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Diary - June 2008
Monday 30 June
Regular Diary reporting back in for dooty SIR! And just like the stormcloud that synchronises with your picnic, all the exciting transfer activity that took place in my absence seems to have come to an abrupt end the minute I returned to the Diary hotseat. No offence to the Myspace Mariners, but the news that Town's youth team will face their nouveau-riche counterparts from King$ton Communication$ FC in the first round of the Puma Youth Alliance Cup Northern Section quickens the pulse a little less than last week's fantastic news that GTFC have closed a deal to get shot of Ciaran 'Chocolate Fireguard' Toner. Doubtless the lazy sod will have an inspired first few weeks with Rochdale, and it would represent a major shock for the player not to score at least once when his new club visits Cleethorpes on the first day of next season, but once he's back in his comfort zone Dale fans can look forward to an endlessly disheartening sequence of dispossessions as Toner wastes a promising position by clumsily running straight in to an opposing defender, and then wastes a promising position by clumsily running straight in to an opposing defender, and then wastes a promising position by clumsily running straight in to an opposing defender...
While the Diary was laid low with a nasty case of work, you readers continued to send emails this way with your hopes and dreams, interesting questions and savage broadsides denouncing the administrative practices of Grimsby Town Football Club. Matt Pakes, for one, was disappointed with the execution of Town's current offer of a half-price shirt with a Mariners World subscription. "I followed the vague instructions on the page to 'email the club'. Three email addresses later I got a response from that Dale bloke asking for my account details. So I sent some back, including one indicating that my subscription is up for renewal on the 30th of August. At almost lightning speed I received a reply saying that I would only be able to claim my shirt 10 days after the 30th. So despite not claiming a shirt for last season with this year's subscription, I now have to wait a whole two months and a bit for this season's. Screw that I'll pay full price and hope GTFC puts the money to something useful, like a defender." At least your wish was granted on the latter, eh, Matt?
We'll get through more of your emails later in the week, but for now we'll finish with Martyn Wyburn's. "Given the slow pace of season ticket sales and Town's form over the last few years I'd like to ask this question (although in an Eeyore sort of way I don't expect an answer): are the supporters getting the team they deserve or is the team getting the support it deserves?" Well, readers, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answers to that one, but in the meantime here's the Diary's twopenn'orth. It utterly shamed our town, in the early 2000s, that no more than five or six thousand people would turn out to see a second-flight football team, and we've ended up a fourth-division club because we have fourth-division support (to go along with some fourth-division executive decision-making, of course). Support should be unconditional, and the only way fans can help to make a rubbish football team better is to keep going to watch it, so they can use the ticket money to attract better players. Except all those fans who've just bought their first season ticket for King$ton Communication$ FC, of course, for whom top-flight football is the unjust reward for the locals' steadfast refusal to support their team for the first 104 years of its existence. Football, she's a cruel mistress. I'm off for a cup of tea. See you tomorrow.
Friday 27 June
Well folks, today we have old news, new news and a soupηon of unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.
First of all, can it be really likely that portly cast-off Ciaran Toner will return to Blundell Park on the very first day of next season as a Spotlander? The Grimsby Telegraph reports that the lazy, overweight non-trier may put pen to paper as soon as Monday, so your Guest Diarist has to suppose it is. Town have reached a deal with Mr Toner and it was reported yesterday by the superb new official website that his contract has been cancelled. No doubt, the renowned eager-to-please when-he-feels-he-needs-to-impress Toner will have the game of his life against Town but, nonetheless, life without him feels good. And I'm sure he wasn't the cheapest tool in the box an' all, so now we have room in the playing budget for a proper creative chap for our midfield, eh?
'Tis said that the sun never sets on Cod Almighty and this was proved last night. Whilst us folk snored away, the Kiwi office of this website was skiving off work and reading the Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser. As you do, Andy, as you do. Any road, the folks at Eastwood Town FC obviously thought that their already arranged thirteen (13!) pre-season friendlies were not enough and have greeted a phone call from local boy Alan Buckley with glee. Paddy Farrell tells us more: "Further to these games, I have had a very welcome phone call from Alan Buckley confirming that he will definitely bring his Grimsby Town team to Coronation Park before the 200809 campaign starts. The problem at the moment is a specific date as Alan is anxious to bring as strong a squad as he can muster to his home town. I should be able to give details next week."
"Castlemore has pulled out of a £275m regeneration scheme in Leeds city centre, saying it is reviewing its 'appetite' for large-scale schemes in the current market." So starts an article published today in Property Week. Andy Wilkins, MD of Castlemore's regeneration group, is reported as saying: "It is true that we decided not to proceed. This was part of a review of our appetite for large-scale mixed-use city centre developments in the light of prevailing economic conditions." So the Fentydome faces stiff competition from a much more sensible in-town development and has a development partner who is shitting himself over the recession. It's about as likely to happen as Gordon Brown sorting out that nasty dose of stagflation before the next election, methinks.
Speaking of the recession, which is hurting everyone reading this in one pocket or another, then maybe it is time that this august and venerable publication tried to be of practical assistance. How about a cut-price T-shirt to wear this summer? That erratic and unpredictable Cod Almighty T-shirt man tells me that he has done a stock-take in the CA distribution depot (his spare bedroom) and that he has some excess stock to offload at bargain prices. Apart from the postage and Paypal costs, every penny raised will go straight to GTFC. There are a few rarities, he tells me, so watch out for the launch of the CA T-shirt sale. When? Soon. See yer.
Thursday 26 June
Apologies for the late arrival of this Idle Diary. Seems the thunderstorms in Vienna last night took out my work internet connection when they were saving the British viewing public from the shrill whine of Mark Lawrenson. Yin and yang and all that cosmic stuff, hey dude?
Two new centre-backs arrive in one day and Sir Alan is already looking at a return to his tried-and-tested back four next season. And the new boys themselves are talking a good game. Matt Heywood has set his stall out: "I like to think I am a big strong centre half, strong in the air. I am a good talker and organiser and that is basically what you need to do in this league." Which vaguely sounds like, if he's appraised himself right, he's a better version of the Sarge. Fellow centre-back and arrival Richard Hope was totally sold by a chat with the Town manager about his plans: "He spoke to me about what training is about, his philosophy on football and how he likes his teams to play, and also what he expects from myself. Everything he said added up in my head to make me want to sign." And whereas Heywood arrives promisingly as Brentford's reigning player of the year, the initial reflection of Hope joining from a club relegated from the Football League is allayed when you learn Hope captained Shrewsbury during their play-off final defeat 12 months previously.
Buckley also suggests there may be some interest in Ciaran Toner leaving. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, eh.
Wednesday 25 June
Earlier this morning, much earlier, two holes in Alan Buckley's squad need filling with centre-back sized pegs. And your Idle Diarist finds himself released from a long, boring, role-changing, work-dumping meeting (I know how Gary Jones felt when he played in defence at Lincoln now) to find one of those pegs has been slotted into place. Is it Sam Hird of Doncaster Rovers? Definitely not, rewarded for helping defeat Leeds United in the third division play-off final. Is it Richard Hope, transfer listed by Wrexham? Could be according to the local rag. Could it be Brentford defender Matt Heywood? Why yes, yes it is! And after waiting so long to tell the world that Buckley has signed a player, the SNOS then goes on to confuse affairs up by saying "the 6 foot 4 inch striker was at Blundell Park last Monday for talks". Do we accept this as an all-too-common mistake or a glimpse into the future? Another worry, when I think of tall players I think more Tony Crane than Rob Jones. I know, I should be more optimistic, but I we even are Town fans. We know for sure though there's a Freudian slip later on in there, the SNOS saying they'll have interviews with the new players later. Yes, you read that right. That was a plural players there. They're obviously seeing something we're not, the teases...
Will that signing inspire confidence amongst apathetic fans? Will they now be clamouring to raise that season ticket tally way above this morning's figure of 534? The latest update of our chart a lesson to any GCSE Business Studies students out there reveals season ticket sales could sure do with a boost, Cadbury's or otherwise...
Sales are looking constant, but still miles off last season's tankard of optimism. It's taken 24 days of the tickets being on sale for the club to just about reach the amount sold in 11 days last year, Maybe we're all as grey as the wet weather we've been having. Maybe we've all been too engrossed in Euro 2008. Maybe we're waiting for this year's Isaiah Rankin to arouse us, entice into another season's torment. Ever the optimists, the club reckons there's going to be more tickets bought, much much more "with still just under 3 very busy weeks to go." Has Positive John turned his hand to penning the club's PR?
Which leaves me to say, tune back in tomorrow when we'll have more on the new signing(s), and the club will be shooting this pessimist down as the club doubles their season ticket sales in one day. Cheers!
NEWSFLASH: Just as I put this Diary live, Town have announced they have signed another player and it is Richard Hope. Spotter's badge to the boys at the Grimsby Telegraph. More tomorrow.
Tuesday 24 June
Hey there. Idle Diary here again. They've got Acorn Brewery's Summer Pale at the local boozer and I've just finished off a monster job at w*rk that's sucked up three weeks of my life so I'll make this brief. Otherwise I'll dwell on the backroom staff at GTFC and get wound up by those BLOODY FECKLESS AMATEURS. Hang on. I'm off again. Sorry... Just count one-two-three, slowly. One... Two... Three... That's better...
The latest home game to be rebooked is the match against Bournemouth, now a Friday night fixture on 21 November. And whereas the club believes it can justify moving the Bradford game forward, they offer no reason this time. It's certainly not an England game anyway, with the friendly with Germany in Berlin on Wednesday 19 November. Maybe they did it for the sheer hell of it, those crazy guys!
Lincoln are the latest club to throw their hat into the ring for Michael Boulding. I've lost track of how many clubs are chasing Quick Mick about, Benny Hill-style. Will they all have to bid for his life on eBay? One club that won't be in the running is Chester, who have a transfer embargo.
Speedy snapper Jonathon Moscrop, so long a fixture on the Blundell Park sidelines taking pictures of Town games, upped to Italy a few years ago. He's now covering the European Championship. Is it a coincidence such a lifestyle change occurred after Nicky Law's spell in charge? A lesson for us all there.
Another lesson, this time in fashion, for the kind of Town-supporting guy or gal that prefers to lounge about home not in cotton, denim, suede or corduroy, but polyester-based clothing ("the material [which] allows rapid sweat evaporation for greater levels of comfort and performance"), check out the latest "attentive selection" of Town leisurewear. "Erreΰ believes in sport. Erreΰ believes in your devotion to sport," says the marketing blurb on the OS. Yeah? And Erreΰ believes you'll buy into that shit so you shell out for the clobber.
And, finally, let's get all WarGames: do you want to play a game? A club-sympathising article in the Grimsby Telegraph shows a list of the few players that have moved since the end of the season. Twenty, they reckon. I spotted Chris Brandon's move to Bradford missing. Can you spy any more? Let us know. The winner is the victor in a thermonuclear war.
Still no new signings.
Monday 23 June
...sorry. Idle Diary here, sat looking at a little list of today's news, and I'm just thinking how amateurish our beloved club is looking through today's coverage. Could it just be me? Maybe it's a maudlin Monday feeling, returning to a workplace of ineptitude and a sense of lacking after a weekend of love and happiness.
First up, cast your mind back to the early days of the Fentydome project. Number one on John Fenty's list of Things I Need To Do Before I Can Build My Field of Dreams was to get the council onside. A pass for that point, and extra credit now that Councillor Fenty can ward off any dissenters in the town hall with a threatening word round back o' chambers. Number two was to get on board an anchor tenant for the proposed retail outlet attached to the ground. And where is the club with that? Probably retracing several of the steps of its cha-cha-cha to Great Coates with the revelation that Henry Boot, who recently opposed the Fentydome development much to the club's public display of jubilation, is not only proposing a development in the middle of Top Town, but is well on with finding tenants. Henry Boot has "six very interested parties" and name Debenhams, who "still have a requirement for Grimsby. That is a company we continue to have dialogue with. We cannot commit to them until we have a commitment to the planning. They should be here." In these days of development and regeneration, an inner town development is always going to be preferred to one built on fields on the outskirts of a town, so full marks to Henry Boot for taking advantage of Town's dithering and being bullish enough to be up front. It's looks like it's not just the footballing side of GTFC that's being made to look rubbish by more streetwise rivals these days.
Last Wednesday the Football League published its supporters' survey, which the club's superb not-quite-so-new-now official site diligently reported. Your diarist suggested that the club could do with conducting a little market research closer to home, because the four Ps for the country don't necessarily match North East Lincolnshire's. And on Friday the club responded, albeit it lazily, ill-thought out and yet another case of missed opportunity. You could shrug and say "ah well" and "at least they tried". But, yeah Town's a small club, Small Club, and all that, but these people are paid for this. They just don't think these things through, do they? By the way, if you're going to sell a half-price shirt deal, you can't entice people on the teaser without indicating the terms.
And to top it all off, the club's tried to tap in to your inner greenie (if such a thing resides in North East Lincolnshire)
asking you to use the club's less-than-secure online season ticket renewal system. Save the world, yeah? It'll take more than booking your season ticket online to reduce your carbon footprint. Car pooling, using public transport, Peter Bore getting a season of purpose. These are the things that will help the planet, not some poxy, contrived, and half-thought-through story on the OS. I'm reducing my carbon footprint next season by not bothering to drive from Leeds to Cleethorpes and back every other Saturday. And why? Sure, times are hard and life will be easier if I can reuse my monthly £100 pocket money for Town games. But above all else I want some time off from the ineptitude of it all. I just want a rest.
Friday 20 June
POETS day. Football on the telly tonight and the Boston new taties and asparagus taste as sweet as ever. All we want now is to find out whom these defenders Town have been talking to might be, and whether their girlfriends will let them sign for the likes of Grimsby. But so far this morning the only news is that there isn't any.
Mark Stilton has emailed your Guest Diary to tell of his experience buying a new season ticket online, which the superb new official site lauded in its headline article yesterday. The article says, among other eco-babble: "More and more supporters are using our secure online shopping system to buy their season tickets and matchday tickets." Note the use of the word 'secure', gentle reader, and then hear what Mark has to say (I've had to censor his language a bit, mind):
"Order your season ticket online. To be applauded of course makes things a lot easier for me. Well done. But wait a minute... OK, so I enter my card details through a secure connection. All good. Except that on the previous, unsecured page where I entered my name and address, it also asks for my card security code. Fucking genius. Really. Well fucking done. For goodness sake. From despair to where?"
Well Mark, the Firefox crowd managed to persuade eight million of us to download their new version the other day, and then some clever dick found a compromising security flaw within hours, so what do you expect? The concept of software analysis, design and testing has been largely forgotten these days in the rush to get product to market. Except, of course, that Town needn't have rushed to implement queue-beating technology because it would appear the ticket office is only selling about 2.5 tickets an hour at the moment, as yesterday's graphical (rather than gothical) Idle Diary explained.
Eagle-eyed memory man and ace Cod Almighty match reporter Tony Butcher has also emailed in. But with hard factual news which will confirm the Diary's deepest suspicions that Friday night football will come back to haunt us yet again. "More *g* to your *m*," says Tony tersely, highlighting a piece on Bradford's official site which says the Town home game against them has been moved back to the Friday night to avoid Scunny's home match with Millwall. When asked for a quote Cod Almighty co-editor Simon Wilson said: "Oh, the fucking wankers," before mysteriously adding: "Then again, the further the match is moved away from my birthday the better."
And becoming-quite-a-regular-correspondent Mr R McIlveen emailed us yesterday to mention the surprising signing of Mr J Joachim by his local team King's Lynn: "Whilst the Mariners may have the services of the young Sam Mulready from King's Lynn (see Diaries passim), King's Lynn themselves have just signed (cue drum roll) Julian Joachim. Now I know young Sam is one for the future, but this is the present. If Joachim's 34-year-old legs can get King's Lynn out of the Conference North/South and stick a couple of hundred on the gate (of which I'll be one), then it'll all have been worth whatever the chairman is sticking in Joachim's back pocket. One might even describe King's Lynn as being 'ambitious'."
Given that Joachim still possesses the power to make opposition fans scared he will score, the drop to the likes of Kings Lynn does seem odd, despite his local connections. It is possible that Julian has signed for the Linnets in order to be able to study, at close quarter, how Ben Chapman manages to leap like a salmon despite his diminutive stature. Yes, Rob, I'd pay a tenner to watch them now and again too. If only to see them play three teams in the same season whose name begins with an aitch. Hinckley, Hucknall and Hyde has quite a ring to it, eh?
Well, the news continues to flood in now the club shop will be open Saturday morning! It is interesting to note from that piece that the club has sold over 750 of the new replica shirts. That seems to imply that some folk buy the shirt but don't bother going to watch Town. I like the front of the shirt, but the back appears to be a triumph of legibility over style. Any road, time I went to pluck my wood pigeons as a warm salad washed down with a cheeky orvieto calls. See yer.
Thursday 19 June
About 400 season tickets sold in 17 days? Not that impressive really, is it, when you look back to last summer's sales...
Wednesday 18 June
Hi there. Idle Diary here again, filling in while your regular Diary spends another day contemplating the beauty of an honesty box by the work photocopier.
Believe the SNOS headline here, and you'd think Alan Buckley was making like Ray Mears in his hunt for a new defender, examining the ground for telltale footprints so he could lure up another wild beast to join the already captured Robbie Stockdale. Stuart Watkiss reveals to the local rag that it's not one but two defenders Town are tracking. After the management team's talks with the unnamed players, Groovy Stu is as optimistic as Kenneth Parcell. He is also keen to dispel the notion that he and Buckers have been a bit slack so far this break: "We are very aware that we conceded too many goals last season. We said we needed four or five players but we want these players to go straight into the team and make us better. We are working hard to make sure the team is competitive next season and I am confident it will be." Expect Stu to pop up in the UK version of 30 Rock any time soon.
The Football League has released a supporters' survey. The SNOS's summary of the survey does not mention its findings on the heinous crime known in the courts as Friday night football, nor how these national results compare to the opinions of your more localised Town faithful. But, hey, that'd mean a tuned-in press and marketing department that sees beyond just shifting shirts. Read it for yourself, dear reader, if you care, and let us know what you think. Actually, just let us know anyway. Come on! Town have signed a player and we're going to reveal the number one goal later on. You must have something to say...
Tuesday 17 June
For Idle Diary, supporting Town as they approach their fifth season on the League's bottom rung is akin to shaving your nasal hair (or plucking it, if you are more sado-masochistic): it's uncomfortable in the lead up, but you'll be relieved once it's over. "You either surf or you fight."
The first twangs of the tweezers came yesterday as Alan Buckley plucked Robbie Stockdale from his left nostril. "I came up last week and spoke to [the] manager," revealed Stockdale. "We had a good, long discussion and his ambition to get promoted is something that matched mine." Already the boy smells victory. Luckily no-one told the one-time Middlesbrough striker-cum-right-back that he has moved to the asshole of the world. After the player's two fruitful years at Tranmere, it made sense to Idle Diary contact a reliable Tranmere-supporting mate about Stockdale: "A great signing for your guys there possibly our best player last season."
So after months of watching a snail crawl along the edge of a razor, has Alan Buckley finally got a dependable replacement for the retired Sir John McDermott? The signs are good, but with so many departures at the end of last season one man doesn't make the team. Stuart Watkiss seems well aware of this and reveals further down the Stockdale piece [on the Tellywag site] that "we are a fair way down the road with another deal. It's another defender and hopefully in the next few days we'll be able to seal it." I love the smell of signings in the morning.
Monday 16 June
A game to look forward to on the August bank holiday. A New Year's Day match to
And plenty of exciting holiday derby games against your fierce local rivals. These are just some of the thrills not on offer from the league fixture list, which is published today and conforms fully with all the relevant requirements laid out in the authorities' campaign to purge football of all remaining traces of fun. Town's 200809 season kicks off at home to Rochdale on Saturday 9 August in front of about 3,600 spectators, and then they play 45 other matches which I'm probably not allowed to tell you about because of the scumsucking parasitic motherfuckers who are preposterously permitted to hold copyright on the fixture list, and then they finish 15th.
Oh, and the club shop is open again.
Are you still here?
Friday 13 June
Good afternoon everyone. Very much like 18 October 2005, when Tony Crane made his final appearance for Grimsby Town, today represents the end of a particularly unhappy era. Never again will Durham Diary be Durham Diary, graduating as I do a fortnight today. I'll think of a new snazzy name for myself in due time... in fact, stuff it I'll let my mum pick it. She's done well at picking names for me previously, after all.
Enough egotistical ramblings, let's have some news. And shock of all shocks, news is one thing we have! The League Cup draw was made this morning, and Grimsby landed a dream home tie against third division outfit Tranmere. In the first round last year the Mariners put up a bloody good effort against Burnley, before falling short in the lottery of penalties, but Mariners baldie Alan Buckley will hope for better luck this year and a good cup run to alleviate the boredom of his side's mid-table league form. Tranmere, of course, have a degree of history in the League Cup, having lost to Leicester in the final of the 19992000 competition. Of more interest to Town fans will be the possibility of a return to Blundell Park for former Mariners stopper Danny Coyne, who was really rather good in an otherwise dreadful team.
Talking of impressive former Grimsby goalies, as I was, Steve Mildenhall has joined Southend on a three-year deal, according to the Tellygraff. He was alright an' all, wasn't he?
Durham Diary, as all who know me will testify, is a highly active feminist. Noooooooooooot! Sorry, one of those side-effects of being a child during the 1990s! Anyway, Grimsby Town Ladies FC have been promoted to the East Midlands Regional Women's Football League after their hugely successful league campaign last year. Well done to them I say nice to see at least one Grimsby footballing side enjoy a modicum of success.
Which is all the material I have to chuck at you today. I'm going now to have some food and a nice big glass of orange juice (with juicy bits), and I can only recommend that you all go and do something similar. Go on, you know you want to!
Thursday 12 June
The prelude continues to Town's disappointing failure to sign Michael Boulding this summer. A month after the Grimsby Telegraph ran an unsubstantiated story that the Mansfield forward was being "linked with" a return to Blundell Park, today's edition features some listless quotes from Alan Buckley to the effect that, yes, he's had a word with Boulding and some other clubs want him as well and he might be on holiday at the moment, maybe, not sure what's happening really, like, whatever. Of course, it's the strength of the squad one month from now, rather than the current vacationing crop, that will largely determine the outcome of the 200809 season, but it is the perception of inactivity in the transfer market that seems largely to blame for the glacial pace of season ticket sales, and utterances like this are unlikely to help. Anyone fancy a sweep on the destination and exact date when Boulding signs for a club that isn't Grimsby?
When football supporters say things like "Bah! I'm not handing the club any cash for tickets until they spend more cash on new players!" there is, of course, a huge and glaring logical disconnect at work, which they seem curiously unwilling to acknowledge, still less confront. It is a fallacy to which, some might say, Grimsby Town fans are all too vulnerable. And while the organisers of Keep the Mariners Afloat performed magnificently in raising more than £70,000, over three years, of the campaign's £420,000 target, it is noteworthy that a new supporters' group is performing better still at the relegated club Michael Boulding looks set to leave. Stags Fans United has been formed from a merger of four existing supporters' groups at Mansfield Town and is collecting funds to buy a stake in the club as uncertainty remains over its ownership and future, with non-League football about to return to Field Mill for the first time since 1931. It looks likely that SFU will have brought in more than £25,000 after just one week of fundraising. Now that looks more like a club "at the very heart of the community", don't you reckon?
Last up today (and, from me, this week, as Durham Diary will be doing the 'math' here tomorrow), we have an email from John England on the subject of Town's new kit manufacturer. "Error kit for Blunder Park," he writes. "I'm sorry, it just doesn't sound good. I know I'm being cynical but I've supported our team for over 40 years and after a while it starts to get to you." I really can't think what it is that you're getting at, John.
Wednesday 11 June
Blundell Park officials are refusing to make public the amount paid by Young's to extend its sponsorship of GTFC. The club announced this morning that its partnership with the local seafood producer will run to a fifth year, but its statement is considerably lighter on details than on press release quotes, and the Grimsby Telegraph refers only to a "deal, which club bosses say is for an undisclosed figure" as if it were not in the club bosses' gift to disclose the figure should they wish. Young's, of course, stepped in during 2004 to bagsy a rumoured cut-price package when the club's previous sponsor Jarvis mysteriously pulled the plug just 12 months in to a three-year deal (which not a single Telegraph journalist dared to investigate). "As with most towns and cities across the country we feel that Grimsby's football club lies at the very heart of the community," are the words put in the mouth of Young's financial bigwig Dave Roberts by his PR and communications staff, who clearly either have a keen sense of irony or have never in their entire lives been within miles of Grimsby, where the community actually couldn't give a monkey's bollock whether its football club lives or dies.
When Town's superb new official website reported last week's news of new contracts for Jamie Clarke and Gary Montgomery, it refrained from tantalising headlines suggesting that the club had signed two entirely new players. This was a good thing. Pete Brooksbank has emailed the Diary to say: "Your palpable relief at Grimsby's reluctance to erroneously parade players signing new contracts as 'new signings' got me thinking about a similar, and horrifyingly frequent, occurrence that often has me grinding my crooked teeth with rage. No, it's not Ken Bates failing to die every day it's when a player returns from long-term injury and is said by his manager to be 'like a new signing'. What? A 'new signing'? No, he is not like a new signing. He is, in fact, just like a player returning from long-term injury. A player already registered with the club. I mean, if I fix my laptop when it breaks, it's not like I think I've suddenly purchased a new fucking laptop is it? I have, in fact, merely restored my current laptop, a device I already own, to working order, at my own expense and in my own time." True although when Tony Crane returned to fitness in February 2005 after nine months on the sidelines, it was like a new signing. Of a really bad player. The Diary enjoyed your piece about Halifax in the new WSC, by the way, Pete, assuming it's the same person. There can't be that many Pete Brooksbanks with that much knowledge of the Conference.
Lastly today, a quick look across the fourth division to Chester City, the purpose of whose existence may be an ongoing mystery to most of their own supporters but who serve as an enduring reminder to Town fans that there's always someone worse off than yourself. And indeed, while it may be a quiet summer so far at Blundell Park, the Diary has at least not yet reached the point where we're so desperate for content that we have to report on other clubs' new playing kits. I'm sure we're equally flattered and surprised by Chester City Mad's strange fascination with the redesigned "Grismby Town" shirt, and we'll be even more so if it turns out to be of any interest at all to your average Deviants fan.
Tuesday 10 June
In a couple of months' time the Mariners will begin a fifth successive season in the fourth division the club's worst spell since entering the Football League in 1892. Attendances at Blundell Park for the 200809 campaign look set to slump to their lowest level for at least 20 years. Hope and belief are running dry. Amid these bleak truths, though, we can take some comfort from the bizarrely incongruous fact that the club's replica kit sales are at an all-time high. When the new synthetic fibres went on sale on Sunday, reports the club's superb new official website, hundreds of gasping supporters spent more than an hour queueing in sweltering heat to be among the first to get their sweaty mitts on the latest take on black and white stripes. "We sold over 400 shirts, taking over £13,000 in three hours. We've never experienced such a rush for a new shirt," said Town's accounts manager Steve Wraith, resisting the temptation to add: "which is nice, because these season tickets aren't exactly flying off the shelves."
GTFC may have the edge over local rivals Lincoln City in the two sides' head-to-head record, with 42 wins compared to just 28 for the Imps. And Town are the holders of current boasting rights between the two sides, with a league double against their neighbours last season following up victory in the 2006 play-off semi-finals. But the cathedral city has certainly put one over on the former fishing town in terms of Lincolnshire Cup wins, with Lincoln City having taken the title on a mighty 37 occasions compared with Grimsby Town's puny total of 36. The Mariners' chances of levelling up these wildly disparate figures will rest on the outcome of a match on Tuesday 29 July, when the two teams meet again in the semi-final of this season's competition. Or is it next season's? I'm never sure how that works.
Chris Jenkin has emailed the Diary with what he calls "a Tim Mickleburgh-esque note" in response to Felix Oliver-Tasker's musings last Thursday about the relative price of tickets to see GTFC and Chicago Cubs. "The reason baseball teams can afford to sell good seats for lower prices than Town or Premiership teams is because they play 81 home games a year," explains Chris. "The Cubs sell out nearly every home game as well, due to Wrigley Field being such a revered stadium which, considering it holds over 40,000 people, is quite a good job. In a season they make much more on gate receipts than football teams. Hope this helps!" It helps very much, Chris thanks for the information. I imagine the Cubs have a rather more sophisticated system for selling tickets online as well.
And finally today, a response to last week's plea for imaginary punning headlines about Straight Peter Bore. Ben Gresswell suggests: "Bore-d Peter Takes It Up The Arsenal (young and particularly straight Grimsby frontman signs for Gunners after becoming frustrated at lack of first team action... blah, blah, blah), Shirt Lifting Gets Bore-ing (impressively straight Mariners talisman Peter Bore is warned by the Football League over excessive goal celebration involving lifting up his shirt to reveal a Sergeant Whittle T-shirt) and Bore Dismisses Cottaging Link (youthfully straight Peter Bore has denied rumours that he has been tapped up by Fulham). Surely these must win a prize?" They'd certainly be in the running, Ben and probably on the home straight.
Monday 9 June
The big sporting news across Europe over the weekend was Euro 2008 kicking off, resulting in with four wins, or four defeats depending on how you see it or who you follow. Who is Idle Diary supporting during this tourno? No-one. England aren't there to let me down, and I just can't transfer my support. Unlike sometime attendees of Blundell Park who will be disappointed that season tickets at the KFC Stadium next season are sold out (file under 'irony, GTFC example 32'). What? Would you have cheered when the Tahgars scored? They just want your money!
The big sporting news in Grimsby was the revealing of Town's new kit. The club shifted 400 shirts (or 'units' in marketing parlance) as 250 supporters (or 'customers') queued for a special launch event. GTFC staff are gushing at the 'fabulous' kit. Which doesn't look half as bad as that black and white quarters effort someone thought was a genius marketing decision, no doubt creating some differentiation in the previous years' produce (or 'fashion fuck up' to you and me).
Talking of marketing guff, the GET reports "Tickets sales hit £25,000", which sounds an impressive figure (although just paying the wages of one GTFC footballer for half a year). Look closer and you'll find that just 135 season tickets have been sold. Stop gazing towards the north bank, you, and remember where your heart is.
Friday 6 June
Although, for perhaps obvious reasons, the superb new official site won't admit it, there is no way that Town will be allowed to sign Rob Atkinson. How does your Guest Diarist know this? Because the Sheffield Star told me. The article points out that the Barnsley management team feel he has the makings of a decent centre-half, and they are not wrong, are they?
The article goes on to describe the potential Oakwellian centre-half pecking order thus: "Atkinson could be pushed into Barnsley first team squad if, as expected, Lewin Nyatanga does not return in July. That could make Atkinson third choice centre-back behind Stephen Foster and Denis Souza." However, if Mr Nyatanga graced the Barnsley turf with his presence after all, there is, I suppose, the faintest glimmer that we could borrow Atko again for a while. And that would be very nice indeed (he says, in a sort of hopelessly positive way).
Meanwhile Town's favourite utility player, scorer of few but great goals and exciting free kick taker (when they give him the chance) has been allowed to sign up for another season, along with the best goalie we have never played. Well, not quite never, but not perhaps often enough to keep him sharp. Thus the names of Clarke and Montgomery can be added to the alarmingly large number of players whose contracts expire a year from now. Conspiracy theorists will make much no doubt of the fact that a dozen or more players have one season left at Town before their contracts expire: Buckley's last chance, we need to manage without players for a year or two while we try to raise some money for the Fentydome, etc, etc.
Whatever the reason, as it stands we will only have Hegggaarty, North, Taylor and Bird on contract next June, which will make for interesting times indeed.
The Cod Almighty T-shirt man has let me know that a few Hull fans have ordered the new Justin Whittle T-shirt this week. And, despite their lofty status at the moment, there are quite a few more who can still be bothered to hate Grimsby. He also says that if you are a person who is much smaller than average, or a big fat bastard, and you are thinking about getting one then you should order this weekend as, after the first order run, sizes S, 2XL and 3XL and bigger won't be carried as standard. The reason for this is that otherwise the tiny profit we make (which will be heading to GTFC, by the way) will be sitting in the T-shirt man's spare bedroom as unsold stock in odd sizes. Due to popular male demand, the girly tight-fit ones will remain available forever, however.
So we've had some emails from Diary readers. Felix Oliver-Tasker has been to the windy city for what he describes as a 'short holiday break'. There he watched the Chicago Cubs play a baseball game and was pleasantly surprised that he got a really good seat for just over fourteen quid. Felix says: "I know baseball is only glorified rounders but it was comparable to going to a Premier League match." The point being, presumably, that it is cheaper than watching Town or a Premier team. But there is a solution to this, gentle reader. Get your bosses to pay you in euros. A euro is worth 17 per cent more pounds than it was a year ago, just like the dollar is worth an awful lot less than it was before the Iraq war started. So baseball might look cheap nowadays but when you convert your euros then Town's tickets will look cheap too. Erm, won't they?
Have I made your brain hurt? Well, medical man Felix goes on to share this with us: "To end with a joke that's going around the department, she was only a clap doctor's daughter but she knew every man that mattered."
And that slightly irascible psychologist from Peterborough has been going on again trying to explain that he was only trying to impersonate Homer Simpson when he was ranting on about Knebworth and Genesis and that earlier in the week. And begging us to call it quits. Now I understand why the scriptwriters on The Simpsons get about a million bucks an episode these days. Even the guy who does Homer's voice gets $400,000 an episode for just reading the script out. It's because they are both clever and funny. It's hard to be both, I reckon. Me? I'm just a lawnmower... you can tell me by the way I walk. Time for my tablets I think. See yer.
Thursday 5 June
The lack of updates since Tuesday on the issue of season ticket sales may suggest that Grimsby Town FC have achieved the seemingly impossible and become even more unpopular in Grimsby recently than they've always been, but there's good news to report today in the retention of two less conspicuous but useful members of last season's squad. Today's Grimsby Telegraph is reporting that new one-year contracts have been agreed by Jamie Clarke who seemed to the Diary more tidily capable than anyone last season of providing that elusive blend of defence and creativity in central midfield and Gary Montgomery, who is surely the Mariners' best second-choice keeper since Harry Wainman hung up his gloves to start selling them in his sporting equipment boutique. Was that down Freemo? I can't remember now. "Both have agreed to stay and accepted their offers and will sign at the end of this week," reveals Lord Alan Buckley, and although the news is yet to be confirmed by the club's superb new official website, credit is due to the SNOS and Town's communications department for not running a misleading "Exclusive! Two new signings this week!"-type story and trying to flog subscriptions to its 24-hour official text message service on the back of it.
Today's news is unlikely to damp down the flaming wrath of Lee Bradley, who has emailed the Diary to observe: "The club says sorry that the club shop will be closed during, and I quote, 'these exciting times'. Have the backroom staff been deeply inhaling the fumes from this rare lick of paint at Blundell Park? Or are they all as cock-a-hoop as the rest of us at the prospect of us fielding a starting XI next season containing only two defenders? 'COME TO BLUNDELL PARK AND SEE GOALS AT BOTH ENDS'. Sarcasm aside, at the moment I am failing to see anything exciting about next season. However, as always, up the Mariners." It's a good job it isn't next season yet then, really, eh?
Before I hand over to Guest Diary tomorrow, there's one more email this time from Mr Mark Stilton, who has written in response to yesterday's item about potential punning headlines involving Matthew Bird. "Your puns are far too good," reckons Stilts. "For proper tabloid puns, you need a more tenuous link. May I suggest: You Bird it here first (Matty to stay another season), Bird's Custard (young defender's slip-up in box gives opposition three points) and Bird and the Bees (young defender linked with move to Brentford)." Fine work! Why did we never do any of these for Straight Peter Bore...?
Wednesday 4 June
In 2000, when the Radio Authority considered Compass FM's request to broadcast in the Grimsby area, it found "significant weaknesses" in the station's application. Nevertheless, Compass was given a licence to broadcast for eight years. In 2007, when Grimsby Town Football Club transferred the commentary and interview rights for home games from BBC Humberside to Compass FM, supporters noted a plunge in the quality of coverage that was inevitable given the latter's complete lack of experience in sports journalism, lamented the sudden absence of Mariners news from the BBC's Look North, and complained at the new broadcaster's apparent inability to project a signal much beyond the Humberston Fitties. Nevertheless, Compass has been given a contract to cover GTFC for a further year. In fairness, thin-skinned Town supremo John Fenty (Con) who is widely deemed to have cut off his nose to spite his face by handing Compass the rights and publicly squabbling with the BBC acknowledges "some of the comments that we have received from our supporters" and promises "an improved service for the forthcoming season". It seems that Comeback FM will now "keep supporters all around the world in touch with the club's fortunes on and off the pitch" so they've clearly shelled out a few quid on a considerably bigger transmitter.
Print media now, and the Grimsby Telegraph has made an early play for supremacy in the Punning Matthew Bird Headlines Stakes. The back page of today's paper leads on an interview in which Town's 17-year-old centre-half expresses a wish to "establish myself as a first-team regular and stay in the side" the headline: Bird's Eye on Town Spot. Depending on Bird's fortunes next season, a range of follow-up headlines will be available along the lines of Bird of Paradise (player caps awesome defensive display with late headed winning goal as Town top league table on 1 September), Bird of Prey (player accidentally injures Jack Lester in hard but clean 50/50 challenge), Bird Watching (player linked with host of Premier League clubs as scouts descend on Blundell Park), Bird in Flight (player leaves for Premier League club) and Free as a Bird (player leaves club on free transfer to Crystal Palace following administrative cock-up resulting from club's ignorance of fine detail in Bosman ruling).
There's no word yet from Graham, the mystery driver who got half the Diary's readership lost on the way back from the Knebworth festival in 1978 but Rob McIlveen has been back in touch to clarify his intention in earlier emails. "I wish I'd never mentioned bloody Knebworth and Genesis and 1978 for all the confusion it's caused," he writes. "As I wrote to Mister or Mrs Guest Diary after receiving an email reply from them, I know that the verse quoted in last Friday's Diary is not a Genesis song, and Clav, I know that Phil Collins certainly never sung it at Knebworth in 1978. I simply picked up on the word 'ripples' (which is the title of a Genesis song that Phil Collins did sing at Knebworth in 1978) in Friday's frankly redundant Diary, and tried to be witty in a Homer Simpson-like 'I've missed the point'/wrong end of the stick way. It obviously failed, and miserably so. I shall never do it again, honest. Can we consider the matter closed, and move on to Led Zeppelin at Knebworth in 1979, and Robert Plant's brilliant performance of 'Three Steps to Heaven'?" I'll think I'll leave it to Guest Diary this Friday, if it's all the same to everyone.
Tuesday 3 June
With floods when the sun should be shining, and bluebells out in February, there ain't a lot you can rely on any more in this crazy old life, but one thing Grimsby Town fans can anticipate with confidence each and every summer is an upbeat message from their club about season ticket sales. There could be tumbleweed rolling sadly through the ticket office, staff sleeping at their desks, wolves howling plaintively in the distance, cobwebs growing across the cash registers, and the indefinite suspension of professional football following a catastrophic rise in sea levels, worldwide famine and the global breakdown of civilisation, and the club would still issue a statement that season ticket sales were going well. And so it is that today's Grimsby Telegraph says "The club reported a good day of sales" when season tickets became available yesterday. If supporters really were snapping up season tickets in the thousands suggested by these relentlessly positive messages, of course, then the club would have the resources necessary to be challenging the mighty financial muscle of Manchester United, Chelsea, QPR and Darlington but in reality it's only a matter of months before Alan Buckley and John Fenty (Con) play down the prospects of any activity in the January 2009 transfer window following lower-than-budgeted-for season ticket sales for the 200809 campaign.
There's something about Town's new kit supplier this week as well, but frankly, the day the Diary needs to quote a marketing executive from whichever particular faceless multinational is responsible for shipping that year's gear from the sweatshop is the day I jack it in. Who gives a shit, really?
Not, I would warrant, Clav Divs, who has emailed the Diary to enter the far more momentous recent discussions that have taken place here about ye olde rock musicke. "Wot's Rob McIlveen on about (Diary Monday 2nd)?" begins Clav. "He was right about the vintage footy in 1978, but Genesis singing a David Bowie song (Diary Friday 30th)? I don't think so. If I remember rightly, Knebworth that year was all about the impressive light show that Genesis were due to put on, and so it proved, with multiple lasers beaming up to the stars in a syncopated display of gargantuan proportions. You can get similar on a key ring nowadays. My own special memories are reserved for our drive home when our recently qualified driver, driving outside Lincolnshire for the first time, managed to get lost on the way home, missing the Newark junction off the A1 whilst the rest of us slept. We never mentioned it again of course, did we Graham?" Thanks, Clav and everyone remember to visit the Diary tomorrow and find out Graham's excuse.
Monday 2 June
Town's new season tickets are on sale at last, as of this morning, and when the Diary phoned up to buy one it only took the GTFC staff until half past ten to start answering the phone. While it is excellent news that prices are being held at the same level for a third consecutive season, and a range of attractive new incentives are available for young supporters and families, there is also dismay for those who (like the Diary) believe that the careless use of language is both a symptom and a cause of sloppy thinking. The letter from John Fenty (Con) accompanying the renewal packs sent out to existing season ticket holders begins:
Firstly, may I take this opportunity in thanking you for your tremendous support over the last 12 months. Obviously, I don't really have to label the point too much, to what the pinnacle of the Football Club's achievement was.
Either way, there is clearly cause for concern here whether the above is further evidence of Mr Fenty's very poor literacy and communication skills or it's simply that a newly elected Conservative politician cannot bring himself to use the word 'labour'.
If the Mariners are traditionally one of the last professional clubs in England to put their season tickets on sale, then they are often just as tardy when it comes to summer transfer activity hence Guest Diary's exasperated response on Friday, one presumes, to the lack of news surrounding the Mariners while other clubs forge ahead with their summer squad rebuilding. Shortly after GD filed his copy, the Black County-based Express & Star newspaper reported confidently that Town were "weighing up a move" for Ian Roper and Darren Wrack, two of the players released by third division Walsall this summer. If Wrack's relationship with Grimsby moved from boyhood support and "I'd walk on broken glass to play for this club" to flicking the Vs at Town fans in the Bescot, Roper in particular seems just the sort of experienced centre-half Town need to plug their gaps in defence but it was only a matter of hours before Lord Alan Buckley could be found insisting: "I haven't looked at either of those players and don't expect to." Who was it again who shipped Wrack out of Blundell Park ten years ago?
"For the first time ever on a 30th of May," begins an email from Rob McIlveen, "I found myself (ignited Swan Vesta held high) swaying from side to side as I read Friday's Diary. Ah, Knebworth 1978, and an evening with Genesis (who were, if memory serves, preceded by what I imagine would be regular Diary's teasing link to a fine bunch of 'indies' called Devo). Pity, though, that our Guest Diary left out the amygdala-jerking chorus of 'Sail away, away, the ripples they never come back (no, no, they never come back).' Strange, though, that I don't remember a then hirsute Phil Collins singing the verse Guest Diary cites. Or is it a late Friday night, and the wonderful Leffe blonde has finally kicked in?
"Anyway, the last time I heard Phil Collins sing 'Ripples' (live, that is), the following season the Town finished runners up in Division 4 behind a similarly hard-up club called Reading. Whatever happened to them? Oh yeah, we also did the double over Portsmouth (winning 3-1 away in front of the MOTD cameras take that, Mellor, you smug bastard). I also seem to remember Town being 6-0 up at half-time against a bunch of no-hopers called Darlington, having thrashed some outfit called Bradford City 5-1 a week earlier. We beat a team called Wigan 3-1 at home, having won 3-0 at their place in the second game of the season, and (of course) we lost at Aldershot. So in conclusion, as the regular Diary's indie band members would write in their plagiarised essays, Guest Diary's mention of a word that one of its readers heard at a concert the season before Town got out of the fourth division, must mean that we'll be promoted this coming year. It's almost local councillor Conservative isn't it?"
Note to self: must try Leffe blonde sometime soon if this is the effect it has.