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Tuesday 30 September
'Ello, princess! The Law of Sod is invoked again as the news breaks that Marcel Cas will miss two weeks of football with the knee injury sustained at Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. Having stood out as Town's best player in the last couple of weeks, Cas left the field on Saturday after provoking half an hour of terror in the home defence - forcing the tactical substitution of Wednesday's Jon Beswetherick after just 15 minutes. The Mariners are, of course, still missing Cas's fellow winger Iain Anderson with some nasty leg hoo-hah that similarly resulted from a tremendous start to the season that saw Anderson score three times in four games. The Grimsby Telegraph prognosticates a place for Jason Crowe as Cas's replacement at Blackpool tonight but after some heart-warming performances since breaking into the team this month Graham Hockless will be hoping for another chance on the left wing, in which case Stooey Campbell will shift to Cas's position on the right.
Blackpool will have to manage as best they can without injured defensive trio Tommy Jaszczun, Gareth Evans and Mike Flynn, which is probably still quite well. Like Blundell Park, Bloomfield Road has presumably had its share of disciplinary problems this season, as the Grimsby Telegraph observes that the Seasiders "have been playing a 5-3-1 formation" this season.
"Someone's having a laugh, aren't they? First Ryan and now HIM. It's
just not cricket." This, lest you be wondering, is Markie's Refwatch, and tonight's man in the middle has achieved a certain notoriety in some parts. "If you're wondering what I'm on about," continues Mr Stilton, "think Pringle's leg, think Molenaar diving to the ground clutching his face as the breeze caused by Livvo's lower arm wafted over his cheek. Think Clattenburg." Ah yes - the man who made the Diary swear in front of his mum. "So, the stats then. Not that they matter with Clattenburg. Thirty-four yellows and one red in eight games so far this season and 135 yellows and eight reds in 35 games last season. He doesn't send people off normally. And by that I mean he doesn't send people off in the normal way. Thus you get red cards when you play Bradford, but if you end a player's career you don't even get a talking to."
So appalling, in fact, is Mr Clattenburg's refereeing that Mark extends to an unprecendented second paragraph. "Maybe it is the Bradford factor?" he goes on. "Ryan was actually OK, if a little erratic, on Saturday, but he was godawful when we played Bradford. Maybe referees tend to find brown paper bags full of money whenever they visit Bradford and that makes them more favourable towards the West Yorkshire cheaters (who aren't Leeds)." At which point my solicitor would like to point out that views expressed here by individual contributors are not necessarily those of the Diary. "Anyway, I'm rambling. Mr Butcher thought Clattenburg was merely 'a bit fussy' against Sheff Utd last year and even gave him a score of 6.32. Blimey. Of course, after the Bradford match, Tony spat: 'I would be happy if we never saw this individual ever again. Perhaps we should send someone to terminate his command. He's out there under no decent, civilised control. His methods are unsound. Terminate with extreme prejudice.'"
Craig Oman has been moved to email after the Diary was reluctantly moved to criticise Tony Crane yesterday. "Just thought I'd quote you what The Times says about him in its report: 'In Tony Crane, Grimsby have one of the best defenders in the lower leagues, a real old fashioned centre back - all lead feet and menacing scowls. Wednesday's longs ball forward were inevitably attracted to his head.' Well, I guess they got the lead feet right!" Now I'm getting a little disturbed here, what with Paul Groves saying: "Craney was very keen to come back and put in a good performance to show people and he did himself no harm at all." So disturbed, in fact, that I would like to seek the views of Diary readers in clarification - not, as you know, a measure I tend to undertake lightly. email@example.com is the mouth; your views on Mr Crane the aloo chana vindaloo.
It falls, as ever, to Mr Miles Moss to conclude proceedings on a lighter note. "Funny how Mark Wilson decided to remove a vowel from the word 'shit' in order to make it less offensive, replacing it with an asterisk," is his observation on yesterday's Diary, "but does he realise that said asterisk aptly looks like a cat's arsehole?"
Monday 29 September
The Grimsby Telegraph has backed down in its public row with GTFC and published an apology for the "inaccurate" article that sparked the controversy earlier this month. The paper's lead story on 5 September suggested that fans' and players' safety would be compromised by a money-saving decision to dispense with the ambulance that stands by at Blundell Park on match days - provoking a furious reaction from the club, which took the extraordinary step of banning the article's author Stuart Rowson from the ground. An energetic campaign by the Telegraph attempted to rally readers to its cause; but the paper has now acknowledged that the 5 September piece "did not properly reflect the true situation" and apologised to the club. Fun while it lasted, though, wasn't it.
Meanwhile, billions of Grimsby supporters across the globe were left utterly in the dark as to how their side had fared over the weekend as the Diary sensationally decided to have a night out in Sheffield after watching the Mariners have the better of a goalless draw at Hillsborough on Saturday. Cod Almighty switchboard operators were inundated with calls ranging from irate to despairing after the daily columnist managed to remove the electronic tag used by the website's editorial team to ensure that the Diary is uploaded regularly, and fans are only now learning details of the game, in which Des Hamilton returned for Town and Mike Edwards replaced the injured Simon Ford. Despite impressions to the contrary given by the BBC and in yesterday's tabloid press, it was indeed the Mariners who created more chances and who could have nicked all three points, notwithstanding another awful performance from Tony Crane. Soz 'n' that Tone, but you're gonna have to raise your game.
As one door closes, in the words of a popular character from BBC comedy past, another one slams in your face; and Saturday's Disco revival was partially overshadowed, like when the cup final's on the telly and the cameras have to keep adjusting for the light as the play switches in and out of the shadow cast by the stand, by an injury to Marcel Cas. Actually, they have that stupid closing roof thing now, don't they. The Dutch winger caused the Owls no end of trouble 'early doors' - forcing the earliest tactical substitution the Diary has ever heard of when the useless Jon Beswetherick was replaced after just 15 minutes - but was carried off after half an hour with a gashed knee. There is no word yet on whether Cas will return for tomorrow night's trip to Blackpool.
Observers of the bizarrely monickered FA Barclaycard Premiership - which the Diary finds mildly diverting as a spectacle but entirely invalid as a competition - may have been mildly diverted by the weekend appearance of Mr Daniel Coyne. Coyne came on after about an hour of Leicester's game with the entirely invalid Manchester United after England international Ian Walker picked up a back strain - about the only thing he did pick up, as the parachute payment-avoiding debt defaulters were already four goals down. Clearly inspired by the presence of a former Mariner in their ranks, Leicester rallied to end the match at a face-saving 4-1. Generic chain website FootyMad contextualises the story by stating: "Chairman Peter Furneaux made no secret of his wish to rid the club of Coyne's large wages and many feel the 'keeper was left with no choice but to leave." That'll be "no choice" as in "went around telling people there was no way he wanted to start this season in Division Two with Grimsby", then.
If you're a thrusting young executive - or even if you're not - then Town's latest auction could be just the thing for you. With the stock of former loan players' shirts finally exhausted, the club is offering supporters a chance to bid for a seat in one of them posh boxes that fans in the Lower Smiths turn round and gawp into to try and see the half-time scores on the telly. The impressive package on offer - for this weekend's clash with QPR - includes a "wine reception", tour of Blundell Park, three-course meal, meeting some players, complimentary programme, tea, coffee and quite possibly electrically heated loo seats. Ten places are available and bidding currently stands at just 56 quid.
And lastly today, Al Wilkinson and his tales of the Cat Revolutionaries Advocating Mariners Progression. After receiving more than one anguished plea from readers, the Diary has reluctantly opted to discontinue Al's series - despite an anonymous email bidding "2 tonne of smelly cod and 5 tonnes of steel slag" for the film rights and an observation from Mark Wilson: "Whilst I think that Al Wilkinson is a haddock short of a full kit, my own Tring-based moggy Buckley (who has appeared on these pages elsewhere) does seem a little fractious at the moment and sits on his favourite wall staring in a north-easterly direction. Meanwhile, my mum who is Waltham-based told me in passing that the cats who normally sh*t in her garden have not been seen of late." What're you saying, Mark? "Al may not be as mad as he seems."
Friday 26 September
Let there be no more talk of the Groves/Rodger regime being soft on discipline. The GTFC management have opted to get tough after the costly early-season red cards handed out to Des Hamilton, Iain Anderson and Marcel Cas - by fining Tony Crane and Darren Barnard. A discussion between the two players during last Saturday's game about the fine details of defensive technique ended up getting a bit Noel and Liam, and the protagonists had to be separated by their colleague Simon Ford. The Diary could maybe have understood if the goal that had just gone in was being celebrated by Chesterfield, but it was 100 per cent black and white in nature and execution. But hey. "I wanted it to be kept as an internal matter but it has come out," says Mr Paul in the Telegraph of his new iron-fist style of leadership. "There is a time and a place for that. It could have cost us. I don't want to see it happen again."
"I wonder how much," says Miles Moss about the fines. "Perhaps they get away with only a week's wages, or perhaps the club have really clamped down, and gone for the full twenty quid."
Speaking of Daz B, the Wales international is again required for a Wales international, not that he'll get a game, it just weakens Town's squad so that he can go on a plane with some people from the Premiership and have a weekend looking at some interesting foreign training cones, but anyway, yeah, the match he will miss is the Mariners' visit to Brighton on 11 October and the other match he will miss is Wales' Euro 2004 qualifier at home to Serbia & Montenegro on 11 October.
Smashing result for Town reserves yesterday. Did you see? They went up to that Newcastle, right - who are in the Premier and everything - and won 3-0. Cor! All three were cracking goals too by the sound of it. The Lincolnshire-based black and whites took the lead on 20 minutes with a super edge-of-the-box free kick from Giovanni Carchedi, three minutes before Darren Mansaram doubled the advantage with a belting 20-yarder. Phil Jevons, meanwhile, continued his riches-to-rags story with an overhead kick midway through the second half, completing the victory over a Newcastle side featuring established Premiership players Nikos Dabizas and Carl Cort (well, sort of) and hotly-tipped striker Michael Chopra. Newcastle's local paper is properly complimentary about the goals but is unable to resist terming the visitors "humble Grimsby". I'd rather be humble than a lost Premiership soul though - especially after sitting with several thousand Spurs fans on Wednesday night.
OK, I can't avoid talking about it any longer. Tomorrow's visit to Sheffield Wednesday will be undertaken without Nobel peace prize contender Simon Ford, whose failure to recover from a hamstring strain after all will usher Mike Edwards into the starting line-up; and why not, after he did so well in the second half last weekend. Cod Almighty sponsoree Mr Derrick Hamilton is in contention, though, after sitting out the last two games with a funk-related knee bingo; and the Zidanesque Mr Jevons might be in with a shout if they can sort out his contract doobie doobie do, you know the rest. "We are hoping to sort Phil out fairly quickly," quoth Paul, "we are almost there."
Owls boss Chris Turner has similar problems in his squad. "We have players in our team who are on pre-ITV Digital contracts and must be the highest paid in the league," he said earlier this week, "but they're certainly not the best, from what I've seen." Far from a happy fella after his side lost their last two games, Turner has been sitting down with the chairman and talking about big changes and shake-ups and time machines and abattoirs but the biggest step taken has been to loan prolific forward Shefki Kuqi to Ipswich, which sounds like quite good news for the Mariners. Derek Geary is banned and Richard Evans, Matt Hamshaw and Ola Tidman are all injured; but that jumped-up little get Proudlock will probably score a bunch.
Your referee tomorrow will be "the infamous" Michael Ryan of Lancashire, as Mark Stilton describes him. The name rings a bell. "You may remember him from such laughable refereeing decisions as 'the sending off of Robert Taylor for kicking thin air against Bradford." Ah, that infamous Michael Ryan. "This season he has officiated in seven games, issuing 19 yellow cards and four reds. However, three of those red cards came in the Wycombe v Colchester match (and Iffy wasn't one of them). Last season he saw fit to issue 112 yellow cards and 12 red cards in 35 games. Nothing too out of the ordinary there. He dished out six yellow cards in the 0-0 bore draw between Town and Wimbledon near the beginning of last season - three to each team. Seems fair." Was the Bradford game a one-off then? "Tony Butcher said 'he didn't do anything totally outrageous' last season but in his report for the Bradford match the previous season Tony almost has an embolism: 'Rotten, a word chosen deliberately and meaning just that...Some described him as incompetent and that he didn't know what he was doing. Au contraire, he seemed to know exactly what he was doing...This man is very likely to cause a riot.' Should be a good game this weekend then. Ahem."
"Epic narrative poetry?" writes Al Wilkinson, to conclude today's somewhat distended Diary. "Nah." Just a thought. Carry on then. "Meanwhile, field agent George, a highly trained longhaired black ops specialist, is overseeing the removal of all the cats in the Sheffield area. The relocation to the training facility is going smoothly, when the Sheffield Wednesday Owl Raiders (SWOR) launched a surprise assault. George's unit, using the latest of Doctor Fluffy's violent toys, repelled the attack. As the SWOR swooped, the brave agents of CRAMP leapt using rocket-propelled jump packs and, in mid-leap, unsheathed the latest claw extensions. The birds were soon dealt with, and the operation continued, demoralising the Wednesday fans as they search in vain, before the game, for their cats. Soon they will buy their own GTFC pet." Bids for the film rights in strictest confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org please.
Thursday 25 September
Town are back on the trial trail as their reserves hit the north for a meeting with Newcastle's at Whitley Bay. Somebody called Robby Greetham is named in the squad given on Town's official site for this afternoon's game; we don't know where he's from or where he plays but the Diary is going to take a guess from his position in the list that Mr Greetham specialises in duties of a defensive nature. Come to think of it, we don't know what happened to Barton Town striker Bobby Lewsham either, after he failed to get on the pitch as the reserves trounced Sheffield United last week in the cup; although having seen three different spellings for his name the Diary suspects that the club sent him back up the estuary after deciding he was more trouble than he was worth.
Time was, of course, when Newcastle had no reserve team - an oversight that denied match practice to Alan Pouton during his early career with the Magpies. These days, though, the "battling midfielder" (it means he gets sent off too often) is kept out of action not by the madness of Kevin Keegan but the dodgyness of his knees - but it don't mean he ain't never comin' back, says Paul Groves. The Town boss is fed up of all these puffed-up no-lives "my sources at the club say blah blah blah" on messageboards - I'm paraphrasing - who have been gleefully foretelling the end of Pouton's career as we know it for some weeks now.
"These are the kind of rumours that can damage players' careers," says our Paul. "This rumour is totally unfounded, and Alan has done everything that the specialist has told him to do." So there.
Speaking of Mr Groves, he isn't the only manager in northern Lincolnshire who gets barracked for taking a player off by his own fans when they don't know the player's medical situation. Far from it. His shorter-tempered counterpart Mr Laws has found himself similarly lambasted of late, specifically as his Scunthorpe side exited the Carling Cup t'other night and he subbed off top striker Steve McLean, whose leg had been encased all week in ice. "I wish they'd wait and leave it until the end before they start to make their points of view," says the Laws to BBC Humber, "or at least get the facts right first." When Scunny finally come to their senses and give Bri the heave-ho, a career surely awaits as Groves' PR executive.
Meanwhile, an update arrives from the fevered mind of Mr Alistair Wilkinson. "At CRAMP headquarters underneath McDonalds, the science boys have been working overtime. General Tom, the overall commander of CRAMP, is delighted to learn that the Hypno Ray is nearing completion. Doctor Fluffy assures him that it is a matter of weeks till the whole world will want a GTFC cat. General Tom moves through the underground tunnels toward the training facility, located under the sea front. From Wonderland to the leisure centre, thousands of cats are being readied for their new homes. He surveys the sea of fur and smiles to himself: 'Soon the whole world will be black and white.' He moved away purring satisfactorily." You don't think this would be better expressed in an epic narrative poem, Al?
Wednesday 24 September
No sooner had the Diary passed on the news that Simon Ford's hamstring injury could rule him out of this weekend's visit to Sheffield Wednesday than the player himself spoke up to try and rule himself back in. Cuh, I dunno...crazy. Yesterday's Grimsby Telegraph reported that the inconsistent young centre-half might not make Hillsborough but the famously laid-back player is just cool with it, according to Town's official site, where he is today quoted thusly: "I'm hoping to be OK. It's not torn, the hamstring - it's just strained. I've been having treatment and it doesn't feel too bad." The way he describes it, everyone will be wanting one.
Who remembers Steve Kabba? Neil Warnock clearly doesn't, because the man who caused so much excitement and even more grief at Blundell Park last season is yet to kick a ball in anger, calm or for that matter blank indifference for Sheffield United this season. Since he's got nothing better to do, anyway, young Steven has been nattering to the Grimmo Tello about what a good player his erstwhile teammate Iffy Onuora is. "Iffy needs some time to get his match fitness back and that's what he'll be trying to do," explains Kabba, which is more than Paul Groves has done. "He's an old head and he's experienced and I'm sure that will help Grimsby get up the table. And if he doesn't then, well, I seem to be available again. I dunno - I set the country alight with some great performances up front, playing a big part in taking us to the play-off final and FA Cup semi, and then get ignored when this donkey Lester comes in, just 'cos he's from round here. Where is the justice in that, I ask you." I might have made some of that up, by the way.
"What do you mean nothing going on at Blundell Park?" rages Al Wilkinson, the mad cat lady of Cod Almighty. Regular readers will recall Al's barmy ideas for an army of felines to establish Grimbarian global domination, whether they want to or not, and here he is again with his moggie madness. "CRAMP (Cat Revolutionaries Advocating Mariners Progression) is at a vital stage in their campaign, which is now full speed ahead thanks to the glorious victory at the Battle of Barton. A faction of the East Riding Canines (ERC) tried to steal across to the south bank, in an attempt to thwart CRAMP. An entire legion was sent to stop them; they fought bravely and repulsed the Yorkie mutts, pushing them into the river to wallow in the brown waters and their defeat. A few were allowed to escape to tell the tale to the rest of ERC. Unfortunately it is not all good news - Captain Tiddles was mortally wounded defending the A180. Single-handed he held up the ERC assault until reinforcements could arrive. His sacrifice was not in vain - CRAMP is now free to move the Mariners into position at the top of the footballing world." What do you think of that, then, readers?
A considerably more sensible email has arrived at the Diary from Window Flower, meanwhile, who has contacted me regarding his or her website windowflower.com. "Imagine," writes Window, "what can you do with a piece of ordinary paper?" Oooh, it's a long time since I've thought about it, to be honest. Give us a clue. "-skillful craftsman -legendary Orient -immortal paper art -purely handmade. All of these will strike you within 3 seconds!" Right. Well, thanks for that. Mind you, as spam goes, it makes a change from debt and willies; and there's a pretty picture of a butterfly too. Anyway.
Tuesday 23 September
Welcome to Tuesday's Diary - the internet's leading fan-based source of recycled GTFC news, even if I sleep in for a few days. Simon Ford is an early doubt for this weekend's visit to Hillsborough after limping off halfway through Town's exhilarating thrashing of Chesterfield last Saturday, says today's Grimsby Telegraph. The young centre-half, who has recently looked twice the player he was last season simply by virtue of playing next to Tony Crane, picked up a hamstring strain just before the interval and could be forced to sit out the whole Sheffield Wednesday trip, man, although Paul Groves elaborates: "He has not torn the hamstring - he has just tweaked it." Detuning it a semitone might help next time...and speaking of love vibrations, our fondest hopes that Mr Disco Des Hamilton may be considered for the next game could be realised. "We will see how he responds this week," says Grover, who has been leaving Des voicemails for a whole month.
Former Town forward Jake Sagare - well, 'former' as in he played one match for us - has had a familiar start to life at his new club Halifax. After a 1-0 defeat to Margate last Friday the wandering American has told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "The players are down but from what I have seen they are good players and you can't keep good players down." I'm sure I heard something similar around Blundell Park last season. Meanwhile Miles Moss has emailed the Diary to observe: "How odd. Harvey from So Solid Crew signs for Ford Utd, and now footballer Jake Sagare signs for the Shamen."
As you will have figured by now, there's not a lot happening Blundell Park way this week; but right-minded Mariners may be cheered by the news from the other end of the M180 that their former leader Mr Brian Laws could be in hot water after spouting off at the fourth official as his new side Scunthorpe stuttered to a weekend draw with a moribund Leyton Orient. "I may have said one or two words that weren't appropriate," chuckles the one-time Forest full-back, after demonstrating that he still has a lot of growing up to do with a petulant outburst of rage that was reported to result from the award of a penalty to the London side but which some observers believe stemmed from Laws' hair being ruffled by Barry Hearn.
Monday 22 September
The handbags that followed Town's first goal against Chesterfield at the weekend could have been Gucci ones, warns Paul Groves, or to put it another way, bloody expensive. The celebrations for Stuart Campbell's opener were enlivened considerably by Darren Barnard and Tony Crane, who had to be separated by fellow defender Simon Ford; and Town's player-boss believes the club has been lucky to escape further action. "It could have been worse for them and it could have been worse for us from a moment of stupidity," Groves tells the embattled Grimsby Telegraph, possibly remembering the extraordinary scuffle between Tony Rees and, er, was it Tommy Watson, about 1990 sort of time, when they both got sent off, can't remember who against. That didn't work too well, did it. Saturday's little skirmish is believed by observers to have resulted from Barnard offering shall we say a rather frank appraisal of Crane's performance.
Sidelined winger Iain Anderson could run the risk of a further injury as he recovers from the knee problem that has kept him out of Town's last six games. The Mariners' official site reports that the former Preston man "is having to play a waiting game" while his ligament gets better, raising the possibility of a thumb strain from too much twiddling. With a bit of luck Anderson could return to first-team duty during October.
Saturday 20 September
A good debut from Town's late loan signing Iffy Onuora and an excellent one from his not quite as late counterpart Nick Daws play a significant role in a morale-boosting 4-0 victory over a very poor Chesterfield side. Another "was it an own goal?" controversy is sure to surround Stuart Campbell's scuffed first-half opener; while a second-half rout follows courtesy of a super postage-stamp finish from Graham Hockless, a short-range poke by the lively Marcel Cas, and a deflected drive off of wotsisname Edwards (it says here, but I thought it was Cas again). Campbell's goal is immediately soured by a punch-up between Darren Barnard and Tony Crane, who still looks crap, but the confidence that flows through the team after Hockless' strike results in some very sexy attacking football indeed. A pat on the back is due, meanwhile, to the Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes public, who have rallied round their team magnificently, resulting in an attendance that is only the third lowest in the division today.
Speaking of public, that is the way the Diary would like to thank Mark Stilton for his splendid short-notice job here yesterday; but seeing as I can't afford a full-page ad in the Times, this will have to do. Cheers Markie.
Amid all this excitement, one story you might have missed this weekend - and that's what I'm here for, after all - is Jake Sagare's return to English football with Halifax Town. Yes! The American flop is excited to have been given a second crack at Blighty with the Conference side, telling Halifax Today: "In England 2,000 fans can sound like 20,000 while in America 10,000 can sound like 2,000." Sagare's career with the Mariners comprised one first-team appearance, which may explain why he failed to add that in Grimsby and Cleethorpes a population of 120,000 only sounds like 4,000 on match days.
The Diary has also unearthed a week-old report on the Footymad network of generic unofficial websites suggesting that the career of former Town hero Wayne Burnett may be rescued by the Mariners' second division counterparts Luton. The once-worshipped playmaker looked to have kicked his last after unsuccessful spells last season with non-league Woking and Grays Athletic I think it was; but Burnett's former Blackburn teammate Mike Newell, who controversially became Hatters manager in the summer, has allegedly given him a trial. "Burnett played in Luton's reserve team over Stevenage this week [sic] and will hope to further impress in training," claims the site; but before hurrying to drink a toast you may care to note that another report is headlined "Barnard set for Welsh start". Could you pass the salt, please?
Friday 19 September
Hello. Mark Stilton here. I'm diarying today as The Official Diarytm is off getting his motor seen to before travelling to Cleethorpes with a load of drunk Chesterfield fans. Wish him luck...
So, what exciting news is happening in the wonderful world of GTFC today then? The OS reports that Mansaram might be back today, but apparently he's been a bit "stop, start, stop, start". New batteries might sort that out, Paul. Jevons isn't quite fit enough or, presumably, on the correct contract yet so he can't play and Soames has also picked up a grazed knee or something. Bless. Des Hamilton is still injured. I think we can cut and paste that sentence in to every pre-match Diary this season...
Oooh...news just in. The Mariners have signed "experienced" midfield stopper/playmaker/dead ball expert (that's what it says here) Nicky Daws from Rotherham on a one month loan deal. Presumably to make up the numbers in our depleted team. The OS states that he'll go straight in to the team for tomorrows game.
I was going to visit the Telegraph's site for more team news, but there were over five thousand people on the site and I didn't see an ambulance anywhere. So I decided not to risk it.
Let's see what suprises the decimated Chesterfield squad hold for us this weekend, then. Alan O'Hare hurt his ankle and Folan's knee faces a late fitness test. This is in addition to their already lengthy injury list. We know the feeling. Anyway, for a more detailed analysis, take a look at the All New (as Sky would put it) slimline match preview.
On to the Refwatch then, kindly sent in by, er, me. The referee this weekend is Mr Graham Salisbury of Lancashire. And what did I have to say about him then? "Mr Salisbury has only been on the scene a few seasons. In fact, in his first season ('01-02) he only officiated at lower league games...and Rotherham v Grimsby. Or is that the same thing? That stands as the only time he has refereed a Town match, and he handed out only two yellow cards (both to Rotherham players). You may remember the match - Robert Taylor scored his only goal for the Mariners that night." Ah yes, I remember it well, but tell us Mark, what is his stattage?
"This season, Mr Salisbury (or Gray, to his mates) has dished out 17 yellows and 1 red in 6 games. Around the same rate as his 113 yellows and 8 reds in 35 games last season." Am I expecting him to be any good then? "He appears quite lenient then - either that or he's
another ref easily duped by more experienced players. So, we turn to the Butcher reports for clarification: 'A pedantic little irritant. He insisted that Town players take throw-ins and free kicks from exactly the right spot (even when it wasn't the right spot) and was cowardly in avoiding using the yellow card for Rotherham dives'. Oh dear." Oh dear indeed.
And that's it except for a quick nosey through the Diary's postbag. Credit card junk mail. Final reminder from British Gas. Hmm. Job interview for position of diary writer at Man Utd? Pfff...delusions of grandeur there, I think. Aha...letters, here we go.
Stu Morton complains: "There you go, you've done it again. 'Celerity'. In reference to Mansaram's movements. And of course, no link to a dico. So off go us thick 'eads with nothing better to do than to try find out what it means. But no, it must be linked to a similar word...such as...'hilarity'. Yes, celerity is an unintentional form of hilarity. Or how about a lower form of 'celebrity' (without the 'bits') - after all, he does play for the greatest
team in the world. Honest. Could it have something to do with a stick of salady stuff, with stuck-up hair and the like? Not the last time I looked at his photo. So what can it mean...?" Beats me Stu. You'll find no such meretricious proprieties in my diaries.
Stu then goes on to give a full definition of the word, but this isn't the time or place, Stu. School. Before your O-levels. That was the time and place.
On to our next letter then, from CA's troubled troubadour Al Wilkinson. And what say you, Al? "I was going to complain about your comments suggesting the people of Grimsby do not deserve a decent centre half partnership." The flack I'm getting today because of the Diary - I'm gonna make him edit the letters page when we get a load of "you stink of fish" type letters. Sorry Al, go on. "Then yesterday at work I heard this comment: 'I'm glad Town have had these results, maybe it'll show the idiots who keep going what a waste of time it is'. Unfortunately you're right, we don't deserve anything. Can anyone suggest a place to move to, because comments like that increase the desire to get out." Simon Ford could suggest a few places in the nebulous wastes of space, I imagine.
And finally, CA's Si Wilson is doing a big run in the north somewhere. Called the 'Big North Run', or summat. Anyway, he's trying to raise money for Meningitis sufferers, so it's all in a very good cause. If you'd like to sponsor him, drop him an email. I'm sure he'll be very grateful.
So, that's me done. The Official Diarytm may be back this weekend. I dunno. You tell me. Can I just take this opportunity to thank you for your time, and if you're stuck for something to do this afternoon, feel free to drop a letter in to our postbag. The letters Ed there is really, really nice. Tata.
Thursday 18 September
After scoring for Town's reserves yesterday Phil Jevons could become the seventh striker to appear for Town's first team this season when Chesterfield come to town on Saturday - but at considerable personal cost. The Scouse frontman, whose lavish appearance-related contract is believed to have Roman Abramovich worried about football's unsustainable spending, faces a race against time to sign a new deal that allows Paul Groves to select him without having to sell Blundell Park to property developers or send the ticket office staff to stand around on Riby Square. Should new terms be agreed by Saturday, the player may figure against the Spireites as Jonny Rowan could be kept out by the ankle injury picked up in Tuesday's home defeat to Swindon.
The reserves' match at Sheffield United was a Pontins Holiday League Cup tie, apparently, but it was no holiday for the Blades' second string as Town ran out 3-0 winners. See, I can do straight journalism. Other goalscorers were Giovanni Carchedi, who opened Town's account on 11 minutes after a nifty one-two with Ashley Hildred, and Iain Ward, who netted from close range shortly after Jevons despatched a rebound from Hildred. Trial striker Bobby Lawsam, or Lewsam, or Lewsham, depending on who you believe, didn't get off the bench.
Another contender to step into Rowan's boots for the visit of Chesterfield (or "Chesterfield Town" if you're the Grimsby Telegraph) is Mr Darren Mansaram, whose recovery from a blood-curdling injury sustained in a reserve game last month has been of similar celerity to his movement across the BP turf. Speaking to BBC Humber, Mr Groves has not unreasonably appealed for fans to desist from moaning and booing and burning effigies of Mansaram's family when he fails to beat 61 defenders and score goals that would make Thierry Henry retire in jealous despair. "He's young, he's learning his way and he needs an arm round him at times," says the Town boss. "And he needs encouragement. At times he ends up getting criticised." But this is Grimsby, Paul; just because they're called supporters, doesn't mean they support.
Wednesday 17 September
Ability rather than commitment was the quality lacking in last night's 2-1 home defeat to Swindon, says Paul Groves, which if anything is even more scary. "The level of commitment and effort after the 8-1 defeat at Hartlepool was more acceptable," the Town boss announces on the club's official site, "but we just can't keep a clean sheet at the moment." Groves opted to give Simon Ford and Tony Crane the chance to redeem themselves after the Victoria Park debacle, in as much as he had any choice, but the gruesome twosome blew it again as second-half goals from Andy Gurney and Tommy Mooney overturned the half-time advantage Michael Boulding had given the Mariners, leaving them 17th in the second division table. The Diary is moved to observe that with last night's gate dipping to 3,535 the Grimsby public have the central defenders they deserve.
Having failed dismally to shore up the forward line with an experienced target man, or indeed one whose cherry remains fully intact, Groves has turned his attentions closer to home and is giving a trial to Barton Town's Bobby Lawsam, who presumably caught the eye in Town reserves' pre-season outing just up the road when everyone wasn't gawping at the Humber Bridge. The player will feature in today's reserve cup game at Sheffield United - as will the more familiar name of Phil Jevonzzzz, who has recovered from a thigh strain and is looking forward to a Blue Peter appeal in which tens of thousands of UK schoolchildren will bake cakes and hold sponsored walks, raising funds to support the former Everton striker when he signs the extended contract that will ruthlessly slash his wages to £2,000 a week.
Tuesday 16 September
The barney between GTFC and the Grimsby Telegraph enters a new phase, with the paper ratcheting up the pressure by running a series of supportive letters in its sports section and hiding away elsewhere the ones that back the club in its ill-conceived decision to exclude football writer Stuart Rowson from the romantic precincts of Blundell Park. Town chairman Peter Furneaux, meanwhile, hits back with an open letter to the Riby Square Thunderer refuting recent claims by Rowson that safety would be compromised by the club's cost-cutting move to ditch the ambulance that stands by at BP on match days. Seconds out...
Town's turbulent term continues with more bad publicity for the club's possibly unwilling sponsor Jarvis, which faces fresh scrutiny after it emerged that a derailment at Kings Cross station this morning took place on a section of track where the company had recently carried out work - as was the case with the Potters Bar rail crash last year, which killed seven and injured 76. No casualties resulted from this morning's incident, as the train involved was travelling at only 10mph; but travellers in some parts of the country face serious disruption to journeys. "It is very unusual for a train to derail at such a low speed," says John Bourn of the transport pressure group Rail Future. Mr Bourn was unable to comment, though, when asked by the Diary why Steve Livingstone could never stay on his feet.
Good news from the FA, though, which has at last exonerated Graham Rodger from charges of public rag-losing following a less than adequately punished assault on Town's Chris Thompson in February's game against Stoke. Phew. BBC Humber Sport reveals that Town's assistant boss stood accused of headbutting Potters Bar - sorry - Potters boss Tony Pulis after the incident but was cleared at a tribunal hearing in York yesterday. Referee C Wilkes, who some may argue brought the game into disrepute by refusing to send off Stoke's Wayne Thomas, is not believed to have been charged with anything.
And so to this evening's clash with Swindon, where the Mariners will be hoping to bounce back from some indeterminate trauma of recent days, and an interview with Paul Groves on Town's official site finds the player-manager still dazed from whatever it was that happened. In the immediate aftermath of this uncertain calamity he raised the prospect of big changes to his team, but after remembering that he doesn't have any more players Groves appears to have relented. The one certainty is that Des Hamilton, who was hoping to return in midfield after completing a three-match ban, will again be absent, having picked up one of those eternal training-ground injuries. Swindon playmaker Sammy Igoe, meanwhile, is still seeing out a three-game suspension of his own; while injured midfielder Steve Robinson also misses out. Town fans can expect to cack their kecks at the presence of Leeds starlet James Milner, however, who is expected to start in midfield.
Mark Stilton's Refwatch, as ever, has the lowdown on tonight's chief official, Mr Eddie Ilderton of Tyne & Wear. "Mr Ilderton was refereeing Conference games as recently as two seasons ago," says Markie, "but established himself as a lower league referee in 2002-03. He appears quite lenient, issuing only 64 yellow and 3 red cards in 29 matches last season. In his four matches this season he has handed out 16 yellow cards. The only time he has refereed a Town match was in January last season as we were soundly beaten 2-0 at home to Millwall. No sendings-off in that match, although Campbell received a yellow and he gave a penalty to Millwall. Mr Claridge put that away, as I'm sure you remember, to score his second goal in a game where the Pontoon berated him for being rubbish. Let's hope Mr Ilderton has improved slightly on last season, where Tony Butcher felt that he 'started all right, but slowly, slowly, fell for the cheeky cockernee charms of Mr Wise' and gave him a rating of 5.697."
Monday 15 September
Paul Groves's search for a striker could be put on hold as he attempts to shore up the Town defence in the wake of some recent event or other. The Mariners' official site carries an interview in which the player-manager appears to acknowledge the inadequacy of a central defence that pairs a cosmonaut with decapitated poultry. Groves raises the possibility of drafting in a youngster (possibly the Young-ster), but his reserve and youth squads appear to lack the defensive equivalent of a Graham Hockless or a Liam Nimmo; and so the last few threepenny bits rattling around the GTFC piggy bank - which have been ring-fenced for the big, strong target man Town have been crying out for since 1981 - may now be reallocated to avoid a repeat of, um, something really bad that might have happened very recently.
Religious types are sometimes wont to characterise people's spiritual hunger by observing that there is "a God-shaped hole in their lives"; and if they support Grimsby then they may, similarly, observe a Santos-shaped void in the Mariners' defence. Last season's shrugging cult hero is now being cited by Ipswich fans as evidence for Joe Royle selling out their preferred passing game in favour of a more 'direct' style; but large Georges has played down the possibility of being relegated again with his new club. "You can't compare Ipswich to Grimsby," he told Saturday's Sports Telegraph. "They are a far bigger club." Like, say, Sheffield Wednesday, Georges? "At Grimsby we could stop teams scoring," he added, in a quote presumably taken out of context - the context in which his sentence finished with the words "more than 92 goals in all competitions".
Mark Stilton is a Grimsby fan who is joining the Diary in denial. Come on in, the water's lovely! "Well I checked for Town's result on Saturday and Sunday and I didn't see it," he writes. "I didn't check for any scores on Friday night as the only people who would be daft enough to play football on a Friday night are the type of people who think monkeys are foreign spies. So I can only assume that Town didn't play this weekend." That's it exactly, Mark; I believe the match was postponed due to a call-up for the Mariners' left-back, who qualifies by virtue of his parentage to represent the Barnard's Star system in interstellar competition and was an unused substitute in Saturday's Milky Way Championship qualifying group 8 fixture away to Epsilon Eridani. Oddly enough, halfway to the match Barnard came across a disorientated Simon Ford, who was free-floating in the void some seven light years south of Sirius shortly after losing Paul Robinson.
Saturday 13 September
Football's new sleepiest giant, Sheffield Wednesday, will be Town's first patch of black ice on the road to Cardiff as this morning's LDV Vans Trophy draw has handed the Mariners the local-ish derby they probably fancied the least of all with a short hop to Hillsborough for the first round. Workplaces in the Grimsby area have already set up sweepstakes offering super cash prizes for the holder of the ticket number equivalent to the total goals created by Terry Cooke multiplied by the number of mistakes by Tony Crane.
I'm sure there was something else I had to mention here, you know, but it just seems to elude me for the moment.
Let us turn, then, to the thoughts of your fellow Diary readers, who have helped this week's email harvest festival reap a bumper crop. The first of today's producers of food for thought is Alistair Wilkinson, whose crazed plans for cat-assisted global domination were revealed in Wednesday's Diary and prompted Mark Wilson to enquire on Thursday as to Al's preferred psychotropic substances. "I was on a revolving chair with a cat on my knee," explains Dr Ev-Al. "By the way, we won't be double winners, we'll be everything winners once the feline empire is dominant. Unfortunately my spies tell me that as we speak, the nefarious agents of Hull City are currently rounding up all the dogs in the world trying to build an army to rival our own. They will fail, oh yes they will fail. At this moment agents of the Cat Revolutionaries Advocating Mariners Progression (CRAMP) are infiltrating the East Riding camp to scupper their dastardly plans."
Oh yeah...that reminds me what it was I had to tell you. The Diary had a dream on Wednesday night about joining a gang of good cats to fight a gang of evil cats led by a big bluey-black-coloured one, and that was probably down to Al's email. Then I dreamt about becoming a tax inspector, but I was in a team of pretty girls who were totally cool Charlie's Angels-style tax inspectors and went around busting down the doors of tax evaders with funky kicks and stuff. That probably wasn't down to Al. Yeah, that was it. Yeah.
Or maybe it was that Paul Thundercliffe has taken up James Booth's idea of GTFC breakfast cereals with relish. He has taken up the idea enthusiastically, I mean, not that he has started putting tomato chutney on his cornflakes. "Some obvious combinations," writes Paul. "Phil Jevons and Frosties (reception when he starts training with the first team again): 'You're not grrrrreat!' Stacy and Rice Crispies: 'Snap, Cackle and Pot'. Groves and Coco Pops: 'It's what my children tell me to drink and retire from playing'." I'm sure he would if he could, Paul.
Last in the postbag is Stu Morton, who couldn't resist a dip into the dictionary after Thursday's Diary used a Posh Word. "Tmesis?" he writes. That was the Posh Word. "I thought that was one of those itchy scratchy skin conditions you get when you eat too much of the wrong food. Or an affectionate term for one's wife in some parts of Ireland." No, mate, that's scabies. "The online dictionary didn't mention anything to do with 'fucking'," continues our Parisian chum, who clearly spent his schooldays searching in vain for obscenities in his Griffin Savers Dictionary, "but it did mention 'abso-bloody-lutely'. It went on to say: separation of parts of a compound word by the intervention of one or more words (as 'what place soever' for 'whatsoever place'). Which is very cool, not just because I learnt a new word, but also because that might explain why we call some French cheeses 'Tome', for example Tome de Savoie, Tome de Corse (brought a big one of those back from Corsica this summer - excellent with fig jam and crusty bread, and a bottle of red wine) - where was I...oh yes, Tome, it being a hard cheese that needs to be sliced?"
"Anyway," continues Stu, "all of this to say that when you use the sort of vocabulary in the Diary that you know/suspect will be new to us vocab-challenged readers, please add a link in to a dico." But if I had then you would never have sent this wonderful email, and I would have had to have written about, er, something else that might have happened to GTFC recently, if I could remember what it was, that is - so thanks for that, Stu. Would any other readers like to tell us about the cheese they bought while on holiday?
Friday 12 September
The tension between GTFC and the Grimsby Telegraph that arose last season after changes in the paper's editorial team explodes into a new row today as the Telegraph reveals that the club is withdrawing recognition of its reporter Stuart Rowson for "continued misleading coverage of the club". The move follows a front-page splash last Friday in which the paper reported that Town bosses were saving cash by cancelling the ambulance that stands by at Blundell Park on match days. Today's Telegraph reports that club directors have invited Telegraph editor Michelle Lalor to Blundell Park to discuss "several inaccuracies" in last Friday's report but adds that "no meeting will take place unless Mr Rowson's press rights at Blundell Park are reinstated". The Diary, as you know, remains critical of the Telegraph's coverage and is less than convinced that lots of people will die because the ambulance isn't there, but can't help thinking GTFC would have been better off simply saying as much themselves.
Jonny Rowan will continue to partner Michael Boulding up front for tonight's visit to Hartlepool, as no fewer than three strikers have clambered aboard the "say no to Grimsby" bandwagon this week. After two permanent signings fell through, Paul Groves was cleared by a Premiership club to offer a loan deal to a striker on their books, reports the Telegraph, though I'm not sure how; but whoever the pampered little shit was, he clearly didn't fancy sullying his good name by associating with real footballers. "He did not give a reason, only that he was not coming," says PG. But! BBC Humber Sport (remember them?) reveals that Phil Jevons is close to a renegotiated contrzzzzzz...Young David Soames and even younger Liam Nimmo are added to the squad to travel north this evening.
Jason Crowe, meanwhile, remains doubtful after missing last week's draw with Peterborough with a gammy toe or something but Darren Barnard should resume left-back duties after returning from international bench-warming duties with Wales. After Cristiano Ronaldo's recent debut for Lancashire side Manchester United was put in the shadows by Graham Hockless' emergence from the bench at Blundell Park last Saturday, many Town fans are hoping to see the youngster start on the left of midfield tonight, with Stuart Campbell returning to the centre and Chris Bolder receiving therapy in a sensory deprivation tank; but Mr Groves is playing down the chances of a reshuffle in the middle. "You have to remember that Graham came on after 60 or 70 minutes," he tells Town's official site, "where the game had started to open up and there was a bit of room for him to play."
Over now to Mr Mark Stilton - hello! - for Markie's Refwatch, which informs us that tonight's man in the middle will be Scott Mathieson of Stockport. "Mr Mathieson has issued 14 yellows and 1 red card in the 4 matches he's officiated this season," Mark tells us, "roughly the same rate of reds as last season, when he issued 100 yellows and 11 reds in 37 games. Last time he was involved in a Town match was on 18 August 2001 when he was kind enough to award Town a penalty. Pouton put that away to secure a fine 1-0 victory away at West Brom." Oooh, that was great, that was. "He's been around a while, has Mr Mathieson," adds Mark, "but amazingly, in all these years, he's never sent off a Grimsby player or a Hartlepool player. You'd think we'd be OK then, except Tony Butcher's report on the West Brom game says: He managed to get both sets of supporters raging at his inconsistency. Very, very poor...I give this man 4.2." Marks out of ten, I think Tony means; not iced lollipops.
Our match preview is completed by Miles Moss, who has very kindly phoned the Pools ticket office on the Diary's behalf, and reports: "Hartlepool United put the milk in tea last. The man was very nice, and
a little confused."
Email from Diary readers has kept us going all week, and there are many more musings that will appear here tomorrow evening. Thank you all. For now we will conclude with news that the other half of Town's hoped-for reprise of the 1997-98 double season begins in a Sky studio in about 20 hours' time, as the draw for the LDV Vans Trophy - which is apparently what the Auto Windscreens Shield has been renamed since we were away - has been brought forward to 9:55 tomorrow morning and will be broadcast on something called Soccer AM. Yeah, all right, I'll put that in tomorrow as well, but I'm not bloody getting out of bed for it.
Thursday 11 September
Whoever said the FA were a shambolic bunch of stuffed suits who couldn't organise a piss-up in Burton-on-Trent had better have a good long think, as the game's governing body has deftly scheduled Graham Rodger's disciplinary hearing for this Monday - just seven months after the incident took place for which he is being charged. Way back when Town were a first division club and Tony Blair a popular prime minister, the Mariners' assistant boss responded to a horrendous foul on Chris Thompson from Stoke's Wayne Thomas by getting a right benny on - conduct explicitly forbidden by the Football Association's guidelines on acceptable expressions of dissent ("coach or play for England and you can do what you like") - and Rodge is finally being hauled up next week. "I'm passionate about football and I'm a frustrated ex-player," he tells Town's official site, "but I'm not a lunatic." Wonder if Brian Laws ever got done for misconduct?
Barnsley's early-season progress suggests that the art of defending is much like that of police interrogation, if the success of their good defender/bad defender routine is anything to go by; and former Town duo Peter Handyside and Tony Gallimore are to be handed longer-term deals after presumably playing some part in their new side's bewildering rise to the top of Division Two. The players are among four at Oakwell who joined on short-term contracts but who have all now been rewarded with extended terms. Some would say the Mariners are currently in need of an experienced centre-half in Handyside's mould; but with former Tyke Darren Barnard having taken over Gallimore's left-back duties at Blundell Park, Town have clearly got the better of that part of the deal.
Big-hearted Diary readers continue to respond magnificently to our appeal for, well, anything to fill the space here until Town get that new striker, and James Booth of Toronto has another idea for a new line in Town's club shop. "Perhaps the club could feature players on boxes of food," he writes. "In the States (and Canada) they put sports stars on boxes of Wheaties cereal - the "Breakfast of Champions". Apparently after a quick search on Google it would seem they are very collectable. Who would have thought?" Who indeed. "If I had the time (or was witty enough) I would think of a clever combination of a particular food and a Town player with a slogan, but I don't and I'm not." Thanks James - neither am I, so I'm sure it'll help these emails keep coming in - email@example.com is the address, comrades.
Mark Wilson, meanwhile, emails from the rather less glamorous environs of Tring, Herts, to beg: "Please tell me what Al Wilkinson was on so that I can spend my weekend experimenting with it!" Al - if you're reading...? "I would really love the Town shop to sell Champions League shirts, and items commemorating us doing the double last season," adds Mark, who doesn't just sound high on life himself.
No relation is Si Wilson - at least I don't think so anyway - who has some thoughts to share on the dress/sobriety code at Grimsby's Walkabout Bar ("It also depends on how drunk somebody is when they go up to the door, and if their clothes are in good repair," says the manager, lest ye forget. "If you look scruffy, then you are not coming in my place.") Si observes: "Most people I know have to be totally shitfaced before they even contemplate going to a Walkabout." Which, it turns out, is just what Si was when he went to one the other week. "Actually, come to think about it," he adds, "we were all absolutely bladdered and wearing shorts (considered by many to be 'scruffy' clothing). Maybe standards are lower here in 'trendy' Leeds than in Grimsby. And isn't it amazing how dressing 'smart' costs less than dressing 'scruffy'." Valid points all.
Mark Stilton has a word or two to share on the same subject, and I hope his mum isn't reading. "The Walkabouts are supposed to be Aussie theme bars," he points out. "Well, I never dressed smart in any of the real Australian pubs I went into in fucking Aus-fucking-tralia." And I never thought I would get to use the word 'tmesis' in the Diary.
And finally, tickets for Hartlepool tomorrow night will set you back 15 quid. I know because I just looked on their website, and it opened the link in one of those completely pointless new windows in what seems to be the popular style on the web these days. I'm not going to phone them up this time because, as if for all the world Mrs Diary and I were puffins, our bills have been looking stupid recently. Have to get one of those BT Together things or whatever it is. How do they work? Anyway, if you want to find out how they make their tea then the phone number is 01429 272584 - if you do then let us know. Cheers. We'll do the team news and Markie's Refwatch tomorrow an'all.
Wednesday 10 September
Like a dumped boyfriend on the rebound, Laurens Ten Heuvel is hoping to find solace in the arms of De Graafschap back in his native Holland. That's a football club, not a lass. Town's official site announces that the player is seeking a new club after failing to earn a permanent contract during the loan spell with the Mariners that expired last weekend and will be hoping to make a better impression on his return home; but after Larry 10's league appearances for GTFC failed to live up his form in pre-season, the Diary would advise any prospective new employer to follow Town's lead and have to sign him on loan after missing the deadline to sign him permanently. Isn't it funny how things turn out.
As Town's deafening silence continues over the issue of a replacement for Ten Heuvel, the Diary has been urged to pay public tribute to the cricketers of Lincolnshire, who have just secured the Minor Counties championship with a tremendous England-style fightback against Devon in the final in Cleethorpes last weekend. After a torrid first day for the Lincs bowlers, the Eastern Division winners closed on 92-2 in reply to Devon's 371-3; but the flat county overturned a first-innings deficit by dismissing their opponents for just 97 and knocking off the 202 runs required for victory with an impressive eight wickets in hand. Lincs are not, however, thought to be applying for first-class status.
Back to the winter game, then, and as if supporting the Mariners did not carry sufficient stigma already, one soulless chain pub in Grimsby has allegedly banned customers from wearing the club's replica shirts. The Grimsby Telegraph today carries details of a case being heard by Grimsby magistrates in which a local man is charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour after being refused entry to the Walkabout Bar. "They won't let you in if you are wearing a striped shirt," the prosecutor has told the court. The bar's manager, meanwhile, insists that the policy is just one aspect of its dress code. "It also depends on how drunk somebody is when they go up to the door, and if their clothes are in good repair," he explains. "If you look scruffy, then you are not coming in my place." And there I was thinking what horrible fascists they were.
Paul Thundercliffe, for one, won't be drinking in the Walkabout, if his email to the Diary is anything to go by. In response to yesterday's appeal for suggestions as to what nifty items of merchandise should be added to the stock at Town's club shop, he writes: "They should sell decent tops like the old Scoreline one. Failing that, just a decent Town top." Miles Moss disagrees. "Everyone does replica shirts," he argues. "Been there, done that, bought the erm...replica shirt. What GTFC should do is start selling replica players. Cloning has come on in leaps and bounds these past few years, so it shouldn't be too difficult to offer the discerning fan the chance to buy their very own Michael Boulding or John McDermott, and use them to do chores around the house or do the gardening or something. Of course, they'd need to
issue a warranty with all the cloned Poutons. An additional benefit is that when the squad is suffering from its usual injury crises, Grovesie can pop into the club shop and ask them to pop another Iain Anderson in the oven."
Al Wilkinson is another who believes customers at the club shop may have sentient beings on their shopping lists. "Cats," he says. Riiight. Go on. "Just a few, black and white obviously. Then a few more, then more and more until all cats are sold at Blundell Park, all the breeds, colours, shapes, ages, all the strays gathered in a widening net until every feline in the world comes with "GTFC" stamped on its arse." Where's this going, then, Al? "Think about it - everyone wants a cat. Sell 'em at Town and we're laughing all the way to footballing world domination. Picture the scene when Real Madrid come to BP and the whole crowd spins round on the new revolving seats (paid for with purring profits) with a white fluffy specimen perched on their knees. You can hear the chant now: 'Yes, Mr Zidane'. Then after we've beaten them 5-0 we can sell them all a cat, they'd be bound to want one 'coz we'd be the richest, therefore the coolest club in the world. Mwa ha ha ha!!"
On Tuesday there was nothing to put in the Diary. On balance I think I preferred it that way.
Tuesday 9 September
Today is turning out to be about as interesting as a midweek afternoon in Northampton, so I'm going out for a walk and then watching Ready Steady Cook. In a desperate attempt to generate some content for the rest of the week, I leave you with the question: what new items of merchandise should Town sell in the club shop? Answers to firstname.lastname@example.org please.
Monday 8 September
Um, yeah, OK...so I didn't "see you Sunday". Trouble was, I didn't get home until about 5pm - which, you must admit, is a pretty good night out - and there was not a great deal to record in any case: you all know by now that Town were rubbish in the first half on Saturday and a bit better in the second. And can I just say, the Diary was mightily impressed with young Graham Hockless: if you ask me then Mr Groves could do a lot worse than start him on the left of midfield at Hartlepool this Friday and restore Stuart Campbell to the centre at Chris Bolder's expense. Lest you haven't seen the league tables, the Mariners now sit 13th (and, shockingly, 21st in a table of average home attendances), which, for those whose glasses are half full, is still only six points behind the division's surprise leaders Barnsley.
This week may see a new twist in Paul Groves' epic quest for a rugged new target man, which is soon to be serialised as a major new drama on BBC2, starring Martin Clunes as the GTFC manager. Town's official site reveals that the Heskey to Michael Boulding's Rooney could arrive this week. "We've been working on getting a new face in for a long time," Paul reminds us, "and there might now be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel." The site also confirms that Laurens Ten Heuvel's similarly interminable search for a first goal in English football will proceed away from Blundell Park, as the disappointing Dutchman has returned to Sheffield United.
And finally today, we can exclusively reveal a death threat to the Diary. In the intimidating atmosphere of my bedroom in 1980, I was told by an opponent: "If you don't get this mess tidied up I'll kill you!"
Friday 5 September
At the time of writing - which is the obscene small hour of 10:15am, cos I've got a train to catch early this afternoon - Town haven't signed a new striker. I know this because Cod Almighty's Mark Stilton is a subscriber to the Mariners' official SMS service, and they texted him this morning to tell him. For the privilege of receiving such information he has had to pay 22p; and mindful as the Diary is of the need for the club to raise funds, surely fans can simply assume that no new striker has been signed until there is good reason to inform them otherwise. I mean where will it end? Zidane "still not a Mariner", says Groves? Half-hourly updates on the continuing absence of a takeover bid from a shady Russian oil billionaire?
Anyway, that's your team news for tomorrow, basically - that and the stuff we already knew, like Darren Barnard being out in Italy with the Wales squad, so Jason Crowe will probably move to left-back, with Marcel Cas returning to the right of midfield.
It seems to be a bit early in the day to find out what's going on with Peterborough - though with a bit of luck there'll be a Simon Wilson preview here before 3pm tomorrow. What I can tell you is that Posh's owner Peter Hill - who looks like the sort of man EastEnders casts as a gangster, is not a happy bunny after the Posh slumped to a third successive home defeat against Stockport last week. Hill has described his team's attitude as "shocking" and blustered about transfer-listing most of them - a threat that somehow lacks any menace these days given that nobody is signing any players any more.
Back to Mr Stilton, then, for Markie's Refwatch, and the lowdown on tomorrow's adjudicator, Mr Paul Danson of Leicester - "a referee that
I'm sure many fans and players are familiar with," says Mark, "especially Simon Rea of Peterborough, who he sent off after one minute against Cardiff last season. But Rea shouldn't feel too bad. Danson dished out 124 yellows and 24 reds last season - that's 2 red cards for every 3 games. And as he's not given any red cards in three matches so far this season, does this mean we're in for a dismissal or two on Saturday?" At least Pouton's not playing, though, eh? "The last time he refereed a Grimsby match was the 6-5 home win against Burnley, where he didn't get chance to book any players. The season before he sent off Lee Hughes when we played Coventry at home, and the season before that he gave us a penalty at home to Birmingham. I think he likes his fish and chips." We should be fine tomorrow then, right? "A word of warning - the last time he sent off two players for the home team was in 1998-99 when Barnet were on the receiving end of a 9-1 thrashing by...Peterborough." Hmmmm.
All that remains for now, then, is for me to take the unprecedented step of plugging the Grimsby Telegraph, for the entirely parochial reason that the Matchday supplement that comes free with the paper on Fridays now features a match preview column by occasional Cod Almighty contributor Pete Green, who has politely requested Diary readers to bombard the Telegraph with praise for his efforts, demanding he be rewarded with more space and free pizza for life. Pete's column starts today, apparently, with a cheeky look at Peterborough, its uses and abuses; and the Matchday supplement itself swells to a juicy 12 pages with an inside look at the "new" Blundell Park, from the kiosks to the khazis and all points between, so look out for it.
There'll be no Saturday Diary this weekend, by the way, as I am off out straight after the Town match, to watch the England game and drink myself into a stupor in a doomed attempt to compensate for the absence of Mrs Diary, who has betaken herself to the south to visit her posh family. So I'll see you Sunday. Bye!
Thursday 4 September
As Paul Groves' search for a striker continues to draw a blank, the GTFC management look set to make a virtue of necessity and build bridges with one-hit wonder Phil Jevons. The Scouse flop, you will remember, is on a ridiculous wage that resulted from the lethal conjunction of the ITV Digital contract and Lennie Lawrence; and further appearance-based quantities of wonga, due to the player and his former club Everton, currently preclude him from consideration for the first team. Jevons himself scuppered a close-season deal renegotiated between his agent and the club, but Town fans could once again behold grass-cutters slowly rolling their way towards the other team's keeper as today's Grimsby Telegraph reports that he is back in training with the first team. "We're trying to get him fit and what happens after that is between the manager, the agent and the player," says Mr Furneaux, who has been requested by Blundell Park medical staff to step back from personal negotiations with Jevons after emerging from a routine check-up in the summer with a trail of broken blood pressure gauges in his wake.
Former loan defender Andy Todd - as careful readers of yesterday's Diary would have deduced - has joined first division Burnley on loan; and given the state of the Turf Moor defence, few Town fans would begrudge them him. Elsewhere, more carelessly wishful thinking by supporters has led to an official denial from GTFC that Charlton striker Kevin Lisbie is to join the Mariners. Paul Groves "is today actively involved in trying to add another body to the ranks," announces the club's official website, "but it definitely is not Charlton's Kevin Lisbie." With the precedent set for the site to deal with rumours on the messageboards, visitors are already expecting to download a 45-megabyte pdf ruling out a new forward line of Matt Tees and James Beattie and a takeover bid from a consortium fronted by Lawrie McMenemy, Ivano Bonetti, Norman Lamont and that lass who was in Swing Out Sister.
If, like the Diary, you are a non-season ticket holder who sometimes struggles to buy tickets in proximity to your season-ticket-holding mates, then listen up. The Mariners are to operate "an unreserved seating policy" for this Saturday's visit by Peterborough, proclaims Town's official site, three days after the Diary phoned up to try and buy tickets in proximity to my season-ticket-holding mates. Hmmm...oh, and it's only any good if your mates hold season tickets for seats 92 onwards only in the Pontoon Stand, that being the unreserved area. The Diary appreciates the pre-Taylor Report spirit of the gesture, nonetheless; and it will work a treat if neither you nor your mates hold season tickets and none of you have bought advance matchday tickets. I think.
When the proud people of Great Grimsby are slighted by national media institutions - as happened on BBC Radio 2 earlier this week - then the seething heat of their wrath is sure to make itself felt in a manner that will make the world sit up and take notice; and sure enough, Miles Moss has emailed the Diary. "So Radio 2 had a cheap laugh at our expense, did they?" he scowls. "Not very likely that we'll win the FA Cup, is it? Well get this - Monty Python had a similar dig at Coventry City in a sketch featuring Karl Marx and Mao Tse Tung trying to win a 'beautiful lounge suite' on a glitzy game show. "Haha!" jokes Eric Idle's gameshow host at Marx's political answer to yet another footballing question, "Coventry City have never won the FA Cup!" But Coventry had the last laugh when they did win the FA Cup some twenty years later in 1987. So get your bets on for an ageing John McDermott holding aloft the FA Cup in 2023. If the 2014 meteor misses Earth, that is."
And it has fallen to Mark Wilson to make the musical connection that nobody else has wanted to make. "Whilst perusing the shelves of my local HMV," he writes, "I noticed that Ian Anderson has a new CD out. It's good to see that he's keeping busy during his injury lay-off."
Wednesday 3 September
It's one of those quiet days again, but the Grimsby Telegraph can't go to press with the back page empty; hence the newsworthiness of Iain Anderson being glad that he hasn't needed a knee operation. "They didn't operate and that's why I'm delighted," is the player's unsurprising take on the medical attention he received earlier this week, which dispelled fears that he would miss three months of the Mariners' Division Two campaign. All that Anderson needed, it appears, was a steroid injection - let's just hope the FA aren't reading, eh - and he could now be hammering spectacular long-range goals again as early as next month. Actually, I said that yesterday, didn't I. Never mind - it's good news, and you can't have too much of a good thing. Except Guinness, I tend to find.
He isn't a striker, and there's no chance of signing him, but Town fans with less than unshakeable faith in the Crane/Ford central defensive pairing may still be drooling like hungry dogs at the news that Blackburn could allow former Mariners loan hero Andy Todd to leave Ewood Park on another short-term contract. Unable to command a first-team spot, the player was recently granted a transfer request by scary man Graeme Souness; but with no movement towards a permanent switch Rovers may let Todd out on loan. "Nationwide teams are still in a position to buy or loan from Premier League clubs," explains chief executive John Williams, for the benefit of Premiership fans who are pig-ignorant about the rest of football, "and we have been getting enquiries about Andy." Not that GTFC would have a chance even of loaning him again really, but I just thought I'd tell you.
This season's passionate Boxing Day derby against, er, Oldham is to be sponsored by Town's supporters trust, assuming that the Latics can scrape together the readies to get their team bus over the Pennines. The trust is promising a day of fun and games, with face-painting and penalty shootouts already on the agenda, and more details will follow when we have them.
On a similar theme, the Cod Almighty people will be having another Fans' Day on Easter Monday, when Town take on fellow seaside types Blackpool, so let's hope the weather holds out this time. "Expect just about everything," warns the chief culprit Simon Wilson. The CA team have also insisted, on pain of upping my daily word count, that I bring your attention to one or two new items elsewhere on this site: firstly a spiffy competition thing to win a GTFC shirt signed by our new cult hero Mr Disco Des Hamilton; and secondly a slightly less exciting but possibly more important questionnaire thing, for you to state your points of view about this website, which sadly won't win you anything but will help the CA editors at their next planning meeting, provided they haven't drunk too much black vodka.
Before I leave you to a blurred frenzy of mouse-clicking, there is the final, though not inconsiderable matter of an email from Mark Wilson, who wishes to confess to listening to Radio 2 yesterday afternoon; more specifically, to the Jeremy Vine show, which apparently discussed the meteor that may or may not destroy the planet Earth in 2014. "He pointed out," explains Mark, "that we are more likely to be hit by a meteor than win the lottery and then gave a number of other unlikely events that were more likely than winning the lottery. Grimsby Town winning the FA Cup was one of them. Oh, how I laughed."
Tuesday 2 September
Milan-bound Barnard adds to Town woe, reports today's Grimsby Telegraph; but rather than being asked to fill Paolo Maldini's shiny boots, Darren has insisted upon compounding Town's injury and suspension problems by getting called up to the Wales squad that faces Italy this Saturday. Mike Edwards and Wes Parker stand by to fill the left-back slot, although with John McDermott and Marcel Cas both available Jason Crowe could switch flanks. Events in Milan this weekend could prove decisive to Wales' hopes of qualifying for Euro 2004. "[Barnard] is with the international squad and it's good news for him that he's getting recognition. We're delighted for him," says Paul Groves, while Graham Rodger adds: "Arrrgh! Stop grinding your teeth!"
Steve Beer has emailed to point out something funny about the reporting of Barnard's international call-up on another GTFC website. Thanks Steve, but if I go public with it today then the gods of journalism will strike me down tomorrow with a potent affliction of syntaxitis; so we'd better let it pass.
Respite from the Mariners' injury woes arrives with the news that Iain Anderson could be back in action within a month. The former Preston winger's explosive start to life at Blundell Park was swiftly curtailed by a knee injury, sparking fears that he faced three months on the sidelines; but the Telegraph reports the happy results of exploratory surgery, which is probably a phrase that has never been written before in the history of the English language, namely that "Ando" could be banging them back in as early as October. "They did an arthroscopy and it appears that it's not the cartilage that's torn - it's the fibres around it," reveals Dr Groves. Anderson's injury coincides, at least at present, with a three-match suspension for jumping off the ground; so the knee thing might rule him out of only three or four games. If you think about things that way the world seems so much better.
Also stopping passers-by to ask the way to the comeback trail is little David Soames, who made a brief cameo for the reserves in yesterday's game at Doncaster (the racecourse, possibly). Town's second string took the game 2-1 thanks to Graham Hockless' penalty and a strike from a young lad called Paul Huckett. Yay!
Another email originates from the modem of Sam Metcalf, whose claims last week of having held open a door for Frank Clark were trumped by the attendance of legendary indiepop chanteuse Amelia Fletcher at a Diary party two years ago. "I may not have had AF in my living room," retorts Sam, "but has the Diary ever been coached by Keith Alexander? Eh? I bet the Diary can't stumble aimlessly towards the corner flag like I can, can it? No, I think you'll find, is the answer to that one. Ha!" Corner flags notwithstanding, though, close friends and neighbours consider the Diary to be the leading exponent of aimless stumbling this side of Glanford Park.
Monday 1 September
Paul Groves' recent signing spree is set for a reprise after the Town player-manager confirmed over the weekend that Laurens Ten Heuvel will not be kept on at Blundell Park when his loan expires next week. The Sheffield United frontman has failed to live up to the promise he showed in a pre-season trial (GTFC's official site rather too bluntly describing him as "Dutch flop") and with Darren Mansaram out for up to three months Groves is keen to reinforce his forward line. With the Football League very sensibly ignoring FIFA's transfer window and FIFA not quite knowing what to do about it, the search goes on; and moves were made to bolster the Mariners' firepower ahead of Saturday's defeat at Bristol City. "We're looking to bring in a striker," confirms Groves in today's Grimsby Telegraph, "and we enquired about one on Thursday and Friday but his club didn't want to release him." The club has denied reports by Radio Humberside that Cardiff's prolific Peter Thorne was the player targeted.
A quick visit to the BP casualty unit reveals that Iain Anderson will be operated upon to remedy the knee ligament damage sustained in the recent win over Luton, while Mansaram is to undergo a scan to diagnose the horrific-sounding injury he suffered in training last week. "I could smell the blood as it soaked into the pitch and hear the flesh and sinews tear and snap from Darren's bone," was how Paul Groves might have described it; I can't quite remember now.
Why not seek to erase that image from your memory by entering a national competition to find the most knowledgeable football fan in the country and proving that you have very little to live for? Well, the Diary has received a press release about just such an event, and I'm going to run the story, because it all makes me feel like a real journalist. "If you know that in 2002 Grimsby bought Steve Chettle from Barnsley," it says, "then you could be the sort to go all the way to the final and even be crowned FootballMind Champion 2004." And if you know that in 2002 Grimsby signed Steve Chettle on a Bosman with no fee involved then you could presumably land a lucrative career in PR. The competition costs two or three quid to enter but you could win a Town shirt and tickets for the FA Cup final - for full details see www.footballmind.co.uk.