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Diary - December 2008
Wednesday 31 December
Property being a sound investment. The banks being secure and trustworthy financial institutions. And Town taking three points from Barnet every time the two sides meet. Only a few short months ago all of these things were as certain as night following day, but... oh, hang on – professional football on New Year's Day has just been quietly abolished, hasn't it? And we're not actually playing until Saturday. Gah.
The forthcoming transfer window is being extended to 5pm on Monday 2 February – and I love the seasonal use of initial capital letters as Town's superb new official website explains the move: it's because of "procedures adopted by Foreign Associations", a charming Victorian touch for the festive period – but since it doesn't begin for another ten hours or so, the final Diary of 2008 is left to pick over the national media for scraps of anything Mariners-related. Many of you have probably already seen the Times's recent where-are-they-now job on Town's 1998 play-off-winning side: "Grimsby was better known for its fish than its football" until then, apparently, but it's worth a look for the discovery that Peter Handyside has now qualified as a lawyer while Tony Gallimore "works for a scaffolding company". There's a quip in there somewhere if you look hard enough, but there's also a pub down the road with a barrel of Timothy Taylor Landlord which has so far shown no sign at all of drinking itself.
When it's not using distortion and outright lies to victimise the most vulnerable groups in society, fomenting savage intolerance and promoting the far-right politics of sheer hate, the Daily Mail occasionally poses as a newspaper, and it is in this capacity today that it offers a second mention of the Mariners' famous exploits of '98. "When was the last time a team in stripes won anything?" begins a piece about when the last time was that a team in stripes won anything. "And we're not talking about Grimsby Town in the 1998 Auto Windscreens Shield," it quickly adds, because that doesn't count, because... er... fish.
After yesterday's foolhardy Diary challenged its intellectual superiors over their ingenious plan to save the Mariners, I expected a flurry of well-argued emails setting out in clear and uncontestable terms exactly why the best way forward is quite obviously to sack Mike Newell less than three months after he inherited a patently feeble squad and immediately before his first opportunity to work in a transfer window. Remarkably, these have failed to materialise. What we have instead is a missive from James Parrott, as follows:
Who are we to criticise the inane rantings of the local football philosophers, especially those whose insight runs so deep that their words are too meaningful to be spell-checked? Of corse Newl shud be sackd. After all, a dozen games or so should have been enough to perform the fourth division equivalent of alchemy, that is, turning the utter shit in the black and white kit into gold. I mean, my word! Who couldn't make Not-Gallimore at left-back look like, well, Gallimore at his best. Or even worst. And what manager worth his clichés couldn't turn [Straight] Peter Bore into a The Lad Done Good type? And bless the poor guy who I offended by daring to suggest that Phil Barnes is only ever good enough to lose more often than not.
If I was taking myself as seriously as the Fenty Out Brigade then I might even be moved to suggest that the internet has done more to discredit the arguments for democracy than anything other than the Houses of Parliament and prime time 'reality' TV. In fact, all in all, I carn't bleev its not betta! (Sorry – I couldn't help myself.)
Thanks, James – and thankyou all for reading the Diary throughout 2008, surely one of the rottenest of all Town's 130 years. Those who are still supporting the Mariners in a positive and proper way, give yourself a little pat on the back tonight. Not a medal, because supporting in a positive and proper way shouldn't be a huge deal, but after a truly dreadful twelve months just a little bit of recognition might be in order for those who are sticking it out. Let's keep fighting the good fight. Happy new year to you all.
Tuesday 30 December
There are some fuckwitted numbskulls in this world, reader, and some of them claim to support the same football team as you and me. Perhaps inevitably given that they have just been to watch that team for the first time in ages, and therefore not seen the steady progress Mike Newell has made so far in rebuilding a desperately poor squad, there are people using the comments sections of the Grimsby Telegraph website to air their considered opinion that the best way forward for the Mariners would be to sack the manager again. Happily for the club, John Fenty (Con) appears to have a better grasp of football than language, and when he says of Newell: "His energy levels are prolific", we can at least rest assured that the chairman is aware of what a good thing he's on to with his most recent managerial appointment. JF(C) offers an especially vivid demonstration of the boss's prolific energy levels with the observation that "he took on Alan Buckley's car and, within three weeks, he had done so much mileage the sponsor could not support the car any more." Quite a lot of support seems to be just as fragile as that sponsor's.
It is no coincidence, of course, that Town's best performers in recent weeks have been the players brought in by Newell: Adam Proudlock, Jean-Paul Kalala, Rob Atkinson, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro. And it is no surprise that the manager has made public his wish to keep his effective loan players at Blundell Park beyond the expiration of their short-term contracts early in the new year. "We are waiting on the clubs that they are associated with to make decisions," Mr Re-Newell is quoted on the Mariners' superb new official website. "We would like to keep them, maybe extended [sic.] their loans or even make them permanent. It's out of our hands until we know what Barnsley, Darlington and Oldham want to do." Should there be any lingering doubt about the manager's ability to transform Town's fortunes in the medium term, let us bear in mind that he has not yet had a transfer window to work in; that the substantial improvements he has made so far have all been while the window has been closed. Imagine a whole team playing as well as Proudlock, Kalala, Atkinson and Akpa Akpro. Close your eyes and imagine it. It might not happen this season, but if Newell stays in the big chair then it will happen sooner or later.
Monday 29 December
If you're here to find out what happened in Town's back-to-back defeats over Christmas then you're likely to be disappointed, as the Diary was prevented from getting along by family gubbins and Baby Diary and I've been too cheesed off with the rubbish results to investigate further. May I refer you, however, to Tony Butcher's account of our Boxing Day humiliation at the hands of Notts County? May I further inform you that Pat Bell has filed a report on yesterday's shocking drubbing by Accrington Stanley, which will be published on this site very soon? The reports may be in but
several questions remain unanswered. How come Town can perform splendidly when faced with decent sides such as Shrewsbury and Wycombe yet continue to struggle against dross like Notts? What's happened to Mickaël Buscher? Has he even been playing for the reserves? And how in the name of all that is holy have we ended up playing matches on
Sunday 28 December and not on New Year's Day?
Friday 26 December
The Diary in all its guises has been outspoken in its criticism of Chairman Fenty now and then, particularly with regard to the new stadium project. But your Guest Diarist would like to thank Coun. Fenty for a nice Christmas message video on the superb new official site yesterday (I'm too hung over to put a link in but you will find it easy enough).
Mr Fenty made a point of thanking the away supporters who have not dwindled in numbers, and who seem to increase in intensity and fervour. I'd like to add a clap or two of my own to that and feel a bit shame-faced about not getting to more away matches myself. But see you at Barnet I will – always a treat to sample their hot grey chocolate sludge and stamp my feet on their lovely terracing.
Today the SNOS is predicting five and a half thousand with 1800 tickets already sold and a kid offer. It's sharp bright weather where I live so hope it is the same in Meggies later. Get yourselves down there and let's hope for a cracking match.
And here's the annual message to us all from the mighty Sibbo: "Merry Christmas to all at Cod Almighty. May 2009 bring with it joy to the the mighty Mariners and a turn-a-round to our fortunes. Up The Mariners." Hope we don't have to wait until May though mate. See yer.
Wednesday 24 December
Sod the Queen's Speech – there's an interview with Mike Newell on Mariners World! Born is the king of Greater Grimsby: this is the best message from royalty you're likely to get this Christmas, and I'll bet you any money that HRH can't do a one-eyebrow-raised one-eyebrow-lowered Roger Moore thing with anything like Mr Re-Newell's aplomb. Tom Newey, of whom it can at least be said that he doesn't often get injured, is still injured, reveals the boss, and will remain unavailable for the Boxing Day visit of Notts County; after all the trialist left-backs the Town manager has brought in recently there is every possibility that Newey has recovered from his hamstring injury but is now nursing a bruised sense of self-worth. MN finishes with a seasonal ladle of hope for The Fans, restating his appreciation of our support – and correctly implying that if you and I think the players need to play for 90 minutes instead of 85 then it's only fair that we support for 90 minutes instead of 85: "With five or ten minutes to go, as opposed to walking out, you need them with you for the 90 minutes – and we certainly had them against Shrewsbury." There's a message there for all of us.
Ipswich Town midfielder Liam Trotter has reciprocated the public praise flung his way by King Mike yesterday and says yes, he might be interested in returning to the Mariners permanently if he can't get a look-in at Portman Road. "The fact the club is fighting relegation from the bottom division is not an issue for me at all," Trotter is quoted in today's Grimsby Telegraph. "If anything, it is a learning curve which maybe all players should experience at some point in their career." That, readers, is an exemplary attitude which, were it more widespread, would make football a better place – and the string of comments about the story on an Ipswich fan site suggests not only an ongoing failure to understand the Football League's new homegrown players ruling but that the Mariners could pull off something of a coup should Trotter come back up the east coast on a permanent basis.
Diary reader Martin Robinson has emailed on the recent theme of big festive fixtures of the past – and nothing in the Universe is bigger than Sheffield Wednesday. "Think the first time I ever saw a really big crowd at BP was Sheff Wed at home in the early eighties, seem to remember the crowd spilling onto the pitch after some fans were just let in through the gates due to turnstile congestion! Must have been 18,000 there. Also a game in the mid-eighties where the present Mrs Robinson attended, think it was Notts County at home, Steve Sherwood saved a penalty and we all went mad in the Pontoon – she thought we'd scored a goal and won the match; it ended up a 0-0 draw. Terry Curran may have played for Town that day as I recall a mazy dribble that ended with him taking it past the keeper and then blazing over an empty goal. Suggest as a last resort you take the baby for a drive in the car, usually puts them to sleep. However my eldest usually awoke when returning home – doh!" Thanks are due to the redoubtable Emma Blackbourn for another baby sleep suggestion, and of course to Martin – I'll try and learn to drive sometime and start saving up for a car!
Our last email before Christmas comes from Town and Workington fan Boroughparker, who has simply attached "a picture of Christmas past... from Borough Park, Workington. Workington are in red. Best wishes!" Who's in the black and white stripes, then, I wonder?
Aww. All that remains today, then, is to extend festive goodwill to Diary readers throughout the world – so a very happy Christmas to all three of you – and to laugh at Chesterfield. Heh heh heh heh heh!
Tuesday 23 December
It's a strange kind of love that prompts one to log in to a website at midnight, half a week before Christmas, to watch the 'highlights' of a business meeting of middle-aged men in suits. But that's the Diary's love for Grimsby Town Football Club and you, reader, and that's the club's annual general meeting on Mariners World. That and I wanted to make meself scarce while Baby Diary was screaming his little head off.
So in case you're not a MW subscriber, or in case you just thought the AGM would be a load of guff, it's actually worth sitting through the first six minutes of duly this and hereby that to hear a question from an unseen man called David about rebuilding the Main Stand and John Fenty (Con) respond with considerably more patience in person than he tends to show when people question the worth of the Fentydome online. In 1994, he explains, GTFC were looking at turning Blundell Park through 90 degrees, and that's why the Frozen Beer Stand had been "essentially built as an end stand". Further curiosities include the chairman's beliefs that matchdays create "untold congestion" in the BP area (by the standards of any reasonably sized urban area, Grimsby and Cleethorpes have never actually experienced a proper traffic jam since the motor car was invented) and that he can build bridges with Radio Humberside while insisting on calling the station "Humberside Radio". Most importantly of all, though, when that accountant bloke is talking, what's that shirt on the wall behind him with red, white and blue stripes with the 'Interpolis' logo across the middle?
Just the other week we all thought Liam Trotter was about to decline a third month on loan with the Mariners and return to fight for a place at Ipswich. How our unbelief was unjustified, because the 20-year-old midfield bustler signed up to lengthen his stay at BP the very next day – and now there's even talk of making the switch permanent. If the worse than useless loans of Tomi Ameobi and Malvin Kamara seemed to prove that Stuart Watkiss wasn't to be trusted in the manager's chair, Trotter – the other player brought in by Town's assistant boss during his spell as caretaker manager – has been much more of a success, and today's Grimsby Telegraph finds Mr Michael Re-Newell "refusing to rule out" a bid to bring him back for good next month. The Telewag reckons "sources in Suffolk" reckon the Tractor Boys might let Liam leave when the transfer window swings open on 1 January but, to be honest, it looks much more like a case of Newell keeping his options open and saying "never say never" than declaring a firm intention to pursue it.
"A merry Christmas to all at Cod Almighty," begins an email to the Diary from Steve Lang, whose old mate Kirky emailed yesterday with a fond reminiscence of the two of them narrowly cheating a watery grave in Northamptonshire. "And to Kirky and family!" he continues. "I well remember that old green van! Still get carsick at the thought of it! But where were you, John, when I broke my elbow three days before the end of term and had to lump two heavy cases, one-armed, across country by train? On second thoughts... Speaking of broken bones, perhaps Kirky and others of that vintage will remember the day when John McGrath broke 'Gorgeous George' McLean's leg? At full time I was among a gaggle of spotty adolescents who leapt out of the Pontoon and raced across the pitch to exact revenge. But once we got 'upclose and personal' and realised how big he was our wrath quickly subsided!! Apparently the Newcastle manager's pre-match instructions to McGrath were always the same: 'Show me how fast their centre-forward can limp!' I live in Essex now and don't get to many games but will be at Barnet on 3 Jan... perhaps see you there Kirky?" Well, I've sent you both each other's email addresses, so you can take it from here – but if the two of you do manage a meet-up, remember to let all of us here at
Friends Reunited Cod Almighty know about it afterwards!
Monday 22 December
When I received a text message from Durham Diary on Saturday to tell me that Town had taken the lead at Aldershot, I assumed that the clock on the kitchen wall, which said the time was 2:58pm, had been running slow. What a good job I couldn't be arsed to get up and change it, because Matt Westby in today's Grimsby Telegraph explains that, in fact, the Diary's clock was right and the referee was running fast. If you wanted to drastically condense Mr Westby's report you might relate simply that the Shots were pretty much all over Town – but you would miss out on the rather resonant closing thought that it would be "churlish not to cherish" the very good away point earned by the Mariners at the Recreation Ground. 'Tis not the season to be churlish, if we can disown our Grimbarian nature for a little while: personally, my glass is half full of mulled wine, and the Diary can't see beyond Barnet joining Luton in the relegation spots come May time.
In the meantime, here's another yuletide chant from Chris Beeley:
God rest ye merry Mariners; let nothing ye dismay
For Mike Newell our saviour will keep Blue Square away
With Proudlock, Jean Paul, and young Rob
We'll take it all the way
Good tidings of Ryan the boy, Ryan the boy
Good tidings of Ryan the boy.
And here's an email from John Kirk:
Seeing the name Steve Lang on Cod Almighty on Wednesday reminded me of my old mate of that name... and I can't believe that there was more than one Town fan with such a moniker in the sixties. Steve and I were at a top-secret teacher training facility in the late sixties, and if I divulged its name then I'm afraid Cod Almighty would be taken off the net and all its readers would have to be eliminated by MI5... so let's just say it was somewhere that you might find a Club Franchise.
Anyway, being poor students of the time... might I digress to explain to today's youngsters that being a poor student in the sixties meant having a bank balance of nothing, or greater, as opposed to a bank balance resembling the national debt of Zimbabwe... anyway, back to being a poor student sixties version. To afford the occasional visit back to civilisation, a Lincoln City fan, Steve, and I all used to cram into my minivan and shoehorn in the cases, bags etc, finally ramming the third passenger into the back anyhow they could be fitted in, the other two would lean hard against the doors and fasten the door handle. Yes, all good practice for being a tail gunner (though I believe these days that expression has connotations none of we students ever contemplated whilst there was plenty of rampant totty about).
Of course, once I and the co-pilot had settled ourselves comfortably in the front of the van, communication with the poor bugger in the back was nigh-on impossible, until we had meandered homewards, and were able to peel them from the back of the rear doors, and wait whilst blood flowed once more into knee joints, nose ends, necks, and toes. Such cramped conditions did have the distinct advantage though of suppressing the movement of the two large blocks of granite I used to carry to counteract the lack of suspension in the back wheels.
Now, on this particular occasion we were heading home for Christmas, and looking forward to a happy visit to Blundell Park, and it was Steve's turn to draw the short straw and head backwards for Christmas. Unfortunately, it had been raining heavily, and on the rolling hills through Northamptonshire we were confronted by a steep downhill stretch, with a lake of water at the bottom. As brakes were an optional extra on minivans, the chance of pulling out before slamming into the water was never a possibility. Nor was there any chance to have training in how to drive through such a lake, so it was with a mixture of bravado, fate, and studentish "Nothing fazes me!" we hit the water at top speed, or 45 mph as we say these days. Not knowing what the fuck to do, I did nothing, which turned out to be probably for the best. The van aquaplaned, lurched sideways, up, down, and sideways again, as spray flew in all directions, and a muted shout from the back was heard: "What the fuck was that!"
I'm just surprised that that was NOT Steve's most memorable Christmas, that's all.
But on second thoughts, it might have been in the summer. And it might have been the Lincoln City fan in the back, with me and Steve laughing hysterically in the front from the sheer relief of survival.
Glorious stuff. Keep 'em coming, readers, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Friday 19 December
Mike Newell has kept his counsel this week about the need for an inquiry into why Britain felt the need to throw its puny weight about in Iraq; and he hasn't publicly ventured an opinion about the overdose of tragic Christmas cooking programmes which your Guest Diarist seems drawn to like a moth to a flame. The one where that berk who makes chocolate was said to be so desperate for a rest period with his family over yuletide that he invited a camera crew into his house and then gambolled with his kids in a shower of fake snow after stuffing his turkey with chocolate actually made me bawk. Especially when I realised that it was probably filmed in early October.
But Newell has come forth and spake about the latest totally meaningless initiative from the Football League. Sorry, not the League – this initative is the personal responsibility of that idiot Mawhinney. Newell broke cover on BBC Radio 5 and said: "I take it with a pinch of salt. It won't have a massive impact in the lower divisions and I think it's probably another publicity stunt by the Football League." If Mawhinney is successful in steamrolling the idea through then every League club will have to have at least four players in their match squad who have been registered domestically for three seasons before their 21st birthday. Last Saturday every team in the league met this stipulation without consciously trying. For Christ's sake, you Tory fool, the way to preserve and improve the development of young local players in lower-league clubs is to cream off a bigger fraction of the TV money and pass it down, not try to get the 'Mawhinney rule' into football parlance. As for Newell, he is keeping his face in the public eye, you can't blame him for that, and every interview and soundbite contains the word 'Grimsby'.
That topic did not come up in the Mariners World preview this week, where Mr Newell admitted he wouldn't bet on Adam Proudlock staying with the Mariners after his loan period. The Town manager rolled his eyes ruefully at the thought of what Trotter could do if he only "realised his own physique" but went on to mutter ambiguously that Ipswich "know what they have in him" as the lad prepares to tune his sat-nav for a route from Hampshire to Suffolk after a last game at Aldershot tomorrow. As for Akpa Akpro, the poor lad had to mime where his hurty bit was in training yesterday and then pull out with a sore groin. Everyone hopes he stopped in time and that a restful coach trip today will keep him in contention to play. The Telegraph reports that Kalala has been ill all week and that Till (hamstring and sick), Newey (hamstring) and Heywood ('thigh') remain sidelined. This probably means a long bus trip for Danny North 'just in case' and possibly a chance for Boshell to prove just how important JPK is to the team. Let's hope not.
Akpa Akpro, once he had grasped the pace of the game, had a fine debut last match. And considering he hasn't been playing regular football it is worthy of mention that he lasted the full game. Newell says in 10 to 15 games' time we will see what the lad is capable of; the lad himself said he is only at soixante pour cent and the messageboard folk like excitedly repeating the manager's "rough diamond" epithet. It will be a shame if he can't play tomorrow and I can't wait for Boxing Day.
Meanwhile your festive memories and songs are flooding in. Christopher Beeley, a West Bromwich-based solicitor (God, you poor sod!) has written a verse which has two delightful opening lines before tailing off:
Akpa Akpro, are you listenin'?
All your runs, they are blist'rin',
So stay until May,
And put one away
We'll be in a Grimsby wonderland
Mark Shephard has had a go too:
He's Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro
He's Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro
He's Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and he's got fantastic hair
Try it again to 'We wish you a merry Christmas', gentle reader. But not when drunk. Mark – try great hair?
Regular correspondent Felix Oliver-Tasker's recovered memory therapy sessions seem to be working a treat as this has come to his mind: "My most memorable Christmas morning match took place a long time ago. The ground was full as the fishing fleet got back in time and Town were playing a half-back called Whitefoot who had a blinder. I can't remember who we were playing all those years ago but we won and I got home full of rum from the bonded warehouse and fell asleep over Christmas dinner. I got a monumental bollocking which was fully deserved. I remember my first ever visit to Blundell Park though to watch the reserves playing Frickley Colliery though. They got thumped 3-0. However the seed was sown and I was hooked."
And on those seasonal notes I'll wish you a happy pre-festive weekend folks. See yer.
Thursday 18 December
Mike Newell's arrival at Blundell Park a couple of months ago brought with it another clean slate for Straight Peter Bore, the talented but flaky young forward who had already had more chances than a contrite recidivist with a particularly understanding parole officer. At first it seemed that the new manager had solved the crossword where other managers had given up at 8 down, as SPB opened the scoring in Town's gah 2-2 draw with Luton in October and expertly shepherded Nick Hegarty's effort into the net as the Mariners gah drew with table-topping Wycombe. By the time Darlington visited on 1 November, though, the player was back on the bench and seemingly set for an exit when his contract expires at the end of the season. Yesterday, however, the defiantly heterosexual Bore thrust his way back into the reckoning with both goals for the reserves in a 4-2 defeat at Huddersfield, or wherever Huddersfield play their reserve games because they're a massive club and massive clubs use local non-League grounds to play their reserve games because their groundsmen are shit, or something. Every single Grimbarian who has read a report on the match, meanwhile, is wondering how long it will be before Town can give a trial to the Terriers' academy graduate Dan Codman and partner him up front with Gregg Blundell.
Oh yeah, and Curtis Ujah was booked early on for pulling back a Huddersfield forward after he'd lost him on the turn. That's about all I can find out on the performance of Town's 4,815th trialist since mid-2002.
Until Guest Diary looks ahead tomorrow to Town's weekend trip to Aldershot, we have, as promised, a festive reminiscence from Mark Wilson. "Dear Diary," he begins, "I can indeed remember matches full of festive cheer. I remember a meeting at BP with our old chums Sheffield Wednesday some time in the early 80s when fighting broke out in the bottom of the Stones and a nasty stand-off ensued between some of Grimsby's 'finest' and a small group of Stanley-knife wielding psychopaths from God's Own County. Thankfully sanity was restored by the Town 'fans' choosing to retreat for fear of being carved like a turkey (see what I did there). My own involvement in this meeting in the season of goodwill was that I happened to be stood right in the 'no man's land' between the two factions and for a short but worrying period I wondered how my mum would feel about me being killed the day after Christmas. It was just like being a wise man watching over the baby Jesus, or something. Happy Christmas to you, Mrs Diary and newly arrived Junior Diary." The same to you, Mark – and many thanks for your tale of seasonal goodwill and peace.
"How about 'The First Newell, the Grimsby did sign, looks like he is gonna, keep us up this time'?" offers Chris Beeley in response to the Diary's request for Chrimbo-themed chants. Which is good, because "Newell, Newell" would clearly make a cracking chorus, but I like Chris's second suggestion just a little better: "Deck the halls with boughs of Jean Paul Kalalalallalala!"
More to come with Guest Diary tomorrow – but keep 'em coming, readers, and I'll see you on Monday. T'ra!
Wednesday 17 December
When did this trialist thing begin, exactly? Time was when an unknown player would arrive at Blundell Park for a trial possibly once a season. Rather than give his name a perfunctory Googling, note his lack of first-team experience, shrug and move on, as we do now, we would consider the trial a much bigger deal altogether. The reason I ask is that another such hopeful has turned up at GTFC in the form of Curtis Ujah – a 20-year-old central defender who will play away for the reserves against Huddersfield this afternoon. The veteran of three first-team games for Tamworth and Crawley Town, Ujah has also been on the books at Yeovil and Reading, where he was a trainee. The Diary estimates that the sudden upsurge in Town's use of trials began about five seasons ago – which is mightily useful from my point of view, as it coincides almost precisely with the inception of this website and has therefore given us something to talk about for the past half-decade.
Your festive-themed emails have brought copious seasonal sparkliness to the Diary's inbox – so copious, in fact, that we will have to spread some of it out to tomorrow. First up is Richard Lord: "When I was too young to attend Town matches at Blundell Park I used to listen to the commentary on the radio. On the first Saturday of every December I used to go round to my grandparents' house, which was down Manchester Street, and I used to put up their Christmas trimmings to the sound of John Tondeur on the wireless, as my nanna used to call it. For some reason that Saturday always threw up a home fixture, and one game that I remember in particular was a festive win over Crystal Palace. After going behind early on, Steve Livingstone equalised minutes later and Town spent the rest of the match searching for a winner. As the final whistle drew ever closer, and the Christmas tree neared completion, I heard a massive wall of noise drift across the back gardens of Neville Street and Fuller Street, celebrating Graham Rodger's late goal. I heard the huge cheer about ten seconds earlier than the goal was reported on the radio, so I had the bizarre experience of listening to the commentary knowing that a Town goal was imminent." Cheers, RL – a great anecdote, and timely, too, as supporters somehow knew in much the same way an equaliser for the visitors was imminent at the Mariners' recent home games against Bournemouth, Wycombe and Luton.
"My first ever visit to Blundell Park was on Boxing Day in 1959," writes Steve Lang, "or was it 1960? Town were bizarrely kitted out in black and white striped shirts, red shorts and red socks and their opponents were from Bradford (I think it was City but it might have been PA!). The great Jimmy Fell played on the wing but failed to prevent us from losing 3-1 – even though both sides scored four goals, three of ours were disallowed. Set the tone for a lifetime of disillusionment! After his illustrious career with Everton and Newcastle, Jimmy returned to Grimsby and I was lucky enough to meet him in a Cleethorpes nightclub. He was working for Courtaulds by then... and a very nice bloke he was! Perhaps one of your older readers can fill the gaps in my memory?" Perhaps! Drop us an email if you can. Steve adds a PS: "I note that Town's horrendous run of home form seems to have coincided almost exactly with your wife's confinement... can I suggest that there be no more additions to the family?" Don't worry – quite aside from the omens for the Mariners, if the Diary ever experiences another night like last night I will drop dead on the spot.
In tomorrow's Diary we'll turn to Mark Wilson's reminiscences of festive fisticuffs at BP as Chris Beeley breaks out the GTFC Christmas songs. If you've anything to add in the meantime, email firstname.lastname@example.org – and that includes tips for getting a tired baby to sleep when they've been fed, burped and changed and they're still crying. Toodles!
Tuesday 16 December
It's the ultimate paradox of the loan signing: if the player does well, the borrowing club might want to make the transfer permanent, but if he does too well, the parent club might want to keep him. Or, as in the cases of Martin Paterson and Steve Kabba, move him on to another club who can actually afford to pay a transfer fee. In the case of Adam Proudlock, however, Town seem to be in a strong position should Darlington decide that their annual doomed promotion bid can proceed without him this season. The lardy loanee has impressed enormously this month with goals in his last two games, and a great partnership with Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro seems in the offing – but, reports today's Grimsby Telegraph, the chances of Proudlock staying beyond 3 January, when his loan expires, may depend on whether Darlo in turn can retain the services of their own borrowed strikers Billy Clarke and Liam Hatch. "He's ready now to be recalled if and when we need him. But, for now, it's important that he plays games," quotes the Telegraph from the Northern Echo from Quakers boss Dave Penney. In the run-up to the busy festive fixture programme, it's reassuring to see overstretched journalists keeping their legs fresh.
When Paul Simpson told the press Shrewsbury deserved to win last Saturday, sympathetic observers assumed he was taking a little poetic licence to restore his players' morale after their embarrassing defeat by lowly Grimsby. Certainly the Shrews manager is not supported by the statistics, which lean in the Mariners' favour by 59 to 41 per cent on possession, 7 to 4 on shots on target, 11 to 7 on shots off target, and 13 to 5 on corners. Bizarrely, though, the one save of any note Phil Barnes was required to make in the entire match has earned him a place in that fourth division team of the week thing. One's first suspicion is that Simpson has nobbled the judging panel – but this is quickly dispelled by the fact that no Shrewsbury players have made the cut. Another statistic in Town's favour, then.
An email from David Elvidge strikes a charming seasonal note. "As readers of the Diary sit around their log fires," he writes, "and sip their Firsty Ferret with the snow gently falling outside, are perhaps the more mature readers drawn back to times gone by? Yes, the memories come flooding back of Christmas fixtures at Blundell Park. We are taken back to the times when we stood packed in the Osmond, the normal scent of Woodbines being replaced by Wills Whiffs on this most festive of occasions. And then the inevitable happened – a stunning goal from Matt Tees. The whole stadium erupted with the joyful sound of Town fans singing their favourite carol. It went like this to the tune of The First Noel:
Matt Tees, Matt Tees,
"Best wishes for a Happy Christmas," concludes David. Thanks very much – and the same to you. Would any other readers like to share reminiscences of Christmases past at Blundell Park? Or suggest new festive chants? Email email@example.com and let's get this joint glittered up.
Matt Tees, Matt Tees;
Born is the King of Blundell Park
Monday 15 December
What a fortnight it's been! Your regular Diary is back and buzzing, readers, after the most moving experience of my life. I never really believed I could weep tears of joy until it actually happened to me. But now I know, and the powerful and profound emotion of the whole experience will stay with me forever. And as if seeing Town win a match wasn't incredible enough, me and Mrs Diary have had a baby as well!
"Grimsby Town chairman John Fenty hits back at claims that the club has been penny pinching," begins an item on Town's superb new official website today. Naturally, the author can't be arsed to explain where these claims have been made, or by whom, leaving the reader to assume that our favourite local Tory politician has been up all night on the messageboards again. Penny pinching? An insolvent football club in a small, economically depressed town where nobody very much cares for football? You wouldn't exactly blame them if they were. Reading between the lines, 0.0001 per cent of the Mariners' support has been idly dribbling over his keyboard to the effect that lots of other football clubs have got out of paying loads of tax by going into administration, so ours should have too, and then we could have spent the money on players instead. LE SIGH. John Fenty (Con) advances a convincing enough case by doing some sums and pointing out that he's never said no to a manager's request, but as far as the Diary is concerned, it's enough to know that GTFC are doing the right thing by the taxpayer rather than follow the immoral route of Leeds United et al. Perhaps tax avoidance is a sensitive subject, though. After all, JF(C)'s fellow Grimbarian Tory, the charming and highly principled David Ross, has spent many a year living in Switzerland – and not, one assumes, just for the chocolate.
I must thank Guest and Idle Diaries for filling in here during my recent paternity leave, and GD would like to take the credit for having "goaded Hope into brilliance" on Saturday. Interesting, isn't it, that three or four trialist left-backs later, Mike Newell may have discovered that he had a replacement for Tom Newey under his nose all along?
Speaking of potential new signings, is it Martyn Waghorn who Mr Re-Newell is looking at next? In the excitement of getting out of the house on Saturday after two solid weeks of nappy changing, the Diary drank a little too deeply of the Rutland Arms' best ahead of the match and can only dimly recall talk of a Radio Humberside interview in which the manager identified a Sunderland striker on loan at Charlton as one on his shortlist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can fill in the gaps. I'm afraid the words 'Sunderland', 'Charlton' and 'striker' have already got me far too excited though...
Friday 12 December
So, thank god it's Friday. Your Guest Diarist has just been listening to the weekly chat between manager Newell and Mariners World. Don't bother, gentle reader; it's billed as feature length but comes in at under nine minutes and is the same old recycled stuff that we've heard too many times before.
The only fact that came out of it is that Trotter's last game at the club will be the away game at Aldershot on the 20th. The rest was a ponderous mix of "well you've been here a few weeks now Mike, what's your impression of...." And also Newell now trying to make out he wouldn't miss Liam Trotter because he's got the likes of Boshell and Clarke. He also told us that the youth team are a very well mannered set of lads and he hopes a couple of them make it as professionals. Oh, Mr Newell also said that second placed Shrewsbury have several players too good for this division but he fears no team this season.
More insight comes from the Telewag interview Newell has given where he explains that hamstring problems will keep both Newey and Till out of the team tomorrow. Additionally Boshell has had a dose of man-flu this week so Newell is reserving judgement on him until the last minute. So, the Telegraph claims, home fans will get the chance to see the frankly bizarre sight of Hope playing at left back again.
Shrewsbury striker Walker is still suspended but division four player of the month Holt (who may well get 20 goals by Christmas) seems destined to play. And Davies is back from that horrible injury so they have plenty of choice with regard to players who will score against us. Shrewsbury are on a seven match unbeaten run and, as they say, are riding high. But they have only won once on their travels and only average a goal a game away from home. So far.
But the Town fans are agog to find out if Mr Newell will start our new striker (whose name I dare not mention for fear of attracting accusations of racist imperialist patronising summat or other). It is pretty certain that he will get a game, and I suspect will start along side Proudlock. So if it were me I'd try Jarman wide left instead of a sniffling Bosh. Whatever team is picked it would seem a sure thing that our left hand side will rapidly become the target for Shrewsbury's attacking intentions.
The Cod Almighty T-shirt man just reminded me that if you are stuck for a present then a T-shirt rarely disappoints. He can't compete with the high street sales and has no clue about how to apply the drop in VAT rate but if you order by the 18th he'll get it in the post same day. Sadly I can't make the match tomorrow because I'm helping out (ligging) at my son's mates gig in Nottingham and here's an unashamed plug for The Beast and the Priest. Fast flashy guitar solos – the return of blues rock starts here – Ahead rings out! Now all I have to do is root out my great coat and decide what album to carry under my arm. See yer.
Thursday 11 December
Your Guest Diarist's first ever Town match was at home to West Ham in the cup in sixty five or whenever it was. A stirring two all draw against one of the best footballing sides in the top division. And credit to the superb new official site for once for writing a nice piece about Matt Tees book signing this weekend which mentions the self same game. Oh, I see they just cut and pasted it from here. Nearly had me fooled there.
Town youth beat Boston 4-0 the other day, and the Telegraph, sorting through the flotsam and jetsam of the recent past has run a piece celebrating the fact that the lads are top of [sponsors name removed] Youth Alliance North East Conference league. In it one can't help but notice the enthusiasm of Neil Woods for his protégés: "They took the lead at half-time and went on to score four more." OK, maybe one was disallowed. Woods feels his lads may have a bright future and we all believe him – let's just hope he works on diet as much as free kicks.
As for Tom Newey, who has been suffering from precautionary hamstring, the world waits to hear whether he will return on Saturday. The rightfully maligned enigma of a left back is basically the only one we have, so if he returns then blessings must be grudgingly counted I suppose. As Idle Diary briefly mentioned yesterday, left back trialist Adam Green had a go in the reserve match against Leeds but has been thanked and sent home with a dose of indifference from manager Newell. The lad can't get in the Woking side either – things must look grim when you are 24 and having to quite possibly face up to life not as a professional footballer when the dole queues are getting longer by the day.
Oh, and before you write in – Hegggaarty may have a contract but he is not a full back in my book. He's a lovely lad but to quote Mr Morrison: the future is uncertain and the end is always near. And Hope just lacks the speed or mobility to catch wingers or hare down the line on an overlap. So, for now, we'll have to let Newey take it. See yer.
Wednesday 10 December
A slow news day – Town aren't going to keep looking at trialist Adam Green and on Saturday you can read in the programme Positive John words on why he isn't a Scrooge – so let's open the postbag.
First up, Martin Robinson who takes to task some recent criticism, in the Diary and elsewhere, of the club's levels of support: "I've never been one to say our supporters are the best or better than other clubs, but I think the attendance for the Bournemouth game  was pretty damn good for a team who are near the bottom of the Football League, having not won at home since the start of last year's cricket season, and it was a bloody cold night! Our attendance was the fourth best in the division that weekend and also beat the gates at third division sides Yeovil and Hereford. OK, kids were allowed in free but still a good turnout. So how about a bit of appreciation for the loyal few?" Give yourselves a round of applause?
A couple of weeks back the Diary was seeking out your non-league bit-on-the-side. Alan Dickens is one of the very few to respond: "I'm afraid mine are the Clarets." Before you pull Al up of supporting the Lancastrian League Cup semi-finalists, he clears things up: "My nomenclature on Town's site is 'Essexexile' and therein lies the clue – yes, you've guessed it Chelmsford City who, as some of you may already know are doing rather well at the moment in the Conference South – in fact, top of the league!!! Now this is all very nice for me you may be saying, but hang on a minute. It is in fact rather scary for me, very scary in fact. If Town, Cod forbid go down this season, which I don't think they will for one minute, and the Clarets go up, guess what?!" Erm... "Yes! Town will be coming down here to the Melbourne Stadium – a bit like playing at the local athletics track! Those of you that know Victoria Road, Dagenham will be wishing for those dizzy heights again!"
Al also knows of a link between Town and Chelmsford City: "Tommy McKenna, who played for Town in the 1948-49 and '49-50 seasons, went on to play for the Clarets. Chelmsford City in those days were doing very well in the old Southern League and could afford to pay very well – wages in non-league football were not capped and many decent players left the league to play non-league for more money. I know Tommy's son very well – he lives in the same village as me and goes to the same local and provides a heartwarming link for me to the old Barrett Stand where I used to watch Town with my dad in the good old days!" Great stuff. I'll save Al's face and edit out that his "other number two club" is West Ham, and not because they are poo.
A quick one from Paddy Grant regarding our recently signed Ivorian: "Akpa Akpro can score goals and everything! Well he can score a goal... Check it." Forget the goal – I'd like to see the fans in the Ponny peg it down to the front of the stand when he scores! Michael Shelton continues the Akpa Akpro theme asking "did anyone used to watch The Fast Show? " Yes. "More pertinently will anyone admit to having used to watch The Fast Show?" Gah, you got me there, Mike! But why are the questions? "For anyone that admits it, Jean Louis Akpa Akpro sounds to me like it should be sung to the 'Orgasmo Gizmo' jingle." Action pumpo indeed!
Tuesday 9 December
Idle Diary writes... Four of the national papers feature David Ross's fall from grace as front page news. Where these meek murmurings of Ross investing in Town have started, we have yet to have confirmed – does Ross actually support Town? – but if the murky do-dealings of this Conservative party donor aren't enough to put you off him, then check this picture, oozing what is euphemistically known as 'playboy charm'. Then again, football fans have never really been known with putting their morals first when it comes to buying their team success: Manchester City fans didn't object en masse to the suspected human rights violating and allegedly corrupt Thaksin Shinawatra bankrolling their club last season.
Let's move on from a sticky situation to something more wholesome and cleaner. "I've heard other managers say they have a good relationship with their chairman but I've never experienced that before ever," reveals a lovelorn Mike Newell. "I think I could have a good relationship with John Fenty, though," opens up the Town boss, etching "MN 4 JF" on his pencil case, glancing around for the mistletoe, and eyeing up the Blundell Park boot room for some huggin' and a kissin', dancin' and a lovin', before revealing the Chairman's attraction: "He's a sensible businessman with his head screwed on and wants the best for the club." Aaawww! From Fenty's good and Ross's bad to news of the ugly, with the assertion by Newell that Groovy Stu Watkiss is "a good assistant manager". Aaaawwww! Sounds like they've all headed on down to the Love Shack for the office knees-up, and Grant Normington's tagging along too! Everybody's movin', everybody's groovin', baby!
Leeds, despite the city's branding, is a place where there isn't a lot of love. And the reserves were given a gruff West Yorkshire cold shoulder last night losing to a single goal, despite their host of advances on the Shitey Whites' box. Goal, I mean. Sorry, goal. The squad are all on shooting practice at Cheapside today, hopefully not with the players wellying balls at a semi-naked woman running around as a target. Then again...
Stuck in that time warp, we can debate whether there was stubbornness or over-zealous officiousness on show at Port Vale elsewhere, but is it time Town's disabled supporters group broke free from the word 'handicapped'?
Monday 8 December
Idle Diary writes... Despite taking the positives from Saturday's late 2-1 defeat against Port Vale – "we played well, in the right spirit and were committed; we passed it about well" – manager Mike has pointed the finger at the number one itch he attempts to scratch out of the Town squad he inherited: mental strength. "You can't keep saying 'we'll get out of this' and 'we'll turn it around'," said a rueful ReNewell, "you have to make it happen. It is something you have to get into the club and you only do that by getting strong characters in. We have done that with a few. Hopefully, any we bring in the future will have that character and winning mentality. It is something that is either in you or it isn't." And if it isn't? A drill to the skull and an injection of steroids into the frontal cortex may be in order. Adam Proudlock, now a Grimsby Town goal scoring hero, seems to tick the boxes for Newell, while Robbie Fowler won't get the chance to.
New chief scout Brian Stein reinforces Newell's call for resilience towards the end of an all-too-short interview. However, the main gist of Stein's chat is the need for Town to start bringing youngsters through their set up, youngsters that can make the grade. Millwall's youth system has been discussed in the past couple of issues of WSC, the London club having abandoned its youth system in the face of "negative return": if you haven't got youngsters coming through into the first team (in theory saving transfer fees) or netting the club some financial return then is a youth system justifiable? It's an issue Stein is certainly aware of as he puts his credentials forward, and is clear it won't just be promising kids from the local area, but also from further afield. And if you consider most recent four graduates to be first teamers – Danny North, Pierter Bore, Nick Hegarty and Ryan Bennett – there's an even split of the local and not-so-local there, Hegarty coming in from Ossett (was it? I know there's a cracking brewery there) and Bennett from Ipswich. Once they breakthrough, get burger guts and develop over-inflated egos is another thing... The First Team of Tomorrow, by the way, won 4-0 against Boston United to go top of the Puma Youth Alliance League. Anyone watching the future of our club these days? We'd love to hear your scout reports.
Despite assertions on Friday that Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro would play a part in the weekend's game, international clearance was not received by the English FA in time. Akpa-Akpro wasn't missing from our inbox this weekend as one reader wrote in response to Friday's Guest Diary: "'M. Akpa Akpro, despite sounding like a mysterious 1950s cleaning product'? Slightly offensive to those who have proud African names. How ignorant." Mr Guest Diary responds that the anonymous reader may have a point, but affirms "I just think it is a weird name. Like Windass is a weird sniggery name." As are Paul Heckingbottom, Danny Higginbotham, Arsene Wenger, The Wankdorf, Fred Titmuss, Nicky Butt, Toby Oshitola, Randy Lerner, Barrington Belgrave, Danny Shittu, Stefan Kuntz, Willy Topp, Kaka, Jan Venegoor of Hesselink, Angel Rangel, Johnny O'Toole, Shane Supple, Paul Dickov, Julian Dicks, Sean St Ledger, and Troy Archibald-Henville. All just funny names, regardless of anything really. Readers, what do you think?
If you fancy seeing Akpa-Akpro in action (hopefully not as terrified as in his picture on the SNOS), the stiffs play against Big Club Leeds's Reserves tonight. Maybe David Ross will be there, sat alone in the massive empty stands kept warm in an expensive Italian wool overcoat, since he has resigned as director of Carphone Warehouse, clearing the way for him to take over at Blundell Park.
Sorry. Only shitting you about him buying Town.
Friday 5 December
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro has got an older brother called Jean Jacques. The younger sibling has been snapped up by manager Re-Newell with commendable speed, aided and abetted no doubt by the Town board. Some say that Fenty had a dream (like St Paul on the road to Domestos) that French-speaking players are the future. No doubt. No doubt. But here we are, all excited at the prospect of new players who we don't know, and especially don't know if they are any good. And quite right too: better than some old lag, a veteran of 11 clubs and still only 29 or summat with messages of dark warning from fans who he has disappointed before. Let's give this rough diamond a go – forget Fowler, who the Daily Star reports is planning "to stay and fight for his place". Right. Give me Akpy-whatsit any day.
M. Akpa Akpro, despite sounding like a mysterious 1950s cleaning product, has the Ivory Coast in his heart but was born in Provence and grew up watching Waddle at Marseille. Your Guest Diarist used to work in Marseille – a town very like a big Grimsby (if Grimsby had stayed great, perhaps). Full of characters, great fish and people who like to drink hard and who rarely mention calanques. God, I miss it since I gave up my passport for reasons that I have nearly forgotten. Fuck Nice and St Tropez: go to Marseille, a million times cheaper, the sea is the same temperature as Meggies and the people have the same warm-hearted, defiantly isolated air as us Grimbarians.
Akpa-Akpro-need-an-acronym is all but six foot and Newell says of him: "He's got good ability, a bit of pace, good in the air and I think he could certainly be better than this division. He's definitely as good as what we have here already." Play him then and we'll see.
As for the side to play at Port Vale tomorrow, Mr Newell reconfirmed to Mariners World that he has every expectation of pitching his new striker in. When asked again whether he had "seen a gradual improvement in the team" Newell physically squirmed. That's a no then. He said he now knew the best 13 players or so at the club and felt that it would take two or three new ones to radically improve the league position. Earlier the manager had emphasised the support from the board in maintaining a relatively large squad but the time was coming when he would be looking to offload some players. No names, no pack drill. Draw your own conclusions, gentle reader.
As for injuries, Hunt is fit, Till is not and Buscher needs to get his puff back after the reserve game. Port Vale's home form has been a bit crappy, they are skint and seem to rely on loan players to get results. The one thing perhaps that differentiates them from Town is that their best loan player, Brammer, is injured. Vale leak goals as well so there might be an entertaining match in prospect between two evenly matched poor sides. Have a couple of quid on 2-2 at 12/1 if you like a flutter. See yer.
Thursday 4 December
Your Guest Diarist received a nice email in my inbox this morning from exiled Meggie Julie Catto (née Meech): "Well the final Matt Tees T-shirt you sent me is now in the safe ownership of Mr Tees himself – I haven't got a picture of him with it but he does have it. He sent me a couple of old photos of him signed, and a signed copy of his new book which was lovely. Will let you know if I do get the
elusive photo of Matt with the Matt Tees T-shirt." So if anyone spots my boyhood hero sporting said homage, please get a snap for us! And if you are wondering then yes, it is the daughter of skipper Meech, and a quick Google soon brought up a tragic yet inspiring tale of the Jeria, which sank in 1935 with one E Meech on board. Hard as nails, brave as lions, eh?
Meanwhile a strong-looking reserve team beat Bradford 2-1 at home yesterday with a brace from, ermmm, Richard Hope, according to the superb new official site. Trialist Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro played and was impressive according to the SNOS reporter, who also mentioned that everything worth watching occurred in the first half and that Peter Till went off with a 'tight' hamstring. Here is the reported starting line-up with poor old Taylor left as a bench-warmer: Montgomery, Normington, Hegarty, Llewellyn, Heywood, Hope, Till, Akpro, North, Bore, Buscher.
Meanwhile the Telegraph has been talking to manager Newell. I like manager Newell, as you may have noticed: no, I've not met him – I mean I like writing "manager Newell". Like they said "Speaker Martin" on the news last night. But I digress: Newell has said he plans to sign three players in the January transfer window. And that he has already sort of got them lined up. Well, judge for yourself: "I have a few in mind. I've spoken to a couple of people and know the players are willing to join us in January."
That bloke Fowler played a quarter of an hour against Man Ure last night: I notice he was awarded a score of 4.49 on that BBC rate the players thingy. So if you are in the conspiracy camp then he deffo won't get a new Blackburn contract and can come and be rubbish for us instead. See yer.
Wednesday 3 December
Idle Diary writes... How do, comrades! Bit nippy out today, don't you think? I tell you though, the chill was broken at 7:30 this morning to see a van with "Nigel Ellis, Fishmonger, Fresh Grimsby Fish" on it parked up near my place. No sign of Nigel nearby so I could find out if he'd driven all the way over from Grimmo, but it was heart warming nonetheless.
Despite Guv'nor PI not knowing nuffin' about it, the hearts of many Town fans are being warmed by the merest suggestion of "Grimsby Town transfer target" Robbie Fowler joining the 23rd all-time most successful league club. Heed this warning though, as a cautionary tale wings our way from the Cardiff-supporting punk-pop-star Helen Love:
"Robbie Fowler, well there's a moneygrabbing evil little bastard.
Despite that many of you will still be saving the planet and your gas bills rubbing you hands together in eager anticipation. I'm not even entertaining the idea of Fowler joining – Fenty's open admission a signal of failed ambition, but ambitious nonetheless – and find the news that Town are offering of a contract to left-sided attacking midfielder Mickael Buscher far more exciting. While a step down in terms of pant exploding excitement, the move is certainly an affirmative step forward in bolstering squad numbers, and more in tune with what we Mariners are familiar with. Whether Buscher is an abject failure, along the lines of John Thorrington, or a gem dug out of nowhere, like Dave Gilbert, only time will tell. As Town fans we have always lived in uncertain times, friends.
"25k a week, 16 games, never lasted 90 minutes, 6 goals – I think most were penalties, out on the town pissed up most weekends, couldn't run more than 10 yards, bright red cheeks, puffing like Thomas The Tank Engine, and walking round with his hands on hips trying to get his breath back.
"Yes we sold 8,000 shirts, so that paid his wages for a month, but he really is shot to pieces. Every week we were told by Dave Jones that he looks sharp in training which has become a running joke on the Cardiff City messageboards. Funnily enough Ince has said exactly the same thing. I would say the odds on him joining you are high. The odds on him leaving within 6 months even higher."
Tuesday 2 December
Idle Diary writes... So, the Robbie Fowler rumour – which swept round Blundell Park like a Mexican wave a couple of weeks back, before leaving fifteen minutes from the end to miss the traffic – wasn't just messageboard make-believe. But neither is it happening, merely talk at the moment. While Town fans may find the the prospect astonishing, more astounding is Honest John's surprise at some loud-mouth letting this fox out of the box. Not to be outdone, the chairman proves to have the biggest gob of them all by telling the world, alerting all the other football clubs to have a sniff round Fowler. Will this talk cost us?
While you're clarifying internet rumours, Fents, any chance of clearing up this talk of the already busy David Ross buying into the club and whether the Cern project will create a black hole that will swallow up the planet?
Monday 1 December
Idle Diary writes... While all associated with Town were enjoying a mid-season Saturday free from supportive activity, your regular Diarist couldn't shake his weekend habit, encouraging Mrs Diary to "get it out! get it out!" as a healthy Diary Jr was pushed into the world at 3:17pm. Mr Diary is now on paternity leave, so Guest Diary and I will be stepping into the breach. Let's crack on.
The long gestating payment of the Mariners' tax debt will have to wait some while longer. The club is to chat to the tax man about restructuring paying back the remaining £100,000 owed. Town are in the final year of their agreement to pay back that £750,000 to HMRC (a figure that is peanuts compared to some clubs). But why the need? "With gate receipts falling due to a combination of the credit crunch and the team's poor results at the end of last season and the start of this, we are now looking to try and reduce the repayments," commented John Fenty. After posting an annual profit last season, albeit funded by the Wembley run, fans now worried about the club losing money this term should listen to the calming positive words of Chairman John: "The commercial revenues go up... despite the indifferent form of the team, we are on track year on year with last season." Fenty broke his recent habit by giving no indication of whether this is short, medium or long term planning though.
It's a quiet news day, otherwise or not. Mickael Buscher is back at Town, Mike Newell liking what he has seen and reckons it's a case of getting the lad fit. Peter Till's got a new place to hang out. Which is it all. Shall we end with a laugh? John Batchelor – the man who was going to rename Mansfield "Harchester United" if he got his grubby hands on it – is linked with a move for Chester. Ha ha ha ha ha!