Contact the Diary
Got any GTFC news? Constructive feedback? Offers of hard cash to write something else? Email email@example.com or use our feedback form and elucidate.
Read another Diary
May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August |
July | June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August |
June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August |
May | April |
March | February | January
November | October | September |
August | July | June | May | April | March | February |
November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April |
March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July |
April | March | February | January
November | October | September |
July | June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July |
June | May | April |
March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April | March | February | January
December | November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April | March
Diary - November 2011
Wednesday 30 November
I couldn't believe it at the time I still can't believe it now. What an amazing night. Bradley Wood didn't get booked.
Your West Yorkshire Diary is, of course, just joshing with you. The Mariners scored so many goals last night that they had vidiprinters spelling out numbers and wearing out the H, E, A, R and N keys. It's less than a year since Town last scored seven in a match, and we've hardly been goal-shy so far this season at home, scoring five on three other occasions. But what really gave this particular scoreline a bit more oomph was the clean sheet. It was almost worth celebrating as much as the seven goals.
I don't think there was a Town fan in the land who wasn't just slightly irked by the absence of an eighth goal if only to get those fervent fact-checkers leafing through the frail and yellow-stained pages of Town's history books to discover when we last scored eight goals and won by the same margin. (Which they did anyway, to declare it an 8-0 victory against Tranmere in 1925). If my only criticism from a Town performance was that we went a bit flat after Coulson was substituted, then you know it was a good night. But don't take my word for it or any other Town fan's, for that matter. Mariners midfield cat Manny Panther declared the performance so good that it deserved fish and chips at Steel's (who have since promised a free meal for the players each time they score seven). Manny Panther knows what he's talking about. He saw today's public sector strike coming and told people to invest in silver way back in the summer. He's too socially aware for his own good, that lad.
Following our biggest win since 1957, the Mariners are now top scorers at home in the Conference and have moved into the world of positive goal difference for the first time this season. You can listen to Shorty's assessment of the match on the BBC. I was going to say that Town's only consistency is their inconsistency, but they even struggle to apply consistency to that old football adage these days. Basically, what I'm trying to say (as if I need to say it) is that Salisbury have just as much chance of beating the Mariners on Saturday in the FA Cup second round as they had before Town tonked County.
Credit to Ryan Bennett. Since turning professional he's surrounded himself by defenders who can't defend. He was the only one to impress in a pretty awful Town defence during our days in the fourth division, and despite Peterborough's good form of late he's still part of a pretty awful Posh defence. But there's obviously something about him that supposedly gets the attention of 'top' managers. If the rumours are true then we could soon be seeing our former captain playing in the first division for some unlikeable club or other. Town might just profit from any deal that takes place, unless someone at Blundell Park forgot to sign the document that allowed us to receive 25 per cent of the sell-on clause because they were ill that day and the fax machine was broken anyway. Do clubs still have fax machines?
Tuesday 29 November
"With the winds facing the fishermans town can County can only hope for a better performce that that seen at Edgerly Park on Saturday." That's the verdict on tonight's game expressed by the Stockport County section on the McVitalFootball network. And who could argue with that? Certainly not your original/regular Diary, for the very good reason that I haven't got the vaguest notion what the flying chuff it's dribbling on about.
Were you as surprised as I was, after Town's narrow win at Kettering on Saturday, to discover that Shorty and Shouty's battlers are now on a six-match unbeaten run? Statisticians apparently include in unbeaten runs those draws that feel like defeats, such as those recently 'achieved' by the Mariners against Bath City and Newport County. So that'd explain it. But either way, tonight's visit of Stockport represents a series threat to Town's remarkable run of not losing despite really not playing that well.
Stockport, like Darlington, are one of those clubs that seem forever in turmoil and on the brink of bankruptcy, but remain able to beat the Mariners with wearying consistency. Whatever rubbish form the Hatters bring with them to Blundell Park tonight, it's sure to be left at the gates before the match (and more than likely collected again afterwards on the way out). In a curious mirror image of Town's own form, this evening's visitors have gone six games without a victory, though for the inversion to be truly spooky, Stockport would have to have recorded this winless streak despite having actually played quite decently.
If you want to go through the motions of Town's team news, there are injury doubts over first-choice midfield duo Craig Disley and Manny Panther. The management are making noises about an unchanged line-up, though, so expect them to play 90 minutes if they're capable of standing up without crutches.
Just before we go, the youth team formerly known as Myspace Mariners have been in action in one of those cup competitions where they always play against Walsall. This year's tie against Walsall had what clichι-prone football writers call "added spice", because the Black Country outfit, of course, now employs Neil Woodseses as a youth coach. Town's superb new official website is all but pleading for a replay due to the club's injury woes, so the Saddlers' victory by the scant margin of just two goals to nil, fully vindicates Deadly John (Topcon)'s excellent and successful decision to sack Woodseses for the heinous crime of taking a newly relegated side to the shameful depths of eighth place in the Conference.
Monday 28 November
This is Monday. This is a shocked and stunned Deviant Diary.
Hail the brave and fearless shock troops of Shouty and Shorty! Hail to the chiefs, the visionaries in the Boredroom. Hail to the chiefs, we salute them one and all! Plucky underdogs Gribsmy Town overcame plagues of locusts and the tortures of the damned on Saturday at Rockingham Road, Kettering (SNOS sic). Those at Nene Park, Irthlingborough (reality sick) saw Town agonisingly fail to avoid victory courtesy of one of the great misses from one of the great names in football Nathan Koo-Boothe from just an English yard.
As befits a club in crisis ©, Ketamine Kettering had a rubbish Aldi in goal, and would have signed Gary Liddle from that Hartlepools if they weren't under a transfer embargo. I say rubbish, but that's only gleaned from the twitterati and SNOS highlights, and who can really believe in them? After a decade of scholarly Fentydom, the inhabitants of Deviant Towers have finally graduated with a CBA in Townomics and just couldn't be bothered to go into the murky miasma of the midlands to have their minds numbed by Mariners. Disssociated anaesthesia, that's where we were. And the local Asda, which is the same thing in supermarket form.
If you want to know what the sneery one thinks about it all, click here. If you want to read a potted pottytime version, click here. Or you could just make it up yourself, which would be far more entertaining.
Elsewhere the fast shrinking local rag-tag 'news'paper, the Grimsby Telegraph, continues its obsession with forgotten and forgettable two-minute two-bit Mariners. It still doesn't address the big question in our lives: Damian Spencer why? Bizarrely, the raggiest local rag doesn't keep tabs on our present forgotten sons. Alfreton, in a titanic battle with Gainsborough Trinity to be the Grimsby Old Boys' Club Scout Hut du jour, are quietly hoarding some of our fluff and dandruff and had a whale of a time on Saturday with a Church penalty miss and hilarious Fergietime overload.
For those with an eye for the future, Town's future rejects continue their obsessive stalking of Walsall in the Midland Future Rejects Cup tonight. Walsall have a well-regarded future rejects' coach, by the way, and they call them youth team players, which is forward-thinking and progressive.
And finally they've released the state secret: Town have drawn Darlington at home in the FA Trophy. A plum draw indeed. The champagne corks are popping all over Europe.
Friday 25 November
Your Guest Diarist ironically applauds John Fenty's refusal to be chairman of Grimsby Town Football Club plc unless he has absolute dominion over the club. What a way to rebut the endless rumours of his control-freak mentality. The club 'soldiers on' without an official chairman then, but with Fenty's 'unseen' hand on the rudder. The 'good news' announced as an adjunct to yesterday's AGM was that the club must be about to embark on a small round of economies: chief executive Ian Fleming is predicting only a half-million-pound loss next year.
So with a million lost both last year and this, and another 500k next year, how long is it before Fenty tires of spending his children's inheritance on a truly catastrophic business model for a small football club? What will we fans say to each other when Town's doomsday arrives? Will it be: "At least they tried: look at how many players they signed and loaned: look at how many managers they experimented with to turn the tide of footballing fortune. Why, some were given a whole season before being shown the door"?
Or will we despair at the swathes of hard cash wasted on half-baked ideas and an endless churn of players and managers, which created a constant state of 'maybe this time', culminating in a culture of failure and eventual liquidation? The events of yesterday left the club continuing to stagger on from failure to failure, off pitch and on.
So, for now, the cycle continues. When the latest managers assembled their squad at the start of this season, one of them said something along the lines that it was essential to sign another goalkeeper because Arthur needed the stimulus of competition. Now he's out on loan and presumably McKeown doesn't need the same motivation. With no goalkeeper named as a substitute, and emergency goalkeeper loans readily available, the cost of that poorly-thought-through tactic is one a small club like Grimsby simply cannot afford.
I mention this as just one example of the profligacy of spending on Town's player budget. Yesterday, in similar vein, Shorty (after saying in the summer that they didn't like loaning players) tried to justify the signing on loan of defender Will Antwi on the grounds that Town's back four lacks experience. Maybe that's because you persist in playing a kid at left-back who has zero experience and seemingly no aptitude for defending? The club already has four centre-backs, three left-backs and two right-backs. And Shorty claims a bit of an ankle injury to one of them justifies another wage packet? This mentality of 'the next signing will be the key to the puzzle' continues. And expensively, while the experienced Silk (207 appearances), Ridley (221) and Garner (77) just eat the club's cash and don't get picked.
Oh, and as soon as I write that, I hear on the grapevine that Ridley has been paid off. Another thing the club said it wasn't going to do any more. I despair.
Club managers appear to be nervous about players they didn't sign, for completely unfathomable reasons. Ask Rob Eagle; ask Scott Garner about that. Eagle needs games, so instead of working intensively with him in training to improve his crossing and set pieces and picking him for a few matches, they've packed him off to Alfreton and signed a kid to fill in for him. Now Luke McCarthy might be a great little prospect but will he have the stomach or the experience to fight for Town in a season that is teetering close to a relegation scrap?
And what does that do for Eagle's self-esteem? Likewise Scott Garner, a perfectly able Conference centre-back, and good enough to be capped at this level by England C. But seemingly no longer considered by the management team as they panic and ship a loaner in because the team have gone 12 league games since a clean sheet. Five seasons ago Antwi was a decent player at this level; now he's a bit-part player. Luton only signed him to cover for injuries for a few months and Grimsby have signed him apparently for no other reason than they are in a hole and pointlessly keep bloody digging.
Fenty once memorably admitted to David Burns that his biggest regret was his inability to say no to managers. The trait continues, Mr Fenty.
In an ominous sign, Fenty felt the need to be vocally supportive of his managers yesterday. You know what that implies, gentle reader. Because he's said it, he's obviously had a thought process to gauge whether they are worth supporting. And that's another reason he's allowed them to sign two largely redundant loan players. Not because he's canny enough to give them enough rope to hang themselves. But because he likes to say to people: "I gave you everything you asked for" before he sacks them. Everything except time, of course.
MarinerSue, on that Twitter this morning, has suggested that Fenty loan the managers to Alfreton. Maybe that's the solution to the manager merry-go-round generally clubs just swap managers every season. Kettering, due to off-pitch woes, are ending up with a squad full of kids. Their manager, Mark Stimson, must be tearing his hair out. Now Fenty wanted Stimson, and our two managers like to pick kids and then moan about the resulting inexperience in the team a match made in heaven, eh?
Well, I'm sick of waiting for the Mariners Player match preview to be published so non-subscribers will just have to imagine the searching questions and illuminating answers for themselves this week. The superb new official site (still top of the shop on my Google search for "superb new official site") tells us that the preview will appear later, and that Makofo's ankle will mean a debut for McCarthy, and Kempson's little ankle-knack will mean likewise for Antwi. Fantastically convenient. I hear some bookmakers won't take bets on Town winning tomorrow due to Kettering's woes. But Town are Town we can lose to anyone. See yer.
Thursday 24 November
A few years ago your Guest Diarist might have been caught rubbing his hands together at the prospect of writing the Diary today, as salaciously as Vic Reeves rubbing his thighs. The club's AGM takes place this morning. One of the (many) transfer deadline thingies happens this evening. And that Serge Makofo is on a seemingly unstoppable run of totally fortuitous handballs. He seems to have borrowed the Grimsby cloak of invisibility from Stuart Campbell but only briefly dons it at the edge of the opponents' box.
But I don't even need to check, really Fenty will be routinely re-elected to the board of Grimsby Town. It was his turn to submit himself to that process in the lingering arcane world of the corporation. No doubt he'll be nodded back in as chairman a few minutes later, after a few drama-queen words of protestation. So my enthusiasm somehow is completely AWOL.
Being a small shareholder, I'd planned to attend. But I was summoned to the bowels of Boston hospital, where a stern nurse ministered to me with brusque efficiency, after 60 minutes of slow admiration of the varied town architecture in an impossibly long traffic queue. You know, I think I drew the long straw really. Listening to Fenty inarticulate his way through the jargon of an AGM is something I've experienced too many times before. A traffic jam is dead soothing in comparison and a chance to ruminate on how dead rich those fenland merchants were a couple of hundred years ago.
So the managers have let Rob Eagle go out on loan to Alfreton (our new 'feeder' club). When he came on last Saturday I thought he was the least clueless of our players actually. Which is why another club wants him, I suppose it seems unlikely that any scouts at our last league match would bother reporting back on any of the rest. And don't write in telling me how wonderful the team has been in the two Port Vale cup matches. Oh, alright, go on then, if you want to.
But the way I see it, our squad has three left-backs and no spare wingers at the moment. Having said that, Townsend is no left-back his defensive capabilities are scarily slight. Yes, it's nice to see the lad galumph down the left wing, like, but his heroes are more likely to be kerr-azy David Luiz or wotsit Bosingwa of plucky John Terry's Chelsea than Sir John of McDermott, aren't they? It was nice to see the ITV cut-away shots to the oh-so-brave but grim-faced loser again last night, by the way.
Digressions aside, I can't see the point of us loaning anyone today. We absolutely can't afford it and they always turn out to be far worse than we are led to believe. Us daft lot at Cod Almighty admitted to being stupidly excited when Panther joined us. Yeah, alright, the name helped. But his league performances have been dragged down to the level of the rest of the Town players. He and Disley should have been the best pair on the park against Newport: they were really poor.
Oh, hang on, John Tondeur has just Tweeted from the meeting: "John Fenty not sure whether he wants to be chairman while control of the club lies outside the boardroom." Now, Coun Fenty (Con), that's no way to dispel those hundreds of rumours about you being a total control freak, is it? More tomorrow folks. See yer.
Wednesday 23 November
Your West Yorkshire Diary is often told that the true measure of someone's character is how they respond to adversity. So after he suffered the ignominy of being substituted just 20 minutes into Saturday's game against Newport County, it's fair to say that 18-year-old centre-back Charlie I'Anson last night showed an attribute all too rare in Town's ranks these days. I'Anson, of course, helped the Mariners to a clean sheet and a deserved victory in the FA Cup first round replay against fourth division Port Vale.
At just 22 years old, summer signing Shaun Pearson was the eldest of Town's back five yesterday, including keeper James McKeown. You know, a lot of people talk about how a defence needs experience and time training together as a unit. But having little experience in defence last night and Pearson not even having trained with his teammates between Saturday and Tuesday because of that tribunal thing they all did a fine job in keeping a clean sheet. How come? Perhaps we shouldn't concern ourselves too much with searching for reasons and explanations, as the likelihood is that we'll go back to our usual leaky ways on Saturday at Kettering anyway.
But I like it when Town don't concede two goals in a match; it gives us a chance of not losing. Let's not get bogged down by how we've set ourselves up perfectly to fail at Salisbury on Saturday week. Let's enjoy the here and now and revel in the fact that we deserved to beat a club from a higher division and we've qualified for the next round.
Before the match I was contemplating the odds of the Grimsby Reaper wielding his scythe to great effect on Valiants manager Micky Adams if his side lost. Since we've tended to lose to any bugger who plays us anyway, we've not really had the opportunity to cause many managerial casualties of late, but this 'cup upset' could, in some impatient quarters, be considered enough to call an end to Adams' time at Vale Park. In fact, even Adams himself has labelled it an embarrassment. Not that I would like to see managers sacked, mind an act that would simply promote the idea among chairmen across the country that it's acceptable to regard months, not years, as adequate time to turn around clubs that have been in decline for decades. Maybe Adams should just transfer-list the entire squad, like he did at Vale in 2009 and see if that gets his team scoring. I'd be just a bit worried that none of his players could score against us in 180 minutes of football.
I didn't go to the match last night Burnsy, but I listened to the reaction on the radio well, what little reaction there was from the Town fans. Most of the phone-in was hogged by Scunny fans, panicking about their FA Cup defeat at home to Wimbledon. Listening to their comments almost got me reaching for the piano wire. Jesus, talk about depressing. Caller after caller moaned and groaned about Alan Knill and his inability to replace the prolific Gary Hooper. Was that the Gary Hooper who replaced the prolific Billy Sharp? Was that the Billy Sharp who replaced the prolific Martin Paterson?
Of course, the last thing I would wish to do is patronise a club that is much higher than us in the Football League, but a bit of perspective wouldn't go amiss here, Iron fans, I feel. It can always get worse. You only have to look down the A180 for a great case study of what happens when you chop, change and fuck about with your beloved football club.
It seems that young Sam Mulready's career at Grimsby Town is drawing to a close, if today's quotes from Shorty are anything to go by. Countless graduates from the youth team have got a sniff of first-team action only to be told they're not wanted, so this story shouldn't come as a surprise. But it does make you wonder what standards Shorty and Shouty are looking for when your 18-year-old youth striker scores 30 goals in a season and is deemed not good enough. To offer a defence to the managers though, you can never quite assess those players deemed 'talents' until you put them among men. Let's not forget that Mulready scored his goals against players his own age and younger a far cry from the bullies you often get at places like North Ferriby and Gainsborough Trinity. Let's hope he bags a few at Northolme this month and gives the managers something to contemplate.
Tuesday 22 November
"It is a truth universally acknowledged by every Town fan that playing 4-3-3 at Blundell Park never, ever works." When she penned those words here yesterday, Miss Guest Diary came closer than Miss Jane Austen to an eternal verity of the human condition. Indeed, your original/regular Diary wonders whether, since football inverted the pyramid, any manager of Grimsby Town has achieved any sustained success at all with any system other than 4-4-2.
There are exceptions, of course. Town's outstanding comeback against holders Leicester in their October 1997 League Cup tie was built on a switch to 4-3-3. The cathartic 6-0 win at Boston in February 2007 was achieved using a 4-5-1 system favoured by Alan Buckley at the time. But these successes are always isolated. They only ever work in particular circumstances. The win at York Street followed a streak of seven successive defeats. Boston had no idea how to mark Straight Peter Bore when Town won possession and the 4-5-1 effectively switched to a 4-3-3. For Grimsby Town, deviations from 4-4-2 never do the business week in, week out. Witness Lennie Lawrence's desperate efforts to accommodate Steve Livingstone, Bradley Allen and David Nielsen in a front three. The side actually played well at Watford under this system and lost 4-0.
Back in the present, Shorty and Shouty, I seem to think, have yet to achieve a single victory with their 4-3-3 system. Granted, the formation achieved a creditable goalless draw at Port Vale in the FA Cup this month. But nearly every time they've used it, it's failed so spectacularly that they've had to change to a 4-4-2 in the middle of a match. Many supporters are describing the first 80 minutes of Saturday's game against Newport as the worst Grimsby performance ever. True, many supporters say that every time Town fail to win, whether it's against Newport or Newcastle. But this time they may just be right.
Lawrence, for all his failings, at least had the nous to revert to orthodoxy. Russell Slade, likewise, realised early on that the ambitious 3-4-3 system he wanted (and, indeed, had signed the players to fit) wouldn't get results, and switched back to 4-4-2 within a few weeks of his first season kicking off. So what about the Mariners? Let's see what the Grimsby Telegraph has to say about tonight's replay with Vale.
Well, there's a strange quote from one of the GTFC managers at the end, which morphs into a quote from the Port Vale manager halfway through ("They are still the favourites to progress. They are better away from home... Yes, they are a league below us but they are still full-time"). Darran Kempson will miss out, having picked up an an ankle injury in the Newport match. Michael Coulson, who missed the visit of Newport through suspension, returns to the squad this evening. But the formation? "It's not a case of the 4-3-3 being totally out of the window."
There's a school of thought that Shorty and Shouty, despite overseeing significantly worse form than Neil Woods before them, are benefiting from Town's vacancy for a chairman. That they're being spared the sack only by the lack of anyone to sack them. God knows the destruction visited on our football club by this insane short-term thinking. But you must wonder sometimes whether these two aren't their own worst enemies.
Monday 21 November
Miss Guest Diary writes: Thinking about the game against Newport on Saturday, I don't know whether to laugh, cry or swear. A friend suggested that a mixture of all three might be appropriate. At half time I was certainly regretting the purchase of a ticket for Tuesday's FA Cup replay against Port Vale. What was I feeling by the end of the game? Disbelief, maybe some relief, but uppermost was keen anticipation of some sausage and onion pie at The Countryman in Humberston.
In his post-match interview for the SNOS, Shouty was asked whether he blamed the two early goals conceded on bad marking, a suggestion with which he readily agreed. I felt this rather let him off the hook. The consensus where I was sat in the Pontoon seemed to be that the fault lay more with the 4-3-3 formation. He did acknowledge in his interview with Radio Humberside that "the formation had to be changed because it wasn't working" but that begs the question: why play that formation to start with? It didn't work against Darlington earlier in the season, so why did the managers expect it to work on Saturday? Let's face it, it is a truth universally acknowledged by every Town fan that playing 4-3-3 at Blundell Park never, ever works.
I was pleased to see in the Grimsby Telegraph that Jamie Green is back to fitness and would like to stay on at Town. I was quite impressed with his performances before he got injured; he seems to me much better defensively than Townsend.
Slipped in at the bottom of that article is the news that Dayle Southwell may also be back in action soon. What was feared to be a broken metatarsal (isn't that one of those posh Premiership injuries?) was in fact a recurrence of an old injury presumably something less glamorous and more non-League.
The GTFC AGM takes place on Thursday of this week and the supporters' trust, which is a now major shareholder in the club, will have representatives at the meeting. Reports are that the trust will be supporting Councillor John Fenty's re-election to the board. The trust says it is keen to represent the interests of supporters and invite any who cannot attend to send questions or concerns they would like raised. You can submit your questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, I was intrigued by a headline on the SNOS announcing a Grimsby Town youth advent calendar. This reminded me of the time several years ago when a friend, possibly pining for the days of Blue Peter, made my partner an advent-type calendar leading up to the start of the season, using little pictures cut from old matchday programmes. I was hoping for something similar from the youth advent calendar, maybe with a picture of a fetching young man behind each door. But it turns out to be a fundraising scheme for youth development where you subscribe £25 for the chance of winning a daily prize. Not as much fun, I feel, but still a very worthy cause.
Friday 18 November
Now then. It's Friday morning and the Newport squad will be crossing the border any minute in a charabang aimed for Lincolnshire. Rob Duffy, who played for them for about five minutes, but who, your Guest Diarist has to concede, is actually Welsh, wants to play them tomorrow. Up front on his own (or as a two with any other Town striker, he hastily adds). It's not all about the goals, Rob explains, I know I haven't got many, but I'm one of those selfless strikers so cut me a bit of slack, eh?
As I ruminated in the Diary yesterday, 'twixt making the game stock and braising the red cabbage in red wine for the upcoming Guest Diary weekend curry and game feast, Town might stick with that ugly 4-3-3 tomorrow. But then again, listening to Shouty on the Mariners Player subscriber channel, they might not. Town's squad is completely injury-free, with only Coulson absent through suspension, so there are a number of permutations available which I just can't be arsed to rehearse again here.
Except the one, it would seem, that involves Ridley. The sort-of reliable left-back (except when he's not, of course) has fallen well out of favour with managers and fans. Young Townsend, who returns to Hull next week after his loan expires (and presumably to try to smile coyly at new-big-man Barmby) and fit-again-for-a-bit Green are competing, nay, vying for the left-back spot tomorrow.
After I wrote yesterday extolling the virtues of young Charlie I'Anson, regular Cod Almighty correspondent Chris Beeley was moved to write in and agree with me, adding: "I was just checking your contract tracker and notice that his contract is up next summer. What's the betting the powers that be at Town let him 'do a Butterfield'? Can I suggest that Fenty's first action post re-election be to offer the lad a fat four-year contract to keep potential suitors at bay/make sure any such suitors actually pay something if they do prise him away (also known as 'giving him a Bradley Wood')."
The rest of the Mariners Player interview is pretty boring, but it's not Shouty's fault he can only really provide responses in the general direction of the questions he is asked. An aimless section where he's asked to rebut accusations from fans about Town playing long ball is especially puzzling. As the bigger manager asserts, this Town team don't aim to play that way at all. Long balls out of defence can be attributed to either blind panic or complete absence of inspiration by Kempson. That's not playing long ball. That's entirely down to having a leaky, panicky, mid-Conference-level defence, surely?
Newport's top scorer by a mile is midfielder Danny Rose, who has got ten so far this season. But with any luck he'll be too knackered and excited after his midweek international trip to Gibraltar. Striker Craig McAllister, on the other hand, hasn't scored since he hit that rubbish penalty in the dying minutes against Grimsby 20 games ago. And no, he didn't even score then because McKeown dropped his cap on the ball and saved it.
Tomorrow is one of the home games where season ticket holders can bring a mate for free using those vouchers. So if you've got any left, dish them out, folks the weather's half-decent for the end of November and it's time to get down to Blundell Park of a Saturday afternoon. It's been ages; you'll get to see Mr Panther flash us a grin. And, you never know, they might just pass the ball as well as they did in the first 90 seconds last Saturday. See yer.
Thursday 17 November
As yesterday's diary mentioned, toast sandwiches are almost de rigueur in this austerity-obsessed week. Your Guest Diarist, being a bumbling old joskin, was not even mildly surprised by this 'revelation' from the media city people at the BBC. Growing up I was regularly forced to consume toast and dripping for breakfast. Dripping, for younger readers, was consumed because the by-products of bacon back in the day were good (actually back in the several days before that, as 'back in the day' nowadays only takes you to about the year 2000) rendered fat instead of salty water. Teatime would regularly include sugar sandwiches a thin, grainy confection and Sunday tea involved a bit of tinned fruit accompanied by a lot of bread and butter.
But if toast sandwiches were offered at the GTFC catering shacks, what would they cost? Two quid, I guess, and bring your own salt and pepper. What is Fenty's policy on bringing home-made toast sandwiches into the ground? If someone dare ask the question why, gosh, the AGM attendees would be full of anticipation of fierce debate after the boringly predictable re-election of John Fenty and the return of the status quo.
So, with Coulson suspended this Saturday for his fifth booking, there is a change to discuss. Will the team feature both Eagle(s) and Makofo from the start (we are at home, after all)? Or will the lob-sided 4-3-3 thing persist with Hearn a lonely flower on the left touchline; a spectator again? Perhaps Green might feature on the left too. We'll have to wait and see. But really I'm glad that sense has finally been seen and that I'Anson is getting the chance to show his ability and his potential. The managers baffled me when they dropped him in the first place and confounded me even more when there was talk of loaning him out. He's the best defender we've got.
And Manny Panther is sure to get a good reception in his debut at Blundell Park. Memorably named, with a warm, enthusiastic personality and seemingly a decent addition to midfield. What's not to like? A full week's training will have got him a bit fitter, so I really hope he has a good match. Being a Town fan, of course, I'm assuming the worst a tight hamstring or, say, two unlucky bookings; you know the way these things go under Fenty. Any road, I'll be back tomorrow to help preview the first home Saturday game in what feels like bloody yonks. See yer.
Wednesday 16 November
I'm hearing the word 'austerity' a lot lately, in relation to the economy and, well, Europe in general. But, truth be known, I first learnt the meaning of the word many years ago in the context of Grimsby Town when the digitalised version of ITV went tits up and the club had to work out a way of paying players' three-year contracts using money that was promised but never paid. So yes, 'austerity' is very much the buzz word at the moment, and if I have to hear it said one more time by a second-rate, clichι-prone, sub-standard journalist, I may just put my head through a wall.
Your West Yorkshire Diary likes to say it as it is. The club has no money. The fans have no money. It's certainly a challenge supporting your debt-ravaged club when you're in debt yourself. Mine's a huge student loan, but that, according to my Conservative-voting brother, doesn't count as debt. He never went to university, and he says he was happy with that choice. But I think he secretly regrets it, going by the way he stands embarrassingly firm by his loose argument that he, in effect, paid for my education in the way of tax, while he seems to overlook the fact that I am paying both tax and my student loan off now that I'm working.
I guess what I'm trying to say is deciding what to spend your money on during this 'tough economic climate' (to use another irritating, stomach-churning phrase) is a proper ballache. With the cost of petrol due to rise again, and the price of a match ticket the same as it was when we were rubbish in the Football League, it puts us exiled Mariners in an awkward situation. Do we deny our team the money and support at a time when it needs them most? Or do we spend money we haven't really got to subsidise a club that's surely not far off from introducing the toast sandwich to its austerity menu at McMenemy's as part of a 'Bread Special' for the Stockport game at the end of the month?
I feel bad if I don't go, but the wallet really doesn't like it when I do. As a massive football fan I really need my football fix. Increasingly, in line with Town's new lows, I've been searching for cheaper ways to enjoy football and this has resulted in me supporting my local non-League teams. Dare I say it never mind announce it on here but I've really enjoyed watching teams who are on my doorstep and who barely have a pot to piss in.
Last night I went to watch Harrogate Town (where John McDermott is assistant manager) take on Bishop's Stortford (where former Spurs keeper Ian Walker is manager) in the Conference North. Quite why Bishop's Stortford are in the Conference North, when they share latitude co-ordinates with Colchester and are just 10 miles this side of the M25, is anyone's guess. It was a bitterly cold night and I'm guessing fewer than 200 turned out to see a scrappy 1-1 draw, but despite that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can't even explain why (perhaps the entrance fee of £10 helped). Even the trip to the gents made me smile: the one and only toilet actually shared the same room as three urinals no doors here, thank you very much. This is football at its simplest. This is where Peter Bore doesn't get into a team and hangs around the refreshment stall in his tracksuit and puffer jacket instead.
It cost me £7 to go and see a match last weekend in a league that consists of a sponsor's name and misleading words that suggest it to be a top division when it actually isn't. Cheap, local football I can see why this fad took off over a century ago.
Of course, it goes without saying that I do everything I can to stay in touch with my hometown club when I can't be there to support them. I take my little portable radio with me to these local matches. And, as Miss Guest Diary highlighted on Monday, Twitter has proved to be an excellent source of information and entertainment on Saturday afternoons. I'm far from detached: I've just reached the point where I can't afford to do what I once loved. But I get the feeling that I'm not alone, either. If I lived in Grimsby, I'd be at Blundell Park for every game, rain or shine, win or lose.
Disley thinks Panther is a good player, Church will help Alfreton while he's there on loan, and Coulson is banned for this Saturday's home match against Newport County. That's today's news, folks.
Tuesday 15 November
Followers of the great Danny Baker basically the only broadcaster in Britain capable of bearable football radio may be familiar with the theme "nothing can go wrong now". This emerged for a period last year during Baker's show, when listeners shared their stories of over-confident pronouncements while their teams were winning comfortably, only to be roundly undone by a spectacular defensive collapse in the last 15 minutes of the game.
Whether they heard these shows or not, Grimsby Town fans, too, are painfully aware of the awful unravelling that can follow a period of great self-belief. Just the other week, when the Mariners were 2-0 up against bottom-of-the-table Bath City, your original/regular Diary said out loud: "Nothing can go wrong now!" I knew full well that everything could, and of course Town limped to an appalling 2-2 draw against 10-man opposition. Just by the by, I take it you've seen that GTFC will play Salisbury City away in the second round of the FA Cup, given the absolute nailed-on, cast-iron certainty that we will thrash Port Vale in the first-round replay?
Diary reader Chris Beeley, for his part, was so impressed by Town's performance in the tie at the weekend that he's sent us an email. "Went on Saturday," he writes. "Real morale booster. Thought we rode our luck in the second half but overall a gutsy display (Duffy excepted). Charlie I'Anson is a superstar in the making."
Indeed he is, Chris. It says something about Town's recent troubles on the pitch that 18-year-old I'Anson seems the very model of composure compared with his rivals for the team's centre-half positions. And that the elder statesman of the central defence, 26-year-old Darran 'AAAAAAAAARGH!' Kempson, is the one who seems most prone to panic. "I've had my chance to get back in and have to keep working hard to stay there and keep my place," I'Anson tells the Grimsby Telegraph today. "AAAAAAAAARGH!" responds another defender somewhere in the comments.
You will have seen that the replay against Vale has been fixed for Tuesday 22 November. You may not yet have seen, however, that another fixture has been switched as a result. The Mariners were due to play Kettering in the league on Thursday 24 November, this bizarre piece of scheduling allowing for the game to be televised on Premier Sports TV or whatever it was called. Yes, they're still going, apparently. This has now been put back to the Saturday, though, doubtless to the relief of 300 Town fans who wanted to go but couldn't get time off work on the Thursday afternoon. Not to mention the relief of Kettering's accountants, who, like everyone else's accountants in the Conference, spend most of their working days wondering how the Conference managed to sign a TV deal that earns the clubs less in broadcast fees than it costs them in lost gate receipts.
Today's diary ends with some promotional messages. If you want to keep up with these fixtures, you can use Cod Almighty's season index or indeed our excellent Google Calendar, which is pretty ace when you integrate it into your own calendar on an Android mobile phone. If you want to buy a Grimsby Town Football Club-branded tape measure, you can use the extended Christmas opening hours at the club shop. And if you want to buy normal things, but online, you can use the GTST Spend and Raise portal, which brings in £££s for Grimsby Town Supporters Trust at no extra cost to you. Have a nice day.
Monday 14 November
Miss Guest Diary writes: My enthusiasm for all things Town has been partially rekindled this week. Firstly there was the buzz around the signing of Manny Panther what a fantastic name. From reading his Twitter feed, he seems to be interested in many things outside of football: his recent Tweets have ranged across the global financial crisis, chocolate addiction, Catholic priests and, most important of all, where to get the best fish and chips. The answer to which is, of course, Steel's. Oh, and I hear he's also a decent midfielder.
Adding to my enthusiasm was the performance against Port Vale the first time this century that Town haven't suffered a miserable defeat at Burslem (every one of which I have witnessed). I felt so encouraged that I've decided to make an exception to my no-Tuesday-football-this-season rule and attend the replay. In his post-match interview with Radio Humberside, Shorty praised the players for putting in a "really good shift" and hinted that, if they can achieve some consistency, the only way is up. I still have a Town mug with that slogan on from 1993 when we were in the old second division and aspiring to be promoted to the first. Oh the irony.
But then I watched the draw for the FA Cup second round to discover that Town's reward for beating Port Vale would be a trip to Salisbury of the Conference South. That feels like a lose-lose situation to me: not a small enough team to make it an easy game, but not the sort of challenge that always seems to bring out the best in Town. And a long way to travel. I will still go to the replay on the 22nd, but my enthusiasm has definitely been dampened.
I long ago decided that I am of too nervous a disposition to listen to games on the radio. Every time the opposition had the ball in Town's half, every slight note of excitement in the commentator's voice led me to assume Town were going to concede. So I either didn't bother to follow games I wasn't attending or relied on teletext. But this season I have discovered the pleasure of following games on Twitter. There is little or no nervous anticipation because the events are recorded after they have happened, but equally, the news is almost immediate. Gone are the days of turning off the TV at five o'clock safe in the knowledge that Town have either won or drawn, only to be confronted later with the realisation that the teletext page had failed to update and we'd actually lost.
I have, however, learned not to take every Tweet as gospel I quickly realised that there are some fans who only ever see the positives and others who are a bit too quick to write Town off. What can be interesting is seeing what the opposition think to have someone Tweet during the York game that Elding looked dangerous certainly brought a smile to my face.
Something else that made me smile was the GTFC merchandising booklet which arrived in the post this weekend. There seems to be no end to the items you can manufacture in black and white and stick a Town badge on oven glove, anyone? If you can't find something to please at the club shop, you could always try visiting the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust spend and raise page, which raises money for the trust by linking to retail websites. Ooh, I see they have a link to Amazon; well, that's my morning sorted. Happy shopping!
Friday 11 November
Come on, even you most jaded and cynical of Town fans have to admit that actually getting back in to the FA Cup proper has sparked the tiniest vestige of ridiculous hope. Stumble through a couple of rounds and we could conceivably see a good draw, a few bob earned and comments elicited about plucky Grimsby again.
Fellow CA writer Pat Bell has penned a frankly magnificent and timely reminiscence of Town's epic cup run in 1988-89. And this article, published yesterday, prompted a rapid response from reader Martin Robinson:
"So many memories of this run, as I told my son the other day Wolves were top and so were Rotherham, both despatched. As an 18-year-old we ventured away in a mate's car and due to our naive excitement set off far too early and were left wandering the streets of Middlesbrough, too scared to go in the grim-looking pubs, making do with a steamy cafe instead. Old-fashioned Ayresome Park, the couple of thousand Town fans crammed in a corner; another mate had come on his 50cc Yamaha! As the two Town goals went in we became a mass of arms and legs as we celebrated; pelted with coins later but safely back to the car. Put Sports Report on and hardly a word about our remarkable win bloody Sutton beat Coventry at home.
"Reading saw BP packed with over 9,000 and it felt like the good times were coming back. Didn't go to the replay but I remember watching the highlights on the news. Wimbledon and a terrace of haddocks, this scene was brilliantly captured in a photo which used to be on show in the BRSA club in Carr Lane. Does anybody remember the Portaloo cabin at Plough Lane and Town fans watching the match through an open window?"
Now, your Guest Diarist admits that we could go to Port Vale tomorrow and see our leaky defence get punished. And we don't score often enough away from home. This could result in a routine defeat (thumping or otherwise). Or we could do the 'take the lead and then capitulate' routine. Again. But at this stage, ahead of the weekend, and with a new signing with the right sort of experience to play in such a match... come on! You have to hope just a little bit. Hey, the last time we borrowed a midfielder we got a clean sheet and a draw at Newport, as our match preview explains.
Speaking ahead of the match, the shorter manager makes much of the size of Vale's pitch. Ooh, run until you drop, Dave Moore on for cramp, socks rolled down in the November murk: Potteries puddings instead of pies. Come on, Town fans make the cross-country trek. You never know: you just might see the start of something worth remembering.
Apart from Dayle Southwell (who has a pot on due to breaking a bone in his foot in the Scunny practice match), everyone in the squad is fit and unsuspended. Jamie Green came through 90 minutes unscathed, which will probably put him on the bench. Note to managers: seven substitutes allowed tomorrow, chaps.
If Manny Panther performs well with Craig Disley then the list of playing issues to fix is one item shorter. Fix the defence (especially set pieces and crosses), fix our set piece delivery, get the strikers scoring away from home. Oh, and develop a plan as to how Town will beat their opponents I still struggle to discern an overall playing strategy, to be honest. And, finally, find that most elusive of qualities a winning mentality. Maybe that will show up in a cup run: we live to hope, so let's dream that the beginnings of that recovery start in the cup. Like that other time when it did. See yer.
Thursday 10 November
Early yesterday afternoon the superbly monikered Emmanuel 'Manny' Panther tweeted thus: "Hmmm looks like I could be talking about playing football again...." And he will be: on a short-term loan at Grimsby Town. Manny is a holding midfielder who last played for Aldershot, but is best remembered by your Guest Diarist for his time at York where he was held in pretty high regard. The son of a Nigerian boxer, born in Glasgow and with "not your average footballer too socially aware for my own good" as his Twitter strapline, Manny sounds like the right sort of guy to teach Liam Hearn the art of non-discriminatory social networking.
The shorter of the two Town managers has also made a half-decent fist of explaining the rationale of Church's departure to Alfreton. Church lacks experience at this level, Church needs matches, he says in an interview with the Grimsby Telegraph. Church needs to develop certain areas of his game, he adds implying that he can work on those at Alfreton. Some have said you shouldn't loan players to your fellow league strugglers but Shorty's argument that Church needs experience at Conference Premier level makes sense. To me, anyway. And it won't do the tribunal case any harm either, will it?
I'm sure John Fenty will be pleased that there's something other than his own performance for Town fans to discuss. These are the dog days of November alright. Of the three major shareholders of GTFC, Mike Parker won't declare his hand other than to imply he's done his bit and that's it; John Fenty is hopelessly entangled in an incredibly ill-judged shouting match with the messageboards; and the supporters' trust is leaderless clutching a share certificate with a big number on it, with no idea what to do next. An accident of timing, to be sure, in the case of GTST. But none of this helps us fans to feel confident about the club's future, even in the short term.
It was nice to note that a couple of the Yoof got a game in the practice match against Plucky Scunny yesterday. Whether Jamie Green played left midfield with an eye to the future or just to balance that starting eleven up, we'll have to wait and see. I thought that the Green positioning might just be significant yesterday, but the signing of Manny Panther puts a different complexion on things.
I'll be back tomorrow to preview Town's 'big cup match' so I'll leave you now, gentle reader, to make what you can of the anti-cyclonic November gloom. See yer.
Wednesday 9 November
Hello!! It's Noddy here!! I am very happy to write today's diary!! I am a very busy toy at the moment. Running a football club isn't as easy as I thought. Big Ears said it would be a piece of cake, but Big Ears is always thinking about food!! He was supposed to help me but he has gone into Toyland to buy some honey and a pair of extra large earmuffs!! I am not so good with spellings. He reads dictionaries in bed!!
Our fans are being quite naughty at the moment. They shout a lot and say nasty things. They're saying that Big Ears must have got his ears from a massive ear sale and things like that. One man said my lovely blue hat with the bell on was really gay. I thought it was a nice thing but Tessie Bear says it means I like boys. But I do!! Girls are smelly apart from Tessie Bear, who always goes into the woods to do her business!! The fans have also been writing nasty things about me on computers. They think I'm only good at driving my red and yellow taxi car. But I know about football too!! I've put a lot of my money into football. I've asked Mr Plod to catch the naughty people. They won't say nasty things about me again. Who is Curly Gaddafi? Bumpy Dog is going to knock the nasty people over!! I'm already laughing and it hasn't happened yet!!
Since I've run this football club I've not been having my morning milk!! That's how hard I work. I've been thinking about a new house. No, not for me!! For the football people!! I don't know how to build houses with football pitches in them. Big Ears says he can do it. He's good at building things!! He says he can build a new football house with lots of chairs for people. It'll be a build-it-yourself football house!! But we need a place to build it and Big Ears says Toyland doesn't have room. It might have to be in the woods. I don't like the woods there are lions out there!!
The managers say there are players who are not fit. We are giving them away for a while to make them better. One of them did really, really well against a team not far away from Toyland. He scored two goals but is a defender!! The players have wrong things inside their heads. One of the managers shouted a lot about it!! He said they need to bring their acting together otherwise he will shout more!! He is an angry man. The other one is much quieter. I sometimes let them make my head nod!! If I don't the loud one says he'll put me on a bonfire.
Anyway, I've got to go now. Big Ears says we're going to have fun in the kitchen!! I hope it's not Tessie Bear's deep fried Opal Fruits again. The silly girl forgot to take the wrappers off last time!!
Tuesday 8 November
There we were thinking Anthony Church was a big signing for Grimsby, and then they send him out on loan. That's what the Mariners' hard-pressed bean-counters hope the FA tribunal will be thinking, anyway, when Town and Boston battle it out over compensation for the ex-Pilgrims midfielder later this month. Only a cynic would assume, of course, that Church's temporary departure for Alfreton is a direct consequence of the
the tribunal being scheduled rather than Andi Thanoj's return to form and the first team. But after more than 30 years supporting Grimsby Town Football Club your original/regular Diary is prone to just the occasional outbreak of cynicism. The 21 November hearing will also determine a fee for the other former Bostonian who joined GTFC this year, so let's just not be too surprised if Shaun Pearson makes a surprise loan move to North Ferriby United next week.
Not that we at Cod Almighty would complain if the Church move were to make way for a less expensive local lad. It's one of the unbearable ironies of the Deadly John (Topcon) era that so many Town fans would constantly accuse the former Town chairman of taking the "cheap option". The truth is that so many of Fenty's mistakes lie in taking the expensive option instead. Sacking managers every 12 minutes, paying off contracts, attracting wastrels like Peter Sweeney and Barry Conlon by giving GTFC a reputation as a place to make a quick and easy buck. It's the false economies like refusing Rob Jones' contract requests and cutting the pay of backroom staff that have been much fewer and further between.
In other news around Fortress Blundell, Town's reserves will play a "practice match" against Plucky Scunny this afternoon. Or at least we assume it's the reserves. And Steve 'The Kitten' Croudson has gained both a son and another job at Blundell Park. Along with his duties as goalkeeping coach and emergency risking-life-and-limb stand-in keeper, Steve will treble up as Town's kit man from this day forth. Free gloves from Kenny Arthur, apparently.
Returning to matters Fentyish, the former (and possible future) chairman has, in case you didn't see, been getting arsey with contributors to the forum at The Fishy with hilarious results. True, some of the folk there do seem to stray from reasoned critique into outright fantasy. But poor John continues to struggle with the English language despite turning on his spellchecker ("chooses are not always quite so wide ranging"; "others no doubt liables me"; best of all, "financial baking"). And in any case, when this sort of flan-flinging takes place you'd expect a man with so much dough just to rise above it.
Sorry. But on the other hand, as well as the denizens of the Fishy messageboard, Fenty has variously raged against the Grimsby Telegraph, Dave Burns and BBC Radio Humberside, the Black and White Corner fanzine, English Nature, and the magistrates who gave him a six-month driving ban for speeding. So any criticism of the councillor from Cod Almighty is perhaps not to be taken too seriously. We may just be jealous because he hasn't picked a fight with us yet.
Monday 7 November
Miss Guest Diary writes: I have been feeling nostalgic this weekend season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and all that mainly caused, I suspect, by Town playing at Twerton Park. I wasn't at Saturday's match because Bath is now considered too far to go for a Town game unless it can be combined with a weekend break. But I went there when it was the home ground of Bristol Rovers in the early 1990s. This was at a time when I knew nothing, and cared less, about the actual game: I had to be bribed to attend a match with a day out and a nice lunch, to both of which Bath lent itself nicely. My first visit was in September 1991, when Town won 3-2. I have very pleasant memories of strolling around admiring the Regency architecture, gazing dreamily at the surrounding hills from the terrace during the match and witnessing a spectacular hot air balloon festival when driving back to London up the M4.
I seem to recall the following year was more or less a repeat, but with a 3-0 scoreline. There was an added delight to that match. When it came to the end-of-season highlights video, the footage had been provided by Bristol Rovers, one of whose commentators was unable to suppress an exclamation of: "Oh no, Dave, they've scored!" This set me thinking about those wonderful John and Roly highlights productions riddled with random comments like "Shot on! Chance on!", "My money's on Dave Gilbert" and, mystifyingly at one point, "I'm not taking this coat off now." Looking at our video collection, I see the last one we have is for the 2002-03 season, Town's last in the second tier. Did the club stop making them, or did we just lose interest?
It is not unusual for people over 50 to harp on about how much better things were in the past, but with Town this is more like reality than nostalgia. There is one area in which things are definitely better now, though, and that is in finding out what happened at a match. Living down south in the early 90s all we had to tell us about games we didn't attend were a couple of (usually inaccurate) paragraphs on Ceefax; for ages I was convinced we had a player called Gary Charles. We solved this by persuading a Grimsby-dwelling friend to send us the Grimsby Telegraph every Monday for several years. I diligently compiled the cuttings into 10 scrapbooks which run from August 1991 to April 1999.
They are a cornucopia of cheesy headlines like "Town struggle to top Hatters", "Town find the Suffolk punch" and "Town make a splash in 'Pool". They also bring back fond memories of forgotten heroes like Chima Okorie, who seemed to promise so much but played only a few games. And of course many pages are devoted to the Ivano Bonnetti saga, including the campaign to raise £50,000 to buy his playing registration, to which I contributed £50. Money which I feel Brian Laws still owes me.
One of the most noticeable things is the consistency of the playing staff: the same names cropping up season after season. In August 1994 Alan Buckley boasted that he had not bought a single player during the close season. It was this consistency which created my loyalty to a club I had no geographical connection to just as it is the current revolving door for players that is destroying that loyalty.
I also came across an interview given in 1994 by Town's then chairman, Peter Furneaux, who described the club not as a business but "more like being involved in charity work... with gates of 5,500 there's no way that you can project profits or payouts. We're looking after this club, that's all." It certainly doesn't feels like the current Town bosses, with their talk of "multi-purpose venues" and applications for government grants to build a community stadium, share this desire to look after their local club.
You will have noticed that I haven't mentioned Saturday's performance. What is there to say that hasn't already been said, except maybe "Town are a shower in Bath".
Friday 4 November
Here we are again: hello! Your Guest Diarist is heartily sick of all this number-crunching and finger-pointing this week so it's nice to have a match to look forward to. Thanks for the various letters on the subject Mr Postbag is trying to organise to publish them in the next few days.
But before we get on to the business of Bath City away, here is a plea to Coun Fenty (Con). In the last seven years or so you have engineered a situation where your loans to the club (secured by a debenture on the Blundell Park stadium) are roughly equal to the commercial development value of the property. You have also bought a building company (TopCon). And you have suggested the club selling its ground and sort of renting a 'community-owned' stadium.
An outsider who doesn't know you as a dyed-in-the-wool, straight-as-a-die 'benign' local Tory grandee rooted in the Grimsby community and lifelong Grimsby Town fan might look at that collection of, ermm, coincidences and smell a rat. So now is the time to issue a definitive statement to say that you are not trying to engineer a situation whereby you can retrieve that £2m+ by way of grabbing Blundell Park and redeveloping it using TopCon and leaving the club without its own stadium... just a thought, Councillor.
A trip to bottom-of-the-table Bath is a chance for Grimsby to start to score away from home and to get points away from Blundell Park both badly needed. It is also a chance for Bath to continue their superiority over Grimsby and to build on their good away win at Dover in the cup. Bath never really dreamt of the top Conference division until they drew us in the cup and beat us soundly. After that they never looked back, getting promotion and finishing a solid 10th last season. Taking four points off us in the process to prove that it was no fluke the season before. Read our preview to get the full lowdown (including discount beer vouchers!).
Shouty has told the Mariners Player subscribers that Dave Moore's work is done and the squad are injury-free. Even the nearly signed Jamie Green has just started training with the first team again. Bath have no injuries or suspensions either. Shouty told us that there will be some ringing round next week to get fringe players out on loan. Kenny Arthur went to Gainsborough for a month yesterday, to cover for the knacked Barnes and Pettinger. Shouty has been dropping hints to all the local hacks that Town's youthful back four who kept out the Ashington hordes last week will be given a chance to see how they do against the Romans.
Shit, this horrible hack-headline-pun virus has just got in to my PC. It's weird that Bath City prefer Roman stuff when a proper ancient Briton actually had the good idea to build a town there. It would be better if they were nicknamed the Necromancers I reckon. See yer.
Thursday 3 November
In the time that Grimsby Town chief executive and acting boss of the club Ian Fleming took to tell Dale Ladson and the Mariners Player subscribers that there was nothing to really worry about, and that he remained as optimistic as ever, the club lost about a tenner. For every minute of every day, Grimsby Town are losing about £1.98, your Guest Diarist's Google calculator has revealed.
And in breaking news, Radio Humberside has announced that the club's bid for a £5m grant to part-finance a 'community stadium' has failed. Probably because it was desperately scribbled on the back of a John Fenty 'vote for me' election leaflet in about half an hour flat and contained too many vague promises. Like where the phrase 'community-owned' is used with its proper definition (please, please give us the cash) and with a between-the-lines alternative capitalist one (don't forget that it's the shareholders who own this club).
So Fenty, via an anonymous scrawled epilogue to the club's accounts containing the 'big new plan', has jumped the gun again, it would seem. Let's forget all those horrible big numbers with brackets round them; let's pretend a community stadium will pop up out of nowhere in no time flat and welcome the returning hordes of GTFC fans who will gaily wave their newly bought scarves from the glistening new club shop, clutching equally shiny season tickets. You remember when the screen went a bit whirly and we were let inside the mind of Alan Partridge's deepest fantasies for ten seconds or so? You get the feeling that the mind of the ex-chairman (soon to be re-elected, I suppose) is akin to that. Well, I do anyway. Possibly without the sweater, but it definitely contains a shiny, glittery Fentydome.
Fleming, in a terse, nervous Q&A with the camera, said nothing new. He clings to the idea of normality despite his tacit admission that the club is no longer a going concern and technically and practically insolvent. Because no money is overdue to HMRC for taxes or VAT, he truckles, no-one will apply for administration. Even without a sugar daddy the club is safe, he implies. Like when we made recently contracted players available for loan a few weeks ago, there have been zero expressions of interest from external investors (although 17 fans have pledged future lottery winnings to the club).
But what about the bank? Town's bankers have tired of reading truly awful trading reports year on year, tired of seeing the sharp decline in revenues without compensatory cost-cutting, and have insisted that the club's huge bank overdraft be scheduled in to a single five-year loan. Half a million quid to be paid back in five years. Miss two payments and the men in suits will undoubtedly descend with a winding-up order. No more overdraft: no room to manoeuvre. And the deckchairs on Town's Titanic remain in place, unshuffled: fiddles are playing, smoke is rising, icebergs are near! That distant howl is the call of the bank manager. Winter is coming.
Lincoln City, the club Fenty had the front to offer advice to last season, has more experience in these matters. They are one season behind Town in the non-League cycle, have seen attendances drop from 3,000 to 2,200 with consequent revenue falls and have announced yesterday drastic cost-cutting measures. Their chief executive Steve Prescott has said the club needs to behave like a non-League club and has asked for voluntary redundancies from the 20 full-time staff as part of a general review of the club's finances.
Yeah, that's right, gentle reader, 20. The Town accounts
report 53 full-time staff last season (down from 56). Wake up Mr Fleming you are dream-walking the club to insolvency. Stop listening to Fenty's deluded ravings, earn your salary and take some tough financial decisions. And fast. See yer.
Wednesday 2 November
Due to the directors' complete disconnection with commercial reality, it cost over two and a half million quid to keep Grimsby Town going in 2010-11, but we only stumped up about £1.6m to watch our first season of Conference football. So, in slightly less rounded figures, your Guest Diarist would like to record that Town lost £936,177 last season.
The implication seems to be, in the club's published accounts (pdf, 470kb), that if we had a shiny new stadium to go to, we'd have found that extra million quid or so down our collective sofas, and that the club would be a vibrant going concern. In what can only be the mangled language of ex-chairman Fenty, the report parps: "There are many football clubs less fashionable than our Club which have relocated / redeveloped and prospered leaving Grimsby Town FC behind." I'll leave you, gentle reader, to digest that statement at your leisure.
Because I must move on if I don't get this accounting carcass dissected quickly, it's gonna smell real bad. Let's cut to the chase: Grimsby Town are no longer a 'going concern'. The accumulated losses have crept over £3.5m. The bank has forced the club to convert its half-million-pound overdraft to a five-year loan (which means they've got to make payments month in, month out, to get the bank's liability down to nil in five years). The auditors can no longer rely on the shareholders' and directors' guarantees to support the club's debts, saying the accounts "indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern".
Unless someone steps forward very quickly to make financial guarantees, then under the Insolvency Act of 1986 (as amended by the Enterprise Act of 2002) the club should declare itself bankrupt. Failure to do so in most cases would result in criminal charges being brought against the directors and their disqualification as company directors.
This is how this delicate matter is approached in the accounts: "The Directors are not at present in a position to provide the necessary assurances that the company will have sufficient facilities to finance it's [sic.] operations and other obligations for at least twelve months from the date of approval of these financial statements, but they are endeavouring to seek the funding necessary to provide the company with financial security." Either the GTFC men in suits are playing a massive, crazy game of poker, then, or hope springs bloody eternal.
But let's remember Fenty's grand plan it is reprised in the introduction to the accounts: "The company's principle [sic.] short term aim is to return to League football and since the end of the financial year the directors have invested in new players with the expectation of making a promotion challenge. Such investment in additional players being [sic.] within the earnings cap on eligible turnover." The hastily added sentence at the end makes you smile doesn't it? There is the very essence of creative accounting distilled in to the potion mixed to counteract the salary cap. They must have hired Dumbledore for the day to get that spell. And it looks like, for about the fifth season running, the investment in additional players has simply not worked as Town's position in the league ladder declines yet again.
Hey, let's have some good news, I hear you cry. Come on, don't bring my lunch hour down with all this complicated finance talk! Well, this is the best I can do: "Following advice, the Directors believe the best hope of attracting and securing vital funding, is to create a new community stadium company, enabling fresh investment with known and calculable repayment. Rest assured that should a new community stadium company be the chosen direction then there would be appropriate covenants put in place to protect the interests of The Grimsby Town Football Club PLC to ensure that the profits are channelled to benefit entirely the Club's pursuit to play at the highest level."
And Ian Fleming has talked to the Telegraph to claim that all this bankruptcy talk is crazy: "I'm forever optimistic. Because of what happened recently with John Fenty standing down as chairman, but staying as a director, there is uncertainty with the financial position regarding the going concern. It's always challenging and remains so. We are still looking for anyone out there who feels they can assist us with any decision making and financial support and that doesn't change."
So the club is losing twenty grand plus a week, must be down to its last hundred grand or so, but everything's OK there's a new community stadium project to keep Fenty excited and the man in day-to-day charge is forever optimistic. Still, only three weeks (and sixty grand) to the AGM. See yer.