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What came before
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5 August 2011
Grimsby Town Football Club is in my blood. As soon as it transpired that I was to be born in Grimsby Hospital, it was written that I was to be a Mariner. It was locked into history when my dad promised to take me to a game if I stayed quiet during Manchester United v Middlesbrough on the TV (although some might argue I should have kicked up merry hell). My first game was, naturally, at Blundell Park. Grimsby Town against Port Vale. The match finished 1-1, but I don't remember much more than that, due to my being five years old.
I got older, and Town got worse. The likes of Paul Groves and Peter Handyside made way for a posse of zombies and a succession of George A Romeros directing the action. Just like the films, Grimsby Town are idolised by a few nutters, but cast aside by the masses as lacking in quality and oozing with bad taste.
Horror film analogies aside, eventually the time came for me to decide what I was going to do with my life. Apparently, doing bugger all doesn't cut the mustard any more. Leaving out the dull details of my scholastic life, I headed off to Bangor, north Wales, where Super Stevie Croudson once enjoyed a brief spell. Also representing Bangor City was Nigel Adkins, who was a player/manager for them in the 1990s. I was getting mixed vibes.
I spent freshers' week more or less hooked up to an alcohol drip to overcome the awkwardness of meeting new people, and Saturday came round. This would be the first home game I'd missed in just short of a decade, and boy did I feel it. I paced my prison cell breeze-blocked accommodation with the radio. It was two hours of hell. I don't even remember the result, such were my stress levels.
It took me a while to get over this initial hurdle. I would sit down with a cup of coffee and listen to the pre-match build-up of the Hull and Scunthorpe matches with an occasional sprinkling of Grimsby Town team news. The match would pan out, for good or bad, and then I'd go about my business as usual. My main issue was not being in the crowd. I found comfort from the carpet-like hallowed turf, the half-time meetings with my friends and the wooden structure of the Main Stand. After a few weeks away I would pine for a sub-standard burger and a Bovril. However, with a few trips home to see my girlfriend – which often conveniently coincided with a home game for the Mariners – I saw the initial cold turkey period through.
One moment that particularly sticks in my mind from the first year is when my friend Sam and I went to watch a rare televisual appearance of Grimsby Town on Sky, in the students' union bar. I relished this opportunity to see the Mariners live, but we were seemingly the only two people there to watch the football, and even Sam was more interested in the University Challenge try-out quiz that was running parallel.
"In my new house, all you needed for the internet to stop working was for the time of day to end in an odd number. What was I supposed to do of a Saturday afternoon?"
Second year came round, and moving out of halls of residence led to problems. In halls, the only reason your internet would go down was if some cyber-warrior took it upon himself to fight the system, or if somebody was caught watching some kind of exotic pornography. In my new house, however, all you needed for the internet to stop working was for the time of day to end in an odd number. What was I supposed to do of a Saturday afternoon?
I tried to go and watch Bangor City, but it just wasn't the same. For starters, I often felt that the football was good value for money. Without wishing to cause offence to the Welsh Premier League, the level of football was far below anything I'd seen before – but £2.50 for 90 minutes of football is something that can't be argued with. Especially when Bangor have been in great form over the recent years, bagging goals for fun. I've been a few times, and I'll more than likely go again. But it's no substitute.
My plan of action usually falls into one of three categories. The first occurs only on the odd occasion that my internet would work flawlessly. You should understand this has previously happened only once. Gateshead away. 0-0. Sod's law acting at its best. The second involves using an internet vidiprinter, refreshing every ten minutes and biting fingernails to the point of oblivion.
This is probably my least favourite method, because of a lack of anything to take your mind off the result, something which is available in method 3, namely beer. Method 3 consists of sitting in the pub, and waiting for my dad to forward the official texts to me. This was, up until his recent, unfortunate departure, often accompanied by a half-time text saying something along the lines of "We've been shit so far, but Alan's pulled one out the bag".
Of course, none of these methods are perfect, or even adequate, but any other exiled Mariners will know that you have to make the best of a bad job. Absolutely nothing can replace the feeling of sitting in the wet but being warmed by the football on show, or warmed by the anger you feel towards the football on show. My only advice to anybody about to head into exile is to go to a place where they have the internet – and not intermittent internet which will cut out at a sneeze.
Exiled Mariners! How do your experiences of supporting from a distance compare with Matt's? Use the Cod Almighty feedback form to share.