My brief fling with another club

Cod Almighty | Article

by Lloyd Griffith

18 November 2015

A young Lloyd Griffith meets a grown-up Eric Cantona

I love supporting Grimsby, I really do. I've done so since the age of six, when I was taken by my mum to see a Town game in the freezing cold upper Findus on a Wednesday night in 1989.

Since that game I've been to hundreds of Town matches. Along the way I've clocked up thousands of away miles visiting grounds that seem to get smaller and smaller. I've squandered money I didn't have on replica shirts and training tracksuit bottoms – everyone needs tracksuit bottoms of the club they love, as you never know when you're going to get that call while slobbing out on your sofa and you need to be ready. I wear a pin badge with the beloved three fish on, which I proudly wear on every coat I own, pumping out my chest wherever I go, gladly proclaiming that I bloody love Grimsby Town FC and all who sail in her squad.

However, I have a confession to make. Something has been plaguing me for years which I need to get off my chest. Some of my family and close friends know. But it's time I told the world.

I had an affair with Manchester United. And I am so very, very sorry.

I had an affair with Manchester United. And I am so very, very sorry

It happened when I was young and lasted for three years. Sure, quite an early age for an affair, but I was vulnerable and it happened. This is my statement. I feel like some disgraced MP who had a late-night rendezvous with a lady of the night and here I am, outside my house with my wife and two children, telling the world that I am sorry for what has happened, that I wasn't thinking straight and that it'll never happen again; complete with an awkward loveless kiss for the cameras.

So how did it happen? Well, there I was, nine years old, very happily supporting Grimsby Town when my cousin offered me tickets to go and see Manchester United vs Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford. Bit of backstory on my cousin: lovely lass called Sam who married a Manchester United fan called Bob who has been going to United games since the 1970s. He moved to Grimsby for love or work, I can't remember which, but lives here now. (Another little fact about Sam and Bob: their house was the setting for last year's Lenell John-Lewis Christmas video.)

Bob makes the trip to most home games at Old Trafford from Grimsby. When he offered to take me, back in March 1992, I was pretty nonplussed, but it sounded like a fun trip with my younger cousin Matthew. Who wouldn't want to spend five hours playing Top Trumps in a Rover 75 with a fellow nine-year-old?! COUNT ME IN BOB.

United lost that game 2-1 but there was something about the scale of the game that I found incredible. Sure, I'd seen grounds like this on TV, but witnessing it in real life was next level. I was taken in by the stadium size more than anything – I've always liked large imposing buildings like cathedrals and airport hangars, and this was by far the largest building or structure I had ever been in. It felt like a hundred Findus stands. Same colour too.

A few other things caught my eye that day, namely Peter Schmeichel, and the jersey that Peter Schmeichel was wearing. Since that game I have always had a thing for the great Dane and I saved up every last bit of pocket money to buy that same shirt he wore that day. I still have it in my wardrobe.

I attended about 10 more Man Utd games that year and, while I can't remember the intricacies of each game, there was something that didn't quite feel right. Don't get me wrong – going to Old Trafford at the age of nine was incredible and I'm very grateful to my family for taking me. But I just didn't feel like I was meant to be there. Pretty deep for a kid, yeah?

The journeys and the game were enjoyable, but I didn't feel there was a connection with me and the club. I felt like an imposter, a tourist; I didn't feel like a Man Utd fan. There was something missing. Looking back, it felt like a holiday romance that would never last. Sure, it was fun and exciting but I felt like a nine-year-old Shirley Valentine, swooning at the attractiveness of European football, when in fact I reckon I wanted to be back home with my fish and chips.

Pretty soon after my affair I went back to Blundell Park. I was part of the furniture. The weeping, moaning furniture. And I loved it. I wasn't an imposter or a tourist. I felt at home again

I asked my mum recently as to why she let me go to the Man Utd games – after all, she's a Town fan herself. Her answer was pretty straightforward: "When you went to Manchester with your cousins, you were out the house for eight hours, and quite frankly, it was a nice break." Straight to the point.

Pretty soon after my affair I went back to Blundell Park. I'd not been a regular for six months – but my mates and other family members didn't ask any questions. I was back and part of the furniture. The weeping, moaning furniture. And I loved it. I wasn't an imposter or a tourist. I felt at home again.

I made one more trip to Old Trafford – in 1994, and only then because there was a chance to meet Eric Cantona after the game. ERIC CANTONA! Obviously I said yes, only for that picture. He smelt like an adonis.

Maybe supporting a Premier League football team is a little bit like driving a supercar. At the start it's cool. You're experiencing extreme speeds, turning heads, 'living the life'. But after a while it becomes a bit of a burden. Where do you park a Ferrari in Grimsby? And don't even get me started on the price of the the upkeep. I'm more of a Seat Ibiza 1.9 tDi '53 plate kinda guy. A comfy diesel that I'm happy to abandon down Imperial Ave at 2:53 on a Saturday afternoon, and I'm not bothered if someone gives it a little shunt – it'll add character if anything.

I feel at home watching Grimsby Town. Obviously I'm in love and therefore obviously I'm deluded. By all means, feel free to pay an obscene amount of money to sit in the gods to see the outlines of players who earn more than most of us could ever dream and feel no real connection with that club. Or you could freeze your tits off on a Tuesday night by the River Humber with every chance you could end up with a souvenir of Shaun Pearson's sweat to take home with you.

I know where I'd rather be – but I guess that little affair made me realise what the other side is like. It was a fling, it meant nothing, I had fun – but I know what I really want. Much like that politician proclaiming by his gates "this mistake has made me realise what I care about most", I know what I care about most. I'm grateful for the chance to have seen a top-level football team, but DN35 is the place for me. No more trips to Old Trafford – unless we get them in the third round of the cup. Then everyone jump in the Ibiza – I can still remember the route.

Can you forgive Lloyd's dalliance? Or not? Have you had a fling with another club... glamorous or perhaps less so? Give us a shout and tell us.

Front page photo "Old Trafford inside 20060726 1" by André Zahn - André Zahn (User:Nic/de:Benutzer:Nic). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 de via Commons.