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Diary - March 2006
Friday 31 March
Apols for the late Diary. Durham Diary's bug has reached Leeds.
"Getting promotion to the Hallowed Land of the Third Division is the main objective at the moment," states Steve Mildenhall putting the contract negotiations for him to stay at Blundell Park beyond this summer onto the backburner. "Once we get these seven games out the way, then hopefully we can get [a new deal] sorted." When one of the leading contenders for player of the season decides to solely concentrate on those seven games you know he must be taking the run-in seriously. Or sniffing more cash in the offing if Town go up.
Super Milds's actions on and off the pitch could be just the tonic to mix with the stiff gin of Town's remaining matches. Not an easy seven game sequence either, with five matches against teams vying for a top seven finish. So far this season, Town have a meagre average of 1.23 points per game in the 13 matches against teams in the league's top ten, whereas they have 2 points per game in the 26 games against the remaining 14 teams. Maybe a quick chart is in order...
||Pts taken/Accumulative maximum points
See that asterisk? That means we played those teams before 14 October. Lucky for our early season form...
Like a horny dog, Wrexham are one of the team's sniffing around the play-offs' Peterborough-resembling arse. While they might be fifth in the form table, Wrexham's away form is nothing compared to Town's recent revival in their results at Blundell Park. However, tomorrow's visitors have been handed a moral boosting fillip ahead of the game, with the club's future seemingly looking rosy, the snarling guard dog administration kept at bay. Their ever-useful defender Dave Bayliss is back, while McEvilly, Roche, Whitley (sounding like the partners out of LA Law) are all rated so doubtful they're out. I still reckon we could do these lot if we put in a professional display.
Planning on going to the game? Just to solve the confusion over the recent, ahem, confusing promotion ("contrived" ending up at the feet of "ill conceived", and reminiscent of the Spurs and Newcastle ticketing chaos). We advise you just get on down to the ticket office whenever. If you get money off think of it as a bonus. It's not like it's going to be a sell out as well, so try out a retro "pay on the day" experience.
Which brings this belated diary to a close. Just get down to the game and cheer the boys on. Y'know, after all we are second. Could be worse: you could be a fretting Wycombe fan. Be thankful for more than you have got.
Thursday 30 March
Possibly having realised that April Fool jokes are all very well until they land you in trouble with the local trading standards office, GTFC have decided to clarify that holders of their special voucher thingies will indeed be able to buy tickets for Saturday's game against Wrexham for the sum of just five United Kingdom pounds (or £2.50 for kids). The, er, foolish part, it turns out, is that the offer is valid for just three hours from 9am at the ticket office on the morning of the match, noon being the traditional cut-off point for the whole poisson d'avril thing, y'see! For Saturday's early edition, meanwhile, the Grimsby Telegraph is yet to decide whether to revive the 'merger with Hull' gag or try a jape about the Fentydome having to pay its way by multitasking as a venue for speedway, ice hockey, equestrianism and r*gby l**gue.
There's only one John McDermott which is a shame, because if there were eleven then Town might still be in the second division. There is also only one Gary Cohen and one Curtis Woodhouse, which means that if they don't recover from their respective cricked neck and slight hip strain in time for the weekend then other players will have to play against Wrexham instead. Messrs Parkinson, Mendes, Goodfella and Kamukalalachameleon are on stand-by.
"Grimsby Town reserves were beaten 2-1 at York tonight in a game in which they deserved something," reported the Mariners' official website late on Wednesday evening. Precisely what they deserved was not made clear, though one strongly suspects it to have been a 2-1 defeat. Ben Higgins was the scorer as the second string crashed to its 409th defeat of the season against a non-League reserve side with a teenage goalkeeper and a midfielder registered to Leyburn United of the Wensleydale Creamery League. Speaking of trialists, the three already with GTFC were joined, as anticipated, by two more from FC United of Manchester. Rory Patterson and Will Ahern "acquitted themselves well" according to Graham Rodger, but also told Town's assistant boss "that they are not used to that pace". If a Wednesday night reserve game at Bootham Crescent is a bit much, the FCUM duo will need to raise their tempo considerably to match the searing swiftness of Russell Slade's current first XI, won't they?
Pat Bell has emailed the Diary (which reminds me: the proper email address is working again now so it's back to email@example.com please, everybody) to draw our attention to a nicely written, albeit somewhat alarming, report from Carlisle Five's local paper on their win against Lincoln the other night. The all-conquering Cumbrians, it would seem, managed to see off the physical challenge of Big Keith's big team of Town thrashers while still playing some pretty stylish football and Pat sounds worried. "Why will our match at Carlisle be like being woken up by your partner, demanding sex?" he asks. "Because if Carlisle are expecting us to compete on artistic merit, they will be in for a rude, but ultimately pleasurable, awakening?"
That's me done for the week again, then, so ta for reading and don't forget to put your head round the door tomorrow for whichever of CA's crack team of guest diarists ends up seeing out the month of March. T'ra, all!
Wednesday 29 March
After using a highly tasteful sequence of war analogies in its report on the Mariners' drubbing at Lincoln last weekend, the Grimsby Telegraph continues in militaristic mode today with a Sun-style Photoshop mock-up of Russell Slade in a camouflage jacket and black beret. At least I assume it's a mock-up. The image accompanies a piece headlined Let's get up and at 'em, in which the Town boss "is rallying his shattered troops" ahead of this Saturday's visit by Wrexham. Sir John McDermott should return to the team after missing the Sincil mauling, explains the Telegraph, but Gary Cohen and Luton's Michael Reddy are possible fitness doubts for this weekend's conflict, when Town will be looking to inflict maximum civilian casualties on the invading Welsh army using cluster bombs, landmines and napalm.
After the fourth division's leading sides have spent the entire season taking it in turns to look quite good and then turn out to be as rubbish as everyone else, the basement finally appears to have found its champions in Carlisle Five, whose paltry one-nil win over Lincoln last night nevertheless extends their lead over the Mariners to a life-altering six points. It has also emerged that the all-conquering Cumbrians stepped in to help last weekend when their visitors' team coach broke down on the way to Brunton Park, and sent out the Carlisle Five bus to pick them up. It is not yet known whether Boston returned the vehicle when they had finished with it, or sold it to the nearest second-hand dealer and trousered the cash.
Nick Hegarty. Remember him? When Russell Slade got a new contract last spring, Town's players responded by winning only one of their final ten matches of the season away at Kidderminster, where young Heggers made an excellent 20-minute debut as a late substitute playing up the left wing. His manager responded by awarding him with a new playing contract and not letting him play, and Ginger Nick has today been sent on loan to Willenhall Town of the Southern League Division One West (step 8 in the pyramid, I think, for those of you copying the Diary's anorak-style anorak).
Come to think of it, whatever happened to Russell Slade's new new contract?
It is on the subject of Hegarty's loan that Dan Humphrey has emailed the Diary. "Official site says he hasn't featured for the first team this season," he writes. "WRONG! Ah well... he must have been used as sub twice or more?" Dan is right and the official site, you will be surprised to learn, is wrong: Hegs 11 managed seven minutes as a substitute against Carlisle on 2 January to add to the two he had clocked up at the end of the Lincoln game five days earlier. Then there was Morecambe, but we've airbrushed that from the pages of history, haven't we.
"I have worked it out!" shouts JR Colling, possibly jumping out of the bath and running round the streets of Sheffield stark bollock naked. Worked what out, JR? "Why Grimsby are in with a chance of promotion. It's because the reserves haven't won! Town lose 5-0 and the reserves don't do as bad as normal. Coincidence? I don't think so. It's a yin-yang, karma, cosmic balance thing! The crappiness has to go somewhere... or maybe I've just been smoking too much...". Well, it's as good an explanation as any; thousands more supporters still have no idea exactly how Town are placed second in the division. One of these seems to be Sibbo, who has also emailed alluding to recent events at Sincil Bank. "Hey, what's this, Diary?" he asks. "Mighty Mariner a fool? The guy is no fool. He never turned up last Saturday, did he?" Neither did most of the players, though, Sib, and they were feeling pretty foolish by four o'clock.
Tuesday 28 March
Digby Jones is a wanker. The sort of wanker who would probably justify trashing workers' pension schemes by saying: "There's always someone worse off than yourself." This platitude holds particular relevance for the Mariners' nouveau-riche neighbours King$ton Communication$ FC, who in case you didn't realise have got loads of money. This is why they can afford to buy eighteen new strikers every season, and this in turn can have done no harm to their cause as their reserve side crossed that bridge to face Town's second string at Blundell Park yesterday. Given that the league record of Graham Rodger's team this season reads "won none, drawn three, lost the rest", it is unsurprising that the visitors ran out victorious, but given the financial context of the game the 2-1 scoreline almost counts as a win for the Mariners. Trialists Craig Richards and Andy Bagnall are said to have played well, and disappointing January signing Junior Mendes even put Town ahead at one point. KCFC's first goal was scored by Stuart Elliot, whose scoring record over this season and last suggests that he is a sort of Northern Irish Kevin Donovan, so that's cheating, really.
Speaking of trialists, two more are due to join the Mariners as the reserves' dreary medley of defeats goes on the road to York tomorrow. As yesterday's Diary reported, FC United of Manchester midfielder Will Ahern is on his way across the Pennines, but today Town's official site announces that team-mate Rory Patterson will be joining him on the journey. Patterson is a 21-year-old Irishman who spent three years at Rochdale (whose home game against Barnet tonight has been postponed because of a waterlogged pitch!) before being released in 2004. The player has scored a creditable 18 goals in 23 starts plus six subs this season, and collected an equally impressive two red cards one of which came after Patterson had already been subbed off in a November cup tie at Colne only to throw a punch in a late touchline dust-up between large numbers of players and officials on both sides. Rory was banned for 35 days for his trouble. It'll be just like Tony Crane never left!
The Mariners' brave attempt to cram 6,000 supporters into their stadium for the final six home games of the season may have fallen 900 or so short at the first two attempts but, just as the club's insistence on building a new 12,000-seater ground continues, so the Target 6000 campaign goes on for the four fixtures remaining at Blundell Park before the summer. To tie in with this Saturday's visit by Wrexham, GTFC have published two pages on their website littered with unexplained question marks at the end of sentences that aren't actually questions, you know, like this? Maybe they're meant to be pronounced with that rising intonation? Like everyone in Neighbours and Home and Away speaks? The pages relate to an April Fool promotion thingy, whereby the club sends out a load of vouchers to schools to try and get to local schoolchildren before they make their parents buy them Liverpool and Chelsea shirts, and some of them win free gifts if their voucher carries "a picture of The Mighty Mariner dressed as a fool". No change there then.
In case you missed it, Daryl Clare has signed for Burton Albion. After rejecting a move to Lincoln because the money wasn't good enough, and declining talks with third division Yeovil because it was too far to travel from Louth, the former Ireland u21 forward who scored ten goals in a hundred appearances for the Mariners and then averaged comfortably over one every two games for Chester and Boston joined the Conference side late last week and made his debut as a substitute in the Brewers' 2-1 win at Altrincham. Distance and journey time from Louth to Burton according to theaa.com: 92.6 miles, 2 hours 33 minutes.
Several days on from Durham Diary's shock revelations about Andy Bagnall's dark cricketing past, emails continue to pour into the Diary's inbox linking GTFC with leather, willow and linseed oil. And telling me about dodgy copies of Corel Draw, penis enlargement and how to get a share of 89,500,000 dollars being transferred from a bank in Nigeria, but that's by the by. "Harry Betmead," writes Bedders. "315 games for Town, England one-cap wonder and Lincolnshire county cricketer 193549. He also played occasionally for Brocklesby Park Cricket Club." We even get a couple of web links into the bargain. "And Paul Wilkinson was a much better cricketer than footballer," adds Tony Butcher. "But football pays more and, in those days of early Thatcherism, poodle perms 'n' tache combinations were frowned upon in the land of flannel." The MCC didn't frown hard enough to prevent that Scunny player committing some tonsorial atrocities though, did it?
Monday 27 March
Don't panic! That's the message Town's official site is attempting to convey today to supporters reeling from Saturday's thrashing at Lincoln although in places the message seems to come closer to saying: you are stupid. Picking up the 81-points-means-automatic-promotion riff laid down by Mr Russell Slade the other week, the OS calculates that the target would be hit if the erratic Mariners, currently on 68 points, were to gather "just 4 wins and a draw from the remaining 7 games". This Key Stage 1 mathematics exercise having been brought to a tidy conclusion, the club's internet mouthpiece then deems it necessary to add: "And don't forget, Town's rivals would have to better the Mariners' run in to pip them at the post." Oooh, really? Thanks. You'd better have a word with Russ as well, and make sure he realised that when he set the target.
As GTFC fans and players alike have witnessed over the past 22 months not least after the team squandered a two-goal lead at Meadow Lane this time last year Russell Slade is a man who stands forever on the cusp of an extraordinary rage. His decision to issue Saturday's half-time team talk in the Sincil Bank centre circle in response to the players' dire first-half display and consequent four-goal deficit was surprising only for its restraint; and by the time the game had ended, the short-fused Mariners manager, much in the style of Saturday's Diary, was doing his best to take the positives. "Although it was 5-0 it's only three points," said Russ philosophically, at some indeterminate point between then and now. Imps boss Keith 'Big Keith' Alexander, unsurprisingly, has been using words such as 'magnificent' to describe his team; we shall see whether he continues to do so after his side travels north-west to play Carlisle Five tomorrow night. C'mon you Imps!
Things could be worse for Grimsby Town, of course: they could be Grimsby Town reserves. The Mariners' second string resumes its heroic season-long quest for a win this afternoon at home to King$ton Communication$ FC and continues the struggle at York on Wednesday; and today's game could see three trialists on display, reports the official website: goalscoring Southampton defender Craig Richards, Barnsley defender Tom Harban (who had a trial with Scarborough last November) and Birmingham goalkeeper and former Grimsby Town cricketer Andy Bagnall. Will Ahern, a 19-year-old central midfielder with FC United of Manchester, is supposed to be due over this week as well (FCUM's official website seemingly having checked the spelling of 'Grimsby' on Mariners World). Ahern is highly rated by United fans, although a friend of a CA-er who plays for Darwen "reckons FCUM aren't that good" and "hasn't seen anyone in this league who he thinks could make it as a pro, let alone a pro at a club who should be playing third division football next season". This is very helpful, since the most useful source of information the Diary was able to unearth was a Hungarian blog informing us that the player is often regaled by supporters with chants of "Will, Will, Willy Ahern/Will, Will, Willy Ahern/Will, Will, Willy Ahern/Plays for FC United".
The theme of young Bagnall's cricket/football bipolarity is taken up in an email from Dan Humphrey, who reminds us of Guy Welton, one-time Town youth keeper who went on to open the batting for Nottinghamshire CC. "I played footy with him for Keelby when I was younger," writes Dan. "Under-13s, maybe." Guest Diary, meanwhile, is moved to compliment his Durham counterpart on last Friday's Diary ("tardy but immensely readable") before recalling that "the estimable Nigel Batch was a bit of a local cricketing hero. I saw him get pissed in the Ship at Barnoldby-le-Beck a couple of times when the bar was filled with the sound of his leather-on-willow stories. If you know what I mean...". Not exactly, GD, no; but your concluding ellipsis suggests that we might not want to go there...
Mark Wilson, meanwhile, refers back to Thursday's Diary, asking: "Can I quote directly from the bitter ray of sunshine that is Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur's Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit?: 'Powerpoint: the Microsoft tool that makes everyone think and talk like fuckheads'. And I'll recommend it to all your lovely readers who are of a curmudgeonly persuasion." Thanks, Mark, because that takes us neatly to Monday's final email. "So the wheels finally fell off," sighs Dave the Engineer, taking us neatly and sadly back to Saturday. "I wonder what the original Futchenstein made of it all; he was sat just behind us amongst the carnage pigswill bank. How can our not-very-good team lose to another not very good team so heavily? Some things never change: the mindless individuals who cheer their heroes one minute are quick to boo them when all's not well, and of course Tom Newey is not a football player. Make or break now." If it's all the same to you, I think I'll break. See you tomorrow!
Saturday 25 March
Great news for the Mariners as the form of promotion rivals Carlisle Five takes a turn for the worse. After strolling to four 5-0 victories in the past two months, the hitherto fearless Cumbrians shockingly manage only four goals in beating Boston at home this afternoon. It's not all roses for Town, as two of the goals at Brunton Park are notched, after his introduction as a 66th-minute substitute, by Simon Hackney: the free-scoring young winger who trialled at Blundell Park two years ago but was advised by a Grimsby player not to waste his time at "a shithole club like this". But Carlisle Five supporters will note a longer-term trend alongside today's worrying downturn, since their team has failed to score six times in a match since October. With this kind of stuttering form affecting GTFC's strongest adversary of the season, Mr Russell Slade will sleep easy tonight in the sure knowledge that the fourth division title is there for the taking!
Friday 24 March
Hi guys! Durham Diary here, procrastinating my way gently through the Easter hols. Take it easy everyone, it's a Friday! [You certainly have, DD. It was nearly half past bloody three when you sent me this stressed ed.]
One man certainly not taking it easy enough for my liking is Mr Diary himself, who despite having the day off has brought to my attention a page on the BBC Sport website detailing the fortunes of a certain Mr M Boulding. Mikey Boy has apparently joined Rotherham until the end of the season, having played already three times for the Millers' reserve team. Perhaps Mr B should have had a word with Saint John Mclegendmott, or indeed Tommy 'Always Bloody Scores Against Us' Mooney before rashly deciding to give up his regular Saturday routine seven months ago in an evidently foolhardy attempt to recover his professional tennis ranking. In an almost sort of related bit, I'd like to add a personal congratulation to all the Rotherham fans who have raised a significant amount of money and seem to have saved their club from administration, at least for the meantime.
Looking ahead to tomorrow's rather ridiculously nicknamed 'Sincil Showdown' (© Grimsby Telecontinued on page 33), Lincoln have signed former Mariner Jamie Forrester on a one-month loan from Bristol Rovers. I don't really remember much of JF to be honest, except that Leeds turned down a bid of £200,000 from us for him before promptly letting us have him on a free transfer the following month. Oh, and he scored in that cup win against West Ham that set up that oh-so-close match in the next round against Chelski. With the appearance of S Ramsden on the scoresheet against Town earlier in the week (having never scored a professional goal previously), let me say Forrester will absolutely, definitely, unquestionably score against his former club tomorrow, in the rather illogical hope that by writing it here I'll be proved wrong. Oh, and Messrs Toner and Futcher will not score against their former clubs. Or something. All this reverse-fateology is messing with my brain, man.
In other news, Town are "looking at" Birmingham City keeper Andy Bagnall, according to the OS. "Bagnall is a second-year scholar with the Premiership outfit and is described as a 'good shot stopper'" is what the OS has to offer, which makes it sound suspiciously like he's bad at kicking or coming for crosses or something. This makes me feel like I actually know something about something about someone for once, since I played cricket at district level with 'Baggy'. He, like the aforementioned Jamie Forrester, is a product of the Leeds United youth system, and lives locally. I must admit I thought there was legislation in place primarily to prevent Premiership clubs snapping up youngsters living nowhere near them for their youth team, but this is certainly not something I know something about, so I won't go on too much. My final little nugget is that Bagnall played, if he does not still play, for Grimsby Town cricket team, which might provide quite an interesting and possibly unique Grimsby Town double.
The Telegraph is reeling out its predictable drivel about tomorrow's big match, mostly along the lines of saying lots of people haven't been able to train for the Mariners ahead of the game, for varying reasons. On the other hand, Simon Yeo looks set to miss the rest of the season, let alone the match tomorrow, so Lincoln's preparations haven't been ideal either. The OS isn't running a piece 'bigging up' their marketing skills in having managed to shift all of the tickets for the game, which I will presume is an indication that all their levels of eligibility to buy tickets have proved useless since supply was greater than demand. Maybe I'm wrong.
Which leaves me to do the Justin Whittle thing at the end of the match, walking round and clapping in the general direction of each of you in thanks for your continuing support. Still, at least he bothers. If you have got one of those not very hot-cake-like Lincoln tickets then I'll see you there. Town are still within a good professional footballer's spitting distance away from top spot, and if we get more points tomorrow than Carlisle do against Boston we'll be sitting pretty. If you don't have one, well, enjoy your day wishing you did have, I suppose!
Apparently the consumption of alcohol on trains when travelling to attend a football match is illegal, while the consumption of alcohol on trains when not travelling to attend a football match isn't. Day return to Lincoln for the shops and cathedral, anyone?
Thursday 23 March
If England's cricket team can win a test match to level a series in the most difficult region of the world to tour without the services of Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones and Ashley Giles, then the Mariners can surely brush aside the absence of half a team at Sincil Bank this Saturday, eh? Today's alarming squad news is that John McDermott is absent from training for "personal reasons", Curtis Woodhouse is away on paternity leave (congraddies, Woody!), and Gary Cohen, Paul Bolland and Justin Whittle are all nursing injuries. Since none of the crocked trio appeared to suffer knocks during Tuesday's draw at Rochdale, one can only assume that they all had a big scrap on the way home. The news gives Rob Jones a cue to step in as captain and lead his side to victory at Lincoln by playing 'Ring of Fire' in the dressing room.
While we're on the subject on Saturday's local derby which reminds Lincoln of the days when their fiercest local derbies tended to be against decent sides, rather than Boston the Mariners seem indecently excited at the prospect of having a half-decent referee for a change. An item on the club's official website is moist with anticipation of decisions being made by Steve Bennett, pointing out that he has also officiated at matches involving proper teams like Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool. In an interview with Bennett on the website of the FA, the ravishing ref reveals that he would like to introduce "a dotted line between the edge of the arc in the penalty area and the halfway line" and "there would not be any offside in that part of the field" an innovation that was already being piloted by the governing body when Town conceded a late equaliser at Rushden the other week.
Daryl Clare has not been linked with a return to Blundell Park! I just thought I'd mention it, since the former Mariners and Ireland u21 forward who left Conference side Crawley earlier this season when they halved all their players' wages has rejected a move to Yeovil because he wants to be nearer his home in Louth, and isn't going to Lincoln because they won't pay him enough, so it was only a matter of time before some website or other decided he was a nailed-on certainty to step in when Luton's Michael Reddy gets a two-match suspension for diving too obviously.
"Steve Evans! HA HA HA HA!" writes John Pakey in an email to the Diary, unintentionally transcribing the Diary's first thought upon waking every morning. "How did I forget that one? That's going to keep a smile on my face all day. Until of course I get told how much work I've got to do. I'm off to hide away from my boss for half an hour and laugh some more. Cheers." If you don't know what he's on about, read yesterday's Diary. If you've done that and you still don't know what he's on about, give up and read Teamtalk or something instead.
Last of all before I hand over this page to tomorrow's guest diarist is another email responding to yesterday's gubbins, which has been sent, fittingly enough, by Guest Diary. "Thanks for an excellent summation of the Rochdale match," writes GD, "but your use of bullet points scared me a bit. I gave up my office job to become a casual well-digger purely in order to avoid them. By the way, it's colder than a well-digger's ass this morning. And I should know." Cheers, fella and watch out for next Monday's synopsis of the Lincoln match in PowerPoint format.
Wednesday 22 March
After having begun his 918th season as a professional footballer by announcing his intention to retire at the end of it, GTFC immortal Sir John 'Sir' McDermott has now declared himself ready to play on for a 919th. In one of those stories on BBCi Sport, or BBC Sport Online, or whatever it is, that are a bit longer than a standard interweb football news story but stop short of being a full feature and are still a bit lightweight but are better than most of what passes itself off for journalism on the webnet, Sir Mac of Johndermo recalls a conversation with Tommy Mooney in which the tenacious Town tormentor asked him: "What else would you do on a Saturday afternoon?" The Mariners demigod is now ready to talk terms on a new contract, confirms the piece, and is keen to restore the club to its rightful place atop the Humber hierarchy after watching local rivals prosper in recent seasons. "When [King$ton Communication$ FC] got promoted last season," recalls Sir J McD, "I saw a [King$ton Communication$ FC] fan in our stadium car park who had driven all the way over the Humber Bridge. He got out of his car, celebrated and then got back into his car to drive back." There really isn't very much to do in Hull, is there.
Now, then, I expect you'll be wanting to know all about Town's visit to Rochdale last night, won't you? Righto! Here are the salient points.
Oh, and it finished 2-2. Yes, it's disappointing to lose the lead twice, especially against such a ragged, drifting side as Dale, but the result brings the Mariners to 68 points, which is apparently enough to stay up. It is also the same number as Carlisle Five have, and they are at the top of the division!
- The Bogland pitch was only moderately bad, so the match went ahead!
- Not many people were there to watch it though. Perhaps the rest thought the match might not go ahead. Or that it would be rubbish.
- Town scored a penalty! The scorer was Ciaran Toner.
- Town's lead at half-time is said to have been somewhat fortuitous given that Rochdale dominated the opening 45 minutes.
- Fen Butcher collected his fourth yellow card in two months.
- Left-back Gary Croft was an unused substitute. Town played without a left-back! Unless you count Tom Newey (who collected his 11th yellow card of the season).
- In the third minute of second-half injury time Town conceded a goal direct from a corner, despite having three central defenders on the pitch, one of whom is six feet and five inches and two of whom are six feet and seven inches in height.
- Simon Ramsden scored the first senior goal of his career, at the age of 24, against the club that recently released him because he is only six feet in height.
- Both managers say their teams deserved to win.
And you know who isn't top of the division, don't you? Northampton, Bristol Rovers, Leyton Orient, Boston and Wycombe all of whom spend more on players than Town and are currently achieving less. An interesting piece in the Nottingham Evening Post finds Rob Ullathorne, an employee of Notts County, bemoaning the paltry wages paid to employees of Notts County a club that wandered to within a gnat's chuff of extinction as recently as 2003 after spending a year and a half in administration. What is interesting from the point of view of County's fellow basement black and whiters is that their chairman Steve Thompson responds to Ullathorne's Oliver Twist audition by explaining: "The budget we had this season was 15 per cent more than Grimsby Town and if they do not get promoted and keep the same budget we will still be spending more than them next season." Easily as we may tire of Mr Russell Slade's tactics, we might do well to remember how little he has been able to spend on building a squad compared with his rival managers in the fourth division promotion shuffle.
Another transfer window is closing tomorrow, apparently, but there are so many transfer windows these days that the Diary tends simply to assume that one is closing every week unless I hear otherwise.
Ticket news, people. First, Town's 12-pointer at Leyton Orient on Easter Monday has been made all-ticket; second, only a couple of hundred places are likely to remain for this Saturday's visit to Lincoln once those greedy vultures who go to every home game have wolfed down more than their fair share. "Season ticket holders snapped up another 200 tickets on Wednesday and they are selling fast from the ticket office today," reports the Mariners' official website, in an item that went online at about 11:30am today, er, Wednesday.
Today's Diary ends with an email from John Pakey which is odd, because Wednesday's Diary does exactly the same thing. "Now, if there is anything more uplifting than the sight of a man trying to play snakes and ladders against a soft toy I'd like to see it," writes JP. "Great to see the Meek back in action," he continues by way of explanation. "I have missed him dearly over the last few weeks. It was just the tonic I needed first thing when I got up after recovering from a crappy round trip from Essex to South Yorkshire last night. Well done once again Cod Almighty for making my life a happier place I salute you! It almost takes the sting off of last night's result. I have only read the match report on the OS, but I will blame Tom Newey for last night's late equaliser just for the hell of it. Until, of course, I'm better educated from the master that is Tony Butcher." Thanks very much, John. The Rochdale report will be brought to you shortly not by Mr Butcher but by Mike Worden; and while the Diary, too, welcomes the return of the Meek, I must point out that if you can't think of anything more uplifting than the sight of a man trying to play snakes and ladders against a soft toy then you have clearly forgotten Steve Evans being chucked out of Blundell Park by the police.
Tuesday 21 March
The weather looks like it might hold out, which is more than can be said for Curtis Woodhouse's hip. As Town prepare for their third attempt this season to play a game of football at Rochdale, the Grimbo Teleo reports that the former King$ton Communication$ FC midfielder could be replaced by Jean-Paul 'Kamudimba' Kalala in tonight's line-up after picking up a knock in last Saturday's win over Bury. Of two other slight injuries in his squad, Town manager Mr Russell Slade tells the local rag: "Both Ciaran [Toner] and [Luton's] Michael [Reddy] should be OK," while in a continuing great mystery of the cosmos, Tom Newey looks set to keep Gary Croft out of the team again. Three points from this evening's trip to Bogland (ably previewed by Dave Chambers elsewhere on this website) would, of course, lift the Mariners to the top of the fourth division at least until Carlisle win 5-0 again this weekend.
If you want customer service from Grimsby Town Football Club, don't go looking for it on their official website, because their online customer charter still gives a customer service email address which the club doesn't bother checking. If, on the other hand, you want a fast reaction to crazy rumours you hear on the radio, Town's OS is just the ticket, and the site has moved quickly today to put down the idea that the Mariners could be signing Richie Barker. The player was a target for Sort It last summer but chose to score 22 goals for Mansfield over a move to Blundell Park, and the GTFC boss professes to be as mystified as anyone else as to the rationale behind this morning's gossip. "I don't know where that has come from," Russ has told the OS, without adding: "Go away and stop wasting my time, you funny little man."
'Thinking on your feet' is an important skill in today's modern fast-moving modern workplace today, and the Blundell Park ticket office is no exception. When tickets are in high demand, Town's matchday experience admission solution providers are unfairly accused by many short-sighted supporters of "making it up as they go along" and being "a bunch of bloody muppets", when in fact they are guilty of nothing more than thinking on their feet, and delivering a flexible, proactive, customer-oriented response to changing market conditions. So it is that season ticket holders have two days from today to buy extra tickets for this weekend's visit to Lincoln, since there are 500 of the buggers left, and only from Thursday will the remainder go on "general sale". Credit where it's due.
"All this talk about how many points we need got me thinking," writes Keith Collins in an email to the Diary. "In actual fact 81 points will guarantee a play-off place whilst 88 are needed to guarantee automatic promotion. I have not taken into account that some teams have to play each other so both can't get three points per game. I have also assumed that our goal difference is worse that the other teams'." Probably a safe bet with Gary Croft stuck on the bench, Keith. "On the other hand, to guarantee fourth division football next season 64 points are needed, so we are safe for another year. I hope my maths have served me well." Quite possibly, Mr C, but they've also made me feel miserable as hell.
Monday 20 March
The first day of spring. We prepare eagerly to forward our clocks. The vivid petals of the daffodil splash a happy hue of sunshine over the land. As if urging forward the season, merry cuckoos begin to, er, cuckoo. And the word 'mathematical' begins to enter discussions about football. Earlier this month Grimsby Town manager Mr Russell Slade, as we know, set a target of 81 points for automatic promotion (at the same time admitting that it was "a dangerous thing to do"), and following Saturday's tight-as-a-Yorkie's-purse win over Bury the club's official website has now replaced the batteries in its calculator, typed in the number 5318008, turned it upside down and sniggered, and eventually come up with some more figures as the fourth division promotion race stutters to its climax. The main number on Russ's Blue Peter promotion totaliser is 14, as this is the difference between the magic 81 and the 67 points his side have somehow bagged so far. With nine games left, this means 14 from 27. Is it just me, or does that sound madly achievable? Cuckoo.
As the Mariners and Rochdale tomorrow night continue their epic quest to stage a game of football, news reaches the Diary (and everyone else really, but that doesn't sound half as dramatic) of injuries to two key players of the black and white persuasion. Town's OS announces that the fitness doubts for Tuesday's re-rearranged trip to Bogland are Curtis Woodhouse (hip) and Michael Reddy (trendy). But can we ever believe a word they say? Unless the Diary is much mistaken, the match will be the first in which Justin Whittle, Fen Butcher and GTFC's player of the first half of the season, Rob Jones, will all be available for selection, and the OS also suggests that Jones could be the one to miss out, despite having discharged his debts to the Blundell Park swear box.
After recently reaching the final of a cup competition that is as prestigious as any cup competition can be with the word 'midland' in the title, Town's youth team are continuing to give a lesson to their (slightly) elders in the reserves. The club's official website is reporting that Neil Woods' teenage charges took time out from joyriding and happy slapping to win two games on the trot last week. After seeing off "Yok" by one goal to nil, the yoof went to Scunthorpe and did the same thing to them on Saturday, with the winner coming from Andy 'Not Tommy' Taylor, who scored eight times in thirty seconds or something earlier in the season. By contrast, of course, the Mariners' reserves are yet to win one game on the trot all season.
"Time for a whinge again," begins Phil Shorter in what one imagines will be a whingey email to the Diary. "Why did that bald midget replace Toner on Saturday? He was crap. Toner was having a good game (in comparison with Barnet game anyway!). What must those other midfielders left sat sitting on the bench think, if Parkie gets priority and turns in his usual nothing performance? Significant that Bury scored just after that tactical masterstroke. Reminds me of the bad old days of Laws, Law, Groves and Lyons, the famous (infamous?) predecessors to 'hoof it' Slade. Get real, cos as sure as eggs is eggs, if we go up this year, we'll do a Sunderland if there's not a change of tactics, i.e. we keep the ball down and try to play FOOTball." I thought Toner might have picked up a knock, Phil, though I could be wrong; and for all Paul Groves' shortcomings as a manager I don't think long-ball football was one. As for the success or otherwise of hoofball in the third division, sweetly passing Yeovil seem to have adapted less well this season than their fellow promotees Swansea or Southend; but yeah, Town's league position doesn't make it any prettier to watch, and yeah, it wasn't one of Parkinson's better games...
Saturday 18 March
Gary Jones' tremendous run of form continues - luckily for Town, whose knife-edge win over Bury takes them up into second place, four points clear of the play-off zone of certain doom. Two very well worked goals from Lumpaldinho, bringing his tally to 12 for the season, give the Mariners a comfortable half-time lead, only for the midfield to go missing and the entire side to defend too deeply for the entire second period. An excellent edge-of-the-box strike from Jon 'Rubbish For Town, Good Against Town' Daly brings the visitors back into it on the hour, and precisely how Town held out for the remaining 30 minutes is already the subject of lengthy dissertations by leading north American phenomenologists. Carlisle win 5-0 again (that's four times in two months) to strengthen their position at the top, but everyone else up there loses and GTFC fans can sleep much more soundly than they would have thought possible at half past four this afternoon. Cuh!
Friday 17 March
As a young man your Guest Diarist was advised to try everything once, except incest and folk dancing. And the more you think about it, the wiser that adage is. Sadly I was an attendee at the Cleethorpes folk festival sometime in the mid 1970s and so succumbed, under the influence of about eight pints of Watneys bleedin' Red Barrel, to the latter pursuit. Not a pretty sight, and the passing years have not really mellowed the experience. A bit like all the times around then we used to drag ourselves off to Bury in the moggy van to watch Town draw in the most dispiriting series of matches that I ever had the misfortune to attend. At least we are at home tomorrow. For similarly nostalgic and somewhat masochistic reasons I've listened to the worst album ever made again this morning: Inner Views by Sonny Bono. Sample lyric: "Your mother's cooking sturgeon/Your sister's still a virgin". That's what happens when you feed a Republican acid. You should have stayed on the Red Barrel, Sonny, then you might have missed that tree. But I seem to digress.
Your Guest Diarist's older sister lives at the posh end of Bury and, in response to an email this morning, has reported that none of her neighbours ever mention the football but adds that Bury has a very nice market and that she often bumps in to Corrie cast members in Ramsbottom. Especially that young lass who went off with Status Quo. So perhaps it's better to rely on the Bury official site for news. This tells me that Bury have woken up to the fact that they need to score a few more goals and taken young Jon Daly on loan from Hartlepool. Daly is a 23-year-old, tall, hot-headed Irishman, and hopefully does not have a penchant for debut goals. Bury manager Mr Casper was daft enough to engineer the closing down of the club's messageboard last week because the people posting to it were "spreading unneccessary negativity". I suppose fear of Conference football had something to do with it. In an embarrassing volte-face he re-opened it 24 hours later.
Town, on the other hand, need no new players to jolt their season back into life, and are inured to fans' criticism of their ugly playing style. This is because they signed a load of players in January and Mr Slade just don't care what they have to do in order to finish in the top three. Not that some of the new signings have perceptibly increased the strength in depth of the squad yet. The signing of new midfield players suddenly made us realise the value of Ciaran Toner in a similar way that getting a Totopoly set made you realise how good Monopoly actually was when you were twelve. Horses or no horses.
The Telewag tells us that Mr Slade is likely to rest young Mr Reddy's groin tomorrow so that he will be firing on both barrels against Lincoln next week. Let's not think too hard about that analogy, shall we, gentle reader? So it looks like Cohen and the Lump up top tomorrow, with the only speculation remaining being about the right side of midfield. Parky or Mendes. Mr Slade told the Telegraph that Parky has looked sharp in training and may get the nod. So that seems to be a bit of a hint really. Or maybe the manager was referring to Parky's astonishing arithmetical prowess as revealed in his interview with the Telegraph: "I think sometimes it's better to win and lose games rather than draw games. A point isn't a great accomplishment these days at times. If you lose a game and then win the game after that it gets you more points than two draws." Eat your heart out Andy Holt not a graph in sight. See yer.
Thursday 16 March
If there's one thing bottom-division football guarantees you apart from blind 80-yard hoofs upfield, it is an annual trip to Rochdale, who have famously spent all but one minute and 18 seconds of their existence ensconced in the basement. And if there's one thing an annual trip to Rochdale can't guarantee you, it's a game of football. Since the Mariners' return to the fourth division in 2004, their two away fixtures with Rochdale so far have resulted in two postponements and one match abandoned at half time, and the two clubs have now agreed to keep trying every Tuesday from now to the end of the season until Bogland yields a playable surface. The first of these attempts, GTFC have announced, will take place next Tuesday, 21 March.
This re-rearranged fixture may allow sufficient re-recovery time to ensure the participation of Michael Reddy, who has got a hamstring. The player and his hamstring were taken off half an hour into last Saturday's kickabout against Barnet, quickly prompting Town to score three goals, and though unlikely to feel better enough to face Bury this Saturday could be OK for the Dale game three days later. Subscribers to GTFC's official 25p text message service have also learned today that Andy Parkinson is back in training after recovering from the bout of footballitis that kept him out of the Barnet game. This should allow Mr Russell Slade to move Gary Cohen up front without having to play Junior Mendes, which would be nice.
Two emails from Rutland Arms regulars today, the first of whom is Sibbo, who offers a subtly barbed response to yesterday's observations by Felix Oliver-Tasker about witnesses on the Nunny. "I can't help but I know a man who can," he writes. "If the next replay of the yet-to-be-played, not-yet-played, hopefully-soon-to-be-played game against Rochdale is cancelled, how about finding Tony Ford? He'll know for sure. That'll make the trip seem worthwhile, Oliver." Mr Keith Collins, meanwhile, has sent us a load of anagrams, the pick of which is for "President Clinton of the USA", to wit: "to copulate, he finds interns". Nice but, as Keith admits, non-togger-related. Now if you want a football anagram, the Diary's life was made complete the day I discovered that an anagram of "Scunthorpe United" a football club managed by former GTFC ruffian Brian Laws is "uncouth president". Have you lot got any more?
That's it from me for the week, then. Before I hand over to tomorrow's guest diarist and go and thaw out my hands, the Diary would like to thank you for reading and warm you with the knowledge that across the UK the temperature on this day last year was mostly between 16 and 19 degrees. Bye!
Wednesday 15 March
Rochdale: Slade has no complaints is the headline of a piece in today's Grimsby Telegraph which begins by saying Russell Slade has complained about missing the chance to go top of the league by beating Rochdale last night. Perhaps understandably, though, the Town boss is just a little calmer about the referee's decision to call off last night's scheduled fixture at Bogland immediately following a pitch inspection at 1pm. "It is probably the right decision, not only for the safety of the players but because it would have been a lottery," Slade told the Telewag. "It wouldn't have been much of a spectacle for the fans." There's an open goal gaping here, if somebody wants to apply the finish.
Last night's postponement also means the Mariners will have to get through one match fewer without the services of Michael Reddy, who was subbed off during last Saturday's stroll against Barnet with an injury he already had. The same Grimmo Tello piece we looked at earlier points out that the Bogland mudbath means extra recovery time, furthermore, for Paul Bolland, who was also subbed off during last Saturday's stroll against Barnet but not until the 69th minute, despite the fact that he had picked up an ankle problem during the first period and Town were three-nil up at half time. As the local paper characteristically explains it: "While Bolland was expected to play at Spotland, Reddy was definitely out but may now have a chance Continued on page 50". All we need now is a Ballpark Figures on whether Town actually play better when Reddy isn't on the pitch.
"As usual, we must not forget the season ticket holders" is the hilariously patrician beginning of the new instalment in Town's Target 6000 campaign, sounding for all the world like it was dictated from the deathbed of Sir Harold Macmillan. The club's latest incredibly kind gesture is to extend to "the" season ticket holders the same opportunity to bring to this weekend's home game against Bury a youngster for the sum of a hundred new pence or, to use the club's altogether less catchy phrase, a kid for a quid. "Sales have now crashed through the 400 tickets sold mark at 5pm Tuesday, which signals a tremendous gate for the visit of Bury," adds the official website, intending no offence to the club that has won the FA Cup twice and still holds the record for the biggest winning margin in FA Cup final history.
No legitimate email has reached the Diary's fabulous and stylish new temporary email address firstname.lastname@example.org since this time yesterday, although there are two items of spam already: one telling me I've won half a million euros in the Dutch national lottery and one trying to sell me some pixels on a web page advertising businesses based in Lincolnshire. The originators of both have had their personal details appended to the Diary's 'first against the wall come the revolution' list, and if the revolution doesn't hurry up then I may simply break their legs.
Tuesday 14 March
It snows, you shovel it away, you play football. Simple, right? Not in some areas of Lancashire, where Rochdale Football Club's increasingly futile efforts to stage a game of football have foundered once again. Ground staff have shovelled away two thick coverings of snow, but the appalling mudbath they call Spotland is once again too sodden to play anything approaching the game we all know as association togger, and after the formalities of a 1pm pitch inspection tonight's (re)scheduled match between Dale and the Mariners has, as expected, been (re)postponed. The cancellation denies Town the chance to go top of the fourth division, and Rochdale chiefs are understood to be considering giving up on football altogether in favour of fielding a side in the Boddingtons North-West Counties Bog Snorkelling Premiership.
Have you got painful memories of the bizarre shenanigans that surrounded admission to the cup game against Newcastle earlier this season? Do you wake up in the night, clammy with sweat, traumatised by nightmares of voucher systems, deadlines, Town's official website saying one thing, the ticket office saying another, and queues halfway down Grimsby Road? And have you been wondering about getting a ticket for Lincoln away? If your answer to all of these questions is yes, the Diary is just going to tell you gently about a communiqué on the OS dealing with the Mariners' forthcoming visit to Sincil Bank, and step away quietly while your expression glazes over and the voices in your head resume their instructions to kill.
So it's a wet playtime and we need something to do. What a good job, then, that you lovely people have sent loads of email to the Diary's funky new temporary email address! And not only that but a funky new temporary email address-warming e-card from Michael Shelton with a picture of a snowy owl on it! Owls are ace. "Welcome to your new home!" he writes (Michael, not the snowy owl). Thank you. I don't know how long I'll be staying, but thank you. Perhaps when the builders have finished and I've moved back to email@example.com, one of you would like to rent out firstname.lastname@example.org for the summer?
I have nothing witty, interesting or controversial to say (insert your own gag here)," begins Mark Wilson's email, which continues: "but was moved to send you a note by your plaintive plea yesterday. Just because you don't get email it doesn't mean that people have stopped loving you, in a platonic and manly way." Thank you very much, Mark, although the Diary lost the capacity to feel love on 8 May 2004. Andy Lumbard, meanwhile, has emailed in response to the Diary's recent assertion of Tony Butcher's intellectual property rights over the name 'Jones the Lump'. "If it's all right with you," he says, "I will have Lumpaldinho (2005 copyright A Lumbard) can't do one of those C in a circle things." You mean one of these? ©©©©©©©©©©©
Next up, Felix Oliver-Tasker asks: "Is this the truth or an urban myth? A man is driving through the Nunny. It is late, cold and wet. He sees a figure standing in the shell of a vandalised bus shelter and, being a good Samaritan, stops and offers him a lift into town. The man is extremely grateful and gets into the car. The driver asks him what he was doing on such an awful night. He answers that he was working. The driver asks what his job is. His cold, wet passenger answers: 'I'm a Jehovah's Bystander.' 'Don't you mean Witness?' says the driver. 'No,' his passenger replies, 'there's no witnesses on the Nunny.' True or false? Up the Mariners."
Last of all, veteran of the Postbag (God rest its soul) Ian Jackson has re-sent a story he recently put through the feedback form in the hope of CA's recently deceased letters page making like Lazarus. "A recent Diary had talk of 'Exeter hitting the post in 1991'," he writes (Ian, not Lazarus), "and it set my mind back to that day in May, nearly 15 years ago. Which then set me remembering the World Cup of 1998." Turns out that Mr J bumped into the ref of Town's promotion clincher against the Grecians at the England/Columbia game in Lens. "I had chance to ask about Cockers' 'offside goal' and the pitch invasion. His replies? If I remember correctly, he gave the goal, even though he had doubts, because there was no flag from the linesman and he stopped the game early at the point where he was closest to the tunnel so he could get the hell out of there! I might need to check the video to see if he was being honest with me." Thanks for that, Ian great story. The Diary accepts no responsibility for any pitch invasion that may occur if Town are one-nil up against Northampton on the final day of this season with several minutes left to play.
Monday 13 March
The Diary could only ever solve Rubik's cube by first breaking it apart with a hammer, so it should not come as a tremendous surprise that I am still trying to get my head around all these contracts given to GTFC players with 'the option of a further year'. Regardless, let us take a mallet to Rob Jones, as it were, and try and work out what all his current contractual hoo-hah is about. If I've got this right, Town can take up an option to jolly well extend the Stick's deal to 2007 whether he likes it or not, but they're trying to sort out a brand new contract that's even longer than that, and they'll have to come up with something he likes, otherwise he won't sign it. And he hasn't. The reason, according to a piece in the Grimsby Telegraph which seems to be based on the interview Jones gave to Radio Humberside at the weekend, is that he wants "parity with some of the others in recognition of what I have done this season". As straight-talking as he is straight-tackling, Town's towering centre-half seems to have been round the squad finding out what everyone else is earning and concludes that "it is strange" for Chairman John to talk about not breaking wage structures when "there are several players earning more than me". The Telegraph's use of the phrase "broken down" appears to be an excessively pessimistic paraphrase, though, at least so long as it refers to Jones' contract talks and not his ability to control his tongue when exasperated with match officials.
As subscribers to the official Grimsby Town SMS service will already be aware, tomorrow night's visit to Rochdale in the Fizzy Pop League Four will be subject to a pitch inspection in the afternoon. Two recent trips to Dale have been curtailed by flooding and swamp-like conditions at Spotland, and on Tuesday Town could again be denied the chance to enjoy the one playing surface in the top four divisions to rival Stamford Bridge for rubbishness and with it the chance to go top of the table this time because of snow. Subscribers to the official Grimsby Town SMS service will be among the first to discover the result of the inspection, scheduled for noon tomorrow. Granted, you could just listen to the radio, but then you get to spend 50p for the two text messages on something else instead of paying Curtis Woodhouse's wages.
Luton's Michael Reddy is expected to miss "up to 10 days" of football as a result of the injury that took him out of Saturday's confidence-boosting win over Barnet. Town's leading scorer was subbed off half an hour into the match which, naturally enough, was quickly followed by Town scoring three goals and Mr Russell Slade has told the club's official website: "The substitution was because of a groin injury which he complained about at the end of last week." He clearly didn't complain loudly enough then, eh, Russ.
Events on the pitch may have gone well for the Mariners over the weekend, but proceedings in the stands cannot be said to have run entirely to plan. Despite a respectable attendance given the no-show from the visitors, the figure fell almost 1,000 short of the 6,000 target established by the appropriately named Target 6000 campaign; and Bill Hammond's admirable intentions proved about as effective at making a noise as Nicky Law was at avoiding relegation, with barely a peep heard out of the Lower Beer Stand and no sign of the drum/bugle combo Mr Hammond threatened last week. Perhaps Bill was struck down with laryngitis around Saturday lunchtime or perhaps GTFC just invented him, like they did Glen Downey.
Finally today, the Diary is cold and lonely. My regular email address is up the spout and one week after we pleaded for help, Cod Almighty's usually very reliable and brilliant internet hosting company is yet to respond. Even our trusty feedback form is proving less than 100 per cent useful right now. All of this means the usual flow of emails to the Diary has dried up; and without you, as Brian Molko rather brilliantly sang, I am nothing. So end our misery now, readers, by directing communications to our hastily established temporary back-up email address email@example.com. Cheers!
Saturday 11 March
Phase one of Town's Target 6000 campaign falls 853 short, but the team trebles its recent goals-per-game tally to run out 3-0 winners over a desperately poor Barnet side. Worryingly, Luton's Michael Reddy is subbed off after half an hour with a hamstring thing but the increasingly indispensable Jones the Lump (© 2005 A Butcher) nets twice around the 40-minute mark with Paul Bolland wrapping it up just before half time. With Wycombe and Orient also winning and Northampton having become Carlisle's latest thrash bitches last night, the result keeps Town in third place, still just a single point off the summit. Amazing.
Friday 10 March
I've collected the eggs and boxed them up for collection. The cows have been milked, the yoghurt is curdling, and the cheese has been left to mature. This guest dairy business isn't too hard, really.
Hi guys! Durham Diary here, giving induced dyslexia a try in a concerted effort to make you smile on this bloody miserable Friday afternoon. But fear not, for Friday afternoon is just the build-up to Saturday. And on this particular Saturday Town are at home to 18th placed Barnet: a match that is definitely on, according to an officially unofficial email sent to me by Mr S Wilson. The OS has an online voucher you can print off, which will let you have two concessions and two adults, one adult and three concessions, or four concessions tickets for just 21 of your English pounds (including the £1 you have to pay to me for telling you about it). So now you have no excuse not to help Town reach their Target 6000, unless you're getting married, or are at uni in Durham, or something.
Russell Slade has been waxing over Craig Richards, the young defender on trial from Southampton. Sorry waxing lyrical. Having had the reserves match against Hull rearranged, Rusty Russ reckons he's "probably getting him back for the same fixture a week on Monday." In the interview with the OS our Russ goes on to reveal: "When you get an opportunity to look at a boy, who was a scholar in the Premiership, you've got to look." Maybe he has been waxing after all then...
At the end of the aforementioned interview Slade talks about contracts, more specifically the one he hasn't yet signed, proclaiming: "There's not really a problem, I want to stay here." Which is more than can be said for the impressive pair of Steve Mildenhall and Rob Jones, according to the back page of today's Grimsby Telegraph. While the club has an option to keep Rob Jones (who has turned down the offer of an extended contract) for a further year, they do not have a similar option with My Lord, who would be free to leave for another club should he want to at the end of the season. Amid talk from President Fenty of wage structures and financial stability, there is the suggestion that the offer would be revisited and could be improved should Town achieve promotion to League One next year. So here's hoping.
Today's list, compiled by me, is: "Things you'd like to hear if you knew you were only going to score once tomorrow."
(1) Paris Hilton's coming round in the afternoon.
(2) Your defence isn't going to concede.
I think I'll start with (2). Having netted exactly one goal in each of their last 3,701,954 matches, Grimsby will be delighted to learn of the improvement in the condition of Justin 'Brittle Skittle' Whittle. The defence has always seemed to be more resolute with Whitts in attendance this year, and hopefully his return will help Town keep a clean sheet. Which is something I'm unlikely to do if (1) above comes to fruition. I'm sorry. It's the hormones, you know.
On which note ends today's chauvinistic, dyslexic, and thoroughly enthusiastic ramblings. Northampton and Carlisle play tonight, meaning they can't both get three points this weekend. Therefore a win for the Mariners tomorrow would definitely make more difference to the league table than the one scraped against Chester a fortnight ago. Hope you have a nice weekend, and go and support the team if you possibly can. I've got milk to semi-skim.
Thursday 9 March
As already reported elsewhere about three days ago and completely missed by the Diary on account of my being a total loser, John 'Fentydome' Fenty has told Radio Humberside that Mr Russell Slade, Rob Jones and Steve Mildenhall have all been made 'final offers' of new contracts. Yeah, well. We may not always be the first, but we're the best punctuated. So just when the Diary thought I'd got my head round the whole extra year option thing, it seems Town have to make offers to those players after all rather than just tell them they're staying another year. As for Slade, the news follows last month's developments when the GTFC boss spilt the beans to his chums at the BBC that he was heh! fishing for a new deal at Grimsby, casting back the minds of many supporters to this time last year, when his initial one-year contract was extended until 2006 and his players responded by winning only one of the season's final ten matches.
In other news that would have made yesterday's or the day before's Diary if I were remotely any good at anything, Town and Walsall have fixed a date for their Midland Youth Cup final. The match will take place on the M6 OK, on Bescot Stadium; let's not split hairs on Tuesday 25 April, by which time it will be staying light longer in the evenings, which is presumably why the word 'floodlit' has vanished from the title of the competition.
Yesterday's quote about 81 points perhaps being enough for automatic promotion, ostensibly given by Russell Slade to the BBC, has been sensationally contested by Town's official website. The Beeb's report clearly followed the quote with the words "Slade told BBC Sport", but today the OS has hit back, running the same quote suffixed with the words "he told the official website". The club is thought to be planning a voucher system to ensure loyal supporters receive ringside seats for the forthcoming fight between Dave Smith and Gary Lineker.
And on this droll note of cartoon violence the regular Diary bids you cheerio for another working week, tarrying only to urge your return here tomorrow, when one of Cod Almighty's awesome team of guest diarists will be on hand to talk to you about Justin Whittle's tender parts. So long and thanks for reading.
Wednesday 8 March
Craig Richards may sound like the name of your school bully or another Grimsby-based snooker player who occasionally reaches the verge of winning something and then contrives to lose as he spectacularly henmans ten frames in a row. But it is also the name of a 19-year-old Southampton defender, and the reason it has the honour of opening today's Diary is that the 19-year-old Southampton defender of that name is on trial with Grimsby Town. Young Craig signed his first professional contract at St Mary's in June 2005, and the Mariners' official website is quite excited about his scoring record for the Saints' youth team which knocks spots off that of most of Town's strikers. The OS seems to have lifted its copy from a profile of the player on Southampton's website, which explains that Young Craig, as I have decided to keep calling him a la Young Greg, has also played up front and at right-back. The ultimate Slade signing: Gary Cohen and Gary Jones combined in a single body.
Reserves Game in Doubt is the headline of an item on Town's official website today. The page explains that the Mariners' reserves have been spared a thrashing by their affluent counterparts from King$ton Communication$ FC this afternoon because the Blundell Park pitch is waterlogged, and that the match has been rescheduled for Monday 20 March. All of this, you would think, rather seems to take this afternoon's fixture somewhat beyond the status of "in doubt", but hey, we're only the idiots who pay their wages.
When he's not biting pencils in half or tearing apples apart with his hands, Mr Russell Slade likes to relieve the tension of his job with a little natter to the BBC. This week is no exception, and as manager of one of the fourth division's top sides, the highly strung Mariners boss has taken part in Auntie's big overview of the race to escape the basement. "We are capable of grinding out results," says the King of Grind when asked the key to Town's success this season, before dipping into his management-speak manual to observe that "when you're at the top there is a thing called success anxiety, which can make you choke". Give it a name and it sounds all right, doesn't it? Our Russ has also blabbed to the Beeb about his points target for promotion. "We think 81 points may be enough to do it, if you're setting targets," Sort It pondered, adding: "which is a dangerous thing to do, I know," before strapping a belt of dynamite around his torso and abseiling down the front of the Pontoon smoking a fat cigar.
Tuesday 7 March
Town fans wondering what the name of Rob Murray has been doing on lists of substitutes and reserve teamsheets in recent weeks are guided to a page that has just popped up on the club's official website and waxes into magnificent detail about the injury apparently suffered by GTFC's second-choice keeper John Lukic at some indeterminate point before Christmas. Lukic, explains the OS, is undergoing treatment for a tear to something called a rotator cuff, which "is a confluence of tendons that insert on the superior lateral aspect of the upper arm. The tendons are what permit the shoulder muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor) to attach to bone, and therefore raise and lower the arm, and rotate it in and out." The club's assistant manager Graham Rodger is "in regular contact with Lukic", adds the site which is nice before pointing out: "Contrary to reports, the cost of the operation will be met by Grimsby Town Football Club." Which is also nice. The Diary cannot claim to have encountered these reports; nor, however, did I have any idea what was happening to Lukic until half an hour ago. This may not be Town's first statement on the matter, but it's the first one I've seen; and if an organisation whose success or failure determines the emotional state of thousands of people is going to make like a Trappist monk, it should not be surprised if one or two 'reports' emerge to fill the silence.
Silence will also be banished from the Mariners' six remaining home games this season if Town and Bill Hammond get their way. The club, you will recall, is trying to get the stadium just over half full with its 'Target 6000' campaign, while Mr Hammond is a fan who is threatening to annoy the hell out of his neighbours at the ground by making his kids play a drum and a bugle. "I sit in the [Lower Beer Stand] and I am putting down a challenge for the supporters from the other stands for the remaining fixtures of the season," growls Bill. "I am going to lead the singing in the [Lower Beer Stand] like it has never been heard before," he explains, concluding with the aforementioned blood-curdling progeny/musical instrument threat. GTFC have encouraged the challenge enthusiastically, making up quotes from 'anonymous' Pontoon and Main Stand supporters and Russell Slade, while Telewag sports ed Geoff Ford makes a good point about music over the PA killing the atmos. It all seems like good clean fun to the Diary as long as it doesn't get so loud that I can't concentrate on getting the morning papers read by half time.
Speaking of Target 6000, the Diary has realised that yesterday's round-up failed to even half-fill you in on the voucher system Mariners bosses have devised to half-fill the ground. Step carefully through an orgy of bad punctuation and you will learn that the club has run off 25,000 vouchers (for which, read flyers) to distribute to schools and businesses promoting a 'four tickets for 20 quid' offer. Well, you didn't think the whole campaign would consist of Tony Richardson saying: "Oh, go on please come!", did you?
Just when you and 5,999 others thought it was safe to go back to Blundell Park, an important development has emerged on Town's proposed new ground which ought to give fans a say on how the Fentydome turns out. An exclusive on CA's fellow unofficial Mariners website 3 Fish on our Shirt reveals that Dave Otter of Grimsby Town Supporters Trust "has been invited to join the 'Gateway Group', which was formed recently in order to help turn the dream of a new stadium at Great Coates into a reality". The Diary hopes that having the chairman of their trust on the group will give supporters an opportunity to pass their observations and suggestions about the stadium to the people who are most closely involved in its planning and design.
Lastly today, apologies to any Diary readers who have emailed in the last few days and not had their efforts paraded gloriously across this page for the other eleven or twelve to enjoy. Sorry. The email's up the spout. If you want to communicate, best use the feedback form until our incredibly reliable and helpful ISP rectifies the problem, which I'm sure won't take long at all, because they're so ace. Cheers!
Monday 6 March
"On this day in history," declares the Mariners' official website grandly on the page of stats it published at the weekend, "Town defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the 1939 FA Cup quarter finals to line-up an Old Trafford semi-final against Wolves." You should only hyphenate "line up" when you're using it as a compound noun, not a verb, but that's not relevant. The issue at stake here is that GTFC's famous cup exploits in the 1930s were probably watched by a few more than 6,000 people but 6,000 is the modest and sensible target chosen by the club for its modest and sensibly named 'Target 6000' campaign, which aims to get Blundell Park just over half full for the six remaining home games of the current season. "As a final push from everybody associated with the club and the local community, the club have undertaken a campaign (with the support of the local press) to attempt to get 6000 home fans to each of the final 6 home games (TARGET 6000!) , starting with Barnet at Blundell Park next Saturday, 11th March 2006, kick off 3pm," is the copy transcribed directly to the OS from the back of a fag packet. A group of existing Town supporters, meanwhile, are already launching a 'Target 6' campaign following Gary Jones' excellent recent goal against Chester, in the hope of persuading the team to string six passes together six times more before the end of 2006.
Good news for Fen Butcher, bad news for Town's faltering promotion campaign: Rob Jones will be suspended for two matches for swearing at a linesman after the end of Saturday's draw at Rushden. The Mariners' official website confirms that one half of the team's 13'2" central defensive partnership will be missing as Barnet visit Blundell Park this weekend and remain out for next Tuesday's trip to Rochdale. Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of this sorry episode, though, is the reaction of the Stick's manager. Mr Russell Slade who seemed to decide that Tony Crane's GTFC career was over after receiving an identical punishment for an identical offence against
Darlington in August has responded to Jones' inability to control his tongue with little more than a shrug of the shoulders, telling the Grimsby Telegraph: "Jonesy will obviously be a miss for us but we have to deal with that. You can understand why he was frustrated after their equaliser." Any other members of the playing squad who fancy a two-week holiday during the promotion run-in are advised to take note and prepare for the next match by thumbing through some back issues of Viz.
Saturday 4 March
Town fail to match the promotion benchmark recently set when Carlisle thrashed Rushden 5-0 and stutter to a one-all draw at Nene Park with a headed goal from Fen Butcher. The result hauls Sladey's lumpers laboriously into the top three, but does little to reassure Mariners fans that they won't have to endure another season of fourth division hoofball. The home side's goal probably shouldn't have been allowed, but this wouldn't have mattered to visitors of Cumbrian proficiency; and Rob Jones is sent off after the final whistle for calling into question the competence of the referee's assistant. I'm paraphrasing, in case you didn't guess.
Friday 3 March
Having sat through another 'immaculately observed' minute's silence the other night your Guest Diarist wonders where it is all going to end. People keep dying don't they? And how soon until everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame followed, some time later on, by their minute of silence observed by the entire flippin' nation? And although Osgood was second only to Matt Tees as a boyhood hero, I must admit I was sadder when I heard that Linda Smith had popped her clogs. A funny lady who said, as the Greek captain lifted the Euro 2004 trophy: "We'll have that in the British Museum by the end of the week claiming it's ours." Not only that: this was the week that I discovered, after a mere forty years or so, that Chubby Checker was actually just a piss-take of Fats Domino. It's bloody obvious when you think about it, but I just never did until now. And hats off to Dennis Skinner for managing to simultaneously heckle both Blair and Cameron during Prime Minister's Questions this week by advising his leader that he should have sent packets of white powder rather than flowers after Cameron's missus produced the sprog.
Finally, every self-respecting head must be cringing when they hear that the Rolling Stones' music has been incorporated into a rock ballet. No, this is not the embodiment of the countercultural revolution we all strived for, gentle reader; this is just, just, just the sound of some corporate wanker scraping the bottom of the ideas wok and dredging up some really horrible black bits. Hang on I'd better pop a happy pill.
Anyway. Never mind Luton signing Reddy for a big fee and then forgetting to ask him to leave Blundell Park, Rushden manager Barry Hunter appears to think that he has captured the most estimable right-back, errrrm, ever: "Macca is back in training but he's not with the first team yet. He is well ahead of schedule and not only should he be back with us very soon but he'll probably play in a reserve game next week." The delusional Mr Hunter goes on to prove his loopiness later in the piece on the Rushden official site by gurgling about Town after being asked whether they will prove tougher opponents than Macclesfield whom they beat last week: "In theory yes and in my opinion they are arguably the strongest team in our league. They've got good players all over the pitch in every position and they play this league very, very well." In a rare moment of clarity Hunter mentions that on-loan striker Petr Mikolanda got a run-out for the Czech u21 side this week (they lost 1-0 in Turkey). The Rushden site has also published an interview with Ronnie Bull. I tell you what, gentle reader, the only interview subject less interesting than a professional footballer is possibly your average rock musician. Ronnie Bull is looking forward to meeting his old club, Grimsby Town. Rock on, Tommy.
Meanwhile, Orient boss Martin Ling reckons 80 points will be enough for promotion. If he's right (and it sounds suspiciously low to me) then Town need 20 points from 12 games. And its twelvety to one we will get them.
Next, the standing news. Michael Reddy is division four player of the month while the Grimsby manager, Mr Russell Slade, is left catching the bouquet yet again as he just fails to win manager of the month for the seventh time running. Season ticket holders can get tickets for the Lincoln match next week on a one-for-one basis. Town have been allocated 2,300 seats at Sincil Bank, apparently. There is a lot of confidence that the pitch will be OK tomorrow as the Rushden ground staff have it safely tucked up every night under a big continental quilt they bought from Brentford Nylons in 1976. If you are bothered (no, I know you don't look bothered) you can ring them tomorrow on 01933 652000 to find out what sort of night the pitch has had. And, finally, ex-Town legend jogging Danny Butterfield is going to see a specialist about his pelvic injury. Apparently Iain Dowie really misses him.
Town, as the Diary told us yesterday, have a fully fit raring-to-go squad. Except for Justin Whittle, that is. The Telegraph tells us that Mr Slade will play the same back four despite Croft's return from suspension, but that he hasn't a clue what to do in midfield. Play JPK in case we get a penalty, I hear you mutter. Let's hope we get a good result. I'm off to make a list of cape-wearing keyboard players now, so see yer.
Thursday 2 March
He came. He put together one of the best Town sides ever. The board dicked him about and he buggered off. Then a bit later he became a managerial legend at Liverpool. I guess he wouldn't have stayed forever even if the board hadn't dicked him about, but in their frequently self-pitying moments Grimsby fans like to imagine what might have been had he thrown in his lot at Blundell Park for the long haul. Anyway, now his name and image are being used by GTFC to promote the latest in a long line of QXL auctions (why do they use QXL and not eBay, anyway?), which offers two people the opportunity to manage a Mariners team against a team of fans for a kickabout on Friday 19 May. "Could you be the man to follow in the steps of such GTFC icons as Bill Shankly?" asks the blurb, immediately alienating 51 per cent of its potential customers. At the time of the Diary going live, the auction has been viewed by 70 people and bid on by just one, who has offered the sum of one English pound. Anyone fancy a whipround? I think we should buy the chance to manage the team which will include in its line-up the short-fused current Town manager Mr Russell Slade and then donate it to Martin Burns.
The depths of the barrel may have been plumbed in a scrapey kind of way when the Grimsby Telegraph was recently forced to report the whereabouts of Ludovic Dje, but this week's Mariners news drought shows no signs of letting up as the local paper continues to pursue the careers of former players signed by Nicky Law. Jamie 'Five Games' Lawrence, we learned earlier this week, is now doing his thing for Worthing FC, and now our lives are enhanced further by the knowledge that Paul 'Five Starts Plus Two Sub Appearances' Warhurst was, shockingly, denied the chance to debut for Scarborough in Tuesday night's scheduled clash with York City in the semi-final of the North Riding FA Senior Cup. Damn that weather.
And that, my friends, is that for a depressingly slow news week with your regular Diary, and a miserably fourth-placed-in-the-league week at that. But return ye tomorrow for the avuncular news stylings of Guest Diary and all the team news for Saturday's trip to Rushden, eh? Good night and good luck.
Wednesday 1 March
Mr Russell Slade is dead chuffed. Why? Because he has almost a full-strength squad to choose from as he approaches this Saturday's visit to Rushden & Diamonds in the Fizzy Pop League Two Even Though It's Really The Fourth Division. The easily riled but likeable GTFC manager has had to grit his teeth through a succession of injuries and suspensions since, ooh, Christmas really, and watch through his bitten-nailed fingers as rival teams have filed above the Mariners into the top three places in the league table, and wish he hadn't bothered signing Junior Mendes. But with Gary Croft, Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala and Luton's Michael Reddy returning from suspension this week and Sir John McDermott, Justin Whittle and possibly even Marc 'The Refrigerator' Goodfellow coming back from injury, Mr Slade's squad is brim-full and bursting to give the Northants strugglers a ruddy good bop on the nose come Saturday. "With 12 games to go until the end of the season and promotion still well within our grasp, it is great to have everybody back in contention for places," Russ told the Grimsby Telegraph, as Terry Barwick and Jermaine Palmer sighed with resignation and looked for another loan club.
But if the Mariners' decline to fourth place in the league table has stimulated your Grimbarian pessimism gland sufficiently for you to conclude that Russ Slade is at the helm of a sinking ship, you will be perversely satisfied to note a new name on the injured list: that of HMS Grimsby. The eight-year-old Royal Navy minesweeping vessel struck the side of a fjord during a training session in Norway, suffering flooding on board when the collision caused a water tank to burst, and is now undergoing treatment for a damaged hull. None of the ship's crew thought to number 35 or 40 were hurt in the accident, though dozens of Diary readers are now wincing as a real-life metaphor strikes too close to the bone.
Now look. We've figured it 17 different ways, and each time we figured it, it was no good because no matter how we figured it, somebody don't like the way we figured it. So now there's only one way to figure it. And that is every man, including Leyton Orient, for himself. If you prefer to defy your Grimmo heredity with a glass-half-full approach to life then you will already have noted Leyton Orient's failure last night to beat struggling Barnet on their own manor. A win for the stylish Os would have taken them to 61 points, one ahead of the Mariners, and pushed Mr Slade's team down to the scarcely precendented depths of fifth place but those plucky Bees held out for a goalless draw at Brisbane Road and although all may not be quite right with the world just yet, our faltering black and white heroes remain within spitting distance of top spot with that all-important game in hand. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad division.
Lastly today, an email. And a rather alarming one at that, as Neil Drakes has found a report from the imaginatively entitled Daily Post, a local paper in the north-west of England whose reporter Neil Turner reveals in his account of Town's win over Chester last Saturday that "Rob Jones has shrunk to 6ft 4in. He doesn't tell us the reason for this loss of height, but having read the OS for many years I know that journalists are never wrong." BEEP BEEP BEEP! Oh, sorry forgot to turn off my irony detector. "Please, Cod Almighty, for Rob Jones's sake, get to the bottom of this disturbing development." Rob? Mrs Jones? Dale Ladson? Dale Banton? If you're reading this, get the tape measure out and email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are discussing the most important three inches in Mariners history since, um, Exeter hit the post in 1991 or whatever it was.