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Diary - December 2005
Saturday 31 December
Hello from Cod Almighty's Leeds office. The room where the radio that receives Radio Humberside sits in a room that is currently being "flea bombed", and - in the absence of a gas mask - out of bounds. The club's official matchday commentary fails to connect, just for a change. So, an afternoon relying on the BBC videprinter, Five Live and the club's official SMS text message service. With the game in its dying moments time to rattle out a quick new year's eve diary. Talking of the SMS service there goes my phone... Oooo! Is it a late winner for Town or Wrexham? It's... It's... It's... Michael Reddy scoring the equaliser half an hour ago. So much for the action as it happens.
But wait! Five Live have just said that Town have scored! HOORAY! Paul Bolland's been sent off! GAH! A quick look at the OS shows that Town's hero is established goal machine Glen Downey, which takes his tally this season to a goal in every other apperance (or, even better, one goal in 85 minutes). Is it too late to get this man a new year's knighthood? Further reading explains that Paul Bolland hasn't actually been sent off: "After consulting the fourth official the referee realised his mistake - that he hadn't booked Bolland already - and so the sending off decision was wiped out by the match official." Phew. Right at the end of the game, Wrexham did have a player sent off and Stevie Mildenhall was "attacked by a Wrexham fan who had run on to the pitch." Excitement and drama in Wales, eh! If you saw it, let us know with your eyewitness accounts.
All of which means that's three wins on the bounce for Town during the Chrimbo hols, their best festive sequence since, oooo, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Resultantly this leaves affairs at the top of division four the same as 1:30 this afternoon, when Wycombe kicked off their eventual win over Brizzle Rovers. The Chairboys have 48 points, Town have 46, and Leyton Orient are a further three points adrift after a 1-0 victory over Notts County. Town's next opponents, Carlisle, ground out a 2-1 win over Rochdale.
Your diarist is rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of entering 2006 with the Mariners flying so high. Well done to the lads for a cracking start to the season, and a big up to Russ for defying all his many knockers (one of which would have been me in the summer). Monday's game should be a belting cracker.
So, since my daughter seems to be screaming that she's stepped into her full potty, I'll leave the last words to the club's official
pissy pithy SMS service: Glen Downey has scored; Paul Bolland has been sent off. Er, can I have my 10p back for that Bolland sending off please?
Up the Mariners!
Friday 30 December
Apologies (a word I haven't been able to pronounce properly ever since seeing Hugh Lawrie's Blackadder cameo) for the lateness of the guest Diary today. I've been sitting here all day waiting for the Town tickertape to tip up something noteworthy, but it's been one of those days, hasn't it. A bit weird to have a slow one when there's a game every two days. Still, let's rip at the almost-bare bones of this turkey carcass and see what falls off to make news soup with.
On Mariners World today, Grezz 'Graham Rodgers' Rodger sports a festive elfy hat in a very laid-back interview in which he reveals that beating Lincoln was a good thing, beating Wrexham won't be easy, Wrexham is quite far away, and... I'm not sure what he says after that - his pointy hat was distracting me. Ooh, look - Ciaran Toner, so it is, what aboit yer. More revealing stuff: beating Lincoln was a good thing, he was pleased to score the first goal, and... good Lord, they cut him off halfway through a sentence at the end. How rude.
Anyhows: hooray! Third-placed Leyton Orient lost last night... but hang on... booo! Wycombe was the team what beat them, pushing Town back into silver medal position in the fourth division race. But hooray again! We only have to wait until tomorrow to get back on top, supposing north Wales doesn't freeze overnight. Early team news reads as it did a couple of days ago: Macca and Kalala won't play; Slade is likely to name the same team as before. Bit lazy, really, isn't it.
Right, that's it. If I wait for more news to come through, this Friday diary will be on Saturday, and it'll all get very confusing. Byeee!
Thursday 29 December
It had everything: a tense build-up, a lot of commitment and skill, and ultimately a successful result. But enough about GTFC's annual general meeting; let's move on to last night's victory over Lincoln, made possible by three ace goals from Ciaran Toner, Michael Reddy and Andy Parkinson, in that order, and a pre-match strop from Keith Alexander, who was outraged that the match was allowed to go ahead on a snow-dusted playing surface. Yeah, like his team ever keeps the ball on the playing surface long enough for it to matter. City looked a shadow of the team that swept to a 4-2 victory at Blundell Park last season and the biggest obstacle to Town's prospects of a sixth league home win this season was the heavy snow shower that began at half time and had home fans frantically asking each other how much of an abandoned match needs to have been played before the score is allowed to stand as a result. The result returns the Mariners to the top of the fourth division after an absence of two and a half months, and if Wycombe fail to beat Orient tonight then Town can enjoy the view from the top for the rest of the year.
John Fenty has, unsurprisingly, been successful in his bid to invest more money in GTFC and take his stake above 50 per cent without having to offer to buy everyone else out. At the club's annual general meeting today, shareholders voted in favour of the Town chairman's proposal by a margin of 110,000 to 0 – which, incidentally, is also what the final score would have been last night if the Mariners had spent the second half trying to score more goals rather than not get injured. It also makes me wish Cod Almighty had voted against it now, instead of in favour, just to be the only people who did. So if Fenty sells Blundell Park tomorrow, then closes down the club and uses the proceeds to buy himself a villa in San Tropez, don't come crying to me.
If you just can't stand the wait for Parky's fantastic goal against Lincoln to appear on Mariners World then why not while away the time by watching the highlights of the AGM? Footage of the meeting will be available shortly in a "World Exclusive", the emphasis here presumably being that Mariners World is the only place you can watch it, rather than that the AGM is not expected to be screened to packed bars in Guatemala and the United Arab Emirates. It is hoped that commentary will be added in the style of GTFC's season highlights videos, with fans anticipating gems such as "My money's on John Fenty!", "Fenty won't win this vote... oh! He does do!", and "I'm not taking this coat off now! It's covering up the fact that I haven't got a tie on, which would get me ejected from McMenemy's immediately!"
Finally today, Darren Mansaram – who we all thought left Town on a permanent transfer to Halifax halfway through last season – is listed by the Mariners' official website as a current GTFC player on loan to Worksop. Do they know something we don't?
Wednesday 28 December
The closest thing we get to a bank holiday derby match all season, and it's probably not going to happen. Today's Diary comes to you from my mum's front room as this year's post-Xmas family visit looks likely to end five hours early with a 4pm pitch inspection at Blundell Park ahead of tonight's scheduled visit by county neighbours Lincoln 'Keithball' City (Town's official website says "over night snow... has protected the Blundell Park playing surface from and frosts" and gets the name of the referee wrong). After heavy snowfall last night and earlier today the skies have cleared up and there seems a vague prospect of thawage, but you know how it is these days: by 7:45 tonight the pitch will be perfectly playable but the match will probably be postponed because of anticipated parking difficulties for travelling fans or some such bunch of old bollocks.
In the probably vain hope that tonight's match will proceed as scheduled, then, Imps supporters are looking for portents of hope for the result. One of those commercial network-type websites has noted that Lincoln have just "drawn at home after dominating a game" and the Mariners have just won 2-1 away: a combination of form that preceded the same fixture last season, which City, of course, won by four goals to two. The Diary is reminded by this of my train journey to the play-off final in 1998, when I was informed by a family of Northampton fans that their victory was certain because the referee that day was the same man who officiated at the Cobblers' play-off final victory the previous season; but Town are crap in derby matches and if one is actually played tonight then Lincoln will win 3-1 or something.
Oooh, the Telegraph has ticked. Looks like the same starting line-up again, should play proceed this evening. And oooh again, it's lovely and bright out now. Excuse me while I find some wood to touch, and no sniggering at the back.
Well, it's stopped again... but it's still dead dark. Sky Sports news just said Colchester and Grimsby are both appealing for fans to help clear snow from their pitches. Anyone?
No more snow, still. It went bright for a bit and now it's gone a bit darker, but that might just be the time of day. You can't tell these days, can you, this global warming, is that a boy or a girl? If you don't hear from the Diary again this afternoon then I've either gone down to BP with a shovel or made an early start at the Rutland.
Ah. It's started again. I think that might be it now.
It stopped again a bit ago and they decided to give it another hour. Second pitch inspection at 5. If no further update appears here after that, that means the game is off and I'm on my way home. My mum makes the best chilli in the world.
Game on! But will the weather mean Lincoln bring even fewer fans? Who cares? Mine's a pint of Bullion.
Tuesday 27 December
Just a quick 'holiday Tuesday' Diary to let you know that 12-year-old Bury manager Chris Casper reckons his team deserved better something from yesterday's game than to lose 2-1 to the likes of Grimsby. He's probably right, but don't they always say that when Town beat them? "We dominated the game for long periods," laments the youngest manager to manage Bury in 1,000 years, seemingly having forgotten the bit about scoring goals. "It's difficult to stomach when you're the better team," added Casper before hurrying out of the press conference to make a start on his Christmas holiday homework and publicity material for his campaign to become a prefect next term.
Owt else? Just Mr Russell Slade in full-on, "it ain't gonna be pretty" Nicky Law mode, describing yesterday's proceedings as "an old-fashioned game of football" which "was never going to be a classic". Of course not – the classic game of football will be against Lincoln tomorrow night, right?
Monday 26 December
A 2-1 win at Bury lifts Town to within two points of Wycombe at the top of the fourth division, with the Mariners retaining the game in hand earned by the pre-Christmas postponement at Darlington. Despite another hard-working performance, regular goalscoring form continues to elude Michael Reddy, but two less likely candidates for the 20-goals-a-season striker role continue to add to their tallies as Gary 'The Lump' Jones nets his seventh this term to equalise an early strike from the Shakers' Danny Reet and Gary 'The Substitute' Cohen registers his sixth 15 minutes from time to wrap up the points and smuggle them back on to the team coach disguised as a consignment of flat-pack storage cabinets in birch veneer finish. Leyton Orient confirm their return to form with a 5-1 win over Rushden, keeping them level on points with GTFC, while new challengers Carlisle draw at Darlington and slip to fifth behind Northampton. Wycombe – who rescue a draw at Torquay after looking lost at 2-0 down – still look flaky as a Cadbury's Flake selection box. I think that's all correct anyway; if there's anything amiss you'll have to forgive me and blame it on the Guinness. The Diary is having a jolly nice Christmas, and I hope you are too. David Tennant, we salute you.
Friday 23 December
The office slowly empties. People wish their colleagues a relaxing break. Not a scene you'll be finding at many, if any, football training grounds up and down the country. Town face a mammoth four games in eight days over the festive period, starting with a trip to Bury on Boxing Day (a preview of which will be up later when I get home - via a quick jar in Whitelock's - to upload it). Town's players are training on Chrimbo morning, freeing up the rest of the day for them to enjoy some quality family time and stuff themselves full of turkey, goose, pheasant, or whatever other bird is 'in' this year. And it's also that time of the year when the players nip into the local hospital to say hi to anyone unfortunate enough to be broken for Town's game against Lincoln next Wednesday. So, they were just visiting Macca then.
Chairman John is rallying the troops ahead of next Thursday's AGM, calling for as many shareholders as possible to attend. If you, like the CA team, possess shares in our beloved club and can't make it then proxy your shares to someone else who is going, preferably like-minded. Since the post is a bit unpredictable over the next week, you can email a proxy form. Details are available from the club's chief executive Ian Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do it now, before you enter the Christmas vortex.
Blink. Blink. Miss it? How do you know you missed anything? You were blinking. But in this case you would have, for hidden away at the end of a Grimmo Telegraph piece there's a little nugget about the Stockport game being rearranged for Tuesday 24 January. Just so you can plan your new year, we've updated the fixtures page, even though we're not supposed to show fixtures. Sod it, I say, since if we don't make a point of it, how the hell are you going to know when you can go and admire the Reynolds Girls Arena?
On which quasi-revolutionary note, it is time for your guest diarist in Leeds to bid you well, and maybe I'll see you at Bury. I'll be the one who ate all the mince pies. God bless.
Thursday 22 December
Well, isn't that just about right? Yesterday, the busiest GTFC news day for about a month, the Diary had about five English minutes to write it all up; while today, now that I have a reasonable pause for breath between preparations for Christmas, the flow of Mariners-related information has slowed to a trickle. Indeed, our professional colleagues at the Grimsby Telegraph have been forced to run an item to the effect that Town's players will be training on Christmas Day, just like they do every year. All we have to amuse us today, in fact, is the news that despite his club having signed something in the region of 419,000 strikers over the past three seasons, Hull City player Sam Collins reckons they're still a bit light up front. You have to laugh.
Oh, all right then: Russell Slade now seems to have denied twice that Simon Yeo appears on his list of new year transfer targets. The Town boss originally swore blind that the former Lincoln striker's name was among those inked in for a bit of January let's-talk-terms, only to say later: no, no, he isn't actually. Today Mr Russ has not only repeated that Yeo's name isn't down and he's not coming in but also declared: "I don't know where this speculation has come from." So either somebody's been misquoting and can expect a typically angry phone call from the manager any minute now, or Russ has started knocking back the Baileys four days early. Tomorrow: "List? What list? Who said anything about a list?"
Apparently there's also some stuff about the supporters' trust supporting trustworthy John Fenty in his bid to not have to take over the entire world if he buys some more shares in GTFC, but I can't really give you any more help with that, as the Diary hasn't seen anything official and the GTST website appears to have turned into nothing more than a giant online shopping mall without so much as a mention of why the trust exists, still less the Keep the Mariners Afloat appeal. The latter is perhaps just as well, mind you, given that Fenty has told Mariners World that the whole KTMA thing has "run out of steam" after raising about £15,000 of its £420,000 target. This is not, of course, to denigrate the sterling efforts of the leaders of GTST; but let us remember that it was because of David Burns' suggestion on Radio Humberside that the appeal's target might prove a little ambitious that Fenty banned the BBC last season.
Looks like we did quite well for news today after all, then. Remember to book your table here again tomorrow for your regular yummilicious Friday helping of guest-flavoured Diary dessert – but that's all from your regular Diary until Boxing Day, when Town take on Wycombe-beating Bury, God, weather and hangovers willing. A very happy Christmas to you all, dear readers.
Wednesday 21 December
It's gone two o'clock; the Diary has to go and do some Christmas cooking; Town's recently postponed game at Darlington has been rescheduled for Tuesday 17 January; speaking of fixtures, Cod Almighty's Simon Wilson is quoted in an excellent piece in today's Guardian by the superb David Conn about DataCo, the people who want to charge CA and all the other non-profit-making fanzines out there £266 per year plus VAT to publish them; Alan Lamb and Miles Chamberlain have helped Eastwood Town beat Brigg 2-0; Hull don't want to sign Rob Jones, not even to play him as a striker; and Tony Butcher has emailed the Diary to say that if Simon Yeo thinks New Zealand is almost like being abroad, then he's right. "As we all know Kiwiland is like Britain 30 years ago, so the past is a foreign country. They do things differently there, especially pronouncing the important word 'chips'. As Kiwipeople say, 'cheap orange juice substitute'. Or should that be Kia Ora?" Absolutely. Thanks. See you tomorrow!
Tuesday 20 December
Intrigue. Drama. Intense speculation. None of these things seem to have happened very much at Grimsby Town Football Club since they were recently told by a very rich Swiss gentleman, who has never visited northern Lincolnshire in his life, that they were only allowed to sign new players when he said so. But the pressure created by all the steamy transfer gossip that has been repressed since Sepp's randomly generated transfer window closed at the end of August is set to send the thing flying off its hinges when it opens again in just 11 days' time, and the streets of Grimmo are alive with talk of crack deals, pregnant schoolgirls and a possible move for Simon Yeo. The 32-year-old striker scored 46 goals in three seasons with Lincoln before doing one to New Zealand last summer, but has yet to pick up the language and says it's almost like being in a foreign country.
So are we after him or not? An interview with Sky Sports appears to find Mr Russell Slade dead keen. "I've got a list of names I'll be targeting over the New Year and yes, it would be fair to say that Simon Yeo is on that list of names," blurts cuddly Russ, who could have formed a more concise and satisfactory sentence by omitting the words "it would be fair to say that". The public of Lincoln are duly going bonkers at the prospect of Yeo becoming a Mariner – but soft! In a Grimsby Telegraph interview the Town boss admits he likes the cut of Yeo's jib, and repeats the "I have a list" motif, but insists: "Yeo isn't on that list." Hopelessly muddled communication or a repositioning of the manager's cards closer towards his chest? You decide.
Slade has also set minds a-wandering and tongues a-wagging with the astonishing assertion that clubs from the top two divisions have been enquiring after "about six" of his players. Tony Crane is said to be mightily relieved that he resisted the temptation to go on loan to Worksop Town last month.
Monday 19 December
Well, that could have been worse. As diligent Diary readers the world over will doubtless be aware, the Mariners have retained second place in the fourth division league table despite, or possibly because of, not getting to play over the weekend. Referee Neil Swarbrick called off Town's scheduled fixture at lunchtime on Saturday owing to a frozen pitch at the 96.6 TFM Darlington Trains And Coal Vic Reeves Reynolds Safecracker Tax Evasion Arena: a decision Mr Russell Slade has accepted with equanimity (which is apparently nothing to do with horses) while his opposite number, Darlington boss Dave Hodgson, has gone on a crazy psycho death rampage and accused his own ground staff of "sheer negligence" in not having covered the pitch (our very own Grimsby Telegraph explaining that, hilariously, Darlo's undersoil heating has never been used because of the cost). With Wycombe finally having lost a match Town could move to within one point of the division's stylish pacesetters should they win their game in hand, and remain ahead of Carlisle and Leyton Orient on goal difference. Result!
Rob Taylor was a Paul Groves loan signing who looked too good to be true, and was. Tommy Taylor is a weird Russell Slade signing who will never play first-team football in a Mariners shirt. Graham Taylor played full-back for GTFC in the 1960s and now says "very much so" on the radio a lot. And Andy Taylor was the guitarist in Duran Duran. His namesake, Andy Taylor, meanwhile, plays for Town's current youth team, where he has just made a bit of an impression by scoring all seven goals of their seven goals in their 7-1 win over Mansfield. Town's official website compares Taylor's pace to that of Michael Reddy; the Diary compares his man-in-a-boy's-body thick-set brow to that of Wayne Rooney.
Friday 16 December
On a day when your Guest Diarist has to get his skates on due to a weird and unexpected job coming up, my sympathies go out to those poor sods at Northwich Victoria who have been well and truly stitched up by those fat black cats at Sunderland, aided and abetted by those complete twazzocks who constitute the FA. Having fought their way in to the third round and got an away draw to a 'big club', Northwich then discover that Sunderland wanted to charge a measly £6 for adults and £1 for the kids to ensure a big crowd. The FA mediated and the tickets will now be a still very paltry £10 and £5. This will deprive the non-Leaguers of the best of two hundred grand, according to their chairman, Mike Connett. This just a few months after Northwich got themselves out of queer street. I tell you what, gentle reader, the FA Cup is not what it was. Not what it was, I say.
This is being written too early for any team news as Town prepare to face Darlo away tomorrow, but the likelihood is that the same team that so disappointed the home crowd last Saturday will be told to pull up their stockings and get on with it. No-one had a complete stinker, mind, but everyone was just, well, collectively crap, weren't they?
And none more so than Mr Slade, who has been justifiably bollocked by everyone I know for his ill-thought-out temper tantrum at the Telegraph, which the Diary told you about on Tuesday. The club issued a statement yesterday complaining that the Grimsby Telegraph article "does not properly reflect Russell Slade's feelings". It seems much more likely, on this occasion, that the problem lies with the manager's defensive outburst rather than the actual reporting. We all say daft things in the heat of the moment, but not everyone is big enough to admit it afterwards. And that is what our Russell should have done, via a personal apology to put his earlier remarks into proper context.
Just recognise, Mr Slade, that home goals are almost as important an ingredient in attendances as league position, to the wavering Town fans who need to be enticed back to Blundell Park. Despite the fact that it is up for sale, the Telegraph will be around for a long time, and picking stupid fights like this one will get you nowhere, matey. So let's hope we put a few away in the next home game against Lincoln to put this sorry story to bed. It's all right, I suppose, all this bouncing back, but you just get a bit tired of it after a while...
So I'll have to love you and leave you now as I am required to morph into Ted from The Fast Show and rake leaves up at the big house this afternoon. Then give the master's Bentley a run. So it's a forelock-tugging "see yer, folks".
Thursday 15 December
Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala, who last Saturday missed Town's fifth home defeat in the league this season, may also be unable to travel to Darlington this weekend. The Democratic Republic of Congo international is suffering from gross chaffing of the thigh and quite possibly wouldn't have been selected anyway given the improved form of Ciaran Toner in recent weeks, but his absence exposes a thinness in midfield cover as Terry Barwick continues to burn brightly, madly, like a crazy visionary poet or a seer, like the greatest doomed rock and roll superstar the world has ever seen, in his loan spell with Conference outfit York City. Speaking of Darlington, the name of their daft great big fuck-off stadium has changed to reflect whatever coterie of dreary suits has just forked up some sponsorship moolah; and the Mariners are approaching the match having just seen off unbeaten table toppers Wycombe by four goals to one, apparently. For fuck's sake.
It would be remiss of the Diary not to pass on the news that Town's official website is offering supporters the chance send a Christmas message to their heroes. "All the messages will be passed on to the lads and they will be published on the official website on Christmas Day," promises the site. Just in case any of your messages get lost in the post, perhaps you ought to email them to the Diary as well, eh?
The remainder of today's Diary comprises a lengthy and rather wonderful email from Town fan and STD consultant Felix Oliver-Tasker. Over to you, sir.
I got a brilliant birthday present from Jocasta Bumm-ffondle, one of my colleagues in the Clap Clinic; she knows everyone who matters. It consists of four team photographs in a large frame. They date from from the early 20th century when Town played in quartered shirts and white shorts, to the thirties side that won promotion to the first division and included Pat Glover, Welsh international, George Tweedy in goal and the famous half back line of Hall, Betmead and Buck. The third shows Town in white shirts with a very thin black stripe and the fourth has a young John McDermott, Birtles and Buckley grinning hugely at the camera.
Does anyone know what colour the quartered shirts were; was Bestall Road, smallest street in Grimmo, the first street to be named for a footballer; and when did George Tweedy stop playing for Town? I remember my Dad taking me as a small boy to see Town just after the Second World War, when he played alongside Billy Cairns, Tommy Briggs and Geordie Hare, so he must have been pretty old then.
Billy Cairns had a pub in Freeman Street when he retired and I seem to remember Harry Betmead had a newspaper shop in Brereton Avenue but I may be mistaken. It's a sobering thought that poor old Billy Cairns spent his retirement pulling pints and Harry Betmead selling the News of the World while today's pampered stars get more in a few weeks than they did in a lifetime of footballing.
Well, Felix, I seem to recall that the quartered shirts were chocolate and blue, but the rest of it I leave to the considerable wit and wisdom of your fellow Diary readers. So, people, email email@example.com if you have any observations on the above, and let's give Guest Diary plenty to get his teeth into tomorrow, eh? Ta-ta for now.
Wednesday 14 December
Those churches and religious people and God and that, eh? Always trying to cheapen Christmas with their messages of hope and salvation for humankind. Let us take a moment or two to ponder the true meaning of the festive season – which is, of course, spending lots and lots of money. Grimsby Town Football Club today offers you several ways to enjoy a traditional Yuletide by doing just that, and one of these is to spend lots of money in an online auction to win a place in the company of club chairman John Fenty (who is remembering the true meaning of Christmas by spending lots of money on 150,000 shares) for the Lincoln game on 28 December, and then spend lots of money on some posh clothes so that you're deemed worthy of his company. Five places are on offer at a reserve price of just 60 pounds each.
Carling Offer! chimes Town's official website, heralding a special deal whereby fans who buy the DVD of this season's League Cup run get a free one of those awful T-shirts that they printed up for the Newcastle game ("subject to availability," adds the OS, confirming your suspicion that it's just a way of clearing the shirts out of the cupboard). And there you were hoping it meant the club would hand out four free pints of lager to every full paying adult attending the Lincoln game on 28 December.
Our final item today, as we reflect that the true meaning of Christmas is rapacious consumerism, concerns the Mariners' "Festive Ticket News", or in other words how to get in to the games against Lincoln and Carlisle. Perhaps the tickets have got glitter sprinkled over them, or a Christmas cracker-style joke printed on the back. Q: What do Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala and Cinderella have in common? A: They can't get to the ball! See you tomorrow.
Tuesday 13 December
What has Grimsby Town Football Club in common with a typical white onion? They both have very thin skins, and it has emerged that sensitive team manager Mr Russell Slade got himself a bit worked up at Grimsby Telegraph sports editor Geoff Ford after the Mariners lost at home to Bristol Rovers last Saturday. The Town boss is surely justified in bemoaning the local population's ongoing indifference towards the club (although the weekend's attendance was the second highest in the division that day) but lost his rag again when asked by Ford what seems a reasonable question about his side's persistently shaky home form: "Your comment there is typical of the negativity surrounding this football club and your paper," thundered Sort It. Granted, the Telegraph's account does not include the wording of Ford's question, and much of the criticism reeled off towards GTFC officials by 'supporters' is grossly unfair, but following the club's ill-advised public spats with both the local rag and BBC Radio Humberside in recent seasons it is disappointing to be reminded just how fragile are the egos at Blundell Park.
The Diary, as you may know, has recently drawn attention to the awful form of Town's reserve team, who have been languishing at the foot of the Division One East table with one point from a possible 24 this season. Until last night, that is, when the second string defied their fixture list to sneak up to Darlington two days early and come back home having doubled their points tally thanks to a draw secured by a John Lukic penalty save. Young defender Miles Chamberlain seems to have played despite being on loan at Eastwood Town, according to the account of the match on the Mariners' official website, which also neglects to mention the score; although in fairness to the OS, Darlington's site neglects to mention the match.
About a quarter of a century ago the Diary felt deeply privileged to shake the hand of a popular Grimsby Town player who was signing autographs at the school summer fayre, and if I decide to pop along to the Ottakar's in Freshney Place this Thursday evening then I could meet Tony Ford for a second time. The Mariners hero will, as you may well have surmised by now, be promoting his new biography The Tony Ford Story, by Keith Haynes and Phil Sumbler, and if you fancy getting your fishy mitts on a signed copy the event begins at 6pm.
Monday 12 December
"That could be really significant," said the Diary to another CA-er on the way home from last Tuesday's thumping win over the Mariners' fourth division promotion rivals Rochdale. "That could be the result that finally gets Town over this whole being rubbish at home thing." With comparable optimism the three of us on the way to the Bristol Rovers game on Saturday were all agreed that Mr Russell Slade's team were bound to make it six points in five days, the only difference of opinion, Geoffrey, being the winning scoreline. So it's all our fault. We're really, really sorry.
In turn, I will blame the Mariners' defeat for the ill humour that now dogs the Diary and which will (in turn) be the cause of both the lateness and the brevity of today's round-up. Well, that and the fact that there isn't any news. Phil Jevons is being linked with a move to Bristol City. Did you know that? Yes. His former boss at Yeovil, Gary Johnson (he used to manage Latvia, you know), recently made the short move to Ashton Gate and wants the Jevster to shore up his ailing strikeforce. He still hasn't scored that many in the third division, though, has he?
Have you all filled in your survey? Make sure the nesbits don't gain control of the Football League and the entire universe by taking five minutes to complete the League's big questionnaire thing, and if you can do it on the clock and take back a bit of the life that the ruling class steals from you every week then so much the better.
"Just brought The Tony Ford Story for my dad for Christmas," wrote John Pakey in an email to the Diary on Saturday afternoon. "Good book, read it all in the morning. And it got me thinking. Surely Fordy has earned the right to be imortalised on fabric via a superb T-shirt by the Cod Almighty team? Just an idea. I'd sign up for a couple straight away, especially if the pic of Fordy had his great afro. Plus you might be able to flog some off to Mansfield Town and Rochdale as well. Which reminds me, has a Charlton fan ever brought a Super Clive shirt?" Well, John, we have been toying with the idea of a Tony top (and, indeed, with the idea of including his great afro) and although one is not imminent I would be loath to rule out the appearance of CA/TF fashionwear at some point in the future. And yes, we did shift a few Clive tops to those fluffy Addick types; in fact I think I could just about make one out in the Osmond when Town played them in the cup last season. "Anyway," adds Mr P, "this is just killing time as I stare at the live text on the BBC Sport website willing a goal in for Town. Come on Town." Aha. I'll blame you for the result instead then, John.
Friday 9 December
Hiya guys. Durham Diary here, back from the Cod Almighty wilderness for your personal reading pleasure. And we'll start today with number seventeen from the red hymn book, 'Reddy, Reddy, Reddy'.
Our dear old friend Lennie Lawrence makes his first return to Blundell Park tomorrow, if you exclude his appearance on Sky Sports as a pundit for the Tottenham game, which I will because I didn't watch the game on telly. It will be the third time Town have played Bristol Rovers (for whom Lawrence now fills the role of director of football) this season. The previous two matches both resulted in 2-1 wins for the away team, most recently in an FA Cup match last month more notable for some awful refereeing than any great football.
Junior Agogo, the man who scored both Rovers' goals in the aforementioned cup match, has today signed a new contract to keep him at the club until June 2008. The official Bristol Rovers website proclaims that the deal with their
10-goal-already-this-season frontman was financed by the Supporters Club Share Scheme. Which makes this observer think perhaps the Mariners' own scheme would be more successful if it received a similar amount of recognition and promotion from the club. By "the club" I mean Grimsby Town, not Bristol Rovers. But they can get involved if they like.
Talking of regular scorers this season, Rob Jones is a doubt for Grimsby, having pulled something in training. I'm all for team bonding, but this seems a bit excessive. Also doubtful is JP 'Is this the way to Amarillo?' Kalala-lala-la-la-la after getting one of those ankle hurty thingies in the Rochdale match. And of course Saint John McDermott's more serious ankle hurty thingy from the Rochdale match means he won't play either. Which probably means Gary Cohen
will get to start in midfield, Croft at right back and Ramsden at centre-back. Unless Rob Jones keeps his kissing technique to himself long enough to play, in which case Croft and Ramsden have to eat kangaroo genitalia while trying to collect enough votes to stay at right back for another day. Or something.
If you're bothered, Rovers' Craig Hinton probably won't play either; he's contracted a very rare non-Rochdale-related ankle hurty which has prevented him training for the last few days. No, me neither.
Wycombe and Leyton Orient are both at home tomorrow, to the recently thrashed Rochdale and struggling Bury respectively, making three points tomorrow even more important to stay in the hunt. Hope you enjoy the game.
Thursday 8 December
He hit the headlines for scoring That Goal against Tottenham on a dreamy night back in September but in the three and a bit months since, Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala has proved himself all too dispensible to the Mariners' fourth division promotion challenge. Since missing his club's 3-1 win over Macclesfield last month for his country's friendly against Tunisia (which was abandoned when fans invaded the pitch for the third time), the DR Congo international has not been the first name on Russell Slade's teamsheet; and even when he returned to the starting line-up against Rochdale earlier this week, the Mariners' four goals all followed JPK's subbing-off after 60 minutes. Today's news, broken by the Grimsby Telegraph, that Kalala could miss this Saturday's game against Bristol Rovers is unlikely, then, to worry the manager and supporters (still less Ciaran Toner) as much as it would have a couple of months ago. The Diary, naturally, is more troubled by the fact that the Telegraph website illustrates the story with a photograph of Michael Reddy.
Town's youth players will have plenty of evenings free to abuse customers walking into and out of their local Spar shop now that their run in the FA Youth Cup is over. Against Port Vale last night the Mariners' non-international bright young things did well to reduce a three-goal half-time deficit to a final score of 3-2, with goals from Andy Bird and Danny North, but it's Vale's youngsters who progress to a third round tie against Brighton and Town's who resume the pursuit of anti-social behaviour orders.
And on that anticlimatic note, your regular Diary bids you ta-ta for another week, leaving you for Friday to the mercies of fate and substitute diarists. Oh, but if you know a builder around Grimmo who does loft conversions, could you please email firstname.lastname@example.org with details. The Diary's mum is moving house in the new year and fancies getting the attic done up. Ta! See you at the weekend.
Wednesday 7 December
If Town's feelgood 4-1 win over Rochdale last night was the turkey and stuffing, then the first-half injury sustained by John McDermott was very much the brussels sprouts. The Mariners hero clearly proved some kind of obscure macho point in being carried off by three men without a stretcher rather than two men with a stretcher, but early indications from the club are that he could be sidelined for six to eight weeks. Although the player has not suffered a broken bone, His Heavenly Majesty Sir Macca of Macness appears to have sprained his ankle severely after landing awkwardly from an aerial challenge and won't be adding to his 713 appearances for GTFC until some time in 2006. Rest ye well, gentle John.
Anyway, yeah – result! When Dale took the lead through Rrrrrricky Lambert the question was how long it would take for them to double it, as Mr Russell Slade's changes to a winning midfield had left the Mariners looking paralysed by fear against fearless and pacy opponents. But his side worked hard at their comeback, and the decisive move was the replacement on the hour of Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala by Gary Cohen – restoring the midfield four that had started Town's last three games and won in two. Cohen headed Town in front after Jones the Lump's 67th-minute equaliser from an excellent run and cross by Michael Reddy; and the sub played a large part in the Mariners' third, finished by Rob Jones, before Reddy brought proceedings to a close in injury time with his usual score-on-counterattack-after-run-from-halfway-line thing. With Wycombe only drawing at home to Boston, Town stand within one point of the fourth division's top spot, three points ahead of Leyton Orient (who lost to Chester) and four above fourth place. Which is nice.
Mixed news today for fans of the Mariners' second and third teams – assuming, of course, that there are any, now that the first team is out of all the cups and fewer than 4,000 can be bothered to go and watch them. Members of the youth team are being kept off the streets by their run in the FA Youth Cup, in which they travel to Port Vale this evening; while the reserves will be denied, for now, the chance to end their thoroughly shocking sequence of results so far this season, as their scheduled match at home to Huddersfield has been postponed for reasons unspecified by GTFC's official website. Let's see if Huddersfield know why, then. Aha! They do, and it would seem that the reserves game is off because of the youth team game. So it all falls into place. Well, you never see them in the same room together, do you.
A quick glance over to my inbox, then, whence Diary reader John Pakey has very thoughtfully sent an email with reassurance as to the validity of my breakfasting habits. "According to an article in the Observer I read one Sunday," writes JP, "beans on toast is a good way to start the day. It's something to do with iron and all that techy stuff I can never fathom. Anyway, supposed to give you more energy and make you more alert." If this is indeed the case, God only knows what sort of state your habitually bleary-eyed Diary would be in if I only had cornflakes. "Personally, I prefer good old Scott's Oats," adds John. "Bit of mixed dried fruit and you're sorted until lunchtime." Mmmm... lunchtime. Wonder if Sue's chippy on the Grimsby Road will start doing deliveries in exchange for a bit of free advertising?
Tuesday 6 December
If you're anything like the Diary, you've got a bad habit of eating beans on toast for breakfast several times a week and you're fed up of hardly ever seeing Town play on a Saturday. Leaving aside the beans issue, you may recently have wondered why, with GTFC and Rochdale both having exited this season's FA Cup in the first round, tonight's match between the two sides couldn't have been moved forward to last Saturday. And if you have then you'd be in good company, since it has emerged that Dale officials approached the Mariners to move tonight's match between the two sides forward to last Saturday, sparing the supporters of both clubs the miserable, football-free weekend they have just endured, ensuring that perhaps several hundred more would attend, doubtless contributing to a better atmosphere at Blundell Park and generating thousands of pounds more on the turnstiles and at the tea stands. And Town said no. Why? Because they were having some people round for dinner. There's a word repeating itself loudly in the Diary's mind now, and that word is 'priorities'. Not 'beans'.
And just to rub salt into your piles, the Mariners' trip to Stockport, which was scheduled for Saturday 7 January, has been postponed because of the Hatters' ongoing involvement in – you guessed it – the FA Cup, and will doubtless be rescheduled for a Tuesday night in February when it's too cold to snow and the Greater Manchester area is lashed mercilessly by gale-force Arctic winds all bastard night.
In shock transfer news today, two of Town's young reserves are going out on loan to a club that is not Halifax Town, York City or Scarborough. So much for the loan transfer window, then, eh? Miles Chamberlain and Alan Lamb, who are yet to trouble the first XI, are being lent to Eastwood Town of the Northern League Division One, where they could come up against former Mariners including Kendal Town's Lee Ashcroft and Bridlington Town's Chris Hyam. Brid was also a stepping stone en route to North Ferriby United for Joe Lightowler, whose regret at turning down approaches from Manchester United and Aston Villa to sign for GTFC must be greater than ever now.
Monday 5 December
Good day! Anyone fancy trying to make sense of the Mariners' finances? The Diary sure as heck doesn't, but let's have a go at digging out some salient points. A letter issued by John Fenty with the club's annual report to shareholders has explained that Town's bankers have lived up to their rhyming slang by halving their overdraft limit from half a million to 250,000 quid. (Who are the club's bankers, anyway?) Chairman John wants to help out by buying another £150,000 worth of shares. There's a rule that says he'd have to buy all the rest as well if he does that (which sounds a bit familiar from all that Glazer/Man You shenanigans in the summer) but he wants the other shareholders to let him off that part of the deal when they vote at the club's AGM on 29 December. There's no plan B if they don't – so in laymen's terms you, I and 4,000 other Grimbarians might have to find something else to do with our Saturday afternoons between August and May every year. Sorry – I mean Friday nights.
The report itself makes unsurprising reading: gate receipts have only fallen a bit, but TV money and sponsorship revenue have plunged (the new owners of Five Star Fish being considerably less avid Town fans than Mr Fenty); salaries have been cut by a further 35 per cent, from £2.32m to £1.53m; and the chairman's diligent stewardship has just about wiped out overall trading losses for the year. Perhaps the only unexpected item (many thanks to Guest Diary for emailing to point this out) is an amazing upsurge in income raised by matchday catering, from £133,000 to £302,000, suggesting either that McMenemy's has proved a runaway success or that the club has withdrawn Tony Crane's entitlement to free pies.
In other news today Rob Jones, the man who makes Georges Santos look like Ronnie Corbett, could return to Town's line-up for tomorrow night's home game against their promotion rivals Rochdale. OK, so that was news last week, but it's still quiet enough to justify repetition. The Mariners' official website adds that Gary Croft should play despite a back problem and that Andy Parkinson, the man who makes Ronnie Corbett look like Georges Santos, has finally got over his splin shints thing after setting a new UK all-comers' record for the longest time taken to run off an injury.
Finally, GTFC have banked on a local population explosion by allowing as many as four children in for free with each paying adult attending this Saturday's game against Bristol Rovers. As Wayward Cousin Diary has proved several times, the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area may be severely lacking in information about birth control, but this is ridiculous.
Friday 2 December
One of the more perverse pleasures in life is to sink into a hot bath at precisely 9am on a Friday morning to the soothing strains of the intro to Desert Island Discs. It's too often all downhill from there, though, as the guests are utterly self-absorbed and the music total cack, or they cut the decent tracks off after a measly 45 seconds or so. Today, gentle reader, it was David Frost, a man whom your Guest Diarist has hated man and boy since about 1965. We learnt that he could have been a professional footballer but turned it down, preferring to become a total knobhead. Well I would have given my right testicle to have played for better teams than Caistor Tennyson, Nettleton Mines and Castra Nova – sides well used to getting thrashed more often than not. But you can't deny an old man his dreams and memories, and I'm pleased to report that the evergreen John McDermott has decided to stockpile a few more of his by playing on next season. If we can't get him a knighthood, let's try to get him on Desert Island Discs, eh?
Rochdale manager Steve Parkin has exhibited a remarkable sense of realism about his team's prospects for points as they face Town, Wycombe and Orient in their next three matches. "If we can emerge from these next three matches with at least three points it will keep us where we want to be," says Parkin. "Of course we'll be going out there trying to win every game, but these are three very tough matches." His points prediction is no doubt tempered by the fact that top scorer Grant Holt has picked up nine bookings; so one more and it's a two-match suspension for the 14-goal striker.
Macca has been practising his managerial media skills again by telling Sporting Life that Town have to improve their home form. "We know ourselves where we are going wrong and everyone at the club is working hard towards winning promotion. But our home form must improve – starting against Rochdale on Tuesday night." Play two up front Macca – you tell Mr Slade to sort it, will you?
So this weekend will be spent waiting for Tuesday. A chance to do your Christmas shopping (the club shop will be open) or to wonder whether Mat Hare has applied for the Portsmouth job yet. Or maybe just compiling the list of your top tracks to take to that island. See yer.
Thursday 1 December
Work longer or save more? Work longer or save more? If you're anything like the Diary then you're fed up of hearing politicians and the mass media present these two options as the only possible solutions to the UK's pensions crisis, when the most obvious and moral course of action available is clearly to tax the rich until they bleed. Unless the revolution goes ahead before the end of the football season, though, John McDermott looks like he's decided to work longer. Town's prehistoric right-back announced at the beginning of August his intention to end his playing career in May 2006, but halfway through a season in which his form on the pitch has again defied the sad ravages of time the player is having second thoughts. "All the lads have been telling me to play for another year," Sir John has told a website somewhere, "and I'm enjoying it so much I'm seriously considering it." Marinersbet is already offering attractive odds on Macca holding out for the newly revamped state pension and playing on until the age of 68.
Well, Dereham Town trialist Danny Wright got his run-out for the reserves, and Rob Jones came through 75 minutes of football to place him firmly in contention for next Tuesday's big one against Rochdale, but the Mariners' reserves were stuffed 4-0 by Doncaster at Blundell Park yesterday afternoon – despite the presence of further first-team players in Martin Gritton and Tom Newey. Oh, and Glen Downey was sent off. It's difficult to keep track of their results, but off the top of the Diary's head Town's second string have lost every game they've played all season apart from one recent goalless draw: a run of form so dismal that Town's official website has been unable to bring itself to update the team's results page since the first week of October.
Not that it really concerns us, but Town's game at home to Lincoln on 28 December (the closest thing we get to a local derby on a bank holiday these days) has been made all-ticket for the visitors, who will be allocated 1,800 seats – about 300 more than they shifted for the corresponding fixture last season. Well, it stops us thinking about the result.
Thanks for reading for another week, and stay tooned tomorrow for your regular Friday feast of substitute diarist fun – brought to you this week by the original and inimitable Guest Diary. Toodles!