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Diary - December 2006
Friday 29 December
Now then, now then, now then gentle reader. If you want the white chocolates out of a tin of Cadbury's Heroes then I have a large quantity which are surplus to requirements. Perhaps young Durham Diary can inveigle them in to his famed New Year punch, or Citizens Advice Diary can feed them to his sobbing debt-ridden customers. Or that bloke from Tetney can just drop them into the bottom of his barrel and then eat them at his leisure (of which he has quite a lot, believe me). But talking of picking sweeties from a jar, as we almost were, then your Guest Diarist has been galvanised like a bucket by all this transfer news which is floating about. But more on that later; first we will deal with tomorrow's match.
Town are at Stockport, which is not a particularly happy hunting ground. And Stockport are winning a lot at home this season which must make a very nice change for their patient fans. Indeed the County website County4life has asserted that Saturday's home match against Town is a "winnable fixture" in a news piece about how dirty those other Countyites from Trent Bridge were, and how brave those young Stockport kids were amongst the flying elbows, broken legs and bloody noses on boxing day. Apparently the match on Saturday has been designated a Hat Day and fans are encouraged to turn up wearing one. I will wear mine as I listen to the match commentary on Humberside and quaff left over port and sweet sherry until I am squiffy enough to face the white chocolates.
Listening to Lord Buckley on Mariners World recounting the various sickness and injuries afflicting the Town squad, one comment stuck out like a forged sick note: "Peter Bore limped out of training this morning with a calf strain – so he says." As for the others, young Mr Paterson has been spewing on and off all week; Bolland has gone mysteriously backwards in his recovery; Pulis has a niggling groin and Till has a minor calf strain. The Lump remains suspended, but Sir John of McDermott has graced the training pitch this week so Town have a full defensive complement once again. Buckley had hoped to revert to a 4-4-2 formation but Jones's absence and Paterson's doubt has made him reconsider – so that means Reddy is probably not adjudged fit enough to start the game alongside Isaiaiaiah 'rolling' Rankin.
The Grimsby Telegraph has transfer news old and new today. Whilst Till mulls over the Town offer prior to accepting it (I reckon - without the slightest morsel of journalistic provenance to back this hunch up), Lord Buckley has advised that he has sent a pre-Christmas message to his mate Pulis, via John Rudge, at Stoke intimating that he would like to keep Messrs Paterson and Pulis a while longer. And in the most telling piece of investigative reporting since Peter Levy fixed that streetlight at the end of Clive Sullivan Way, the piece ends like this: "And the manager said calls had already been made to stay ahead of the game before football's January sales begin on Monday." Ooh, watch this space, gentle reader.
By way of confirmation the Telegraph also tells us that the Chester match a week Saturday is now off due to their reinstatement in the FA cup. The official site reckons that this match will probably happen one Tuesday night now but which one has not yet been chosen. So let's hope for a bit of fighting spirit from the team tomorrow, and at least one away goal for the away fans to celebrate. See yer in the new year.
Thursday 28 December
Oh, hi there! You catch your Stand-In Diary leafing through Geoff Ford's Pictorial History as my internet connection slowly warms up. Whatever happened to Arthur Mann? Does anyone know? Ah, hang on. Here we go!
The big breaking news is Town have offered right-winger Peter Till a permanent deal to stay at Blundell Park. Till, on a month's loan from Birmingham City, is reported to be having a word with his manager, Steve Bruce, probably to see if he can be excused from moving to North-East Lincolnshire. Promising stuff, and hopefully this means there may be some clarification imminently on the futures of Martin Paterson and Anthony Pulis, whose loans expire in early January.
"My friend Mighty!" exclaims Little Miss Stand-in Diary whenever she sees Town's mascot on the club's official site. Believe it or not, there are people out there who like the daft 'un. And it's those kinda people that Mighty was out and about spreading joy to on Christmas Day. None of those kids look half as full of love and pride as this boy's encounter with the foam-headed one, which we've pictured to the right. Hee hee! Anyway, on a more serious note, the club's AGM takes place tomorrow at 10am at Blundell Park. Shareholders will already know the jist of matters thanks to the annual report that popped through their letterboxes earlier this month. Any interesting details of the meeting will be covered be tomorrow by Guest Diary.
No word yet on whether Bury's appeal against being expelled from this season's FA Cup has been succesful. Remember, if Bury's exclusion is upheld, then Town's game against Chester on 6 January will be postponed. In other news, guess who said this: "Our aim is to get through the next week and get six or nine points on the board and then we can look at people in the eye again." Why, it was a man who has no other reason to not look people in the eye, Honest Steve Evans. But, of course! Nathan Abbey, recently in goal at Blundell Park, isn't staying at Torquay. A shame as his performances when playing against Town at Blundell Park have always been sprightly (remember the that Boston game?), and always with a sense of fun. Here's hoping he's back with a visiting team in the near future.
Which all brings us to the end of today's Diary. Tune in tomorrow then, dear reader. Until then, goodbye.
Wednesday 27 December
Hello out there! It's the day when the last dregs of cold turkey leftovers start becoming the ingredients for a long simmering stock, so excuse the greasy, smelly fingers of your Stand-In Diary.
Think back to yesterday afternoon. Think back through the din of an afternoon on the sofa, eating mince pies, slinging back the sherry, and watching the Disney double bill of Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Freaky Friday. Think back, and you might remember that Town lost 2-0 at Hartlepool. It sounded meek on Radio Humberside and it sounds even more meek through the eyes and mouth of Lord Buckley, reaching for a few leftover rockets from Guy Fawkes' Night: "We sort of died a death without a whimper and that was really disappointing. I don't like losing and don't want to be associated with losing. But if you do lose, you go down fighting and I don't think we did that." A goal apiece from one-time Town loanee Jon Daly and - remarkably given he's returned to Swindon - one-time Town target Andy Monkhouse were enough to push Town back down the table to seventeenth, despite the returns of Justin Whittle (at fault for the first goal) and Paul Bolland (substituted at half-time for 'tactical reasons') in a 4-5-1 formation. Since we don't know anyone who went to the game, you'll just have to rely on a quirky report from the Grimmo Telegraph's David Pye. Although don't read the last line - it's truly, madly awful.
Over at the OS, a month-by-month, and blow-by-blow account of the preceeding year is the make-up of the Chairman's Christmas message, available on the OS's Freeview option rather than the subscription service of Mariners' World. A slightly subdued Positive John talks at length about the first two Town managers of the past 12 months. On the Sladeian era, Fents reckons Town didn't get promoted last season because a) they "succumbed to the manager's request to bring in five key players in [just after Christmas], unfortunately that just didn't quite work"; and b) Michael Reddy wasn't fit for the end of season run-in. Overall "it [not gaining promotion] was a little disappointing."
Despite feeling Graham Rodgeres had earnt the right to takeover from the Lesser Bald Headed One, relieving the Rodge of his managerial duties was "easily the most difficult task I've done at this club." Rodgeres' back was "always against the wall" (contributed to by the late arrivals of Nick Fenton and the brothers Ravenhill, and the then non-arrivals of Georges Santos and Alan Pouton), the good players at the club not being a good team "for whatever reason", and "just thinking about that trapdoor sends a shiver through your spine". And PJ doesn't leave the fans blameless, noting that the supporters' ability to get onto the backs of some players adding to the situation. Not a right lot said about the return of Buckers, but what's all that "ferret down the hole" stuff about?
And for those who enjoy the Blundell Park experience, prepare to be upping sticks. Fenty reckons the "knackering" new stadium plans will get local council support, and draws a smart comparison with the Salford City Reds rugby league side, whose attempts to move from their Willows ground are far from dissimilar. Reward for the chairman's determination and self-belief, but will the move bring the much-needed more supporters through the turnstiles?
But anyhow, let us not leave on a mournful note. Be full of the joys of Christmas! Go and play with your new toys! Until tomorrow, comrades, goodbye.
Sunday 24 December
Hello, and a warm welcome to the Special Mrs Diary Is Out Shopping Christmas Eve Diary! Despite a 2-0 win over Torquay on freezing Friday night, the Mariners remain 16th in the fourth division for their 128th Christmas. The manner of the win, as much as the outcome itself, brought much-needed warmth to the innards of those hardy souls who huddled into Blundell Park (except the 12 Torquay fans, obviously, poor buggers), as Justin Whittle's absence through injury necessitated another patched-up back four in which Danny Boshell performed admirably as a makeshift right-back, Gary Croft did the biz back over on the left, and Tom Newey was more or less faultless in the centre alongside the breathtakingly magnificent Nick Fenton. It was the latter who sealed the win, heading in from a corner on 78 minutes after Town had withstood strong pressure from the Gulls after half time, Isaiah Rankin having given Lord Buckley's side the lead on 18. As Chief Wiggum would put it: that's nice work, boys.
Friday's only cause of concern for those of a Marinerly persuasion was the exit of Martin Paterson, who flung his shirt into the Pontoon at the end in a distinctly been-nice-knowing-you sort of way – oh, and the treatment given to his ready-made replacement Luton's Michael Reddy by those Grimbarians who hate it when everything's going well to the extent that their lives become meaningless when there's nothing left to boo. It remains to be seen how they will respond should the Hatters forward sign a new contract with Town after all, as he is apparently considering doing, presumably after realising that he'll only get a sideways move to Bristol Rovers or Northampton or someone if he leaves at the end of this season, and only a campaign of prolific goalscoring for GTFC in 2007–08 would earn him the upward motion he craves to Leeds or King$ton Communication$ FC or, indeed, Luton. Town's official website also reports that Danny Boshell has been offered an upgrade from his current week-to-week or month-to-month contract to keep him at BP for the rest of the season, further strengthening his chances of scooping the 2006–07 Official Cod Almighty Unsung Hero Award.
Saying that about Paterson, there's no indication from either Town or Stoke that the player could be heading back to Staffordshire before the date of 6 January exclusively revealed the other week by Dave Pye of the Grimsby Telegraph. So for now we must assume that Marvellous Martin will be among the squad that travels to Hartlepool on Boxing Day. And speaking of the Riby Square Thunderer, the paper also quotes Lord Buckley to the effect that the injured duo of Whittle and Paul Bolland should be in training today. Would you settle for letting in less than four this time, or are your expectations running wild now that the Mariners are being managed by a manager?
Well, I'd better get the presents wrapped before Mrs Diary gets back, so here's an email from Sibbo to finish. "We come to the end of another eventful year and no doubt you're already down the pub. If not and you get this email before the Christmas break, many thanks to you and all the CA team for your commitment in keeping Town fans amused and informed. We have seen some better team performances of late and as the eternal optimist, I'm sure next year will bring smiley faces. Best wishes to all the gang and hope you have a really good festive time." Thanks very much, sir; a very happy Christmas to you too – and to all readers of the Diary. Let us all hope that Stoke share in the mood of festive giving.
Friday 22 December
Day finally dawned over Cleethorpes with a definite nip in the air, and condensation on the bedroom window of the bed 'n' breakfast where your Guest Diarist is pretending to be staying, ahead of tonight's home match against the Torquay Rivieras. Or is it misty enough to provoke talk of postponement? Let's move the fantasy on to what the five-course breakfast comprises, and worry later about the awful forecast of freezing fog.
Lord Buckley has spoken to us ahead of the match on Mariners World. Like me, he felt that Town deserved a penalty at Lincoln. Like me he felt that Town failed to close the Imps down in midfield, which cost them the game. Like me he is not contemplating suicide over it or, as me Mum would say, "owt daft like that". Alan feels that if Town beat Torquay tonight then he will have made a great start with four wins, a draw, and one loss in his first six matches. But even if we lose then the run will be adjudged creditable, he asserts. Mr Buckley is very pleased with the performance of his first-choice defensive unit and is hopeful that the back five will be restored tonight, although Justin Whittle has not been training this week after complaining of a tightening in his calf after the last match. Peter Till will return after his poorly spell, which Lord Buckley feels will add balance to the midfield. Luton's Mr Reddy will again be on the bench, although he complained of being very sore after his half-hour run-out. This was, I'm sure, in order to skip the extra training Buckley imposed after the lacklustre performance by the team at Sincil Bank.
Torquay have a few half-decent players and a new manager called Lubos Kubik, who told their official site: "It is important that we stick together as a team; if we play like we did against Leyton Orient, we will get a result." Lee Thorpe was a player I wanted Town to sign after his energetic displays on loan from us a year or two ago. And Jordan Robertson keeps scoring since coming down from Sheffield United on loan. He got both the goals when the Gulls knocked out Orient in the recent cup replay. Jamie Ward has attracted a bit of interest here and there as well after Torquay beat off interest from other lower-league teams to sign him from Villa in the summer. Ex-Torquay manager Ian Atkins has been his usual moaning self, so don't bother to follow this link to hear him sounding off.
Anyroad, it's ten of the clock and the pubs are opening. So have a happy yuletide, gentle reader, and don't forget to feed the cat. See yer.
Thursday 21 December
The festive fixture list's looming fast – and try saying that on Christmas Day after nine bottles of Bailey's. In the meantime, the scheduling of two of Town's next five games has been thrown into doubt by a once-in-a-generation combination of high atmospheric pressure and administrative bungling at Gigg Lane. The freezing cold and the fog that has stranded thousands of carbon-careless domestic flyers at London's posh Heathrow airport could yet have a bearing on the Mariners' itinerary, with a temperature of zero degrees and poor visibility forecast around Blundell Park for tomorrow night's visit of Torquay. Meanwhile, Bury, who were deducted a point last season for fielding a loan player after his loan had expired, have been chucked out of this season's FA Cup for a similar misdemeanour in their recent second-round win over Chester. The Deviants will replace them in next month's third round, which – unless Bury succeed in their appeal against the decision – makes them unavailable for league duty on 6 January, and according to my fixture list, that's the very date the Football League's enormous fixture computer pegged them in for a visit to sunny Cleethorpes. At this rate Gary Jones could be banned until Easter without even needing to swing his elbow again.
omg peter bore b big wiv da bling init!!! da marinaz reserv ryt-winga be boastin on iz myspace dat iz incum be "£250,000 and Higher". if da playa iz 2b bleevd den gtfc rly r in trbl wiv Her Majesty's Revenue an Customs init lol!!!1!1!
Wednesday 20 December
One year, four months and eighteen days after announcing that he would retire from playing at the end of the 2005–06 season, Mariners demigod Sir John McDermott has announced that he will retire from playing at the end of the 2006–07 season. Macca originally told Radio Humberside in August last year of his plans to call it a day but possibly felt a bit embarrassed when the club curiously declined to announce the news on its own official website and decided to carry on for a staggering 20th season (I think – or is it 21?). For probably the first time in his career, though, His Royal Macness has not been Town's first-choice right-back for much of this season – when fit he has often been kept on the bench by the excellent form of Gary Croft – and now insists that the end will come next May, by which time he will be 38 years old and could well have extended his GTFC appearances record beyond the 750 mark. The player sounds a bit fed up in telling Town's official website of his decision – particularly where he muses that "it would have been good to end my after the play-off final", the missing word presumably being 'agony'.
Paddy Grant has emailed the Diary regarding the BBC news item we look at here yesterday, which claimed that Ashley Sestanovich had once played for Nottingham Forest and Manchester City. "The BBC are also claiming Sheffield United have a new shirt," writes Paddy and, indeed, the accompanying photo of Stan in a Town kit is captioned to suggest that the player is representing the Blades at the time. Well, Town fans living in South Yorkshire have performed many a double-take this season as Sheff U fans clad in their team's new black and white striped away shirt have strolled by, and if we can nick their greasy chip butty song then I suppose they have every right to nick our kit.
Tuesday 19 December
If you field a reserve side that combines a midfield and frontline boasting considerable first-team experience with a keeper and back four fresh out of the youth team, you might expect a few goals at both ends. And so it is that the Diary is today celebrating winnings of £100,000 on a stake of two chocolate coins from the Christmas tree, having anticipated precisely the 8-3 victory for the Mariners' second XI that travelled to Brigg Town for last night's friendly. Up front Danny North and Andy Taylor claimed three and two goals respectively, reports Town's official website, while Ciaran Toner struck another two and Danny Boshell the other. Gary Harkins and Peter Bore also played across the middle. Which is all very nice and everything, but will any of them be able to double as a centre-half for the first team after Nick Fenton and Justin Whittle suffer season-ending ligament injuries against Torquay this Friday?
Elsewhere on the OS, GTFC are trying to ascertain your player of the year. That's the year 2006, not the season. The season is only half finished. Chronologically, I mean; some would say it's only just starting. Anyway, yes... the club offers a characteristically quirky choice of candidates for the poll (how much has Luton's Michael Reddy done in 2006?) and is charging 50p to vote, but you could win the prize of awarding the prize to the player on the pitch just before Town play Rochdale on New Year's Day. "Please refer to our full terms and conditions for details," adds the site, neglecting to give even the vaguest indication of where these might be found. While you're at it, reader, vote in Cod Almighty's awesome Christmas poll to find the Mariners' best goal in living memory. You can't win anything, but it doesn't cost 50p to vote.
Jamie Lawrence, Terrell Forbes, Curtis Woodhouse, Ashley Sestanovich, Duncan Ferguson. Can you spot the odd one out? Yes, it's Terrell Forbes – all the others were found guilty! The most recent among these is Ashley Sestanovich, who looks set for a stretch in pokey after being convicted of conspiracy to rob a London roofing firm in June 2005, five months after the premature and disappointing end to his association with Grimsby Town Football Club. It had all seemed so promising in 2003 when Stan polled 27,300 votes to win a 'player of the round' award after his goal for Scarborough put Port Vale out of the FA Cup, and it was testament to the player's abilities that he briefly carved out a career as a double for Thierry Henry despite looking absolutely nothing like him. If the BBC is to believed, it must have all gone wrong for him at Nottingham Forest and Manchester City.
Finally today, did you ever expect to see Tony Crane described as a "bankable asset" with no suggestion that he be sold to a glue factory? No, me neither.
Monday 18 December
It was the result everyone feared but nobody was terribly surprised by. But you're probably bored of hearing about the Government pulling the plug on the Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE Systems' supply of deadly aerial weaponry to the human rights-flouting regime in charge of Saudi Arabia, so let's look at the aftermath of Town's defeat at Lincoln on Saturday afternoon. As we know, the Mariners' inadequate numbers left Alan Buckley approaching the game with just one available central defender, and it was the 12/1 shot, Gary Jones, who filled in at the back for the suspended Nick Fenton but was sent off midway through the second half for elbowing Lincoln's Nat Brown. Jones was, of course, freed to appear in last season's play-off final following a successful appeal against his dismissal against the same opponents in the semi – and maintains his innocence this time in a Grimsby Telegraph interview today – but GTFC have declined to follow the precedent and will not contest the decision. Just when he was flourishing under Buckley, then, the player will be suspended for four matches, given that Saturday was only his sixth game since his last red card, and will not be available again until Town take on Chester on 6 January. I told you we should have played Harkins. What? Jones had moved back up front by the time he was sent off? Oh.
You will recall, no doubt, from last Tuesday's Diary that Town's reserve game against York was, according to the club's official website, switched to Blundell Park because of a waterlogged pitch at Bootham Crescent, then postponed because of a waterlogged pitch at Blundell Park but, in a curious paradox combining elements of both philosophy and quantum mechanics, somehow still going ahead at the same time. Well, it didn't still go ahead, which has left the suddenly successful second string trawling the public parks of Grimsby for some big kids who are up for a bit of three-and-you're-in – or so it was until the intervention of Lord Buckley, who has organised them a kickabout at Brigg Town instead. The match could feature several first-teamers or ex-first-teamers including Isaiah Rankin, Peter Bore, Danny Boshell and Luton's Michael Reddy, and takes place at the Zebras' Hawthorns ground tonight, kicking off at half past seven. If you do fancy popping along, try to remember that GTFC aren't the team in black and white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks.
Elsewhere on Town's OS, a promotional item reminds us that the club is doing the kid-for-no-quid thing in an attempt to shore up the attendance for this Friday's visit of Torquay to Blundell Park. While the Diary loyally applauds any and all attempts to brainwash our children into supporting the Mariners, it is to be hoped that the impressionable youth of North East Lincolnshire are not looking to grasp the use of the apostrophe from the associated photograph used on the front page of the site, in which the players are holding up a banner that reads "BUCKLEYS BACK – FOOTBALLS COMING HOME". "It's another of Town's great Special Offer's!" the OS would probably add, if I could be bothered to read the piece.
"Nothing to do with football but something I thought you intellectual types at CA might take some interest (and pride) in," writes Chris Parrott in an email to the Diary. "Whilst it didn't gain enough votes to beat the other 'underrated' buildings in the BBC's poll, the Dock Tower is appreciated by top architecture critic Jonathan Glancy. It just shows that democracy isn't always the answer." Indeed, Chris - democracy and architecture do not mix. And there I was hoping we could get through a week without thinking about the Fentydome.
Friday 15 December
The big questions are being asked. Will Lincoln lose their bottle tomorrow and abandon their new-found habit of trying to pass the ball to each other? Last Saturday they reportedly passed Chester off the park but came away having been thumped 4-1. Mr Schofield, the Lincoln manager, said: "There's no point playing nice attractive football and getting beat. It's all about getting results and we're just not doing that at the moment. It's very much a business where results are everything." Jamie Forrester looks certain to feature in the match tomorrow, having been rated a bit doubtful earlier in the week. A man who likes to score goals, thinks your Guest Diarist, who has long admired the Impy whippersnapper.
Will Lord Buckley work out who to play in Town's back four in time? At 2pm on Thursday, in front of the Mariners World camera, he was visibly scratching his pate – particularly as he had just seen Sir John of McDermott break down in training like, like an injured person would. "No point going on about it," Alan ventured in his endearing-yet-gruff way. "We'll just have to mix and match somehow. Luckily I have to decide at two o'clock Sat'day. Not two o'clock Thursday." Quite right, Alan, quite right. The interview is succinct, enjoyable and illuminating - never more so than when Alan tells us that he wishes he saw a bit more of what is worked on Monday to Friday in the game on a Saturday. And when he says something to the effect that a new manager normally improves a team and then starts seeing the benefit by way of improved results. Town started winning straight away and the playing improvement is mostly yet to come, he asserts.
The Telegraph thinks Buckley will decide to slot Tom Newey in at centre-half with young Hegggaaarty deployed as emergency left-back. But I'd give Harkins a go at centre-half and play Newey at left-back on the basis that Newey stands where the centre-half should be most of the time anyway. We'll have to wait and see, won't we?
Contrary to the advice of young Durham Diary on Wednesday, I will be taking the train to the match, albeit approaching the county town from a southerly direction. Actually, you don't need to know that, gentle reader, do you? Better I tell you how hard I laughed at Look North last night when they showed the film of the Grimsby Christmas tree. The most magnificently awful tree I have seen since the Young Ones put one up: small, very wonky and with three sad bits of tinsel only adorning it. But that's why we love the place. I see from the Cod Almighty match factfile that Town are slightly generously priced at 5/2 to win tomorrow, with the draw at 11/5, and the Imps slight odds-on at 10/11. Two weeks or so ago that would have been about right, but if the Town midfield performs then they look generous now. For that is where the match will be won or lost, I reckon. A cracking match in prospect so, if you haven't already, snap up one of the last few tickets and get down there. Remember it's a one o'clock kick off. See yer.
Thursday 14 December
Get in Monty! Apologies for that opening burst of non-Town, non-football and totally crickety related euphoria from your Early Rising Diary. Although Duncan Fletcher might not agree, sometimes, a reasoned and sensible wave of support can be initially proved thoroughly justified. When and once it's moment arrives of course. Remember, likewise, the clamour for the reappointment of Alan Buckley once Graham Rodgerers' services were relieved on 6 November? Town have seen their league placing improve by six positions in four games. Town fans are phoning Radio Humberside with two eyes on the play-off places. And the man himself seems to be enjoying his third tenure at Blundell Park, even if the football isn't quite up to scratch yet.
But not everyone is happy, nor will they be happy forever. Take Michael Reddy (and, please, someone take him), whose presence hasn't been sorely missed since the arrival of Martin Paterson. Three months since his last appearance for the club has not changed Reddy's mind: he still doesn't want to stay with the Mariners. None of this is a surprise given back at the start of August Reddy made it clear it was a case of "nothing against the club, want to play at a higher level, somebody hear my desperate pleas!" If he wants the move he so cherishes in the upcoming transfer window, Redds needs to really make an impression when he eventually returns to the first team. Lord Buckley has liked what he has seen of Reddy in two days of training, and is remaining pragmatic over the situation: "If he doesn't want to play for the club let's have him on the transfer list and let's have him down the road and get some money for him. Until then let's get the best out of him."
From a man who isn't happy at Grimsby, to a man who is: Anthony Pulis. The loanee from Stoke tells Teamtalk he's thoroughly enjoying his time at Blundell Park. "I've thoroughly enjoyed being here," a sentiment echoed by a number of Town fans over Pulis's tidy and effective approach to midfield play. "I feel I've done well but there is a lot more to come from me. Hopefully I can get on the ball and express myself a bit more. I've got a decent range of passing and need to hurt teams more. I need to affect games and perhaps starting getting a few more goals." The lad isn't sure what will happen when his current loan period expires in six games' time. But, as long as he doesn't do something daft like score four goals in the next three games, we've got to have a good chance of keeping hold of him and keeping him happy well into the new year.
A big bellied fool bumbling his way round your home. No, it's not Tony Crane doing a turn as Bad Santa, but the prospect of a visit from Mighty Mariner in the club's latest desperate attempt to weed money out of its supporters. It's a sigh of relief for all those Town fans living in Brigg, Market Rasen and Mablethorpe who might be tempted by a late night bidding war after a few glasses of brandy, as Mighty's 'reach' is only within 16 miles of Blundell Park. Can someone, please, win this and keep Mighty back in Grimmo during one of the upcoming away games?
If you do have money burning a hole in your pocket and live beyond this mystically worked out border - say, past Louth or in the middle of the North Sea - then don't be too despondent. The commercial department still has a trick for emptying your wallet and emptying their stock room. Behold "the perfect reading accompaniment for those long, cold winter nights": a 'box set' of matchday programmes from all the home games so far this season. When I were a lad it was Chronicle of the 20th Century the kids wanted, not Chronicle of the First Half of a Season's Home Games. Back in the day and all that, eh.
And, finally, first it was McFly announcing they'd be 'doing' the Auditorium. Now it's the Premiership's Mike Riley who is refereeing this weekend's trip to Lincoln (I hate when they say a ref 'takes charge' of a game - the best refs just let the game flow, no?). Not only has this given the Grimmo Telegraph some handy midweek spacing filling for their sport pages, but it's also given them the chance to explain referees are chosen six weeks before a game, "aimed at giving fans of lower league clubs the chance to see the top officials refereeing in the flesh." While Riley may be ranked in the top three English referees, despite what Graham Poll might think, fans turn up to not watch the officials, but the teams. Now, if the Tellywag wants some real investigating to do, maybe they could explain why most league clubs have two home or two away games between Christmas and the New Year?...
Wednesday 13 December
Hi guys! Durham Diary here, making something out of nothing. Which coincidentally is the exact opposite of what Michael Jeffrey ever did for Town. I came home from uni yesterday, so I've spent all morning in bed and all afternoon so far sitting in front of Sky Sports News. Which coincidentally is exactly what I would have done had I still been at uni!
The OS claims the club still have available 300 of the 1600 allocation for the Lincoln match on Saturday. All the eligibility schemes have run their course, and tickets are now available to anyone who wants one and has the required cash sitting in their back pocket. Anyone carrying money in a front pocket will be refused admission, quite rightly. If any of you are thinking of making the trip I beseech you not to take the train as me and a friend did last year. We were marched en masse from the platform to a pub, in which we were locked while a bunch of idiots threw pint glasses and chairs through windows, until the police decided they were going to march us all to the ground. Parking in Lincoln might not be much fun, but neither is dodge-ball with a pint glass.
The club last night took the commendable step of holding a 'Fans Forum' at Blundell Park. I say commendable because it's always good to feel the fans are involved in the running of the club, or at the least that those who make the decisions see themselves as accountable to the fans. Anyway, the OS has done a bulletpoint presentation listing what they thought were the most important discussion topics to come out of the evening. They don't actually go into any detail on the answers given so I won't draw this paragraph out any longer than I already have.
And that's all I have to say about that. See you soon, guys.
Tuesday 12 December
So, as Columbo would say, lemme get this straight: the reserves' visit to York this afternoon was switched to Blundell Park yesterday but has now been postponed? A page on Town's official website reported yesterday that the fixture had been moved to Cleethorpes because of a waterlogged pitch at the Minstermen's Stadium of Chocolate. Fair enough – but when the game was called off because of similarly wet conditions at Blundell Park, the site administrators couldn't be arsed to set up a new page and just pinned a note to the top of the existing one, resulting in a boggy quagmire of confusion and contradiction. "Entrance is free for supporters into the Main Stand," insists the site in the same breath as it reports the postponement. I should hope it is, if there's no match being played; better wear a long brown raincoat just in case.
Another week, another Curtis Woodhouse story in the national media. Still interested? Then presumably you remember that he was recently found guilty of sticking one on a copper. Well, he can't box again until the boxing FA have told him off as well, which, as Curt himself points out, seems a bit harsh given that he wasn't even a boxer at the time – well, not professionally – but a footballer, registered to Grimsby Town FC. So that's why he's playing for Rushden: just to earn a bit of money until he can start fighting again. Sound familiar?
Ace centre-half Nick Fenton has been named in the Football League's team of the week thing for the third time in about eight minutes following his commanding performance against Shrewsbury at the weekend. This time he is joined on the honour roll by everyone's current object of desire, Martin Paterson – the duration of whose loan term at Blundell Park has helpfully been clarified by the Grimsby Telegraph, which is useful, because the club hasn't bothered telling us and nobody here was too sure whether Town's goalscoring superstar hero was due to head back to Stoke on 1 January (which is when the transfer window reopens), 24 December (one calendar month after he arrived) or 22 December (one lunar month after he arrived). If the Telegraph's David Pye is right then we were all wrong, because he says it's 6 January. Nobody says why though.
Speaking of Nick Fenton, which we were, before that heartbreaking interruption, a key contributor to Cod Almighty has emailed the Diary to speculate upon who will replace him in the back four while he is suspended for this weekend's visit to Lincoln. "When asked about Whittle's partner for Lincoln," writes Tony Butcher, "Mr Alan Buckley said Gary Croft would never play centre-back whilst he was Grimsby Town manager – he'd never play Croft and Handyside together. So what are the odds on Peter Perfect doing a Futcher for Saturday?" Slightly shorter than the odds on Town managing to bring back Simon Ramsden from Rochdale next month, I expect.
Such is the esteem in which the Diary holds Fenton, in fact, that I will be taking a leaf out of his book and having the rest of the week off – so until after the Sincil showdown all your black and white needs will be fulfilled by CA's team of guest diarists. Before I go, though, there's an email to contend with from John Pakey (whose account of watching Town v Spurs on telly last season the Diary very much enjoyed). "Hi boys, just started a new job," writes JP. "Great news is it means I've finally moved closer to the Mighty Mariners and there will be chance to watch more games. Bad news it's in Lincoln. Any suggestions on how not to get lynched? The chap opposite me is a big Imps fan on all accounts." If we lose, John, compliment the performance of Lee Frecklington. If we win, compliment the performance of Lee Frecklington and change the subject to all the lovely stalls at Lincoln Christmas Market.
Monday 11 December
How do you feel after your most successful manager of all time is tempted out of semi-retirement to return to your club and immediately lift you from the brink of relegation to within six points of the promotion play-offs on the back of your best run of league form for 15 months? If you're a normal person, you feel quite happy. If you're from North East Lincolnshire, where abnormal is normal and where everything fails, you find something to be depressed about in the fact that the man scoring the goals is only on loan and will probably have to go back to Stoke at the end of the month. Such was the impression given by Radio Humberside's Football Forum on Saturday, in which Town's hard-fought win over Shrewsbury seemed to be entirely overshadowed by rumours that Martin Paterson was being watched by scouts from his own club who are bound to snatch him back to the Potteries as soon as the clocks chime midnight on New Year's Eve, to be honest with you Burnsy. The other side of the coin, of course, is that Mart's ready-made replacement Luton's Michael Reddy has been ordered out of bed and back to full training after an examination by a top Harley Street plastic surgeon last Friday. But why let a bit of good news spoil your day?
So what's the latest betting in the Shit, We've Only Got Two Centre-Backs And One's Suspended handicap stakes? The early money is on Gary Harkins to replace Nick Fenton for this Saturday's difficult trip to Lincoln, given that the player is reported to have spent some of his time with Blackburn reserves playing centre-half as well as his usual central midfield position (though not both at the same time, obviously; there are only two Ricky Ravenhills). With Harkins installed as 5/4 favourite, punters are looking for value in Tom Newey at 4/1, with Sir John McDermott returning to right-back, Gary Croft being switched to the left, and Newey moving inside; Cod Almighty's Mark Stilton insists that Newey once had a good game in a central position, and given the player's seemingly innate tendency to drift inwards and leave the left flank undefended, who is the Diary to doubt him? The long shot at 12/1 is Gary Jones, in a scenario whereby the Lump takes Fenton's role at Sincil Bank and Isaiah Rankin partners Messiah Paterson up front, but this would mean a severe lack of pace at the heart of the defence. The Diary is putting a tenner at 66/1 on a quicker solution in Paul Futcher being persuaded out of retirement.
In other news-related news this glorious Monday lunchtime, GTFC have declared the next home game a kids-in-free event in the hope of boosting the disastrous attendance that would otherwise have resulted from the club's dim-witted decision to switch the fixture to a Friday night. For the visit of Struggling Torquay (that's their name) on 22 December any minors accompanied by an adult paying full-price admission will be allowed in for just one hundred new pence, and there's music from the Salvation Army band, whaddaya know, not to mention a Santa's Grotto. If we're all very good boys and girls, do you think he'll bring us an extension to Martin Paterson's loan?
"Not sure I've seen this anywhere GTFC-related, might be handy for padding out your entry," writes Richard Bedwell in the first email to the Diary for pigging yonks. What you don't yet know, but will by the time you have finished reading this sentence, is that Bedders is referring to the news that the Mariners' record signing Lee Ashcroft has been made manager at Kendal Town. Peggy has been scoring shedloads of goals for the Northern Premier League side for the last three seasons and was appointed boss at the end of November, only for club captain and fans' hero Ricky Mercer to leave the club last week for league rivals Fleetwood Town and Kendal to lose 3-0 at home to Guiseley at the weekend. Kendal officials have moved swiftly to deny rumours that Ashcroft was given the manager's job in a bid to keep him at the club in the face of interest from his former boss Alan Buckley, who recently returned for a third spell in charge of Football League side Grimsby Town.
Friday 8 December
Town fans are gambling less, but eating more pies. This is the news that an unusually less than positive John Fenty forgot to announce in his dull-as-Gordon-Brown financial address to the Town nation yesterday. Despite an attractive-looking increase in the numbers (from a small loss the previous year) to a £408,000 trading profit, Mr Fenty goes on at great length to explain that things are really dire because the town's fair-weather fans just don't come often enough. The club's balance sheet has been considerably strengthened following a revaluation of Blundell Park which added a million quid to the debits-by-the-window column. If that was not enough, Mr Fenty has capitalised the near half million quid spent on the Fentydome to date to make the financial picture a tad rosier (on paper anyway). All well and good but the P&L next year will take a hell of a hammering if the project fails (as well it might, comments your ever-hyphenating Guest Diarist).
Mr Fenty begs us to ignore the "fat" profit figure and concentrate on the fact that the net cashflow for the period was negative to the tune of £133,000, requiring the club to increase its overall debt. But maybe, just maybe, this was because the club spent £326,000 on the Fentydome in the year. So for every quid we spent on pies Mr Fenty shelled out 70p on a high-risk strategy. To counter this it should be noted that Positive John converted part of his loan into new shares. This is to be applauded, of course. Lest ye forget, though, a big chunk of the remainder of the club's debt to him is underwritten by a charge on the assets of the club. By the way, the letter that accompanied the annual accounts yesterday forces shareholders to opt in to receive accounts through the post in future as a cost-saving exercise. Would it not be a hell of a sight cheaper just to publish the accounts on the official website so every bugger can read 'em?
Anyroad, enough of all that nonsense, for Town have a home match tomorrow to look forward to. And the Telewag has interviewed Mr Buckley, who apparently hinted that he may play the same side that beat both Barnet and their wind machine on Tuesday night. This despite 'Fenners' giving his keeper a big black eye in the process. Oh, how Mr Watkiss laughed on Mariners World. In the same interview the nasally challenged number two to Lord Buckley made coy references throughout to how good a side Shrewsbury are – at the back, in the middle, and up front, where Leo Fortune-West provides me with a chance to slip in at least the eleventh hyphen of the morning. Shrewsbury have also developed, according to our Stuart, the best corner routine ever. Can't wait to see their centre-halves trundling upfield for the first set piece of the day, can we?
So we still owe the taxman about £650,000, gentle reader, but that is £100,000 less than a year ago and the even better news is that we have half a million quid's worth of assets in the course of construction. It's a bit like the king and his new clothes, isn't it? "Oooh, feel how comfy these new seats are; there's loads to choose from too, and that smell – well, it will probably grow on you, won't it? We didn't want a pint before the game anyway, and at least we can sit in the car park after the game for an hour and listen to that dentist on Humberside being baffled by the broadcasting oddity that is David Burns." See yer.
Thursday 7 December
It's Thursday, it's 12:44, and it's... Crackerjack! Of Town's two forwards with long-term injuries, it was Gary Cohen who was believed for a long time to have been closer to a return to fitness – until last week, when the Grimsby Telegraph revealed that the former Gretna and Workington hotshot was suffering painful complications in rehabilitation from his knackered knee. Today the local rag completes its brace of exclusives on the Mariners' broken strikeforce by revealing that Luton's Michael Reddy could be given the OK to return to full training at a consultation today. Reddy contributed 11 goals to Town's failed 2005–06 promotion campaign before joining the Hatters in a £325,000 deadline-day move – and remarkably managed three more afterwards – but has been sidelined for most of this season, recovering from the hip operation he underwent in September to rectify a long-standing thigh problem, the hip bone being connected to the thigh bone, and so on. The player travels to London's Posh London today to see the doctor, and is looking forward to playing again in January if all goes well. "There's nothing worse as a footballer than sitting in the stands not being able to take part," Reddy told the Telegraph from his bed in the club shop.
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do. If you haven't got a ha'penny, then you'll probably struggle to afford a half season ticket for Blundell Park. Yes, it's that time of year when part-timers and foot-draggers are invited to commit themselves on a more regular basis to the cause of Grimsby Town Football Club, and the club's marketing department
has gone into overdrive, offering new supporters the chance not only to attend the Mariners' stadium but to become it. "Imagine their delight on Christmas morning when they find out that they are going to be an ever present and Blundell Park," purrs the official website surreally if not seductively. The tickets come in at £150 and £170, with the usual big discounts for the very old and very young. There's also a stupid competition to win one, if you can even call it that, which costs a quid to enter, but no mention of the fact that if ever there were a season to watch only the second half of, that season will surely be the current one.
That be all for the week from yer regular Diary, but do come back tomorrow, when a guest diarist of as yet uncertain specification will be here to update you with all you need updating on as Town prepare to take on Shrewsbury and continue the Buckley counterrevolution. Toodles!
Wednesday 6 December
"Woohoo!" declared the Diary after the win at Barnet last night lifted Town to the vertiginous heights of 18th place in the fourth division. "We're only 12 points off the play-offs now!" And then this morning, when I had recovered my composure a little, I realised that my sights had been set on sixth-placed Peterborough, with 35 points, rather than seventh-placed Notts County, who have 31. With 78 points left to play for and only, in fact, eight separating Alan Buckley's resurgent side from the play-off zone, the temptation for GTFC folk is to start dreaming of another wonderful day out in Cardiff next May rather than crossing their fingers for Boston to incur a ten-point administration penalty and Macclesfield players to carry on breaking their legs. And Mariners centre-half Nick Fenton, who wasn't around last season when Mr Russell Slade started recklessly setting targets, is doing just that. A play-off position should be "more than achievable with the players we have got here", Fenton told the Grimsby Telegraph after last night's win, shortly before reaching for the North East Lincs edition of Thomson Local, scanning the Capricious Goddesses section for the name Fortune, then making a call to offer the expert hostage services of several close relatives.
As far as the game goes, you're basically looking at your classic away win, right, complete with minority of possession, only goal of match scored on counterattack, and match reports likely to feature all the requisite smutty phrases like 'backs to the wall' and 'rearguard action'. That the deceptively lowly home side performed strongly should not have come as a surprise to readers of yesterday's Diary; what will have raised eyebrows, rather, is the defiance of Buckley's side under the relentless pressure exerted by the Bees, and who knows – if Town can continue to combine the clinical resilience of their away performances under Russell Slade for the first half of last season with home form featuring the flair, fluency and goals seen against Accrington the other week then maybe Fenton's form as a soothsayer could match his current fortitude in the back four.
From one golden vision of the future, now, to a grey metal one sponsored by a fossil fuel corporation, sited bleakly in the draught of chemical and fish processing works, and without an even vaguely nice pub within at least a three-mile radius. Yep – it's Fentydome time again, and the council planning committee meeting that will give the thumbs-up to Town's soulless and sterile new home will take place on 25 January 2007 – "the most important date in the club's history", gushes the official website, carelessly overlooking 9 November 2006.
Tuesday 5 December
Town are playing tonight! The side's cup defeat by third division Northampton the other week having given the players a break over the weekend just gone, this evening's visit to Barnet will be the first run-out in ten days for Buckley's battlers. Ah, there, you see: alliteration at last. Optimism continues to flow freely since the Mariners' wonderful performance against Accrington last time out, and although Paul Bolland's unbroken foot is still threatening his participation, the BBC reckons Sir John McDermott has got over that poorly lamb. Calf.
And if you're not already excited enough then hey, wasn't it Barnet who represented last season's biggest pushover when they lost 3-0 at Blundell Park in March? Don't let your confidence run away with you, though, reader, for although the Bees remain becalmed in 19th place, they have won four of their last six games and succeeded last weekend where Town had failed in ejecting Northampton from the FA Cup, turning a one-nil deficit at half time against the Cobblers into a an amazing 4-1 victory. Goalscoring midfielder Dean Sinclair may be an injury doubt, as is Ancient Andy Hessenthaler, and first-defender-on-the-teamsheet Ian Hendon is suspended – but you underestimate Barnet at your peril, even if they have got Paul Warhurst in their team.
Monday 4 December
Alan Buckley's first spell at Blundell Park is best remembered for consecutive promotions, passing, movement, and the emergence of Gary Croft and Peter Handyside. And John McDermott as a right-back as well, I guess, seeing as Mick Lyons and Bobby Roberts had been making him play on the left of midfield, or wing defence at netball, or whatever it was. The point is that, as well as the unusual state of affairs that is Town's team in general being any good, the club's youth system in particular has tended to flourish with Buckley at the helm. Hell, even Danny Butterfield looked alright when AB brought him through in his natural position of right-back, as opposed to the subsequent central midfield role he was ludicrously required to occupy by Dodgy Robin Lawrence.
This being the case, we can probably all smile with satisfaction at the weekend news that young home-grown forwards Danny North and Andy Taylor have both signed new two-year contracts. Despite having lost his place in the Mariners' first 16 since the return of the Great Al four weeks ago, Taylor has continued to bang 'em in for the reserves and yoof team, and sounds pretty psyched about his new mentor: "He's been very supportive and he has been helping me as a striker. He's been teaching me a lot about my positional play." It remains to be seen whereabouts in Town's pecking order of strikers this promising duo will emerge when and if all the injuries ever clear up, but in the meantime it is reassuring to have cover up front that won't play 23 seconds and then bugger off back to Southend reserves.
Oh, look: the Grimsby Telegraph denotes a person who has Asperger's syndrome by using terminology that is specifically discouraged by the National Autistic Society. Oh, look: so does the Daily Mail. The Telegraph may share the Mail's owner, willingness to offend people with learning disabilities, and determination to make everyone think that the world is about to end because of criminal asylum bisexual bogus terrorist gay gypsy paedophile hoodie-wearer veil-wearer do-gooder drug-user binge-drinker job-seeker single mothers who go to work, but there's a refreshing waft of optimism about its sports pages today, with both Mr Buckley and Mr Pulis opining that the sun is shining over Blundell Park and the only way is up. Paul Bolland's foot might still be hurting by the time Town play Barnet tomorrow, though, so we'd all better exercise a bit more patience than we showed Graham Rodger.
Lastly but absolutely not leastly, today's Diary is pleased to help publicise a couple of fundraising events put together by Grimsby Town Supporters Trust. Next Tuesday, 12 December, the trust will be getting together with the club for a fans' forum and quiz night at McMenemy's – Messrs Fenty, Buckley and Watkiss will be in attendance; it's free to get in; and there's nothing on the Mariners' official website about a dress code – but first of all, fans are invited to pay tribute this weekend to former GTFC left-back Tony Gallimore by spending the Friday night before a match in the Grosvenor public house on Humberston Road, where a GTST race night begins at 8pm.
Friday 1 December
Hail, and well met fellows 'tis I Alternative Guest Diarist stepping into the fray once more for Harry and England. Well, for the Diary actually, because he likes a day off. I am writing this before the cricket starts, before England are led out like badgers to the slaughter. Why did I say that? Well because the Badgers is the nickname of Tamworth, whose team came up against the holders of the Midlands Floodlit Cup in the quarter-final of this year's event. The holders being - of course! - Grimsby Town, as if you had forgotten. Town's youngsters put Tamworth to the sword in a 6–2 rout with first team starlet Andy Taylor netting twice, all of which means that Town face either the Walsall or Chesterfield at BP in the semis.
With Town inactive this weekend due to Northampton depriving them of a mouthwatering clash at Barnet in the second round of the FA Cup, Alan Buckley's thoughts turn to Town's next match at, ermmmm, Barnet on Tuesday night. Buckley admits that he knows nothing about Barnet. Good job he's had an extra couple of days to find out then really, isn't it? If Alan is really lucky Barnet will be as good as they were last year at Blundell Park and it may also remind him of the time he signed the non-white Dale Banton. It's a hair thing.
More news on the fractureless Paul Bolland - apparently his foot is not broken, although after the x-rays it seems he has as much radiation in him as your average business class passenger to Moscow.
Away from football it seems Boston United's plans for a couple of flatpack stadiums for themselves and Boston Town are to be thwarted by Boston Borough Council's planning department. The club are said to be weighing up the envelopes, er, I mean options. If only Town weren't so honest maybe we would already be watching passing and movement at a half empty Fentydome Arena but at least the delay will allow the club to pull out some of the seats and have Safe Standing Areas.
Oh, and it seems England have picked an unchanged side for the second test so it looks like the right time to go and fleece Marinersbet. Ta'ra.