a trial with the Mariners that came to rival the McLibel case as the longest in English history before he was finally handed a contract in February; and after a somewhat shorter first-team career - lasting an hour and a half, to be precise - the disused American forward is now flying back to the home of the brave, as long as you've got enough military hardware, and the land of the free, as long as you agree with the president. When Jake first turned up at Blundell Park the now departed Paul Wilkinson remarked upon his similarity to the then departed Michael Boulding; and like Quick Mick, Sagare is lucky enough to have a former club - Portland Timbers - that's only too happy to take him back after his brief flirtation with the relatively big time. The Diary is trying to remember other players whose GTFC career spanned one match and one match alone, but can recall only one-time goalkeeper Lee Pratt, to whom I once lost at conkers and whose twilight shift at Birds Eye I briefly ended up on many years later. Fame, fame, fatal fame. Can you lot think of any?
Speaking of Wilko, Town's former reserve team coach could be set for an instant return to the game, reckons the Grimsby Telegraph, at Lennie Lawrence's Cardiff, who only just scraped promotion to Division One last weekend despite having loads of good players and an absolute bloody shitload of money. If the Riby Square rag is to be believed, there is a "chase to snap up" Wilkinson, whose being made redundant by Town suddenly means he is "rated as one of the promising coaches in the League". Strangely enough, they don't say who's doing the rating. I wonder why that is.
Fans of released Scunthorpe youngsters will be devastated by Paul Groves' denial that Scott Brough is set to join the Mariners. The youthful winger hung around the BP car park for a bit the other week hoping for a contract, but the Town boss is adamant that no deal is on offer. "I haven't spoken to him," Groves tells the Grimsby Telegraph, in a story accidentally interwoven with the the news that Hayden Mullins may be leaving Crystal Palace. Have a look - it's dead funny.
Mark Stilton has been in touch to remind the Diary of an immortal classic in the pantheon of great Roly 'n' John moments, which he can't believe we've skipped, and nor can I. In it the commentator is giving an evocative description of the facilities provided for him when a Town player breaks with the ball, whereupon our man switches seamlessly back to the action with consummate ease and professionalism. "It's only a small gantry as Donovan goes forward..."
Those of you who think Grimsby is clearly a hip and happening place now that it's getting a Starbucks, and who probably still point at aeroplanes, will be delighted to learn of another claim to fame for your hometown. The Diary has been informed by a Grimbarian film fan that "in the cinema yesterday, they showed that ad for Virgin mobile texting - 'the devil makes work for idle thumbs'. Well, right at the end of the ad there is a bottle of tablets on the table with the slogan written on the label. And, if you notice, the address of the dispensing chemist on that label is Grimsby. Probably won't be able to see it on the TV version as it would be too small, but clearly visible at the cinema." You heard it here first, kids.
Thursday 29 May
Town's reserve team coach and hero of the 1984 cup win over Everton, Paul Wilkinson, is one of three backroom staff made redundant as the club diverts funds towards creating a team to challenge for promotion back to Division One. "Grimsby Town are not alone in terms of action we have had to take and many other clubs are facing similar difficulties," points out a statement from the club, before reiterating the intention to build a squad of 25 players for the forthcoming second division campaign. The assistant groundsman and an office worker have also been axed. The move "heaps more pressure" on Paul Groves, according to the Grimsby Telegraph. Ho hum.
Friendly news now, and after initially being attracted by the homely charms of Boston and then standing them up when sexy Sunderland flashed a bit of leg, Town now know how it feels. Earlier this month the Pilgrims dutifully pencilled in a game with the Mariners for Saturday 19 July, only to have to put it back a week when the McCarthyites agreed to a date at Blundell Park; and now the boot is very much on the other foot as Middlesbrough, who were supposed to be going to the pictures with GTFC in early August, have decided they would much sooner spend the weekend with a more fashionable companion. And who do you think that might be? "Not content with stealing our players," writes the Diary's source, "Warnock is stealing our games too!"
The Mariners' new sponsor Jarvis, which was responsible for track maintenance where the Potters Bar rail crash occurred last year, faces fresh criticism after a new report all but rules out vandalism as a cause. Immediately after the derailment, which killed seven and injured 76, the firm suggested sabotage was to blame; but the Health and Safety Executive's third progress report in its investigation, issued today, upholds earlier findings that the incident was due to poorly maintained points. Louise Christian, lawyer for survivors and relatives, is calling for a public enquiry into the incident.
Five GTFC youngsters have been handed new scholarship deals by the club. Youth team coach Neil Woods' new kids on the block - Andrew Ward, Miles Chamberlain, Oliver Richardson, Paul Ashton and Ben Howard - are all committing to the Mariners for three-year terms.
Adam Buckley has again followed in his father's footsteps, by being released by Lincoln City, but whether Lincolnshire Police are following suit remains unclear. The young winger was caught by the fuzz two weeks ago on suspicion of theft from LCFC and has now been told his services are no longer required.
A quick dip into the Diary's inbox now, then, and Paul Thundercliffe has emailed about those Town vids. "As somebody lucky enough to have actually co-commentated on one of these masterpieces (Bradford 1994: 'Well Roly, it's disappointing. And I'm disappointed'), I must firstly say how hard it is up there 'in the gods', trying to find the right words but only ever picking 'crikey!' That said, the Town Video Crew make Alan Partridge look professional. I have many favourite moments - 'He's got 13 players out there - who does he substitute?'; 'You will not see a better goal on any pitch anywhere in the world! That was first class!' (Cockers v Huddersfield, 1990). My favourite would be after Cunnington was scythed down for a penalty against Bolton not given by Brian Hill, despite his assistant giving it. Cue John Moore: 'That's a penalty kick. That IS a penalty kick. The linesman is flagging for the fowel!' The best bits of those vids, particularly when they were edited by a man with no hands, eyes, or, indeed, editing experience, were the bits to introduce each month, using the Sports Telegraph as a prompt and their own, very poor, memories. Whilst sitting in the Rutland."
Al Wilkinson covers similar territory. "On the subject of Roly's quotes," he recalls, "my favourite would have to be David Smith's debut and his wonder strike from 3,000 yards out. While the rest of us sat back in awe and wonder of that weapons-of-mass-destruction strike and were struck dumb by the possibility that Mr Buckley may have signed someone who would shoot on sight, Roly immediately saw through that facade by prophetically declaring: 'He'll have to live up to that'. Which, as we all now know, he never did."
Mark Wilson revisits a controversy from last week. "I'm a bit disappointed about the explanation for Jamie Cureton in the religious 11. I thought it was a very clever play on words: Curate-on. But it isn't."
And finally, the Diary is delighted to receive an email from Lee Cobby without a novelty player name XI. "I am not a Trekkie," he writes. "I resent that remark utterly. Star Wars is my bag. And yes, I have been 'laid', as you so crudely put it. I slept with a girl at a convention once. She was wearing a Wookie costume. At least, she said it was a costume."
Wednesday 28 May
Sorry this is late - I've been to see the doctor, and even the supremely healthy Mrs Diary with her vibrant Mediterranean blood has come down with something, so everything's kind of wurrrr here today.
The ulterior motives behind the Grimsby Telegraph's recent claim that Town had drastically cut the new terms on offer to John McDermott and Stacy Coldicott are becoming clearer - and it implies some decidedly ugly goings-on behind the scenes. A statement from the club describes the report as "simply not true", adding: "If any person at the football club wishes to induce pressure on this board in the future by negotiating sensationally through the press, then they will be shown the door." All of which strongly suggests that Macca or Stace went crying to the Telegraph when faced with the prospect of getting real about their contract - a nasty possibility only made more believable by the newspaper's reaction that "the statement will send shockwaves through the playing staff". Shockwaves through 80 Cleethorpe Road, more like, at the prospect of having to base stories on proper research instead of grubby subterfuge.
At the same time the Telegraph is playing good cop by increasing its shareholding in the club to £1,000 as part of Grimsby Town Supporters Trust's appeal for fans to stake a claim in the new share issue. The trust wants supporters to chip in towards its Tower of Power campaign, which seeks to raise £25,000 towards buying a bit of Town - and 25 grand is the height of the Dock Tower in pound coins, apparently, providing a nice emotive symbol for the campaign with such elegant ease that the tower's architects could almost have planned it that way on purpose. Diary readers wishing to contribute are urged to visit the trust's website for more information.
Paul Groves has denied any interest in Matt O'Halloran - nine days after the story broke that the Town boss was tracking the young Derby midfielder. There isn't a quote from him or anything, but the club does add: "The Official SMS and the Official Website will bring you any real news - FIRST. So give all your money to us - we need it a bit more than Teamtalk do." I might have made some of that up, but the sense is clear.
The Mariners' official site is also keen for you to know that the team can be backed at 16-1 with something called marinersbet to win next season's second division title; but the Diary's concern to bring readers the bigger picture compels me to point out that PremierBet is offering 25s on the same bet. For every ten quid you lose on marinersbet, though, Town earn tuppence farthing, or something; so it's up to you whether you want to show your support for your club by accepting rubbish odds.
As a youngster, when you dreamed of one day donning a black and white number nine shirt and scoring the winner at Wembley, you must have wondered how you would make that first step and earn a trial with the Mariners. Make a name for yourself in local non-league, perhaps with Cleethorpes Town or Louth United; or become a rising star of Geoff Bartholomew's Discoveries XI. It probably didn't occur to you to be released by Scunthorpe, but that's the unorthodox route Scott Brough has taken. A 19-year-old winger formerly with Leeds, the player was ushered out of Glanford Park last season but has now landed a try-out for the Town, reports BBC Humber Sport. Laying bare the sophisticated networking system that makes Town's scouting set-up the envy of the league, Brough explains: "A bloke who I used to train with at Leeds, who used to train me, Pete, his name, he got in touch with Paul Wilkinson at Grimsby."
In the interests of Coldicott research, the Diary watched Big Brother last night for only the second time ever, and was disappointed to find the show remains about as much fun as watching a Lennie Lawrence team thump high balls upfield to Phil Jevons and Jonny Rowan. Indeed, as a troupe of broadly indistinguishable people performed no higher service to humankind than endlessly fanny about on an exercise machine, it was only the concerned intervention of Mrs Diary that prevented me chewing off my own toes. And these were the highlights, apparently. But I am informed by a Diary reader that "Grimsby has had its first mention this morning." Hold on tight, then, kids - let's see what thrills lie in store. "The soon-to-be-ex Mrs Coldicott wowed the other BB contestants with her story of how her dog once got lost in a ditch in Grimsby." Now can somebody please explain to me why in the holy name of Futcher this programme is all everyone will talk about for the next nine weeks?
In the meantime here's a scandalous rumour for you, courtesy of Grimsby's greatest living poet Al Wilkinson. "This week on the factory grapevine I learned of another reason a certain right winger was never played," writes Al. Oh aye? "He was supposedly shagging the wife of a long-standing right-back. Said right was understandably a bit peeved with these events and apparently refused to play in the same team as the aforementioned philandering wing wizard, leaving Mr Groves in something of a conundrum as to the team he could select." The Diary, of course, passes on these scurrilous morsels of gossip merely to illustrate to you how ridiculous they really are, and makes absolutely no claim for their veracity.
"I'm not taking this coat off now!" writes Tony Butcher - but he's not talking trademark green rainwear; he's talking Roly and John. And in a strange kind of way, aren't we all? This refusal to divest outer garments came in response, apparently, to a Neil Woods goal against Brentford after just two minutes. Meanwhile John Arrand, seemingly the only human being who could give Tony a run for his money in a Roly and John quiz, pisses on the Diary's jigsaw by pointing out that my favourite phrase from Town's infamous series of season highlights videos - "McDermott won't keep that in. Oh! He does do!" - was "uttered by Graeme (or is it Graham?) Shearsmith rather than Roly Godfrey or John Moore." This is how I felt when I found out there was no Father Christmas. It really took the shine off Town's win at Anfield in the League Cup, I can tell you.
And finally, Lee Cobby has spawned. Hang on, that can't be right - Trekkies never get laid...ah, right - Lee Cobby has spawned an imitator. Oh good. "You will be pleased to hear that Lee Cobby's recent antics (no, not those ones!) have inspired me," writes a Diary reader naming himself 'Chopper'. "I too have come up with a team for next season and I believe my forest-linked XI to be better than any of Mr Cobby's efforts. Why do I say that? Easy, my team would only require 10 new players, which coincidentally is the number of players Pete Furneaux has said we can sign this summer. Grovesie gets a midfield spot and the fans would be delighted to see the return of two old favourites. Look..." I'm looking.
Berry (Sutton Utd); Birch (Carlisle); Bramble (Newcastle); Forrest (Berwick)
Oakes (Leicester); Groves (Grimsby); Beech (Rochdale)
Thorne (Cardiff); Branch (Wolves); Woods (ex-Grimsby)
Subs: Forrester (Hull); Cherry (ex-Lincoln); Elder (ex-Queen's Park)
Right. Please stop now. Go on holiday. Anything. Just leave me alone.
Tuesday 27 May
This week the Diary's medical problems are not the sort of thing you want to hear about, quite frankly - particularly at lunchtime - and after the concomitant three-day hiatus in Diary activity you will doubtless be eager for a round-up of the weekend's GTFC news, such as it is. So let us proceed.
Firstly, Paul Groves is talking to Preston about signing Michael Keane on a permanent basis and could be set to make a similar move for Keane's recent fellow Town loanee, Portsmouth's Richard Hughes. Secondly, our shambolic excuse for a club is in utter chaos and the directors must be shot at dawn. Well, that appears to be the compliant reaction of some fans to the Grimsby Telegraph's latest efforts at rabble-rousing. Clearly disconsolate following the breakdown of John McDermott's move to Hull, the paper is now claiming that Town's contract offers to him and Stacy Coldicott have been "slashed" in a "massive U-turn"; and despite the Telegraph's misrepresentation of the Macca/Tigers episode and cheaply provocative coverage of the John Oster saga last season, some readers are still choosing to take it at its word. Like John Lydon, it could be wrong, it could be right; but right now the Diary is still too enervated from the emotional drain of relegation for unconfirmed silly-season scare stories to manipulate me into any indignation.
Suggestions over the weekend that Phil Jevons was joining Premiership Leicester City seemed more absolutely-bloody-stupid-season than silly-season; and sure enough, they've been put down to that catch-all culprit, the computer error - or more specifically, a slip-up at troubled football internet firm Premium TV that listed the Scouse slacker in the Foxes' squad. Diligently seizing an opportunity, though, Town's crack marketing team has swung into action. "The Official SMS Service and the Official Grimsby Town Website will bring you any real news FIRST," asserts the Official Grimsby Town Website impartially.
Dates have been announced for Town's pre-season larging-it tour. The squad will fly to Ibiza on Sunday 6 July before taking on Spanish third division sides SD Portmany and San Rafael on the following Tuesday and Thursday respectively, and then soak up a couple of days' worth of harmful ultraviolet radiation prior to their return home on the Saturday. Presumably because the Mariners' two opponents play each other in a third game, the official site describes the competition as a "round tournament", but the geometrically precise Diary suspects that such a competition would require an infinite number of participants, and that proceedings in Ibiza would be more accurately characterised as triangular. Meanwhile Town visit Unibond League Lincoln United on Tuesday 15 July, in the dear old Lincolnshire Cup, and Middlesbrough's trip to Blundell Park, which was originally scheduled for Friday 1 August, is now, ominously, "TBA". You don't suppose they've thought about paddling in the estuary and got cold feet?
Also over the weekend, the Diary received text messages from three people informing me that one of the participants in the new series of tedious lowbrow 'reality TV' extravaganza Big Brother is the estranged wife of Stacy Coldicott. We will refrain from compounding the prurient sins of Channel 4 by detailing here the reasons for the couple's difficulties; but if any BB-addicted Diary reader would like to email me updates of Steph Coldicott's progress on the show, then I'm sure we can find the space to share them.
Back to the Diary's old-fashioned email inbox now, and - surprise, surprise - Lee Cobby has been putting his bank holiday weekend to good use. "Early this morning, I was thinking about Alan Green's 5 Live commentary during Grimsby's League Cup victory over Leicester," he writes. As you do. "At one point he decried Jack Lester for having the same name as our opposition...well, thought I - what fun to have an entire team made up of players with names which are other teams! After reading the below, I'm sure you'll agree." Uh-huh. "I left out Santos, by the way. Even though Santos is both a player and a team in Brazil, I thought it too obscure to include." Don't patronise me, Cobby! Well, if you must...here it is then.
Birmingham (Bournemouth); Charlton (Bolton); Oldham (Barnsley);
Villa (FC Nuremburg); Blackburn (Chester); Preston (Queen of the South)
Carlisle (Bristol Rovers); Lester (free/Coventry); Bradford (Albion
"He's dead isn't he?" begins Mat Hare's email, cheerily. "One of the legendary team that did the Town videos died and I think it was Roly." Mat is referring to Friday's Diary, in which I wondered aloud what had become of the legendary Roly Godfrey, who contributed admirably to Town's season highlights videos for some years. Now I'm feeling guilty. "They were bloody dreadful them videos though," adds Mat, declining to standardise his Grimbarian syntax. "They looked like they had been filmed on a camcorder balanced on the gas stove in a dodgy caravan
with a 1970s interior."
John Arrand is another whose knowledge of those vids is nothing short of encyclopaedic, and has set the Diary's troubled mind at rest by identifying the player referred to by the mysterious nonsequitur - "Well if he's that badly injured, he should get off the pitch!" - that introduced a match on one tape. "I believe the player involved was Bournemouth's John Bailey - well known among Town fans for scoring the
opening goal in the Auto Windscreens Shield final, while the much-maligned Tony Gallimore stood and watched, before then doing quite a gay but clearly ironic celebratory dance in the corner." Did anyone else see this? John (Arrand, not Bailey) continues: "Personally I think the editing in those videos is part of their appeal: '...bit like you, John'...'Werr...bit like me... well, once or twice mayb...WHHOOOOOOAAAA!!'" Well, there's something we can do this week, then - send your favourite Roly and John nuggets to email@example.com. The Diary's is still the simple yet magically Grimbarian "McDermott won't keep that in...oh! He does do!"
Friday 23 May
Cod Almighty founder Simon Wilson will be wondering what to rename his cat after Town's surprise decision to release Steve Croudson. The agile young keeper has been shown the door at Blundell Park after sitting out the last 15 months through injury, but had shown tremendous promise on first breaking in to the first team in 1999. "I found out yesterday that I have no future at the club," says the Kitten, "and I'm very disappointed." He said that yesterday though, so it would have been the day before yesterday that he found out. Rumours persist that rookie striker Chris Thompson is to follow Croudson through the door, but these are yet to be substantiated; and nobody, to the best of the Diary's knowledge, has named their cat after him.
Steve and Chris could be bumping into Richard Hughes on his way in, which given the Mariners' record would probably leave him sidelined for a year with a cruciate injury, but let's not worry about that for the moment. Portsmouth have decided that Hughes will be surplus to their leaner, meaner Premiership requirements and announced that the useful left-sided midfielder is one of five players who will be allowed to leave Fratton Park should all the appropriate nibbles be made. Hughes made 12 appearances for Town at the end of the season just finished (or, if you're in the play-offs, just finishing), scoring at the last-day relegation wake against Brighton. We quite liked him, didn't we?
It could take a two-year contract to keep 34-year-old John McDermott at Blundell Park. Macca is back in talks with Town following the breakdown earlier this week of his dream move to Hull but is looking for more than just a 12-month deal, reports the Grimsby Telegraph. "I've got a first division and a second division club interested," says the long-serving captain, dead casual, like, "but, to be honest, I'm favourable towards Grimsby." But after his dalliance with that lot ovver the 'umber, is Grimsby still favourable towards him? He's off on holiday on Sunday, he adds, and wants it all sorted by then. One of these days the Diary will have a holiday. That's what I keep telling myself anyway.
"Well if he's that badly injured, he should get off the pitch!" The Diary never did find out who John Moore was referring to with that utterance, abruptly delivered as it was at the very beginning of the highlights of a match featured on one of Town's infamous official videos. "If it's that badly edited, it should get off the shelf!" came my clever retort. The reason I mention this is that the club has announced the latest addition to the series: the bittersweetly-entitled Down But Not Out, which will be available in both the club's actual physical shop and its shonky online counterpart from Tuesday 3 June, priced at a Macca-retaining £17.99. To be fair, Gary, I think the editing is a bit better these days. But what of the legendary Roly Godfrey? Is he no longer involved?
"No, no, a thousand times no," cries Mark Wilson. I thought for a moment that this was a passionate outcry against the plague of novelty football teams that has blighted the Diary in recent days; not so, though - we are returning to the issue of ugly players, and Mark has emailed to assert the pulchritude of Steve Livingstone. "Livvo looks like Brad Pitt compared to Mark Lever. Lever made grown men cry. I used to try and stand next to him in the Pier to make me look more handsome!" recalls Mark, neglecting to add whether it worked. "To put a twist on Town's 'ugliest' player - i.e. those who played in an ugly manner - Geoff 'Spike' Stephenson, Phil Bonnyman and Lee Ashcroft all made me wince at their unlovely football." I wish you could have seen Peggy in the 1994-95 Black Country derby, Mark. "You made me laugh when you exposed me as a principle-free charlatan," adds our Tring-based correspondent. "If the cap fits..." To which the Diary breathes a big sigh of relief; I was worried I'd pissed him off, and we're in no position here to blithely alienate half our readership.
Alistair Wilkinson, meanwhile, is moved to prose by yesterday's rubbish effort of a biblical XI from Marnix Kolder, which baffled the Diary as to the relevance of Jamie Cureton. "The relationship between Mr Cureton and God/the church could be an apostle thing," suggests Al. "However, they generally went by James and not Jamie, and now Saint James - the big show-offs. There were actually three of them - one was the son of a fisherman named Zebedee (reason enough to admit him into a Town team on name basis alone), also the patron saint of Spain - get him on board and perhaps he could sign up Raul. Another was one of the disciples, and finally the third was the brother of the man himself, Jesus, and not the president of one of the Madrids either. Apparently he was the first to see His son after the resurrection. Now that would be a friend in a high place - all together now: 'sign him up, sign him up...". Or maybe it's just that Cureton rhymes with puritan. All right then, I don't know either. Here endeth the lesson." Actually, Al, Marnix emailed the Diary after I publicly scorned his XI to explain that Cureton sounds a bit like curate. I think I prefer your explanations though.
All of which has left this diarist gagging for a pint. Have a nice weekend, everyone.
Thursday 22 May
"Failed to connect to ServletExec instance nep-http1 at 172.30.2.124:8888". That's the Grimsby Telegraph's way of admitting it was wrong about John McDermott signing for Hull, and isn't it convenient how their server is always playing up whenever they have to eat humble pie? What was as good as a done deal two days ago now looks more like a dead loss, as Macca's talks with the new force in third division football appear to have broken down like a superannuated Ford Fiesta on the fast lane of the M6. The bad news is that BBC Humber Sport reckons Burnley and Walsall are sniffing around now, but the tone is lightened by an extraordinarily rendered quote from Paul Groves - to wit: "I think all along we've been speaking to 'Macca' and we shall continue to speak to 'Macca' and obviously try and strike a deal with 'Macca'." The Town gaffer's titanic battle with personal pronouns has been previously noted in these pages, and for the Beeb to compound the problem with hilarious but misplaced inverted commas simply smacks of insensitivity.
And that's about it for the news today - so what a good job your fellow Diary readers are around to keep you entertained. An email just received here reads: "I came across a section of the www.footballtransfers.co.uk website yesterday that supposedly lists all players available on Bosman-type transfers this summer. Although it's not quite in keeping with Lee Cobby's efforts I thought I'd contribute an 11 Groves could sign for nowt, all with highly amusing names." It's a good job for you that it is a quiet day, sunshine. Here goes then...
Geraint Frowen; Daryl Bourgeois; Ibrahima Sonko; Gino Padula
Andre Boucaud; Lassina Diabate; Mohammed Sillah; Christian Yulu
Bimbo Fatokun; Boniek Forbes
"Although," adds our friend, "that being said, this bunch of Johnny Foreigners may all think that my name is particularly amusing too. Depends where you're from I guess. Regards, Bobby Fish".
So, I thought, let's carry on through the email and see if anything less silly turns up. "Lee Cobby has got me in the mood," writes Marnix Kolder. "Here's a team made up of 11 players with church references." Oh dear God. Happily, though, Marnix couldn't be arsed to find the players to make up a 4-4-2 formation, so I don't have to prat about with that small font again. Here you go then: "Adrian Moses (Huddersfield), Juan Jesus (Tenerife), Micky Cross (Bedlington Terriers), Donald McVicar (once of Arbroath), Christ Priest (Macclesfield), Simon Bishop (Barrow), Brian Deane (Leicester), Jamie Cureton (Reading), Alex Baptiste (Mansfield), Matt Joseph (Leyton Orient), Alberto Fontana (Inter)." Pah. Christ Priest? I don't believe it. "Once of Arbroath"? If the terms of engagement are to extend so far down the pyramid as to incorporate Bedlington Terriers then we ought at least to restrict ourselves to current players. The Diary was hard pressed, furthermore, to see the relevance of Cureton, but then one of the apostles was called Jamie, wasn't he?
Thank heavens for the divine wit of Miles Moss, is all I can say. "Zdrilic has left Walsall," he announces. "Groves might want to sign this player, as he will definitely score 19. In Scrabble, anyway."
Wednesday 21 May
"McDermott looks certain to sign a new contract with the Mariners tomorrow." Oh aye? Well, it's all a question of who you'd prefer to believe: the Grimsby Telegraph or Hull's Rivals site, which today claims with apparent confidence that Peter Taylor has given up on Macca and is about to sign Tottenham's Alton Thelwell instead. The Diary has no idea as to the Tigers site's track record in factual reporting, but cause for optimism may be found in the Telegraph's coverage of the John Oster saga last season ("He wants to stay...no, he's definitely going back to Sunderland...in the sense that he will sign for Town, that is...oh, he's gone, that's the board's fault...oh, it isn't, OK then"). Just when we'd all got used to the idea and been telling each other how good Iain Ward and Wes Parker are, it all goes to show once again that where the Mariners are concerned it invariably ain't over 'til the obese chanteuse commences to warble.
It's all looking kind of OK for Paul Groves' transfer warchest, with "brisk business" being reported in the sale of new season tickets (and the Telegraph having to correct some inaccurate information about prices) and enquiries after shares in the club coming thick and fast. "We've been delighted with the response to date," enthuses Peter Furneaux. Shares are priced at a quid each with a minimum purchase of 100, but fans unable to scrape a ton together can still claim a stake via Town's supporters' trust, which has received a special guarantee from the club that its application will be met in full. The trust is hoping to raise £25,000. "This is a fantastic opportunity for fans to collectively purchase shares in the club," says Dave Otter, acting chairman of the trust and the Diary's mum's boss. Don't take any lip from her, Dave!
That nutcase Lee Cobby has been in touch again with another of his novelty compilation football teams. "Me again," he writes. "It got to lunchtime and it crossed my mind that an edible XI would be a good idea, so here it is. They might make a good footballing team, but quite a revolting set of ingredients that any chef on Ready Steady Cook would tear his hair out trying to make a meal of. Except Ainslie, who hasn't got any hair. And he's the host now, anyway." The incredible comestibles line up something like this:
Mayo (Brighton); Rice (Exeter); Bramble (Newcastle); Fish (Charlton)
Berger (Liverpool); Bean (QPR); Currie (Wycombe); Rusk (Boston)
Gerken (Colchester); Crabbe (Alloa)
Any suggestions as to how Lee might one day become a well-adjusted and productive member of society should be emailed to the usual address. Meanwhile Pat Bell writes again, with a rather more sensible suggestion for how to pass the close season - "players whose reputations either soar or sink after they move on. I have in mind Dave Gilbert, whose several seasons of excellence on the left wing are now almost forgotten, overshadowed by a handful of flashy performances and the media interest generated by Ivano Bonetti. When Gilbert was playing, criticising him was like criticising the Queen Mother, while Gary Childs was only just behind Kevin Jobling in the scapegoat stakes. Childs now quite often
features in Best XIs (and if I'm in the right mood, he features in mine as well) and I've even seen people name Jobling ahead of Croft.
"Similarly," continues Pat, "there were seasons when the only way to safely admit an admiration for Neil Woods was to put in so many qualifications that it sounded like you were being sarcastic ('Considering he can't run, spends most of the season injured and goes months without scoring, that Woods isn't too bad') but he tends to be remembered pretty fondly now." It's a point entirely worthy of discussion, though the Diary feels compelled to admit a long-standing and indeed simultaneous admiration for Dave Gilbert and loathing for the Queen Mother, whose passing was more entertaining than most of
Town's as we lost 4-0 at St Andrews that sunny afternoon.
Pat concludes by asking: "Can anyone else think of players whose reputation has varied as
much since their playing days and are there any theories why it happens? It isn't all
down to age, but I guess it is partly down to the circumstances in which they leave?" The Diary's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Bring it on.
And finally, today's Diary has been granted lifelong anonymity in the High Court.
Tuesday 20 May
Town fans face returning to Division Two with one less go on the lottery after the club decides on a £1 price hike for tickets next season, reports the Grimsby Telegraph. "It has been necessary to increase prices by £1 per game," explains Peter Furneaux in a not-too-abject letter to season ticket holders, "but we are sure you will find this a small price to pay when taking the on-going survival of the football club into the equation." The Mariners were by some margin the cheapest club to support in Division One and despite the quid on ticket prices will probably be among the best value in the second, with the cheapest seats still costing only £13. I say 'only': it still seems like an outrageous sum of money to forfeit for 90 minutes of what may sometimes be termed entertainment; but like I say, it's less than a lot of other clubs charge - and the Diary's professional services begin at £12 an hour, so you could do a lot worse.
One new acquisition at Blundell Park sure to justify the extra quid will be a new scoreboard. Incredibly, though, this momentous announcement was given just 12 words at the end of a piece in yesterday's Telegraph and seems entirely absent from Town's official website. The club's antiquated scorekeeping technology was clearly at death's door in the season just ended, its display sadly deteriorating in precise sync with the demise of the team's first division status; and the news of its passing adds extra poignancy to Alistair Wilkinson's moving recent tribute. "And your inability to show the score/We want you no more," wrote Cod Almighty's resident visionary.
The ever-swelling ranks of goalkeepers at Blundell Park are augmented still further, for this week at least, by the arrival on trial of Chris Porter, newly released by third division Darlington. The player - who has also spent time at Sunderland, Southend, Hartlepool and Icelandic club Leiftur - was disappointed not to have been given a chance when the Quakers' first-choice keeper Andy Collett suffered an injury last November, with Darlo boss Mick Tait preferring to bring in replacements on loan. Porter made just 11 full first-team appearances at Feethams after signing in 2002. "I went down to Grimsby last week," the 23-year-old stopper tells the Northern Echo. "I'll be training with them again and hopefully they'll be able to get a better look at me in pre-season." That Town are trialing a new keeper with Messrs Coyne, Croudson, Fraser, Hughes and Pettinger already on the books is sure to louden speculation of Danny's departure this summer.
The Telegraph also announces that after 17 years at Blundell Park John McDermott will today sign a pre-contract agreement to join third division Hull. Whatever. I don't care.
Tumbling Jack Lester has been released by Nottingham Forest, but everyone knew three weeks ago that he would be, so that's not much of a story. In the absence of any serious news from the club, Town's official site has started a fans' discussion as to whether the jelly-legged frontman ought to get his ass back to Meggies. One correspondent takes the opportunity to sound off about the captain's possible departure across the Humber, urging the club to "let maca go...in this div he cannt' hacc it any more". I'm sure that voice sounds familiar...still, it makes more sense than a letter in the Telegraph that cites Paul Groves' harsh treatment by West Brom fans during his spell at the Hawthorns as evidence that he should be sacked as Town manager. For fuck's sake.
A rummage through the Diary's new mail folder now, and Mat Hare has answered yesterday's inquiry as to the ugliest Town player of all time by asking: "Are you having a laugh?" I think that was the general idea, mate, yes. "It's Livvo innit? The man makes Ian Dowie look attractive. He puts both 'ug's in the phrase 'ugly bugger'. Think about mid-1990s and Liverpool are parading their ladyboys like Jamie Redknapp in their la-di-da suits. We go and sign Livvo. I reckon the reason that Tranmere keeper stayed down injured was not because Livvo booted seven shades of shit out of him but more because the keeper got a big old close-up of Livvo's ugly mug."
Lee Cobby, meanwhile, whose 'body parts XI' kept us all entertained last week, has been in touch again. "I tried your suggestion of getting out the house and making contact with other humans, but it just wasn't working," writes Lee, "so I have another teamsheet for you. This time I thought it might be fun to have a team made up of players with girls' names as surnames. I couldn't choose between the two goalies, so I've made a small bench for one of them:
Carroll (Man Utd)
Kelly (Leeds); Rose (Gillingham); Venus (Ipswich); Lynn (Carlisle)
Allison (Sheff Utd); Gill (free!); May (Millwall); Betsy (Barnsley)
Clare (Chester); Christie (Middlesbrough)
Tracey (Sheff Utd)
And finally, today's Diary has braided its hair.
Monday 19 May
Today's transfer rumour is that Town have got an eye on 22-year-old Matt O'Halloran, who is not, in fact, an Irish folk musician but a midfielder connected with two clubs close to the heart of the Mariners' manager. The player belongs to PG's hometown side Derby but his only first-team experience has been on loan with Conference outfit Burton Albion - "Incidentally, Town manager Paul Groves' first club," points out BBC Humber Sport, never a website to let the absence of a verb get in the way of a good sentence. Competition for the player's services, adds the report, originates in a major city in south Yorkshire that starts with "Sh" and rhymes with "effield"; but this time it's depressed Wednesday and not ebullient United who are plagiarising Groves' notebook.
Anyway, sorry there was no Diary at the weekend, especially after I'd promised there would be and everything. I just felt dead ill and lethargic and crap yesterday, and the headaches were returning. Here we are today though, bright-eyed if not quite bushy-tailed.
The main story over the weekend was that Phil Jevons will have to choose between cash and football. Having returned from an unremarkable season-long loan at Hull City, Town's lackadaisical Liverpudlian faces a year on the sidelines at Blundell Park unless he renegotiates his deal. The problem is explained with admirable conciseness by Town chairman Peter Furneaux, who comments: "Basically, we can't afford to play him." As it stands, Jevons' contract entitles both him and his former club Everton to payments based on appearances - presenting a major hurdle to his selection with the Mariners, who in financial terms are up shit creek without even so much as a canoe. "If he wants to progress his playing career he has to get real," adds Furneaux, in a curious blend of management-speak bollocks with Californienglish a la Buffy.
In a matter sure to concern Jevons in the not-distant-future, GTFC are thinking about restoring reserve games to their traditional prime-time evening slot after two seasons slugging it out with Columbo and Ready Steady Cook of an afternoon. The Diary is just guessing here, but the daylightful 2pm kick-off - probably introduced to save on the lecky - might just have burdened reserve outings with an atmosphere even sourer than that of Saturday afternoons by preventing the attendance of all but drug-addled crazies, wastrels and libertines of the foulest and most dissolute character.
Also over the weekend, a Wales squad was announced without mention of Danny Coyne or Darren Barnard; Oldham cruelly announced the release of Wayne Gill, the GTFC trialist who never was; and former Town hero and alleged impregnator of hotel chambermaids Ivano Bonetti announced his plans to sue Dundee for the 800 grand he reckons he lent them to buy Argentine forward Fabian Caballero when he was manager there. I tell you what - if he had succeeded in buying GTFC, the Diary would never have gone wanting for subject matter.
Finally, email from Al Wilkinson on the subject of Lee Nogan, whose release by York City was tearfully chronicled here last Friday. Al believes the Diary was over-generous in its tribute. "Tireless I'll grant you, but skilful? No, not 'Nogger', who is one of the most frustrating players of Town's recent history. Mind you, with such a convincing impression of Pob he was also one of the most entertaining." Mention of the short-lived, puffy-cheeked puppet character prompts Al to wonder: "Who is the ugliest Town player ever?" Now that's got me thinking, but speaking of kids' TV I am bound to recall the disturbing similarity between erstwhile midfielder/caretaker/assistant boss John Cockerill and Rotherham's finest export, the endlessly side-splitting Chuckle Brothers. Over to you, readers...email@example.com if you please.
Friday 16 May
Peter Furneaux promises Town fans an exciting summer, not to mention next season, by suggesting that Paul Groves may be allowed to bring in as many as ten new players as the club makes a serious attempt to bounce back to Division One at the first time of asking. This is what it says in today's Grimsby Telegraph, but as it's now 2 o'clock and the page still doesn't load, I'll have to leave it at that for now. The chairman adds a word of thanks to the local community, though: "We would like to publicly thank our fans for their tremendous support over what has been a difficult season," says Pete, in a credible bid for the European keeping a straight face championship.
While all these new arrivals head into Blundell Park, one player who could slip out almost unnoticed is Danny Coyne. Whispers reach the Diary that the Town stopper is a wanted man - by Burnley boss Stan Ternant, to be precise. Wales' faithful bench-warmer is widely understood to be on a bigger wodge than any other Town player, though, and the transfer could be jeopardised by the defensively-challenged Clarets' £2,000-per-week wage limit on new signings. Coyne, of course, joined Town on a free from Tranmere in 1999 and after a shaky start staked a claim as one of the top keepers outside the Premiership, scooping back-to-back player of the season awards, I think, but hasn't looked in champion of the world form in recent months - and the Mariners would jump at the chance to get him off the payroll.
Two names from the previous millennium rise gently through the ocean of consciousness and football and that - specifically, Messrs Nogan and Widdrington, who will have their work cut out to remain in professional football after being released by York and Hartlepool respectively. 'Tireless' Lee Nogan was a classic Alan Buckley forward - skilful, lightweight, hardly ever scored - who spent two years with the Mariners from 1997 to 1999, bagging 16 goals in nearly 100 appearances; while unpopular midfield fancy pants Tommy W was brought in from Southampton by Long Ball Laws in 1996 for a then club-record £300,000 and was basically rubbish, and playing 40-odd games for Hartlepool in this season's third division promotion campaign has not saved him from the sirloin. Sorry - chop.
Miles Moss is keeping a keener eye than most on the Bosman market, and believes Town ought to move quickly to snap up those free agents with the most amusing names. A keen advocate of the signing of Scarborough's Bimbo Fatokun, he adds: "Also available for nowt is a name I have admired for ages: Kevin Twaddle, who has just left Hearts. And finally, Ceefax 312 reveals that 'John McCarthy has been released by Carlisle'. Presumably they've been keeping him chained to a radiator next to Terry Waite."
Thursday 15 May
Town are making a surprise move to sign Michael Keane on a permanent basis, according to the player's manager at Preston, Craig Brown. The former Scotland boss isn't arsed either way, announcing on Preston's official site: "If he wants to go and we can arrange the right financial package then he can go to Grimsby. But I will be happy if he stays here." The Irish under-21 international midfielder, as you no doubt recall, played seven matches on loan for the Mariners very recently, scoring in the final two and endearing himself to the Pontoon with some hard running, three bookings, and a slightly unhinged goal celebration. Town's only response to the story so far has been to feature it in the official site's cop-out rumours section. The Diary still wants to know whether Keane has a tattoo on his arse that says BACKNAL.
Today's hot transfer gossip, though, so often turns out to be tomorrow's load of old back, as BBC Humber Sport proves today by retracting the line that Darren Wrack was set for a move to the estuary area. Walsall's infantile attacking midfielder was reported to have been pursued by both GTFC and Hull, but according to Auntie is now set to sign a new deal at the Bescot, probably after the highly influential Diary revealed its continued displeasure at the player for giving Town fans the Vs the other year.
Now that that unpleasantness is behind us forever, we have discovered why Town were so backward in coming forward about their friendly with Boston, which both the Pilgrims and Radio Lincolnshire had announced was scheduled for Saturday 19 July. Like a swaggering lothario flirting with the girl next door while pursuing the city's glamorous uber-babe, it looks like the Mariners were keeping poor Boston hanging on until Sunderland got back to them, as Mick McCarthy's nonsequitously nicknamed Black Cats are now heading down the coast to Blundell Park on the 19th. At this rate, your favourite GTFC website will soon be renamed Cad Almighty. Town's visit to York Street has been put back a week to Saturday 26 July.
Over to CA's Santoswatch team now, who have begun a 24/7 surveillance operation on the momentous Frenchman in a bid to bring Diary readers the very latest news on his whereabouts and the progress of new contract talks. Having been released from a passenger jet somewhere over the English Channel, a carrier pigeon has just arrived at the Diary's back door with the message that big Georges is headed back to his homeland to think over his latest offer from the Mariners. "Grimsby gave me a chance to play football and I am happy here," he will tell Town's official site shortly. "I will be back - I hope."
After drawing first blood last Saturday in the Battle of Lincolnshire, Keith Alexander's have-a-go heroes put Scunny out of their misery in the second leg of their promotion play-off last night, running out 1-0 winners at Glanford Park to take the semi-final 6-3 on aggregate. The Diary would be interested to learn Brian Laws' justification for having a go at the Imps about the long ball thing, since it was the sandwich man himself who took Scunthorpe into January's FA Cup clash with Leeds saying: "It will be a case of us lumping it into the box at every opportunity." He really is a prize wanker, isn't he.
A second email reaches the Diary from Séan Carr, whose first email was notable for its Handyside/Lever/Bristol City mix-up. "First," he writes, "can I apologise for my Handyside/Lever/Bristol City mix-up the
other day? Sorry." Hey, it's cool. "There, I feel loads better. It's this zummerzet scrumpy az addled me brain. I'm even picking up the lingo! The good news is you are all invited down to Bristol City next season, as well as Swindon (6 points please) and Plymouth down here in the West." That's very hospitable of you, mate - thanks. The Diary is still reeling from the several litre bottles of Bulmer's Special consumed one sunny afternoon in 1989, which caused me to spew copiously across much of Franklin College; but if you're allowed to sup Guinness in the West Country, then I'll see you there. Now, when you said we're "all invited", you did mean the entire readership of the Diary, and not just the Cod Almighty team?
In other news, former Town loan striker Steve Kabba - who was heading nowhere in football until plucked from obscurity by Neil Warnock - has been asked by the manager of Sierra Leone to join the squad for their forthcoming African Nations Cup match against Morocco. Kabba qualifies via his grandparents - you know, like Tony Cascarino. The Diary is grateful for this information to Miles Moss, who says there's also "a story that the Plymouth manager is denying trying to sign Chris Hargreaves again. Whether there's some subtext to that story I've missed, I couldn't work out. Possibly a gay love triangle." It's a lovely thought.
Wednesday 14 May
Well, I said, I've never downloaded one that big before! Oh, hello - didn't see you there. Paul Groves is being linked with a move to bring Darren Wrack back to Blundell Park, but if the former Town dummy-thrower thinks he can just waltz back into the club without so much as a by-your-leave, then he's got another think coming. BBC Humber Sport reports that Town have entered the race to snap up the childish Walsall midfielder, but the Diary was among the GTFC support at the Bescot the day Wrack decided to flick the Vs at us and has still got the right hump with him. Groves "has confirmed to that he is interested" in the big kid, says the local Beeb site, but they might just be saying that to add a bit of Humber-flavoured spice to the existing story that Hull are after him.
Town have bagged what the media are increasingly coming to describe as "a glamour friendly", with Middlesbrough booked in for an appointment at Blundell Park with Dr Groves and his team on Friday 1 August. The Premiership underachievers ought to provide a reasonable test of strength for the Mariners' rebuilt squad, with the new season kicking off just eight days later - notwithstanding Boro's immeritorious away form in the season just finished.
The Mariners' official site is rather less forthcoming about the alleged friendly just down the North Sea coast at Boston on Saturday 19 July, which the Diary learned of last week from a reader who had heard it announced on Radio Lincolnshire. The match is reported on Boston's pleasantly quaint official site, but no mention appears to be made in Town's online palace of pleasure. It's really nothing to be embarrassed about, though - playing friendlies against third division clubs is something a lot of people are doing these days. Like plastic surgery, apparently.
Contract talks are ongoing with continental landmass Georges Santos, reports the Grimsby Telegraph. Nothing happened though. "I spoke to Georges yesterday but there are no further developments," says Paul. That was worthwhile, wasn't it. Dilapidated striker Steve Livingstone, meanwhile, says he'll take a big pay cut to stay at Blundell Park and he defied doctors' orders last season, returning to action too early after getting his head bust, such was his determination to fire the Mariners to first division safety, such is his undying love for the club, and please please please give him a new contract, and that was why he was playing rubbish, not because he's past it, oh no, certainly not, no way, and did I mention he really really wants a new contract?
Town's management team began preparing for second division football as soon as the club's demotion was confirmed, reveals assistant boss Graham Rodger in an interview on the official site. Immediately after the Walsall game, when the Mariners' relegation moved from more than bloody likely to mathematically inescapable, Rodger and Groves jumped in their motor and took in some Two in an effort to steal a march on next season's rivals. "It appears that the sides that play the best football have the best chance of promotion," observes Rodge, reassuringly. "But there are also some very physical sides to deal with," he adds, preparing supporters for the possibility of Steve Livingstone being given a new contract.
What is a by-your-leave, anyway?
Tuesday 13 May
Mariners fans planning a last-minute holiday or wedding this summer will be aiming to have it all over and done with by Saturday 9 August, for it is on that day that Town's second division campaign will begin. The club's official site reveals that the 2003-04 fixture list will be, er, revealed on Thursday 19 June, and that "The Mariners head for Ibiza on July 5th, returning on July 12th". Perhaps anticipating readers' alarm at the possibility of a week-long binge of Gallimoresque proportions, the site very sensibly clarifies the purpose of the Mariners' sojourn by adding: "Fixtures for Ibiza will appear here soon."
The Grimsby Telegraph returns with a vengeance to its favourite subject, crime, with two tales of villainy most grand. First up, it emerges that the disappearing Town fan and former Jarvis employee who recently facilitated the firm's sponsorship of the Mariners has done time for fraud. Having hit on the bright idea of trawling its own archives, the paper reveals that Stephen Venney received a 20-month prison sentence in 1996 for diddling a shitload of cash out of Immingham Conservative Club, where he had been treasurer, in an uncanny parallel of Joe Carter's devilishly clever scheme to embezzle funds from Mike Baldwin's clothing business, which emerged in last night's Corrie. Venney has apparently now turned up in Plymouth and resigned his position with Jarvis. The Diary really isn't sure what to make of this colourful character: on the one hand, he must have been a Conservative; but the Telegraph says he "single-handedly brought about the collapse of Immingham Conservative Club", so it's not all bad.
And if all that were not enough to make you demand of David Blunkett another reassuring "crackdown on crime", former Town winger Adam 'Son of Al' Buckley has been nicked on suspicion of theft from his current employer - Lincoln City Football Club. The player needed only a handful of first-team appearances at Blundell Park to become official fan scapegoat for half a season late in the previous millennium, but if found guilty he'll be whipping in crosses from the county jail from now on. Police were alerted to the possibility of Buckley's suspected act of larceny following complaints from neighbours after a barbecue in his garden was illuminated by a two-kilowatt beam mounted on a 90-foot pylon.
And finally, the light-hearted bit like at the end of the news, where Trevor McDonald treats you to a wry chuckle just so you don't go away from his programme filled with anger and despair at the way millions of lives are being wrecked by the resurgence of US cultural and economic imperialism. A jolly little email to the Diary points out that the newly demoted Mariners can no longer be used by sloppy-minded pundits as a clichéd signifier of sub-Premiership squalor. "Grimsby have now been replaced in the 'The likes of...' stakes!" writes our reader. "Now we've been relegated, the lazy journos have actually had to think of somewhere else demeaning for big clubs to go to. This came out in a chat about Joe Cole, who, if he stays at West Ham, 'will
have to get used to the idea of going to the likes of Crewe and Wigan'. See, relegation is good for something." Wahey!
Monday 12 May
Is your love for the Mariners so unhealthy that you lack any other interests or passions of any kind? Do you support Town to the extent of having no life? Then you could be looking at a free pair of season tickets courtesy of the Nationwide Building Society - league sponsor and provider of the Diary's mortgage, fixed for five years at 5.25%. In a wicked cool new competition the mutually-owned, Swindon-based home loan provider is preparing to reward people who can prove using 100 words or less that their personality is the least well rounded and most anally retentive among all their club's supporters. Trouble is, the season tickets you win are for "pre-designated seats", and if you're such a big fan then presumably you'll already have a season ticket, so you'll have to be prepared to go and sit somewhere else. But you'd get the thing for free, obviously, so, I dunno, swings and roundabouts, eh.
Speaking of obsessive personalities, Diary reader Lee Cobby clearly has too much time on his hands. I would like to submit as evidence the following email. "I read with interest the snippet that Barrington Belgrave was available on a free, but the notion that he has the most outlandish monicker is flawed. I would like to point your reader in the direction of the Scarborough dole office, where a P45 has just been handed in featuring the name Bimbo Fatokun. Unbeatable, surely. I tried - and failed - to come up with a full XI of such names as suggested. However, I would like to propose a full team's worth of players for Paul Groves to sign in the summer, all consisting of body parts. Well, obviously the players themselves consist of body parts - what I mean to say is that their names are all body parts too:
Legg (Cardiff); Harte (Leeds); Dicks (Canvey Island); Knee (Worthing)
Butt (Man Utd); Tonge (Sheff Utd); Hand (Watford); Ball (Rangers)
Koller (Dortmund); Bone (Peterhead)
"While we're all twiddling our thumbs over the summer, why not invite the other Cod Almighty readers to submit a team of eleven players with some obscure connection, and dream of the amusing commentary should Grimsby sign them all between now and August." Yeah, maybe - or on the other hand maybe we should just all go out and interact with other human beings a bit more.
Over to Mark Wilson, then, who strikes me as just the sort of chirpy, well-balanced individual who wouldn't stand a chance of winning free season tickets. This week finds him in iconoclastic form. "I have supported Town for nearly 30 years now (I started going when I was very young!) and I have never heard of us having a problem with Town keepers in green," maintains Mark. "I recall many an occasion when Nigel Batch would wobble onto the pitch in green, warm up like he had spent the previous night in a lock-in (because he had) and then turn into a goalkeeping superhero as soon as the whistle went. If it was bad luck that Batchy was suffering, what would he have been like if he'd worn a luckier colour? I bet George Tweedy wore green and I've seen Harry Wainman in green. And then there was Peter Grotier, he wore green...er, righto, I see where you're coming from."
Mark also contributes his twopenn'orth to our recent debate on the merits of Town's new kit and the best and worst Mariners attire in history. "Agree that the pinstripe Admiral kit was a monstrosity. Ribero-era kit was good, especially the blue and white away kit which was very cool and had Ciba-Geigy on the chest. And I really like the new kit but what does GTS stand for? Frankly, if we were sponsored by S Hussain, Baghdad, it wouldn't worry me if he was prepared to give us £100k." Now that sort of moral pragmatism is probably why Mark works for a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer in the prosperous south of England and my Sunday afternoon drinking sessions are increasingly having to be subsidised by Mrs Diary.
"I think you should keep the Diary going over the summer," concludes Mark. "We'll find 300 words worth of crap to fill it daily." So far, so good...
Finally, I'm sure you would all join the Diary in belatedly congratulating both Brigg Town, who at the weekend exacerbated Lincolnshire's already dangerous case of football fever by winning the FA Vase, and Doncaster Rovers, who the Diary has a big soft spot for since they provided the opposition the first time I ever watched Town and of course returned to the Football League on Saturday after a five-year absence by winning the Conference play-off final. Rah.
Sunday 11 May
After receiving literally three or four emails desperately imploring me to carry on writing at weekends over the close season, your soft-hearted Diary has caved in like the Town defence and got out of bed specially. Mrs Diary was less than satisfied with my explanation that my public needed me, but a fresh glass of pop served to assuage her wrath. We've got her mad twin sister staying this weekend, anyway, and doing this is as good a reason as any for me not to accompany them to Ikea.
In any case, a remarkable story has broken over the weekend - namely that Stephen Venney, the Town fan and Jarvis employee who greased the wheels of the club's new sponsorship deal with his firm, has been missing for over a week. Peter Furneaux has been perhaps indecently hasty to reassure all parties that the readies are not in jeopardy - "Nothing has impacted on the deal we've got," he insists - but I suppose people are bound to worry. Mr Venney has not been seen, says the Grimsby Telegraph, since leaving his office a week last Thursday for a press conference at Blundell Park, and was thought to have been suffering from stress. "We will be receiving the money on Monday by electronic transfer," adds Pete F, anxiously reaching for the nearest wooden surface. The Diary, for one, is reassured - as long as he doesn't go bonkers and blow it all on DVDs and Xbox games like a student whose loan has just come through.
"It has just been announced that Town are playing a pre-season friendly at Boston on Saturday, 19 July," writes a mid-Lincolnshire-based Town fan, inviting me and Mrs Diary over to go to the game, stay for the weekend and enjoy their sumptuous cuisine. Which sounds lovely, but I can't find any official mention of the match. Maybe it doesn't work on Netscape. Anyone know anything about it?
Staying in the county of conservatism and potatoes, a tremendous game at Sincil Bank yesterday saw Lincoln rack up a 5-3 advantage in the first leg of their third division play-off against Scunthorpe. Keith Alexander's achievement in transforming the Imps from destitute relegation fodder into play-off contenders - albeit just by lamping the ball really hard upfield the whole time and hoping it goes somewhere near the other team's goal - is recognised by the Grimsby Telegraph, which reports with no apparent irony that he "has stepped into the row between Premiership Manchester United and Arsenal by claiming that his third division promotion chasers Lincoln City are THE team of the season". And funnily enough, to round off a unique day of Lincolnshire-themed thrills, I saw a great band last night called Yellobelly.
The Diary feels justified in mentioning the latter following an email from Alistair Wilkinson suggesting a direction for this column to follow over the barren summer months. "How about the summertime antics of a rock and roll animal?" he proposes. "So many parties, so little time, I know, but maybe a weekend round-up of levels of vomit, the varying types of booze, any drugs (just say no, NO!)." Only last Sunday's Diary precludes me from stating that this all sounds more like Mat Hare's department; but saying that, the Diary did drink enough last night to think it'd be a really good idea to start a punk band called The Half Lives, play three gigs, and then split up. Actually, that is a really good idea. I'll let you know how it goes.
Al also offers a soberer alternative. "Or maybe a Saturday round-up of the week's rumours - encourage people to send in what they hear at work, in the pub, whatever or wherever. I often hear some pretty 'out there' stuff from my work. If I had a pound for every time I heard Crofty was coming back I'd have, erm, well, probably enough to get drunk on anyway." And it was all going so well. No matter! "If you're interested here's one to start you off. A woman at my work is friends with someone who claims to be getting increasingly 'friendly' with one Mr Santos. Anyway, apparently said garlic one has expressed his sympathy for a certain player who always turns up for training, works very hard, never shouts his mouth off and just generally can't understand his omission from the team. Neither can Mr Santos, I'm told - he is too prudent to name names but I think we can all have a stab about who he is referring to." Well, it would certainly provide some intrigue for those painful nights when I've missed Corrie.
"Dear Diary," begins another correspondent wittily, "You will no doubt be a little upset to learn that Billy Mehmet has signed a two-year deal with Dunfermline. I know you were a big fan of him - well, of his name at least. But fear not, for Southend have released the even better-named Barrington Belgrave. If there's a signable player out there with a better name than that, I challenge your readers to come up with it. Hey, perhaps we could have an entire XI of wonderfully named players who we could sign this summer...". You know the address, readers; well, if you don't, it's firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Hi Cod Almighty," writes Séan Carr. "Great site." Thank you! "Peter Handyside went on a Bosman to Bristol City. He had a knee injury and
struggled to gain a regular place in an underperforming Division 2
team. Released by Bristol City he then went to Stoke where he has been
average. Stop dredging up past players and managers and hoping they are going to perform like they did in 97/98. What we need is a clearout and give youth a chance. How else are Town going to create some serious revenue other than by selling new young players? Certainly not through the commercial dept. who couldn't even organise the sell out of BP against Brighton last week." Your general point may not be without validity, Séan, but the Diary's ceaseless pursuit of truth and moral rectitude compels me to point out that you are confusing real life either with Championship Manager - which, let's face it, so many of us do - or with Mark Lever, which would be rather more alarming. For Lever it was who went on a Bosman to Bristol City; Peter H went to Stoke, he went directly to Stoke, he did not pass Bristol, he probably did collect £200. And the Diary can exclusively reveal, fact fans, that after a spell with Mansfield, Lever is now working as a postman in Ilkeston.
Well, that's about all I can manage for now. I think I'll go back to bed. And sleep soundly in the knowledge of a job well done.
Friday 9 May
Despite GTFC's relegation costing a million squid and the club being one of the less well supported in Division Two, Paul Groves might have a bob or two to spend on players this summer. "There was no money whatsoever during [last] summer," explains the player-boss on Town's official site. "This year, the board are talking in a different manner, and obviously we want to try and get a squad together that can compete and do well in the second division." All of which talk tallies tantalisingly with Peter's persuasive pledge earlier this week that the Mariners will be chasing "players who we are sure you will find of interest". So who can they have in mind?
Well, the Diary is not alone in noting that Peter Handyside has just been released by Stoke - very much a case of "Too late - I quit!", as the former Town centre-half was far from happy at the Britannia in any case. The next few weeks should show whether the rumours of Handyside's return to Grimsby that have been circulating for some months have any basis in fact or are just fishful thinking. The player proved when moving from Lincs to Staffs that he had no qualms about dropping a division, but whether he would do so again to play for a club with more goalkeepers than fans remains to be seen.
In case you've not seen it, voting is now under way in Cod Almighty's Messageboard Nesbit of the Season competition, where we seek to recognise and celebrate the vital work of entertainment done by gormless dipsticks over the length and breadth of the internet. Cast your vote now and enter the running to win a voucher for the GTFC club shop.
Loath though the Diary is to stir up controversy, another reader has emailed taking exception to the new Town kit. Said reader was watching the Brighton match on telly with his mate, who "asked me if the numbers on the back of tucked-in Town shirts were supposed to be half hidden by the players' shorts or is it going to be compulsory for these shirts not to be tucked in?" As a dyed-in-the-wool slacker, the Diary certainly hopes so. If you ask me, all the flair and magic went out of football the day the FA made untucked shirts a cautionable offence.
And at last a sensible explanation to the mystery over Town keepers wearing green. "In answer to your question about the superstition of Grimsby goalkeepers," writes Captain J R Sensible, "I can report that green is generally thought of as an unlucky colour in seafaring towns such as Grimsby - possibly because it is the hardest colour to see against the dark rolling waves should anyone fall overboard wearing it. This is presumably why sou'westers and other trawling apparel are bright yellow. Quite how any goalkeeper expects to be playing football in such stormy weather that they are swept out of their 18-yard box, over the Main Stand and into the North Sea is beyond me. But that's superstitions for you."
Don't know whether to carry on writing a Diary on Saturdays over the close season. What would I put in it?
Thursday 8 May
North Thoresby-born Darren Wrack could be set to join the Hull revolution if Tigers boss Peter Taylor gets his way. The Walsall winger is high on the Norman Wisdom impersonator's wanted list and may make a summer switch to whatever that new ground is called that Hull council built for their football team with the gajillions of pounds they made from selling off Kingston Communications. Kingston Communications Stadium, that's it. Wrack joined the Black Country outfit in 1998 after two seasons with the Mariners, and later exacted his revenge for his lack of first-team opportunities at Blundell Park by flicking the Vs at Town fans after his new mates scored against GTFC. Like, yeah, dead mature.
Meanwhile Bradley Allen - whose striking partnership with Michael Boulding was the decisive factor in Town staying up in 2002 - has been released by third division Bristol Rovers. The talented striker spent some time with Peterborough after the Mariners' surprising decision last summer not to keep him, but was forced to drop another division in the search for a livelihood. Now, with clubs still devastated after their ruthless pillage by the unscrupulous bandits of Carlton and Granada TV, Allen's future in the professional game hangs in the balance.
As does - much to the Diary's amusement - that of Junior Lewis, the Leicester midfielder who as recently as January considered himself far too good to go out on loan to the likes of Grimsby, only to discover that paying someone 15 grand a week for being pants was a luxury the Foxes could no longer afford. His club having made its position clear, Lewis swiftly reviewed his, and went out on loan to the likes of Swindon; but the Lineker-backed debt defaulters have now confirmed that J-Lew is out on his booty. Satisfying, isn't it? Add some amusing names and tiresome description and you could almost be reading Dickens.
Speaking of great literary works, the Diary is pleased to receive an email from Cod Almighty poet Alistair Wilkinson. Al has been pondering the subject of Town kits down the years, and writes: "Town's best strip was almost certainly the '96/'97 rather dashing outfit which unfortunately saw us relegated, but then saw us win many a game in our 'phoenix' season the following year, before Dixons usurped the frozen food umbrella of a sponsor that was Europe's Food Town. It had a simplicity of design that was pleasing to the eye and the sponsor lacked the garish Mars bar theme of Dixons and the Speak And Spell button design of our latest pimps. Apparently it was designed with Ivano Bonetti in mind and so had an Italian feel (Lotto were the manufacturers), but I think grandmaster psycho Laws had already worked his iron-fisted magic on the foppish maestro and he never got to wear it. Another plus point, for all you beer guzzlers out there, was that the well-defined black and white stripes were very slimming. They covered my lard and hops-infested tits and belly for a while anyway."
That charming image now lodged in your consciousness forever, we turn to Paul Thundercliffe, a name, like those of certain other Diary correspondents, that whisks me back to the olde days of Sing When We're Fishing. Paul opines: "The new Town shirt (almost an anagram of 'went in own shite') is indeed vulgar. The best Town shirt was the 1984 'Hobbot' effort resplendent with two red stripes from v-necked collar to sleeve. The worst? Possibly Admiral's dire pinstripe effort of '94 (although the yellow away kit was quite smart)." Sceptical readers may recall that Paul was once renowned in the pages of SWWF as a proud glasses-wearer; though the intervening period has represented ample time for laser correction. He adds: "The bad thing about the new shirt is that it isn't so much a copy of Juve's shirt - more a photocopy. And a bad one at that, like the toner's nearly run out or the lid wasn't kept down." Sounds like most of the Diary's wardrobe, actually...
The Diary's readership, on the other hand, remains razor-sharp, as an email proves explaining the superstition about GTFC keepers wearing green. "Way back in the 1901/02 season," writes F Fancy, "Grimsby's keeper at the time - one Walter Whittaker - was mistaken for a small scotch pine by two visiting Canadian lumberjacks. During a particularly dull patch of play, they leapt out of the Main Stand and sliced through his legs just below the knee with one of those double-ended saw things. Whittaker was then sold as a Christmas tree to an unsuspecting myopic housewife on Harrington Street. Since then, Town keepers have been reluctant to wear green, lest the same thing should happen. As a footnote, despite the agonising pain, Whittaker was pleased to learn later that his dismembered feet actually saved two penalties."
Keep 'em coming! email@example.com is the road to salvation.
Wednesday 7 May
Remember Menno Willems? One of Lennie Lawrence's less inspired acquisitions, the former Town midfielder is going great guns back in his native Holland, reports Planet Football, and has just extended his contract with second division Haarlem. During his 15-month stay with the Mariners the player scandalised provincial Lincolnshire with his dyed hair and body piercings; but Willems' performances on the pitch fell some way short of his flamboyant accessorising, and the accession of the no-nonsense Groves/Rodger management team soon saw him packed off whence he came.
Discussion continues apace on Town's new stagewear, with Marnix Kolder emailing the Diary to say: "Following on from Pat Bell's comments about the new away kit being grey, my main concern is the colour of the goalkeeper's away shirt. There's been no mention of that at all from the club. It's important though. The fans deserve to know!" Is this connected with that old superstition about Town keepers wearing green? What is that all about? He continues: "Oh yeah, and the third kit. What colour will that be? There must be a third kit. Come on, Furneaux, the fans deserve to know!" What you're saying, then, Marnix, is that the fans deserve to know. Tony Rogers, more succinctly but no less passionately, writes: "I won't be buying the new Town kit because it's rubbish. Simple as that really." So which were the best and worst GTFC kits, people? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your views.
Tuesday 6 May
As part of a lengthy communiqué to Town fans, Peter Furneaux holds out a seductive promise of squad strengthening over the summer months. "We can assure you that the club will be actively pursuing new players - players who we are sure you will find of interest," says the GTFC chairman, lasciviously moistening his lips. The statement appears on Town's official site and also ranges over such diverse topics as fashion (the new kit is available for purchase), economics (we're buggered when wage capping comes in) and the nature of human suffering (we've just been relegated). "Let us remind ourselves that Grimsby Town is still the Premier Club in this area," urges Pete, effortlessly demonstrating the confusion that can result from the arbitrary use of capital letters.
The Mariners' upper-case centre-back Georges Santos is perhaps literally locked in contract talks with the club today, reports the Grimsby Telegraph, which only a few days ago was suggesting that the player's departure was as solid a certainty as bad Cliff Richard records at Christmas. "We'll speak to him and his representatives today and sit down and see if we can thrash something out," explains Paul 'Venus in Furs' Groves.
Great news for second division right wingers, meanwhile, as Groves confirms his intention to keep Tony Gallimore at Blundell Park. The wayward left-back, who for much of his Grimsby career has been to defending what Donald Rumsfeld is to world peace, joins Santos and John McDermott as Groves' top priorities for retention among the squad's many out-of-contract players. "Macca, George and Gally have proved they can cope in the first division and they would be very good players in the second division," the Town boss tells the Grimsby Telegraph. "It's important to keep them." Well, if Tone slings his hook, the Diary would gladly run away from a football for a grand a week.
Chester City's Daryl Clare has hit the headlines more effectively than he hit the ball in yesterday's Conference play-off match. The former Town striker - who made up half of the famously ineffective "Jeffrey and Bungle" strikeforce under Alan Buckley - missed City's first spot-kick as the team lost 4-3 to Donny Rovers on penalties. Clare was bidding to make it two promotions in two seasons after a prolific spell with Boston United helped the Pilgrims become Lincolnshire's fourth football league club 12 months ago.
Words of support for the Diary come from Pat Bell, who has emailed with some views on the raging controversy surrounding our take on Town's new sponsorship deal. "Just to say that your coverage of the Jarvis sponsorship typifies the reason why Cod Almighty has become my first port of call for finding out what's going on at Blundell Park," says Pat. Cool! "To paraphrase CLR James, 'What know they of the Mariners who only the Mariners know', and if there was ever any danger of me buying a replica shirt, that danger has lapsed for the next three years. If we must focus on how the sponsorship will affect matters on the pitch, do I understand that the away strip will be grey, and am I right in remembering that Man Utd blamed a catastrophic first half performance against Southampton a few years ago on players being unable to pick each other out because they were playing in a new, grey strip? (Not that our being able to pick each other out is likely to be much of a priority next season)."
Pat is right to draw attention to the grey away kit - designed in Jarvis's 'corporate colours', apparently - though whether the Grey Devils' non-performance at the Dell that day was truly attributable to their monochrome apparel remains debatable; you know what that Ferguson bloke's like. The complimentary correspondence continues: "The Diary usually tells me everything I need to know about what is going on, and knocks the wind out of attempts to blow up non-stories, and Cod Almighty doesn't take ten years to load its pages either." Cheers Pat - do you take cheques or will you be insisting on cash?
Monday 5 May
Ahem. First of all, the Diary owes you an apology for yesterday's dog's breakfast of an entry. I started drinking early and didn't stop. It was an interesting session, though. I tried several times to leave, but people kept buying me pints; and by the time Mrs Diary and I had finished the pizza I was dead to the world and could not be awoken for either the snooker or the Fast Show repeat. But I felt absolutely fine this morning! Which was nice.
That entirely self-indulgent digression over, we can progress to the more momentous issue of Georges Santos' future employment, which Paul Groves and I, and probably you too, hope will be with Grimsby Town Football Club. Such is Town's keenness to retain the services of the hot-headed continental, in fact, that the club is making him a second new contract offer without even waiting for him to refuse the first. "We've made Georges an offer and we'll be making Georges another offer," confirms Mr Groves, hoping the Grimsby Telegraph is listening and stops running stories saying even the tea lady is moving to Hull on a Bosman.
The Grimsby Telegraph runs a story saying John McDermott is moving to Hull on a Bosman. Tigers boss Peter Taylor, who admits: "I've seen him before and I know what he can do," has clearly developed a better eye for a player since he famously paid £5m for Ade Akinbiyi while Leicester City manager. The former England under-21 coach watched Macca in yesterday's Town-Brighton match but might not have showed up had he not been doing some radio work. "I need some experience and I'm here watching him today as well as working for the radio," says Taylor. Hmmmmm.
There was a bit of aggro after yesterday's match, adds the Telegraph. A group of 80s nostalgia freaks apparently started the odd scuffle down the seafront, resulting in three arrests and one hospitalisation. I suppose it's all good practice for Cardiff next season.
Back to inconsequential trivia now, and having clocked that horrible tattoo on Michael Keane's back after the loan midfielder celebrated his goal yesterday by getting his kit off for the Pontoon, the Diary is now in a position to comment on what it actually says; and I agree with the reader who last week suggested that it reads ARSENAL. Which is interesting, but not quite earth-shattering. I would be far more impressed if Patrick Vieira turned out to have a tat that says PORTSMOUTH.
The Diary's recent hatchet job on Town's new sponsor Jarvis has, I am both delighted and relieved to announce, got right up someone's nose. I don't know whose nose it is, because their email is anonymous, but it reads as follows. "I enjoy reading the Diary every day on the great website Cod Almighty. However, the recent outbursts regarding Town's new sponsors worry me. Forgive me if I'm wrong but I thought Cod Almighty was a football website. Not a political one. To me the sponsorship news is good for the club. It
will bring much needed cash into the club at a time when we need it
most. You had your say on the situation regards Jarvis yesterday and fair enough, but leave it now eh? You risk turning the Diary into an editorial or an opinion column. Is that what your readers want?"
In response I would point out that the subjectivity of this column is its raison d'etre (apologies to any accent pedants there; I don't know how to get a circumflex in Notepad). What our readers want, I believe, is an alternative. The whole point of the Diary - and probably of Cod Almighty as a whole - is to give you something to read that isn't exactly the same as every other GTFC website out there. I'm not claiming we're better than other sites; we just try and give a different take on things for those who want it. In the case of the Jarvis thing, a lot of Town fans I spoke to didn't know anything about the company, and other coverage of the sponsorship deal wasn't giving much background on the Potters Bar crash and the education consultancy - an editorial decision every bit as "political" as the Diary's choice to include it. So the Diary wasn't telling you what to think; it was just trying to help you make an informed decision by giving you information that other sources omitted. In any case, I wasn't intending to denounce Jarvis every day for the next three years. I don't really have the attention span.
"I, for now, will continue to read the Diary," adds our mystery correspondent, "as usually it's a good read and I'm sure the style similarities between it and the Guardian's Football Unlimited Rumour Mill column are purely coincidental." You're right - I've never heard of it. In fact I don't even know what the Guardian is. Anyway, the Diary is genuinely grateful for your feedback, whoever you are, and would be interested in hearing from other readers about the way we cover events in this column. email@example.com is the address.
As the Diary drunkenly alluded to yesterday, two members of the Cod Almighty team were interviewed before the Brighton match by Radio Five Live's Mark Clemmit for his weekly programme The 92 Club, which chronicles his "epic journey to visit all 92 league grounds in one season." You can hear Clem's visit to Blundell Park and his natter with Messrs Si Wilson and Mark Shephard on Five Live tonight in Sport on Five, which begins at 7pm.
And finally, the Diary missed Corrie again on Friday and yesterday. I was watching a band on Friday and, er, well, you already know about yesterday. Can anyone fill me in on it again? Has foxy Maria been sacked from the salon yet?
Sunday 4 May
Town have drawn two-all at home with Brighton. Brighton aren't staying up, because Stoke have beaten Reading. Oh my. It's 9pm and I am so pissed you wouldn't believe it. Ahem. I will write more tomorrow.
Oh! But I just remembered! I dobbed some of my Cod Almighty colleagues into doing an interview for Radio Five Live! It'll be on tomorrow night at 7pm. Erm, I need to get offline now because Mrs Diary needs to order pizza for us. Will type more, er, tomorrow. Oh, and I had maintained such dignity. Ah well. Bye for the moment.
Friday 2 May
If you've got 40 quid to spare this weekend and think the appearance of your upper body would be improved immeasurably by the livery of a controversial engineering firm, then why not invest in a new Town shirt? The goodies will be available to order from Town's official site from midnight tonight, apparently, so you might want to camp in front of your PC right now with a sleeping bag and a thermos. The Mariners' site has one of those pictures of a very well-scrubbed young lady modelling the kit, like they always do, and I have to admit the shirt looks quite nice; but the Diary is waiting for them to produce some without the Jarvis logo. They could if they wanted, you know. My mate has a sponsorship-free West Brom shirt. There's no punchline - he really does.
Town have offered a new contract to Stacy Coldicott, claims BBC Humber Sport. The lean, mean midfield machine has sat out the last few weeks of the season with a broken leg but Paul Groves says: "Hopefully he'll get over it in the three months that it takes generally and he'll be fit for pre-season." Which seems a bit presumptuous to me at this stage: I mean, how does he know Stace isn't torn between the modest new short-term offer the Mariners have placed before him and a range of highly lucrative five-year deals from the likes of Real Madrid and Hull City?
Former GTFC keeper Aidan Davison is to leave Bradford on the twelve hundred scrillionth free transfer of his career. The Northern Ireland international, who turns 35 this month, is one among loads of players being released by the Bantams, who have presumably spent so much wonga buying referees that they can't pay players any more. The highlight of Davison's spell with the Mariners was probably the play-off final victory over Northampton in 1998, of which he heightened the already life-threatening tension by playing the last 10 minutes while concussed. Town remain the only one of the nomadic stopper's 13 clubs to have had more than 50 appearances out of him.
"I am not a fucking monkey!" writes a clearly quite upset Mat Hare. "If Mr Keeper wishes to make any more personal attacks, I suggest he
develops the balls to send his abuse directly to me. The twat," he adds, in an email sent directly to the Diary. Dearie me.
The slightly more savoury contents of the Diary's postbag today concern the player of the year awards, upon which one correspondent comments: "The player of the year is John McDermott. It's John McDermott. Macca, McD, the Macmeister, Sir Macsford, Ubergruppmanfuhrer Herr Doktor McDermotz." Another opines: "I agree with Richard Dawson to some extent. My player for the 2002 portion of this season would have been John Oster. A superbly talented winger, he made an incredible difference to the Grimsby team. In fact, he was probably the best player of the 2003 portion too. Come to think of it, he's probably the best player, home or away, to have graced the Blundell Park turf since 1903. And will never be bettered. In addition, he is beautiful, intelligent, and has a penis which would make a blue whale feel inadequate. Yours sincerely, Mr J Oster."
Thursday 1 May
Town's new sponsor is revealed as controversial engineering firm Jarvis, criticised and still under investigation after the Potters Bar rail crash in May 2002, which killed seven and injured 60 and took place on a section of track Jarvis was contracted to maintain. Earlier this week it also emerged that the firm was awarded a three-year contract in January to "disseminate good practice" to struggling secondary schools, despite having no prior experience of education consultancy - a move condemned by teachers' leaders as "shocking" and "extraordinary". Perhaps worthy of mention in the light of this is the fact that Jarvis chief executive Paris Moayedi appears on a list of donors who last year gave 'gifts' worth more than £5,000 to the Labour Party. You might like to bear all of this in mind before you buy a replica shirt or give your kid one of the Jarvis baseball caps the club hands out at the Brighton match this Sunday.
Several players are back on the Grimsby trial trail, with Cameron Jerome and Byron Jenkinson joining Middlesbrough trio Chris Garbutt, Kevin George and Andy Kelly in a reserves' outing to Stockport yesterday. The future of goalkeeping in England, Steve Croudson, continued his comeback from injury as Town's seconds ran out 4-0 winners with goals from Garbutt, Jonny Rowan (2) and youth prodigy Joe Lightowler. Far from being an idle fellow, Jerome is actually a striker with Conference outfit Halifax Town; and it appears that Town are now using reserve fixtures to put potential new groundsmen through their paces, as the only Byron Jenkinson I can find on the internet is a soil scientist from West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
Once more unto the Diary's bulging inbox, and email of supreme cattiness reaches us from a Mr Z Keeper, who writes: "You have Mat's betting tips column marked down as, and I quote (as you'll no doubt be able to see by my use of quotation marks), an "inter-species contest". Having met Mat on several occasions, I beg to differ." Saucer of milk for table one!
Richard Dawson, meanwhile, quibbles with the phrase "tricky striker Darren Mansaram", which I hold up my hands and admit appeared in yesterday's Diary. "To apply the epithet striker to young Darren is, perhaps, anticipatory given his poor scoring rate of late," writes Richard. "I think he has only troubled the opposing keeper about twice in his last dozen games. Although Main Stand inhabitants know the ferocity of his cross-shots, I'm sure." Perhaps so, but we may be opening a can of worms if we're going to come over all Trade Descriptions Act about the Town side; by that token, is there a single 'striker' on the books? "Santos is undoubtedly the player of the year (2003)," adds Mr Dawson, "although not, in my view, of the 2002-3 season." So who would you give the season award to, Rich? And what about the rest of you? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your views on the whole player of the year gay hornets' nest of vipers.