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Diary - October 2009
Friday 30 October
"I want to get back amongst it and start again," Barry Fucking Conlon has told the Telegraph, obviously relishing the possible opportunity to be sent off for a third time in successive league games against Accrington Stanley tonight. But maybe he is a reformed character after playing a whole hour for the stiffs the other night, scoring two goals and not getting into trouble at all. Stand-in manager Woods was enthusiastic about getting the big ugly bugger back when talking to the fans who have stumped up their Mariners Player subscription, saying that Conlon will play a part tonight. Woods also enthused about Danny North's performance, saying he looked the player he promised to be four years ago or summat.
Your Guest Diarist has to admit that, faced with the alternative of Akpro (who doesn't know how to finish) and Forbes (who just doesn't, ermm, know despite being a cheery articulate chap when interviewed) as the twofront men it must be tempting to let the other two have a go for an hour.
Dave Moore is still too busy tending to Heywood's knee to do his promised weekly interview for the select few, but Mr Woods summarised the injuries as Atkinson (back in light training), Stockdale (getting better every day), Proudlock (swelling down but a month away) and The Jarman (in plaster). No mention of Hegggaarty (whom we miss more than we ever thought we would) or Heywood. Wood(s) also told us that Lancashire has settled in Lincolnshire and is a real nice lad a credit to Southampton. A comment his mum might be disappointed about, eh?
For the sake of completeness I should also mention that the two last desperate Newell loanees, Mendy and Maginnis, have been sent home because Woods said they wouldn't even make a seven-man bench. Paul Wilkinson was not available for comment.
As for Town's chances against their twelvetieth bogey team of the season, well, the Accies have played well away from home when you take a closer look, and have had some decent results and the odd bit of hard luck. Far too good for the likes of Grimsby, I'd say. We'll lose the midfield battle and lose the game unless we get lucky. But we're due some flukey luck surely? See yer.
Thursday 29 October
"I do occasionally look at the websites," is the shock relevation in today's Grimsby Telegraph interview with John Fenty (Con), whose often mystifying kneejerk responses on the Mariners' superb new official website to the obscurest of online whisperings about GTFC have long given the impression of a man sitting up all night, seven days a week, poring over every messageboard posting even vaguely related to the Mariners down to the last semicolon. The overall message is pretty much the same as always: he's put a lot of money in to the club, therefore nobody should be asking questions about the departures of Mike Newell, Ryan Bennett and Jack Barlow. In particular, it's the deep textual analysis of his every word on the forums that's getting the councillor's goat this week: "If people want to pick holes in that and play games with it then I have to leave them to it," insists JF(C), continuing not to really leave them to it. Still, nice to see he's finally picking up on advice the Diary offered him several years ago. Keep reading, John!
Some of the criticism levelled at Deadly John is clearly unjustified. Contrary to the slop-brained toss peddled by doofuses such as "christopher, grimsbyish", for instance, the chairman is in no way on the make. But if it's the way fans interpret his communications that bothers him most, then Grimsby's most prominent Tory is his own worst enemy. When he tells you he won't sack Mike Newell, and then a week later he sacks Mike Newell, and Mike Newell had served exactly one year of a three-year contract, and JF(C) says: "Mike Newell was broadly 50 per cent through a three-year contract", exactly what are we supposed to think?
It's exactly this sort of thing that feeds through into all levels of the club's communications and administration, of course. It's a slapdash mentality that's ingrained into the culture of the organisation, the latest example being a 'kids go free' offer for tomorrow night's home game against Accrington Stanley which was seemingly announced at just two days' notice.
With the possible exception of Paul Bolland's early blue period, an industrious midfielder sounds just the sort of thing Town have been lacking since the great Alan Pouton walked the earth. How promising it is, then, that just such a figure appears to have emerged from yesterday's reserve game at Lincoln. Despite goals from Barry Fucking Conlon, Jamie Clarke, Michael Leary (2) and Danny North, star of the stiffs' 5-3 win was Mark Hudson, 29-year-old former Chesterfield, Huddersfield and Rotherham midfielder, who has already played for Blackpool and Gainsborough Trinity this season, so the Diary has no idea whether FIFA would let him sign for us or not.
That just leaves some other bloody daft award to do with the Dulux Cup, on top of the bloody daft award to do with the Dulux Cup which we reported the other day, and the Diary is now feeling awards fatigue so we'll finish instead with an email from Rich Mills. "Cheese and broccoli quiche or a cheese and broccoli quiche?" he asks. "Either way, why weren't you making a pie? Call yourself a northerner?" No, Rich, I call myself a Grimbarian. Grimsby can't be in the north in any real psychological way without Grimbarians first developing a concept of the north, which in turn will be impossible until we develop a concept of anything outside Grimsby!
Wednesday 28 October
When some enterprising author sits down to write Administrative Fuck-Ups by Grimsby Town Football Club: The Complete History they will need to set aside plenty of time. Time to chronicle the offer of free admission to friendly matches for season ticket buyers in 2009, which was made and then withdrawn after club suits realised they'd forgotten to take it off the design template for the renewal form used in 2008. Time to detail the manifold mishaps to befall the club official website: giving directions to Southport to fans travelling to a match at Gainsborough, announcing that three players had left the club a week before it happened, using 'foots' as the plural of 'foot', inventing the nation of Gamibia, that sort of thing. Time to cover the director who was meant to vote for Altrincham to be elected into the Football League in 1980 but went into the wrong room at the meeting and then fell asleep. And time to depict the departure of Danny Butterfield to Crystal Palace on a free transfer because nobody at the club understood how the Bosman ruling worked.
And if Administrative Fuck-Ups by Grimsby Town Football Club: The Complete History seeks to live up to its name, it will need to include at least a paragraph about the episode in October 2009 whereby Mariners officials announced that the ticket price for the FA Cup tie at home to Bath City the following month would be cut to £10 without, as was necessary, having first consulted their counterparts at the other club, and were then forced into reverse when Bath saw what was going on and exercised their right (as recipients of 40 per cent of the gate money) to say no. The Cod Almighty team have been uniformly tickled to death by the Grimsby Telegraph opening its account of the story with the phrase "GRIMSBY Town ticket chiefs", but that's by the by. The Diary is just sorry we can't call this heap big cock-up an embarrassing u-turn, because if the people responsible for Town's website, admin, media relations and communications had any sense of embarrassment at all they'd have handed in their notice years ago.
As those of you who read this page on Monday will know, the Diary decided to spend last Saturday afternoon making cheese and broccoli quiche. This has stimulated a response from Tony Rogers, who has emailed to ask: "So, on Saturday was the Diary making cheese and broccoli quiche, or making a cheese and broccoli quiche?" Normally, as you know, the Diary enjoys replying to the questions raised by readers' emails. Sadly, though, this won't be possible in Tony's case because I haven't got a bastard clue what he's going on about.
Tuesday 27 October
However bad things have been for Grimsby Town fans, we've long been able to find solace in the prospect of good young players coming through the ranks. The emergence of Gary Croft, John Oster, Peter Handyside and Jack Lester in the 1990s gave us lasting hope that another golden generation was just around the corner, and with the current crop banking silverware every season en route to the first team, the future seems bright despite the present being shite. But the transfer of 15-year-old Jack Barlow to King$ton Communication$ FC, it seems to the Diary, has blown the lid off the whole caboodle. For all the Telegraph's flannel about the fine job Neil Woods is doing with the Myspace Mariners, Barlow's departure suggests that whenever a genuinely top-class young player emerges at Blundell Park from now on, Town fans will never get to see him kick a ball, because the new imbalance of wealth in the game and the richer clubs' driftnet scouting mean that there'll always be some bastards or other who "have the ability to get Jack". All the consolatory muttering in the world about young Barlow's alleged waywardness isn't going to take away the depressing sense that Town fans will only be watching, say, Bradley Wood and Nathan Dixon because Hull, Newcastle and Manchester United didn't want them.
At the moment, though, it seems that Frickley Athletic fans are watching Grant Normington because Grimsby can do without him. In a classic case study of the dynamic and professional PR and communications that the football world has come to expect from Blundell Park, the news that the teenage Town midfielder has joined the Northern Premier League side on loan has trickled out, several days after the transfer was completed, as a footnote to a piece in the Grimsby Telegraph where John Fenty (Con) is talking about Danny North and Straight Peter Bore. Normington apparently debuted for Frickley at right-back in a 4-2 home win over Hucknall Town last weekend; Fenty and the Telegraph seem convinced that he came off the bench, while the Yorkshire club's official website suggests strongly that he played the whole match. To be fair, though, in the case of most of Normington's senior teammates back in Cleethorpes, it can be pretty tough to tell whether they're actually on the pitch or not.
But before we rush to congratulate Town's comms department on another job well done, let's finish today's Diary by taking our hats off to the similarly lively and quick-thinking folks at Connect a Wolverhampton-based firm which does the PR for the Dulux Cup. The bizarre win at Hartlepool in this season's competition means Town have been named 'team of the round' by the footy-loving folk at Connect just three weeks after the match! And you thought the only chance Town had of winning a trophy this season was the annual walkover in the old 'best pitch in the fourth division' awards. "We have a long held affection for the [Dulux Cup] and it is nice to be linking up with the competition again," is part of a laughably clumsy quote written by Connect and attributed to the Mariners' assistant manager Brian Stein, but which he didn't actually say at all.
So as if it's not bad enough the players taking the piss out of us, now the corporate sponsors are doing it as well. And we keep going. No wonder football fans are so often called "the ideal consumers". See you tomorrow for more of the same.
Monday 26 October
Hello, readers! Welcome to Monday's sift through the wreckage of another weekend of chaos and misery for Grimsby Town Football Club!
"I just want to play for Grimsby Town and make my name here." These were the words of Jack Barlow, less than three months ago, in a Grimsby Telegraph article all about what a good player he is and how he wants to stay with the Mariners despite interest from Manchester United and other big clubs and all that. Like many an optimistic piece of GTFC coverage, it makes rueful reading in retrospect, now that the teenage striker has left the club before most of us had the chance to see him kick a ball. Let's not be too peeved at the apparent ease with which young Jack has cast aside his pledge of allegiance to the Town, though; after all, when the Diary was 14 I pledged to love Morrissey forever, buy every format of every record he ever released, and go and watch him play at least four times on every tour, and now I wish the tedious old sod had just retired in 1994.
But is there any crumb of comfort to be nibbled as we look back sadly over the Telegraph's assertion in August that Barlow is "determined to be part of a bright future at Blundell Park and ignore the lure of a dream move to the big time"? Well, there may be no bright future at Blundell Park, but at least he's kept his promise of ignoring the lure of a dream move to the big time by signing for Hull.
Given the proportion of highly rated young kids who fail to make the first team (rumour has it, too, that young Jack can be a bit of a one), in fact, perhaps we ought to be relieved that King$ton Communication$ FC have at least compensated the Mariners for this one the fee variously believed to come in somewhere between £100,000 and £300,000. As John Fenty (Con) makes perfectly clear, the alternative was for KCFC to have poached Barlow with no fear of punishment from the football authorities and laughed their way out of the tribunal that awarded Town tuppence-ha'penny and a box of pins.
This explanation is not enough, however, for ace local investigative journalist "christopher, grimsbyish", who hints at a darker subtext in a comment on the Grimsby Telegraph website. "that hasgone more money for fenty bank account," he explains, adding: "dont think anybody gets what happening at bp first mike newell then bennett now jack keep watching". We're watching, Christopher. When you've finished your GCSE in forensic accountancy, are you going to juggle some kittens?
In one rare piece of good news to emerge recently, Town's defeat in the first round of this season's FA Cup will at least be by somebody different, as the weekend's draw gave us a first interesting FA Cup tie in living memory by pairing Woods's battlers with Bath City of the Conference South. As Graham Kelly used to intone as he gawped awkwardly into the camera at the end of the draw, the matches will take place on the weekend of 78 November, and even the FA is calling the epochal Mariners v Romans clash "a mouth-watering tie".
Town games against non-League opposition have been few lately, of course; there was Morecambe the other year, but that was in the Dulux Cup and they're in the Football League now and we weren't trying anyway because Tony Crane sent a penalty to the moon; then there was Exeter, but they were never a proper non-League side. No, this is the real thing. The precedents may be good as you all doubtless knew already, Town thrashed Bath City one-nil in the second round of the 195253 tournament but the context is all different, so make no mistake: despite Morecambe and Exeter both having beaten us, this tie represents an excellent chance for the Mariners' first proper humiliation by non-Leaguers since Droylsden took us to a replay in 1976!
Oh, and Town signed a centre-half on loan from Southampton to play in Saturday's defeat at Bournemouth. His name is Oliver Lancashire. That's about all the Diary knows about Oliver Lancashire, or indeed about Saturday's defeat at Bournemouth. If any of you would like to email and enlighten me, please feel free; the Diary decided to spend Saturday afternoon making cheese and broccoli quiche. In the meantime, let's celebrate the news that "traditional Grimsby smoked fish" is now a phrase with protected geographical indication status, like champagne and Parma ham and that. Insert your own joke here about the football club doing something similar with tripe.
Friday 23 October
You've got to hand it to him. The Grimsby Town chairman is the absolute master of the unexpected volte-face. And he is as good at handling the club's PR as Gordon Brown was on YouTube. The single common denominator in Town's inexorable slide towards the perceived ignominy of non-League football and eventual bankruptcy is Coun John Fenty (Con). Yes, the man who has lent the club a million plus on very favourable no-interest terms, but who insisted on complete shareholder and director compliance as the price, has stayed resolutely in his building, inventing new ways to seemingly thwart any hope of either a financial or footballing recovery.
Harsh words, and believe me it pains your Guest Diarist to write them. But even when we got within a gnat's hair of going up under Russell Slade, Fenty managed to cock up the negotiation of Slade's contract renewal just in time to dispirit the squad and totally demotivate the manager. Anyone who listened to the Radio Humberside Sportstalk programme last night will have heard good old Burnsy tell the story about how Fenty convinced a load of people to pay £300 a ticket for a dinner and witness Slade sign his new contract. Mr Burns went on to tell his listening population that it was only after the starter that he realised there was a fly in Slade's soup and he wouldn't sign. Oh, I hear you cry that was just Slade overplaying his bargaining position like a greedy man would. But you know the old saying goes something like: once is an accident, twice is a coincidence; the third time it is enemy action. With managers Fenty is guilty of friendly fire. Six times in six years.
So, as The Fishy predicted yesterday morning, Bennett has gone to Peterborough. For those not following the saga minute-by-minute as you have to with the superb new official site posting announcements and then completely changing them minutes later, I should point out that first Bennett was announced as having gone on a three-month loan with a permanent move to follow when the transfer window reopens. Then this was replaced with another announcement that Bennett had gone just to have a look and was now returning to discuss the idea with his family. This morning came a third announcement: that Bennett had indeed left the club on loan "with a view to signing a permanent deal in January". Chairman Fenty has hastily rushed out a statement claiming that GTFC did not instigate Bennett's disposal and that those pesky agents had been talking behind everyone's back and engineered the move. Whatever he's gone.
The chairman, with woolly words and unexpected deeds, has succeeded in unsettling everyone. Fans are confused and upset, players are confused and demotivated (although Neil Woods says they are not but then he would, wouldn't he?), and small shareholders like me are angry with the lack of coherent strategy and clarity of communication. Mike Newell, whom everyone applauded as an appointment, may well have turned out to have feet of clay. But that doesn't excuse the endless round of kneejerk decision-making and terrible PR. Get a grip, councillor and quickly. You are the common denominator.
As for tomorrow's tough away game against the top-of-the-table Bournemouth, Neil Woods has a long list of injuries and suspensions. Atkinson and Heywood are injured, Bennett has been loaned out. So Linwood and a kid at centre-half then? Quite why Bennett couldn't have stayed for one more game is puzzling, isn't it? Stockdale has had a minor operation which will allow young Wood to continue his fine run of form. Widdowson has trained once, but a reaction may set in again so he is doubtful. The Jarman and Proudlock are totally crocked, of course. But wait Boshell is no longer suspended, so he can compete with the horribly out-of-form Clarke and the static enigma that is Mendy for a midfield slot alongside Sweeney. Forbes and Akpro are rumoured to be the front pairing.
Speaking of Sweeney, I am grateful again for the BBC's Dave Burns' explanation that, when asked, the club said he is neither fat nor unfit "that's just the way he is built". Hard to say that without sniggering, isn't it? For more on tomorrow check out the Cod Almighty pre-match factfile which is full of useful and useless information in riotously equal measure. See yer.
Thursday 22 October
Kevin Drinkell was the Diary's first GTFC hero. When he broke into the side I learned how much Town fans love to see a local boy in the team. When he signed for Rangers for nearly a million quid I learned how badly Town had been ripped off by the Football League tribunal that had ordered Norwich to pay us a bag of buttons for him about five minutes earlier. So it's always good to see Drinks back in the spotlight. Whenever the Mariners need a new manager, he's the Grimsby Telegraph's go-to guy for a quote about keeping it local. You know go for a man with Grimsby connections. And there he is today, calling for Mike Newell to be succeeded by "a manager that has some affiliation with the place". Kev proceeds to decry the modern reliance on temporary players, returning to Norwich for an example: "When Brian [sic.] Gunn took over last year he had almost a team full of loan players." That'll be the same Bryan Gunn who was sacked in August following the Canaries' 7-1 defeat to Colchester, shortly after being given the job because he had some affiliation with the place.
Michael Shelton has emailed the Diary on the subject of yesterday's happy but necessarily fleeting diversion from grim reality. "I remain to be convinced that Hope Powell is the right man for the job, so to speak," he quips. "However, I think there would be a delicious irony to the man who proclaimed that there was no place for women in football being succeeded by a woman, especially if said succeeding woman succeeded. The GrimTel would love it just think of all those ready-written headlines. 'Town Hope for turnaround' as she takes over, 'Town won't give up Hope' as she suffers a bad run, 'Bob Hope' as she ducks to avoid a football coming towards her head, etc." The Diary would have enjoyed it just for watching the exploding heads of Grimbarian misogynists but by the same token some might also see a delicious irony in Drinkell "drink all" succeeding a manager who was rumoured to have [Stop right there! CA lawyers]
Late breaking news! Our friends at The Fishy are reporting that Ryan Bennett is in talks with Peterborough, who were comically rebuffed with a £600,000 offer for the Town defender back in the summer, basically on the say-so of then manager Mr M Newell. Nobody else is yet carrying the story, so if it's true it would be a tremendous scoop for the Fishy folks; I guess we'll find out tomorrow, but I must say if I were a Peterborough fan then I'm not sure I'd want Bennett around after the withering put-down he issued to their club after signing a new contract with Town. The deal is reported to be a three-month loan to O'Posh turning permanent when the window re-opens in January, which seems to the Diary an effective if rather extreme way of correcting the error made by Newell in handing Bennett the captaincy.
Wednesday 21 October
On Monday morning the Diary could hardly bring myself to look at the list of contenders for the job of Grimsby manager, because the common denominator of failure in the chairman's office means it will barely make a difference who's in charge of the team. On Tuesday morning I looked at the list of contenders and buried my head in my hands out of utter despair at the poverty of available talent.
On Wednesday morning I saw that Dean Windass was considered by the media to be a frontrunner, and said to myself: "Come on Fenty might be an inarticulate Tory fish magnate who has casually discarded his much-avowed new commitment to managerial stability at the first sign of trouble, but he wouldn't be that daft, surely?"
Now it's Wednesday afternoon, and if the Diary were a lot more credulous and a lot less cynical and jaded from Town's relentless decline over the past decade not to mention the culture of cheerful incompetence that continues to corrode the fabric of the club then I might even have allowed myself to grow slightly excited in the last hour. Why? The Lincolnshire Echo, remarkably, is reporting one "shock contender" for the job as Hope Powell, the gifted manager of England women. Powell, of course, boasts fabulous credentials after transforming England into one of the world's leading sides in the face of huge cultural resistance and a desperate lack of resources. Windass, meanwhile, had a fight with Marlon King in a casino and boasts a head shaped like a potato.
The Diary is quite certain I read somewhere the other week that Powell was due to make some sort of appearance in Grimsby which was entirely unconnected with the vacancy at Blundell Park (I just can't seem to find it again now because the story has hit the messageboards and flooded out my Google search), so the overwhelming likelihood is simply that somebody's spotted her at Millfields Hotel, put two and two together and come up with a 90-foot gerbil sculpted entirely from green snow. But I'm also quite certain I read somewhere earlier this year Powell saying she fancied a stab at the men's game sometime and would an occasionally respected newspaper such as the Echo risk its modest reputation on running so attention-grabbing a story with no real evidence beyond the feeble wittering of a web forum?
Oh, come on. We all know the desperate state of British journalism. But never mind that for now! Powell is the only candidate mentioned so far, realistically or otherwise, whose employment at Blundell Park would have the Diary feeling anything other than ennui, loathing, existential despair and emotional exhaustion. So while the story is surely the biggest load of old cobblers this side of a Northamptonshire sheltered housing scheme, it's at least brightened up my week. And given the way the Diary felt on Monday morning, that's no small achievement at all.
Tuesday 20 October
Was it because of Town's dreadful start to the season? Was it because John Fenty abandoned his carefully considered new policy of managerial stability on the back of one heated disagreement when Town lost at home to Rochdale the other day? No! The Diary can exclusively reveal today that the real reason for the sacking of Mike Newell was to promote the club's subscription web service Mariners Player. "TRY our exclusive interviews with chairman John Fenty and caretaker boss Neil Woods for FREE," implores the club's superb new official website. "What are John's thoughts the day after the club parted company with Mike Newell? Is there a timeframe to appoint a new manager? ...Click here for your free 14 day trial," begs the SNOS. Oh, go on then there may be page after page of personal details to fill in, and you do have to give your credit card information even though the chairman's interview is part of a free trial, but finding out everything I can about the inner workings of GTFC is part of the Diary's job. Let's see then. What can the interview tell us about Deadly John (Con)'s thinking on the next steps for his crisis-riven club? "Error The page you are trying to reach may have expired, or been moved. If you have followed a link from your bookmarks, please relocate the page and remember to update your bookmarks."
In the absence, then, of an accessible explanation from Mr Fenty, what has Newell to say as his name joins the now frankly ridiculous litter of managerial changes made by Town chairmen since 2000? The outgoing manager has, in fact, given a good account of himself in interviews with both Radio Humberside (official media partner of the 'McDermott For Manager' campaign) and the Grimsby Telegraph, where he says: "I would recommend the job to anyone in football it's a good club to work for and the chairman is good to work for... It's a great club, the people there are superb and the fans have been patient." Without a shaky Mariners Player camera trained on Newell's face, though, it's hard to tell whether he's managing to keep it straight.
Deadly John (Con) spoke recently, of course, of players' bad attitudes as a "common denominator" in Town's recent decline but fans are increasingly noting that the one constant, as the club has plunged from second division stability to the brink of non-League football in the blink of an eye, has been Councillor Fenty himself. As one member of the Cod Almighty team pointed out yesterday, GTFC have become "like a small picture of what the country will be like under Tory rule", adding: "Anyone who is thinking of voting Tory should be made to watch Town for a couple of years."
To an extent, then, it barely even matters any more who will succeed Newell, because of the common denominator in the chairman's office. Obviously, the Diary will offer unconditional support to whoever ends up getting the job but one can't help thinking the first two candidates to be 'linked with' the vacancy would be little short of disastrous. Dean Windass can barely string together a coherent sentence, and Sir John McDermott may have been a great servant etc etc and so on, except when he nearly signed for Hull, but as endless examples have proven before him, this doesn't make a great tactician, coach, transfer dealer, motivator, or judge of a player. In particular, the Diary's mind rolls back to an interview Macca gave to this website in 2003 in which he asserted: "David Soames, who has just made his debut, and Joe Lightowler are two lads with great careers ahead of them, I think." Not that this sort of thing alone ought to count decisively against him, of course, but let's allow His Royal Macness to build up gradually to a job like this before we risk doing a Groves on the great man's reputation, eh?
So what do you lot reckon? "I think you are being unkind to Fenty," begins an email to the Diary from Phil Shorter, who nevertheless adds further damage to the chairman's reputation by pointing out that he "drives a BMW, not a Merc". How so, Phil? "I have heard frightening tales circulating in the Findus stand all season concerning Guinness, old pals' acts, cliques, player unrest (for a change), management refusal to take training, the list goes on and on and on. What is obvious is that the players are totally demotivated, not fit, some not interested. This is not a chairman-led problem it is a manager-led problem. His body language has been awful since day one, and whilst he has some good contacts, with the right motivation and leadership things can be turned round look at the changes at Barnsley in the last month. The chairman needs to be applauded, not criticised as Monday's Diary has I thought Newell was going to be the best thing since sliced bread, as did most others, so it just shows doesn't it?"
Thanks for emailing, Phil. There's no need for us to debate the worth of rumours (although the frightening tales circulating the top right of the Pontoon are 4 per cent better than the ones in the Findus), and you may or may not have a case as far as some of Newell's alleged failings are concerned. What concerns the Diary as we look ahead, though, is who appointed this failed manager. Now, come on, you might say; the chairman couldn't have foreseen the way things would work out with Newell. Let's look at the bigger picture, then: who appointed Buckley III and Graham Rodger before Newell? Who failed to retain the only nearly-successful manager of the generous handful he's quickly got through so far? Now there's a pattern emerging. John Fenty, let us remember, has not left the building.
"So, it's that time of year again!" chimes Tom Carpenter, adding: "Just a suggestion. My Grandad always called my pet hamsters 'Fred' on the basis that they wouldn't live long enough for it to be worth his learning their names. I suggest that in future each successive Grimsby manager should be known as 'Mr Smith', as they last about the average lifespan for an overfed rodent. As well as preventing us having to learn their names, this would have the advantage of ensuring each new 'Mr Smith' can be judged purely on the calibre of football produced, and not on the basis of ephemera. Just a thought, and many thanks to Monday's Diary for sticking up for the-fans-in-the-dark." Thank you, Tom an excellent suggestion made all the better by the fact that 'Smith' doesn't begin with 'L'.
Lastly today, a quick word for those of you who have obediently cultivated a hatred for Scunthorpe United because your weak minds have bought the nonsense that true support means despising the team from down the road and convincing yourself of their inferiority even though they're just the same as you. Look you can't really hate Scunny, because they're just so cute! The plucky Irons, apparently, have gone to extraordinary lengths to mark an auspicious and momentous occasion by producing a special mug to commemorate, er, their league game tonight in the second division. It's against Newcastle so, I dunno, they've probably never played Newcastle before or something. Now isn't that just the most adorable thing you've ever heard? Bless!
Monday 19 October
"Players, who think another two games and we will have a new manager and a new opportunity to hang on, must think again"
official website of Grimsby Town Football Club, 10 October 2009
"Despite the intention for continued support beyond the recent poor results & disappointing performances the club has dismissed Mike Newell due to irretrievable breakdown"
official website of Grimsby Town Football Club, 19 October 2009
So Deadly John (Con) has shot his load again, just a week after promising to hold his fire and, as ever, Town fans are left in the dark. "Irretrievable breakdown" of what? The mental health of the supporters? The chairman's Mercedes? It can't be the form of the team, because Fenty just referred to "continued support beyond" that. Once again, Grimsby Town Football Club are treating their own supporters with contempt through their failure to communicate the most basic of information with anything vaguely approaching competence. And human nature abhors an information vacuum. Unless this one is filled with hard fact, rumour will proliferate quickly and it will further damage the club and further poison the relationship with its fans.
The sacking, of course, follows the same contradictory pattern as that of Alan Buckley one year ago, when Fenty's statement of support for the manager after a Saturday game was shown to be utterly hollow when the chairman dismissed him barely 48 hours later. In a very real way, then, the identity of Newell's successor doesn't matter a toss. Why? Because it would clearly take even the best available manager more than a year to turn round the incompetence and culture of failure that now permeate the club from top to bottom. And when, towards the end of 2010, the new boss has has not achieved this, Deadly John (Con) will presumably be unable to resist his itchy trigger finger once again.
So let there be no doubt. After seeming to rally now and again lately, Fenty's credibility now stands at absolute zero. And the biggest question facing the club today is not who the next manager will be but whether, on those occasions when they can actually figure out what the frig he's going on about, the fans will ever again be able to believe a single word their chairman says.
Friday 16 October
Bradley Wood(s), one of the few Town players this season not content to hide his light under a boshell, has been rewarded (as the journos say) with a four-year professional contract. Hats off to the lad, who has been a pleasure to watch he tackles, he passes, he doesn't get downhearted easily, ie. he tries. Given Stockdale's injury record, the lad should get plenty of first-team games too. Let's hope Macca bumps in to our Bradley and gives him some tips about how to defend successfully without too much tackling. McDermott was an absolute master of that art.
As promised, Newell and Fenty have been spending money we haven't got to bring in more players to 'freshen things up' and to replace the injured Proudlock and the useless Clarke/Boshell/Leary (delete as applicable). Arnaud Mendy, a strapping box-to-box powerhouse of a giant French youngster (to paraphrase the Derby site and every other cut 'n' paste site on the web), has joined on a month's loan to get first-team experience. He's had a couple of run-outs and "scored with a spectacular overhead kick", but has no real experience. So the ever-increasing Irish flavour of the squad has been counterbalanced with a dollop of gallic je ne sais quoi. Let's hope he has all of those exciting qualities and is a really nice friendly young man to boot, eh? Because, mon Dieu, we need someone to get a grip in the middle of the park in a Georges Santos sort of way.
So Town are at home again tomorrow, to Rochdale, and we meet our ninth bogey team of this torrid season. The Cod Almighty factfile is well worth a read, as ever. It tells us we have yet another dodgy referee to look forward to and that "Town need to stop shitting about". My sentiments entirely.
The superb new official site is rumouring furiously that we are trying to sign "a Championship striker" as well, but no further news yet. As for team news, Newell is obviously too busy to do his subscription-only double act with Dale so all I can tell you is The Jarman had his operation to put a pin in his foot; Proudlock still has his ligaments although they are badly twisted; Conlon is his usual suspended self, and accidental hardman Boshell is banned as well. So we have yesterday's new boy Magennis, Ak-Ak and North to choose from up front. As for Hegggaarty (whom we really miss) I haven't a clue last I heard, he was having an injection. We've got to come good sometime surely, but I have a feeling that tomorrow will still be a bit desperate. Let's hope not. See yer.
Thursday 15 October
Josh Magennis is the latest person asked to contribute towards the Grimsby Town football team perhaps becoming a bit less shit at some point. What is he? He's a hefty chunk of 19-year-old striker with a bit of height and pace, who has joined on a month's loan from Cardiff after eight substitute appearances for the Welsh side this season, and who netted his first senior domestic goal in a League Cup win over Bristol Rovers two and a bit weeks ago. Mike Newell has made his move after watching Magennis notch both goals in Cardiff reserves' 2-1 win over Hereford last week a feat he repeated for Northern Ireland under-21s against Iceland recently. Curiously, the player has only lately become a dedicated outfield player, after spending much of his time in development as a goalkeeper, and indeed was capped twice as an under-17 international while playing in goal. Given the current area of greatest weakness in their team, however, most Town fans could be forgiven for wondering if Magennis' versatility might allow him to fill the gaping hole next to Peter Sweeney in the centre of midfield.
Another option for the middle of the park might have been Ben Osman, had the teenage trialist not been withdrawn injured half an hour into yesterday's run-out for the reserves at Huddersfield. Osman's fellow hopeful Ryan Crowther seemingly fared little better, being substituted at half time although it was he who provided the cross for Danny North's 21st-minute goal, which was perversely allowed to stand despite Crowther seemingly being 124.9 optical gigayards offside when the ball was played to him. The account of the game on Town's website is so minimal as to constitute a waste of bandwidth, but there's a half decent one on Huddersfield's, albeit with a picture of their goalscorer Michael McCaffery wearing a shirt which is either too big or just badly Photoshopped. Still, at least Huddersfield's website actually tells you who's in the picture, rather than just putting the picture there and leaving you to guess, in the style of a website run by people without the vaguest trace of knowledge of or ability in media and communications. I mean that would be terrible.
That's all from your regular Diary for this week, so thanks for reading, congratulations to the 6.6 per cent of you who got HN Hickson, and stay tuned tomorrow for Guest Diary's doom-laden but avuncular look ahead to Simon Ramsden's goal(s) in Saturday's heavy home defeat at the hands of Rochdale. Cheerio!
Wednesday 14 October
Exactly one hour after the Diary is typing these words, a Town reserve team featuring two trialists will begin a game against Huddersfield, if we're to believe what we're told by the club's superb new official website. Ryan Crowther is a winger who played two games for Stockport aged 17 in one, remarkably, captaining the side before disappearing into the bowels of Anfield, watching a succession of obscure and unremarkable Europeans promoted ahead of him, and finally asking to be released to find a new club and begin again. Ben Osman is a midfielder born in 1990 to former England international and Escape to Victory star Russell Osman; he's arrived at BP after leaving Tommy Widdrington's Salisbury City last Thursday and has also been on the books at Wrexham and Exeter. The article on Town's superb new official website features a picture of an eight-year-old boy who is presumably one of the two players, but sadly the hard-working editorial team behind the SNOS
lacks the basic media literacy just can't be fucking arsed is just too busy to tell us which one.
After fresh injuries to The Jarman and Adam Proudlock two of the few players on the books at GTFC who currently look like they give a shit about anything except getting off the pitch as quick as possible, jumping in the shower and fucking off to the pub up-against-it Town boss Mike Newell is planning to bring in new forwards, which is just as well given Adrian Forbes' current form, Chris Jones' failure so far to look anything whatsoever like a striker, and Danny North's record of one goal in his last 21 appearances. "I always planned to freshen things up this week but the injuries heighten the need to get someone in up front," Mr Newell tells today's Grimsby Telegraph, adding: "Hopefully we can have a player secured in good time before Saturday's [heavy home defeat by Rochdale]."
As ever with Telegraph stories online, the local brains trust has stumbled blinking into the comments section of the story about Newell's pursuit of new strikers, with "Laceby acres guy, Grimsby" adducing the remarkable conclusion that Town's current problems are rooted not, as conventional wisdom (otherwise known as the bleedin' obvious) would have it, in the centre of midfield, but with the goalkeeper for all the world as if Tommy Forecast were still flapping hopelessly at the tamest of crosses. There's thinking outside the box, and then there's thinking at the bottom of a well covered in a metric fuckton of malodorous slime.
Thanks to all 59 of you so far who have taken the 1998 Auto Windscreens final quiz, and shame on the 8.5 per cent who couldn't remember the names of Alan Buckley and Wayne Burnett! Here's a somewhat tougher quiz on GTFC managers. But first, consider the hardest question of all: why did the club fine Barry Fucking Conlon for a red card they were dead set on appealing against if only they'd found some CCTV footage?
Tuesday 13 October
As one door closes, a great philosopher once reflected, another one slams in your face and never was this more apparent than to Grimsby Town fans yesterday afternoon. No sooner had we started to come to terms with a new month-long injury to Adam Proudlock one of the apparently few players in the squad who aren't laughing in our faces while they wipe their arses on our ticket money than the news emerged that The Jarman had broken his foot again and would be out for six weeks. Jarman, of course, is another member of that dwindling band of good guys: a skilful footballer who worked for the best part of a year to get himself in shape and seized his chance with the Mariners like his life depended on it, and if every member of the team had his attitude we'd be in the top three, not the bottom three I could go on, but it only magnifies the pain. As another great philosopher once reflected, it never rains but it bastard pisses it down.
Today's turn at Tell The Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Now, Honest falls to Nick Colgan. Someone should really start keeping track of these. "We can't accept conceding goals, we can't accept losing tackles," is the veteran netman's take on Town's troubles. "We can't carry two or three players in a game because we aren't a good enough team to do that. We need everyone firing, digging others out and having a go at each other in the right manner." In fairness, then, Colgan emphasises what needs to change rather than promising emptily, in the manner of most of his teammates, that it simply will, so let's give some credit for that and the Diary is starting to warm to our new goalkeeper after some convincing performances between the beams were supplemented last Saturday with an excellent display of giving as good as he was getting from the Pontoon's resident fuckwits. More of that please Nick!
At least Town are going to get twenty thousand quid out of Antichrist Murdoch for their Dulux Cup tie against Leeds being on the telly. Can we spend it all on bringing Dean Sinclair back, Mr Fenty, sir?
Speaking of Mr Fenty sir, the Diary rather expected a deluge of overnight correspondence on the subject of the chairman unburdening himself at the weekend. Let's turn to the Diary's inbox and see what you had to say, then. "Vyvyan to SPG the Hamster in The Young Ones from the episode that featured either Motorhead or The Damned (who by coincidence are touring together in November)," writes Mark Wilson, correctly identifying the source of yesterday's phrase at the top of the page, although I think he said it to Rik as well. Never mind, folks. Here's a quick GTFC quiz to remind you of better times. See you tomorrow.
Monday 12 October
"There are common denominators and that's not pointing fingers or blaming this entirely on a small numbers [sic.] of players," said Conservative councillor John Fenty in Saturday morning's state of the nation address, immediately before pointing fingers and blaming this entirely on a small number of players. All Fenty seems to have meant was that he wasn't naming names but if the Town chairman is guilty of taking a long time to say nothing much at all then at least this time he's giving us plenty of lines to read between, and of the mixture of feelings experienced by the Diary on reading the councillor's statement, the strongest was anger. Anger at the players whichever ones they are who are seemingly able to look themselves in the face week after week despite taking our coin and putting their feet up. If they don't get on with the manager, and they don't want to play for him, you'd hope they'd nevertheless respect the fact that it's the fans who keep them in booze and Big Macs, and at least play for us. But just a few short hours after Fenty's words were published on Town's superb new official website, so our employees were proving him right again in their appalling but entirely predictable surrender to Burton Albion on Saturday afternoon.
So there's talk of new players this week and talk of the "weak-minded" culprits being shipped out pronto but nobody seems prepared to adduce a name. What everyone can surely agree on, however, is that the Mariners' problems on the pitch are chiefly in central midfield, where Newell signed four players over the summer, of whom only one appears fit for purpose, and even then only when Town are in possession, and only after two months of the season is he beginning to approach match fitness. What nobody but the Diary yet seems to have noticed is that Saturday's referee Mr S Rushton comes from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and Burton Albion come from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and the rules explicitly forbid the appointment of match officials from the same county as one of the teams, so the result should be declared void and the match replayed. Anyone fancy ringing up the Football League?
One name that can seemingly be absolved from blame is that of Adam Proudlock, in the Diary's opinion the best all-round forward at the club and, one daft red card aside, a player who has done fuck all wrong at all since he arrived at Blundell Park in January. All the more pity, then but all the more typical of Town's luck that the Shropshire lad will be out of action for four weeks as he recovers from the ligament damage he sustained on Saturday. Former Myspace Mariner and recent trialist Jammal Shahin, meanwhile, has rejoined the club on a one-year contract after apparently 'impressing for the reserves' in recent weeks. There is no truth in rumours, and indeed there are no rumours, that this week's emergency signings to plug the gaps in midfield will include Paul Ashton, Ben Higgins and Chris Bolder.
WEM-BER-LEY! WEM-BER-LEY! There's always a good Dulux Cup run to distract us from relegation, of course, and Saturday's draw for the area quarter-finals has given Town an away trip (as always) to third division Leeds United on Tuesday 10 November. The club's superb new official website has celebrated by basically stealing the write-up from the one on the Leeds site, while the Yeovil site Ciderspace is a tad discombobulated at the decision of Sky to screen the match live, contending that there's "almost no opportunity of a cup shock against a Grimsby side currently struggling at the wrong end of [the fourth division] in 22nd position". As much as we enjoy Ciderspace one of the best club websites in the lower divisions a little more homework might have been in order here, because given Town's awesome recent Dulux Cup record against third division sides, it's surely the home win that would represent the real cup shock at Elland Road next month. WEM-BER-LEY! WEM-BER-LEY! We're in 90th place in the league with a sense of overwhelming crisis and and we're off to Wemb-er-ley!
Friday 9 October
Just because Mike Newell has been at Town a year now, don't think your Guest Diarist can be arsed to distil his reign into statistics. Suffice to say we are exactly where we were in terms of attractive football, winning football or anything else that gladdens the heart. Newell has maxed out his playing budget, and his squad now comprising almost exclusively players he decided to keep and players he decided to sign are what they are. And what they are does not appear to be doing the trick to keep us away from the bottom of the table, or provide any watching pleasure.
Tomorrow we play Burton for the first proper time. Fans are praying for a point. Burton don't do 0-0 apparently (as recorded in our pre-match factfile) and have garnered most of their points so far at home. Two home games (Burton and Rochdale) if we don't win one of them then something may happen. Does Newell fear the Rochdale reaper, gentle reader?
Our striker surplus which made the squad look so unbalanced has resolved itself with Conlon perpetually suspended, Proudlock perpetually likely to be, and now Danny North has been publicly embarrassed by the fax making his availability known to every non-League club in the northern hemisphere along with Peter Bore (described, I expect as a heterosexual utilitarian). I am assuming that Newell has picked two players whom a club might be interested in, rather than his two worst players (whom no club bigger than Sleaford Town might look at twice no names, no pack drill). And I am also assuming that Chairman Fenty (Con) has told him he can't sign any more players until his squad cost comes down. And quite right too Newell made his choices in the summer; now he has to live with them.
As for tomorrow Boshell-the-accidental-hardman is suspended again, along with Barry Fucking Conlon. Hegggaarty is still injured and Stockdale is even-more injured with the prospect of an operation ending the latest episode of his little cliff-hanger of a story. Newell is pinning his hopes on the hapless energy of Forbes and the adrenaline of The Jarman to cause such a clucking in the Burton hen coop that we somehow accidentally score. Yes, new names for Newell to cling to. And with a ready-made 'what do you expect when they are not match fit?' excuse to use if we lose. At least Linwood is training again, so expect him to play alongside Atkinson, Widdowson and Wood (who will benefit from Forbes chasing back and squawking at him, no doubt although whether headless chickens are in fact able to squawk we will have to debate in the pub beforehand, I suppose).
Anyway, (I said, ruefully) whichever way you look at it manager Newell is under pressure. His 'big' players have discipline and fitness problems; some of the older kids have attitude (and you never win anything with kids anyway); and he refuses to bother with tactics. It's enough to drive a man to drink. But hey, tomorrow it might all click, I must add, though lamely. Best to keep going just in case it does. See yer.
Thursday 8 October
Rather than inspiring supporters to celebrate another great cup upset, Town's win at Hartlepool in the Dulux Cup this week has simply got us grumbling about why the side can't reproduce that sort of form in the league. And not without good cause. The Mariners are, as we know, entrenched deeply in their worst long-term run of league form since the foundation of the club in 1878 and yet Tuesday night was the 10th time this decade that we've knocked a club from a higher division out of a cup competition. Grumble no longer, though, Town fans! The club's superb new official website has revealed an innovative new scheme whereby the team's excellent form in cup competitions can at last result in an improvement to our lowly position in the league. Or at least that's what the Diary assumes was going on when the SNOS examined the odds on Town being able to "bag all three points against Hartlepool".
Are you a Grimsby Telegraph hack sneaking a look at the Diary? Feeling a bit dispirited because of your rubbish pay, job insecurity, and the fact that it's only the spectacular editorial incompetence of Town's superb new official website that stops the Diary scrutinising your own work more closely? Cheer up! Former Town goalkeeper Jonathan Lund has joined first division Burnley and in reporting this news, the Burnley Express somehow manages to forget the fairly important matter of actually giving the player's name, intimating only that "Burnley have signed keeper former Leeds and Grimsby keeper on a contract until the end of the season". So there are always people doing a worse job than you.
A quick peek into the Diary's inbox next, and it seems that Phil Watson followed yesterday's link to a story about Sir Brian Mawhinney tackling the challenges that face "the football industry" (yep, it actually said that with a straight face). Phil seems to have read the story in its entirety, which is more than the Diary could be arsed to do, and has taken issue with the failed politician and Football League bigwig on his assertion that spending 87 per cent of revenue on wages, as FL clubs apparently do, is unsustainable. "I haven't checked for a long while, but the figure for US major league baseball used to be higher than that," says Phil. "Well over 90 per cent, I think, and still profitable. But then US sports have all sorts of mechanisms (salary caps, minor leagues, drafts, etc) to level the playing field. Trust the Yanks to resort to socialism to make things work. Errr..." It's a shame they can't run their society like they run their sports, isn't it?
That's all from your regular Diary for another week, but stay tuned as always tomorrow for Guest Diary's increasingly rueful but always entertaining look at the world of GTFC (and indeed the world at large). T'ra for now.
Wednesday 7 October
WEM-BER-LEY! WEM-BER-LEY! As Mike Newell's beloved Luton showed last season, there's nothing like a Dulux Cup win to distract you from the devastating heartbreak of losing your status as a member of the Football League and while Town's struggles in the league show no sign of ending any time soon, last night's excellent 2-0 win at Hartlepool in the paint thing placed them in this Saturday's draw for the northern section quarter-finals. By all accounts (no, of course none of us went) the Mariners fully deserved their win, with a super first appearance of the season by The Jarman showing what we've been missing. Town being Town, of course, it may be the tenth time this decade that we've knocked higher-division opponents out of a cup competition, but every silver lining has a cloud, and the rain on our parade this time is a third red card in seven games for Grimsby's, er, notorious hardman, um, Danny Boshell, which raises the questions of whether (a) Boshell and Barry Fucking Conlon are having some sort of bet; and (b) we'll just get that tax bill paid off and then the FA will notice we have the worst disciplinary record in the world and fine us £8scrillion.
Over in the Diary's inbox, Matt Pakes has reminded us of a fantastic Town-related story which Guest Diary rather surprisingly opted not to cover last Friday and which would then have spoilt the effect of our single-issue rants on Monday and Tuesday. For those of you who haven't already seen, then, the news is that Gary Montgomery one of the infamous Luton Three who were dramatically shown the door by Mike Newell last season as the squad prepared for a game against Town's relegation rivals has followed up his spell as reserve goalkeeper with the Mariners by joining Lancashire County Cricket Club as a left-arm seam bowler. The rumour doing the rounds, of course, was that when Newell decided he'd seen enough of Phil Barnes in nets, he turned to the second-choice keeper to step up to the first team only for Montgomery to tell him he didn't want to play so in this light perhaps his decision to switch sports is a shade less surprising. Insert your own joke here about his inability to field at extra cover, or something.
Dave the Engineer, meanwhile, emailed on Monday to say: "As I had a couple of hours to spare on Saturday afternoon, I decided to watch my local football team. Attack and endeavour, then a breakaway, the defence didn't cope and it's one-nil down. More attack and nearliness and another breakaway a fine finish made it two-nil down. Just before half time the goalscoring machine was dismissed for violent conduct and after the break, following a goalkeeping mistake, it was three-nil. Sleeves were rolled up and attack continued: 1-3 and the comeback's on, penalty, 2-3 and the opposition are all over the place. With seven minutes remaining it's three apiece and now who's waiting for the final whistle? Sadly this story ends like so many at Blundell Park, with defeat. The game, Louth Town v Sleaford in the FA Vase. Sleaford won 4-3 after extra time. The Louth side, missing five regulars and playing from 30 minutes with ten men, showed what is lacking at Grimsby: passion, skill and a game plan. But it's not the same!" Sounds like a belter though, sir. The Diary is always delighted to hear from readers who pop along to check out their local teams as a break from suffering the Mariners, so email firstname.lastname@example.org with any more.
If Mawhinney Takes The Lead, it must be a very weak dog.
Tuesday 6 October
Mardy Diary writes: Muh. Meh. Hanuuuuuurf. Hmph. Nuh. Ahem. Oh God, isn't the football season over yet? Look, we're above the relegation spots we survived. Brilliant we can start looking forward to next season. No? Oh bollocks. Hartlepool away, in the paint pot trophy, on a wet Tuesday, in my condition? Remember when we used to comfortably beat teams like that? Nope me neither. Ten more years of hurt, never stops me dreaming apart from those nights it keeps me awake in a cold sweat of course.
There is some news. There will be some changes. Some player or other will play instead of some other player or other. The faces change, the faeces stays the same. At least The Jarman might make a return someone with a bit of spark about them. Or maybe the club has kicked that out of him too? We need Pouton back if not in the midfield (and really, he'd be better than what we've seen since he left still), then to march up and down the touchline screaming at the players. Our club needs a nutter, but not one that just gets sent off though eh Barry Fucking Conlon?
It can't rain all the time, I will admit yet seemingly, we can be shit all the time. All the time. All of the little time we have on this planet. We can be shit for all of that time, and beyond. Apparently. Why do other teams seem to sign players that want to make an effort every week? I wouldn't mind even if we signed a load of relentless, mindless automatons like Dagenham. Must score. Must score. Must score. Score. Must score more. Must score more. Score. Playing Grimsby keep going. They will fold. Fold approaching. Fold achieved. Score. Score.
There must be a team on this planet that are currently more shit than us. I'd suggest we contact them and offer to form a breakaway league, but they'd only start tonking us 3-0 at home after six months.
Tonight I will follow the score online and I will despair. You hear that Town? That is my pre-emptive sigh. You'd better shape up.
Monday 5 October
"All we can say to the fans is please keep sticking behind us. I know it's hard, but that is what we need. We've got home games coming up and we need the support we had at the end of last year."
- Ryan Bennett, Grimsby captain, quoted in today's Grimsby Telegraph
"I felt sorry for their supporters. They bought loads down, as they always do. 539 in fact. That's a superb turnout whatever way you slice it... Just to rub salt into the wound for the poor old Grimsby fans, there was not even a hint of appreciation from their players for their efforts in supporting them."
- Eric Hitchmo, Barnet fan, writing on Downhill Second Half
And there's a thing that's been bothering the Diary for some time now. Town have been shit for years, but at least when Justin Whittle was captain and we were shit, the players would come over at the end of the game and applaud the supporters a welcome gesture which said: "We appreciate your support. Sorry for being shit." Now that someone else is captain and we're shit, the players will quite happily queue up to promise us every week via the Grimsby Telegraph that they'll stop being shit any time now, honest, and urging us to keep on supporting them but at five o'clock on Saturday afternoon, when they've let us down once again, they can no longer even bring themselves to look us in the face.
Friday 2 October
The last time we played Barnet away something went right for that endlessly enthusiastic and frustratingly ineffective Adrian Forbes. He scored a decent goal and earned us a point. Whether he will get in the team tomorrow is anyone's guess, but he has been vocal in the local paper apparently, "calling on his team mates to deliver the goods". Your Guest Diarist saw the Forbester in the summer kicking a ball about with local village kids in Ancaster a thoroughly decent bloke with loads of infectious enthusiasm, he seemed. But is that interview enough motivation to go out and buy a Telegraph just for the matchday preview?
The men of the moment for Town (until the Jarman returns a man with both infectious enthusiasm and ball control) are undoubtedly Wood(s) and Bore. Wood(s) has played well twice; Bore is trying, and managing finally to go past players now and again. Manager Newell repeats his drone-like 'penny must drop' mantra about the young hetero on his pay-to-see-it interview with Mariners Player. This week the interviewer seems anxious to pick out the bright spots of play Town have mustered. Colgan making a couple of saves; the Borester beating his man twice; blah, blah flipping blah. Let's face it Town were rubbish on Wednesday and the scoreline flattered them.
There is a part of me that wants Barnet to win tomorrow we did them so cruelly, so many times, that they deserve to dole out a mauling of their own. And now we are almost totally shit, and they are quite good. But the devil on my other shoulder is making reassuring noises about how we always win unexpectedly away when a victory is least expected. Think Wycombe, it wheedles, in a wormtonguey voice. Yeah, well, we can always dream.
The Guardian reports that Phil Brown took his team for a walk over the Humber bridge, dissuading a woman from a suicide jump en route. The Hull squad had been told to 'look for clarity'. Newell needs some of that stringing five across midfield isn't the answer. Getting the midfield to win and hold on to the ball; getting the front two to take the pressure off by holding the ball up; getting everybody properly fit so they can actually run about for 90 minutes; and working out what the hell has gone wrong down our left-hand side are just some of the issues he needs to address quickly. Oh well, we live in hope. See yer.
Thursday 1 October
Today's turn at Tell The Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Now, Honest falls to Adam Proudlock. In the wake of Town's latest complete failure to perform, compete and generally not take the piss out of the fans who pay their wages, in last night's 3-2 defeat at Chesterfield, the Shropshire-born forward spoke to the local paper and said: "It's disappointing to lose, but I'm sure we will kick on soon. We have got a strong team. I certainly think this team should be aiming for promotion and if not the play-offs. We have got the players, we just need to build and get the confidence." We have and we do, Adam, we have and we do. We've had the players and we've just needed to build and get the confidence since about 2003. Well, if Town can keep copying and pasting their interviews and performances from one week to the next, I can do likewise with the Diary.
In fairness, Proudlock was one of the less bad players on show last night against an indifferent Chesterfield side which quite readily crumpled when, at 3-0 down, Town finally decided it might not be a bad idea to try passing the ball to each other and, you know, maybe sort of attack and try and score goals a bit here and there? It was another fine showing from Bradley Wood at right-back too, but all in all Town's ineffective formation and tactics and apparent lack of motivation (I know; who'd have thought it, after the things they say to the Telegraph?) combined with another tenth-rate referee to add up to yet another waste of sixteen quid. Dismayed? You should be. Barnet even have quite a good team this season.
Still, at least the Mariners aren't the only Grimsby institution to be underperforming. Hot from the pages of the Telewag today comes this testing teaser: "It was harsh on the keeper and Town, but had been coming as the Spireites turned the screw much as the famous crooked spire in the nearby town centre". Answers on an e-postcard to the usual address, please.