Welcome to Grimsby

Cod Almighty | Article

by Peter Anderson

20 March 2023

Everyone loves the underdog. For the first time in their 145 year history, Grimsby Town have the prospect of millions watching them live and willing them to win. Here's a quick guide to their new team for these unsuspecting neutrals as well as every Crystal Palace fan on the planet.

FA Cup Quarter-Finalists Grimsby Town. It's been 84 years. We're excited. Very excited. Our allocation for the 19 March game at Brighton sold out in a few giddy hours and an underwhelming fourth tier campaign has taken a back seat as all roads lead to the south coast.

The game will be broadcast live on BBC1, which is a first for GTFC. We've been on live TV before but only within the region or one of the high squad number channels hidden in amongst blokes flogging knives that can cut through shoes. Never nationwide on the country's flagship channel.

And we're the underdog. Not just the underdog, the pitiful mutt who's been living on the local tip for several years before somehow finding itself top of the card at Crufts. We've had the underdog tag in varying measures since the first round tie versus Plymouth in November. Argyle and the four sides we've defeated since then have been at least a division above us, and this feat is an FA Cup first in itself.

The standout is our fifth round triumph at Southampton earlier this month. If a fourth flight side visits a Premier League club, there can be only one outcome. When Town lined up at St Mary's, it was our cup final, the end of the road. Manager Paul Hurst is regarded as a shrewd and cagey fighter but he had openly joked with his squad in the lead-up that he might have to wear a blindfold and feared we could lose 10-0. 

The players emerged before kick-off wearing tops embroidered with the match details and the proud starting XI even hunkered down for a team picture. We were dressed for the occasion and made sure we had a souvenir photo to show the grandkids. When this was pointed out to a teenage daughter of the CA team, she got a little emotional on our behalf. It should never be right to describe a football team as cute or say "ah, bless" but for once it was.

The impossible victory that followed saw the Town players leave everything on the pitch and the 4,500 traveling fans do likewise in the stands. We'll need this and more at Brighton. If Southampton was a 1/100 chance, the next hurdle feels more like 1/1,000. The Seagulls are on top form and are well worth their place at the right end of the top division.

That's where us Mariners are hoping the underdog tag, along with unprecedented national and international TV coverage will come in handy. It's hard to say how many fans a football team has. If asked, marketing types just make some numbers up and before you know it some nut is claiming that one in seven people on the planet support Manchester United. We're more sensible than that and guess on a given Saturday fewer than 50,000 people around the world can't rest without knowing how Town did that day.

That's all we've usually got. Let's face it, if we believe in leylines crossed with chakras and wotnot, 50,000 willing us on is hardly enough to power a light bulb. But when an audience of millions tunes in on the 19th and cheers for the plucky underdog? Well that's a level of backing we've never had in our 145-year history. Who knows what further magic is possible.

We won't take that support for granted. We've picked through our archives for some articles to introduce you to your new favourite team, however temporary that allegiance may be.

Where is Grimsby?

CA's Middle-Aged Diary described Grimsby as too northern and too eastern to still be in the north-east. It needs some new point of the compass to describe it. We don't really belong on land at all. We are honorary areas of the Shipping Forecast. A better question might be "where is Grimsby not?". 

But you don't play in Grimsby do you?

Correct, we play in Cleethorpes. In a Doncaster postcode. "Which team plays all its games away?" was a cracking little pub quiz question before football went a bit nuts. Which is a shame, when you're an underdog, claims to fame are treasured almost as much as actual trophies. Burnt by the loss of one pub quiz question, we now have moles inside Manchester council's planning office to ensure the capacity of Old Trafford is never extended beyond our record attendance there. There's more in our two parts truth, one part mirth, history of the club here. If it isn't completely up to date, it's because we're still recovering from the shock of the past few years.

What happened?

We were almost sold to a conman, got relegated from the league (again), got bought by two local heroes and made an immediate return to the league with the most ridiculous play-off campaign in history. It was all rather traumatically magnificent and perhaps fairly standard form for the most promoted and relegated team in English football.


Phew, so this Grimsby place, even though you don't play there or know where it is, is pretty special?

Definitely. Get a load of this, a collection of responses to a cheap shot film from a few years ago. The film may have polluted "Grimsby" Google searches for a while but will soon be forgotten. Unlike the town. 


Apart from the Southampton win, do you have other David v Goliath form?

Well you have to go back a bit and it's usually been in the League Cup rather than the FA Cup but, yes. We've catalogued a couple here and we freely acknowledge that some involved floodlit robbery.

Introducing the Grimsby Reaper

Apologies if we spanked your team at some stage. On the other hand, when we did, there's a fair chance we helped you get shot of an unwanted manager. The Grimsby Reaper lurks in the shadows waiting for those who utter the fateful words "no disrespect to the likes of Grimsby but..." You can read all about his vengeful ways here

Harry the Haddock

This season, the Mariners have eclipsed our generation-defining run to the fifth round of the Cup in 1988-89. It's the run which gave birth to our beloved inflatable fish. Former local journalist Nigel Lowther describes its genesis.

If the Harrys are waving on the evening of Sunday 19 March, you won't know whether we've won or lost, just that we are enjoying one hell of a ride. See you on the other side.

Dedicated to Peter Anderson (2 February 1946 - 11 March 2023): He'd have jumped over a double decker bus to be at Brighton. "You can take the man out of Grimsby but you can't take Grimsby out of the man"

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