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Diary - December 2007
Monday 31 December
Now then buggerlugs! You find the Diary preparing for a traditional New Year's Eve round at our mates' house with a stack of Badger ales, avoiding all the vexatious part-time drinkers in the pubs and crazy mad taxi fares. It is to be hoped that the Mariners are keeping a similarly low profile this evening perhaps not an unrealistic aspiration with Tony Gallimore long gone but how else is the football club that we love preparing for 2008? Martin Butler's loan transfer from Walsall will be made permanent while Big Ben is still bonging, with the Saddlers' local paper the Express and Star reporting that "a small fee will be involved but neither club has revealed the exact figure, which is likely to be small". So, small, then much like the reserves of patience held by supporters who have criticised Butler mercilessly for failing to convert all but one of the goalscoring chances he has not yet been given.
As the world approaches the opening of the transfer window, Town's superb new official website also reveals that Lord Alan Buckley is in conversation with Barnsley about extending Rob Atkinson's loan deal, which will otherwise expire on 6 January. The SNOS then gamely attempts to make clear the convoluted details of who will be able to sign whom, when, and on what terms once the window opens again, possibly in a bid to avoid last season's embarrassing cock-up when Martin Paterson had to return to Stoke despite both clubs and the player wishing his loan at Blundell Park to continue, not to mention all that business the other year when Town had to stop selling beer at Blundell Park because they'd forgotten to reapply for their licence.
Sir John McDermott has, as expected, not been given letters after his name by the Queen in her new year's honours oojummy but everyone knows that the monarchy plays a ceremonial rather than an active role in the constitution while, as Yes, Minister famously pointed out, the Times is read by people who actually do run the country. It must be worth far more than a crummy gong, then, that Town's record-breaking former right-back has been named as one of 2007's sporting heroes by the Sunday Times' John Aizlewood just below Ricky Hatton, Paula Radcliffe, Jonny Wilkinson, David Healy and Brian Ashton. So if Macca were to come out of retirement he'd score a hatful of goals for England on the way to the 2010 World Cup final, even if it sounds like taking the bloody piss given his injury record.
Fans of enormous former Grimsby centre-halves would have been thrilled to see Tony Crane's Boston United line up against Georges Santos' Alfreton Town the other day and the Boston Standard has since offered us a reminding glimpse of the Crazy Legs we all knew and loved. "The 6'5" defender's punctuality and desire to train have been questioned on occasion this campaign," begins Duncan Browne's report on a 2-1 win for the Pilgrims, sealed with a late winner from Crane himself. Perhaps surprisingly, the player failed to cap his man-of-the-match performance with a red card, but United manager Tommy Taylor apparently couldn't help remarking as the amply derriered defender uncorked his champagne that "Craney's resolution is to lose weight in the new year!" He's just big-boned, Tommy.
Anyway, did you all have a nice Christmas? I hope so. Some of you found time to email the Diary about testimonial matches (in response to a plea from Denby back on 21 December), which was good of you. "My first game was Dave Boylen's testimonial, circa May 1976?" writes Sιan Carr. "How about non-playing staff? I went to a testimonial for a deceased physio about 1980. I'll dig the programme out this weekend for details. Terry Donovan wouldn't sign it as he left the pitch! Booooooo... he was my favourite striker." Martin Robinson remembers "seeing Sheff Wed in a testimonial, was it for Tony Ford? Played in dense fog and we couldn't see half the pitch." Ian Pickett (who works in Hatfield, the poor sod) watched "Harry Wainman against an all-star XI in 1973; Dave Boylen against Coventry I think, 1974; Dave Booth (15,000 selling tickets for another game 1979?); and I think Kev Moore", while David Wilkinson recalls that "Ron Cockerill (John's dad) had rather a good one. I seem to remember Mark Lever having one but I could be mistaken. In my view it's high time Alan Buckley had one but that might start some controversy!" Yeah, best wait for the late-season play-off push to start that one off.
"What a relief to see an update to the greatest goals piece," writes Clav Divs. "I see we have reached the '3th', which presumably just leaves 2st and 1rd to go. Luckily, when you repeat this article in a few seasons' time (i.e. when you have deigned to finish this one), there will be nothing new to add (save, perhaps for when Mr Jones slipped and fell fortuitously near the oncoming cross the other week against Mansfield), therefore providing useful padding when there is nothing more to say about new stadium, financing, etc." Thanks, Clav guilty as charged, I fancy. All that remains for the Diary, then, is to wish you a very happy new year, to thank you for reading and emailing throughout the old one, and to beseech you to stick with us in 2008 while we try and reverse CA's precipitous current decline in standards by locating the several members of CA's editorial staff who have vanished from the face of the Earth in recent weeks. Cheers!
Friday 28 December
"I would love to start and finish with 4-4-2 but I'm not sure it would do us any good." Well the average Town fan doesn't have enough fingers to separate and count the individual nuances of team shape that failed to grace Blundell park the other day so Lord Buckley's protestations to the Grimsby Telegraph may well fall on angry and confused ears. Not that ears are prone to emotional outbursts, but after a boxing day performance that was complete and utter celter it is time to draw a line under any tactical discussions. Pick the best available eleven and tell 'em to beat Lincoln tomorrow. Somehow.
"We must beat Lincoln." This was how Buckley prefaced his interview. But he will have to do it without the central midfield creative genius that is Ciaran Toner. A man hamstrung by his own ego and one that is not used to praise at Blundell park. But all things are relative, and compared to no-show-Boshell and where's-my-mojo-Bolland, Toner is the man of the moment. Except he is hamstrung and won't feature tomorrow. Neither will the suspended Fenton so perhaps it is again time for Sgt Whittle to step in to the breech. As for who plays, and who plays where, we will have to turn up to find out as the Town manager has again dodged the cameras to make the Mariners World subscription we took out look like less and less value for money.
The official site has predicted a 'bumper crowd' tomorrow but that word relative creeps in again like that second cousin you only bump in to on Christmas eve. Bumper nowadays means over five thousand. Just. Lincoln can't sell a thousand tickets and we can't attract a thousand fair-weathers so don't gloat eh?
Any road things could be worse, couldn't they? No players arrested over the holidays and the early kick off means I get home before dark. As you get older that becomes weirdly important. And you never know two poor old sides might put on a cracker tomorrow let's go and find out shall we? All talk of not bothering to make the pilgrimage is just nonsense. This is when Town need us and when we need to be there. You know, just in case something happens. See yer.
Monday 24 December
Saturday's draw at Stockport means that the last three league away games have netted Town seven points. An impressive return, your Leeds Diarist reckons, and Alan Buckley should be thankful for Phil Barnes's nifty late save that ensured Town drove home with a point. What it means is Town are now starting to build up a nice little unbeaten run on the road. Barnes himself has been rewarded with "The Times player of the weekend" in the fourth division for the save, and nice to see a national newspaper take note of a menial fourth division game.
Reports suggest that Town comfortably deserved to take something from the game, although a number of fans have been puzzling over the manager's decision to withdraw the mighty Lump so early in the second half. Buckley, probably pre-empting such questioning, has been quick to reveal the Lump substitution was down to the big man's ankle problem: "In the end, Jonah's ankle was so sore he couldn't carry on. Sometimes it settles and sometimes it doesn't. He was fit enough to start and he justified his pick with his first-half performance." One downside is Nick Fenton picking up his fifth booking of the season, meaning he will miss next Saturday's Lincoln match, rather than the Boxing Day game against Accrington. Luckily Rob Atkinson, the obvious replacement, had a rest at the weekend so he should be fresh, so long as he hasn't been stuffing himself with mince pies, a serious temptation for anyone at this time of the year.
But, let's put that aside. With two home games on the other side of Christmas, and against teams in our local vicinity of the division, the manager and players of GTFC have the chance to keep picking up points and haul themselves up the table. And I'm sure they will, their confidence somewhat restored. Gah, listen to me! Such unnatural optimism! Have I had a sip of port too many (does that make me a Garrafeira socialist?) or has the festive spirit touched me? Is this what it feels to be John Fenty? Maybe I could bottle this feeling and swig it before a home game. Get away from all that verbal abuse Sol Campbell reckons is dished out too much these day. Goodbye "boooo!", hello all sorts of positive phraseology I will have to learn.
Anyway, comrades, have a very Merry Christmas. And we'll see you sometime and somewhere on the other side of the Chairman's speech. You'll know what John'll say before you even watch it: "Thanks for your support, been a difficult season so far on the pitch but things are looking up, let's look to the future, get behind the players, the Fentydome move is closer, by the way if you've got £250k fancy putting it our way?" You know the drill... Now where did I leave that bottle of port? See ya!
Friday 21 December
As I write this I am listening to the Mariners World video of the club's annual general meeting (part one). After a hesitant and slightly stumbling start by Mr Fenty the meeting bumbles along with the daft rituals of resignation by rotation and re-appointment of auditors. No mention of anything to do with either football or pie quality here, gentle reader. And then the killer question posed by a respectful Fenty fan named Clive. Yes, before we hear the answer, we know it: you can buy a directorship at Grimsby Town FC. Qualification criteria, as Positive John puts it. Cash for honours indeed.
Mr Fenty should know. He changed the rules of the game, didn't he, to make himself top dog with a mechanism to ensure he stays that way. But apparently he didn't think about life after this first step and Fenty had to agree with Clive, when Clive noted that the only director putting his hand in to his pocket of late to support the club was Mr Fenty himself.
The ridiculous similarity between Mr Fenty and Rod Stewart strikes me yet again. Rod built himself a full-sized football pitch in the gardens of his mansion, and then realised that he had to pay his 'mates' to come round in order to get a game. The same may be true of Mr Fenty and his dome in a few years time. The word Mr Fenty, for you to look up, is hamartia.
In fact of the other directors only "good ol'" Pete Furneaux could be arsed to turn up to the most important meeting of the year. Michael Chapman was watching his 150/1 shot Art of Being fall in the novice selling hurdle at Ludlow. And the other bloke was on holiday. This horse has a long way to go it would seem. It's record this season is UPP0F. That's unseated rider, pulled up in the next two, beaten 50 lengths and then fell. A long way, to go, and very slowly and unsteadily it would seem.
But I digress. So none of the other directors are supporting the club financially and there is no prospect of doing so. And Mr Fenty told the meeting there is neither any prospect of new blood entering the Town boardroom at the moment. But is that surprising really? The Chairman has allowed the club to sink deeper and deeper into debt without taking corrective action, whilst pursuing his reckless plans with regard to a new stadium which the club cannot possibly afford. And any new director will be expected to fall meekly in line with his plans while listening to Fenty's thin-skinned rants about how bad the situation is and that he will not continue to pump monies in forever. You couldn't make it up really. I don't think I'll bother with AGM (part two) today folks and spend the next paragraphs trying to instil some seasonal cheer instead, eh?
Anyhow the last few results have been much improved overall (there you go start smiling folks!) and now Town face one of their many bogey teams in Stockport County away tomorrow. The management team have been quiet thus far (or perhaps Dale has too much of a festive hangover to do the interview) but the superbly seasonal official site has published the news that Danny North is poorly and that Sgt Whittle still has a sore ankle. So Lord Buckley potentially has an excuse to revert to a lone striker.
Cod Almighty reader Denby has been in touch with the Diary to enquire about testimonials. He can only name Sir John of McDermott and, "er, Bobby Cumming" as recipients. I know there are more but after all that horse racing research your Guest Diarist is too tired to even think. Let us know folks, and put Denby out of his apparent misery please.
These Norwegians run deep and long you know. Jostein has been in touch again to tell us that Mickey Speight, who temporarily seized the Town captaincy from Joey Waters in about 1982 (before fucking off again fairly sharpish with a flea in his ear), has got a new job. In Norway, naturally, where Jostein tells us he has a reputation as being the man behind Eric Bakke. And his new job title at Vεlerenga is, ahem, 'offensive coach'. Definitely offensive, methinks.
I'm going to stop now so you can start to relax. The next step for me is in to oblivion: to a world where Town play bright incisive football; where the pies are hot and the beef tea not too salty; where the directors and shareholders realise they own and run a small club in a small backwater and that that is not so bad really; where Town win as many as they lose and I only have to pay a tenner to see 'em in my beloved Blundell park. Wake me up before kick off folks, and have a great Christmas. Whether we will get it together to do a diary on Christmas Eve remains to be seen but let's hope Town battle for at least a point tomorrow and the team stays fit over the holidays. See yer.
Thursday 20 December
Despite bossing a decent proportion of their game last night, reports Town's superb new official website, the Mariners' reserve team failed by some distance to make it two wins against Dirty Leeds in two weeks. In fact the stiffs came out on the wrong end of a 4-1 drubbing, but after James Hunt's 22nd-minute equaliser they moved the ball around well for the rest of the first half and were probably unlucky not to have gone ahead. Martin Butler and Peter Till played 90 minutes to continue their return to fitness, and the SNOS's new design innovation of the week is a pretend electronic scoreboard thing at the top of the report. It's black text on a white background, whereas if they actually wanted it to look like an electronic scoreboard then it would be reversed out so that the text appeared to be lit up in red or yellow on a black background, so they're either consciously foregrounding the artificiality of the medium in a playful statement of postmodernity or they just couldn't be arsed. Which do you reckon it was?
In the run-up to the Dulux Cup regional semi-finals next month, the tournament's sponsor is running a competition for fans of the competing clubs to have a look at the trophy, meet some players and buy loads of their paint. Town supporters get their turn on 3 January five days before the team visits Stockport in a bid to reach the northern area final and the question you have to answer in order to enter can be found somewhere on the Mariners' superb new official website, buried deep among a load of tedious advertorial copy routinely knocked out by the sponsor's PR department in ten minutes last Monday afternoon.
Wednesday 19 December
He came on loan from Donny. He plays in defence, or as a sort of wing-back type thing, I think, unless I'm getting him mixed up with that other lad. He's sort of OK, or at least better than nothing. And he's staying for another month. Well, you try writing an exciting intro for a news item about Sam Hird extending his loan for a further 28 days as his initial spell at Blundell Park was due to expire tomorrow and Alan Buckley was keen to retain the services of the player going into the busy Christmas period. Doncaster have an option to recall him at 24 hours' notice, injecting a very slight but much-needed note of tension and uncertainty into a decidedly humdrum story.
Town's superb new official website has published the starting line-up for tonight's reserve game at home to Leeds. They've also published the substitutes, and not said which are which. The SNOS gives the name of Straight Peter Bore immediately after that of Gary Montgomery, suggesting that Town's dude with the 'tude will appear at right-back, as he did in when the two sides met at Elland Road last week (oh, those haunting urinals), but if the positions on the official teamsheet are to be read as corresponding with the actual positions to be taken up by the players on the pitch then Nathan Jarman will be partnering Jamie Clarke in central defence. Still, stranger things have happened. Town starting to keep clean sheets, for instance.
Martin Robinson has emailed in response to yesterday's DIARY SCOOP about Ofcom rejecting John Fenty's complaints about Radio Humberside. "If anybody's bullying then it's John Fenty," opines Martin. "Again his PR skills are called into question. Why fall out with one of the few media outlets available to GTFC? He wants the best for the club, but you have to accept criticism and he plainly can't." Yes the chairman receives a good deal of unfair criticism, but one suspects that, like most self-made business types, he may be too used to people telling him everything he does is fantastic to be able to recognise his own occasional unfabulousness. "Oh and have you heard that all the club's cafιs will close next year, in a cost-cutting measure? Burger vans only and allowed to charge what they bloody like, and the girls employed by the club out of jobs. Of course if the books look better then so what, but what about employing local people and their sense of belonging to the club?" I hadn't heard that, Martin, no although if the kiosks are losing money then surely Fenty would be justly criticised for leaving them open?
Today's second email comes from our virtual friends at impsTALK, the cunningly named and rather brilliant Boston United website, who have been looking at the two visual impressions of Town's proposed new stadium published recently on the superb new official website. "You have our deepest sympathies. The photos of the Fentydome made us want to blow our collective head off. The shameless lack of imagination and brazen contempt for tradition is quite staggering yet all too familiar. We reckon it took all of eight minutes for the cognitively-challenged baby monkey to design both the Dome and the surrounding retail development, probably by bashing its head repeatedly against a keyboard marked 'Keepmoat' in exchange for a banana. Those responsible for approving/re-approving/endorsing/green-lighting/re-green-lighting and rubber stamping the plans for this vacuous excuse for a shack, rather than tossing them into a pit of shit as they should be, need herding into the Humber without hesitation and they can take their corporate Sky Sports whore-bar, 800 acre car-park and fizzy sell-out lager with them. The twats." Yep, that's pretty much how the Diary sees it too. If it ever gets built, I'll see you at York Street every fortnight instead.
Tuesday 18 December
Yesterday Positive John Fenty was celebrating four victories in Town's last six games, but today he is reeling on the back of a heavy defeat at the hands of Ofcom and the BBC. A succession of spats with the local media culminated last year, you will remember, in a total breakdown of relations with Radio Humberside after the station baulked at paying the increased fee demanded by the club for commentary rights. Fenty then protested to the broadcasting regulator about several aspects of Humberside's coverage following the row and in a ruling that casts doubt on the GTFC chairman's judgment at a critical time for the club on and off the pitch Ofcom has thrown out his complaint on every count.
Let's look at the ruling in more detail. According to Ofcom's report (which can be downloaded here), Fenty alleged that after the row over the broadcast rights, Radio Humberside subjected GTFC to "a sustained bullying process" by "mounting a campaign of divisive, misleading, inaccurate and derogatory remarks" about the club. The chairman gave a number of examples, which can be summarised as follows, along with Ofcom's findings in each case.
1. Unbalanced coverage of the dispute over broadcast rights
Ofcom's verdict: "in its overall coverage, Ofcom considered that the BBC did in fact explain clearly the nature of the dispute, the background to it and the positions taken by the two parties to it. It was also made clear that the dispute was still going on between the parties. Listeners would therefore have been able to form their own opinion as to the merits of each side to the dispute and the coverage did not result in unfairness to the club in the broadcast programmes"
2. George Kerr criticising the quality and performances of the team
Ofcom's verdict: "remarks made about the club's players and performance were in keeping with the normal cut and thrust of sports coverage... At the time the remarks were made, the club had played seven games and won only one. Four games had been lost and two drawn. It was not surprising therefore that the possible reasons for this malaise were being explored... Ofcom found that the programme was not unfair to the club in this respect"
3. Reporting that Town had refused Humberside an interview with the manager
Ofcom's verdict: "as the club had informed the BBC that open and direct access to the club's chairman, manager and selected players would not be given to the station, it was not unfair for the station to report that the club had not allowed such access... Ofcom found no unfairness to the club in this respect"
4. Singling out Fenty for blocking an interview with John McDermott on his retirement
Ofcom's verdict: "a general denial of access to the BBC for one-to-one interviews with players was in place, for which Mr Fenty, as chairman of the club, was responsible. While he may not have specifically forbidden an interview with John McDermott, it was not unfair, in the circumstances, for the presenter to say that Mr
Fenty had prevented the station from interviewing the retiring player... Ofcom found no unfairness to the club in these respects"
5. Calling Fenty a plonker
Ofcom's verdict: "Ofcom notes that the term used with reference to Mr Fenty and [sic.] was derogatory and offensive. This was unfair to him. However Ofcom noted that the BBC had accepted immediately that the remark was offensive and inappropriate. The BBC had
broadcast an apology, the terms of which were discussed and agreed with Mr Fenty... Ofcom considered that the complaint had, in effect, been resolved by the BBC, and therefore found in the context of the subsequent broadcasts no unfairness resulted to Mr Fenty"
At the time of the Diary being published, no public statement had been made by GTFC in response to Ofcom's findings. To have your say email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday 17 December
Amid their longest ever spell in the bottom division, the Mariners are mired near the foot of the table, running up unsustainable debts as fans turn their backs and transfer targets run and hide. In these circumstances only the most optimistic of supporters could mention the word 'promotion' and sure enough, Positive John Fenty is doing just that today. "The away fans were in great form on Saturday and there was rapturous support for the elated players as they came over to the fans," enthuses the Town chairman on the club's superb new official website. Lest you wonder what has sparked PJF's sudden interest in Mansfield supporters, he's actually talking about the Brentford match nine days ago but our leader goes on to point out that the Mariners' four wins in their last six games in all competitions would represent "promotion form" if you extrapolate it into league form across the whole of a season. All credit to the Fentster for his indefatigable spirit, but surely the only person who is optimistic enough to extrapolate it into league form across the whole of a season is one who is optimistic enough to plough ahead with a major building project despite a £6m hole in its finances.
Being laid low with a nasty bout of disco flu, the Diary was forced to spend Saturday in bed and missed the Mariners' narrow but just-about-deserved victory over Mansfield. It seems that I was not the only one afflicted, as the enthusiastic and likeable commentary that normally accompanies Mariners World highlights has been replaced by verbal stylings from Premium TV's anonymous Cockney substitute commentator who clearly has no knowledge of the clubs and players he is being paid to expound upon (as evidenced earlier this decade, when his coverage of GTFC was peppered with references to a player called Michael Reedy). "Just about keeping that ball in play," he says, as Nick Hegarty just about keeps that ball in play. So far, so good but as Hegarty sends a high diagonal ball towards Paul Bolland, the commentator responds: "Chop forward nicely to Bar Lard!" As if to confirm his ignorance of the club, our southern interloper responds with amazement to a narrow miss from Danny North. "He's blazed over! Eighteen yards out and he's blazed over." No shit. Now sod off back to the Queen Vic for some jellied eels.
"This is not an advert but genuine FACTS! If you order a CA T-shirt by Wednesday I will get it to you before Christmas, i.e. post out the same day. We have 'I heart GY' T-shirts in both small and 'girly fit' in stock. And they are printed in red on black T shirts. Lovely! And we have every size in all the currently sold designs. Yuletide greetings to all, Cod Almighty T-shirt man," writes Cod Almighty T-shirt man in an email to the Diary. You heard him!
Friday 14 December
With a full squad in contention for places (unless you believe the Grimsby Telegraph, which is trumpeting a centre-half crisis ahead of tomorrow's match at home to bottom-placed Mansfield) assistant manager Mr Watkiss(es) has been cogitating on Mariners World about what he would do if Lord Buckley would let him. Whether one should change a winning team, for example. Particularly with regard to Messrs Newey and Boshell both returning having completed suspensions. And whether Peter Bore's future lies in playing at right-back after "looking a million dollars" in that position at Elland Road on Tuesday night. Lord Buckley's thoughtful yet verbose assistant asserted that the players had tried harder in training this week as there is competition of sorts (and at last) for first-team places all over the team. Well, hurray for that at least.
Right-back, since the retirement of the illustrious Sir John of McDermott, has been a difficult position to fill and half a dozen candidates have had a go there already this season. Young Mr Bore could probably play most right sided positions if he can be arsed, and has plenty of pace and talent. It is a shame that, thus far, he simply hasn't been capable of playing flat out with enthusiasm and discipline for a full 90-minute game. Even when he has taken a game by the scruff of its sad fourth division neck, it has only been for a 20-minute burst. Watkiss used the word 'nurture'. The question is for how long. Bore could be the new Hockless or he could be the new Michael Boulding. But with more testosterone, and less backhand.
Michael Boulding has done a great job this season scoring ten of Mansfield's 21 league goals. In fact Mansfield's goal difference is actually very respectable at minus four. It sounds like they could have beaten Bradford at home last week given that Boulding missed a penalty earned by his brother Rory, and the younger one had a goal disallowed for offside as well. Their away form has been dismal in terms of points gained with no wins and three draws.
Savvy readers will know what your Guest Diarist is building up to here. It shouldn't happen but it might. Another home defeat to an unfashionable lowly placed team who can't win away for love nor money would be three points lost no more and no less (copyright A Buckley esq). To the fans it would be awful; simply awful. We need a home win and then a respectable points tally over Christmas. So get down to Blundell Park (it is only twelve quid to get in, for Christ's sake) and get behind the lads. You never know it might be a good game, eh? See yer.
Thursday 13 December
Welcome to a Thursday diary so packed with fascinating quotes from the Town glitterati that there is neither need nor space for your Guest Diarist to get on his high horse about much of owt really. My presence today is necessitated by it being the morning after Mr Diary's works Christmas party an event that appeared to go well judging by his ever-so-slightly hungover email to me earlier this morning. As for me, I am still confined to barracks with a cough so racking that any self-respecting hypochondriac would consider labelling it pneumonic. As usual in these circumstances I have abandoned conventional medical remedies (like a bottle of original Benylin a day) in favour of Wood's 100 navy rum. This delightful grog is 57 per cent alcohol and is made along the banks of the Demerara river in Guyana. Drunk neat, it cures anything. Or kills it.
So who has been saying what and to whom, gentle reader? Well, to kick off, Lord Buckley has been chatting to the Grimsby Telegraph. After reminding us that we ain't seen nothing yet, but soon will, with regard to ace signing and much-coveted forward Mr Martin Butler, Buckley decides to tear in to that notoriously sulky and heterosexual young dandy Mr Peter Bore. Utilising his undoubted talent for speaking his mind, Lord Buckley adopted what he may consider a carrot and stick approach: "Pete Bore, meanwhile, hasn't shown enough desire or enthusiasm. It's not a case of having favourites as I said to his parents when I met them recently to talk about Pete. There is no question he has unbelievable ability aligned with pace and power. If he had the passion of a player like Danny North, then there is no doubt, for me, he would be playing in the Premiership because he has all the raw materials." Oh, and work on your left foot while you are at it mate, as well as pulling up those macho socks of yours, eh?
Diehard Town fan and fluent Norwegian speaker Jostein Jensen has obtained a fascinating insight into the mind, spelling and organisational ability of the modern estate agent. He has managed, via Facebook, to get the thoughts of Gary Croft. You can read them on Jostein's website. Or, if your Norwegian is a bit rusty, and with thanks to Jostein, here is what Gary has to say about Buckley in a verbatim extract from his email:
"Hi, me and bucko did not really see eye to eye and i dont think he liked me around the club as i think he thought i undermined him, which i never. but i organised a few other things around the place and he did not like that. I was still looking good football wise and am doing well personally at lincoln so it was a really strange decision not to offer me something when he had a lack of players and he knew what i could offer to the club and how committed to the club i was. i had a feeling about this from christmas so when it panned out like that i thought it backed up my thoughts and i know i am correcct in my thinking."
This may go some way to explain the paucity of cover at full-back that the club has experienced this season, eh? Gary goes on to talk about how the club is right to go for a new stadium and then talks about Town's chances of avoiding the drop:
"I personally think that gtfc will rise up the league as there are too many players there capable enough to get them out of trouble, i think a goal scorer is needed but of course all teams could say the same as it is a pre requiset for a sucessful team."
Gary goes on to partially explain what 'other things' he had tried to organise as alluded to in his opening paragraph:
"The training facilities are poor, pitches are poor and until i changed things the off field changing and eating facilities were poor. But the investment hopefully is coming with the new stadium so you could understand the chairman not wanting to spend too much on the existing training ground."
What could he have had the temerity to do? Labels on the changing pegs? The introduction of Tupperware plates? Vol-au-vents after the shuttle runs? Sadly we may never find out.
And I cannot leave you without noting the politician-like wording of Mr Fenty in his statement published on the official site yesterday: "Our developers are now in a position to tangibly go to the retail market with a planning permission, which will be the decisive test in the delivery program. The retail enabling development has always been the key to this project becoming a reality and that remains the case." So now he has the planning permission, Mr Fenty starts to hint that the whole thing may be just a pipe dream. No doubt he would rebut this with bluster about chickens and eggs, meaning you can't get tenants to sign owt without planning permission first. But it is interesting that he has only in recent days admitted that the project has little base in financial reality without significant amounts of cash and a major anchor tenant in place. Maybe there is a rich rabbit lurking in his hat but somehow I doubt it.
But wait, Mr Fenty has spoken to us again this very morning explaining that the club has developers working on finding the right retail scheme. There follows a stitherum of sub-management speak which, boiled down, says the club is desperately trying to get the finance together and now dream of moving in to the Fentydome in August 2010, not 2009. "Overriding intention to deliver the scheme" my arse! See yer.
Wednesday 12 December
The Fentydome looms a little closer today after North East Lincolnshire council took one more of the thousand tiny steps it has to take for Town's grim new stadium to become a grim reality. Which is this step? They've, er, "rubber stamped" the club's application to build it, reports the Mariners' superb new official website, which most people with an average attention span would have thought had already happened back in January, when CA got told off for letting match reporter Tony Butcher go on Radio Humberside and say the Fentydome would be rubbish just before the council was making what we all believed would be its final decision. A new visual mock-up of the Fentydome on the SNOS, meanwhile, portrays the stadium as drearily as ever, a grey and featureless superstructure surrounded by a grey moat of concrete and a grey expanse of chemical works. So now that the council has approved, then supported, and now rubber-stamped Town's application, all that remains for the thing to be built, presumably, is for the council to endorse, then give permission for and finally green-light it.
Over to 'Town do stuff that's actually quite good' news next, and this Saturday's encounter with fellow strugglers Mansfield has been designated a kid-for-a-quid game or as the SNOS puts it (heading briefly back to 'Town do stuff that's completely shit and embarrassing' news), "Kid's only £1". The offer is paralleled by an "adult's only £12" promotion, and you need a voucher to qualify, which can be downloaded from the superb new official website or collected from local schools (where GTFC staff can apply for a lesson in the use of the apostrophe) and the Last Resort FM studio on Wellowgate, where fans will be asked to form a human pyramid and plug themselves into the mixing desk while touching metal in a bid to extend the broadcast range of the afternoon's match commentary beyond the top of Littlefield Lane.
As any Boston United official will tell you, laws are made to be broken and so it was that Town's reserve team recorded a 2-1 win at Elland Road last night just three days after the first XI ran out victorious from Brentford's Griffin Park, contravening the very rules of subatomic matter. Both the Mariners' goals came in the first half, the opener a very well taken 20-yarder from Nathan Jarman and the second a Danny Boshell penalty. In true cack-handed Grimsby style, Town's subscription web service Mariners World has celebrated the unprecedented status of the club's first and second teams being winners at the same time with perhaps its most bizarre section of footage so far, as a truly horrible 1970s-sounding recording of a Dirty Leeds song soundtracks the camera panning ponderously from side to side in front of the showers and toilets in the changing rooms. If you squint a bit you could almost be watching a David Lynch film. And it wouldn't be any more fun.
Lastly today, second division Scunthorpe United have been ordered by a tribunal to pay Stoke City an initial £275,000 for former Mariners loanee Princess Martin Paterson, which could rise to more than half a million quid with the activation of various add-on clauses. A spokesperson for the Iron whose previous record transfer fee paid was £175,000 until they splashed 200 big ones on Kevan Hurst this summer said: "The award is considerably more than we would have anticipated." Potters director of football John Rudge said: "We are very disappointed with the verdict, as we feel it falls well short of our valuation of him." Paterson said: "Boo hoo hoo, I went back to Grimsby and they booed me, boo hoo hoo."
Tuesday 11 December
What goes "We only sing when we're fishing... swoosh, thud"? The Grimsby Reaper decapitating another in his long list of managerial victims, that's what and to the severed heads of Gordon Strachan, George Burley, Steve Bruce and Trevor Francis, he has now added the bonce of Terry Butcher, whom Brentford have sacked today in response to their humiliating home defeat on Saturday by struggling and lowly Grimsby. Butcher was appointed to his post only seven months ago, but the ignominy of losing to a town that smells of fish and only ever tops the league table of teenage pregnancy was just too much for Brentford to bear, as it was for so many other clubs before them. "Terry could not have worked harder for this club and it is therefore a great shame to see him go," said Bees chairman Greg Dyke, uncannily echoing the send-off he himself received from the BBC.
It is doubtful, however, that Dave Bassett will suffer a similar fate to Butcher this evening. The plum-faced Cockney was named assistant manager at Dirty Leeds earlier this season after the Yorkshire side lost the services of Gus Poyet to Tottenham 0 JPK 1, and fields a reserve team against the Mariners' second string this evening. Leeds have named a youthful side for the encounter at Elland Road, while the Town side is likely to feature several first-team players, but no evidence has yet suggested that the Reaper effect extends to reserve team football. And Leeds are big and swanky so they've probably got a specialist reserve team manager who isn't the assistant manager. And there's no way Town's stiffs can avoid defeat tonight anyway, what with the first team having won on Saturday and success for both sides at once being contrary to European human rights legislation, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the Ten Commandments, Kepler's third law of planetary motion, and several local by-laws enacted by Itterby parish aldermen in 1587.
At last there's an email to the Diary. It's only from another CA staffer, Mat Hare, but as lucky Peterborough would have told you on the evening of 6 October, they all count. Yesterday's Diary observed that "while Town have climbed two places to 20th with Saturday's win, it will take several more such results before fans can look at the league and really see the team outside the bottom two", and Mat responds: "Surely that's because the NE Lincs fans support Liverpool, Man Utd and Chelsea more than their local team so we need to be 18th to be outside the bottom two." I saw Chelsea on the telly once, you know. It was crap.
Monday 10 December
As any good postmodernist will tell you, there is no objective truth, only an infinite variety of interpretations, apart from the indisputable fact of Jeremy Clarkson being an overpaid, deluded, smug wanker with the world's most punchable face. The Mariners' resurgence after half time on Saturday which brought them all three points at Brentford with a superb Gary Jones goal on 57 minutes is no exception. "As is often the case with Town, they were a different side in the second half and, with a renewed purpose and more attacking outlook, they began to pepper the Brentford goal," reports the Grimsby Telegraph, while the Hounslow Guardian prefers to believe that the responsibility for its local team's failure lies mostly with the weather: "As the second half began the heavens opened and an already damp Griffin Park was drenched. This seemed to unsettle the Bees who opening [sic] sluggishly and were made to pay the penalty 12 mins [sic] into the half." Even the apparently immutable truth of football league tables can be interpreted in different ways the Leeds United match programme's practice of rendering the third division as it would look without their 15-point deduction for cheating proves that sometimes, actually, the table does lie and while Town have climbed two places to 20th with Saturday's win, it will take several more such results before their fans can look at the league and really see the team outside the bottom two.
Friday 7 December
The way, it seems to your Guest Diarist, to get some financial truths out of Town's chairman and self-crowned emperor is to rile him with personal slurs. As yesterday's Diary reported, Mr Fenty blurted out how many spondulies we are short of realising the Fentydome pipedream after folk made not-so-veiled accusations about his personal motives. When I was a kid and they were four for a penny then it would be a mere 2,400,000,000 black jacks needed to eliminate the funding gap. So if every Town fan donated one black jack per game we would have enough sweets to swap for a new stadium after about 800,000 home games. Unless we get a really good cup run, that is (we have stay positive it's the law). Hang on though I bet you don't get four for a penny these days, do you? And then could we get full retail value for them all or would we simply flood the market with black jacks and, er, devalue the product?
Mr Fenty should have gritted his teeth and kept his mouth shut. He should also have kept quiet when he blurted out a few weeks ago that the projected Town P&L this season was wonky to the tune of £250,000 or so. It's bad enough writing off a comparatively huge amount spent on planning the stadium and spending more on wages than the club can afford. But telling us about it in a mighty fit of pique and without a word of explanation as to what the 'board' are doing to rectify matters makes those of us who knew it all along feel both absurdly triumphalist and deeply suicidal. The rest of us just feel suicidal. But, of course, it's all our fault because we don't make sure that at least fifty per cent of our incomings get channelled straight to the club. Sod the mortgage and the 'leccy and the gas bill (that's about to go up another twelve per cent) let's bid that rare red shirt right up.
You, gentle reader, will almost certainly know that I never bought in to the idea of Town leaving the town. The Fentydome design makes me groan at the prospect of a half-finished modern shed in the middle of nowhere. But here we are, nearly in 2008, without even the prospect of a start in the near future, and still apparently clinging on to the nearly ten-year-old design concept. Eventual capacity 20,100 (to meet a rumoured but never substantiated as far as I know Premier League regulation that clubs won't get promoted unless they have a minimum capacity at their stadium). Developed when we were a second-flight club. Now we are at the bottom of the fourth division and home league crowds are about to dip below 3,000. It's too big, too dear and in the wrong place. Forget it, and concentrate on the league, man.
"I never done good things/I never done bad things/I never did anything out of the blue, woh-o-oh." OK, Lord Buckley has never said "who-o-oh" in his life; I admit it. And he hasn't been to many modern management training sessions either, given the three options he has identified to deal with his recalcitrant players (as outlined in his weekly chat to Dale on Mariners World). These, he tells us, are:
All, sadly, in breach of current employment legislation, I'm told. But given his pent-up state and occasionally menacing jerky movements towards the camera I am not surprised that the GTFC manager in charge of personnel chose not to get involved. It is fairly obvious that Buckley is running out of things to do and say. What he needs is the spine of his team back from injury and performing well. Not, not Barnes necessarily, I admit, but Whittle, Bolland and either Jones or Butler. He needs folk running their guts out and showing at least implicit leadership by example. Tomorrow at Brentford he will not get it, I fear, as you will read in the next paragraph.
- cane 'em
- put his arm around 'em
- line them up against a wall and shoot 'em
Bolland needs one more match to get fit enough to start imposing himself again; Jones is still sick; Butler is completely short of match fitness after his hamstring injury and Whittle's ankle is still sore after training. Town need these four players fit and bursting to go. Till is ill (you know I can't resist 'em) and Hunt was "ill" the day after his flouncing exercise, although he came back to training yesterday, I'm told. Newey, of course, is suspended for tomorrow's game. And then there is the mysterious case of Bennett's ear. So the available squad is thin to say the least. But Brentford are on a bad run and are conceding goals, so we might scramble a point, and let's hope for everybody's sake that we do. Somehow.
As for formation take Bowie's advice, mate, and revert to 4-4-2 before we start hitting an all-time low. See yer.
Thursday 6 December
You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, as Bart Simpson famously put it. And Positive John Fenty would doubtless agree. Hilariously accused of "sheer greed" by a recent 'user comment' on the Grimsby Telegraph website, as he continues to plough his wealth into an ailing football club, the Town chairman could easily be forgiven were he to flog Ryan Bennett in January to get his money back, fake his own death, and do one to Panama, where UK driving bans don't apply. Today PJF can be found in the Telegraph addressing recent claims by some Grimbarians that he stands to gain financially from the Mariners' planned-for relocation to the Fentydome. "Of course I'm not going to gain anything from it," snorts the chairman. "If anyone thinks that John Fenty is going to get rich out of the new stadium they are sad in my opinion." And in the Diary's opinion, too. The fan doing more than any other to keep the Mariners afloat may be a clumsy communicator with a short fuse and a messiah complex, but one thing he isn't is going to get rich out of the new stadium.
As cynical as North East Lincolnshire folk are, it is sometimes understandable if they tend to assume the worst of people. When there's an information vacuum, after all, all kinds of things will tend to pour in to fill the space. Mr Fenty explains, in the same Telegraph interview, that there is a shortfall of £6m in the budgeting for his new stadium. How is he proposing to address this? We are not told, and so we can only speculate as to the wisdom of putting all one's eggs in a basket with such a big hole at the bottom of it.
Similarly, it is only now, four months into the current season, after ceaseless speculation among supporters about the rarity of Gary Jones' appearances in the first team some of it unrepeatable in a family Diary that a representative of the club has seen fit to explain that Town's fluctuatingly popular frontman has been playing through an injury the whole time. "Jonah hasn't been properly fit this season and that's why he hasn't started many games," Lord Alan Buckley says in the Grimsby Telegraph, 117 days after the Mariners kicked off the 200708 season with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at home to Notts County. "He has a piece of bone floating in his ankle a spur which shouldn't be there. He has been playing on with it but it's a bit hit and miss. He may train for two days and then miss one so we have to wait and see each week whether to play him. He needs an operation really to scrape away a bit of that bone. But that may only happen when we have enough bodies back and can do without Jonah. That is the main reason why he hasn't played as much," is what the manager's explanation looks like when you take away the paragraph breaks inserted by the Telegraph sub-editor after every six words. So now we know and don't forget to come back for tomorrow's guest-penned Diary, as Stuart Watkiss reveals that Ciaran Toner has been playing since September with two broken legs and a degenerative kidney disorder.
Wednesday 5 December
The melancholy journey home after watching a rubbish game of football gives us all a chance to ponder some of the great philosophical questions of our age. Questions such as "if there is a God, why does He allow Channel 4 to exist?", and "if we're supposed to be cutting energy use and carbon emissions, why are big shops still allowed to leave their lights on all night?", and "is it possible to have more than 100 per cent if it was already 100 per cent the players' fault and then it gets even worse?" You will glean from the latter, dear reader, that Lord Alan Buckley has been laying into his team again following last night's hopeless drubbing by Darlington of which the Grimsby Telegraph reports "the final whistle was drowned out by the home fans' disapproval", which strikes the Diary as more than a little optimistic given that the scant smattering of spectators remaining at the end would have had as much chance of drowning out a farting earthworm as a referee's whistle.
So exactly what has Town's beleaguered manager said? It's not much different to what he's been saying for the past month, if the quotes in today's Telegraph represent him accurately. "These are professional footballers. We can't concede like that. The fourth goal was just a joke." Asked about the furious reaction of James Hunt to being substituted midway through the first half as if Hunt's performance somehow didn't justify the switch Buckley explains: "I would not expect him to be happy about being taken off, but I was not happy about all 14 of those players," which is unnecessarily harsh on the excellent Andy Taylor. "I don't have the answers for what happened," concludes a shell-shocked Lord Al, beginning to stray worryingly close to Brian Laws' infamous "once they cross that white line" speech.
It's a good job Pete Brooksbank is here to put a smile on our faces (because no bugger else has emailed the Diary in ages). "I note with interest the Diary's mention of another online petition organised by Grimsby's local rag campaigning to have some ex-player called Jack McDonald, or something, awarded an MBE." Yes, go on. "I can't help but wonder if anyone at the Telegraph or anyone for that matter has actually taken the time to fill in the forms (which can be found online), ticked all the boxes and gathered the necessary supporting evidence required to formally nominate McDuff for such a prestigious honour? I realise that online petitions are a unifying force for democratic protest you need only hark back to 2003, when millions convinced Tony Blair not to embark on a imprudent, disastrous invasion of Iraq to see that but in this instance those forms really need sending off first." I hope you're not meaning to suggest that the Prime Minister doesn't read the Grimsby Telegraph from cover to cover every single day, Pete.
"By the way," adds the same correspondent, mercilessly stretching today's tortured Diary to another agonising paragraph, "Tony Crane is back! back! back! for Boston. His disciplinary suspension was incurred after he was caught playing in goal for a Sunday league team up in Sheffield. The offence apparently only came to light when he was booked during a recent game. I doubt it was for time wasting. Boy, we've missed him." In goal! Old Crazy Legs must have covered every position on the pitch now, what with Big Wednesday having used him as a midfielder and Worksop Town having made full use of his predatory instincts up front. Did you know he was once tipped to play for England, by the way?
Lastly today, Lincoln City Football Club announce: "We have been informed by Lincolnshire Police that our [fourth division] game at Grimsby Town on Saturday 29 December 2007 will now kick off at noon," presumably to reduce the possibility of silly boys fighting over whose go it is on the Wii that one of them got for Christmas. Let's hope someone tells the home team as well although in their current form it may be wiser to protect Town's goal difference by letting the players oversleep so that Lincoln are awarded the match as a 30 default.
Tuesday 4 December
Had he not made a career as a football manager, Lord Alan Buckley could very well have plonked out a handsome living by playing bass guitar if his response to Saturday's defeat at Huddersfield is anything to go by. Why? Because he can hold a riff like no-one else on Earth. In both his Mariners World interview and his natter with the Grimsby Telegraph the rock-steady Town boss sticks doggedly to the theme that his players are to blame for all ills, when it might, you know, help a bit if they knew which formation they're meant to be playing in before it gets changed to a 5-2-3 with overlapping fries and mayo. "It seems we do OK if we score first but if we concede then we struggle to respond. Maybe that's in the mindset of the players, I don't know." If you don't know then the Diary will tell you, Alan: it's because there's no leadership out there. Returning-from-suspension midfielder Danny Boshell will return from suspension tonight, adds the manager, when Darlington will win 1-0 with two goals from Ricky Ravenhill.
The Diary likes the snazzy cardigan Buckley's wearing on Mariners World though. If only Mrs Diary were reading, this would be the perfect way to drop a hint for a Christmas present.
There have been more petitions to get John McDermott an MBE than Town have kept clean sheets since their longest-serving player retired at the end of last season (it's 3-2, if you're that bothered), and the local paper has revived its 'Gong for Macca' campaign in the wake of his admission to BBC Yorkshire & Lincolnshire's sporting Hall of Fame. The heroic right-back was recognised at a posh ceremony last night "for his outstanding loyalty to the club", and the Grimsby Telegraph is attempting to display comparable persistence by urging local people to add their names to the almost 500 already recorded on its petition. If the Mariners continue to defend in the way they have this season, meanwhile, then Cod Almighty will shortly be opening a petition for Macca to come out of retirement.
Monday 3 December
Oooh, I was nearly right!
Tom Newey has gone and got hisself suspended for this Saturday's visit to Brentford. The flying left-back picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in Saturday's FA Cup defeat by Phil Jevons and incurs a one-match ban which, for reasons better known to the FA than to God Himself, doesn't kick in until seven days after the fifth yellow, so Newey will be free to play in tomorrow night's 1-0 home defeat by Darlington. "He has also shown a red card for a deliberate hand ball," explains Town's superb new official website, suggesting that if the playing work dries up, Tom can readily fall back on a career as a referee.
Christmas is here, the goose is getting fat, please put a penny in the Mariners' hat. How? By using the buy.at portal of the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust, that's how. If you're unfamiliar with this nifty fundraising thingy, it's simple enough: you go to this web page and follow links from there to a range of well-known retailers and do all your Christmas shopping without having to move your arse out of your chair, and then the well-known retailers give a percentage of what you spend back to GTST. God bless us, one and all!