Contact the Diary
Got any GTFC news? Constructive feedback? Offers of hard cash to write something else? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or use our feedback form and elucidate.
Read another Diary
June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August |
July | June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August |
June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August |
May | April |
March | February | January
November | October | September |
August | July | June | May | April | March | February |
November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April |
March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July |
April | March | February | January
November | October | September |
July | June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July |
June | May | April |
March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April | March
Friday 28 May
So, the dreadful uncertainty is over. Only to be immediately replaced by the gnawing anxiety induced by the introduction of yet another new managerial face grinning at us from the front page of the official website. In a first interview with the enthusiastic, but grammatically challenged, OS team, newly appointed Town manager Russell Slade has made appropriate noises about being 'up for it': "We knew where we want to be, we knew where we want to go between us we can make the club successful once more."
Sadly, the promised audio version of the interview does not exist at the time of writing. so your Guest Diarist is unable to verify whether our new manager actually talks in the strange language that bedevils the transcription. Or what he actually sounds like. Which is quite important to me. I instinctively hated Mr Law, but once I heard him I just knew that my gut reaction to dislike him had a sound base, and was not simply a result of my institutionalised prejudice against people who look like 'bruiser geezers'. Whomever Town appointed, he was going to be better than Law, who looked ugly, talked ugly, and tried to make the team play ugly football. We lost just as many games anyway, so what was the point? But what of our new man; what is he like? We've been asking around.
Steven Young, student at Newcastle Uni, Town fan and Cod Almighty reader, has a flatmate who supports the Seadogs. He wrote in yesterday to explain that the said Seadog was crying in to his cornflakes that afternoon on hearing the pre-announcement that Slade was off (thus also confirming the theory about when students rise keep it up, chaps). The Seadog explained to Steven that our Russell was not only a saviour, but also a messiah, having assembled a decent squad on a shoestring, and then coached them to play attractive, passing football. Scarborough fans label him as a promising manager, he reports. So far, so good, don't you think?
Our man in Newcastle then goes on to expound at length about the hair ratio between previous Town managers and their assistants. This monograph can be summarised thus: if Slade and Rodger form a partnership they have a 50 per cent chance of being successful (both being balding). However, if Slade appoints a hairy number two then things look good (provided he's a redhead). Good work Steven, but the sample was a tad small on the bald:ginger premise, comprising just Buckley:Cockerill. I think we should take the one in two chance and hope that Rodger stays and that he and Slade emulate the successful balding twosome that was Buckley and Mann, rather than the gruesome twosome of Law and Rodger. Enough already, I hear you mutter, but thanks to Steven anyway. Good luck with those pesky exams.
Meanwhile the Diary received another email, this time reminiscing about Slade's time at Meadow Lane in the early nineties. Craig Oman reports that Slade had a decent spell as number two to Mick Walker in 1993, the side finishing eighth that year. His subsequent promotion to manager found him out of his depth, apparently, and Howard Kendall was brought in to rescue the situation. Which he didn't Kendall and Slade were both sacked a couple of months later. Craig's County-supporting workmate remembers that Slade favoured a passing approach, but warns that his judgement might be suspect given that he loaned Tony Hackworth from County when manager at Scarborough. You get the strong feeling in the email that Mr Hackworth was not rated by the County fans. Thanks Craig, but, as you say, that was all a long time ago, and most managers make horrible mistakes early in their careers. Ask Adam Crozier for example.
Finally, I asked Cod Almighty match reporter Tony Butcher for an initial opinion on the appointment. Like me, his instinct is to think of prison, not pop, when the name Slade is mentioned. Tony goes on to say, in that endearing way of his: "I am unmoved by the impending appointment. I have no feelings of joy, but none of despair. Wait and see is the only rational conclusion here." I agree, Tony; let's give the chap a chance. I'm happier with someone promoted in to this position rather than 'demoted' (e.g. Lawrence) because he should be excited, and, like, err, dead keen. And, of course, he has big match experience in both the FA and Anglo-Italian cups...
Meanwhile some despair has crept in to the Grimsby world, with the sad but inevitable loss of Isiaiaiah Rankin. He's gone and signed a contract with Brentford. I'll miss him he was a 'proper' striker. Any road, Mr Slade has compiled a list of players he is interested in signing, apparently. So we will duly bate our breath, kick our heels through this long football holiday, and expect the unexpected.
While I've been writing this drivel, the official site has confirmed three pre-season home friendlies at the end of July. A Tuesday home game versus Rotherham is followed on Saturday 24th by the visit of Scunny. Then on the Monday "the Mariners are set to play top European side Willem II at Blundell Park". That would be the mid-table Dutch side who got thumped 5-2 by Ajax in front of a 5,000 home crowd in their last match. Let's hope that Town are playing total football by then. See yer.
Thursday 27 May
Russell Slade is expected to be the man named as Town's fifth full-time manager of the 21st century when Peter Furneaux announces the filling of the vacancy at a press conference tomorrow. Radio Humberside has reported that Slade was in talks all day yesterday with Furneaux's heir apparent John Fenty, and the club has called the great and the good of the sports media in to Blundell Park to hear the news at 10 o'clock on Friday morning. "We won't speculate, we'll bring you the facts," promises Town's official website, which, sure enough, was the first outlet to mention Slade in connection with the job earlier this week, although when concerned Scarborough fans phoned GTFC yesterday for the goss, they were informed that their manager hadn't been interviewed at all and it was all just, well, speculation... I dunno, Tony it's one thing nicking their manager, but feeding 'em porkies on top is a bit harsh really...
The news of Slade's imminent accession to the Blundell Park throne is already propelling some messageboard contributors into FERNAUX OUT! apoplexy, and although the Diary is not about to tear up its season ticket, or wouldn't if I had one, a few more details about the Mariners' new manager certainly wouldn't go amiss. Where was he a player? Where was he born? Does he prefer passing football to the direct game? And does he put his milk in last when he makes a cup of tea? Diary readers who can fill in any gaps are urged to email email@example.com, as background information about Slade seems pretty thin on the ground, or at least too thin for me to get hold of seeing as I've got loads of work to do this week, so I might as well get some of you lot to do the googling for me, eh.
"Grimsby announce Nicky Law's contract as manager will not be extended for next season," reveals the BBC Humber website. Cheers for that.
"Never written to you before," writes Dick of Legbourne, "but a mate of mine in London states The Times this week reckons Peter Shirtliff ex Charlton (the London link) and Sheff Wed is being lined up for the vacant gaffers job. Not a name I've heard mentioned in the menagerie of out-of-work and desperate folk applying for the job." Nice to hear from you, Dick; thanks for the mail. The Diary can't get on with tabloids, so I'm not sure what's been in the Times, but it all looks a bit Nicky Law now anyway, doesn't it? As in redundant. Dick's email is dated 26 May 2003, so either the clock needs fixing on his computer or people had the knives out for Paul Groves with quite indecent haste.
Wednesday 26 May
Town are to interview a candidate today for the managerial vacancy at Blundell Park, but first: lots of people who support a club called Manchester United, which has no connection with Grimsby, went to see them play a game of football at the weekend. It was a nice day and they won, so they were very happy. That's nice for them all, isn't it.
In other news today, then, Scarborough's Russell Slade is meeting with GTFC officials with a view to succeeding Nicky Law in the BP hotseat. After Town's website reported yesterday that the club was "thought to be" interested in talking to Slade (again, you'd expect the OS either to know for sure or to desist from journalistic speculation), chairman Furneaux popped up on Radio Humberside last night to reveal that the Boro manager would be nipping down for a chat and a nice cup of tea some time today. Slade began his managerial career with an unsuccessful four-month stint at Notts County in the 199495 season and coached at Sheffield United and Bradford (I think) before taking charge at Scarborough in 2001, where he has preserved the club's Conference status against the odds and with bugger all to spend. In a fourth-round FA Cup tie last season his side gave Chelsea a run for their not inconsiderable money. Decisiveness is clearly not his strength, however, as Slade resigned in January 2003 only to change his mind within the week, and penned a new contract at the Stadium of Chips only last month. He is also bald, though his name does not begin with the letter L.
Keith Alexander isn't going to Blackpool and Steve Cotterill might be off to Burnley, by the way, if you're arsed.
Out-of-contract striker Phil Jevons, meanwhile, is being linked with a move to Kidderminster by a local rag with nothing much better to do. The GTFC player of the year or, more accurately, the man who was given GTFC's player of the year award is alleged by Wolverhampton's Express & Star newspaper to be the second choice of Kiddy boss Jan Molby should he fail to attract Oxford's Richard Walker, with no more supporting evidence than the fact that Molby was the manager who took Jevons to Hull on a season-long loan 18 months ago. The Express & Star offers no quotes, cites no source and, despite Mister Furneaux's statement to the contrary yesterday, even suggests that Nicky Law is a contender to replace himself as Town manager.
Finally, Anthony Galvin has emailed the Diary to point out that Paul Futcher's son Ben has requested a transfer from Lincoln City. "Saving the Mariners could be genetic," writes Anthony. "If only we had a manager to sign him." Or could outbid Cardiff, Burnley, Derby and Villa, for that matter, eh...
Tuesday 25 May
Sixteen. Two to the power of four. The age of consent. The number of ounces in a pound. The number of pieces on a chessboard. And also the number of players signed by other third division clubs so far this month, while GTFC have been thinking about considering maybe having a meeting to talk about discussing a longlist for a shortlist for interviews for, oh, what was it again, ah yes, the manager's job.
And while the club has procrastinated, the best player on its books, Mike Edwards, has become one of those 16. Yep steady Eddie has slipped through Town's fingers and "reportedly" signed for Notts County on a two-year contract, says the Mariners' official website (and you'd think they'd know for sure one way or the other, wouldn't you). After joining from Hull last summer, the player made 35 full appearances for Town, scoring once, winning Cod Almighty's Unsung Hero award, and proving to be the one fairly reliable component in the worst GTFC defence in living memory. The Diary wonders whether Peter Furneaux might be intending to delay the appointment of a manager for a further two years in the hope that Tony Crane will follow Edwards out of the door when his contract expires in 2006.
"Considering the financial mire the club are in," writes Keith Collins in an email to the Diary, "and the way the board apparently thinks, I believe we will not have a new manager until mid-July. He will then have the pick of the remaining 'frees' to sign the week before the season starts. Think of the savings on the wage bill."
Well, whoever the new man turns out to be, the club has at last confirmed that he won't be the old man. "Nicky Law's contract with Grimsby Town expired on the 10th of this month," says Mr F in an interview on the OS, "and he has been advised that he will not be re-employed as manager." There's some stuff about the players who are under 24 being offered new contracts nice to see that something was learned from the Danny Butterfield debacle, then and the new manager needing to "instil a work ethic", but the long and short of it is that by the time Law's replacement is announced Town's competitors in the third division will have signed closer to 160 players than 16. "Nobody has been appointed as manager yet," announces the chairman, helpfully. "The situation is under constant review, and we must make sure that the right candidate is available. We have spoken to some prospective candidates, but only to ascertain whether they would be interested to come to Grimsby." You just take your time, Pete. No rush, is there.
Monday 24 May
While all the best free players get snapped up by competitor clubs, Town continue to gaze idly at their shortlist for the manager's job, probably while chewing slices of hot buttered toast and ruffling the morning paper while sitting at their breakfast table in their dressing gown and in dire need of a shave and a shower. Bored of twiddling its electronic thumbs, the club's official website parodies some of the sillier recent Steve Cotterill/George Graham/Bill Clinton speculation with a humorous denial that sacked Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier is in the running to step in at Blundell Park. Their bonfire thus being pissed on, GTFC messageboard rumour-mongers suggest an imminent explosion in the price of top-storey flats off the back of Freemo in the belief that The Day After Tomorrow is a factual documentary film.
And when they're not looking for new managers, there's nothing the Mariners management enjoy more than trying to bring top continental sides to Cleethorpes for pre-season friendlies. Which is a good job considering CSKA Sofia have pulled out of their July tour to the UK, which was scheduled to feature gigs at Brixton Academy, Glasgow Barrowlands and Blundell Park. The club is "working hard behind the scenes" to book a high-profile European replacement, reports the official website. Brigg Town it is then.
Friday 21 May
Your Guest Diarist is becalmed today: marooned by the end-of-season doldrums. Casting web glances this way and that way all morning, but everything is stale. The BBC sport page for our beloved Grimsby Town was last updated on Sunday 9 May, when the unmentionable Mr Law mentioned that there was a possibility that the club would not further retain his services after his less than sparkling performance in trying to gel a team that played cohesive, motivated football.
Clicking through to the risible BBC Humber site, one finds it inviting the reader to "get to know the 2003/2004 Grimsby Town team". The writers have obviously 'taken a view' on the variously reported ramblings of the Grimsby chairman, with regard to managerial shortlists, appointment timetables and the like, as not worth bothering with. And they could be right: this Town fan has just given up idle speculation, and is resigned to waiting for the announcement. In fact, if you've got 'inside info' then I'd rather not know it. Treat me like a Likely Lad who's avoiding the score. Maybe it's because the news is so important that I can't face it. Maybe it's because the appointment won't matter in the grand scheme of things. Actually, I haven't got a clue what to think.
Anyway some Diary readers have shaken off the end-of-season lethargy sufficiently to write in. Stalwart correspondent Keith Collins reports a sighting of the lesser spotted Gallimore thus: "So there I was parked on the seafront at Cleethorpes eating fish and chips with my dear old Mum when who should be walking along the prom but none other than Mr, Mrs, and little Galli. This got me thinking that we could do a lot worse than get him and Peter Handyside back to the club. A back four of Macca Handyside Crane (or Edwards if he re-signs) and Galli might give us some stability and experience at the back in the 3rd. This is something we haven't had for two seasons or more. Still, I suppose I can dream that we even have enough players to have a back four come the opening game!" I'm not sure that Handyside has weathered the years very well, Keith, and rumour had it he was not interested in ever coming back to us, but Gallimore's fish may well be kept in a different kettle. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we.
The ever-voluble Mark Stilton has also dropped us a line claiming to have identified why modern players are behaving so erratically when it comes to contracts and transfers. Apparently today's Guardian features the headline 4,000 Brits may have mad cow agent. There must be some bullshit joke in that, but I'll leave that to you the reader. The Red Arrows have been dive-bombing our house half the morning. Nine of the buggers. Maybe I should take a look on eBay for some ack-ack firepower. They were sort of impressive, for like five minutes, but they never even waved back once. At least Groves did that. Not that I want him back of course, but I do want a manager that smiles and waves. Don't you? See yer.
Thursday 20 May
Imagine you are doing the ironing and fall into a reverie about Nigel Clough leading the Mariners to triumph in the 200910 Champions League final. Imagine the iron scorches your new Nike/Youngs shirt, which then ignites, and before you know it your house is burning down. The firefighters are on strike (as they have every right to be if their bosses have reneged on a pay agreement), so who you gonna call? Well, the Diary suggests Burton Albion chairman Ben Robinson, because if his reaction to all this 'Clough for Grimsby' speculation is anything to go by then he's pretty good at pouring cold water over things. "I don't know how ambitious he is," says Robinson of Clough, "but with him currently raising a young family and us being a part-time club, a full-time managerial job might not be what Nigel wants at this stage in his career." And even if he does want a full-time managerial job, would he really want one where teenage reserve centre-backs go around putting off potential new players by describing the club as a "shithole"?
Anyway, Keith Alexander is sure to be beating down Peter Furneaux's door now that his Lincoln side are out of the third division play-offs. O yes. The Imps looked like overturning a 2-1 first-leg deficit at Huddersfield last night with two first-half goals within the space of a minute (one scored by former Town trialist Kevin Ellison); but a gritty comeback from the Yorkshire side for whom Iffy Onuora again produced some good work levelled the scores at two-all on the night and 4-3 on aggregate. The result ensures parochial face-pulling and potato-throwing aplenty in the basement next season, with all four of Lincolnshire's professional clubs now set to kick off in Division Three.
Clough... Alexander... McMenemy... Neil Armstrong... Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart... these are all names. Possibly all names that featured in the Grimsby Telegraph poll for who should be the new GTFC manager. But probably not all names that feature on the shortlist for the job that the board drew up yesterday. "The board identified some people we would like to talk to," Mr Peter tells the Grimbo Telbo. "We must have someone who is fully committed to Grimsby." And if that means someone who doesn't live in Chesterfield, then it's got to be a start.
Veteran Town defender and hero of the First World War Mr John McDermott, you may recall, turned down moves to Bradford, Sunderland and Ipswich to stay with the Mariners, but will he be able to resist the call of the undefeated Premiership champions? GTFC's latest QXL auction is trying to scrape a few bob together by flogging the new shirts worn by the bunch of apathetic losers who just got the club relegated to the third division, but rather than appearing on the same Grimsby page as those of his teammates, Macca's shirt is listed on a page headed "QXL > Football > English Premiership Clubs : Arsenal". The Gunners may well have struggled to replace Lee Dixon, and Arsene Wenger is believed to see Lauren as the weak link in his 'Untouchables', but wouldn't Jason Crowe fancy a return to his old club instead?
Email from former Graham Hockless lookalike Mat Hare, who needs to grow a mullet to keep pace. "I'm sorry Diary but I have to pick you up on a deviation from your normal high standards of both reporting and use of the English language," writes Mat. Oh aye? "You wrote about the release of Simon Ford stating his time with Town had 'included 80-odd appearances'. I believe the use of that hyphen to be incorrect as I am of the opinion that every one of Ford's appearances included at least one moment of oddity." Space oddity, even, eh? Heh heh!
Wednesday 19 May
The Graham Hockless fan club can breathe a little easier today with the news that Peter Taylor is not among their number. Yesterday's Hull Daily Mail reported that the out-of-contract winger could have walked out on the Mariners to sign for Kingston Communications, but the KCFC manager has thrown a wet, mouldy blanket over such speculation. "That's an unlikely one," Taylor is quoted in today's HDM. "There are cetain [sic.] positions that I'm looking for, but that one is news to me." I wonder how it all began, then. I mean surely it couldn't have been the player's agent planting a story that was bound to rile Town fans in order to hurry GTFC into improving their new contract offer. No, surely not. There's absolutely no way that could have happened. No way.
What else is happening? Well, if you type www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk into your web browser right now then you get something called "this is devon", so that's not a whole lot of use. But Graham Rodger's recent interview on Mariners World has found its way onto the less rarefied plane that is Town's humble official website, allowing the Diary a belated shufty. Not that there's much there worth seeing: Rozbo offers the blinding insight that "You can't start a season with six players" and describes the issue of whether he will apply for the position of GTFC manager as "an hypothetical question at this moment in time", which is patently untrue, unless Nicky Law has handcuffed himself to the hotseat with a sleeping bag and a sign saying NOT LEAVING UNTIL FORMALLY DISMISSED. The one interesting moment is when Our Graham is asked what he said to Phil Jevons on presenting him with his player of the year award, and replies: "I would rather keep that between me and Phil." This leads the Diary to the only logical and plausible conclusion that Rodger asked Jevons: "Are you wearing the red basque and French knickers, honey, like you promised?"
Ah, the Grimsby Telegraph has started working properly now and, flash bang wallop, breaks the news of more player releases. After a three-year spell with the Mariners that included 80-odd appearances, four goals and a failed trial with Wolves, Simon Ford is taking the next space shuttle out of Cleethorpes, having failed to live up to his early promise. Perhaps a little more surprisingly, Liam Nimmo and Andy Pettinger are on their way out (what did Pettinger do wrong, exactly or is having two goalkeepers now considered a luxury?); but rather less unexpected is the confirmation that Mickael Antoine-Curier will be nothing more to the history of GTFC than a symbol of the chronic short-termism that characterised the club's decline in the early 21st century and severely marred the experience of supporting the team.
The Telegraph's stupid manager poll thing has finished, and typing www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk into your web browser now comes up with "this is south wales".
Felix Oliver-Tasker has emailed the Diary in response to yesterday's post from Si(mon) Wilson about the evils of squad numbers. "Stuck as I am in a time warp, where George Tweedy, Billy Cairns and Tommy Briggs were demi-gods," he writes, "squad numbers, shirts with players' names on them and outrageous goalkeepers' jerseys are the least of my worries. The likes of wing backs, centre-backs, up the channel and attacking full-backs, keeping the shape, etc are the terms I have difficulty in coming to terms with. I wish I really understood what it was all about. I heard a commentator on Radio 5 the other day saying that such and such a team had lost their shape. What he really meant was that they were playing crap football and were getting stuffed big time. Why do these pundits say all this garbage over the airwaves? Yes, by all means let's get back to 111 and goalkeepers in cloth caps and woolly rollneck jerseys." Aye, pay 'em tuppence farthing a year an'all, and make the buggers play wi' a bit o' coal for a ball!
Hertfordshire Mariner Mark Wilson, meanwhile, emails from "the Put Yourself in Another Man's Shoes department", to use his words. "Whilst I broadly agree with the scorn that you pour upon Wimbledon FC," he opines, "I would ask you not to be quite so vindictive. Some of us don't want to see them go out of business. Some of us live 35 minutes from the National Hockey Stadium and harbour (faint) hopes of Town being visitors to Milton Keynes so I can leave for a game at 2:00, be in the ground at 2:40 and home with a cup of tea by 6:00." When you say "some of us", Mark, what you really mean is you, isn't it? No, the Diary says boycott genetically modified football; and aren't you within spitting distance of Northampton, Rushden, Leyton Orient, Cambridge, Oxford and Wycombe anyway?
"By the way," asks Mark, "are the club ever going to fire/release the twat we have had the misfortune to call our manager?" Well, he wrote "tw*t", actually, but we're all big boys. The answer is I don't know, unless you're Graham Rodger, in which case it's just a hypothetical question.
Tuesday 18 May
If there's an expression that means the opposite of 'the icing on the cake' then Town fans could soon be searching frantically for it, as Graham Hockless practically the sole redeeming feature of the most horrible season in living memory is being linked with a move across the Humber to East Yorkshire outfit Kingston Communications. Two weeks after the Diary learned that the player's agent has received enquiries from other clubs, the Hull Daily Mail quotes Hockless as "not happy" with the offer of a new contract made by GTFC last week and also cites speculation about a move to Doncaster, who beat Hull to the third division title by four points. "Until my agent tells me about any concrete offers it is purely speculation and nothing more than that," says the 21-year-old wing wonder misleadingly. The player, of course, grew up in Hull and was on the Tahgers' books as a youngster before getting released for being too small. You'd think they'd have spotted that straight away, really, wouldn't you; although it sounds plausible enough given that most of the supposedly football-supporting population of his home city have no apparent interest in the sport when it is played in a small stadium.
From bitter pills to sour grapes, but staying with pint-sized wingers, as the Diary is compelled to record John Oster's penalty miss in last night's first division play-off semi-final second leg between Sunderland and Crystal Palace. The absurdly nicknamed Black Cats exited the promotion lottery on pens after the two sides finished extra time level on goals (though not away goals, but for some reason they don't matter in the play-offs), and their first spot-kick of the night was fluffed by the lad who sealed Town's 200203 relegation by reneging on an agreement to move back to Blundell Park permanently. I think he might even have done one of those cocky-bastard stop-start run-ups, reckoning he's Thierry Henry and all that; but I was still half asleep when I saw it on Breakfast this morning.
Iain Ward and Chris Bolder are two more names missing from Town's retained list and follow Wes Parker and several senior counterparts through Blundell Park's out door this summer. Bolder has mostly failed to live up to expectations since being intercepted at the airport last summer in a spectacular James Bond-style stunt to award him a new contract; while Ward, who failed to make the first team in the 2003-04 season, is believed to be off to uni anyway.
An anonymous email to the Diary asks: "Have you seen the 'Codalmighty has got it wrong' thread on www.gtfc-fans.co.uk?" I haven't, actually, because the Diary doesn't tend to bother reading messageboards, but let's have a look... right... so let's paraphrase: last Friday, Guest Diary wrote that Town had no chance of being reinstated to Division Two if Bradford or the Franchise go bust, because of FA or League rules or whatever; and somebody else says, no, they do, really. Well, I'll leave this one for GD to take up on Friday if he can be arsed. As far as I'm bothered, if that preposterous sham of a football club down in Milton Keynes is smashed into dust, as it so clearly deserves to be, then there will be much rejoicing and happiness in Chez Diary entirely regardless of any hypothetical or real knock-on effects for GTFC.
A somewhat less anonymous email to the Diary comes from Simon Wilson. "In Friday's Diary," he writes, "you list a Town team with the shirt numbers 1 to 11. Don't you miss such traditional numbering? Does dropping to Division Three mean we can bring it back? What is the point in squad numbers? And it's not as if we can see the players' names on the back of their shirts either." In order: yes; no; I don't know; and you're right. "Also, the club should think of the savings. In the season just gone they would have used at least 37 shirts (double if you include an away kit?), and then there's the unused subs. A switch back to 1 to 11, plus the five subs numbers = savings. Easy." Do you miss proper team numbering, or do you think Si just has too much time on his hands? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and obscene spam. Si also points out that I "forgot to mention that Danny Coyne came for the last 12 minutes of the ArsenalLeicester game, and making two really great stops in that period." Either he's missed a word out there, or the Custard Custodian has gone tantric.
Monday 17 May
What's the difference between Grimsby Town FC and the DJ at the indie night that the Diary went to on Saturday? Well, if truth be told, their differences are probably many but the one that concerns us here is that Chris didn't play CSKA Sofia but the Mariners will. Yes, despite the Diary's request, the fourth track from the first Ladytron album was not heard all night; but GTFC have contrived to land a friendly against the 28-times champions of Bulgaria. CSKA visit Blundell Park on Monday 26 July, prompting Town's official website to list "some of the European teams Town have met in the past": Bohemians of Prague, Saarbrucken, Brondby, and of course the Japanese national team. The Japanese national team? "NOT European!" chuckles the OS, bless its little cotton HTML tags.
Confused? A lot of Town fans are, if the polls about their choice of new manager are any indication. The Grimsby Telegraph ought to know that Steve Cotterill has turned down several more attractive management jobs than the Blundell Park one since being turfed out of Sunderland over a year ago; but this doesn't stop the local paper offering Cotterill's name as one of the options in its clicky-votey "who should replace Nicky Law?" thing. The Mariners' official website, meanwhile, has gone one step further still into the realms of the ridiculous, as the name of Gorgeous George Graham has come up in fourth place in its version of democracy. We're just not setting our sights high enough, though, are we? Let's see some ambition here. I reckon they should give it to John Lennon.
In case you missed it, youthful full-back Wes Parker has been released, which is a shame because the Diary always thought he looked OK, but he's been poorly, apparently. Similarly callow attacking midfield type Giovanni Carchedi has been offered a new month-to-month deal as he recovers from the nasty cruciate/patella combo that kept him out of action for almost all of the 200304 season. It's an injury, not food poisoning.
The Diary was a little befuddled at the weekend as, in fact, the Diary is most weekends; but this time it was because football still happened, despite the season being over. Some of this football, it appears, was of a play-off nature, and those who retain an unhealthy interest in the exploits of former Grimsby players will be overjoyed to note the appearance of Danny Butterfield on the scoresheet for Crystal Palace in their 3-2 win over Sunderland. They love him in south London, you know. Iffy Onuora, meanwhile, opened the scoring in Huddersfield's 2-1 win at Lincoln, so if his usefulness hasn't already been put into belated perspective for Town fans by the end-of-season form of Darren Mansaram and Mickael Antoine-Curier then at least he's done his bit to try and ensure four Lincolnshire teams in Division Three next season.
Friday 14 May
While some Town fans remain stoically wedged behind plant pots in seedy Lincolnshire hotels, hoping to catch sight of Mr Furneaux furtively conducting managerial interviews, a few others made a practice run for next season to Glanford Park to see the Grimsby Town first team lose the Lincs Cup final to a team representing the flower of Scunthorpe youth. The official site match reporter dashed off a hasty match report which I hereby quote verbatim: "United win 8-7 on pens. The Mariners took the lead on 57 mins, Chris Bolder rising at the far post to head home a Barnard cross from the left. Hayes put the Iron level on 74 mins, bundling the ball past substitute keeper Paul Fraser." For the conspiracy theorists the OS reported the Town starting line up as: 1. Davison, 2. Crowe, 3. Barnard, 4. Bolder, 5. Crane, 6. Ford, 7. Hockless, 8. Campbell, 10. Jevons, 9. Mansaram, 11. Anderson.
Mr Furneaux has also announced that Messrs Hockless, Rowan, Young, Mansaram and Wheeler have been offered new contracts. He has also sent a public hint, via the Town website, that they should make their minds up pretty damn quick. Given the rate at which other clubs are releasing players, I can follow his gist. The Diary reported the clanking caused by the mass shackle release at Oakwell the other day. That has been quickly followed by an even bigger mob being pushed out of the gates of the prison which is Hillsborough. The Owls released 13 players yesterday, including the obligatory ex-Town man in the form of Terry Cooke. Notts County have let nine go; Brentford have scrapped their reserve team
oh, and Veron has requested a transfer. Volatile days indeed.
So that Furneaux announcement has doubtless left many fans scratching their heads as to the wisdom of offering Flash a chance to continue his professional football career. They say his confidence is knocked; that he needs basic coaching; that he needs to gain weight; to get fit; the advice is seemingly endless. Well, as my old Dad would have said, "He bloody needs summat, mate!" Rowan, meantime, skulks on, glad that Mansaram is taking all the heat. The conspiracy theorists babble on, dissecting whether the incoming manager will have been consulted on these contracts, or whether the Town board has set up a fait accompli they are cheap and they are signed. Work with them. Speaking personally (as one always does, actually) I couldn't possibly comment.
Normally dour Electronic Fishcake reporter Rob Sedgwick has published a piece excitedly claiming that if Bradford go bust and/or Wimbledon don't do a deal with the taxman, then Town won't be relegated. He ends with the statement: "This has not been confirmed with the Football league." League Rule 12.4 explains that when a club drops out of Divisions One or Two during the close season it will be replaced by an extra club being promoted from the lower division. So it's the likes of Huddersfield and Bristol City who should be excited, I'm afraid, Rob. Glad to see that you have such empathy with the Valley Parade fans anyway, mate.
As regular readers will know, your Guest Diarist lives in deepest south Lincolnshire. But that doesn't stop him being accosted by QPR fans during his morning constitutional with the dog. "I bet you're sick!" he grinned. "So how come you support QPR anyway?" I asked this born-and-bred yellowbelly. "Ah," he muttered, "they asked me who I supported at school when I was a nipper, and I didn't know. So I read the paper that night and picked the team with the longest name." As you do, as you do. Well, it's been a long sad week, gentle readers; keep smiling, and keep praying for that miracle whatever you think that it should be. I'm so punch-drunk I can't even think of one to ask for. See yer.
Thursday 13 May
If you're not miserable enough already this week, the Diary has a tale to tell which will likely plunge you into such paroxysms of despair as would make Leonard Cohen sound like Kris Akabusi exhaling nitrous oxide. Cast your mind back, reader, to 28 April, when Town were still a second division football club, and to a reserves fixture against Doncaster, which saw a young trialist on the Mariners' left wing: one Simon Hackney, who has bagged 17 goals for Woodley Sports this season in the North West Counties League and attracted the interest of several league clubs. On his arrival in the BP changing room, the player - a graduate of Liverpool's youth academy - had got chatting to a small young central defender on Town's books, who was also turning out for the stiffs that afternoon. "Where are you from?" asks small young central defender. Simon explains that his residence is in the Greater Manchester area. "What the fucking hell are you doing coming all this way to a shithole club like this then?" demands small young central defender. Hackney was also due to turn out for Town's reserves against Boston last Wednesday and in tonight's Lincolnshire Cup final against Scunthorpe, but did not play at York Street and will not now be appearing tonight having secured a trial with another club.
Also taking no part in tonight's match is Paul Groves, whose short-term contract with the Iron is not being renewed. The GTFC legend joined Scunny as a player in February after his dismissal as Town manager and netted three times in thirteen appearances but is not among the names on Brian Laws' retained list, which was announced yesterday. Probably for the best; had he been named to turn out against the Mariners this evening, Groves would inevitably have had the game of his life.
One man who will be among the 22 on duty at Glanford Park this evening, however, is Aidan Davison. The fading custodian has been out of action with muscle rip since the win over Luton in February but returns to duty tonight; a good job, too, with Alan Fettis having gone back to Hull and Andy Pettinger still suffering finger crack.
Given the number of times they are cited as knowing something blindingly obvious, all the tribes in the heart of the Peruvian jungle must surely now have been discovered. Either way, even they have emailed the Diary to say Nicky Law won't be kept on as Grimsby manager, and the rumours they are a-flyin' as to the identity of Law's replacement. Peter bleedin' Shirtliffe? Do me a lemon. Town's official website is all "Meeting? What meeting?" and so there's not a lot further we can go with that right now. Mr Furneaux? Telephone call from Mr Buckley...
Wednesday 12 May
More overpriced text messages saying "Phil Jevons" have recently reached Grimsby Town Football Club than bore the name of any other player, and so for his half a dozen decent games in this heartbreaker of a season, the eternally popular Scouse forward has been named 200304 player of the year. The reliable defending of Mike Edwards, meanwhile one of the few recent bright spots in this time of bleakness saw him named Cod Almighty player of the year at last night's Winter Gardens awards ceremony. The least closely contested of the many gongs dished out appears to have been the young player of the year award, which was claimed at a canter by everyone's favourite variably-haired winger Graham Hockless. "It's been frustrating to be on the bench and only play a bit part each week but that's how it goes sometimes," said the allegedly Doncaster-bound 21-year-old. "I'd like to think I deserved a run but it didn't work out like that with either Paul Groves or Nicky Law." Hockless also scoops today's Diary award for most significant use of the past tense.
On the subject of Law's widely anticipated departure from Blundell Park, which was expected to be announced following today's board meeting, it will not be announced following today's board meeting. "There are no plans for an official announcement after this meeting," says an official announcement on Town's official website, right now. Just get it over with, will you, for heaven's sake.
While the world waits for Michael Boulding to score his first goal for Barnsley and waits... and waits - two other former Mariners are on their way back out of Oakwell after just one season. Peter Handyside and Tony Gallimore, who both joined the South Yorkshire side on free transfers last summer, are not named on the club's retained list and find themselves free agents once again, raising hope among nostalgic North East Lincolnshireites that the defensive twosome might be persuaded to rejoin GTFC. Yea, even Gally, for after this season of watching shrugging, here-today gone-tomorrow journeymen, even some of the most fervent detractors of the lager-boy left-back can now be heard to utter: "Well, he might have been a crap defender, but at least he was our crap defender."
Tuesday 11 May
GTFC drop their heaviest hint yet that Nicky Law's calamitous tenure at Blundell Park will not be extended after he set the controls for the heart of Division Three. In a footnote to a page on the club's official website about the contractual status of players, it is revealed that Graham Rodger whose popularity among Town fans has seen a mysterious and dramatic rise since early March will take charge of the Mariners side that travels to Glanford Park on Thursday night for the Lincolnshire Cup final against Scunthorpe (there's always someone worse off than yourself). No official announcement will be made, however, before Wednesday's board meeting. Elsewhere on the site it is claimed that "Town will be taking their first-team squad to face the Iron," which only begs the question "What first-team squad?" But the OS reminds us that among the players contracted until the end of May is Mickael Antoine-Curier, which says more about Law's period in charge than the Diary ever could.
If the Lincolnshire Echo is to be believed then the meagre playing resources that remain at the Mariners' disposal could soon be supplemented by the admirable 38-year-old form of Neil Redfearn. Perhaps best known for his glorious contribution to Barnsley's mayfly-like Premiership season in the late 90s, the creaking midfielder has just been released by Rochdale, where he signed a short-term deal after leaving Boston in March when Steve 'Dodgy' Evans went back. "Grimsby's frailties have been well-documented and somebody like Neil could help shore that up," is how the Echo backs up its frankly tenuous-looking story, which is not only a badly constructed sentence but is also attributed only to "a source close to the club". This could, of course, mean John Fenty himself, but is equally likely to signify the kid who flips Whoppers at the McDonalds on Grimsby Road.
As if Ben Thatcher's sudden fondness for leeks and male voice choirs were not enough, you might think Town's newly acquired third division status would prove the death knell for Darren Barnard's place in the Wales squad. You'd be bloomin' wrong, though, chief! Mark Hughes has retained Town's out-of-contract left-back in the eclectic set of footballers that will represent the principality in Norway on 27 May and at home to Canada three days later. Dar-Bar's chances of kicking a ball in either match look remote, however, given not only the player's indifferent recent form but the competition from Thatcher, Crewe's David Vaughan and Newcastle's Gary Speed.
Another former Town left-back, Ben Chapman, is among eight players released by third division peers Boston. The Scunthorpe-born short-arse, whose finest hour in a black and white shirt was the legendary League Cup win at Liverpool in 2001, joined the Pilgrims on a free transfer two years ago but is set for an anxious summer after his club announced its retained list yesterday. Nimble goalkeeper Steve Croudson, who signed for Boston last summer after his surprise release by the Mariners, is another who is packing his bags at York Street.
It's all a bit sad, isn't it? Let's have some good news. Did you know, for instance, that Town play in the best-attended sporting competition in Europe? No, not the Lincolnshire Cup: the Football League. That's the crafty spin being put on the news that attendances in England's second, third and fourth tiers of professional togger are at their highest since Rubber Soul came out, with a total of 15.9 million clicks of the turnstile this season. At a time when men in suits wag their fingers more vigorously than ever while they tell us we can't have full-time football outside the top two divisions, the statistics pay warm tribute to the unique strength and richness of our nation's football culture. "Division Two attendances are now more than double the equivalent Leagues in Italy and Germany and more than three times those in France," proclaims the League's website with justified pride. Crowds in the third division, meanwhile, rose by a tremendous 21 per cent this season, of which surely not all can be attributable to East Yorkshire stadium fetishists.
Monday 10 May
You know when your party has ended early because two of your guests have had a fight; several others have burst into tears; and you're removing bottletops and fragments of Pringle from the carpet? That'll be Blundell Park today, where Mr Nicky Law has gone to "do the things I have to do with the players." The man who undid Graham Rodger's good work is, he says, uncertain as to whether the club will give him a chance to make amends in Division Three (if the club does, then the fans certainly won't), and in the meantime he "will need to relay the information I've got from the board regarding contracts. Someone has to tell them when they've got to return to work." That's the players, not the board. "I'll then go on a course and we'll see what happens." The Diary's contact at Chesterfield College, however, has this morning confirmed that no places are left on next year's GNVQ in Being Remotely Any Good at Managing a Footy Team.
In local newspaper reports on Saturday's match, the Grimsby Telegraph suffers the same fate as the Mariners, being easily outfought by the Liverpool Daily Post. Riby Square's finest can manage only such phrases as "a torrid roller-coaster of a season" while their opposite numbers from Merseyside have made the unforgettable observation that "There is no sight quite so forlorn as a man dressed as a halibut with his head hung low."
Other titbits that have bobbed up today in the Diary's news paddling pool include the matter of Graham Hockless' future with GTFC. The young winger has had fans clamouring for his inclusion in the first team this season, mostly to little avail, and could be on his way out of Blundell Park this summer, as not only is Hockless out of contract; his agent has received nibbles from more than one other league club. To be guaranteed a fee, Town must move quickly to offer the player a new contract on at least his existing terms; otherwise we're looking at another Butterfield cock-up.
Meanwhile, Premiership Portsmouth a side the Mariners used to beat quite regularly as recently as two years ago have at last agreed to cough up the £100k 'parachute payment' that should have come Town's way this time last year now that their top-flight status is secured for another 12 months. Which is nice of them, although the way 'Pompey' have been allowed to choose their own moment to abide by the agreement to pay proves once again that football has one rule for the poor and no rules for the rich.
Finally today, the Diary is pleased to hear from Paul Thundercliffe, though the content of his email is somewhat less than uplifting. "No fight, no spirit," he writes. "Those aren't my words, or those of any of the magnificent travelling support, but the words of Tranmere goalie John Achterberg. Speaking exclusively to me and me mate Christian in dead trendy Liverpool bar Revolution on Saturday night, he was surprised by our lack of fight. He claimed he was not worried by the ricochet that nearly changed everything, and he has got really small hands for a goalkeeper. I know, because I measured them against mine. The whole fucking Tranmere squad were in the bar enjoying themfuckingselves, so I had a word with Ian Hume, who really is very small shouldn't somebody have outjumped him? The funny-haired midfielder said he was 'sorry' for relegating us, but that he 'had a job to do.' Which is fair enough. Thing was, it wasn't even a hard job was it. Surprised if he even sweated."
Are you reading, Nicky Law? When you've finished vacuuming the floor, close the door on your way out.
Saturday 8 May
First off, the Diary apologises: he is stuck in traffic on his way home from the Tranmere match. He most certainly won't apologise that he, probably like a few Town fans, intends to get roaring drunk on his arrival home. Still, at least he's been as consistent with his watering habits this season as Town's defence has been watertight. Which leaves CA's Leeds office to round up the day's events: Town finish the day 21st in Division Two, ushering them to a season playing the likes of Scunthorpe next season.
The day starts brightly at Tranmere as the Mariners unexpectedly, and bravely, take their fate into their own hands when Darren Mansaram latches onto Isaiah Rankin's blocked shot to grab a 24th-minute lead. Any chance of second-half parity, and therefore a positive outcome, is removed with the half-time introduction of Eugene Dadi, enlivening Tranmere's attacking no end. Iain Hume's smartly-taken header on 57, Ian Stamps' second booking for a foul on Mansaram on 60, and Dadi's finish from Hume's intelligent pass round off an eventful four minutes to which the Mariners have no response. Even the eventual introduction of the continually overlooked and underused Graham Hockless (doing that 'arriving in the 66th minute' lark again) has no effect as Town seemingly forget they hold a one-man advantage for the last third of the match.
The result, married with Chesterfield's 1-0 win over Luton, sees the hope of the past week rendered all but false, as - the irony, the irony - Nicky Law's old team leapfrog us to safety.
Radio Humberside's post-match hour features a sombre interview with Stace Coldicott and a rather grating interview from a Town 'supporter' who says the players got what they deserved, hopes Town lose every game next season, get relegated to the Conference, and he won't be going to a game. If relegation gets rid of whinging, spineless twats like that then there may yet be a silver lining to the past two seasons' shambles.
Nicky Law says he'll be "back in the office on Monday" to inform a few players of their contracts, but he's then off on a course, and possibly into the unknown. But let's think about that tomorrow, shall we. I think I might follow the Diary's lead and crack open a brew. If I were your physician, I'd recommend you do the same.
Friday 7 May
Now then. Let me take care of business first off, gentle reader, 'afore I forget. Phil Shackleton from Brahm wrote in yesterday, enquiring as to why Si Wilson has gone AWOL from work. Well, Phil, Simon doesn't write this diary, but I do happen to know he's been proper poorly this week. I've suggested to him a cool flannel and some goose grease rubbed in the right places, but more importantly, told him to "wear your vest in future like your Nanna told you!"
An eerie feeling of calm has descended 24 hours before the now ritual and annual Town relegation crunch game. It's a long and awkward journey but, with typical gallows humour, an estimated 2,000 Town fans are preparing to trek across to Prenton to watch our beloved club battle to attain 20th place in Division Two. The match has taken on David versus Goliath proportions, with Tranmere enjoying a cracking run which culminated in Brian Little winning Manager of the Month last weekend, while Town have been concentrating very hard this season on being inconsistent, crap, and er
The former led Mike Dunderdale to write in to the Diary, exclaiming: "Surely we're safe as the curse of Manager of the Month must strike this weekend." There must be some truth in that adage though, as the bookies at Marinersbet are offering quite remarkable betting odds on the match with Tranmere odds against the home win at 11/10, with 13/5 the draw and Town at a miserly 7/4 for the crucial away win they need. Considering Town's away record of almost no points for as long as I can remember, there must be something in it.
The Tranmere offical site claims that Town's secret weaponry may include Tranmere reject Des Hamilton, obviously having failed to notice that our Disco is twinkling his toes in the Conference these days. It also reports, as does the Liverpool Echo, that Brian Little is giving Town a sporting chance by refusing to consider five of his senior squad for tomorrow's game. Apparently Brian had stuck a squiggle next to their names as players he won't need after his big summer reshuffle. This will allegedly see top stars attracted to the club following their mercurial rise to 10th spot in Division Two. Never one to keep a secret, he's blurted out the names before the end of the season, resulting in a minor dip in morale among the ones to be dumped. The other factor, I assume, is that he's thinking that the last game doesn't matter, and anyway, it's only Grimsby.
So no final fling for the likes of Micky Mellon, Sean Connelly, Shane Nicholson, Graham Allen or Alex Hay. Brian also explains just how damn popular a chap he is, saying: "It's not taking anything away from the way we want to approach Saturday's game, it is saying that we will be putting our very best team out based on everybody's mentality and I will despite having some friends at Grimsby try to beat them, but I also have friends at Chesterfield and everywhere else so the most important thing for me to do is to make sure the players that are playing this weekend know that next season starts for them on Saturday."
On the other hand Mr Nicky Law went up a tad in your Guest Diarist's estimation yesterday in an interview on the Grimsby official site. Paraphrasing, he said that Town need to give it 'hell for leather for ninety minutes' and they had bought a 'ticket to ride' last week. No talk of ugly anything, and welcome news that there are no new injury worries.
Indeed, Armstrong and Young will be vying for the spot vacated by Crane due to suspension, so we even have a full hand of substitutes to pick from. And if Mariners World is right, they may even include John McDermott, who is reported to be begging for a chance to play. Unlike Martin Keown, who is ingratiating his way towards another Premiership winner's medal by a series of cameo substitute appearances at the dog end of the season, Macca is obviously looking to add to his very long list of appearances in vital promotion/relegation matches for Grimsby Town. Hell for leather is a nice way to describe tomorrow's match, and I must confess that sentiment leads me to secretly hope that Macca leads the team out tomorrow, even if Crowe replaces him at half time.
The referee tomorrow sounds like a worry, as our Refwatch report explains:
The referee for Saturday's decisive game at Tranmere will be Mr Clive Penton from Woodindean. Woodinwhere? Woodindean, Sussex. Most recently officiating Reading's 1-0 'Ginger Day' win over West Brom last Saturday, Mr Penton will take charge of his 28th game of the season. In Mr Penton's 27 games this season his third as a referee - he has issued 92 yellows and 13 reds. Or an above-average 3.41 bookings per game and a red card every other game. (This is above Mr Penton's career average of 3.25 bookings per game.)
Looking at the number of times the away team has won this season under his gaze you might lose heart: just five in all divisions. The away team hasn't won even one of Mr Penton's eight second division clashes, seven of those encounters ending in home wins. Having said that, this isn't the first time Town have encountered Mr Penton. Previously he took charge of the Mariners' 2-1 victory at Stoke in November 2002. A quick trawl through into the Cod Almighty archives reveals that our ace match reporter, Tony Butcher, awarded him 5.984 after a tidy first half but an erratic second half. Steve Livingstone and Stuart Campbell's quickly-taken free-kick helped Town on their way that day. Let's hope Town grab another away win with this man in charge, so it will be a case of Stay Up the Mariners."
So, wherever you are at 3pm tomorrow, shout up for the Mariners. Games like this are what supporting Town's all about. See yer.
Thursday 6 May
Trial midfielder Steven Webb "showed some good touches" in Town reserves' 2-1 win at Boston last night, reports the club's official website, adding that Liam Nimmo and Nick Hegarty (the latest spelling of his name) were the spunky young bucks responsible for the goals. Webb, who turned up yesterday from Nottingham Forest hoping to restore the prestige of his surname in the North East Lincolnshire area, will appear again in the stiffs' final outing of the season at Scunthorpe next week as will Simon Hackney, who turned out for the second string against Doncaster last week but didn't appear at York Street. Hackney is a 20-year-old left-winger from North West Counties Football League outfit Woodley Sports, for whom he has scored a none too shoddy 17 goals this season.
Fondly remembered former Mariners loanee Andy Todd, who left Charlton and Bolton after training ground bust-ups with other players, has raised his sights for his latest rumpus by clashing with his current manager, noted hardcase Graeme Souness. The Blackburn centre-half was reportedly told he would play against Leeds on 10 April but lost his place to Craig Short, not to mention his rag with Souness, and has not featured in a first-team game since. Todd is now expected to leave Ewood Park. The Diary, meanwhile, is going to stop typing and spend a few moments remembering what it was like to see a defender in a Town shirt who could actually defend.
Mmmmm. It was good.
Now then, if somebody knocked on the Diary's front door and offered me a million quid, I'd have their hand off, but maybe that's why I don't run Scunthorpe United. The Mariners' struggling neighbours have received a £1m nibble from a consortium fronted by the respected former FA compliance officer Graham Bean, says BBC Humber, half of which astronomical sum would have been made available for team strengthening, but recently returned Iron chairman Steve Wharton has sent his would-be successors packing. Supporters are said to be disappointed but not surprised given Wharton's sense of judgement: this being the man who reappointed Brian Laws as manager six weeks after his dismissal, restarting the club's spectacular plunge down the third division table.
To tell you the truth, in all this excitement we'd kinda forgotten about this Saturday's crucial critical crunch crescendo at Tranmere, for which GTFC have now shifted a tremendous 1,500 tickets. All the buses are full, too which is good news for the environment but they might lay some more on. We'll have balloons; Tranmere won't even have Micky Mellon, who is injured; and with the Telegraph reporting that even "Grimsby-based Liverpool fans" are rallying behind Town, the Mariners will have the backing not only of real football supporters but of pretend ones as well. How can we fail? Thanks for sticking with the Diary during this most traumatic of seasons; now let's do the same by our club regardless of Saturday's outcome.
Wednesday 5 May
In the same week that Julie Fleeting's outstanding hat-trick for Arsenal in the FA Cup final grabbed some overdue headlines for women's football, the Mariners' women's side has been doing its bit to prove they can match their blokey counterparts blow for blow. The Yorkshire and Humberside League Cup final, which they lost 3-2 to North Ferriby United, was enlivened by a serious blast of female fisticuffs, reports today's Sun (neglecting two of the crucial 'W's of journalism by not stating when or where the match took place). Not content with having kicked seven shades out of each other in a melιe which followed the final whistle, the players then proceeded to lay into a number of unfortunate spectators. The Diary understands that the match programme carried player profiles of several members of the Town team who answered the question: "Which member of the Grimsby Town men's team do you most admire?" by saying: "Tony Crane."
Last time Town acquired a midfielder called Webb from Nottingham Forest, it didn't work out all that well, and so it is to be hoped fervently that Steven of that name, a 19-year-old kid registered with the Trentside club, tears up some trees where his predecessor failed to even trim the grass. The lad is set to appear for the Mariners' second string at Boston tonight, proclaims the club's official site, and "apparently acquitted himself very well against Svetoslav Todorov" in a reserve fixture against Portsmouth last week. Forest's OS reveals that young Webb's favourite films are Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction, his preferred form of nourishment is pizza, and his interests are "golf, music and socialising." He must have let himself down a bit on the hobbies; golf's not very popular around here.
Supporters traversing the breadth of England for the Mariners' final reckoning at Tranmere this Saturday can get there for just a tenner on one of the "discounted coaches" being organised by Bernard Morley from the old Grimsby Town Supporters Club. Yeah, a tenner! "We are also hoping to get some balloons available so that we can create a great atmosphere for the team," GTFC accounts manager Steve Wraith tells the Grimmo Tello, in a funny, high-pitched voice like you get from breathing helium. The club has sold almost 1,000 tickets already, so the Diary really hopes Mark Stilton has already sorted mine out for me, and fans wishing to book a place on the cheap buses are required to give the Bernster a bell (his number is given on Town's OS). It's all quite funny, really I always thought Town's discounted coach was Nicky Law.
Speaking of whom, Pat Bell writes: "I'll add my name to the list of people responding by saying Nick Law probably won't be our manager if we're in Division Three." Diligent readers will glean from this, given that yesterday's Diary appealed for reasons why relegation might not be such a bad thing, that Pat is no admirer of Town's unhirsute managerial maestro. "Way back in the seventies," he adds, "I remember reading that Grimsby were one of comparatively few clubs that have played a league match against every other league team. A couple of successful decades and the advent of automatic promotion from the Conference put paid to that. In Divison Three, we can look forward, like glorified groundhoppers, to knocking Macclesfield, Kidderminster and Boston off our list." You see, readers? Every cloud, and all that. Mind you, I got absolutely drenched on the way back from the curry house last night. Silver lining, my arse.
Tuesday 4 May
The Diary has been banned from DIY since a certain ill-fated laminate flooring project left the front room looking like a Baghdad bowling alley believed by American forces to be harbouring anti-coalition fighters. But if Mrs Diary needs a hand with her latest endeavours in decorating then she could do a fair bit worse than turn to Mariners chairman and Motorhead fan Peter Furneaux. For why? Well, in a brief interview with Town's official website in which he analyses the club's current malaise, pays lavish tribute to the new sponsor, and ruminates on the insuperable geographical limitations that will hold back the club forever PF shows himself more than capable of hitting the nail right on the head. "The only way Grimsby Town is going to move forward is through income that we generate," observes the chairman, "and we can only generate so much in this area we can't spend more than that. But that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever."
Rockin' Pete F's assertion that "We are still one of the top clubs in the area" could be under threat as Lincolnshire neighbours Boston threaten plans to build a new 45,000-capacity all-seater arena on the shore of The Wash. Well, not quite. But Pilgrims owner Jon Sotnick has announced that the club is likely to begin moves to relocate from its current ground after a consultation thingy is completed in July. "I look around York Street and the facilities we offer are not up to the standard I want fans to be able to enjoy," is his rationale. Having attended Town's friendly at Boston last summer, the Diary is not quite sure to what facilities Sotnick could be referring, since there seemed to be a perfectly adequate space in which to stand and watch football.
"The pair had both been expected to miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder and torn thigh respectively. But they have returned to light training in a race to get match fit for the relegation decider." Your guess is as good as mine is as good as that of the increasingly erratic Grimsby Telegraph website, which seems to have overlooked the need for an opening paragraph, but the Diary is going to guess at John McDermott and Greg Young.
Probably nine times out of ten, when the Telegraph uses the word 'swamped', it is trying to make people hate asylum seekers and blame them for the woes of the world instead of looking at millionaire businessmen who spend half their lives on golf courses and pay their workers the minimum wage. Today, though, it does so to characterise the plight of the GTFC ticket office, which has apparently been overrun with fans wishing to attend this weekend's epoch-defining away game at Tranmere Rovers. Tickets went on sale at 9 o'clock this morning and the Telegraph suggests, perhaps a little fancifully, that all 2,100 will get shifted; there again, it adds that the club is looking at running buses to the match, and it's not every day Grimbarians are arsed enough about their football club for that sort of extravagance to reach the agenda.
Finally today, an email from Miles Moss calls attention to a breathtaking piece of investigative journalism from the BBC, which offers the dazzling revelation that "Leeds supporters have trips to the likes of Rotherham and Crewe to look forward to next season after their relegation to Division One." Well, yeah, MM, but what's this got to do with the Mariners? "Last year this would have read '...the likes of Grimsby'," Miles points out. "Relegation to Division Two was a PR masterstroke by the club as a whole, avoiding such awkward and embarrassing lazy journalism. A further drop to the third division only gets us further away from the usual poor sports hackery, and should be welcomed." This strikes the Diary as precisely the kind of 'my cup is half full' spirit we need, and readers are invited to email email@example.com further suggestions as to why Town should welcome Division Three with open arms.
Monday 3 May
Quintessential Town lump Tony Crane, of whom any Californians visiting Blundell Park might be forgiven for observing: "That is one big-ass defender!", will miss his team's crucial final outing of the season at Tranmere next Saturday after his booking at Stockport on 24 April took his yellow cards tally for the season to a nice round 15 to go with his two reds. The Prenton Park game in which the Mariners must match or better the points gained by Rushden and Chesterfield on the same day in order to stay up will be the eighth this season where the Mariners have had to get by without Crane's distinctive style of play; and supporters will mostly be hoping that Paul Warhurst is preferred to Simon Ford as a replacement in the heart of the defence.
Another positive omen ahead of the trip to the Wirral comes in the form of a manager of the month award for Tranmere boss Brian Little. As Division Two's current form side, Rovers took 16 points from a possible 18 in April. "Had their run come a little earlier, I am sure Tranmere might have sneaked into the play-offs," is the script handed to some suit from the building society that sponsors the Football League in an effort to make it look like he knows anything about football.
"I first saw him when I was with Chesterfield. We played against Huddersfield and he absolutely tore our left-back to pieces. He could not handle him whatever he did... He's a natural wide man. He has pace to burn... He needs to come here and prove his worth and that's the type of player we are looking for... He is a good age and a good pedigree and is here for the right reasons." Less than two months after Nicky Law made John Thorrington sound like the Second Coming, the player is out of Blundell Park and looking for a new club, having managed just two starts for the Mariners. Fans pointed out when Thorrington arrived that there seemed little point signing him when we already had Graham Hockless, and one presumes, now that Law has finally got round to watching the reserves, that he has at last realised the same thing.
Thorrington's departure reminds the Diary of the reason given by Peter Furneaux for making Law manager: that Graham Rodger "needed to bring in other players" but "didn't have the connections". Of the four players the Bouncer has brought in, two have been useless and only Jamie Lawrence looks like making any kind of meaningful contribution to Town's survival bid. Mr Furneaux, if you've lost Alan Buckley's phone number, then Cod Almighty can pass it on to you.
Saturday 1 May
Town sneak out of the bottom four with a hard-fought win over Brentford at Blundell Park - but for the second week in a row, it needs the introduction of Graham Hockless as a substitute to get the Mariners onto the scoresheet. Following his awesome goal at Stockport last Saturday, this time the young winger turns provider with a sweet stepover and a delicious deep cross for Isaiah Rankin to head the winner on 70 minutes (precisely the same time at which Hockless netted at Edgeley Park). A good crowd of 6,856 can barely contain its delight, with an old-fashioned pitch invasion at the final whistle and the players coming back out to milk the applause as if Town have already stayed up. But anything less than three points at Tranmere next Saturday will allow Chesterfield and Rushden the chance to pip the Mariners to second division safety by notching wins of their own.
Brian's in the basement mixing up the medicine, and Scunthorpe's league status is confirmed despite yet another defeat, as York and Carlisle are relegated to the Conference with a week to spare, while wobbly old Hull finally secure promotion to the second division with a 2-1 win at Yeovil. All of which seeming irrelevance guarantees Town at least one genuine derby match next season, regardless of events next weekend, for the first time in about 15 years.