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Diary - October 2011
Monday 31 October
Miss Guest Diary writes: Rather appropriately for Hallowe'en, I'm starting to feel a little spooked by Town's recent results. In each of the last three home games I have missed, Town have scored five goals. So what, I hear you say; lots of other people missed those games too but are those people season ticket holders of long standing? For the Alfreton game I had another engagement. The Barrow game was on a Tuesday, and I have decided not to attend any midweek games this season. But Saturday's game against Ashington was different. I was free and had committed myself to go. But then I started to read emails and Tweets which indicated nervousness among Town fans about a possible defeat to this team from several divisions below us. So I decided to stay away, jokingly saying to my partner that Town would definitely win and score five as a consequence.
Football seems to be such a superstitious world the lucky underpants, the favourite pre-match routine that it is easy to get sucked in. My partner, usually the most balanced and logical person I know, once wore the same set of clothes to every game for a whole season, and woe betide me if I didn't manage to get them washed between Saturday and Tuesday fixtures. Fortunately, that little quirk seems to have disappeared along with Town's League status. I personally don't indulge in magical thinking: I know that my presence or absence at a football match, or what I wear while I am there, can have no influence on the outcome, but now... I'm simply glad that Town have been drawn away at Port Vale in the next round so I don't have to make any difficult decisions.
There is an abundance of Town-related stories in today's Grimsby Telegraph: a match report, Shorty praising the performance of the youngsters in the team, interviews with Thanoj and Southwell about the magic of the cup and some flimflam about getting money from the Ryan Bennett sell-on clause should he ever be transferred for big money (yawn).
But the one that caught my eye was a report of someone receiving a football banning order, which says Town are "ranked eighth in the league table of clubs with the highest number of football banning orders". I wanted to see this as a good thing that local miscreants are being punished but comparing the average Town gate with that of most professional clubs must surely mean it's a really bad thing. Out of curiosity I went in search of this league table. The only one I could find dated from 10 November 2010 and had Town in 10th place with 76 banning orders; the top club had 125. No prizes for guessing which club that was. This is one league I certainly wouldn't mind Town getting relegated from.
Talking of relegation, I see that the game against Lincoln at Sincil Bank on Boxing Day has been moved to a 1pm kick-off "on police advice". I never really understand the purpose of this OK, there's less time to misbehave before the game but, given that most pubs seem to open all day, it just increases the time available afterwards, with the outcome of the game thrown into the mix.
I need to get off now and buy some sweets to placate the trick or treaters tonight, or I'll have to hide in my top-floor TV room with the lights dimmed. Hmm, maybe I'll just do that anyway and eat all the sweets myself.
Friday 28 October
"If we reduce prices and get the same sort of attendance as normal, then that doesn't make economical sense and we are not in the business of losing money."
"If somebody could guarantee a crowd of 4,000-5,000 we would gladly reduce it but that is not going to happen and this football club needs to break even at the very minimum."
"We are a team of factory workers, builders and the keeper works in a supermarket we have the whole spectrum."
"We've got a database of players we are interested in at home. Once we've learned SQL we are gonna have a great time thinking about what we want in the squad."
"Bradley takes it on the chin if you tell him off. If I told him his career was going down the plughole anti-clockwise he'd shrug and work hard on his clockwise game. That's the sort of lad he is."
To save you the trouble of trawling through the incredibly boring round of local media interviews and articles about Town's 'big cup' match tomorrow your Guest Diarist has rather carelessly, I admit transcribed the highlight quotes for your consideration, gentle reader.
So what have we gleaned? That the crowd, although buoyed by up to 300 no doubt vociferous away fans, will be painfully thin, in all probability. But season ticket holders don't forget to use your vouchers! Be your own friend tomorrow and come along for only a tenner. We've heard an official of the club, that nice hirsute Mr Wraith, actually declare that the club needs to break even. A concept that his CEO Mr Fleming had pooh-poohed only a few weeks ago in an all too rare public interview. You are way off message with that one, Steve.
We also seem to have learned that the opposition are not plumbers this time. I read yesterday a quote from Ashington's top scorer, who explained that he works for the FA and only goes to the gym a couple of times a week. But for a decent bit of writing on the opposition let me point you (courtesy of James Williams on that Twitter) to this north-eastern footy blog which will tell you that the opposition have a deliciously named flying left winger called Johnny Godsmark, who is an ex 'Toon reserve, as well as a lot of other credible stuff to prove Grimsby are in for a hell of a tussle on the morrow.
Shorty's subscription interviews just get longer and longer and longer. Don't get me wrong: he's a lovely bloke who couldn't help falling under Shouty's spell. But he can mumble for England these days. He said so much. He said there'll be changes to the first team. He said the first team will be the best team we've got. He said the changes won't be wholesale (no wonder the club is losing 20 grand a week if we are not buying at trade). He told a story about Bradley Wood. I think there should have been a baby in it but he forgot that part because he mused and he pondered about Bradley for what seemed like ages. Bradley is everything he wanted in a son apart from the rashness, the suspect passing and the goldfish mind. I wanted to join in: "He's a yard dog, Shorty, but he's still got that puppy dog tail. And greeting each new opponent with his paws on their shoulder causes some referees to take immediate action. Maybe we need that lady off Dog Borstal in for an afternoon."
And finally Shorty talked IT to us. They are always looking at players: some for now, some for a couple of months' time and some to, well, to aspire to. He says they keep a database of players. I'm not familiar with Football Manager-type PC games but I sort of imagine if you trawl through all those you can sign and sort of keep the ones you like in categories in a sort of 'favourites' bit. Then you could call that a database without having to learn Access or MySQL or summat. But when Shorty talks database that's when the ex-chairman gets really horny. Was he lurking just off camera and that section was just for him? I hope so. See yer.
Thursday 27 October
It's a damp, drizzly day for the Grimsby Town public training session. Somewhere to haul the kids off to as half term drags on. A chance for the sadly unemployed, the shift workers and perhaps the odd teacher to go along to a workplace and see how 'real men' earn their money. The diametric opposite to that GTFC docks trip 40 years ago to allow players to find out how hard and unsocial it was to be a lumper.
And your Guest Diarist fails to understand the 10 per cent McDonalds discount voucher offered to attendees. It creates a pester situation for unemployed folk with kids. It negates the 'healthy' side of the event, where kids at least get to watch exercise. And it boosts McDonalds' profits a meagre 10 per cent off in a high-margin takeaway food business is a frankly pathetic gesture.
But I'm way off base in these times, aren't I? Sport is sponsored by beer and fast food: it's the new Olympian ideal. So I'm not railing at Grimsby Town, honest. I'm railing at the world: the world is wrong, someone said last night. The world is wrong.
As we build up, gentle reader, to the 'big cup weekend' the media machine is churning out facts and opinions. Radio Humberside's Talksport programme revealed that Ashington manager Gary Middleton once had a fortnight's trial at Grimsby. Guiseley boss Steve Kittrick reckons Ashington can win it impressed by their display when beating his side 1-0 in the last round. Ashington striker Jamie Clarke, who has scored half a dozen goals in the tournament already, summed up the situation for the Mariners succinctly: "They are in a lose-lose situation. If they win then it will be said that they were expected to do so and if they lose they will be criticised and get hammered in the media." Ashington are as long as 12/1 (with Bwin) to win this match. The prospect of a really good night out against risking a tenner on the upset. Don't tempt me.
Back to Gary Middleton. He was a semi-professional defender who pitched up at Gainsborough once upon a time, but he also played in the 1999 FA Vase final for Bedlington Terriers. They lost that one at the last gasp, but the same season Bedlington knocked fourth division Colchester out of the FA Cup. You see, gentle reader, you see? You see how Google leads you on, how within ten minutes a small chance of defeat to lower league opposition becomes a near certainty?
All you need, though, is a winning mentality, and that's the one bloody thing we haven't got. More on this match tomorrow: I'll try to get a grip before then. See yer.
Wednesday 26 October
Afternoon everyone West Yorkshire Diary here, contemplating whether Grimsby Town and their fans would be better off if football seasons never started. It'd be quite nice just existing in pre-season, where nothing can harm us. We could believe that we are genuine promotion contenders and no-one could prove otherwise. We could forever speculate how our latest signing adds something to the team and not have to deal with how he's actually going to bring nothing to the team and then sod off six months into an 18-month contract to join another team so he can score the winning goal against us in a future fixture.
We all believe that the team can achieve much more than it actually does in the months of June and July. And when the team goes on to achieve nothing but mediocrity, we all feel a tad embarrassed about the same level of embarrassment as you feel when you think it's thundering outside but someone points out that it's actually the next door neighbour taking out your wheelie bin.
It probably took a little longer than us Town fans are accustomed to, but our first loan signing of the season arrived yesterday when King$ton Communication$ FC were kind enough to allow their 18-year-old left-back Conor Townsend to join us for a month. What do we know about him? He's 18, he's a left-back, he plays for Hull, he spells Conor with one 'n' and he's not a fan of the televisual trash that is The Only Way Is Essex, much preferring the more cultural trash of Channel 5's Big Brother. And he's on Twitter. I thought the young 'uns did Facebook?
The move was probably sparked by the news that the quite handy Jamie Green has been told by doctors to rest for another three weeks in an effort to cure his troublesome hamstring injury. Green, who has verbally agreed a deal with Town that would tie him to the club until January, is currently in danger of signing an expired contract at this rate (and Town's administrative staff probably wouldn't notice it). Three weeks to cure the injury, a few more weeks to get fit... New Year's Eve could be the day.
So, Townsend joins for an initial month and for the first time in what seems like years, Town now have two genuine left-backs in the squad. What Townsend's loan means for Lee Ridley is clear; what it means for play-for-free local lad Conor 'Also One N' Marshall is even clearer. This is a local club for random people.
It's a pity we can't deal with the current players like we have with Green: make them all prove their fitness and (crucially) talent before they get paid. Town could save a fortune ironically something they've failed to make from a cup competition for a good few years now. While we're probably expected to sleepwalk our way this Saturday into the FA Cup first round 'proper', we're not going to make our fortune on the turnstiles if fans are seriously being asked to pay £18 for the privilege of watching limited opposition put in more effort than their own team. But it's OK you can save bundles of cash by getting fish and chips in McMenemy's for just £10 before the match! That's obviously much more preferable than getting it for half the price outside the ground where they don't demand you wear a suit. How rude.
Tuesday 25 October
Speak to any Town fan of middle or advanced age and a number of themes will typically emerge. One is that Town used to be good. Another is that Lawrie McMenemy, during his brief but successful term as manager, was in the habit of taking his players to visit workers on Grimsby's fish docks at some obscene hour like half past two in the morning. The implication seems to be that these visits were, in their own little way, a contributory factor to Town's 1972 fourth division championship. The footballers' presence inspired the lumpers and filleters to go and watch them on a Saturday, and in turn the players were lifted by the inflated crowds.
Your original/regular Diary reckons these old fogeys may be confusing cause and effect. Rather than the visits to the docks leading to the success of the team, perhaps it was only the team's success that made the dock visits possible. Under normal circumstances, at most points in GTFC history, the response of most Grimsby people to the presence of Grimsby Town footballers would be to shrug a shoulder and carry on denouncing the local availability of Chinese food as a conspiracy by the EEC to undermine the fishing industry. No, if you ask me, the bandwagon was already fully booked, and the players were just lapping it up.
The reason this returns to mind today is that the current Town set-up is attempting some kind of reprise. There are, however, some key differences between Lawrie Mac's dawn raids on the Alexandra Dock and Shorty and Shouty's open training day this Thursday. One is that the players can't go and visit people at work because nobody has a job. So you have to go to them instead.
A second contrast is predicated on a peculiar cultural shift in society's attitude towards childhood. In the 1970s adults carried on what they did normally and children started doing it when they grew up. In the 2010s adults do children's things instead of adults' things, so that they and their children can like the same things, and children never have to grow up. (Just look at 20-over cricket, for crying out loud.) So this event is geared towards children and timed during half-term. It takes place "10.20am 12pm", according to the club's superb new official website, which probably means 12 noon. I know what you're thinking, but people don't have to book time off work to take their children because nobody has a job.
In the 1970s, of course, fast food meant fish and chips. But this time round, if you go to the open training day, there's a discounted lunch from McDonalds afterwards. So there's a useful message for the kiddies about healthy and ethical dietary choices. And finally, there's a 10 per cent discount for the club shop if you go along on Thursday. In the 1970s there was no such thing as a club shop, unless it was just that place your mam went to after she knocked off at Ross's at 10pm and bought a box of 48 choc-ices for 2½p.
Most people of middle or advanced age Town fans or otherwise will tell you things were better in the old days. Your original/regular Diary, being about to enter middle age, can't ever decide. It's not made any easier, of course, by the fact that in many ways Grimsby remains in 1972 psychologically. Maybe this is the worst of both worlds. If you're a young child and you don't want your dad to drag you along to the open day at the football, he can just beat the shit out of you until you comply. And now when you get home later you can't even console yourself by watching Bagpuss.
Monday 24 October
Miss Guest Diary writes: I ventured back to Blundell Park on Friday for the Luton game, for which I apologise, given my newly acquired Jonah status. But, apart from the result, I thought it was a good game which I enjoyed watching for the first time in several months. Luton were obviously very good but Town tried very hard and almost succeeded in matching them for much of the game. They certainly looked more solid with I'Anson in defence. So I was surprised to hear nothing but doom and gloom emanating from Radio Humberside on the drive home: that this result could mean the end for the team, maybe even the club.
I didn't agree and simply couldn't bear hearing this so, as the driver wanted to listen, I employed the 21st-century equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and humming: I inserted my iPod headphones. I did hear snippets from the radio in between tracks, including part of the Shouty interview in which he claimed never to have previously "lost more than one game in a row". Pondering how you can have a row of one thing fortunately kept me distracted until the next track started. But I felt obliged to visit the Grimsby Telegraph
this morning to check out what else he had to say about Friday's game. Reading that the management team are at their "wits' end" and questioning whether they are good enough to manage Town, I wish I hadn't bothered.
Then something happened which made me realise that things might be even worse for Town than I had imagined. Reading the Secret Footballer column in The Guardian about some more nonsense being considered by the Premiership to keep out the riff-raff, I saw that when he needed to
patronise mention some lower division clubs he chose York, Bury and Northampton. What about Town haven't we always been to go-to club to append to the phrase "no disrespect to the likes of..."? Are we so far off the radar of the footballing world that we can't even aspire to being patronised? Heaven help us now.
To take my mind off this I began to browse one of those Christmas gift magazines they give away with newspapers at this time of year, this one disingenuously titled "For gifts you can't wait to give", which translates as "things you don't need and can't afford anyway". Heading straight to the gadget section to drool over the laptops and iPads, I noticed that you can now buy your child a Lego digital camera or mp3 player whatever happened to board games and blow football?
At least the Town youth team did us proud, beating Hartlepool United 4-2 on Saturday with a hat trick from Jack Bradbury. I'd like to tell you where that puts them in Youth Alliance North East table but all I could discover was that they were 11th (out of 13) last week. I found this on the Football League website which made me wonder how come we can have a youth team that's part of the League set up when the club itself isn't.
Don't forget, tonight at 7pm there is an open meeting at Blundell Park organised by the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust to tell fans about their activities and encourage them to get involved. I won't be going myself not because I don't think it's a good cause; I am sure it is but because I promised myself I wouldn't take on any new commitments for a year after I retired. This was necessary because I have a tendency to volunteer for things, some of which I later regret but can't get out of. An experience that I suspect Shouty and Shorty might be sharing this morning.
Friday 21 October
"It's grow-up time," said Shouty. Belligerent as ever but with a hint of vulnerability in his eyes. The Town managers return to favoured home turf tonight, buttocks smarting from two away defeats: one sort of a bit noble, the other excruciatingly bad. Get beaten tonight and the managers' lose percentage will dip the wrong side of 50. Your Guest Diarist daren't even calculate what the win percentage will be. But the performance statistics make grim reading in their early days of managing Grimsby Town. Town don't just fail to win, like under the last manager: they lose far too often.
Luton at home on a Friday night on pay TV. So even more fans than usual will get to watch the game as they traipse round town to the right pubs or wrestle with hookey internet streams. Luton are a top-five side on merit but still have a streak of inconsistency and their top scorer is back-knacked so new signing Tommy Wright may well play. As usual it's quite important that Town don't lose this one I think both sides would be happy with a point, but that all depends on which Town team turns up, and for how long.
I'm used (for the past 30 years and more) to worrying most about Town's inability to score. This season, since our strikers started scoring, that issue has been dwarfed by our complete inability to defend. Shouty, in the subscriber-only match preview, was tight-lipped about changes in personnel. He wants to make them, that's obvious. He wants to punish people. But he knows that shuffling the pack is only likely to make things worse. Makofo trained yesterday, but for the first time so is likely to make only a cameo appearance. He's unlikely to drop the goalkeeper. Although McKeown made a couple of mistakes, you have to factor in the intense pressure the lad is under every time the opposition venture into the Town half: every attack it feels like a goal is coming. Shuffling Pearson, Kempson and Garner at the minute is akin to shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic and Shouty knows it.
But our back line is not that bad really they can't be. Pearson excepted, they all played last season and although far from watertight we weren't crapping ourselves every time the opposition attacked like we are now. A year ago we were knocking on the door of the play-offs timidly, I know, but we could just reach the knocker at least. Alan Connell's goals helped that hugely. But the defence had to play their part too, especially as we didn't really bother with a midfield in anything but name. What the hell has gone wrong? Perhaps it's a Grovesian arm-round-the-shoulder time, as this 'man up' ranting hasn't worked at all, has it?
The silence from the upper echelons of the club is deafening. Neither of the major shareholders are showing their hand. No-one at the club seems to be doing anything to confront the massive overspend despite being told that cash subsidies will dry up very soon. The supporters' trust is having another public meeting but hasn't announced any strategy beyond 'join the trust'. Yeah, it's business as usual everywhere in the eye of the hurricane. It is a little-reported fact that at the tail end of last season about 600 season ticket holders failed to go to home games they'd paid for. It would seem from this season's sales figures that most of them renewed to give the Mariners another chance. But with another indifferent season unravelling, can this be expected next time?
Of course a good win tonight, or even a battling (low-scoring) draw would put a better slant on things, at least in the immediate term. But I'd take a clean sheet over another Hearn hat-trick, I really would. See yer.
Thursday 20 October
Mardy Diary writes: Oh. Oh dear. It's come to this and yet we always knew it would, deep down. No, I'm not talking about another capitulation to part-time opposition. No, not that scenario where fans and managers snort at "the likes of" some small club or other before we field a team incapable of living up to the pre-match arrogance. No. What I'm talking about here is the now all-too-familiar Tell The Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Soon, Honest game. And whose turn is it today? Why, it's lower-league journeyman and all-round 'meh' signing Anthony Elding. Who cost money to sign actual, real, proper-signing money.
Elding goes on to say that his team-mates need to, like, grow up and stuff coz they're like really immo and everything. It's like that time when he was doing stretches in training and Dizza was making spaz faces behind him and everything and all the team were like laughing at him and it was totally unfair. And the managers didn't even do anything about it or anything, and like, he was gonna complain to the PFA like but then they were totally biased against him and everything.
In other news Radio Humberside reported this morning that the ongoing manager-stealing compensation ding-dong with former multiple-relegation experts Boston United is set to be resolved or at least heard in a court of law sometime in the new year. Bad timing for them really, as we'll have no money at that point and they'll have to settle for considerably less when we inevitably fall in to administration. There's also been a delay in the two clubs arranging a meeting to sort out the (potential) compensation for Church and Pearson.
So it's business as usual that is, no-one at the club seems even capable of organising a drunken fumble in a hybrid brewery-whorehouse. Seeya.
Wednesday 19 October
John Fenty (Con), Thursday 24 March 2011: "Rob and Paul have made a distinguished start to their managerial careers with back-to-back promotions. Since going into management their successes have been remarkable, win percentages of 65 per cent, 61 per cent and 58 per cent in successive seasons."
Remarkable indeed. Remarkable that two football men can achieve such high win percentages at other clubs and these magically disappear when they move east to Blundell Park. Remarkable that, eight months and 27 games into their Grimsby Town careers, Scott and Hurst's win percentage stands at 22.2 recurring. Their loss percentage is much more impressive, however, at just over 48. And as fans will observe, Neil Woods was sacked for much less; sacked for the ignominy of failing to beat Forest Green at home, after which our league record stood at won 11, drawn 12, lost nine (that's a loss percentage of 28, in case you were wondering).
Let's not pretend that Neil Woods' sacking was a decision entirely free from the stigma of being the man in charge when we fell out of the Football League. We were all feeling the frustration of not being 'in the mix' come February, and Woods was an easy target for boo-boys. But after bleating on for years about the value of stability, Fenty still thought it was the right time and, worryingly, the right thing to do in sacking Woods when history should have told him that sacking a manager at Grimsby has invariably led to more misery.
Your West Yorkshire Diary remembers how embarrassing it felt to fall into the fourth division in 2004 and have to play Scunthorpe in league games. We had the 'Rochdale on a Tuesday night' scenario and we all couldn't wait to go straight back up to escape those horrors. Fans used to think it couldn't get any worse than being in the same league as Scunny and watching them go up. But it did get worse, as we all know. Even the season when we finally plummeted into the Conference we began it thinking that we could be serious promotion contenders. Even David Burns, on Radio Humberside, made his now infamous prediction of tipping us for the title.
This isn't a knee-jerk reaction to our dismal defeat to part-time Ebbsfleet last night. This isn't a call or a demand for Scott and Hurst to be given the old heave-ho. Just when you think a manager, or managers, can't take you any further down the leagues, or that it can't get any worse by sacking them, history shows it can. Lincoln are doing a pretty good job at the minute proving that a sizeable former League team can take part in a relegation scrap in the Conference. And, save for a good win last night, Stockport were doing the same. We're not that far off them, you know.
At the top end of the Conference you will see all the former Football League teams those pundits always quote when they talk about it being a difficult division to get out of. Your Lutons, Yorks, Wrexhams, Kidderminsters and Cambridges have all spent plenty of time in non-League and are only now beginning to get themselves into a position from which they can have a real go at promotion. Teams that come down rarely go straight back up. Relegation prompts them to get their shit together, and shit takes time to sort out.
Sadly we're way off York and Wrexham. We're experiencing what they experienced when they first fell into the Conference. The more time we spend in this division, the more we'll begin to understand what works and what doesn't work. By the agonising process of trial and error, we're learning what doesn't work. It may take years. But what we need to realise is that we've already begun that process, and what we don't want to do is sack managers who are still learning their trade. That was the risk he took when Fenty blinded by percentages and a failure to attract anyone else to the club appointed them. It's going to take time probably more time than our notoriously impatient fans can handle.
Scott and Hurst have assembled a squad that will put in the effort and commitment for 90 minutes. But that's come at a cost, as we've lost the skill and technical ability that York showed they had at the weekend. While effort and commitment alone might have been enough for the duo to get a team out of the lower tiers of non-League, it's not enough to get teams out of the Conference. Therefore Scott and Hurst will have to adapt and learn new skills if they have any real ambitions of getting the Mariners up the table and contesting for promotion.
So then, it's taken 17 games for one of the two managers to make an ominous comment about 'making changes' to the players they brought to the club in the summer. And so the cycle will begin again loan players, panic buys, stop-gaps. At least I hope not. Maybe Shorty just means that Rob Eagle will finally get a start, Kenny Arthur will replace McKeown and Charlie I'Anson can have another go at showing the rest of our defence how to defend (all three players that were at the club last season, might I add). To be honest, I'd rather he do that than go out and buy another useless tosspiece.
Tuesday 18 October
"When we went to Braintree early in the season, maybe it was a case of we felt we were too good to be playing there." You suspected it and now Craig Disley has admitted it: a key factor in Town's worst result since the formation of the club in 1878 was the complacency of their players. But it should come as no surprise. Moneybags chairman Deadly John (Topcon) has been shouting out to the world at large for some years about his willingness to provide a much bigger playing budget than the operating income of the club could sustain. A club with this policy is always likely to develop a reputation among lazy and washed-up players as a good stop-off point to make an easy buck. GTFC fans found this out the hard way when the likes of Peter Sweeney won comfortable long-term contracts, and then shrugged their way to relegation from the Football League.
In no way, of course, would your original/regular Diary compare Disley with many of the no-marks who preceded him. The captain is already a strong contender for Cod Almighty's player of the season award. And as the best central midfielder on Town's books since Paul Bolland was good for a year, Disley begs the tragic question of how the club might have fared last season or the one before had he arrived here sooner. We've heard this line 2,560 times, something about not being the best lately, but we'll get better soon, honest. But when Craig looks back at Braintreegate and says: "I think the attitude will be totally different tonight," I for one am trying my best to believe him.
Tonight, of course, will see the Mariners' first ever game against Ebbsfleet United (in this or any of their previous guises). The talk is of a 'physical' game. United have started the season poorly and languish low in the table, but four points from their last two games have restored some confidence. When Dizza says: "If we want to be successful we need to go to places like Ebbsfleet and win games," it rides uncomfortably close to the sort of rhetoric Bryan Robson cranked out before bringing his Middlesbrough side to Blundell Park in 1994 (caretaker manager John Cockerill tacked the quote up on the dressing room wall, and Town won 2-1). But strip away the dismissive overtones and in essence it's true. At Stonebridge Road this evening we'll start to see whether Shorty and Shouty's big talk is going to be justified. It's only a start, of course. But there's meaning in this one.
Elsewhere, Tommy Wright may not have had Town fans rushing for the 'first goalscorer' odds during his time with the club, but that could all be set to change this week. Exercising a release clause in his contract, Wright hot-footed it out of Cleethorpes 4.8 seconds after his one goal in 14 appearances proved insufficient to keep us in the Football League. The player enjoyed a similarly productive spell back at Darlington and then played twice for Kidderminster. He has, however, just signed a three-month contract with Luton, who are due at Blundell Park this Friday evening. Bugger.
That's all from me today, but before I go, if you're one of those people who couldn't look at the cup draw against Ashington without casting a wistful glance ten years back to Anfield, then don't read about the season Town tonked Manchester United twice in two days. Bye!
Monday 17 October
I have been giving the football a rest this week, with mixed results. On Tuesday Town managed another 5-2 victory and Hearn hat-trick while I stayed home and watched a few episodes of True Blood (mmm, Alexander Skarsgεrd).
On the face of it, Saturday was less successful, producing a 2-1 defeat at York. But maybe, given the quality gap in the football being played by each team as reported by Tony Butcher, losing by only one goal was a decent result. Reading Shouty's comments in the Grimsby Telegraph he seems to pretty much agree with Mr Butcher, although obviously without the pop lyrics and references to '70s prog rock bands.
I can't comment because, although I travelled to York, I chose to give the KitKat Stadium a miss and went instead to The Quilt Museum where I saw some truly amazing quilts (insert your own jokes here about patchwork formations and cobbled together defences). Afterwards there was plenty of time for shopping while I followed the game on my phone. So many shops, so much stuff on offer but I came away with only a lemon zester and a bulb planter the spectre of the WI looms ever closer.
Apparently, Saturday's game was Darran Kempson's 50th appearance for Town, which the Grimsby Telegraph was moved to describe as a "big milestone". Surely, 50 is only about one season's worth of games? It seems a sad indictment that this is seen as a significant milestone but, I suppose, is indicative of the churn in players (and managers) at Town over the last 10 years. It got me thinking about some of my favourites from the previous 10 years and, checking on Soccerbase, I discovered that Steve Livingstone managed 323 appearances, Mark Lever 401 and Paul Groves a staggering 520 in his two spells. Of course, none of them came close to John McDermott's amazing record of over 700 appearances in 20 years. I don't know which current Town player has made the most appearances but I bet it comes nowhere near 100.
Talking of McDermott, I was quite surprised to hear some fans at a game the other week calling out to James McKeown and referring to him as "Macca". In the same way that some teams 'retire' the shirt number of a much-loved player, I think that no-one else at Town should have the nickname of Macca well, maybe they could earn the right after they've made, say, 250 appearances.
The draw for the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup has given Town a home game against Ashington AFC to be played on 29th October. Who, you might ask. Well, they are currently in the STL Northern League but are a long-established club who have spent time in the Football League in the distant past. By coincidence, their first game in the League in 1921 was against Town. Their website tells us "a record League crowd of almost 10,000 saw Ashington win their first game at home to Grimsby Town with Dickinson scoring the only ground at Portland Park". The teams last met in 1926 when Town were 3-1 winners. I'll take that result on the 29th.
Lastly, the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust has announced details of a meeting to be held at 7pm on 24 October at Blundell Park. All Town supporters are welcome.
Enough now of this rambling, I'm off to make a lemon cake and plant some spring bulbs.
Friday 14 October
Tomorrow the madcap Mariners sally forth to York to take on a side brimming with goals, whose only recent regret is conceding a late equaliser in their last match away at Southport. The Town managers, determined to stop shipping lots of poor goals with monotonous regularity, have said this nettle must be grasped. They are not stung by the criticism. They have been the defence's biggest critics: loud and proud about how awful the team were the other night in the victorious 5-2 struggle over Barrow.
We're shit and we know we are, mused the Shouty one, descanting the Shorty one's similar comments in the immediate aftermath of that terribly undeserved kerr-azy midweek victory. We've been working on defensive plays all week, he added, qualifying that hastily with a legal addendum confirming that they always work on defence, midfield and attack in training every week. The mea culpa syndrome has extended to Kempson, a big culprit who knows it too telling the Telegraph he was shit and he knows it and then blabbering about how important his relationship with Pearson was, but that Garner was a professional too, before tailing off in to the desolate nothingness of we've been a bit shit lately, but we'll get better soon, honest.
But a shit defence never matters so much when the opposition's is worse, does it? And although the Town managers are running scared of the entire York front three and the entire York midfield, they didn't single out any of the York defence as featuring on their fright index. Draw comfort from that, gentle reader; seek solace there, folks.
Those of you travelling to the game might also find liquid consolation in the form of Mighty Mariner's pub guide. The foam-suited funster has Tweeted us here at Cod Almighty to highlight his pick of York's mighty alehouses. "Three Legged Mare, Brigantes and Pivni are top of my hitlist," explains Mighty. "York brewery and Thornbridge should be on." Remember, kids: the Jaipur IPA is not a session beer and must be treated with caution.
What better way than a nifty change in formation to take on one of the best footballing sides in the division who, on their day, display pitiless accuracy and precision in dispatching the opposition? A collection of hurty knacks has reduced Makofo's surging power to a setting way below stun, so there's an excuse to have another go at 4-3-3 apparently. Artus will bolster the midfield. Hearn out wide on the left will still score because his goals come from cutting in from that channel. And he'll get a chance to put in a bit of a shift chasing back defensively too. Oh, it all sounds good doesn't it?
The fact that modern players need to be spoon-fed was implicitly lamented in the excellent Radio Humberside interview with Joe Waters in midweek. The transatlantic drawl dissipated very fast back in to Grimsby-Irish as the genial midfield dynamo so close to older fans' hearts explained what a great rapport the championship-winning side had with their charismatic manager George Kerr. Modern fans see Kerr as a rambling old local radio buffoon prone to inappropriate verbal breaks of wind. But 30 years ago he had the nous to let good players play: to do what they do best. A lesson worth remembering with regard to the spark of talent we have with Liam Hearn. See yer.
Thursday 13 October
This time 12 months ago Grimsby Town fans were not happy. We'd just lost 3-2 away at Kidderminster and slipped from seventh to eighth in the league. This week our club is only 12th in the league, but Shorty and Shouty are largely being spared the venom that was unleashed on Neil Woodses. Why? Because unhappiness has been replaced by worry. Failures off the pitch have distracted from failures on.
This time 12 months ago Deadly John (Topcon) and Mike Parker seemed the best of chums, matching each other's 'investment' in GTFC pound for pound, presenting a united front to the fans and local media, and talking optimistically of the club's future. Since then, of course, Parker seems to have become the latest in a long line of people alienated by Fenty. Whether it's his piss-poor executive decision-making, his spectacular inability to use the English language effectively, or just his wearying passive-aggressive manner, the most recent chairman just doesn't seem able to hold down a relationship.
So Mike and his millions are withdrawing from the club, at least in the short term. Fenty is looking to scale back his 'investment'. And the fans are in an almighty panic: we don't know where the next wealthy saviour is coming from. Because that's Grimsby fans' instinct when the club is under threat. We don't mobilise our own power and rally to our supporters' trust, as other fans do. We find reasons to whine and bitch about GTST and look to the skies for the next swooping superhero. Whether it's Bryan Huxford, Ivano Bonetti, David Ross, or the nearest lottery millionaire, we don't care. Please, Cash Man, only you can save us now. One contributor to a messageboard even posted recently, with no apparent irony, that we should welcome Peter Ridsdale with open arms.
Your original/regular Diary reckons it's time for a change. It's time for Town fans to get up off our knees. No more begging for Cash Man to save us. No more pathetic gratitude to fish finger salesmen with a fortune built on a one-off lucky break. It's time for some pride. It's time for some belief in a club built on what we as supporters put in. It's time to run the club within its means. If that means a team of inexpensive grafters, I can live with that. Because the alternative is Barry Conlon and Peter Sweeney. If that means a few years in non-League, I can live with that. Because the long-term alternative is liquidation.
Grimsby Town Supporters Trust is inviting us to discuss on its Facebook page whether its logo and slogan need to be updated. 'In Cod We Trust'. You're damn right they do. We've trusted in these entrepreneurial deities, these gods of the market and the factory. And time after time they prove more interested in their own pitiful dick-swinging contests than the football club they profess to love. Well, no more. In our own strength as supporters we trust. No more saviours, no more fairytales. No more falling for the myth of 'investment'.
The club has tried paying over the odds. On the pitch, it's failed completely. Off the pitch, it's threatening the very existence of the club. Now's the moment to try something different. As crazy as it sounds, now's the time for the club to try spending only what it earns. And this is not so crazy: it'll mean a club that's no longer the plaything of petulant millionaires, squabbling like toddlers over a toy. It'll mean a club that's truly ours.
Wednesday 12 October
During the final three years of our Football League tenure your West Yorkshire Diary would have given his right bollock to see Town beat a team 5-2 when the match was, for the most part, evenly balanced. Of course, what tended to happen in those days was that the Mariners would lose usually to a late goal, maybe two and we'd all trudge off home wondering if falling into the non-League scene was really going to happen.
So on this non-League evening, when Town's frail defence was again embarrassingly exposed especially from set pieces the players at least had the nous to be clinical at the other end, which is a trait not so familiar to the dwindling faithful. However, we're not going to score a hatful of goals every game, and the worry is that our defence is dictating that we need to do just that. It's unsustainable and I'm sure we're all in agreement that as soon as the managers and players work out how to keep clean sheets, watching the Mariners play will become a little less stressful.
For about 75 minutes, listening to the match last night was about as uncomfortable as being Gary Lineker's wife when he asked her for an honest opinion about his embryonic facial hair before going live on the telly. At both 1-1 and 2-2 Barrow were the better side. But again Town bucked their unenviable trend of crumbling by retaking the lead each time. We scored handily on the stroke of half time and survived a difficult period in the second half before the managers made excellent substitutions which effectively won the game.
Liam Hearn shouldn't have to get hat-tricks to cover the mistakes of a defence that is leakier than the Pontoon roof directly over seat M54, but at least we've moved on from those dark days when we couldn't even muster a goal at home and even when we scored two, we conceded two as well. I guess you could call that progress.
Courtesy of that fifth goal, the Mariners have now scrambled high enough up the Conference table to take a sneaky peek at the top half. We've now scored more goals at home than any other team in the league, yet we have the joint worst strike rate on the road. Hearn's second hat-trick in successive home games is a feat worth mentioning, of course, as is Anthony Elding's ability to claim goals that go in off defenders. But in order to sum up the match, and to put this 5-2 scoreline into some sort of context, how many of us are really expecting a result at York on Saturday? I mean, honestly? They have pace and ex-GTFC players in their side, for Christ's sake.
For those listening to the game, or those who got back home in time to switch on what my grandmother used to call 'the wireless', we were treated to a heart-warming interview with former Mariners midfielder Joe Waters, who was famously brought to the club by the fans who helped raise part of his transfer fee. Now living and coaching in America, Waters spoke fondly of his time at Town and candidly about his recovery from cancer. His anecdotes of George Kerr's managerial style were insightful. He expressed a desire to visit one day and said he would love a reunion with some of his teammates from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hopefully the interview will resurface somewhere online for all Town fans to hear.
Finally, in response to Phil Watson's email in yesterday's diary regarding kit clashes, my own personal theory as to why the white strip was used at Mansfield is because the white strip was still in its cellophane wrapper from when it was purchased in the summer and someone at the club realised that, as the official away kit for the season, it really should make an appearance. It should have been worn on any number of occasions before Mansfield (take Braintree or Newport, for example our first two away games of the season), but it wasn't. Maybe we should put a call in to the kit police.
Tuesday 11 October
We're about a third of the way in to Town's second season as a non-League club. And despite or, more likely, because of the board's constant fine tuning of their managerial staff, we look further away from a return to the Football League than this time last year. So what's the problem? Why did the Mariners play well for half an hour at Mansfield on Saturday, go a goal up, and then basically shrug their shoulders and fuck off? If you don't like the cut of their jib, you blame the managers. If you're one of the managers, you blame the players. "The players are either not listening or not willing to do what we ask of them," reflected one of the Shorty and Shouty team in yesterday's Grimsby Telegraph. To which the most reasonable response would seem to be: "Well, why did you sign them then?"
But that was bloody yesterday, and your original/regular Diary doesn't want to change the world: I'm just looking for a new Grimsby. At home to Barrow tonight would be as good a place as any to begin. Town's flawed defence will face another stiff challenge, however, in a visiting side that hasn't failed to score so far this season. And with 10 goals in 16 games this season, there's a player to fear in former Plucky Scunny forward Adam Boyes (insert your own '39p or 3-for-£1 transfer fee' joke here). The GTFC team news is anyone's guess really, but with a full squad of players to choose from Shorty and Shouty are expected to rotate their excuses should Town fail again. "It's the players' fault" may be rested this evening, with "we blame the referee" expected to be given a run-out, though "the rainy conditions hindered us disproportionately" may be an outside bet for inclusion.
Over to the Diary's inbox now, where Phil Watson asks: "Can anyone explain the current mania for playing in a change strip even when it's quite unnecessary? At the weekend England not only turned in an ugly performance they did do in a truly ugly strip: mismatched dark blue shirts and light blue shorts. Montenegro played in all red: how would white shirts and blue shorts (or even all white) have clashed with that? Here the motivation is clear enough to separate some nationalist fan with more money than sense from his cash by selling him yet another shirt. At Mansfield, Town played in all white, for reasons known only to their kit man. How would black and white shirts, black shorts and red socks have clashed with Mansfield's blue and yellow? Is any Town fan really going to spring for an all white third strip? Is it too much to suggest that looking like a Grimsby Town team, week in and week out, might contribute just slightly to our current gaggle eventually playing like one?"
Phil goes on to point out that when kits actually do clash, the officials do nothing about it. He cites Lincoln's visit to BP the other season, when they played in grey and the two teams merged into much of a monochrome muchness. The grey kit, of course, brings us back to the matter of excuses for losing. And there's no manager better at trotting those out than Sir Alex Ferguson, as evidenced back in 1996 when his Manchester United Inc. suffered a first-half collapse at the Dell and he ordered the players to change out of their grey shirts at half time.
Lastly today, let's congratulate ex-Towner Ryan Bennett on his England under-21 debut last night. The O'Peterborough centre-half played the full 90 against Norway, where our nation's youth came out 2-1 winners to maintain the 100 per cent start to their European qualifying campaign that is certain to see the senior side win the 2018, 2022 and 2026 World Cups. And if the GTFC club shop is struggling to flog replica shirts, at least this should put a few quid on the value of Bennett's sell-on clause.
Monday 10 October
Miss Diary writes: The most disappointing thing for me about Saturday's collapse at Mansfield which I could see coming was the fact that, when it arrived, I found I didn't care very much. In the past I have shed a tear when Town conceded; I have even, on one memorable occasion when Town lost through an undeserved penalty very late in the game, stood up and hurled a mouthful of four-letter abuse at Jan Aage Fjortoft. On Saturday I felt mildly irritated for a minute or two. Looking back, my irritation after the game, at not being able to find which aisle the sugar was in at the local Sainsbury's, was slightly greater.
From the games I have seen this season Town are in no danger of going down and seem unlikely to string enough good results together to go up. The playing style is often ugly and boring. Many of the players seem interchangeably average, with a few notable exceptions such as Disley, Coulson, Eagle and Hearn. And I really haven't taken to the new managers. My relationship with Town seems to be heading for divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown, or possibly mental cruelty. So what might rekindle my passion? A stirring cup run? We start from so far back these days FA Cup fourth qualifying round, for goodness' sake that the possibility of a big game against a Premiership, even a Championship, side seems hopelessly remote.
Talking of big cup games, the Town tweeters have been nostalgically celebrating the tenth anniversary of beating Liverpool in the League Cup. To me this seems an unhealthy and pointless activity, a bit like when you have a mouth ulcer and you can't stop prodding it with your tongue even though you know it will hurt.
Last week the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust arrived on Twitter (@OfficialGTST). Currently it has 153 followers; I think it'll need to raise its profile a bit higher if it's going use the shares it's been gifted by Mike Parker to save the club. So why not join the trust? I'm going to. Life membership is a bargain at £100 or, if that seems like too big a commitment, £15 for a year. The trust has tweeted a link to the minutes of a recent meeting at Blundell Park which tells you about their aims. It has also invited applications for election to its board and promised to arrange an open meeting in the near future.
Worthy as following GTST is, I generally look for something a bit lighter in the Twittersphere. If you do too, may I recommend following the radio presenter Danny Baker (@prodnose), whose Tweets are often totally surreal but never fail to entertain. He has an oft-repeated mantra on his radio show: "Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always certain."
That mantra would also do for Tony Butcher, the Cod Almighty match reporter... if you removed the 'sometimes wrong' part. Hmm, I'm looking forward to seeing his reaction to Rob Scott's claim in the Grimsby Telegraph that un-man of the match Anthony Church "put in a hard-working display... running around and tackling", and comparing him to Nobby Stiles in the '66 World Cup.
Earlier this year I took voluntary redundancy from a job I'd done for over 30 years. Without work and, more recently, much football to occupy my mind I have taken to baking, gardening, sewing and voluntary work to fill the gap. If this keeps up I can see myself joining the Women's Institute. I have no plans to get another job so it's down to Town to save me come on you Mariners, I need you!
Friday 7 October
A very few years ago (it seems a lifetime to your melancholic Guest Diarist) the original Mr Diary conceived and orchestrated a campaign to Shut Down The Town. Orchestration was relatively easy, I suspect because the take-up of this cause was largely of the rueful grin variety. The campaign never stopped, but, like the Supporters Trust, just went a bit dormant due to other priorities, hobbies and faahmerlee stuff. But it's time to think about it again.
The club's business model is irretrievably ruinous. The sport of which Mardy Diary wrote so movingly here yesterday has been diminished by the merry-go-round of journeymen signings (how can you have a different set of heroes every single season?). The hardcore fans are being punished in their pockets, being punished by watching impoverished performances, and being tortured by the melodramatic posturing of the money men who control the club. It's time to follow the BBC and stop showing live football and watch repeats instead.
With, say, 20,000 potential subscribers, GTFC TV has possibilities. It only needs to broadcast at 3pm each Saturday and 8pm every other Tuesday. The programme should be called When Town Were Good and would contain re-runs of Town victories, honourable draws and the occasional plucky defeat.
Speaking of the BBC cuts, I read yesterday that regional radio is to stop broadcasting on the AM waveband. The BBC is determined to show its regionality by shipping lots of unwilling London types to Salford at the same time as decimating local radio stations with savage cuts. The three broadcast channels (AM, FM, DAB) available to Radio Humberside mean the station can meet the demand for three simultaneous live commentaries on a Saturday afternoon. If AM is no longer available, they'll have to choose between matches. Good luck with that one on the phone-in, Burnsy.
And, returning to the theme of calling journeymen 'heroes', what seems like half of each team in the match at Mansfield tomorrow has played for the other side. The Telegraph has made this the central feature of all the various articles it has written about the game. But do I care what Fen Butcher thinks about Town? To be honest, I don't.
Young striker Sam Mulready, just back from being on loan at North Ferriby, has now gone south to join Boston for a month. The managers had obviously not told the other players being made available for loan, so the subscribers to Mariners Player got a coy response about other loans. But a statement published yesterday said: "Damian Spencer, Kenny Arthur, youngsters Andi Thanoj and Charlie I'Anson are also to be made available for loans."
This is no doubt in part because the squad is reported to be completely injury-free. But it highlights the culture of profligate spending at a small, penniless club: why did we even sign Spencer? I seem to recall the solitary reason given was that "Damian gives us something different". And how can a club in our position afford two full-time goalkeepers? Thanoj and Mulready will benefit from loan spells. In my opinion I'Anson should be in the team, or at worst, on the bench. He is going to be the best centre-half at the club; he may be already. He represents a future saleable asset in the next fire sale and the more experience he gets at the higher level the better. It's not as though our other centre-halves don't make mistakes, is it?
Town fan Michael Rushby, who lives in that foreign, has written in to respond to the question about four-goal men for Town. "Please ask Miss Diary to check out Town v Hartlepool 15 November 1952," he urges, "a 7-0 win, and, if my ageing memory serves me right, we had a centre-forward with the illustrious name of Fred Smith (no Waynes, Darrens and Jasons in those days) who scored four in (I think) seven minutes attacking the Osmond end." And then he dropped us another line: "I knew that a night of insomnia would jog the memory and, of course, I then recalled Ron Rafferty's four goals in a 4-4 draw at Lincoln City try 1958. My recollection is that Town were four down with about 20 minutes remaining and then Rafferty scored his goals probably all headers as his feet were mainly for standing, not shooting. Scott, Rafferty and Fell those halcyon days."
Thanks Michael hmm, Halcyon TV that does have a ring to it. See yer.
Thursday 6 October
Mardy Diary writes: Football is cyclical we know this; there are seasons and within those seasons there are games. And we turn up each season whether for one match or more and we pay our money in our own little personal routine. And this goes on and on. Occasionally we break out of the cycle and step away for a season or two, but we still listen to the radio or check the results. Even those who claimed they were walking away for good they're still looking at the results. The cycle continues and they don't really break free.
But sometimes that cycle is broken: a club is stolen or driven into the ground. But even then supporters look to create a new routine with a new club, to bring the cycle back in to their life. What is it that draws us in? What are we looking for? Entertainment? It should be, but we know there won't always be entertainment, that turning up is a bit of a gamble. We bet on the chance of entertainment each time we enter the ground, or listen to the radio or even look out for that result. We pay with money or time, with fragments of our life, in the hope that there is some sort of redemption for this sacrifice we have made. But our returns seem to diminish as time passes.
That football is a business is seemingly a given now even the pundits can't help but remind us. Those who played the game or who sought careers in the dissemination and analysis of the game, they tell us it's a business. But it's not really, is it? It's a sport first and, as argued above, entertainment second. And for those of us who opt to ride on this infinite cycle, it is for entertainment, or the hope of being entertained. But how is this entertainment measured through success? Perhaps, but the bare facts show that success for most teams is fleeting. Look at the histories of most teams and count the successful seasons and you will see a low return rate. So it is about the pursuit of success, and so the measure of entertainment is the progress of our respective teams along that path. But this is quite a subjective measure one really only relevant to individuals or small groups of like-minded supporters.
But football is a business, apparently. The money men have taken our sport and transmogrified it to the ego-driven sport that they enjoy: money, power, control. We measure success in the business world through the accumulation of wealth, through financial accounting and stock market strength.
So how does football rank in this domain? I look at football teams and I see debt. Unmanageable, unsurmountable debt for miles around, across countries, across continents, across the world. Football is a business that is failing. Football is a business that should have long since gone into receivership. It should be an ex-business. But there it is, still going on, against the odds, but the odds are skewed by those with the money and the power who continue to accelerate this exponential debt growth. If it is broke, they say, then break it some more. More money, more wealth for the lucky few who rise to the top and thus subsequently more cost for those of us stuck in the cycle of 'support'.
So as the cost of football increases for us through ticket prices, merchandise, TV subscriptions, internet subscriptions and whatever scheme they come up with next to bleed a few more pence from us are we really sure we're getting value for money any more? Not just at Grimsby, where the question is a simple one to answer but all football, across the globe? And are we complicit because we continue to pay the money, because we can't break the cycle? Or is the money in football already way beyond what we have put into clubs through our years of support? But how can football sustain itself if it continues to spend money it doesn't have year on year? It can't. Simple.
Football is a failing business. This is the new mantra. But the sport this will survive the business and the bigger cycle will begin again.
Wednesday 5 October
Your West Yorkshire Diary is a big fan of those Grimsby Town highlights videos and I'm disappointed that they appear to have stopped making them in recent seasons. I suspect the producers will be concerned about the lack of highlights and wish to avoid the embarrassment of releasing a video that shows the Mariners being rubbish in a variety of ways. So they just thought it'd be easier to forget about those drubbings against Dagenham & Redbridge by not putting them on a format that gives us the option to see them over and over again.
The last video I bought was of the 2007-08 season, when Town did OK in the league and made the final of the Dulux Cup. After that the videos disappear. I say videos since about 2005 they've been on those digitally versatile disks, but I'm a man of tradition and so they will always be videos to me. Just in the same way that it'll always be Emmerdale Farm to my dad. The only reason why I intend to keep the small television set that got me through my university days (despite the digital switchover making it useless) is because it has an in-built VHS player through which I'll be able to watch all those old videos from when we used to be good.
But my point is this: win, lose or draw, the videos have a certain charm about them, and that's down to the excellent commentary team. I want to hear "crikey look out!" exclaimed at the top of John Moore's voice. I want to know what adjectives he chose when we lost at home to Torquay. I crave the cries of "chance on!" and "no marking!" The video crew or should they be called the DVD crew now? offer entertainment through the heartache, and that's why I buy them. I also buy them to see which room of his house John will introduce the action from.
In order to fully enjoy the 5-2 victory over Alfreton last weekend I'm going to ignore the boardroom kerfuffle, GTST's acquisition of Mike Parker's shares, the implications, what Deadly John (Topcon) might say next, our financial position, our league position and the standard of opposition, and just look at it as the excellent victory it was. If I start clouding the result with context then I won't feel any more excited about our future prospects than I did last week. My club won 5-2 on Saturday and I'm happy about it.
A mixture of players who aren't good enough for our starting XI and who are on their way back from recurring injuries lost 3-2 in one of those behind-closed-doors friendlies against King$ton Communication$ FC yesterday. Robbie Stockdale's salt and vinegar crisp-crunching yoofers travel to Brighouse tonight for an FA Youth Cup qualifier but the superb new official website near the top of Google listings says the team has a lot of injuries. The end of the article tells us to "Logon to gtfc.co.uk" but doesn't say why.
Finally today, we'd like to send our best wishes to Tom Bender who was involved in a nasty collision during Accrington's game against Tranmere last night, which led to the match being abandoned. Thankfully it seems he only suffered severe concussion.
Tuesday 4 October
The other night your original/regular Diary, together with Mrs Diary, watched the 2009 Ken Loach film Looking for Eric. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's really good. Pffff, move over, Barry Norman. This is easy!
In the film, a dodgy gangster type befriends the hero's wayward teenage son, but only to use him to look after his gun. After the dodgy gangster type shoots somebody, he quickly offloads the gun on the hero's son, and soon enough the police are battering down the hero's front door.
Mike Parker's 'gift' of shares to the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust strikes me as a similarly convenient act of offloading. Make no mistake: this gesture is not an act of love, or generosity, or a sudden belief that fans should have a say. It's stone-cold pragmatism. Parker is having his collar felt by the takeover panel (whatever that is) and needs to reduce his shareholding quickly to avoid having to buy everyone else's shares. Absolutely no bugger will want to buy Parker's shares: the experience of Parker himself has demonstrated that it's clearly impossible to work alongside Deadly John (Topcon) in any capacity other than nodding and saying, yes John, that's lovely, carry on. And the cost of buying everyone else's shares would be greater than the cost of 'gifting' some of Parker's own shares to the trust. It's stone-cold pragmatism. It's mathematics.
And it's a bit like the resignation as chairman of Deadly John (Topcon). You hear about it and it makes you go "oooh!" And then you think about it, and read a bit, and you go "oh".
This is not to say, however, that no good will come of it. The possibility of a substantial shareholding has noticeably re-energised the trust, which had lain dormant for a year or two. There are good people involved in the trust, and they might just be able to give the current directors a pointer or two as to where they've gone so wrong (let's just move on from Dave Otter falling dutifully in line behind Fenty's catastrophic decision to sack Alan Buckley).
But for the trust to gain a place in the boardroom would, of course, would need those self same directors to loosen up on their current 'show us the money' policy on board admission. If the two biggest shareholders (Parker and GTST) are both unrepresented on the board, then surely the chairman's position becomes even less tenable than Fenty's? Perhaps someone who Knows About This Stuff could fill us in.
Anyway, Town's reserve team is playing away at King$ton Communication$ FC this afternoon. Jamie Green is injured again so he won't be playing, but Scott Garner and Gary Silk are in. This is Town's non-existent reserve team, which, it was widely reported was scrapped in the summer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a trawler to follow. Caw!
Monday 3 October
Miss Guest Diary writes: I wasn't able to go to the match on Saturday, but I wasn't surprised that Town won I've missed three home games so far this season and Town have won them all. The score was also less of a shock than it might have been I have previous in that department too. When we beat Southend 5-1 in 1997 I was at a wedding. For the 5-1 against West Brom the following year I was helping my brother move house. More recently and much worse when we beat Boston 6-0 at their ground in 2007 I actually travelled to Boston but gave my ticket to someone else and went shopping. Maybe next time Town are facing tricky opponents I should invite people to sponsor me to do something else.
It's great that all Liam Hearn's hard work is finally paying off. What price Alan Connell now, eh? I read on Twitter (so of course it must be true) that Connell has never scored a hat-trick; now Hearn has gone one better. Why isn't there a special term for scoring four goals in a game? Is it because it doesn't happen very often? I asked Cod Almighty match reporter Tony Butcher well known for his prodigious memory for footballing facts if he could think of other Town players who'd scored four. He came back immediately with "Jevons against Barnsley in February 2004", but that was the only one. Can you think of any others?
In other news, GTFC chief executive Ian Fleming has spoken to the Telegraph about Mike Parker's gift offer of 500,000 shares to the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust. The gist of what he said seems to be "so what, we still need loads of money and if the GTST can't provide any, they aren't coming on the board". But maybe I'm just reading that with my cynical head on.
Also in the Grimsby Telegraph, Nicky Law says sorry to the Alfreton fans for a performance he describes as "quite humiliating". Not as humiliating as it was for Town fans when we got relegated at Tranmere in 2004 with Law in charge we're still waiting for him to apologise for that one. And the board to apologise for appointing him as manager in the first place.
Watching the subscriber-only highlights of Saturday's game on Mariners Player, I was unable to take my eyes off Nathan Jarman's hair. I've never been to Alfreton but it doesn't sound like the sort of place where you'd fit right in with a Balotelli-esque mohican. I'll be able to find out for myself when Town play there in the new year... unless someone would like to sponsor me for a trip to the January sales instead.