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Diary - January 2007
Wednesday 31 January
As first division big club Tottenham Hotspur continue to rebuild after being dumped out of the League Cup 16 months ago by tiny little fishy Grimsby Town, and explore the possibility of signing Teddy Sheringham for a third time, the Mariners, too, have agreed terms with a footballer who has been on their books twice before. Michael Boulding, who scored 27 goals in 74 appearances during his two previous spells at Blundell Park and made the scoresheet again in Mansfield's 5-0 thrashing of Torquay last night (which put Town's 4-1 humping at Plainmoor last Friday into even starker perspective) is not the player in question. Tony Ford, Matt Tees and Tommy Briggs could probably still show most of the current squad a thing or two, but nor are they. And Paul Groves is unavailable. Oh, alright then it's Matt Bloomer, and the Diary was a bit disappointed when Sort It Slade didn't keep hold of the lad after his loan spell last season, because I thought he played very well. The Grimsby-born Cambridge United defender has joined until the end of this season and his versatility across the back four will doubtless prove useful as Buckley's battlers look to start being any good sometime between now and May.
"Young midfielder Josh Burge has just returned to the club after spending the last week on trial at Aston Villa." All the spelling and punctuation are in order this time, but slipping this into an item about the reserves' game at Doncaster this afternoon seems a somewhat offhanded way for Town's official website to present what is really quite an interesting piece of news, don't you think? Hey ho. Watkiss's battlers kick off at two o'clock this afto, and not included in the squad given by the OS today is former Derby defender Theo Streete, who was included in the squad given by the OS yesterday after apparently having been on trial with the Mariners all week and tempting Lord Buckley to want "a chance to see the player in a match situation". Hey ho.
By the by, doesn't that Keepmoat Stadium thing look like a shining example of everything the Fentydome should try very hard not to be?
Cheerleaders, that's what we need.
Oh, here we go it says here about Streete. It also says injured Australian Nicky Rizzo isn't injured any more, so he won't be coming back.
What about you lot, then? Got anything to add? Why, yes the Diary's inbox is bulging with more than two emails! "A possible way to get Town back to winning ways might be to issue new contracts to all the players and pay them the minimum wage," writes Felix Oliver-Tasker. "Every game they win their pay goes up, every game they lose their pay goes down. It's simple, hit them where it hurts: in their pockets. It's called Perfomance Related Pay or Payment by Results. Good wheeze, don't you think?" Indeed, Felix particularly if the money saved by the club could go towards reimbursing we long-suffering spectators a portion of our squandered ticket money. Isn't a good wheeze what Isaiah Rankin develops whenever he tries to run?
Other Diary readers have been moved to email by the tone and content of what I wrote here earlier this week (sorry about that, by the way don't know what came over me!). Mark Wilson says: "I am generally a mild-mannered chap who likes to send email to the Diary in the hope that others will manage a smile at my world-weary humour but yesterday you activated my default response to stress, which is to scream. Here goes. Dear Mr Fenty, please open your eyes to the fact that 25 January 2007 was not the most important day in the club's 129-year history. That day is going to be 5 May 2007 because on that day our future might be non-League fucking football and you need to do something about it because the workshy, backboneless bunch of twats we currently describe as a football team are taking us there. The Fentydome will mean absolutely fuck all if we're hosting Crawley or Aldershot in front of 900 fans." But you'll be able to park your car right outside it, instead of leaving it by Sidney Park and having to walk the last five minutes. Where's your sense of priorities, Mark?
Finally today we turn to Sibbo, as the Diary sometimes does in the Rutland Arms when I've just got a fresh pint in and the rest of the CA team have gone to the chippy. "After the sombre mood of yesterday's Diary," he writes, "I felt I must let you know that Dave the Engineer is in need of a few positive vibes. I received a text on Friday: 'I have switched off 4 nil down to a team who have not won since sept. My house is on fire and I want to do something evil to a person from a neighbouring county'. Now Dave is neither an arsonist or a murderer or for that matter a man with a purple face. Perhaps Chairman John should look at some sort of counselling for Town fans who are in a depressed state of mind. I had long ago resigned myself to the fact that third from bottom would do nicely and AB would have us on a promotion push next season. Harsh reality says otherwise. The next positive is 'well look at what Doncaster have done in the last few years'. Just like you Diary, I'll be there next year, along with Dave I suspect, wherever and whatever. I'm Grimsby 'til I die (and so is Dave)."
Now that's the sort of talk we need, eh? Thanks, all see you tomorrow.
Tuesday 30 January
So we got planning permission for the Fentydome. Job done. Oh, what's that? Football? Playing well and winning matches? Look, we tried that and it didn't work and all that stuff is a bit old hat nowadays anyway. The new fans who Town need to attract, there's a reason why they're not already going to matches. It's because they only understand football through ISS Pro Evolution and the televised Premiership, and watching a lower-division game live at the actual ground needs a lot more of an attention span. So they're never actually going to go there for the football. Let's give them a deafening PA system instead, like they have in the Premiership, and play a bit of music over it when we score a goal, so nobody can hear the fans. Let's give them three or four times more seats than our current average gate, so we can accommodate the 'big cup games only' contingent once every couple of years. Let's give them ample car parking, because only losers are prepared to park their cars down the road and walk for five or ten minutes. Let's give them an official club bar, because only smelly old men like old-fashioned pubs. Let's give them retail. Let's give them Coke and fucking massive hot dogs. And let's give their urine the shiniest stainless steel in the whole of the fourth division.
This is the new consumer age and given that last Thursday was the most important day in the 129-year history of Grimsby Town Football Club, the sixteen match days remaining between now and the end of this season, which will determine whether the Mariners retain their Football League status, are mere trifles by comparison. Accordingly, then, at this overwhelmingly trivial period for the club, Town's official website is awash with items of consumer and commercial interest only. Pay for the supplementary web service. Buy tickets for a prize draw. Drink lots of sweet fizzy drink. The only football-related minutiae to be found on the OS or anywhere else are the utterings of Tom Newey and Paul Bolland, who have wandered off to mumble about needing to show some fight and stand up and be counted, probably reading from the scripts left behind by Darren Barnard, Iffy Onuora, Phil Jevons, Jamie Lawrence, Simon Ford, Stuart Campbell, Iain Anderson, Tony Crane, Jason Crowe, Terry Fleming, Anthony Williams, Andy Parkinson, Curtis Woodhouse and Rob Jones.
Just this once, then, Town this time, now that it matters more than ever before match your words by your deeds, and the fans just might take you seriously.
Monday 29 January
Think back a moment, reader, to Saturday 6 May 2006. As they kicked off against Northampton, our beloved Mariners could secure automatic promotion to the third division by bettering the result that Leyton Orient would attain against relegation-threatened Oxford. After the match, when I eventually recovered the will to live, the Diary remembered a pre-match TV interview with Oxford manager Jim Smith. Instead of the requisite fists-up, all-guns-blazing, fighting talk, Smith had elected to dwell on the fact that Conference football isn't all that bad these days, you know, once you get used to it. Sure enough, by the time Ryan Gilligan scuffed in that 98th-minute equaliser for the Cobblers, Smith's team had already succumbed; Orient pipped Town to third place and Oxford dropped out of the league.
The reason this unhappy conjunction of circumstances returns to mind today is that both the Grimsby Telegraph and its readers seem fatally preoccupied with demotion as this week begins. The local rag leads today's sports section by pointing out that Town are having a really shit season not, you might think, that this patently obvious truth particularly needed to be pointed out, but did you know it's more shit than any season since the 196869 campaign, when the Mariners finished 91st in the Football League after changing manager twice during the season (my italics, so get your thieving hands off them)? It should be obvious to all that the best way to ensure Conference football next season would be to sack Alan Buckley. Unfortunately, as we have seen many times, what should be obvious to all very seldom is.
Meanwhile, on the paper's letters page, a fan asks John Fenty whether the club would survive relegation at all or whether GTFC would do a Newport County. As far as the Diary is concerned, relegation would just mean supporting Town next season in a different division. And with Town having changed divisions more times than any professional club in England bar Notts County, we could hardly say we're not used to it, could we?
So, three paragraphs, and they're all about relegation. Damn, you've got me doing it now. Up the bleedin' Mariners!
Friday 26 January
Our beloved Mariners have a big away game tonight against fellow strugglers Torquay United. By saying this your Guest Diarist is rigidly sticking to the journalistic mantra which says "always tell the reader the bleedin' obvious that he or she undoubtedly already knows". But today all the talk is straying away from the fundamentals of survival in the fourth division towards a rather distasteful and certainly triumphalist celebration as fans view the granting of outline planning permission for a new stadium as some kind of indubitable proof that success is just around the corner, and will come easily in a new stadium.
Without the funding being anywhere near in place yet, and with the team performing so very poorly at the foot of the basement division in the league, it is time to stop cocking those hoops, maties. Mr Fenty may be making adrenalin-laced statements to the official site that "a move into a new stadium by August 2009 isn't overly ambitious" but there are still many aspects to the whole project which remain worryingly ambiguous.
The more the chairman browbeats us, the less he seems to tell us. Give us the economic truths please Mr Fenty. What is the minimum ongoing average crowd needed to support the new ground? Who will own it, and on what basis? How much funding does the club have to provide to ensure its completion? Stop just telling us that without a move the club is doomed, and start providing detailed and realistic financial justification for abandoning over a hundred years of heritage for an anodyne legoland monstrosity in the middle of a windy field. And as a final point, folks, just consider Steve Meek's poignant comment that people are entitled to view collecting mushrooms from an open space as as valuable and enriching an activity as watching Tom Newey try to play left-back. Well said Tench.
Town appear to be losing central defenders as fast as they find them, with the news that Mr Whittle's groin has ruled him out and that Mr Fenton has had to go down to the doctor because of an indescribably bad headache caused by a sinus infection. So young Grand and A N Other (Harkins, according to the Telewag) will debut as a centre-halvian partnership of somewhat inexperienced proportions.
Speaking to Mariners World, Lord Buckley again made reference to the perpetually injured nature of some of his squad, adding a delicate (for him) rejoinder that it is time some players stood up to be counted and that it is the duty of the existing squad to pull the club out of relegation trouble. AB clearly implied that he is sick and tired of the 'bring players in, let players go' merry-go-round, and that the squad will stay pretty much as it stands for the rest of the season. This interview took place on Thursday and Lord Buckley declared that at that point he had "no idea for a team" as several players were complaining of feeling unwell. The Telegraph interview with our Lord reveals that Messrs Newey and Toner have been feeling under the weather and Mr Croft has estate agent's ankle but may recover. It goes without saying that Mr Reddy has not graced the training pitch and is not able to be considered for selection again. Forget about the Fentydome dream and pray for an away goal tonight, folks. If ever we needed one it is now. See yer.
Thursday 25 January
Hi there! Pay day is indeed the best day, as a flush Stand-In Diary contemplates spunking 100 notes on an environment choking return flight to Torquay tomorrow. Must. Resist.
So, tonight's the night to end all nights: North East Lincolnshire Council meets at Grimmo town hall to decide if there's any reason why they shouldn't give FentyDome the green light. Given the club's new ground will provide for the local community in a way that the council should be anyway (football pitches, IT facilities, etc etc) saving NELC a few pennies it's a certain shoo-in.
The torturous process has been worth it for the reactionary reaction of Great Coates's residents in recent years, showing antagonism at its best. The latest, and possibly greatest, contribution from the objectors was on Radio Humberside this morning, in the pre-amble to Tony Butcher's vehement on-air dismissal of a move away from Blundell Park. A Concerned Resident warned of an increase in traffic through the village, presumably along the serene A1136, and alarmingly! more pedestrians doing some healthy, non-polluting and enjoyable walking along the pavements of DN37 (as long as they don't tread in any dog muck). People of Great Coates: if you hate FentyDome so much, when the chairman's legacy finally gets erected don't bother going to the conveniently placed generic shopping centre that will be built next door to that terrible grey eyesore on the immediate horizon.
The noise about the new stadium has provided an unnecessary and annoying distraction, hanging over the club at the worst possible time, at least in terms of results. After tonight everyone connected with the club can get back to concentrating on something more immediate and actually important, namely affairs on the pitch as the players make the long trek to Torquay for tomorrow night's game. One man who could possibly play a part in turning things around is Michael Reddy, with Leyton Orient deciding not to pursue their interest in the striker due to doubts over his fitness. Note, I said possibly.
In other football-related news, the reserves showed the first XI how to score more goals than the opposition (more commonly known as 'winning'), as a side containing seven first-teamers came from behind to beat Hull's stiffs 3-1, Peter Bore tormentor-in-chief with a rejuvenated second half display. Some of those goals sound yummy, donchathink?
Which brings us to the end of today's instalment. Tune in tomorrow lunchtime when Guest Diary will bring his considered view on tonight's meeting, and possibly even bring us news of which team members went to bed early enough so they could catch the coach down south. Cheers!
Wednesday 24 Jauary
Good morning jobseekers! It's Devious Deviant Diary from downtown Dottingham delving into the detritus of the Darlington disappointment and driving a decidedly dodgy Daihatsu through the desperate days leading up to the Fentydoom's D-Day.
What's a meta for? Hey! Gotta no respect?
Town's December descent has mystified many. No points, no goals, no hope? The reason is obvious: they had a rubbish Christmas party. They've seen Alan's magic tricks before and slumped into a slough of despond when he got his handkerchief out. Or did Positive John tell them there is no Father Christmas?
Let's move on, as middle managers are fond of saying when they've been caught up in their own inadequate knickers. January, sick and tired, you've been hanging on me. You young people, you just don't know, do you. Have you never heard of Pilot? Back in the day we had proper winters with proper snow and no-one complained because they had to wear a coat. Get a grip, it's winter, we're not Middlesex mediatartlets, we don't panic. Are you listening there at the back of the Pontoon?
News of Leyton/Luton's Michael Reddy is as thin as the snow on the ground, but never think Buckley III doesn't plan ahead, for we have the replacement already. Non-scoring, non-playing, non-League Tony Thorpe's on loan until the end of the season and, to throw more salt onto the frozen path of hope, we have Simon Grand forever, or eighteen months, whichever is shorter. In teletext-speak we've secured him permanently, unlike that ship off Devon, or the advertising boards above the main stand. I would say we used guy ropes, but the blessed OS might think we've signed him on loan on a tentative six-month deal.
For those hull-bent on searching out a Town goal, there was a 9am pitch inspection for the reserve game at the Pooper-Scooper Stadium of Balls. Clad in an Stalinist overcoat, the official announcement was "This Game Will Go Ahead". You see that's what a shiny new stadium bring you absolute certainty that reserve games will happen. Respect!
Drifting south and through the ether, the sound of Scunnies bores on. I don't know about you but Scunthorpe's new manager seems to me even more irritating than Laws. The irrepressible Mancunian enthusiasm translates as crass cockiness when it reaches the filling station at end of the A180. Wasn't that in Douglas Adams' first draft? Remember people of the land of Scun, pride becomes a fall. The greatest moment is merely the start of the slide into the molten pit of misery.
Haven't Boston been dissolved yet?
And finally, pop pickers, who pays the ferryman? Last month I got a text telling me that the drummer from Gerry and the Pacemakers had died. And now there's no Pappas no more: Denny Doherty, deceased. The 60s are literally dying. At least we still have Town. Don't we?
Who knows what tomorrow brings. It's impossible to say, but normal Guest Diary will eke out the globulets of gristle upon which he will chew for your edufactional infotainment.
Tuesday 23 January
Why is there only one Competition Commission? Will the MFI sale ever actually end? If Boston cease to exist are they counted as one of the relegated teams from the Football League this season, or are two further teams relegated?
Hi guys. Durham Diary here shaking things up and giving you something a bit different. Every other paragraph will contain a selection of questions, but I'll do my best to avoid providing any answers whatsoever. Because I can't be arsed.
Whenever a new manager is appointed they have a run of good results before things settle down again. So should Grimsby take advantage and appoint a new manager every four weeks?
'Spice bubbles' was the name of a bath product bought for the younger sister of Durham Diary circa 1996. The bubbles weren't endorsed by the 'Spice Girls', but sold because the name suggested they might be. The point is everyone wants to think they're official, even though they aren't. Everyone, that is, except for the Official site, who want to think they aren't. Hence they've created an online survey where you can rate the success of the far too many players that the Mariners have loaned over the years, but they give you the option of telling the club about players they've loaned but don't know they have. Or something. I don't really understand. Hmmm, Michael Appleton, what a player.
Will Pogs ever come back into fashion? And if not why were they ever fashionable in the first place?
An email from Cod Almighty ubermaster Si Wilson disturbs the settled dust in my inbox with a link to the world renowned Fishupdate.com. The story is that strong winds unfortunately caused the postponement of the Humber Cod Championships on Sunday. But the story isn't important, it's just about being involved and taking a look! I particularly love the picture with the caption 'Cod fishing in the Humber has been fantastic recently' showing that something, at least, is going well in the area.
Why is the syringe sterilised for a lethal injection?
Justin Whittle is out for two weeks if you believe the Grimsby Telegraph. They explain that Whitts troubles come after "limping out early in Saturday's defeat to Darlington." Which all rather seems to suggest he should have limped out later on, but never mind. Admittedly I missed the Darlo game, but from what I've seen recently we've been rubbish with him and rubbish without him, so the effect his absence will have is open for debate.
Why is there hardly anything Grimsby Town related to write about (even during the transfer window) when I'm trying to write a diary?
And that's all from me! If you've been following and haven't dropped off yet send your answers to today's questions to the following address...
Monday 22 January
Six defeats in a row, then but if you're one of those rare Grimbarians who wants causes for optimism, the 1-0 reverse to Darlington on Saturday was the first one of the sequence that Town didn't deserve to lose. Maybe Alan Buckley would say that, but so does whoever reported it in the Grimsby Telegraph; so does Tony Butcher; so does the Sunday Sun; and so, indeed, does the Northern Echo. "No matter what I say after that, it is all immaterial because all people will see is the 0-1 scoreline," laments Lord Buckley, displaying an undimmed grasp of local psychology and possibly thinking of our old mate Mr Purple, who is probably still kicking the back of the Pontoon Stand and gurgling "WANKERS!" as you and I are sitting down with a sandwich and a cup of tea for lunch two days later. Note to GTFC marketing department: offer free anger management counselling with 200708 season ticket.
So James Hunt started to look the part, Simon Grand banished those Walsall nightmares, Peter Till remembered what wingers do, and Martin Paterson was back to his swashbuckling best. The shaky form continues, though, on Town's official website, which mystifyingly reports that "Kevin James made his home debut" against the Quakers on Saturday. Kevin James, lest you have forgotten, is the right winger loaned by Graham Rodger from Nottingham Forest, who dislocated his shoulder in his home debut against Bastard Franchise Scum FC on 4 November last year, and has not played since.
As you might recall, the Diary broke the news last week that Town shelled out £21,000 to agents in the second half of 2006 up from £13,560 in the earlier part of the year. Interestingly, last Thursday was the first time since the Football League began publishing its six-monthly reports on cash given to agents by its clubs that GTFC did not simultaneously release news of the club's own payments; instead, Positive John Fenty gave an explanation to the club's official website over the weekend. This focuses mostly on the concept of transparency. You'd better have a look for yourself and see what you make of it, reader, because I don't really understand it. One thing I am fairly certain of is that the chairman has misused the phrase 'carte blanche', which everyone knows is a kind of ice cream.
Friday 19 January
"Ricky is twenty-six and he one [sic.] of the fittest players in the squad at Doncaster. He likes to tackle but can play as well." So now we know what we will be missing as new/old manager Dave Penney describes his new signings to the Darlo official site. He cost us nowt, and we got not even a bag of spanners when we let him go. Will we miss Rrricky Ravenhill? Will his name crop up in nostalgic pub yarning in years to come? We'll have to wait and see, gentle reader, but gone he has. Whether he plays against us tomorrow remains a closely guarded secret. Let's hope so.
Meanwhile Town assistant Stuart Watkiss has been speaking to a disembodied voice floating on the ceiling in his office again. Mr Watkiss, who is now in danger of missing dugout duties tomorrow due to a neck strain caused by Mariners World, emphasised the need to play men not boys in the team from now on. Then he mentioned it again. And then he really stressed the point, confessing that new loan signing Hunt is a man whom he has admired as a player, as a manager and as an assistant to Lord Buckley. Oooh, he tackles, like a... like a man; and he isn't scared to bollock his manager either if he gets dropped, you know.
Mr Watkiss also admitted to having noticed that Town hadn't won lately. Or indeed scored lately. And that they seem to have conceded a lot of goals from set pieces and crosses into the box. Consequently he reassured us that the latter is something the lads have been trying to work on in training. He gave us the good news that Town had 23 players turn up to training on Thursday. This was tempered by the fact that Nick Fenton wasn't one of them, being sick in bed with his wife's virus. Watkiss went on to say that Darlington are having a similar season to Town and that Dave Penney had been tearing his hair out with injuries but had a lot of players back available some of whom can dribble, some are good at scoring and some have electric pace. It also helped them in their draw at Bury that they fielded twelve players, according to the BBC.
But we must remain (stubbornly) optimistic, your Guest Diarist is reminded in a piece on the official site from Chairman 'Positive' John Fenty. Mr Fenty catalogues the injury and suspension litany that has plagued Town so far this season and requests that fans get behind the club without apportioning blame, or indulging in apathy. Fenty is singularly silent on the money the club wasted paying agents as highlighted in yesterday's Diary. Mr Fenty must be right, of course: Town need Reddy back so badly that they are on the brink of selling him to Orient. The piece about this on the official site hints that Reddy doesn't fancy the bright lights of E10, but rumours, like old toffees, abound at this time of year, and one of them says that Reddy is in the course of changing his mind. So maybe those rusty spanners will be heading Town's way after all. Others tell me that poor Gary Cohen is having a very tough time with his bad leg and that the future looks a lot bleaker than the lad deserves. Let's take a second and wish him well.
Cod Almighty contributor and minor pop star Pete Green is an avid reader of FISHUpdate.com. He has sent me a link to the latest edition which has a let's-wallow-in-nostalgia piece about the Grimsby trawler Ross Revenge which went on to become the vessel from which Radio Caroline used to broadcast in those halcyon days of the late 1960s. However, I used to listen to Radio 270 because that was all I could get down on the farm at Kelsey Moor. Most pirate radio wasn't that great actually, but compared to the Light Service and whistle while you (fucking) work it just seemed so.
Now get yourselves down to Blundell Park tomorrow, and let's hope that the lads keep a clean sheet at least. Whether a goal is too much to ask for, well, we'll have to wait and see. See yer.
Thursday 18 January
Deposit on a nice new house... build an extension on your old one... start your own business... spend a year or two travelling the world... get a dead posh car... put it away for the kids going to uni... invest in some art... install solar panels or wind turbines so you never have to pay for electricity again. You could do a lot with £21,000, couldn't you? Unless you're Grimsby Town Football Club, in which case you would blow the lot on agents' fees in six months flat. The Football League's has published the fees paid to agents by clubs for the second half of 2006, which reveals that GTFC paid football's parasites the equivalent of nearly three season tickets per week, or to put it another way, £805.47 per week, or to put it another way, possibly enough to have kept Rob Jones. While 15 of the 24 clubs in the fourth division got by perfectly well without spending a penny on agents over this period, Town were getting on for double the amount they spent in the first half of last year (£13,560) which represents quite some achievement given that the team is less than half as good as it was when Sladey did one to Yeovil.
When a desperate Grahams Rodgerses gambled on loaning Tony Thorpe from Stevenage in September there were those who grumbled that bringing in players from the Conference would result in Town being relegated to the Conference. This is to overlook the contributions made by Keith Alexander, Andy Tillson and John Cockerill to the promotions achieved during Alan Buckley's first spell in charge at Blundell Park, not to mention the Mariners' 2004 acquisition from Scarborough of the legendary Glen Downey. And besides, the Diary quite liked him so I am not too dismayed to see that Thorpe is back in Cleethorpes for a three-day trial. Admittedly, there are already six full-time forwards on the books at GTFC, and Thorpe has not played a minute of first-team football for Stevenage or anyone else since his loan spell in Cleethorpes ended at the end of October; but Cod Almighty already has a player profile for him, so if Town end up signing him again we can just re-use that instead of banging out a fortnight of emails to contributors until somebody agrees to write another one.
The company that has patronised you and me by calling the competition our football club takes part in "the Real League", ruined the play-off finals with its intrusive sponsors' advertisements, and cheapened the sport further with its 'win a player for your club' competition is at it again. To properly support your club in 2007 means buying a specific fizzy drink, and Chairman John is joining in the fun by promising to have his head shaved if Town win something or other to do with some other tacky new competition. To learn more about your benevolent uber-sponsor, visit this website. It's all a waste of time and effort anyway, because of a gigantic new TV deal which means the team finishing bottom of next season's Premiership will be given as much money as laughable Chelsea were given for winning it last year. In terms of being an openly competitive sport, football is basically finished, isn't it? This being the case, the Diary sometimes wonders how much longer I can keep watching it.
On that cheery note I bid you ta-ra for the week and leave you in the hands of tomorrow's guest diarist but not before an email in which Diary reader Steve Hull cackles smuttily like Sid James in a Carry On film. "I see the auction for Saturday's game includes 'a chance for a couple before and after the game'. Not bad if you get it for 20 quid," he sniggers, before adding: "You also get a view of 'one of the most historic and loved pitches in the country' (the demolition of which is being supported by our three local MPs). Although we assume this means BP, it mentions something about seeing good football, so maybe not." Cheerio, everyone and keep smiling!
Wednesday 17 January
His shortened name is Ricky, his ball play's not that tricky, his situation's sticky, Richard Ravenhill. Soon after Town announced yesterday that one of their 27 tough-tackling midfielders had left the club to join Darlington until the end of the season, Darlington announced that, no, he hadn't actually, and he'd just signed for a month, albeit in anticipation of a permanent transfer later. So what's going on? The Mariners' official website now informs us that the player "has signed for the Quakers on an initial loan deal, which allowed him to play at Bury last night. The move to the north east will now become a more permanent one", and I think we can all agree that this clears up the ongoing uncertainty and replaces it with lingering ambiguity. Because Ravenhill was playing on loan for Chester at the beginning of the season before the Mariners signed him from Doncaster, some supporters have questioned the validity of the move under article 5.3 of Fifa's regulations for the status and transfer of players the law preventing West Ham's Javier Mascherano from moving to Liverpool which states that "a footballer cannot play competitively for more than two different clubs between 1 July and 30 June the following year". Ravenhill's switch to Darlington is clearly exempt from the ruling, however, by virtue of the word 'competitively'.
Not for the first time, Town's official website has some news about the Fentydome. Ahead of the council planning committee meeting that will decide whether to approve the new stadium proposal, says the site, "North East Lincolnshire planners have recommended" that the planning committee say yes. So these planners are different from the planning committee. Who are they, then? We are not told, and the piece proceeds to throw up the usual smokescreen of jargon which has successfully restricted the Diary's critique of the project to shallow fun-poking rather than serious analysis. Interestingly, though, the planners' advice to the planning committee is to "prevent any development proceeding without the certainty of funding being available to complete the stadium", which I think means they don't want to run the risk of doing an Oxford, whose unfinished United Stadium stood untouched for more than four years until the suits got the sums right.
Finally today, former Town winger Jimmy McStay has died. The player turned out for the Mariners between 1948 and 1951, and since the Diary didn't make it to Blundell Park until a couple of decades later I can't tell you much more about him, but the club's official website does a good job when it really counts by providing an excellent tribute and summary of McStay's time with the Mariners well worth a look. T'ra.
Tuesday 16 January
Oh, there goes another one. After just five months as a Grimsby player Ricky Ravenhill is all set to do one to the Mariners' basement buddies and this Saturday's opponents Darlington, becoming one more in the anonymous dozens of players since the turn of the millennium who have signed some sort of deal to play for Town and then either been ushered promptly out of the door by the next panic managerial appointment or just skedaddled at the end of their short-term contract to earn more money somewhere less apathetic. Following a recent sequence of invisible non-performances culminating in his dire display against Chester a week ago Ravenhill clearly falls into the latter category, and following another poor showing by the team as a whole at Walsall last night we can safely assume that he will not be the last of the "dead wood" Lord Buckley says he needs to clear out. Either way, Town's website states with all the authoritativeness one would expect from the club's primary medium of official communication that the player is "thought to be set to sign" for the Quakers later today. One Blundell Park wit has already commented on Ravenhill's departure: "Apparently Town have inserted a clause in the agreement insisting that he DOES play on Saturday."
Mariners World subscribers might today enjoy an interview with Buckley filmed after last night's drearfest at the Bescot not so much because it offers great cause for optimism as Town look to end their run of five straight defeats against Darlo at the weekend; more because it was recorded by the Walsall 'World' team and you can actually hear what the manager is saying.
New stadium, support of local MPs, "we cannot allow the Mariners to be left behind", blah blah, rhubarb rhubarb, whatever. That do you?
Martyn Wyburn has emailed the Diary in raptures of joy at Town's brilliantly wonky official travel guide to last night's match, which we looked at here yesterday. "The official site has surpassed itself," he enthuses. "I particularly liked (in the questions to Buckley): 'In insight was that the wrong move for you?' Also: 'And you was said to have been only 90 minutes away from Europe.' See, following Grimsby isn't all doom and gloom; we can always raise a smile from somewhere." That's it exactly, Martyn: as the Diary reflected last week, it's not like we're ever going to win anything, so we might as well train our minds to derive some sort of weird pleasure from our own crippling inadequacies. It worked for the Diary as a teenage Smiths fan, anyway.
Finally today, the redoubtable Mr Tony Butcher, Cod Almighty's match reporter and professional curmudgeon, would like the Diary to pass on his thanks to Steve Ellison for giving him a lift in to Birmingham after last night's match, "saving a one-hour wait at bleak 'orrid Bescot station". So I am doing. Thanks, Steve. And CA's midlands correspondent has asked me to add that "it's about a 20-minute walk along the Walsall ring road from Bescot to catch a number 51 bus into the so-called second city", should any readers find themselves in a similar predicament at any point in the future. That was a public information film. Look after your purse, before someone else does.
Monday 15 January
And that's why I'll never go near latex again! Oh, hello you caught me unawares there, as the Grimsby defender said to the set piece taker. Over the weekend Town replaced Anthony Pulis, who began strongly when he arrived on loan in November but in recent fixtures seemed to be dragged down to the level of the team around him and returned to Stoke last week with an injured knee. The new man in the revolving midfield hotseat is James Hunt, who has joined from Bristol Rovers on a month's loan after talks with third division Brentford broke down earlier this month. You may remember him from such shows as the 199798 play-off final, when he lined up against GTFC for Northampton: one of three clubs at which he has played under long-ball Brummie miserablist Ian Atkins. The Mariners' official website managed to refrain from describing their new acquisition as "tough-tackling", but reports from the south-west suggest that Hunt is very much the ball-winner and his talk seems as tough as his tackle, missus, because the player went from Rovers captain and 200405 player of the year to the transfer list when he was dropped for an FA Cup tie at Barrow earlier this season and allegedly responded by calling his manager Paul Trollope a wanker. If true, this would put him in good company at Blundell Park, where most of the crowd tended to do likewise at various points of Trollope's loan spell with the Mariners in 1996.
Hunt is likely to make his debut at Walsall tonight, where he will hopefully be joined in central midfield by a fully recovered Paul Bolland, whose presence has been sorely missed in recent matches. Injured Australian loanee Nicky Rizzo has returned to Bastard Franchise Scum FC, meanwhile, because he is injured as, indeed, is the majority of Town's playing squad. So terrified that you'll be hiding under the table in the pub for most of the match, wishing you'd never even bought this replica shirt, let alone worn it tonight, and scarcely daring to lift your head and snatch a glance of the score in the corner of the screen before ducking back under cover to avoid total public humiliation? You should be!
Have you seen the travel guide for tonight's match on Town's official website? If not, you've missed a treat. The page begins straightforwardly enough with some ticket information, marred only by the odd misplaced apostrophe and initial capital letter. For no reason that the Diary has been able to ascertain, though, it then gives a series of eight questions which seem to be addressed to Alan Buckley about his time with Walsall as a player. This mysterious interlude concluded, visitors to the site are then given the ticket information all over again, word for word, and only then do we receive directions to the ground. By the time you've realised what's going on and navigated through GTFC's spectacular administrative incompetence once again, the game has ended, Darren Wrack has scored all four goals, and it's half time in the Mariners' home match against Darlington, which has been brought forward to take place two hours after the Walsall game ends and is being watched by 18 supporters and an inshore whiting fisherman who stumbled the wrong way out of the Imp at closing time.
The Grimsby Telegraph, God bless it, has completely resolved the Diary's confusion over how many loans Town are allowed and why the club said Simon Grand had joined on an emergency loan and how to make minestrone without the vegetables tasting too soggy. Actually, I might have got a bit carried away with that last one, but you remember last Tuesday, when Grand became the Mariners' ninth temporary signing of the current campaign and we wondered whether that was all that might be permitted this season and stuff? Well, somebody at the local paper phoned up the Football League to find out, and it turns out that GTFC had confused us with all that talk of emergency loans, because that's the new name for standard one-month loans (like James Hunt's, and the club hasn't called that an emergency loan) and you can have as many of them as you like! Long-term loans, for a half or a full season, are now called standard loans, and it's those that you can only have eight of in a season. I guess that means Town are in a permanent state of emergency. Thanks to the GT for clearing that one up, and I hope they remember to repeat this public service when the league rewrites the rules from scratch again in three months' time.
One player who won't be joining the Mariners any time soon, on a standard loan, emergency loan, permanent contract or lifetime presidency, is Leyton Orient's Paul Connor. Town were rumoured last week to be one three clubs in the running to sign the player who played for Lord Buckley at Rochdale, remember but Connor has instead joined the Mariners' play-off final conquerors Cheltenham Town for a fee of £25,000, and will therefore stay in the third division instead. Well, until the end of the season, anyway.
Another player who won't be joining the Mariners any time soon is Terry Cooke, who never got a look-in at Grimsby because of John Oster, Darren Barnard, Stuart Campbell and Chris Bolder, but Town would still be a second-flight team now if he had, or something. Nor did he get a look-in at Manchester United, because of David Beckham, and he might be playing for Colorado Rapids now, but all these years later, and half a world away, he's still a bit miffed at Becks, as a news item emailed to the Diary by John Pakey demonstrates. "It's a disgrace if it's true what I've heard about how much he's going to be earning," says Cooke (talking about Beckham, and his imminent transfer to LA Galaxy, rather than Pakey). "I did drunkenly watch a Colorado Rapids game while in a bar in America last May," recalls John. "God it was tripe, but I held on hoping to see Cooke, and just to point out to my mates, 'he used to play for Grimsby, you know!' I did, and he was crap. So stop your moaning, Terry if you were any good you'd get paid the big bucks, as my boss pointed out to me the other day. I'm off to sulk." Hey, but John if he'd been in the Man United team instead of David Beckham they'd have won the Champions (and Second-, Third- and Fourth-Placed Teams if You Come From a Rich Enough Country) League, you know.
Friday 12 January
Winston Churchill who, incidentally, was not the first black president of the USA, despite what those whom consider themselves celebrities might think had black dog days. Days when the mental weather is dark, raw and foggy; when the boiled eggs are sickenly runny and the toast tastes like cardboard; when the jukebox in your brain endlessly and unaccountably plays a horrible Emerson, Lake and Palmer riff that you swear you haven't heard or thought about for well over 30 years; when your football team have lost, lost, lost, then lost again and haven't a flippin' prayer in their next match.
Churchill's solution was to to talk to his favourite pig, and who, gentle reader, can blame him? Your Guest Diarist, who was once desperately close to becoming a pigman but was thwarted in unusual circumstances, has no such porcine solace readily available, so has resorted to the Level Devils. So at least the dog is now a yellow dog. And that is what Lord Buckley has to do: change the nature of his problems one step at a time and hope that each succeeding issue is a bit less serious than the last. Even Buckley gets the blues, and he must feel like there are no strings on his guitar at the moment. But listen to what three strings can do: make a mighty, driving tuneful racket. So we must all keep the faith and rely on our old bluesman to create a chugging rhythm.
To further lighten the mood the official website has published an article this morning enigmatically entitled Injured Pulis returns to Stoke. It explains that young Mr Pulis has a knee which was "too swollen to be scanned" and that he will be out for several weeks. Moving on from one midfielder to another, the author tries to put a wan smile on our faces by saying: "Paul Bolland, who was due to play last Tuesday, pulled his thigh ahead of that game and failed a late fitness test. The Mariners are confident that he will be fit to make the journey to Walsall on Monday."
But we are then brought back to Earth by a reminder that Sir John of McDermott was not allowed to train on Thursday. In case he "aggravate his calfs" (sic). And that neither Reddy (sore ankle) nor Rankin (thigh strain) have trained all week. Fenton remains suspended for Monday's televised game. Lord Buckley expanded the doubtful list when talking to the Grimsby Telegraph: "Justin, Crofty, Bolly, Macca, Isaiah and Michael (Reddy) all sat out training yesterday. It's too early to say who will be available out of those players for Monday we'll see how it goes over the weekend."
Mr Diary predicted yesterday that I would write and tell you how Town were interested in Boston's Jamie Clark, but are no longer. Lord Buckley has duly told the Telegraph that young Mr Clark is very much last week's news as far as he is concerned; "A week ago we thought about a possible loan but we have moved on now." So there you go, gentle reader, there you go. See yer.
Thursday 11 January
Nostalgia, they say, ain't what it used to be. I don't know who 'they' are exactly, but they probably read the Diary and became all wistful yesterday when we quoted Sporting Life's report that Town had taken a step back to the era of half-time Bovril, orange footballs in the winter snow, actually having winter snow, Match of the Day being any good, and paying transfer fees for players by offering Leyton Orient £30,000 for the services of Paul Connor. No sooner had 'they' started to reflect pensively on the days when the Mariners could shell out hundreds of thousands of pounds on Kevin Donovan, Lee Ashcroft and, er, Tommy Widdrington, though, than Lord Alan Buckley snapped them rudely out of it by denying that any such offer had been made. The hard-headed GTFC manager has told the Grimsby Telegraph he is interested in Connor and has spoken to the player's agent, but "it is not right to say that we have put a bid in". Buckley also scornfully dismisses suggestions of a move for Tom Newey by Huddersfield Town, which, again, were reported in yesterday's Diary but then again, so did yesterday's Diary.
Thanks to the Lincolnshire Echo, though, we also know that Buckley has been knocked back in a bid for Boston United's Jamie Clark. The potato county's local rag has run a story about the player's freakish 60-yard goal in a recent friendly and mentions briefly that the Mariners made an approach last week for him. Clark is a utility man who "admits his versatility often hinders his chance of holding down a regular first-team place," which makes Town's offer a mystery given that Danny Boshell signed a new contract just the other day.
Town's first team may be somewhat in the doldrums, but their four-match losing streak has at least been equalled in length by the reserves' recent run of wins. Until last night, anyway, when the second string hosted Maplins Holidays League Division One East table-toppers Rotherham and lost by the only goal, scored by the Millers' Zeph Thomas after two minutes. And with that, reader, your regular Diary says adieu until Monday, but do come back tomorrow when one of CA's team of Friday diarists will bring you the news that Buckley has admitted his interest in Jamie Clark but denied making a bid. Cheerio!
Wednesday 10 January
Town's subscription web media service Mariners World is often characterised by repetitive footage, score captions including the word 'Grimbsy' and sound that seems for all the world to have been recorded using a yellow unbreakable plastic Fisher Price My First Microphone (ages 38). Seldom, though, can it have boasted content such as that on offer today: a controlled but furious response from Lord Alan Buckley to last night's 2-0 home defeat against the worst team in the Football League. "If we concede that first goal, I don't see anyone rolling their sleeves up and getting stuck in," fumes an exasperated AB, who seems genuinely surprised at the lack of professional commitment that undermined Town's cause last night. Impressively, the manager declines both to blame injuries "a cheap excuse" and to spare his own signings from the volley of criticism he delivers in response to last night's shambles. If the same apathy emanating from the players has ultimately been the death of every manager who has tried to pick up where Buckley was forced off in 2000, we can at least rest assured that Buckley will not react to failure with the same vague mumblings or happy-clappy soundbites that some of his predecessor/successors appeared to deem adequate.
We can console ourselves, likewise, with the knowledge that the manager is busily looking to replace the underperforming raw materials he has inherited and one player who could soon be trying to keep himself awake while he drives east along the M180 is Paul Connor. The Leyton Orient forward, who turns 28 on Friday, is talking to three clubs, one of which is reported to be GTFC, and these reports could have some credibility given the manager's propensity to reacquire players he has worked with before and the fact that Connor strutted his goalscoring stuff at Rochdale during Buckley's inauspicious term there in 2003. Sporting Life reckons the Os have accepted a bid of £30,000 for the player from the Mariners but that Connor is also being pursued by Darlington, who will probably win out by offering him lots and lots of money they don't have, in that fourth-division-Leeds-or-Wednesday sort of way that they seem to do.
Cast your mind back, reader, to the early days of this season, when a Mariners XI coached by one Grahams Rodgerses and comprising substantially different personnel to the current line-up performed much the same as the shower of shite on display yesterday evening. How we laughed when Crewe were rumoured to be interested in signing nominal full-back Tom Newey, and how we'd forgotten all about it when they didn't. Though Newey has improved under Buckley's tutelage, he seemed to regress last night to his former habit of standing around in the centre of defence and pointing other players towards the unmarked opponent rampaging murderously down Town's left flank and another thing that hasn't altered is his habit of being linked with unlikely transfers to third division clubs, as Huddersfield is the latest destination to be whispered hoarsely in the same breath as his name. Unless the Mariners bring in at least three new left-backs this week, don't be holding that same breath.
Let's be fair, anyway. Let's not expect the players to shoulder all the blame for last night's debacle. Let's apportion some of it to whoever at the club decided in the first place that it was a really good idea to reschedule the Chester game to last night. Let's reflect that in another three weeks, not only will Gary Croft and Paul Bolland presumably have recovered from the injuries that kept them out against the Deviants but Buckley will have brought in further players to remedy the profound inadequacies of the squad he inherited. Let's be suspicious about the fact that two different attendance figures are being reported, one of them representing a lowest league gate at Blundell Park for approximately 20 years, and let's wonder whether the astonishingly small attendance was not unconnected with the fact that supporters, extraordinarily, received just five days' notice of the rearrangement. This was too little even for some of the club's own caterers, and the lass who normally sells jacket spuds inside the ground couldn't make it so finally, let's be thankful that the Diary had a quite fantastic tray of chips and curry sauce from Ernie Beckett's before the match.
Tuesday 9 January
Just as the Diary was born to bring you an offbeat daily summary of news relating to Grimsby Town Football Club, and Vernon Kay was born to get on your tits, Simon Grand was delivered into this world on 23 February 1984 so that, almost 23 years later, he could sign for the Mariners on loan and present the club's official website and the Grimsby Telegraph with a gift-wrapped collection of cheesy headlines. It will be drum roll, please a Grand day out for the player this evening, then, as he steps into Town's troubled defence to face Chester after joining for the rest of the season from Carlisle Five earlier today. The essential facts established by the Diary so far are that Grand is a facial hybrid of John Terry and Terry Duckworth, and began his career with Rochdale, for whom he started 42 games, then moved to Carlisle in 2004, for whom he has started 36 games, and has scored another drum roll, please a Grand total of eight goals in his brief defending career thus far. Simon's last first-team action, rather worryingly, came in the Cumbrians' five-nil defeat at Swansea on 16 December, but and just the one more, please, maestro in the Grand scheme of things, losing five-nil away to Swansea is probably less bad than losing four-nil at home to Rochdale, so let's look forward rather than backward. Especially when we're defending free kicks.
Grand's signing has been declared by GTFC, interestingly, as an "emergency loan" prompting the CA team to tot up Town's total of temporary acquisitions so far this season. After Rizzo, Till, Paterson, Pulis, James, Lawson, Thorpe, Butler and McIntosh (seems like a long time ago, that, doesn't it?) we reckon the Mariners may have exhausted the permissible quota for the entire 200607 campaign with half the games still to be played. Not that we could find the rules anywhere, but if Phil Barnes gets crocked then someone will quickly need to look up how many emergency loans you're allowed in a season.
Team news of a less encouraging kind now: Darren Wrack is likely to play his first game for two months when Town face Walsall next Monday, and if he does, let's face it, he's almost certain to score about nine goals. The former Mariners winger recorded his 50th goal for the Black Country side on his first appearance of this season, but hasn't featured since picking up a baby cow injury in mid-November which takes the televised trip to the Bescot and writes 'goalscoring return' and 'against former club' all over it. Wrack has told the Express & Star newspaper: "Grimsby is always a special game for me. It's the club I supported as a boy, it's a club I played for and it's the club that most of my family and friends support," not quite adding: "and it's the club whose fans I flicked the Vs at when they came down here the other year and we gave them a mighty pasting".
As another decisive day approaches in the fight for the Fentydome, another big PR push is going on. But as the Diary said to my mum the other day, Town can't even build a website that isn't a total embarrassment, so God help us if the new ground ever gets off the drawing board; wherever we support the team the cause will always be hindered by people booing, wearing Liverpool shirts and leaving 15 minutes early; and we're never going to get in the Premiership or basically win anything ever, with or without a new stadium so I'd sooner stay where we can at least get a half-decent pint and a bag of chips beforehand, just to take the edge off the misery. That's just me though you can write to your MP if you like. See you tonight at Blundell Park!
Monday 8 January
Hello, readers! Now, it's a Monday in January, and the weather is wet and miserable; there are three months until the next UK bank holiday; and Town let in four goals against Rochdale last week with a weakened defence which is weaker still now that Nick Fenton's suspension has kicked in and Alan Buckley hasn't signed any more defenders with around 30 hours remaining until Town's hastily rearranged home game against Chester. It is presumably against this background that Dave the Engineer has emailed the Diary on the apparently hot topic of the music at Blundell Park. "Sibbo and I were debating the issue at work this week and, reflecting on our usual habit of attending a certain hostelry prior to home games, we thought the last tune before kick-off should be The Smiths and 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'. Any further debate required?" Let's take a look, shall we.
I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
A pint of rancid Bullion to that man, as Morrissey was quite clearly anticipating the predicament of Alan Buckley. All the news today is that Gary Jones and Ciaran Toner just want to play, and GTFC are compounding local self-esteem issues by continuing to pander to the modern fetishisation of football stadiums ahead of football, so let us persist with your emails to the Diary.
And Heaven knows I'm miserable now
In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don't care if I live or die?
Felix Oliver-Tasker, the poshest Town fan in Christendom, is next in the hotseat: "Wishing everyone at Cod Almighty a very happy new year. Driving back to Reading after the Christmas break with the delectable Sister Bum-Ffondle, the finest clap nurse west and east of the Pecos River, by my side, the boot loaded with proper sausages, savoury duck and stuffed chine from Pettits by God, you chaps in Grimsby know how to eat I should have been a happy man. But no, even with Acoustic Alchemy's Beautiful Game playing on the stereo I was ill at ease. Let's face it: we were reamed, steamed and dry cleaned, a sad and worrying situation that even the win over Torquay failed to cheer. Let's hope it's just a blip and Mr Buckley will lead us onwards and upwards in the new year." Yes, we're sure those new defenders are on the way... right?
"On a different and happier note," adds Mr O-T, "what do you and all the Codalmightiers play on the stereo on the way to the match? At the moment I have in the
cassette Steely Dan's Aja, Acoustic Alchemy's The Beautiful Game, Bollock Brothers' What a Load of Bollocks, Icicle Works' The Icicle Works and Santana's Supernatural. We are what we listen to, and with that clichι I'll get back to freezing off genital warts with CO2!" Thankyou for that image, Felix. CA's music on the way to the match is determined by an intricate formula involving the position of the sun in the sky, the opposition, Town's league position, the time elapsed since the release of the last Tilly & the Wall album, the time remaining until The Aislers Set next tour the UK, and whether Letters Ed remembers to bring his iPod.
"It's not really a football thing, and indeed, it could be of no interest to Diary readers," begins Steve Hull, and no, he isn't emailing about the Fentydome, "but I have been asked by the proprietor of Get Fresh, The Healthy Alternative (purveyor of baked tates and other culinary delights for the exclusive use of the Pontoon and Main stands) to apologise that the aforementioned will be unavailable for the rearranged Chester game on Tuesday and could you possibly include a mention in the Diary? She does not like to disappoint her customers and realises the discerning fans who shun the pies for a wholesome baked tate are more than likely to be Diary readers. This is despite meticulous holiday planning when the fixture list was published to ensure that a few days away did not clash with home games. Normal service will be resumed against Darlington. The baked tates, that is; who knows about the footy?" Consider it done, Steve. Immediately the rearrangement of Chester was announced, the Diary expected that some fans would be put out by the short notice, but even I failed to anticipate that the club's latest administrative masterstroke would result in the closure of its own catering facilities.
Andy Holt is not just Cod Almighty's CA statorak: he is also a keen reader of the Diary, and it is in both capacities that he takes issue with some of the work done here last week. "Can someone tell Durham Diary that this season is 200607, meaning that Peter Till has signed until the end of the season after next, rather than until the end of next season, as he reported on Friday. Unless I fell asleep and missed a season. Did we make the play-offs?" Thanks, Andy. Rumour is that DD's subject of study at the north-east's leading academic centre for Oxbridge rejects is mathematics. I don't believe it do you?
Last up, two emails on the subject of Town's injured Australian winger Nicky Rizzo, signed on loan from Bastard Franchise Scum last week. "Happy new year to you, Mrs Diary and the pocket diaries. Wasn't Nicky Rizzo one of the Pink Ladies in Grease?" asks Mark Wilson in an email which someone else is going to have to explain to me, while Bedders has been in contact to clarify the situation regarding the Pink Lady's international cap(s). "I'm a big fan of the RSSSF site," he writes, referring to the source quoted by last Thursday's Diary, "but that list was missing prominent footballing convict Harry Kewell, who surely has a few caps. I prefer this site's version, which gives Rizzo a cap against Croatia in 1998 a 7-0 defeat, unfortunately, but only two goals came during Rizzo's 26+injury time minutes of international glory. Perhaps he can swap stories with Ciaran 'Two Caps' Toner after training." Assuming, of course, that Rizzo is not too injured to train and Toner not too out of favour.
Friday 5 January
Hi guys! Durham Diary here, mouth sour and head sore feeling just like a Grimsby player arriving at the Millennium Stadium after one or two too many at Mr Whittle's Wonderful Whirlwind Wedding. Please be forgiving if I put in a so-called 'Rob Jones at Cardiff' performance before upping for the land of kilts. Or something similar.
First up is the widely expected news that Peter Till has been released by Birmingham and has signed for Town on a permanent deal until the end of the 2008/09 season. Now to this unassuming observer that seems like a bit of a contradiction of terms: either something is permanent or it's until the end of next season. But more likely my headache brings the pedant out in me and I should carry straight on. Which gently nudges me nicely in the direction of the far more surprising news story of today: namely that both the OS and the Grimsbig Telewhatsit have resisted the temptation to run the headline "Peter signs Till end of next season". Well I couldn't let it go without anyone saying it could I?
The only other news of today, which was actually from yesterday but was announced after the Diary was written, is that the appeal against Nick Fenton's red card against Stockport has been turned down, and the suspension has actually been increased to 2 matches. I suspect someone at the club had the clever idea that if we appealed he would be able to play against Rochdale and we'd then be able to sign someone to cover his suspension. But, having selected the 'Hindsight' button on my utility belt, we might have been better if Fenton had sat out the Rochdale defeat and been available now to assist in the pursuit of victories over Chester and Walsall. Oh, and we should have sold Reddy when we had the chance last season.
Skimming the OS, and "Rozzo interview" is the slightly confusing title of a Mariners World interview with yesterday's loan signing Nicky Rizzo. Still, times change and yesterday's Diary sits crumpled in the bottom of today's Recycle Bin, as said the ancient Chinese. There's also a "Quick Vote" on the music at BP, you can choose one or less from "Not loud enough"; "Too loud"; "The music is rubbish"; or "The music is good". Unfortunately "Can we just swap it all for Darlington's PA system please?" is not a listed choice, so I will exercise my right to not vote.
And that's about all for this week. Enjoy your weekend dreaming of a good cup run next season. I'm going for a pint of water and some work on differential equations. It's the poor man's Alka Seltzer.
Thursday 4 January
Alan Buckley has moved swiftly to plug the Mariners' leaky defence by signing an injured Australian winger. Former Crystal Palace person Nicky Rizzo has joined on a one-month loan from Bastard Franchise Scum FC, where he has struggled to hold down a place this season since getting crocked last summer. Rizzo began his English career with Liverpool, where he was thought to have been hailed as the heir apparent to Steve McManaman, but experts on Scouse pronunciation later revealed that the word was 'hair'. Frantic googling by the Diary suggests that he has won at least one full cap for Australia, though RSSSF begs to differ. In 2000 he swapped Palace for Ternana, moving on again in 2003 but staying in Italy with AC Prato. It was the following year when he switched from AC Prato to MK Prats (it's a cheap gag but someone had to make it), and for what it's worth Rizzo seems to be highly thought of by the group of people who have chosen to associate themselves with the Franchise one hesitates to use the word 'fans' though if they know or care anything about football then you would generally expect them to have found a club of their own to support instead of stealing one from another community. But I digress.
Like some of its national tabloid counterparts, the Grimsby Telegraph may have one or two knockers but the paper is currently in the midst of a Martin Patersonesque run of good form while other sites in the GTFC internet news team perform poorly. Today it is only because of the local rag that we learn of a 24-hour recall clause in the extended loan contracts of Paterson and Anthony Pulis, and the same story shares speculation that the recent outstanding performances of Mariners midfield maestro Ricky 'Richard' Ravenhill have caught the eye of Darlington. If this accurately represents the aptitude of the Quakers' managerial team, it might go some way to explaining their recent plunge down the fourth division league table, but Lord Buckley has told the Telegraph that the one club interested in Rrricky was not the one with the stadium eight times the size of its average gate. "I haven't had any contact with Darlington... one club did show an interest in Ricky but I am not sure if he would have wanted that move," says the boss, quite clearly underestimating the potential of Eastwood Town.
Even during an impressive series of performances, though, there are always those who can't resist a cheap shot, as an email to the Diary from Pat Bell demonstrates. Then again, perhaps he's just playing Telegraph to the Diary's OS and doing the work I can't be bothered with. Pat has been reading the Telewag's recent overview of loan transfers and picked up on a thought-provoking slip in the paper's usual high standards of linguistic proficiency. "How do you bare a testament?" asks Pat, scratching his head sarcastically. Beats me, comrade. Is it something to do with Revelation?
Lastly from your regular Diary this week before you are delivered unto the loving grace of Durham Diary tomorrow there's an email from Loughborough Mariner. "Happy New Year to you, all the best for 2007 and keep up the sterling work," it begins, cheerily. Thankyou very much, and the same to you. "Thought I should draw the attention of you and your readers to Badly Drawn Boy's chip gigs, one of which is in lovely old Grimsby. What a marvellous idea: some chips with scraps whilst some troubadour in a tea cosy serenades you! Wonder if he'll be dishing up the chips beforehand?" But if the chips turn out anything like his musical career, LM, then make sure your portion is the first one out of the fryer, because everything after that will be crap.
Wednesday 3 January
All is quiet today on Town's official website. Nothing has been posted there since yesterday, when the club invited supporters to pay £9.99 (including postage and packing) for a DVD of the previous day's match: the Mariners' heaviest home defeat for nearly ten years. One theory is that the employees on the OS have been given today off since they were unable to take New Year's Day as a regular bank holiday, but this overlooks the fact that all but one of the club's playing staff seemed to be missing on Monday.
How lucky we are once again, then, that the Grimsby Telegraph is here to fill in the gaps. The Daily Mail's little North East Lincolnshire brother today warms the hearts of all those fans who suffered the 4-0 pounding by Rochdale two days ago by reporting with just a hint of glee that the guilty men were themselves suffering "the cold and rain at their Cheapside training base yesterday" while their next opponents Walsall were preparing for a warm-weather training camp in Gran Canaria. The Diary's cockles now suitably thawed, I would like to suggest that GTFC bosses offer free soup and tea to holders of stubs from the Dale debacle and post videos of the players drenched and shivering on Youtube or, at the very least, Mariners World.
Cod Almighty statistician Andy Holt think Carol Vorderman with a younger, more lithe physique has been roused from his new year torpor by John Pakey's appeal yesterday for information on the Think of a Number competition he was running for Cod Almighty. Andy has asked the Diary to announce that the scores have been updated "and my money is on Steven Young. Oh, and a stat for free, as a kind of Ballpark Figures apology, our lucky shirt number this year is 17. We have scored 1.31 points per game when Martin McIntosh, Andy Butler or Peter Till have played." Thanks, chief. Have they given you that pay rise yet?
While I remember, Cod Almighty jack of all trades Simon Wilson think Bradley Walsh with a Louth accent texted the Diary last night to request a bump for our top 50 Town goals votey thing. Lots of people have voted, apparently, but if you haven't voted then you've only got until next Monday so to do. My money's on Dave Gilbert.
Next it's one of those emails sent to the Diary or the Postbag (who must still be in bed) every few months that remind us why we started this interweb fanzine in the first place and why we carry on. "Hi there," writes Dave Nelson. "Since I have nothing useful to do, I think it is time that I showed my appreciation of your website. Whilst I could never claim to be a keen Town fan when I lived in Grimsby, I do follow their occasional fortunes. I suppose that memories of watching them in the old first division, beating Chelsea 2-0 when a good tackle by a full-back was one which deposited the winger against the fence, have made watching the current styles of play a bit tame. However, I have become an avid follower via Cod Almighty purely because I love the erudition contained therein. By my second year as a distant fan of the site, I am even able to work out whom you are talking about when you refer to some of the players." Sir, my life is complete. "After a lifetime of failure," continues Mr Nelson, "I have developed a high regard for lack of talent (in Formula 1 I tend to look out for Minardi first!) and two of my sons living Manchester way are followers of Leigh RMI so it runs in the family. The nearest team to where I live now is Cambridge United but there are limits to even my tolerance. Keep me amused in my dotage." Many thanks, Dave I can't speak for the rest of the CA team, but as long as Town's official website keeps the Diary amused, I will try and do likewise.
And this just in, via ofcl clb txt sms srvc: Chester's postponed visit to Blundell Park has been rescheduled for Tuesday 8 January, it says here, to kick off at 8:45. Bit of a late finish then. I guess when you arrange a fixture at such short notice, even one extra hour must make some difference. And isn't Tuesday the 9th?
No, hang on they've sent another one! And no, it's 7:45, and this time it's the 9th. Cancel all your plans. Oooh, and Pulis and Paterson have now signed those extended loan deals. It's ofcl!
Tuesday 2 January
Now, let's all just take a deep breath, shall we? Lord Buckley inherited a first-team squad that included a not particularly grand total of five defenders. These defenders kept three clean sheets in Buckley's first five games in charge: one more than in 20 matches under Graham Rodger. With four of these five defenders John McDermott, Nick Fenton, Justin Whittle and Gary Croft unavailable for various recent periods, getting through Christmas without some sort of tonking would have been an achievement to rival any promotion or cup giant-killing. Sure enough, Town didn't but the transfer window is now open and the success of Buckley's signings so far since his return to Blundell Park in November ought to assure anyone with greater mental acuity than a lugworm that the manager will sort it soon enough. However many times you press the button for your floor, the doors of the lift don't close any quicker, and if circumstances dictate that you play a left-back in central defence and a central midfielder at left-back, all you can do is wait for better circumstances. Deep breath.
That's better. Happy new year. And speaking of the success of Buckley's signings so far since his return to Blundell Park in November, you will probably have seen by now that Stoke duo Martin Paterson and Anthony Pulis have extended their loan spells until 21 February, and Town are so keen to make Peter Till's transfer permanent that they've offered him a contract twice. Don't you think Paterson is just the best thing ever, in a completely mad and slightly rock and roll sort of way? The Diary got ever so excited yesterday when he nearly scored and then turned to the fans and did some shouting and stuff. I think he should be the captain. I know he's only on loan and he's still at primary school and everything, but teams always do better when they have a captain who does shouting and stuff. It has been scientifically proven, by science and that. Anyway, sadly for the Mariners but happily for the pursuit of truth, the Grimsby Telegraph has contrarily reported that the status of the Potters loanees is still uncertain, with neither player having yet signed the proposed deal to stay longer. That'll be John Fenty banning the Telegraph from the ground again then.
The Diary and the Mariners' official website may differ substantially in the way we use the English language, but we seem to be united in having forgotten all about the club's annual general meeting amid all the excitement of Town's triple festive thrashing and the club always has its annual general meeting close to Christmas, so maybe that's the idea. Footage of the AGM is available on Mariners World, but the club seems to consider non-paying visitors to its site unworthy of access to information about what went on. Thank God, again, that we have the Grimsby Telegraph to reveal all, telling us Town are skint, Buckley is ace and some supporters are concerned that the music's too loud. You can't hear the words these days. Is that a man or a woman or Luton's Michael Reddy?
"I want to see if my mad estimate is on its way to getting to the top end," writes John Pakey in an email to the Diary, not about a rash play-off prediction post-Torquay or post-turkey but about Cod Almighty's Think of a Number competition, in which readers were asked to estimate the total of every squad number worn by Town players in every match this season, I think. "It's all gone a bit quiet," adds John. "I was banking on us having more stupid loan players and higher numbers in the squad list, but I think I might have overjudged it." Well, the competition is being run by CA's statmaster-in-chief Mr Andy Holt, so if Andy isn't too busy issuing orders to his little statty minions then perhaps he could email the Diary with some news or, better still, write an update on the competition! Which reminds me word has reached the Diary that Letters Ed has got about a month off work, so keep your fingers crossed, readers, for a first CA letters page since Graham Rodger was still looking for defenders.
Finally today, SurreyMariner Steve and letters page stalwart Ian Jackson have both emailed with regard to whichever buffoon wrote last Thursday's Diary and asked: "Whatever happened to Arthur Mann?" Buckley's former assistant manager was, of course, tragically killed in a workplace accident some years ago. "I seem to remember some surprise among the fans about the absence of a minute's silence at the next game given the great service he gave the club," recalls Steve, while Mr J calls for punishment to be meted out to our foolish stand-in Diary: "Pickle his head!" It may have been pickled already, Ian; that would be where the problem arose.