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Diary - July 2008
Thursday 31 July
We are being told today that it was a very youthful Grimsby Town XI that last night crashed to a 5-1 defeat at Eastwood Town of the Northern Premier League. All the Diary has been able to ascertain is that Nathan Jarman's seventh-minute penalty only equalised an even earlier opener from the hosts – who, according to the account given on their official website, "proved too strong and ultimately fitter than their full time opponents". Unfortunately, the GTFC line-up is nowhere to be found, with Town's superb new official website more than usually reticent about the fixture. Maybe this official unwillingness to give details is borne out of sheer shame that Lord Alan Buckley reneged on his promise to send a strong team. Maybe it's not actually true that Jarman, Matthew Bird and Grant Normington were the only professionals in the Mariners' line-up, and the SNOS is conducting a cover-up to protect the credibility of the team in the wake of a disastrous trouncing for the first XI. Most likely of all, though, it's that they've got no more idea who played than you or me.
Town's rather unfairly maligned supporters' trust has responded to recent rather unfair malignment, which isn't a word, by inviting fans to an "informal meeting" next week to discuss ways in which they might lend a hand and help the trust to do more. The move follows recent outbursts by John Fenty (Con) in which the Mariners chairman characteristically interpreted web forum witterings as somehow representative of mainstream opinion – this time regarding the performance of GTST – and publicly lectured bemused Grimsby Telegraph readers and SNOS visitors about the need to stop slagging off the trust when the vast majority of them had never done any such thing. A well-argued piece on the GTST website emphasises the need for more help and for fans' trusts to operate at all times rather than just moments of crisis. The meeting, it explains, will take place at the Imp next Thursday, beginning at 7pm.
If you haven't already signed up for 12 different fantasy football games with every intention of abandoning them all by early October, then now's the time to hit Town's superb new official website and learn all about why Ryan Bennett will be playing [sponsor name removed] Championship Fantasy Football next season. No, it's not to learn about his opponents when he goes back to Ipswich for £50,000 and a bag of spanners – it's because Sir Brian Fuckwit Mawhinney has chosen to head off the threat of a Premier League 2 by handing the second flight an increasingly disproportionate share of the Football League's income and negotiating sponsorship and other commercial deals for the 'Championship' alone, excluding the lower divisions in terms of both money and visibility. It seems rather sad to the Diary that fourth division Town should endorse activities that deliberately marginalise fourth division football – but then they'd probably get thrown out of the league or something if they didn't. So cheers, Sir Bri. Just remind us what happened to your idea to abolish draws, would you, you inept, unprincipled Tory twat?
What else is there to tell you? The super soaraway summer Cod Almighty T-shirt sale must end tomorrow at 9am, the Cod Almighty T-shirt Man has asked me to point out. Our thanks to all those of you who've bought shirts in the sale – by my reckoning you've raised more than £160 for the Mariners this month alone, and made yourself look cool as fuck by doing so. Congratulations!
Wednesday 30 July
Town won last night, the supporters' trust has stopped moaning, asked for help and got it, and the surveyor has finally agreed that your Guest Diarist's 160-year-old enormously tall chimney stack really did get twisted in the earthquake. Yee ha! Well, perhaps I shouldn't quite go that strong, but if you don't have just the tiniest moment of celebration when things go right you can end up never celebrating anything. You see, that's where Mr Brown went wrong – he never bothered with a little jig after he rescued the country from foot and mouth last summer. He's got nowt to celebrate now, that's for sure (said this "sarcastic professional lefty-cum-capitalist scumbag"). Anonymous messageboard posters – where would we be without them?
As ever with a pre-season game it is hard to judge performance and prospects. Both Lincoln and Town had players missing, but at least our lads had a morning respite so were not completely knackered before they started. Mr Watkiss(es) said things had gone much better; the back four had a shape and it was pleasing, I'm told, to see Heywood mentoring Bennett; Taylor's pace had caused problems and Peter Bore scored a goal. In fact Town made a lot of chances throughout the game, and our back four looked strong and capable. We won, we kept a clean sheet against a local rival and no-one got hurt.
Tonight, Mr Watkiss(es) tells us in a freebie Mariners World interview, a young Town team will take on Eastwood Town at their place. Three pro players, being "Jarmo, Normo and Birdy", will get a game supplemented by the even youthier yoof. But the truest test, I suspect, will come on Saturday when the first team travel to Scunthorpe for the final pre-season game. Town need to play well and stay injury free.
The Telewag reports that there is optimism that Peter Till might make the game, which has to be yet more good news on this good news day. If we beat the Iron we might even start humming Hedgehoppers Anonymous's greatest hit. Although if you get past the hook line, it's all a bit gloomy, that song, with its "Someone's found a way to give/The rotting dead a will to live". Just shows it's not what you sing, it's the way that you sing it. I'd better stop this paragraph before I start an unfortunate metaphor methinks.
It was good to read that the supporters' trust has managed to spring back into life after a slightly moribund period. Some new faces around, they say, a revamp of the website promised (I hope you get rid of that weird font, folks) and a telling final paragraph: "When the next crisis happens, we don't want to be scrambling to set up an organisation to bring the club back from the brink. We want it to already be in place. That's why the Supporters Trust needs to not just survive, but to flourish and become a force to be reckoned with." The meeting is at the Imp on Thursday 7 August at 7pm. Try and make it, eh? See yer.
Tuesday 29 July
Sorry; I was just checking the Diary's recent sarcasm quotas. We've got standards to maintain, chiefly so our detractors stay away, you know. Welcome, as Idle Diary cracks one out, and please excuse the suit and tie – I've got a funeral to leg it to after this.
After last week's gruelling sequence of training and games, Alan Buckley has allowed his squad a four day break, from playing at least. Live action preparation for the new season resumes tonight as Town line-up for a Lincolnshire Cup semi-final against Lincoln City tonight. Visiting manger Peter Jackson has bolstered the quality of the Imps' squad with his summer acquisitions and will provide a stiff test for the Mariners, moreso with Boshell, Bolland, and North likely to miss out again, joined by Peter Till. You are reminded the game kicks off at 7pm.
The Town manager, whose post-match exasperation at Friday night's second half performance could be fleetingly heard in the stands, believes he doesn't know which eleven he will send out against Simon Ramsden's Rochdale for the season opener, and players have until the final whistle of Saturday's game against Scunthorpe to stake a claim. Buckley, not the best loser, doesn't sound happy at certain elements of the summer so far – "I wouldn't say I have been completely happy with how pre-season has gone so far" – but concedes preparation is paramount: "It is all about getting ready for the new season." Dave Chambers has emailed in along similar lines: "Given Alan Buckley's teams always start off slowly, do you think the old man is trying to make sure his squad are 'battle ready' from the off this season? I don't know if this pre-season is any tougher than previous attempts but just a thought..." A thought indeed, Dave.
To round up, two bits of fund raising. Firstly, a group of Town and Lincoln fans are biking the 40 miles from Blundell Park to Sincil Bank for the club's league fixture at the end of August, raising money for local charities in the process. As someone who huffs and puffs through a five mile bike ride to work most days, I'll be visiting their website and pledging a few quid. Secondly, there's a spare executive box going at Blundell Park for the coming season. If you're a Diary reader with a few quid to spare and nine other mates, give Dave Smith at the club a call. Maybe we can lend you Tom Newey on his games off to provide the bar service.
Monday 28 July
"Let's put things into perspective. The manager sets the team up experimentally with what he has available and mixes and matches it. If he was looking just to win, he would pick this strongest team every time which is not what pre-season is all about." So goes the latest response from the chairma as Town fans bury their faces in their hands after the 3-0 defeat at Farsley Celtic on Friday night. Councillor Fenty must get up at 4am, pour some strong cup into his Boss mug, and sit at his computer in his cruds as he scours Town related messageboards, just so he has his finger on the pulse and can put us right.
As perspective goes, Mr Fenty hasn't exactly got a parallax view. The manager's 'strongest' team, pretty much a first choice XI, lost out to a club two divisions down the ladder, due to failings in defence (slack marking) and midfield (no cover). If fitness and strength are factors, our boys need more Red Bull – a lot more – so knackered were they by the second half of their fourth game in six days. For whatever reason Fenty draws reference to Hull's defeat at Winterton last summer, and how they put this setback (ahem) aside to gain promotion to the Premiership. Worth noting that the Tigers finished off their pre-season by beating Town and Newcastle, and drawing against two teams – Doncaster and Stockport – that also gained promotion.
The overall performances in pre-season games do give an indication of the coming season, and decent performances and results buoy both the players and fans. That "season tickets are under budget" is not a revelation to regular readers here, but the chairman admits after so much tub-thumping it's 'worrying'.
Immediately after the game Idle Diary's brief exchange with Peter Furneaux about the match amounted to little more than "it's not good is it?" from the ex-chairman. While it's not all doom and gloom, at the moment you have to agree: it's not good is it? Not rose coloured spectacles, just how it is.
Friday 25 July
I was messing about on Wikipedia the other day, as you do, and ended up ploughing through the 500 greatest ever pop songs as voted by Rolling Stone readers a few years back. Now the top 50 was kind of OK given the expected predilections of the largely American rock-loving voters but when you get down below 400 it all gets a bit weird. I mean John Mellencamp? Rick James? I-believe-I-can-bleeding-fly? The sound of a barrel being scraped, methinks. And don't get me started on what's not there.
But we all love different stuff and that's why I shouldn't be shooting arrows at the Town 'dream squad' published on the superb new official site yesterday. But the names Brian Hill and Bobby Cumming are two omissions that will surely surprise more than just nostalgic old me. And Dave Gilbert and Joe Waters too. Perhaps Mr Boylen was deemed to be the token little man? Whom do I take out to make room, do I hear you ask? That's the problem isn't it? Let's just hope that the likes of Danny North or Andy Taylor make the squad in twenty years' time.
Town seem to play nearly every day of the week at the moment and tonight is no exception with a match at Throstle Nest against those Farsley Celtic boys. And the OS has told us that there are loads of niggly injuries reported from the Town squad: "Nathan Jarman (knee), Robbie Stockdale (groin), Tom Newey (back), Nick Hegarty (calf) have joined Matt Heywood (calf), Ryan Bennett (foot) and Paul Bolland on Town's injured list. Dave Moore is hoping to work his magic, and with the exception of Jarman and long term casualty Danny Boshell, most of the above are likely to be okay to face Farsley Celtic tonight." Which sounds a bit like the lads have had a hard couple of weeks and had half a thought to swing a bit of lead until they had to face interrogation from the redoubtable Mr Moore.
Stuart Watkiss(es) confirmed some of my thoughts at least when talking to the Grimsby Telegraph: "I the lads feeling the effects of a tough pre-season work-out. There are a few strains and knocks but it is to be expected – it's part and parcel of pre-season in my experience. Credit to the lads, they came back fit and in good nick and most of the hard work is done now." Whether he adopted a mock Geordie accent for that first sentence we may never discover.
Mr Watkiss also told the Telewag world that he and Lord Buckley "still have irons in the fire" and that we should not rule out the prospect of one or even two new faces before the season starts proper. The grade two injured Michael Boulding has finally stuck his finger in the pie and pulled out a Bradford plum. Boulding is splashing about in the pool instead of training at the minute and will miss the first few weeks of the new season for definite. Shame we don't play them 'til towards the end of October, eh?
"Keyboard anonymity is a real concern" to Councillor J Fenty (Con) who has chipped in to a Telewag scare story about messageboard criticism of the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust. Dave Otter, who chairs the trust, is a busy man, apparently, and only has about four mates to help him these days. So that is why not a lot has got done lately to raise funds or improve the profile of the trust with the public. Mr Otter said: "The meat of their argument is that nothing is happening at the minute and that we are not communicating well enough. Maybe not, but part of the reason why nothing much is happening – apart from the fact it is the summer, when nothing much happens anyway – is that when we do arrange things, they don't get supported and we end up losing money. What we ask is if these people want to improve things, why don't they come and join us?"
All I can say on this matter is if Mr Fenty acts upon his veiled threat later in the article to try and limit free speech, life will get very interesting because I will be happily detained at her majesty's pleasure before giving in to such thin-skinned and puerile poppycock. Yes, it is a sad indictment of the club's catchment area that people can't afford to contribute an even bigger slice of their meagre income to continually prop up a loss-making enterprise. But that is more to do with the failure of successive governments' regional economic policy and the profligate spending of earlier Town boards than owt else.
Criticism hurts, and yes, the internet gives everyone a foghorn, but there is no possible justification for telling people to shut up and keep their opinions to themselves. We all have to sift out the chaff that is negative bluster posted by the messageboard warriors but there are many grains of pertinent home truth to be found as well. So Messrs Otter and Fenty should stop whining about the people who aggressively point their fingers at the failing status of the GTFC and GTST organisations and should do some serious thinking about how to get a bigger percentage of their potential fanbase actively onside. Public whingeing won't do anything except alienate even more folk. The time you took to have a moan to the Telegraph would have been much more productively spent composing a press release to show the trust in a positive light. Like Gordon Brown you need a plan: and we need to know what it is, mate.
Oh, I forgot – I'm supposed to remind folk to join the Cod Almighty fourth division fantasy football thingy. It's free and it's fun apparently. Send us an email if you want to join. See yer.
Thursday 24 July
GTFC sponsor Young's has been sold in a £1.1bn deal which sees the local seafood firm fall into the hands of Lion Capital – a company belonging to the notorious private equity sector. Given the track record of private equity firms in massive redundancy programmes following their takeovers, it is perhaps surprising to see so renowned a campaigning and caring newspaper as the Grimsby Telegraph give the story only cursory treatment and abdicate its responsibility to provide a balancing quote to the positive spin it dutifully relays from the company's managing director. "Springboard for further growth... fabulous news for the town... great deal all round... hugely successful... premier league deal... more firepower... new era," is the verdict from the Telegraph and Young's MD Jim Cane. John Wilson, a senior organiser with the GMB union, has cited the closure of a processing factory in Hull when private equity firm Permira took over Birds Eye, and said: "GMB want to meet with Lion Capital to talk about the future of Young's Seafood in Grimsby. We want that meeting as soon as possible." By refusing to report this, the Telegraph has failed in its duty to journalism and failed local people.
No, he isn't perfect. Certainly he carries a bit of excess timber at times. Sure, sometimes he taps the ball into the goalkeeper's midriff while his striking partner is screaming for it, unmarked and five yards away square to his left. But Danny North is a player much cherished by the Diary: local born and bred, a Town fan through and through, with a none-too-shoddy 15 league goals in 33 starts, a big heart and a grin wider than the Humber estuary. It is with some interest, then, that we note young Danny taking a coaching session with some under-10s and assuming the role of manager at a new Sunday league side. "I've played on Football Manager on the games console and now I'm going to be doing it for real," the 20-year-old forward told the Grimsby Telegraph, fulfilling the dream of half the male population of the Western world.
Before the Diary heads off to the Indietracks festival tomorrow and Guest Diary steps in, there's just time for a quick dip into the inbox. One act appearing at the festival is Ballboy, whose majestic anthem 'I've Got Pictures of You in Your Underwear' the Diary cribbed from on Tuesday to provide the title at the top of this page, and when Dave Chambers emailed yesterday to refer to it, I was so unprepared for anyone recognising the lyrics that I didn't pick up his gist. "You quoted the irrepressible Ballboy in yesterday's Diary. Or did you not mean that?" My apologies, Dave – and my compliments on your taste. Today's final word, though, goes to Mark Wilson, who has emailed (presumably) in response to this week's story about the Romanian forward who landed a trial with Lincoln City by giving his girlfriend a piggy-pag round their training ground in the nuddy. He says: "My wife's been on my back for 20 years but it never got me a trial with Town." Boom boom! Thanks for reading, folks – I'll see yers next week.
Wednesday 23 July
No sooner had Danny North broken the habit of Town's lifetime at Winterton the other night by both (a) being a striker and (b) scoring a goal before mid-autumn than Martin Butler had equalled his epoch-shattering feat. Not only that, but the Mariners managed a win and some good football in last night's run-out at Gainsborough Trinity, where Butler's 23rd-minute strike wrapped up the scoring following a tasty 20-yarder from the excellent Peter Till in the game's opening minutes. In a selection looking much more like the side that will face Rochdale on 9 August, new signings Chris Llewellyn and Richard Hope also impressed. See Tony Butcher's report for an update on Straight Peter Bore's shorts.
That's all the news that's fit to print today – as the story of how Lincoln City's prospective new Romanian centre-forward secured a trial with the club is certainly unfit for a reputable website such as Cod Almighty – so let's take a look at what Diary readers have been saying in emails. Today's inbox is composed entirely of a single contribution from Dave Chambers, who writes, apropos of I don't know what: "I'm seeing the Diary in a maroon pair of boxer shorts, and a slightly short (or shrunk) Winnie the Pooh T-shirt." Thanks for that, Dave. I really must figure out how to switch this webcam off.
Tuesday 22 July
For all that they signify, which isn't much, the results of Town's pre-season fixtures remain poor – but, unusually, a goal has been scored by one of the club's strikers. In a remarkable departure from the typical pattern of the Mariners' friendly games – whereby the string of draws and defeats throughout July see the team's goals scored only by defenders and midfielders, and none of the strikers can manage one until about the middle of November – the equaliser in last night's 1-1 draw at Winterton Rangers was scored by young centre-forward Danny North. An account from Cod Almighty's match reporter Tony Butcher reveals that the only other incident of note was that Straight Peter Bore's shorts kept falling down, but it is the freakish strike by North – from a cross by Peter Till, who seems to have been the pick of the squad in the pre-season games played so far – that will linger longest in the memory.
In fairness to Town, it was an inexperienced XI that took to the pitch last night, with Myspace Mariners Grant Normington and Drew Rhoades playing the full 90 minutes, Andy Taylor up front and Matthew Bird partnered in central defence by a trialist, Michael Jacklin, from Grimsby Institute. The Telewag's report on the game concludes by pointing out that a stronger team will take on Gainsborough tonight, though the slightly injured trio of Ryan Bennett, Matt Heywood and Paul Bolland may not be risked, and there's always the danger when Town go to Gainsborough that the team coach ends up in Southport.
Time for a quick check of the Diary's inbox now. "Dear Webmaster," begins an email from Eric Gordon, "I am writing to inform you of an exciting business opportunity for your website: My company, Promotion on Web, would like to pay you for helping to promote one of our client's websites. Our mission is to be the leading provider for web promotion solutions online and we are seeking reputable websites. Please contact us for further details on how you can profit from our offer. Best, Eric Gordon, Advertising Consultant, Business Development Department." Dear Eric Gordon, I am not a Webmaster, and Cod Almighty has been called many unpleasant things in our time but never before has anyone dared describe us as "reputable". If we were in it for the money, we'd have long ago taken one of the many much better offers we've had than yours. But thanks anyway. You could always try Black and White Corner if it's still going.
Monday 21 July
Every summer, when the Mariners' inauspicious form in pre-season friendlies causes a rash of pessimism among the club's supporters, the Diary's mind is cast back to the year 2003. Government weapons expert David Kelly was found dead in suspicious circumstances, triggering the Hutton Inquiry; the Eupatoria Planetary Radar was sending a METI message Cosmic Call 2 to the stars of Hip 4872, HD 245409, 55 Cancri, HD 10307 and 47 Ursae Majoris, due to arrive at these solar systems in 2036, 2040, 2044, 2044 and 2049 respectively; and a tremendous-looking clutch of new signings by promising young manager Paul Groves was racking up an impressive run of victories against SD Portmany, Sant Raphael, Lincoln City, King$ton Communication$ FC, Boston United, Halifax Town, Barton Town and Middlesbrough. Oh, and a 1-1 draw against Sunderland. Just a month or two later, of course, the same team was losing 8-1 at Hartlepool en route to a second successive relegation which constituted the most traumatic event for Town fans in an entire generation. The moral of the story: if your team loses 3-1 at Corby in the middle of July, it doesn't mean they're going to have a rubbish season. They probably will anyway, but it's nothing to do with whether they lose 3-1 at Corby in the middle of July.
In any case, Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by third division Oldham – with a headed goal by new signing Richard Hope – found Buckley's battlers in much better shape. The Diary is able to bring you this information only on the account of third parties such as the Grimsby Telegraph, whose account of the match adds that it was watched by 732 people: it would have been at least 733 were it not for Town's bizarre decision to charge ten pounds for admission. True, the Diary may spend most of the year taking the piss out of the suits who run GTFC, but that doesn't automatically give them the right to take the piss out of me in return.
With four signings in five minutes having given a boost, earlier in the summer, to Town's initially catastrophic season ticket sales, can Mariners devotees expect further confidence-boosting moves in the transfer market now that the friendly defeats are unreasonably shaking their optimism? Probably not. The mystery trialist who appeared in the home defence on Saturday did little to secure a contract, and the two forwards Alan Buckley has been pursuing will not be arriving at Blundell Park any time soon, it appears. Sprightly former Aston Villa tennis star Michael Boulding is expected to step up to the third division with bloody Cheltenham Town, says the Mariners' superb new official website, while Delroy Facey has remembered where he left his phone but can't "negotiate a settlement" to leave Gillingham, reports Kent Online, and will stay and fight for a place at Priestfield, which at least means he can't score four times against Town for Lincoln next season.
With half the squad already crocked just two matches in to Town's busier-than-usual pre-season schedule, and the postponed game at Winterton rearranged for tonight – just 24 hours before the Mariners take on Gainsborough Trinity – Lord Alan Buckley has opted to field two separate teams at the games and give them a whole match each. "I want to try and give all the players 90 minutes now and that's why we rearranged the Winterton game. Some will play the full game there and others will tomorrow at Gainsborough," the GTFC manager explains in today's Telewag. Pre-season marks a fine line, of course, between building up your players' fitness and knackering all their hamstrings and stuff. When the Diary returns tomorrow we might have a clearer idea which side of the line Town are coming down on. Bye for now!
Friday 18 July
Last Friday, your Guest Diarist trumpeted – well, tooted anyway – the fact that Town had come through the first week of pre-season unscathed. Since then the first friendly was washed out, the second was a debacle from the Town performance point of view – leading Mr Watkisses to use the word 'dysfunctional' and Lord Buckley to be "very disappointed" with the performance of certain, unnamed players – and Bosh has done his ankle big time. In an interview with Dale on Mariners World, Buckley really put the shits up me as he muttered about how bad the injury looked and that he might have to go in to the market for a replacement. But the official site today reports that the X-ray came back all clear and that the injury will take weeks not months to heal, in all probability.
Buckley sounded concerned that losing the first match to the weather (the Winterton game has been rearranged for this Monday, by the way) will mean that tomorrow's home game against Oldham might be a bit one-sided. Apparently, although the players have done a lot of conditioning work, they need to be taught almost from scratch how to play football again. In the light of that statement a tenner plus petrol and the rest is a big ask from those fans who are not lucky enough to live within walking distance of Blundell Park. I think if you have a season ticket it might be free though. If you have, presumably you will know that; if you don't then it doesn't affect you, gentle reader. I might go, I might not.
Cod Almighty is sponsoring Tom Newey next season. This has been made possible by all you lot who have been kind enough to buy our T-shirts. So if that's you then you are sort of sponsoring him as well. Why Newey? Well, we said we could sponsor somebody from one of three categories: kid, hero or Tom Newey. The Newey category is the sort of player you could not possibly jinx by sponsoring him [we were quite wary of the whole thing after the way we put the hex on Des Hamilton – ed.], i.e. someone so erratic that any outside force could not influence performance either way. The voting was close but Newey it is. Perhaps we can get him to do a guest Diary one week?
The other thing Buckley moaned about, quite rightly, was the fact that he had got a long way down the tracks towards signing an experienced striker last week, only for the player to stop returning his calls. Buckley feels he has too much youth and not enough experience available up front but unless said chap rings him "in the next 48 hours" (which should be up about... now!) he will be crossed off the list.
Well it wouldn't be a Friday in July if we didn't run a story about an ex-Town player, Boston United and possibly dirty money. Last July I ran a story about how Boston were trying to poach former Town terrier and Kinkladze nemesis Wes Parker from Gainsborough. There were rumours of falsified application letters and even that Mr Parker had tried to buy himself out of his Gainsborough contract using monies from we know not where. Well, this season those pesky Pilgrims have had another, much more successful go. Parker is apparently a Skegness-born rabid Boston fan so he has turned down York and been made captain, presumably fulfilling his boyhood dream.
My feeble slack-arsed research for the previous paragraph inevitably led me to visit the always-excellent impsTALK site. Idling away a few minutes, as you do, I was delighted to see the lads have emulated CA and done a Rough Guide to their new division in a new league. It's just a shame Town remain stuck in the same old division all the time these days, so we've lost the will to do them ourselves any more. So if you need a good laugh and feel it might be prudent, due to a lack of confidence about Town's future, to know a bit more about the league Boston have ended up in then here is the place to be. See yer.
Thursday 17 July
"1 down after 65 secs... Town are back!" That, comrades, is the text message that greeted me turning on my mobile phone this morning, writes Idle Diary. And when I turned on my computer this morning, I was discovered Town lost 3-1 at Corby in a 'warm up game'. Smooth Stu Watkiss said after the game (not fumed or mumbled) "it was a poor performance. You could tell it was our first pre-season game. Even allowing for that we looked dysfunctional. The game served it's purpose but it shows we still have a lot of work to do." After all, it is only a glorified training session. That didn't stop the Bosh doing in his ankle, although how seriously has yet to be determined: "My worry is that it could be a ligament problem." My worry too, Danny boy, having picked up a ligament problem myself a few months back, and – aside from it hurting, and oh boy did it hurt – they're awkward buggers to come back from.
The Grimmo Telegraph's report notes several times that Jarman looks trim
is already drumming up the season opener as the visit of the club Ciaran Toner now owns.
So let us take a break from looking at the news, and can you remember a couple of days ago, Chris Llewellyn revealing fans singing his name gets him going? Some of you have had a go at some chants. First up a couple of snappy and topical efforts from Phil Watson:
Chris Llewellyn, Chris Llewellyn,
Certainly a B for effort there, Dr W, although whether they'll last until the start of the season is another matter. Next up, a longer attempt from our resident Leffe quoffing reader, Rob McIlveen:
He lives in Chester and his house ain't sellin'
Chris Llewellyn, Chris Llewellyn,
He knows who Buckley's signed but he ain't tellin'
"In your search for a rhyme with Llewelyn, I suggest you e-mail the legendary Adrian Gurvitz. As a lyricist who produced the following couplet as part of a top 10 hit in 1982, he is surely the man to turn to:
Gonna write a classic
"He could surely have written his 'classic' anywhere else in his house without it affecting the quality of his rhyme. Alternatively, why not drop Feargal Sharkey a line. After all, anyone who is capable of this (be he an Undertone or not) must be able to help you out:
Gonna write it in my attic
And he thinks that I'm a cabbage
"So in the footsteps of my dusty record collection, and for what it is worth, how about:
Because I hate University Challenge
My Perfect Cousin
My name is Chris Llewelyn
"Actually, when you sing this against The Undertones' My Perfect Cousin I think it sounds quite late 70s and promotion from the fourth division-like. Spooky, eh? Fuck me, now I really am seriously housebound."
I'm married to a woman who isn't called Helen
My kids don't want to know about Grimsby
But I'll take them down Meggies and play frisbee.
Last, our own Mat Hare: "What ryhmes with Llewellyn? As he's looking for a new abode, what about 'dwelling'? Or 'swelling' if he has an ankle/knee injury. Telling, smelling, selling, Welwyn (Garden City) – the list goes on. I'll let someone else build them into a song though." You're like a guest on Ready Steady Cook emptying their bag for the chef to do something with their ingredients, Mat. If you can cook something up with the offerings of our occasional betting master (and emphasis on the 'master' there), you know where we are.
And, finally, we're having a go at the Torygraph's fourth division fantasy football this coming season. And we'd love, love it, if we could beat you! Well, maybe not that far, but we'd be chuffed if our readers joined us. We've set a super league up called 'Cod Almighty', so if you want an invite drop us a line with your email address (which we won't use for marketing purposes, honest).
That's my load for the time being. I'm off to spend however long it takes to get a result at the Headingley test match, so I'll hand you over to Guest Diary for tomorrow. If you're off to the test, why not let me know, and we could do that "cor! you look a lot different to what I imagined!" thing and get all glum about Town during the rain breaks! Cheers!
Wednesday 16 July
Your Idle Diarist is lost. What's prompted this defence of the supporters trust from Councillor John? The time I spend daily slumped at a computer, and therefore online, is far less than it was five years ago (although the gain in daily bodily movement and a less achy back over that time seems to be at odds with a waistline that has grown two inches). But I still have time to whistle my way through the usual GTFC news sources and feel up-to-date with affairs. But this? The first I've caught wind. Is it a letter in the Grimsby Telegraph? Has a halfwit gobshited on a messageboard? Did someone wolf whistle at a trust board member in the street? Whatever method, can someone let us know. We told the club last week we had £400 to put their way from you lot buying our T-shirts, and no response yet. And since an email hasn't garnered a reply...
How anyone can be critical of the trust during that 'difficult period', who knows. The amount that body raised despite accepted indifference in the town towards the club was laudable. Fenty's public support of the trust is just, just a shame such provocation has prompted it. But then again Fenty and the club got away lightly during the tax debt situation. As the company who owed the debt, the club should have been leading the appeals. Restructuring the debts, having the plan to pay them off was a required duty. But seeking the independent trust to do the appealing smacks of delegating their dirty work, especially given most of the club's backroom staff have remained the same over the past ten years and must have been privy to the issue.
Many fans did help bolster the appeal, directly and indirectly. In-between working my knackers off to earn enough to have a roof over the family's head, I paid for tickets to torture mates with games they were reluctant to attend, paid an annual sub to the trust, subscribed to things like the Gold Bond and bought more tickets for the Grand National annual raffle than I should. Many others did the same. Sorry, it wasn't more money or more time, John. Some of us just couldn't and still can't give any more than we did and still do. There's a fine line between helping out and feeling used, leading to disillusionment. Talking of which...
The superb new official site carries their latest attempt at undermining the GTFC brand values, asking you to bid for their – and this is a direct quote – "junk" on eBay. Roll on up, suckers, and buy any old crap! Still, at least they're appeasing us by charging only a tenner to watch two glorified training exercises dressed up as meaningless games. Maybe once the debt is paid off the club can sort out its public image. Although that's a proposal that's been on the cards as long as the new stadium.
Are you particularly good at sums? Neil Woods needs your help to check his workings so Californian youngster Dallas Moore
can join up: "We are still trying to get the [international] clearance sorted out and may be close to finding a way with it. The problem is that no-one is really fully clear on the rules at this level – even the FA and Football League. The rules seem to change every year and you need to be a mathematician to understand it all." And if Woods cannot work out a way for Moore to be playing in the black and white stripes immediately, it could simply a case of waiting until autumn when the young defender turns 18 and can sign up as a senior pro. The amount Woods has built this lad up, he must be something special. As Nana Stevens used to say: the best comes to those that wait.
And, so, belatedly the public facing side of Town's pre-season gets under way tonight in Corby (a long trip to Northamptonshire Sir Alan explains as simply accepting an invitation from someone he knows). We'll cover that in tomorrow's Diary, as well bringing you an update on our hunt for A Chant For Chris (see yesterday's Diary, and keep them coming!). Toodle loo!
Tuesday 15 July
Breath easy, fellow Mariner. Idle Diary believes Alan Buckley has everything under control, and is – as they say – building from the back: "We had a lot of hype last summer about a search for a striker and we waited to get Martin Butler. I have spoken to a couple of forwards but there's no panic or anything. My priority was to sort the defence out and we've done that with three new faces to bolster us." And those fans who question where the creativity in the centre of the team will come from next season (I'm not even going to qualify that with "since Ciaran Toner left"), Buckers is fancying a bit of Barnsley battler Simon Heslop. Despite the midfielder training with Rochdale, the Town gaffer flicked through his modern management phrase book and then asked to be kept "in the loop" about the lad's future.
Winger or forward ("I'm better off out wide, or pushing on up front.") Chris Llewellyn is house hunting for a place closer to Blundell Park than Chester, so he can get settled in the area with his family. "It was quite emotional on the Sunday before I came over here. The kids were crying 'don't go, don't go' before I left. Hopefully it won't be for long." We hope so too – we'll get behind any bloke man enough to reveal his emotional side. But you too should get behind him: "Getting the fans behind you is an important part of any footballer's game. If you hear them singing your name, it gives you so much confidence." As the Grimmo Telegraph dust off the unused "Make Some Noise For The Boys" posters and stickers to gee up a noisy start to the season, the first challenge of the season for Town fans has been: to sing a chant about him we need something that rhymes with Llewellyn. Any ideas?
Already the super new official site is dreaming of some new content after tomorrow night's friendly with Corby Town. Quite wisely, given past navigational crimes, the SNOS declines to include a link for directions to Corby's ROCKingham Stadium. Yes, ROCK! Although it looks more like Bradford Park Avenue's home or, closer to home, the warm and welcoming King George V stadium than a ROCK venue.
And, finally, it's sad news as one-time Town loanee Michael Keane has been sacked for being overweight. "Keane received a letter from [his club, St Patrick's Athletic] earlier this year instructing him to lose weight and was given a target to aim towards. Failing to meet that goal was the reason offered for his dismissal," illuminates the Irish Independent. "In his defence, the player will argue that he hasn't missed a training session during his time with the club." Although €3,000 a week certainly could buy a lot of pies to make that weight back up.
Monday 14 July
It's official! Delroy Facey is definitely joining Town today! And how does Idle Diary know? A fishmonger accosted Guest Diary on his way t'bank this morning and told him so. And Guest Diary told me! So it must be true! Which is as concrete as the Tellywag's idle speculation and theorising on Saturday. We're still informed that Facey prefers somewhere less out of the way (ie. closer to an Ikea) like, say, Walsall or even doing naff all at Gillingham, but let's wait and see, eh.
Season ticket sales "breached the £300,000 barrier" over the weekend. For that amount of money you'd expect a barrier to give out in the face of a flood or a bouncing bomb or a great big lizard mutated by nuclear waste, not 500 people storming Fortress Blundell Park over two days to sign up in the hope Peter Bore decides to get his act together. But, well done you, the 1800 people of North-East Lincolnshire who have risen to the challenge of pledging to attend Blundell Park for the forthcoming campaign.
There's neither drainage nor sandbags at Winterton Rangers, as Town's first summer friendly on Friday was declared a wash out. After a week dodging dog shit at Weelsby Woods, three players have already cited injury concerns. The Mighty Bosh reckons the match's cancellation will be a help and he was already looking forward to the game at Corby on Wednesday. Good old Boshy! Admission prices for the home friendlies against Oldham and Lincoln have been set at a tenner a go, and for the former game the club's only opening up the Fizzy Lager Stand, whether that persuades or indeed dissuades you.
And, finally, you can always rely on the superb new official site for a laugh over one of their many oversights. Town's 'official online bookmakers' bet365 – from this example, a company that clearly shares the brand values our beloved bank-rolling Councilloring Chairman believes his club exude – have the Mariners at 11/2 for promotion. Meanwhile Luton, currently starting the season on minus 30 points, are 10/1 to go up. See you tomorrow.
Friday 11 July
It's Friday; it's five to five and then it will be time to set off for Winterton to see our beloved Mariners in action for the first game in what promises to be another interesting Town season. All the first team squad are going says the superb new official site, which names twenty-two names and then goes on to confirm you can watch the match for a fiver. So no-one troubled by injury in the first week of pre-season training. The OS even provides navigational direction that sounds plausible. Things are really looking up, folks!
Lord Buckley has been following the laws of business management. His strategy to get Town out of the basement is to achieve it playing passing football. His tactical objectives are to forge a miserly defence and create attacking opportunities down the flanks. Operationally he must be worried about central midfield and whether he has goalscoring forwards. Every manager worries about whether his strikers will do the business, and to your Guest Diarist it seems he will be lucky to find anyone who is prepared to sign for us and better than what we already have. The midfield issue is more complicated. On paper we already have what we need. But that statement assumes Bolland gets back to being Bolland, and Boshell or Clarke deliver to their potential week in, week out. The players have had a good long break so that, with a good pre-season, may get the Bolland mojo working again. It is a fact that we need it. Our midfield needs to win possession and to be confident and creative when they have it. That eases the pressure on our central defenders mightily.
And Mr Bolland, whose ears must be slightly pink by now, has been chatting to the Grimsby Telegraph. Bolland says he is glad the first match has come at the end of the first week proper of training, and that he enjoys playing 4-4-2. What is on his mind though, like mine, is which two Buckley will settle on as his central pairing. Let's hope this climate of competition generates a positive result.
Going back to our strike force there is similar, fascinating competition. Notwithstanding Buckley's suggestions that he is actively looking for a goalscorer (which may of course be a media campaign only, on the instructions of Mr Wraith, who must be concerned at the reduced volume of season tickets sold so far), will this be the year that Danny North gets his act together and Jarman and/or Taylor realise their obvious potential? I'm sorry folks, but I have given up on Mr Bore. I just can't see it happening for him. And with the Lump gone (sob), Butler has to step up, stay fit and start scoring. But Butler must feel happier about the service he will get, surely? If we get to the ball to him in the right place and at the right time he will score goals. As for Jarman, the man who relishes taking the ball down on the half-turn, which defenders hate, get yourself fit, man, and the division is your oyster. Come on Town! See yer.
Thursday 10 July
Hi there. Idle Diary here, although Busy Doing Work So This Is A Brief Diary would be more apt today.
The recent glut of fresh blood into Alan Buckley's body of players hasn't stopped, with the chief surgeon himself dripfeeding info that he's told Michael Boulding to be patient while he pursues another operation: "We know what [Boulding] can do but, at the moment, I have a different type of striker to speak to." Before you get excited about this report, and us hearing from several reliable sources Town are the unnamed party, the club shop is holding back on stocking up on the letters F A C E and Y, as Sir Alan struggles to convince the player that GTFC is the club that will show him some R E S P E C T in the form of some extra wonger. And if that sounds a bit defeatist, we're just reflecting that the odds on him signing are as likely as finding an AB- blood donor.
The OS carries the manager's provisional squad numbers, possibly found scribbled on the back of a paper napkin in McMenemy's given the disclaimer "These numbers are subject to change." The number 9 space is still blank, which you could read that Buckley is actually looking for his first choice striker. Or you might not.
Another update on season ticket sales:
As the club keep pointing out you've only until close of business on Saturday to take advantage of the cheaper prices. The local paper seems to have caught OS Syndrome declaring "the actual number of season tickets sold is around the 1,300 mark, which is boosted by an additional 200 sold through the Town commercial department, taking it up to 1,500" let us know. 'Actual' in that context would suggest 1,500, but if you know better, enlighten us. Are you one of the few who haven't renewed your season ticket? We're curious why that is, and the club probably is as well, so would you mind telling us?
Which brings my contribution to your week's lunchtime read to a close. Tune in tomorrow, when Guest Diary will see you into your Friday afternoon and give us the latest on the first pre-season game at Winterton. No pressure, mate, but the season starts with you!
Wednesday 9 July
Does anybody ever see a UFO when it rains?
Greetings Earthlings! I have come from afar and I like what I see.
This is Deviant Diary calling earth from a tin can far above your world. Sensors indicate carbon-based life forms in the region you call Blun Dellp'ark that were not present during my last visit. All is the same, yet different. Send down a search party.
Enough cod fripperies, what news shall ye olde replacement Diary bring you this ninth day of the month of July in the year 2525? Any news of any more replacements? The New Nick is to replace the less than devilish old Nick. Newly committed to the Mariners' cause Nicholas De Fenton is ruminating upon life, the universe and everything of being a Town centre-back. Today may be the Feast of the Martyrdom of the Bab, but young Bob Atkinson is but a rotting apple of a memory now we have potential H-bombs in the central defence of our realm; and Fenton knows it. Will Nice Nick be around on Friday? Town promise a full squad will be at wet Winterton, but will crumbling Fenton be amongst them? Will he get on the bus, or forget about us, and put the blame on Buckley? Where there's a will there's a way to Winterton.
On a windless day for news, thoughts turn to the innocence of lost youth. For those still pining for the mysteries of Joe Lightowler the riddle of the sands has been revealed. He was at Scarborough all along. And now he isn't. Town's old youths are crawling over lower-lower-lower league football, though all roads seem to lead to Bust'un eventually. Parker and Parker? Yes, m'lady, they're there too.
There's a message coming through on sub-space channel 9. Are you lonesome tonight? Is this you?
Pack your brolly, strap down your hairpiece: football is back.
Tuesday 8 July
...so your Idle Diarist was explaining to a work colleague why I find Peter Bore so frustrating. This colleague isn't at all well versed in the ins and outs of Grimsby Town Football Club, so I tried to speak in a language he understands: music. "He's like Polly Harvey, you know?" Do you? "One day he could get to the polished, incredibly likeable, and critically acclaimed Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea stage of his career. But at the moment he's stuck at promising debut – Dry if you will – and has been for a year or so. Hopefully Alan Buckley will be his Steve Albini. And next season will be his Rid of Me, and," with more hope than realism, "maybe To Bring You My Love combined." Do you ever find yourself having to analogise to explain Town things to people?
Anyway, I can't speak for the whole of the Cod Almighty team, but I do so love old things. Hair wax rather than hair gel. Vinyl rather than CDs or tape. Those days when you could light up a fag in the middle of a three course meal and no-one would leave the room. Nana Stevens stuck in her bigoted, Sun-reading ways. Blundell Park. I like to sit back in my idle moments, wherever, and wish the world was black and white and everyone moved around in a jerky fashion to a jaunty piano soundtrack. Ahhh. Memories are made of this, and so agrees the Grimsby Central Library. During July you can visit a photograph exhibition plucked from the library's local history vaults, which will "provide a visual record of the history of the club from Victorian times to the present day." It's simple, it's genius, it'll be popular, and why the hell the club doesn't have something like this on show as a permanent fixture at Blundell Park? Because FentyDome exhibition boards lined up along Imperial Avenue would express the chairman's forward, not stuck in the past, thinking! Anyway, the exhibition's free, open 10am until 3pm during the week, 10am to 2pm on Saturday. Let us know what you think if you go, because I can't get over to Grimmo this month.
Talking of new grounds, want a laugh? The Franchise Scummers' plans for Premiership immortality have been stalled by the credit crunch. I bet they have a room set aside with loads of forward thinking exhibition boards as well! They're not alone in seeing their development plans stalled by the current financial climate, but not a peep from Town about whether their new stadium plans, and season ticket sales, are affected by this as well.
In typical fashion, we have to rely on another club to inform us of our very own home fixture changes. The Chesterfield game on August bank holiday Saturday now kicks off at noon, on the advice of police. Which, personally, means my first game of the season will have to wait a few more weeks. Ah well. Buckley teams always start slowly, don't they? Hang on. The club's just put this up. The Lincoln game in March is also a noon kick-off. So write that into your 2009 diary, if you're organised enough to already have one.
And finally, prime minister elect* David Cameron wants responsibility from the fat and the poor. Now if only he'd addressed that towards Ciaran Toner, preferably at any point during his Town career.
* not my opinion, merely that of newspaper polls
Monday 7 July
Idle Diary here and feeling a lot of love for Nick Hegarty. He's been with the club with what feels like forever, and he's been on the verge of breaking through to the first team action for what feels like for ever! Last season's 32 starts seemed a just reward for his perseverance during a stop-start career tainted by injury-related absences and nomadic spells, long lonely journeys spent on loan at a number of clubs. [That number being one – ed.] A bit like Doctor Who felt at the end of Saturday's episode, possibly. While it's always gratifying to see people put their prejudices aside so that minorities, like gingers, can have a worthwhile role within society, Heggers has proved a more-than-useful winger: quickish, a variety of deliveries from out wide which a front pairing would devour, and he's outlasted Ciaran Toner at the club.
In timely fashion, with the club's pre-season kicking off at Winterton on Friday night, Heggers reveals his desires to keep fit enough during the summer so he can be in tip-top form ("it isn't easy street doing all the running and fitness work but most players do a bit themselves over the summer") and head off competition for a first-team place: "I expected the gaffer to bring someone into midfield, among other positions, so it wasn't a surprise. Competition for places is good and we have that in a few areas now." And reflecting on the past and the present the lad isn't resting on his laurels either: "I was happy with how things went for me last season – it was the best season of my career so far... Now I want to get even better and even more games next season." Good luck with that, lad!
Incidentally, the competition Heggers talks of, Chris Llewellyn, speaks to the club's superb new official site: "It is nice to be sorted. Obviously Hopey is here and that will help me to settle in and I also know Nick Fenton from playing for Wales." That's it. If you want any more, you just haven't earned yet, baby. You'll have to subscribe to Mariners World. No word on whether Gaz Cohen sorted him, by the way, but maybe Discoid Dale could ask him for us.
With Town's warm-up game at Mansfield Town falling victim to recent events at the Stags, Blundell Park officials have been quick to arrange an alternative to watching The Dark Knight on Friday 25 July. Town will twist again at Farsley Celtic, like they did last summer. You're also warned that the friendly against Oldham kicks off at 1pm.
Time to turn out the Diary postbag onto the table, and just the one scrap of electronic mail has dropped out, from 'Football Scout (green jumper)/Special Agent'. "Just to say I think you Grimsby Town supporters are the Bizz but I am just warning you about Roberto Stockdale. Attacking full-back he is not... well, I never saw him go past anyone last season for Tranmere Rovers. He could be better at centre-half to replace Jason Skittle (legend)... well, in the lower leagues anyway. Back to Roberto: Need to warn you, the boy has a problem. He chops anything down around the edge of the box and in most cases the opposition scores! You have been warned!" Consider us warned! "Keep a record of how many fouls Roberto gives away around the box over the season... scary!" And before you csn say "where's the pointless chart, Idle Diary?" our correspondent finishes off with the sweetest sign-off so far this summer: "Best wishes to you all and you're worth a tenner each way of course to get promoted." You can't beat a bit of love and the promise of a Town-related gamble.
And, finally, since your regular flavoured Diary asked on Thursday, here's the updated season ticket sales chart. Byyeee!
Friday 4 July
Let's get the filler story out of the way first for once, gentle reader. He who is tired of Guinness is tired of life. But Darren Mansaram may just have been seduced by his new club's flashy, nay tawdry, website when abandoning life in the emerald isle to join Leigh Genesis (the most forward thinking non-League football club in the UK) this week. If you hanker after seeing Flash hit the back of the net, you can see a few of his Irish goals here, complete with deafening soundtrack. God, he's 24 already – doesn't time fly?
Now to real news: Town's pre-season friendly against Mansfield has been cancelled. Neither club elaborate on why on their equally superb official websites. By the way, Mansfield manager Paul Holland may find out if he still has a job today as the press conference to announce the takeover of the club by a few local Mansfield-supporting businessmen happens later on. Holland is hoping to hang on to striker Mr M Boulding for the upcoming non-League campaign despite the former racketeer telling him that 15 Football League clubs have enquired about his services.
Town's super new official website has given us the odds for promotion next season, with the Mariners assessed as firmly mid-table just behind Aldershot and Barnet. Damn those hard-headed bookies! Can't they just see how Town's squad has been strengthened, how the Buckley magic dust sprinkled over the last 18 months will take effect now, how great and successful next season will inevitably be as we play sweeping, flowing 4-4-2 again? And all done without a single trialist. God forbid a return to those dark days when we had three or four bleeding trial players every week, it seemed like, and we spent pre-season friendlies desperately trying to work out who was who only to discover that Jason Ipoua and Charley Farley hadn't turned up after all.
And Mariners World has sprung into life again with the reassuringly soft voice of the ever-unseen Dale politely enquiring of Mr Bolland how the first day back went. In a relaxed interview, Bolland says that everyone was glad to be back and that the new signings seem like nice blokes. He didn't mention missing Toner but performed a neat verbal variation on the 'football is a funny old game' routine with regard to seeing him again at the start of next season. The Bollands are expecting a baby on 6 August by the way, but your Guest Diarist has no idea if this is a first for them. Which set me thinking that Soccerbase omits a lot of useful stuff that the average fan needs to know. Like where players live, whether they have family ties and, on a more serious note, whether they are left-footed and what is their favourite meal.
Hardly a teaser but who said this to the Telegraph yesterday? "I like taking responsibility – I've always been that sort of player. I did my best out there but it was only going to be a matter of time before other teams would suss out..." Ooh I am unfair sometimes. See yer.
Thursday 3 July
The Diary has spent much of this morning turning over in my head names such as Pat Glover, John Oster, Darren Barnard and Danny Coyne. For why? Because to this fairly illustrious list of Wales Mariners has been added the name of Chris Llewellyn. Who he? Depending who you ask, he is a left winger, a midfielder or a striker, lately of Relegated Wrexham FC, who is about to follow his erstwhile teammate Richard Hope all the way to Cleethorpes and sign a two-year contract with Grimsby Town, and won two caps for the Welsh in friendlies at the end of the 2003–04 season. A half-decent mini-biography on Town's superb new official website outlines the rest of Llewellyn's career with Norwich and Hartlepool and then says: "Real name: Chris Llewellyn", helpfully enlightening those of us who had been labouring under the delusion that the player's real name was, in fact, Chris Llewellyn. Personally I'm delighted, if only because a key strategem used by the Diary when playing Football Manager is to cherry-pick the easy-to-steal best players from newly relegated teams, and I feel vindicated that my example is being followed by no less estimable a fellow manager than Lord Alan Buckley himself.
If only Idle Diary were here, he could have made another of his line graphs to illustrate the rate of this year's season ticket sales and reveal that, despite the breezy rhetoric continuing to emanate from GTFC and the Grimbo Telegraph, there seems to be a worrying decline in take-up this summer compared with last. Today's Telewag reports that sales have now "topped the £160,000 figure" but persists in refusing to offer the sort of context given by Idle's marvellous diagrams. Perhaps no graphics are needed, though, to understand the simple arithmetic that the 2,000 season tickets typically sold in recent seasons, minus the 800 shifted so far this summer, equals a shortfall of Fentydome-funding proportions. Get them remaining transfers sewn up quick, Buckley, before the chairman realises what's going on and slashes yer wage budget.
Speaking of sewing things up, Cod Almighty's redoubtable T-shirt Man has been in touch to point out that, because the fashion sale now under way on this website is a clear-out of excess stock (I think he wants his airing cupboard back to do some homebrew), Grimsby Town Football Club will benefit more than usually from the profits. CA is not even looking to recoup its production costs on these shirts – the sale is a clear-out of excess stock – and so for every shirt sold in the current five quid sale, the club we love will receive £4 (the other quid covering Paypal and postage). The sale will run for four weeks only, or until the stock runs out, so I think the general message here is to get yer arse in gear.
"Dear me, Diary. I had expected better from such a well-informed, articulate, and normally balanced daily column." That's exactly what my teachers used to say at school as they sadly shook their heads, and it's also the beginning of an email from Rob McIlveen, which continues: "But since when is 22,489 (according to the Ekberg book), '18,000-plus' for the championship-clinching game against Exeter?" Rob goes on to cite some attendance figures from the following season, challenging the Diary's assertion yesterday that most of the glory-hungry five-minute fans who turned out that day had fucked off within a month or two of the following season, and proving that it was actually about half, rather than most. Notwithstanding the exact percentages, my point remains about the 'softness' of the Mariners' oft-cited big-match support (and strictly speaking, 22,489 is 18,000-plus). "The issue of whether Town are well-supported or not is surely not decided by raw attendance figures," Rob concludes. "Shouldn't this issue be decided by looking at what percentage of a club's realistic potential catchment turn up to watch the game? I'm sure such data are available somewhere. And if not, then why not?" The trouble with the percentage-of-population discussion, I find, is that it tends to fizzle out into disagreements about the boundaries of the catchment area (and the Diary concluded long ago that most Grimbarians are simply miserable football-hating bastards), but if any of you fancy trying to take the whole thing further, keep the emails coming to email@example.com.
That's all from me again until a week on Monday because I'm going camping next week on the shores of Morecambe Bay. Keep hitting this page from tomorrow, though, for daily updates from Guest, Idle, Deviant or Postgraduate Durham Diaries, and remind me not to get my directions from the SNOS or I might end up in Gainsborough. Toodles!
Wednesday 2 July
With an entire week having passed since Town's last dip into the transfer market, itchy-fingered fans are sure to be filling messageboard megabytes with their anxieties about the team's ability to progress next season. And just in time, a piece in today's Grimsby Telegraph finds Lord Alan Buckley in characteristically relaxed form – "I've spoken to one or two agents about a couple of players and we'll have to wait and see what now develops" – and yet prepared to add a note of urgency: "I know that I would like to get one or two other things going sooner rather than later." The Telewag focuses on another reassurance from the manager – that young Ryan Bennett will still get to play football in 2007–08 despite the arrival of somewhat less young Richard Hope and Matt Heywood – but it is noteworthy that the Mariners boss has chosen to emphasise his ongoing endeavours to improve his squad ahead of the big kick-off in five weeks' time. Perhaps he is anticipating the restlessness of the messageboards through some kind of managerial sixth sense – because, of course, he doesn't go on your internet.
"Never go back," they say, but the Buckster, as we have seen from his three spells in charge at Blundell Park and two at Walsall, is not a man to pay heed to such sentiments. Later this month he will go back again – to his home town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, and take with him a Mariners team to play the local semi-pro side in a pre-season friendly. The visit to Eastwood Town has now been scheduled, and anyone wishing to see what GTFC missed out on in Miles Chamberlain had best note down the date of Wednesday 30 July. If you're running out of space on your Billy bookcase for all your Roly and John DVDs, Eastwood is quite handy for the Nottingham Ikea as well.
"Didn't Mr Fenty recently give the official view on Town's rightful place?" begins an email to the Diary from Steve Lang. "Top end of League Two or bottom half of League One, didn't he say? If so, why do we need a 20,000-capacity stadium? Perhaps he and AB are not singing from the same hymn sheet? Or maybe Mr Stockdale was being strung a line? If so, he'll soon twig should we go into the new season with no more new signings! Scunny and Colchester have recently discovered that gates of 6,000 or so are no longer enough to survive/thrive for five or six seasons in the Championship. Last season Forest had a wage cap of £4,000 a week and lost players like Kris Commons and Sammy Clingan to Championship clubs who are willing to pay significantly more than that. If that is happening to a club with weekly gates of 20,000 or more, what chance have the Grimsbys of this world got?" Thanks Steve, and speaking of the Fentydome, the Diary can't help worrying that an all eggs/one basket-type danger may be arising. Given the old anchor tenant conundrum in the present economic climate, Town might end up needing a better marketing plan B than some questionably designed posters on the walls of fish and chip shops.
Antony Chapman's fascinating archaeological find in yesterday's Diary has prompted Chris Beeley to do some digging of his own: "and, lo and behold, I found the programme for the first game I ever attended, Town v Halifax, 18/11/78 (I was 10, bit of a late starter, sorry, my dad was at sea a lot). We won 2-1, I was hooked, thus ensuring a lifetime of football misery for me with the occasional fantastic, against-the-odds, adrenalin-pumping miracle (Anfield 2001, Goodison 1984, etc). We were in proper Division 4 then and riding high, fifth behind Wimbledon, Reading, the hated Barnsley, and Portsmouth. We went up that year and Brolly's heroics against Everton followed the next season. Heady days. Attendances in the early part of that '78–79 season were about what they are now – so much for my memories of heaving throngs on the Pontoon lifting me off my feet!" Thankyou for that too, Chris. Town have never been that well supported, really, have they? The older generation bang on about McMenemy taking the players to the docks, but when 18,000-odd turned up for the title decider in '72, most of them had fucked off again a month or two into the following season. I wonder if many other potential fans whose dads were on the trawlers lacked Chris's persistence and drifted away from the game.
So how do these two readers reckon we're going to get on in 2008–09? "I think Buckley's shored up the defence with his three signings so far," says Chris, "so if Jarman maintains his progress and Butler stays fit and interested, I can see us going close next season. Come on Town!" Steve sounds more cautious but ultimately predicts a similar sort of outcome: "I reckon that a valiant, but ultimately unsuccessful, stab at the play-offs is the best we can expect from the squad as it stands now." Keep your emails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org, folks, and you might even get your jaded and fed up Diary excited again come August.
Tuesday 1 July
It was Sergeant Whittle, in the boardroom, with the lead piping! Games of Cluedo probably won't be given a whole new dimension with the news that your favourite Shearer-bashing former GTFC captain is to train as a plumber while he plays part-time for Harrogate Town next season, but it's quite a good opening line for today's Diary, and happily for the Grimsby Telegraph, the plumbing profession also offers a tremendous line in puns about plugging leaky defences and new opportunities in the pipeline. "It's something I'm interested in after my time in civil engineering after leaving school," our Justin tells the Telewag, where the sports desk must now be ruing having missed the chance to chuck in a load of lines about quality delivery when Mark Lever became a postman. "I know I'll miss the day-to-day involvement when the season comes around but I'll be keeping an eye on the scores and how Town are getting on," concludes a wistful Whitster. Hard to imagine someone like Jason Crowe saying the same thing, somehow, isn't it?
Speaking of the totemic former Town captain, that omnipresent Cod Almighty T-shirt Man informs the Diary that sales of our new Justin Whittle summer fashion garment are going well, though I for one would like to see the T-shirt expanded into an entire range of Whittle wear, including cap, camouflage body warmer, combat boots and grenade holder. It's what all the cool kids on the Nunny are wearing this season y'know. Meanwhile, I can also inform you that other designs in the CA T-shirt range are now featuring in a super summer sale, offering you the possibly-once-in-a-lifetime chance to get your mitts on our anti-franchise football and Alan Buckley's black and white army designs for just a fiver apiece. All profits to GTFC, remember. Here's the link if you're interested.
One of the best-run clubs in England, Exeter City, have just returned to our level after a spell in the Conference, and as their fans look forward to a bright future in the Football League, taking on the likes of glamorous Grimsby, their local paper has run an interesting piece looking at the fortunes of the two clubs since the last time Town met the Grecians. "On November 13 2004, Exeter City beat Grimsby Town 1-0 at St James's Park," the Express & Echo reminds us, and two rounds later the Devon club were making history with a remarkable goalless draw at Old Trafford (albeit in front of just 67,551 spectators, some way shy of the 76,962 stadium record held by ours truly). "Finishes of 15th and 16th in the last two years may be the best a club with recent financial problems could hope for, but Buckley would have been conscious of an expectant Mariner fanbase used to success," is the outsiders' perspective on recent times at Blundell Park. I'm not sure I go all the way with the Express & Echo about a promotion challenge for Town in 2008–09 but it's an interesting read; and the Diary wouldn't be at all surprised to see Exeter promoted again within two or three years. What do you reckon?
Paddy Grant is one Town fan tempted by optimism if his email to the Diary last week is anything to go by. He begins with a quote from the excellent-looking Robbie Stockdale, who said after joining the Mariners the other week: "Alan sold me the club and his ambition and the unfinished business that he has to get the club promoted back up the leagues." Paddy responds: "If anything fills me with a small amount of excitement this year it is the fact that Mr Buckley really does wish to take the club places. Let's just hope he's good to his word."
Antony Chapman takes the hope a step further – by taking a step back in time. "The central heating system is being replaced," he writes, "the house is upheaved with carpets and floorboards up everywhere, and I have just been handed a small, wizened piece of newspaper found under the floorboards. Amazingly it contains the football results and league tables. Probably October 1927. The Mariners in the second division, 16th out of 22: P10 W1 D5 L4 F15 A21 Pts 7. Looks like a reasonable attack but poor defence. Charles Ekberg's book tells me that they finished 11th that season with 40 points: W14 D12 L16 F69 A63. They were promoted the following season. Chelsea and Man City were the top two in the second division after 10 games. Newcastle and Bury were top of the first division. South Shields, Nelson, Newport, New Brighton, Durham, Southport, Barrow and Ashington were all in the 3rd S or N. More important, Town's game had been at Hull, in front of 24,000, where we won 1-0 thanks to a goal by Jackie Bestall. Still the only Mariners player to have a road named after him. George Tweedy should have been similarly honoured. And how about that right-back who retired recently?
"I reckon the (real) second division is about our rightful place. Let's hope we get there soon. Keep up the good work," concludes Antony. Thanks for sharing your find. So how optimistic or otherwise are you feeling, gentle reader, about the season and seasons to come? Is the second division really our rightful place? Do we even have a rightful place? Let's talk! Email email@example.com and spill your feelings all over the Diary.