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Diary - December 2009
Thursday 31 December
Your Guest Diarist can report that Grimsby Town's senior squad size has dipped alarmingly as the club have announced they have ended sixth choice striker Ben Wright's loan nearly a month early, and that Southampton have demanded the return of fellow loanee Oliver Lancashire because they might need him to play against Luton in the FA Cup on Saturday. With less than thirty players at his disposal now, manager Woods has told the superb new official web site to append a sentence at the end of their bulletin telling fans to expect further incomings very soon. He has also told the Telegraph that the squad is 'fitter and faster' now that he and Casper have had a few weeks cracking the whip. Do you agree, gentle reader?
Meanwhile Dave Moore has done one of his injury reports. With so many players to look after he is a busy man still. This is what he told those rich enough or bothered enough to subscribe to that Mariner player: Hudson is over his injury and back in training. Will he take our central midfield by the scruff of the neck and shake it? Or at least provide some genuine competition for places: I hope so. Hegggaarty has been kicked back in to full training by the firm-but-fair Mr Moore still squealing about the pain but 'much improved'. Likewise Mr Heywood who still claims his knee is dodgy but who is being made to train harder. Robbie Stockdale will be back in full training next week all being well to provide Town with the possibility of having a genuine right back again. Dave Moore also reported pleasing news about young Drew Rhodes he is recovering well from a nasty cruciate thingy and Moore predicts he will be turning out for the reserves early next year. Adrian Forbes is the only player not on the brink of getting back in to training then his injury can't be traced by X ray but is very hurty. And when he says it hurts it definitely does in my view. The only guy Dale forgot to ask about was Bradley Wood(s). Shame because us lot at CA Towers really took to him earlier in the season and now it's like he was someone we just dreamed about.
To be honest I wasn't sure enough about Lancashire to badly want him to stay. He was just another centre half to choose from. It is a great shame that Heywood has not played through the pain because even on the bench it would have meant one less wage going out of the building. As for new players, well only if they are experienced, completely match fit and noticeably better than what we have. We have not-a-lot at the minute. But an awful lot of not-a-lot don't we? Ruthless pruning relies on other clubs taking on our clippings though so dumping half a dozen or so won't be too easy.
We start the second half of our season on Saturday. If there's owt said about the Bury match tomorrow morning I'll do a diary. If not then join me in some serious finger-crossing that Town fluke a home win. One thing is sure: if we get the same number of points from the next twenty three games as the first we are highly likely to get relegated out of the Football League. But just set your worry meter to seriously we are not at blind panic status. Yet. See yer
Tuesday 29 December
Town were rubbish yesterday. The crowd knows it, the exiled faithful listening to John Tondeur on that mariner player know it; your Guest Diarist knows it. Neil Woods preferred to say that Town were awful in a deservedly frank interview with the Grimsby Telegraph. He admitted picking the wrong team in the wrong formation saying "I've got to hold my hands up. I don't think the changes I made worked." After bemoaning a whole series of individual mistakes by Town players he went on to summarise his plainly daft team-tinkering thus: "Particularly in the first half, I don't think you can say any of the units of the team worked very well. I don't think the two wide players did enough when we were out of possession, I thought the two in the middle got isolated and their distribution wasn't as tidy and as good as I've seen it in the last few weeks." Woods admitted he took Atkinson off at half time because of his poor performance, and rounded off by having the guts to say it is easy to show some energy and a bit of passion when you are two nil down and the game is almost over.
Let's take the positives no-one got sent off, although Conlon and Proudlock moaned serially and Sweeney got most frustrated when Vale didn't allow him the space to show off. We have an enormous pool of fit players to choose from. Sadly this is offset by none of them exhibiting any form and many of them not really being of league standard (as the potteries based reporters said yesterday as delicately and diplomatically as they could).
With other results not helping (how dare our nearest league neighbours win!) the gap has widened alarmingly to five points with them having a game in hand and better goal difference that's not a bit of a beck to ford, this requires a full blown canoe with paddles and outriggers and a coxswain who can steer a bunch of amateurs across some decidedly choppy open water.
Do you remember when we kept getting stuffed three and four nil and folk kept shaking their heads ruefully and saying "it was never a four-nil though". Well yesterday, folks, was never a 2-1. Another home game on Saturday I'd better buy a ticket to see whether this season can actually get any worse. See yer.
Monday 28 December
Well here we are, safely at the other side of Christmas. Your Guest Diarist is in one piece; sadly my trusty old car is not, having decided to murder its own gearbox on the upper level of a multi-storey car park at half six last night with a carful of wife and kids. At least the Sherlock Holmes movie had been a bit of a blast, but getting home by public transport from Lincoln on a weird non-bank holiday but very bank holiday-like Sunday was a no-go. The last time I felt as remotely despondent as I do now was about ten miles north of Barnet, having read a text that said "match off".
A clutch of Town fans felt not deprived through frost but deprived by sinister conspiracy when Town's actual Boxing Day encounter was postponed a few days ago. Look, they shrieked indignantly on every messageboard they could find, the BBC weather page says five degrees and sunny all day! But manager Woods confirmed to the not only superb but trusty and very official club website that the newly skinted County's loyal employees had been working "round the clock"; that the pitch was as "rock-hard" as Clarkson after two Viagra; and the match was not playable. I am pleased actually because I may well be able to make the Tuesday night rearrangement, but a combination of Christmas drink and complete absence of public transport (again) had made Boxing Day a bore with the mother-in-law any which way.
But Town's home game with Port Vale today is definitely, definitely on. Groundsman Phillips has worked his socks off and the weather has been comparatively mild in Cleethorpes so no snow, no ice, and covered goalmouths will ensure that Blundell Park will take a stud. He is a bloody marvel you know.
Town might pick The Jarman mightn't they? After an enthusiastic five-minute cameo the lad is raring to go. And Lancashire is fit again (I think). Hegggaarty, of course, is still struggling from lack of pain tolerance. A great shame because we miss his enthusiasm too. I can't do any more than guess beyond that as the subscription-paying Mariners Player members haven't been granted their five-minute video of Dale asking the manager things he thinks we might want to know interspersed with optimistic little homilies about how we are playing a bit better than when we weren't. We need a flipping home win. Badly. Let's hope we contrive to get one. I'm off on eBay to buy a book on gearboxes. See yer.
Thursday 24 December
Training on the beach sounds like enough of a throwback to the days of Lawrie McMenemy to warm the wintry hearts of Grimsby's nostalgists this Christmas. But it's borne of necessity, not choice: all the grass for miles around is frozen and covered in snow so, as Neil Woodses explains to the Grimsby Telegraph, "the Grimsby Institute let us use their indoor sports hall on Monday to do some football work and then on Tuesday we had a good session on the beach at Cleethorpes". Either way, this visit from the ghost of managers past evokes the glories of the early 1970s, reminding us that supporting this hobbled old football club hasn't always been desperate struggles for survival in the Football League and spectacular administrative cock-ups. Next thing we'll all be listening to Slade and oh. OK, next thing the players will be getting up at 4am to visit the lumpers and filleters down dock, or they would be if there were any lumpers or filleters left. Or docks.
Let's keep the rest brief you want to go to the pub, and I've got wine to mull. Whaddaya wanna know? Oliver Lancashire is back from being treated by the actual proper physiotherapists at Southampton, who refused to entrust their young hopeful to the fishbone-wielding witch doctors of Grimsby, placing him contention for a game at Notts County on Boxing Day. Joe Widdowson may have a chance to get his disappointing season back on track after returning to training, says the Telewag, which also reminds us of The Jarman's spirit-lifting return to fitness. Town fans can now pay on the gate for the match, which is nice, although the amount you will need to pay remains considerably less nice.
So that's all from the Diary (and indeed any other Diary, Guest or otherwise) until Monday, when we're hoping to bring you a special post-match, er, Diary, er, post-the Port Vale match. A very happy Christmas to all human beings, and Bastard Franchise Scum supporters as well. Cheerio!
Wednesday 23 December
Even by their own high standards, it's been a bumper year for Town's bungling backroom staff and beleaguered chairman. Let's look back again at some of their highlights of 2009:
Relatively speaking, though, it's a very long time since Town's non-playing staff were last publicly humiliated by their own staggering inability to do their jobs. Let's see... it must be at least a month since they cut ticket prices for the FA Cup game against Bath City without bothering to ask Bath City, and then had to reverse the cuts when Bath City objected. How reassuring it is, then, to read the Ryan Bennett interview in today's Grimsby Telegraph, in which an excellent young player who remained publicly and privately loyal to the Mariners despite huge interest from bigger clubs and an England under-18 cap reveals how he discovered he was being effectively forced out of the club in October shortly after the sacking of Mike Newell. "To come in on the Thursday morning, like I did, and find out the way I did was a bit upsetting," recalls Ryan. "I found out through someone in the educational department first." Classy, Town. You're back on top form there. Really classy.
- telling season ticket holders they could get in free to all of Town's pre-season friendlies, and then telling them no, actually they couldn't
- announcing that three senior players, Phil Barnes, Tom Newey and Gary Montgomery, had left the club, and then announcing that no, actually they hadn't
- announcing a 'kids go free' offer for a match at two days' notice; and failing entirely to publicise the special offers in operation for last Friday's game against Morecambe
- sending out season ticket renewal forms which failed to include the date when season tickets would go on sale
- warning underperforming players "who think another two games and we will have a new manager" that they "must think again", and then sacking the manager two games later
- continuing to include, in the club's online customer charter, the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, which the club itself said was "defunct" in 2005
- scheduling seven pre-season games in seven days, forcing the team to pull out of the Errea Cup final at short notice
- posting a video on the club's website in which then manager Mike Newell was asked: "Is Penis Peter Sweeney better than this division?"
A brighter tone is struck by an email to the Diary from Jeremy Baily, who writes:
Just a quickie (If you'll pardon the expression), to say keep up the good work, you often brighten my day when all around is doom and gloom.
I've had about seven seasons of crap to watch I'm guessing you lot have too! I see Tony and Sue often at away games and we nod, shrug, but never hug (it's not the Grimsby way). We even compare crappiness sometimes.
I think, or at least hope the 'worm has turned' and we can start playing football with a swagger and style once again. Mr Woods appears to have got the right ideas, hitting fitness and awareness first, once truly fit and awake, are the players good enough to implement those ideas?
If I had as many loans as GTFC my bank manager would be having words with me. Fenty Baby obviously has a good one.
Thanks Jeremy. If this website does a little bit towards restoring the cheer of our fellow Town fans, when Town themselves appear hell-bent on driving us to distraction, then our time on this planet has truly been worthwhile. The festive season seems to be inspiring words of kindness all round, as Ben Gresswell has emailed to say:
I was hoping that you might pass on my thanks to Mr Butcher(s) for yet another year of excellent match reports. It's not easy watching Town at the best of times so watching them and then writing about them must be doubly difficult. Yet he continues to do so week in week out with a humour that I for one have not seen elsewhere in football writing and has me laughing out loud. Who else could include "Emerging with a pelt of squirrel skins and a large furry hat" in a match report? It is sheer genius in my opinion and should be available to a wider audience. Maybe Tony could write for other sports? He could even make golf interesting, perhaps?
Anyway, I'll be looking out for his name in the Queens new year's honours list and I look forward to another year of unique and fabulously funny reports on our beloved Mariners. But this is not to say that the rest of you Almighty ones are slacking. Give yourselves a pat on the back for your dedication and an extra one for the hell of it. You manage to keep your site fresh and relevant throughout the ups and downs of being a Grimsby Town fan. Well done all and have a fantastic Christmas and New Year.
PS. If you have any surplus Mike Newell T-shirts, I'd be happy to take them off your hands. I could use them to make a dog bed for our new puppy!
Thanks for all your kind words, Ben and indeed for keeping our feet on the ground at the end there. A very happy Christmas to you and both our other readers. We did consider rushing out a 'Woods evolution' T-shirt in time for the Christmas market, but let's at least allow him to win a game before we put the terminal mockers on poor Neil's managerial career.
Tuesday 22 December
Given the Mariners' form at the time, the Diary figured it wouldn't be such a great loss when I was negotiating Christmas family visits with Mrs Diary a few weeks ago and said it would be OK for us to be visiting her family down south when Town take on Port Vale at home on 28 December. After the breath of fresh air that was the Morecambe game last Friday, though, I can't bloody wait to see Woodses' team in action again. Typical Town even when they're good, they're still letting you down.
Actually, it was more of a freezing Arctic gust than a breath of fresh air, wasn't it? Still, if having a go at Michael Leary in the Diary automatically results in his best performance of the season by far, I might have to think about doing it more often.
Before we turn at last to today's GTFC news, the Diary would like to point you towards the first part of an absolutely wonderful three-part article which Cod Almighty is publishing over Christmas. Written specially for us by a football historian called George Myerson, it's the story of Sid Wheelhouse, who was Town's captain when the First World War broke out and ended up enlisting in the army. As soon as you've finished the Diary, be sure to have a read.
Today's GTFC news: Matty Bird and Grant Normington have gone out again for a further spell on loan at Frickley Athletic.
In the inbox today the Diary finds an email from John Darnell, who reprises the topic we looked at here last week: Arsenal kicking the shit out of Town legend Jackie Bestall in the FA Cup sixth round tie between the sides in 1936. "No issue here," asserts John. "Bestall was cynically targeted from the kick off I know because my father was there. He was deeply traumatised by the result. Possibly the 10-hour coach journey in freezing February contributed. He told me about it every time the word 'Arsenal' was mentioned until his death thirty years later; also any team employing rough tactics was labelled as 'playing the Arsenal Plan'. Good job he's not around now I saw them at Bournemouth last month, not a pretty sight!" Thanks for sharing that, John it's great to get more insight from so close to the match. These days, of course, referees are much tougher on premeditated violence and there's no way, say, Gary Cohen would be deliberately targeted and fouled all game, and then booked by the referee for complaining, is there? Oh. No, I haven't got time to look up which game it was.
Thanks to the other readers who've been in touch we'll get to your emails later in the week. In the meantime, don't forget that piece about Sid Wheelhouse. See you tomorrow!
Monday 21 December
"Different managers have different views on the importance of training" manager Woods observed to the Telegraph today, drily. "I'm one of those who think it is very important." Well with the Town players looking fitter by the match and actually sometimes ending them on top (although without the elusive win that proves the theory sort of conclusively) it seems as though he may be right. Your Guest Diarist has been rueing only hearing Friday's almost rousing home draw with stuffing-everybody-lately Morecambe via Radio Humberside and the dulcet tones of John Tondeur.
A combination of loads of snow and ice where I live and a hatred of bloody Friday night football kept me away, but it sounded like a great performance by the lads. And Sweeney's volley was just sublime. A shame we switched off for that short corner and the Proudlock is just not quite recovered to his best. But I have honestly started to think that if Town carry on like this they will actually stuff some team sooner rather than later. And that will put the shits right up Lincoln, eh?
It was nice also to read a fraction too much into the Morecambe managers admission that "I thought Grimsby played very well" too. Too right they did. So another week leading up to Christmas where we can hope for a storming recovery in the second half of the season.
Quite why Leary waited this long to have a good game must go down as one of lifes little mysteries though. And with the Jarman getting himself noticed with a five minute comeback cameo of total enthusiasm there has to be a bit more to come. Christ, we might even be able to pick a proper right back before February. See yer.
Friday 18 December
If 'compact' central defenders with close-cropped hair and a penchant for red cards are your thing, the Diary has some good news and some bad news for you, and, being a miserable sod from Grimsby, you'll probably want the bad news first. Oliver 'Olly' Lancashire's parent club Southampton have ordered him to return so their proper physios and fitness coaches can look at his injured back and hamstring, rather than leave him in the hands of the leech-wielding quacks at remote Blundell Park. I guess that means he'll not be lining up against Morecambe tonight then. On the bright side for fans of the player, Neil Woodses is trying to get him to come back afterwards. Town's superb new official website is less than forthcoming with any further details, but with Lancs having already signed for three months, one suspects that as the January sales begin the GTFC manager will have a tent pitched outside St Mary's ready to wave a contract saying 'season-long loan' under the nose of his quarry.
"Leary won't change his style" is the headline of an interview in today's Grimsby Telegraph, prompting any Town supporters who read it to hunker down for a whole season of hope-crushing immobility in midfield. But wait! The Mariners' midfield immaestro is referring not to the largely stationary nature of his game but his "combative style", to use the Telegraph's words. "If only," sigh five thousand weary readers. "Confidence is rising up in the team again with better results and hopefully we can start to turn those draws into wins," adds Leary, fulfilling the players' weekly quota of Tell The Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Now, Honest. "If only," sigh five thousand weary readers.
Before I go, there's just Cod Almighty's excellent preview of tonight's game to recommend to you, and an email to the Diary from Sibbo, who says: "Hi Diary. Best news for Christmas any Town fan could hear is Jarman the Starman back in action. I've got a spare pair of steel toe cap boots, size 10, if they're any good, Nathan. Can't be having another broken foot can we!" Indeed the Diary is in full agreement with Sibbo's assessment of this player's potential significance in Town's annual battle for Football League survival. There are some cold days and nights ahead at Blundell Park, but the return of The Jarman to the pitch would guarantee more cheer and warmth in Cod Almighty's section of the Pontoon than a large vat of mulled wine.
Thursday 17 December
I hate to say I told you so. Except when I'm talking to Notts County fans, when I enjoy nothing more than saying I told you so. But right now we're talking about Ben Wright for the first time since he joined the Mariners on loan on 27 November, when the Diary wondered aloud: "Will he play more than about 40 minutes before we send him back and forget he ever existed?" The answer is clearly yes, because he played 67 minutes against Macclesfield a day or two later, but the complete absence of the O'Peterborough forward from Town's first team since that heady day has prompted Neil Woodses to state publicly that both Wright and new midfield saviour Mark Hudson should have no cause for concern. After Hudson spoke to Sky Sports earlier this week about the debut he is yet to make, the rookie GTFC manager has chosen the more homely environs of the Grimsby Telegraph to issue a perfectly weighted, diplomatic and generally textbook reassurance that both players remain in his plans. Indeed, if Woodses next proves as adept at building a team that can score goals as he is at issuing reassurances, his side will be nearer the play-offs than the relegation zone in no time at all.
The careerist mainstream politicians failing miserably in Copenhagen to meaningfully tackle the most important issue facing humankind in a century might as well just give up and go home now, because the world is about to end regardless of their dubious efforts. Today the Grimsby Telegraph has published one of its regular reports on games involving the Mariners' various teams for younger kids, which is the Diary's cue to shake my head in astonishment and wonder exactly what Grimsby parents were thinking when they decided their children should have two surnames and no forenames. Our old friends Caine Winfarrah, Cole Mills and Robson Burnett are still doing the biz, and are now joined in the ranks by both a Reece Moody and a Reece York. The under-13s' 6-3 win over Notts County was lit up by the appearance of Oakley Luddington, which is actually a really quite fabulous name rather than a silly one, but the arrival in the youth system of a player named Blaze Kerr can surely only be read as a sign of impending global apocalypse.
The Diary's inbox has turned up a sterling answer to yesterday's query from John Harding about allegations that Arsenal players deliberately injured Town's Jackie Bestall at a match in 1937. An email from Antony Chapman refers us to page 108 of Charles Ekberg and Sid Woodhead's The Mariners, but adds a quote from the text for those without a copy at hand: "Jackie Bestall, Grimsby's tiny schemer-in-chief, was almost kicked off the park and was limping on the wing after 20 minutes. The Grimsby News had to pay libel damages after naming the players responsible." Antony continues:
So did the Grimsby News name the wrong players, or did Bestall fall over himself, or was the judge (to put it nicely) biased?
As bad, or worse, was the '38-39 FA Cup semi-final against Wolves. With George Tweedy (Grimsby's best ever goalie) injured, George Moulson took his place, but was carried off with severe concussion after 20 minutes when the Wolves centre-forward Dickie Dorsett crashed into him. With no substitutes allowed in those days Jack Hodgson went in goal, but the 10-man Mariners lost 5-0. This was the Wolves team managed by the infamous Major Buckley, who had introduced monkey gland injections as an aid to fitness, and was reputed to have made his players take oxygen before our semi-final. Perhaps something for Woodses to consider?
In case you ask, the answer is NO, I wasn't there, I'm not that old. My first game was in September 1948, when we lost 1-4 to Wolves in our last season in the first division.
Many thanks, Antony, for answering John's question and more; it's quite a thing to have seen the Mariners 'live' in the old first division all that time ago. If any other Diary readers can offer first-hand reminiscences about Town's time as a top-flight side, please do email email@example.com and share!
Wednesday 16 December
His arrival on loan from Southampton immediately rang alarm bells after the disastrous short-term acquisition of Tommy Forecast from the same club, but Oliver Lancashire's term at Blundell Park has been a fair bit more successful than that of his predecessor. That's if you don't count that red card, and the own goal against Leeds, but the latter was more unlucky than anything, wasn't it? Any old how, the 21-year-old centre-half has followed his fellow loanees Damien McCrory and Michael Coulson in committing himself to another month with the Mariners, which is nice, what with that Hectic Festive Schedule in the building and everything. What I didn't realise until I read it on Wikipedia just now was that that sending-off against Accrington was the player's third in his senior football career, which at that point comprised only 15 games. This is where the Diary wishes to high heaven that there were some sort of pun we could do whereby 'Lancashire hotpot' sounded a bit more like 'Lancashire hothead'. I suppose if he were a prolific centre-forward we could call him a 'Lancashire hotshot', but he isn't, so we can't.
One cause of Town's abject form over the past couple of years is the failure of a succession of managers to fill the huge vacancy at the right-back slot created by the retirement of Sir John McDermott in 2007. Notwithstanding the emergence this season of the excellent Bradley Wood, the closest any GTFC boss has come to replacing the Mac was Lord Alan Buckley's signing of the experienced Robbie Stockdale, who has been troubled by injuries and started only 30 games in his year and a half with the Mariners. According to today's Grimsby Telegraph Stockdale "is unlikely to play again this year", which sounds considerably more dramatic than saying he's unlikely to play in the next two weeks but means exactly the same thing. The local rag quotes Neil Woodses to the effect that the player's recovery from a hernia operation is taking longer than expected (and the manager adds some words that are sure to warm the hearts of The Jarman's many admirers), which must be true because nobody could actually remember that it was a hernia operation that had put him out of action in the first place.
So is there a positive to take from the Stockdale sitch? Yes, there is. "The only plus point is that when he is OK to start training fully again then it won't be long at all before he can play because his general fitness remains good," adds Woodses, which all sounds very John McD to the Diary's happy ears. Stockdale's susceptibility to medium- to long-term injuries, in fact, further strengthens his claim to the throne of McDermott, who would surely have exceeded his club record 754 games by some margin had he not been sidelined half the time with shin splints and sciatica and what have you.
"A toe-poke from 25 yards that flew into the top corner" weaves all sorts of connotations. Schoolboy dreams. Roy of the Rovers stuff. Or just a footballer with remarkably strong toes. But it is, apparently, the way Town's youth team equalised in a 1-1 draw with their counterparts from King$ton Communication$ FC. The description comes from the Myspace Mariners' acting manager Adam Smith, who is telling the Telegraph about a goal from the team's Albanian-born midfielder Andi Thanoj. Given that their opponents have "the ability to get Jack", of course (the phrase used by John Fenty (Con) to explain that GTFC had to allow Jack Barlow to move over the Humber Bridge whether we liked it or not), the result must count as some sort of moral victory or other, probably by at least eight goals to nil. What with Town being moral winners of the 2008 Football League Trophy by being the last legitimate football club left in the competition, and paying off their relatively modest debts rather than entering administration to cheat their way out, someone really should get round to drawing up a moral league table one of these days.
Lastly today, a quick dip into the Diary's inbox pulls out a plum email from John Harding, who asks simply: "Any Grimsby historians know anything about Jackie Bestall and the accusation that Arsenal players deliberately injured him in the FA Cup in 1937?" The Diary certainly doesn't, John, but we might know someone who does. Readers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answers to this fiendish query and your questions and comments about anything else. Ta for reading, as always, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Tuesday 15 December
It's definitely Damien McCrory, isn't it? A week and a half ago, when Town's new new new left-back originally said he wouldn't mind extending his loan with us, and the Grimsby Telegraph headlined a story "Damien extends stay at Blundell Park", the Diary struggled to remember who Damien was, so numerous have the Mariners' temporary signings become over the past few seasons. I think I've got it now, though which is just as well, as the player has now signed a new deal to keep him part of the Woodses revolution until 16 January. His fellow loanee Michael Coulson, I think his name is has done likewise, extending his time in the fourth division's squeaky bum zone until 23 January. With cunning application of the laws of logic, the Diary has concluded that this must be a Good Thing specifically, McCrory and Coulson are Good Players and seem to have Pretty Good Attitude, ergo keeping them in your team must be a Good Thing but this logic thing has turned round and bitten me on the arse so many times down the years that the optimistic side of my nature is hiding behind the sofa and refusing to come out until either the Mariners' Football League status is secured or the scary music from Doctor Who has finished.
Not that he reads web forums or anything, but Nick Colgan has urged supporters who go on web forums to stop criticising him and his teammates and instead "keep believing and stick together players, management, coaching staff, directors, chairman and the supporters". In a Grimsby Telegraph interview today the Town captain insists: "I don't read the messageboards" but seems to know an awful lot about what's on them. Still, anything makes a change from Telling the Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Now, Honest. For what it's worth, the Diary reckons Colgan might lack a bit of mobility but no more so than, say, Phil Barnes did in his first season with us (another keeper who joined GTFC after a long spell without any first-team football); on balance, Town have had plenty of worse number 1s and Colgan looks about average for the fourth division, with signs of improvement. And I agree with Nick: there's no point unleashing on the players the full force of your misery at the Mariners' form since 2003, because most of them have only been here since November 2009. Just remind me who that common denominator in the building is again.
"Dear Diary," begins a festive email from Mark Wilson, "In an idle moment between buying Christmas trees, turkeys and more biscuits than a cardiologist would deem sensible I had a leaf through When Saturday Comes in the local newsagent (it's much cheaper than actually buying it). I was drawn to WSC's best websites of the year and there with a more than honourable mention was Cod Almighty. Well done to you all." Well, we were too modest to mention it, but since you have, thanks. Mark continues: "Having written the odd article and helped fill the Diary with my musings, I look forward to an invite to the swanky awards ceremony in a swanky That There London hotel and the night of women, snorting cocaine and visiting the sort of nightclub Prince Harry goes to (and I don't mean the Third Reich in Bethnal Green!). Or should I meet you in the Nottingham?" Yes, this is the trouble with having underground cred instead of appealing to the X Factor radio-friendly mainstream the champagne tends to taste uncannily like Old Mill Bitter. Still, if anybody wants to buy us one to celebrate, we'll be in the Rutland on Friday, and something tells me the fame won't have gone to our heads too much.
Monday 14 December
Grimsby Town continue to ensure their best performances take place a long way from home as they did quite well on Saturday to get a point at Shrewsbury and keep another clean sheet. Remember how good they looked in their opening games in that pre-season cup competition in faraway Devon? Even BBC local radio legend Dave Burns tipped them for the play off as I recall. Manager Woods has been positively gushing praise on his defence to the Telegraph, calling stand-in skipper Colgan the "ultimate professional" for the way he saved goalbound efforts and marshalled his blood-stained defence. Neither Ryan Giggs nor Sir John of McDermott were available for comment.
Mr Woods also admitted sitting down with Barry Fucking Conlon a few weeks back and having a long chat about the prematurely grizzled strikers future. Predictably, no other opportunities visible on the horizon one supposes, Conlon declared his undying allegiance to all things Grimsby. He looks a bit less lumpy I'm told, and had two shots on Saturday that failed to hit the target. This, folks, is considered a good haul nowadays. A player looking a bit fitter and who can be arsed enough to have not one but two slightly more than half-arsed efforts on goal to justify his weekly wage is way up on our effort-ometer.
Town, meantime, continue to take Tiger Mountain (also known as division four), by strategy. Via the cunning ploy of drawing most every game we are inching towards our rivals Lincoln. A mere 3 points behind them now, progress is slow to say the least. But progress we are making. We must win a game soon. And it is not as though Morecambe are on a good run or owt (!) as we start to look forward to another horrible Friday night (spit!) fixture. Why if we beat them by two goals and Lincoln lose by the same margin at Hereford... why we be in front off them on goal difference. And no I won't be betting on that prediction.
But to be a Town fan is to dream. To dream and to wallow in nostalgia. To dream, wallow in nostalgia and hypothecate. But looking at it how many points do you reckon we need to be safe? You tell me go on? See yer.
Friday 11 December
As diligent readers of this page will be aware, Guest Diary has recently moved from a weekly Friday slot to Mondays. Before this switch took place, GD would regularly complain that there was never anything very much to write about on Fridays. The Diary is starting to see what he meant. With very little even in the way of information about the teams for tomorrow's trip to Shrewsbury, the local media are forced to report not on things that are happening because there aren't any but, as is the case with so much dull modern football journalism, on stuff people are saying. And when was the last time you heard any football people say anything that wasn't so tedious as to make you chew your own legs off in despair?
Straight Peter Bore, then, says he's quite happy playing right-back, despite his insistence some time ago that his natural position is as a striker and therefore that the right of midfield was not a sufficiently attacking role for him. Schooled in the fine art of talking to the media and saying absolutely nothing, of course, SPB is hardly going to tell the Telegraph he absolutely hates playing in defence (despite being about as much of a natural defender as, say, Gareth Bale) and was far happier when Mike Newell was in charge and his habitual position was on the substitutes' bench.
Never mind there's always the latest Cod Almighty pre-match factfile to keep you going.
Some other people, meanwhile, have said some other stuff. One of them is Newell's successor Neil 'Woods' Woodses, who says his relegation-haunted team is gradually becoming less shit, and that respectable performances for the reserves the other day have given a chance of involvement tomorrow to Danny North, Adrian Forbes and Barry Fucking Conlon. "They have to be professional, stake their claim to be back involved in the first team and educate the younger boys about how you should be a professional footballer and they are doing that," says Woodses of experienced fringe players like Danny Boshell and Conlon, who of course educated the younger boys about how you should be a professional footballer last week by spending the morning of a match in a police cell in Scunthorpe.
Finally, Adam Proudlock (one of the very few players in the current GTFC squad to whom the Diary does not wish severe and lasting physical and psychological harm) says he hopes the team does well tomorrow. So do we, Adam. Knock 'em bloody dead, lad.
Thursday 10 December
There are slow news days, and then there are days when the world seems quieter than Blundell Park when Town are drifting to a listless 1-0 home defeat against Morecambe. Today, readers, we are forced to lead with the thrilling announcement that tickets for the Boxing Day fixture at Notts County will go on sale to season ticket holders tomorrow. For the first time in years the Diary won't be going to the away game at Notts County partly because the tickets cost 20 quid, and 20 quid just seems a ridiculous price to watch fourth division football but mostly because they've moved it to Boxing Day and there isn't any public transport. I guess I'll have to get my festive football kicks watching some local non-League instead. Still, it has emerged this morning that Notts County's entirely fit and proper owners have put the club up for sale already, which is a laugh, and some Pies fans (remember that the supporters' trust at County handed over the club to Munto Finance, for 14½p and a bag of penny bubblies) have accused the press (which asked the questions about Munto that the fans' trust should have asked but didn't want to risk hearing the wrong answers) of hounding the aforesaid entirely fit and proper owners out of town. Which is an even bigger laugh.
Other news today: Wayne Burnett is sad that Town are rubbish these days and Michael Coulson wouldn't mind staying at Blundell Park beyond 19 December, when his current loan is due to expire a scenario which, given his commitment to the cause so far, could go a little way towards reversing the state of affairs that's got Wayne so upset. Sign 'im up, Newells! Er, Buc... er... Rodgers... ah. Who is it again this month?
Wednesday 9 December
If Danny North is presented with two chances to score a goal, and one of them is a sitter, you'd back him every time to fluff the sitter by snatching at a shot without properly sizing it up and whacking the ball straight into the goalkeeper's midriff. The way he's played in the past couple of seasons, you'd probably back him to fluff the other one as well. But in a return to form for Town's reserves yesterday, the much-maligned Grimsby-born forward made amends for fluffing an early sitter by scoring the winning goal against Newcastle United. "After I missed what was perhaps the easiest chance of life, if I hadn't have scored I'd be suicidal," an admirably honest North told the Grimsby Telegraph later. The Diary suspects that the local rag has missed out a word there, but there is always the chance that Danny's talk of suicide was a reference to the famous Poojah rant of November, and scoring goals really does mean a "chance of life".
Staying with the 1-0 win for first team coach who manages the reserve team Chris Caspers' reserve team, the other salient points are a bright showing as a substitute from on-trial Middlesbrough winger James Cronesberry (yay), a hamstring injury to midfield saviour-in-waiting Mark Hudson (gah) and a truly bizarre incident at the end of the match when referee Steve Ross awarded Newcastle a penalty after a 'strong challenge' from Mark Gray on Greg McDermott, only to change his mind and award a drop-ball just outside the box (ho ho ho).
Antony Chapman has become the first Diary reader to email on the subject of Tell The Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Now, Honest the exciting game played weekly by members of the underachieving GTFC squad for some years now. "How about a list of those players who have told the Telegraph that the Mariners will get better, with the result of the next match? Atkinson and McCrory this week [the email is from last week]... it seems like dozens so far this season. Best wishes from Bucks." Thanks, Antony. I really wish I'd started keeping track of all these when it began in about 2003. Some sort of detailed forensic analysis of what the players say and then what actually happens sounds like just the sort of thing Neil Woodses could introduce to his new super-scientific approach to coaching!
Tuesday 8 December
Town's bid to break world records for the number of players used during a single season continues apace with news that James Cronesberry has arrived for a trial. You know, the 19-year-old Middlesbrough winger who has bags of pace and stamina and has impressed in a handful appearances for the club's reserves since coming through the academy and so on and so on with all the same stuff that Town's superb new official website says about every player the manager trials, loans, or natters to briefly in the queue for the checkouts at Morrisons. Yes, that James Cronesberry. A long-distance running Ireland under-17 cap and a fan of Lucozade Energy, James will line up for first team coach who manages the reserve team Chris Caspers' reserve team at home to Newcastle this afternoon. Fourth division full-backs have already placed a bulk order for dark glasses as a precaution against the intense ginger glare that may be created when Town line up with Cronesberry on one wing and Nick Hegarty on the other.
Speaking of first team coach who manages the reserve team Chris Caspers' reserve team's game at home to Newcastle this afternoon, readers, choose your most delightful item from the build-up on the official website of the slumbering north-eastern giants. Is it the fact that they have a player whose name is Nile Ranger? Is it the fact that they have a player who wants us to believe his first name is 'Jak'? Or is it the fact that the Mike Ashley comedy club refers to "South Humberside" almost 14 years after Humberside ceased to exist? Still, if any individual or organisation should be indulged in their nostalgia for the mid-1990s, it must surely be Newcastle United.
Also taking part this afternoon for the Mariners will be The Jarman, one of the very few players in the current GTFC squad to whom the Diary does not wish severe and lasting physical and psychological harm. Well, apart from actually sort of having a good attitude and wanting to play football and everything, the poor lad has had enough physical (and possibly psychological) harm to deal with already in recent times. The erstwhile injury-stricken forward can be found in the pages of today's Grimsby Telegraph describing the new fitness regime emerging under Neil Woodses, and man oh man, does the Diary like the sound of that. "We now have Prozone looking at our games, nutritional advice from dieticians, heart-rate monitors and body fat tests," said the Jarman as several of his teammates cowered awkwardly behind the packaging of their Happy Meals.
Monday 7 December
Making allowances for the division we are in etc etc it was a damn good game on Saturday. Half decent referee; chances at both ends and a goal apiece. Your Guest Diarist spent the journey home trying to work out, injury and indiscipline permitting, what is our best team. Coulson definitely works playing him out on the left. And the Jarman will back soon to play wide right (Featherstone for me has been a nonentity but then he originally said he didn't fancy playing for Town so what exactly did we expect?).
When Proudlock is match fit he will be the best bloke to lead the line for us in my opinion. His partner is problematic. Akpro threatens to do something but his finishing is woeful (he has not scored in over twenty games). North is lacking confidence (although his control when he took the ball down from over his shoulder out on the wide right was Jarmanesque indeed; the two cross attempts which followed were utterly crap), Forbes is a basket case and as for Barry fucking Conlon, well the new-club novelty has worn off for him like it always does. The young loanee looks a bench signing. Which is a bit mad because our bench is full of squad strikers already. Like Conlon.
Sweeney showed the two sides of him on Saturday a glorious free kick which would have gone in nine times out of ten; some thoughtful probing passing and a stupid over-elaborate piece of play in front of his own box that led to the dreaded-but-fully-expected equaliser. Leary is no James Hunt but the nearest we've got to one at present. Look we don't need a load of players just pick the best ones, get them to play for each other and for us and we are half way there. Maybe Hudson will get back to his best his best is more than good enough to give us a half-decent midfield.
Sorry gentle reader if you are looking for news there isn't any (beyond the obligatory post match platitudinal stuff). So while I'm riding that hobbyhorse I might as well publicly hope that new team coach Casper will find time to keep developing the young lads who have had a few first team games this season and then dropped out of favour again. Wood(s), Shahin, Fuller and the others. Including Widdowson of course. The current crop of Town youth graduates need some more nurturing to help them keep improving. I'm sure that Woods(es) has thought of that though he's good with kids. See yer.
Friday 4 December
Today's turn at Tell The Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Now, Honest falls jointly to Rob Atkinson and Damien McCrory. You have to admire the way they keep finding new ways to come out with the same old shite, don't you? Ya-de-ya-de-ya, disappointing position, ya-de-ya-de-ya, improve our form soon, etc etc and the rest. Anyone remotely interested in reading it? Thought not.
For his part, McCrory has endorsed the Neil Woodses revolution (not to be confused with earlier, inferior revolutions) by extending his loan into the new year. Town are apparently due to play Shrewsbury sometime soon, which would have been McCrory's final game on loan from, um, is it Plymouth? But now it won't be. Which is good, because it denies a place in the team to Joe Widdowson, who has been perhaps the greatest of the 2009-10 season's many great disappointments although the Diary must admit that when I saw the headline "Damien extends stay at Blundell Park" on the Grimsby Telegraph website, my first reaction was "Which one's Damien again?"
Town's trip to Notts County on Boxing Day has been made all-ticket, with the nouveau-riche north midlanders allocating 1,400 tickets to travelling Mariners. This figure is several hundred short of the excellent turn-out from Town fans at Meadow Lane last season as their side's 2-0 win went a long way towards securing one more season in the Football League and the turnstile operators appeared to have let more people into the stand than there were seats. WHERE YOU THERE? I say nouveau-riche; nobody's actually seen a penny of it yet, have they?
So tomorrow the Mariners face another pounding by the Cybermen of Dagenham & Redbridge and I leave you with Cod Almighty's match preview. And with an email from Martyn Wyburn, who had already been in touch earlier this week to share his new-found optimism about GTFC. Befuddled by Tory John's 'back to basics' campaign vis-a-vis the recent arrest of Barry Conlon, he writes: "So you can't have a drink 72 hours before playing for GTFC but it's OK to be banged up in a police cell! Strange times. That optimism I emailed you about the other day, it's gone now." Welcome back to the depths of despair, Martyn. Strangely comfortable, isn't it?
Thursday 3 December
Barry Fucking Conlon has been no stranger to controversy during his time as a professional footballer, and it is fair to say that his performances for the Mariners this season have not generally lived up to supporters' expectations. So let's just do away with the trial and give him a life sentence, shall we? The 31-going-on-60 Mariners frontman, reports the Grimsby Telegraph, was arrested and detained by police yesterday morning in connection with an incident back in March in which a car was seen breaking the speed limit. Should the charges be proven in court, the jury will have presented the Diary with the perfect opportunity to quip that it's the only kind of conviction we'll see from a Town player all season, but in the meantime the great Grimsby public is already queueing up in the comments section of the Telewag's web page to presume Conlon guilty until proven guilty. The Diary is especially tickled by the comment that an alleged driving offence sets a poor example to children, and also curious as to why no outbreak of mass condemnation followed the criminal convictions, also for speeding, of the illustrious club chairman Councillor John Fenty (Con) (93mph, M180, May 2004) and another GTFC player, Sir John McDermott (109mph, A1(M), July 2003).
Today's turn at Tell The Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Now, Honest falls to Peter Sweeney. This is the latest round in a ritual dating back to the early 2000s, in which the playing staff of Grimsby Town Football Club give interviews to the Grimsby Telegraph in which they first admit that the team is not currently performing to the standards that might reasonably be expected given the club's playing budget and the pedigree of the players, and then issue a promise to improve those standards in the near future, which somehow never seems to be fulfilled. "We know that we haven't been scoring enough goals," admits Sweeney, "but contrary to appearances, now and again we actually do give a tuppenny fuck whether the team wins or loses," he doesn't add but might as well have.
Chris Caspers has endured a torrid start to his new role as Town's first team coach who coaches the reserve team. A second-string side which was at least half composed of first-team players was trashed 5-0 at home by Plucky Scunthorpe United yesterday afternoon, and to make matters worse an injury forced the substitution of excellent young right-back Bradley Wood (one of the very few players in the current GTFC squad to whom the Diary does not wish severe and lasting physical and psychological harm). The Mariners' score included no goals from Barry Fucking Conlon.
Wednesday 2 December
Chris Caspers, then, eh? How fortuitous that your regular Diary was indisposed (on a train) yesterday lunchtime and that Idle Diary was forced to step in, with his close personal association with Town's new assistant manager. By the by, I'm on my way home right now by a different route, so today's Diary is brought to you by the awesome socialist power of wi-fi on East Coast Trains. Free mobile internet and public transport owned by the people. It's the future, comrades!
In an early semantic blow to the credibility of the new regime at Blundell Park, Caspers's first task in his new role as first team coach will be to take charge of the reserves. Around five minutes after the Diary has typed these words, the stiffs will kick off at home against Plucky Scunthorpe United and Caspers's team will include new signing Mark Hudson, upon whose shoulders so much hope rests for the eventual emergence of a Mariners midfield that won't collapse like a blancmange under a pneumatic hammer. The line-up for the game also includes Bradley Wood, Jammal Shahin and The Jarman: three of the very few players in the current GTFC squad to whom the Diary does not wish severe and lasting physical and psychological harm. Does anyone know whether you can swap a season ticket so it just gets you into reserve games?
The Diary gathers that Danny North's Facebook page has just described the hardest training session he has ever experienced. Way to go, Woodses! Next time make the bastards bleed. All this suffering for the playing staff is cheering up the Diary no end, which may be why Martyn Wyburn has emailed to say: "Hurrah, the Diary sounds just a tad optimistic at long last. Personally I'm fed up with the doom and gloom surrounding our club at the moment and have decided to see the future as being much brighter. I think an excellent way of bolstering this attitude would be some goals scored and three points, starting on Saturday please." Thanks Martyn we must compare prescriptions sometime, as the Diary could clearly do with stronger medication!
Tuesday 1 December
Unfortunately for our beloved chairman, your Idle Diarist isn't into grassing up adults who should know better. After all, when you're a well paid, supposedly finely tuned footballer, it's bleedin' obvious to the paying public when you're playing with a hangover.
Another example: take today's Grimsby Telegraph, reducing the Grimsby Town Football Club plc AGM to a piece of sensationalist codswallop, reporting the chairman answered allegations of a drinking culture within the club. Is that really the most important thing to come from the AGM? Fenty claiming the club has a protocol on no booze 72 hours before a game? I'm sure Mr Blow and Ms Lalor don't need us to point and shout at this laziness and will have their staff back on top form, digging up the real results from Friday's AGM in no time!
Oi! Watch me pint! You might spill it!
Despite being 19 games into the season, it's a time for new beginnings and all that. While the new man, Neil Woods, has revealed his nerves at his very first job interview recently, he also reveals that honesty and an ability to learn are going to be the foundations of his reign. He's also moved quickly to bring in the highly thought of Chris Casper, who has most recently been head of youth development at Bradford City, to become Woods's right-hand man. Your diarist has spoken to Casper several times recently and he appears to come from a similar school of thought as Woods: articulate, appearingly thoughtful, and with a very well hidden ability to aptly choose when to let rip (shout, not fart).
Whether the Town boss needs more of a good cop/bad cop act than a like mind remains to be seen, but with the removal of the barking taskmaster Stein, the Woods restructuring has started on a number of levels. He's saying the right things, starting to overhaul the club, but will it be enough to continue our league status next season?
Barman! Another of the Leeds Best please! My glass is half full!