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Diary - November 2007
Friday 30 November
Quite a few of us who went to Barnet last week were a bit confused what formation the team were supposed to be playing. The fishy binoculars were out, your Guest Diarist noticed, and not a few heads were being scratched among the happy throng of visiting fans. At the end we shrugged, said "what the shit – it worked" and went home. Today Lord Buckley has revealed that the formation was actually 3-4-3 and boasted that his squad can play 4-4-2, 3-5-2 or indeed any combination thereof. As for tomorrow's FA Cup match at Huddersfield, we will have to see who turns out, and where they stand.
Buckley has told us that Monty will keep his place in goal; that Bolland is back in contention; that Butler is out (hamstring); and that Whittle's ankle is still giving the old man gyp. It's funny you know – a few weeks ago everyone was screaming for a striker. We got Butler, and then realised that actually it was our own Gary Jones and a resurgent North that we needed. As Boshell is still suspended, and both loan players can and will play, I leave it to you, gentle reader, to compute the starting line-up at your leisure. Expect the club to put a red shirt on eBay by Monday afternoon, folks.
I received, for the last time, a set of accounts from the club in the mail today. Not because I'm selling my shares but because in future the accounts will be published on the superb (and still resolutely new) official club website. A cracking idea welcomed by everyone (except possibly the printers). I haven't had chance to read the figures in detail yet but the official site has published the gloomy headlines, which reveal that a quarter of a million quid trading loss, plus the write-off of nearly six hundred thousand quid spent on the doomed new stadium project, mean that the club continues to slip towards bankruptcy. But kept afloat by the generosity of the directors rather than the enthusiasm of the fans. We live to fight another day.
The club held another fans' forum last night where folk could ask Messrs Fenty and Buckley awkward questions. In the same way I can't listen to Harriet Harman bleating her innocence, I couldn't quite stomach either going to the forum or tuning in on the internet. So, basically, if you don't know what came out you are as pathetic a Town fan as me, eh? The messageboards have been gently humming with tales of what went on, which can be pithily paraphrased as: not a lot really. The Telewag was there though, so you can read some of the answers here.
How the chairman must hope Town can get past Huddersfield and then get a plum draw in the third round. But, as the latest financial figures show, even that would only produce a temporary stay of execution. Town are in a right mess financially – some would say equally so on the playing side – and the only way to wake up the fair weather 'fans' will be a Wembley paint job or Man-U away. I preferred to go to Barnet, where the admission was cheap, the chocolate was hot and sludgy and the company was made up of true fans who view supporting their club as everything and the result as a bonus. See yer.
Thursday 29 November
Me and my big mouth. Yesterday's Diary, as the sharper-minded among you will remember fairly easily, reported – and indeed lamented – that former Town loafer Phil Jevons would not be available to his loan club Huddersfield for their FA Cup tie against the Mariners this Saturday. No sooner had the Diary uploaded, though, than the news broke that no, actually, he would. Jevons Gets Cup Green Light is the headline chosen for the story by the Grimsby Telegraph, which is coincidentally identical to the one used by the Terriers' official website. Why the change of heart? The white-booted one's parent club Bristol City had initially blocked Jevons from appearing, keeping him available to them for future rounds of the cup if needed, but the Robins apparently U-turned after the player nipped down to Bristol earlier this week to say to his manager Gary Johnson either "oh go on, pleeeease let me play, I'll be your bezzie" or "oh go on, pleeeease let me play, I really want to score against them Grimsby bastards who left me rotting in the reserves cos they were too tight to pay me appearance money". Yes, you can blame the Diary for his hat-trick.
The fates of Town's first team and reserve team seem to have been diametrically opposed in recent times. When Russell Slade's first team came within a shit play-off final of promotion, Grahams Rodgerses' second string went through the entire season without a win. Then, just as the first XI reverted to being rubbish, Stuarts Watkisses got the reserves beating everyone in sight. And now that the senior side has got two wins on the board, the stiffs are losing again, as in yesterday's 1-0 home defeat by Darlington. The editors of GTFC's superb new official website seem to have found Jonathan Byrne's phone number again, as the writer of those surprisingly decent match reports earlier in the season has returned to give a good account of the game and himself, from which it seems that Jamie Clarke got Phil Barnes in trouble – with a dodgy back-pass for the goal, I mean, not that he got him pregnant. Luke Foulkes watchers will already have noted that the promising young full-back continued his remarkable run of appearances for the Mariners' reserves despite having been both released and then loaned to Boston United until January.
Lastly today, you can never have too many football messageboards, and for that reason the Diary is able to announce the arrival of GTFC-Forum – "built for the fans by the fans", it says. There are no adverts, which is always pleasing to CA's eye, so let's wish it every success at whatever it is that messageboards are supposed to do.
Wednesday 28 November
The FA can be justifiably criticised for many things. Allowing tabloid newspapers to run the England team. Spunking nearly a billion pounds on a new stadium and forgetting to add the grass. Destroying the uniquely rich and competitive nature of English football by disproportionately concentrating its entire wealth and power in the hands of its top 20 clubs. And, of course, taking absolutely bloody forever to address disciplinary matters – until now. Today's Grimsby Telegraph reports that the national governing body has already decided not to bring charges against the Mariners for the pitch invasion by Cheating Bradford fans at the end of their recent match at Blundell Park – just 32 days after the game took place. "The FA has noted the actions taken by Grimsby Town FC on the day and we have confirmed to Grimsby Town FC that no further action will be taken in this matter," says an uncharacteristically lively spokesperson. It's all a far cry from 2003, when Town's then assistant manager Grahams Rodgerses lost his rag as Stoke's Wayne Thomas went unpunished for a monstrous assault on Chris Thompson in February, and the FA decided not to throw the book at Rodge at a tribunal hearing in September. The Diary wonders if they can hold off on deciding about the England job until Villa fans' moaning gets Martin O'Neill the sack.
Failing that, we could do much worse than Fabio Capello. The Diary admires the dark Italian arts of catenaccio and tense, low-scoring, defensive football – which is why, when GTFC announced last night that the team would sport a one-off "special red and black kit" to distinguish themselves from Huddersfield in this Saturday's FA Cup tie, I was getting all excited and dreaming of Buckley's battlers running out looking like AC Milan. It has fallen to the Grimsby Telegraph, though, to clarify that it's only really the red that's special, as Town will take the field against the Terriers in all-red shirts "with the traditional black shorts and socks staying put". Aw, nuts. And there's nothing traditional about black socks, of course – though anything's preferable to those white ones we had the other year.
Staying with this Saturday's moderately exciting cup clash, the Mariners will not have to grapple with their languid former frontman Phil 'The Power' Jevons. Earlier this month the player joined Huddersfield on loan after finding first-team opportunities limited this season with Bristol City – now that he's back in the second division and everything. This raised the possibility of an intriguing rematch between Jevons and Town, but City manager Gary Johnson has refused permission for the Scouse stroller to play and become cup-tied. On the face of it this would seem no bad thing for Buckley's side – the player has scored 64 times since leaving Blundell Park in 2004 – but on the down side, this means a likely front pairing for Huddersfield of Luke Beckett and Danny Cadamarteri, and when Jevons came back to BP with Yeovil in February 2005 he was flipping hopeless.
Tuesday 27 November
No sooner had Danny North taken off his headphones and left the recording studio after Saturday's successful sessions on a new charity Christmas re-release of 'Perfect Day' than the re-energised Town striker poured his heart out to the world's media in a staggering revelation of North: My Not Getting In The Team Hell type stuff. Have you seen his Mariners World interview? Have you read the bit in today's Telegraph? After slipping out of the first-team picture at Blundell Park just a month into the season, the player admits to having "let myself go a bit" and entered a "downward spiral". The hat sported by young Danny in the MW footage does, it is true, lend him the forlorn air of a drying-out rock star, but the Diary is sure it's just to fend off the withering post-haircut derision of Lord Alan Buckley. After so swiftly completing his return from the depths of despair, however, no-one should be surprised if North were to develop a sideline career offering counselling and rehabilitation to troubled colleagues such as Stan Collymore and Pete Doherty.
It's 15 quid to get in at Huddersfield on Saturday. That is, Huddersfield Town Football Club will require prospective spectators of this weekend's FA Challenge Cup tie with Grimsby Town Football Club to pay fifteen pounds sterling by way of admission, not sentries will be posted at the entrances to the town asking you to cough up before they'll let you go any further down the A629. Although you never know. Anyway, I just thought I'd mention it, because the Diary has just this season started to be dissuaded from going to certain away games because of the ridiculous cost of getting in (I'm looking at you Rotherham – 20 quid my arse), and 15 for a third division ground is slightly less ridiculous, isn't it?
Monday 26 November
Poor old Barnet. They must wonder what they ever did to upset us, eh? Or, in particular, to upset Danny North, whose double in Town's 3-0 win at Underhill on Saturday means that, of his nine goals in first team football so far, five have been scored against the Bees. It's bad news for Phil Barnes and his tonsils, who appears to have a struggle on his hands to regain his first-team place in goal as another stunning performance from Gary Montgomery meant a second straight clean sheet for Town – after a run of 22 games without one – but North has described Saturday as his "perfect day". "Another clean sheet, three points for the team and I'm on the scoresheet twice. I don't know why but I've got a bit of a knack for scoring against Barnet," the 20-year-old striker has told the Grimsby Telegraph with endearing understatement. The result, of course, extends the Mariners' 100 per cent historical record against Barnet to five matches – all of which have seen the north London side fail to score. After some weeks out of the first-team picture, young Danny's stock has shot up quicker than a smack addict just escaped from rehab, and the player has rapidly become to Barnet what Straight Peter Bore was to Boston. Or what Simon Ramsden is to Grimsby, for that matter.
If, like the Diary, you watched Alan Shearer's Football Focus interview on Saturday (and then spent the rest of the weekend snorting hysterically at the thought of the England manager's job being given to the Geordie millionaire crybaby, who spent the second half of his captaincy of the national team standing around with his hands on his hips), then you too would have savoured the studio lighting showing up the scar on his upper lip. Next time Shearer and Mark Lawrenson are trading insight-free platitudes on Match of the Day, then, perhaps they could compare notes about their ill-treatment by Mariners defenders, for such is the flavour of the contribution made by 'Lawro' to a new book about the regrets of Merseyside-connected celebrities (come on, it's been a gap in the market for years). The Preston-born former Republic of Ireland defender explains that he has lacked his own front teeth since 1975, when he lined up for North End against Town. "When Grimsby won a corner I kept my eyes firmly focused to head the corner to safety," quotes the Liverpool Echo. "I did. But just at the crucial moment of contact I tasted a big, fat Grimsby elbow... bye, bye teeth." The Diary isn't sure how old Justin Whittle would have been at the time, but I'm not ruling anything out.
Friday 23 November
High guise! Durham Diary here, desperately fighting to keep my eyes open after the worst night's sleep in history. Well, after a crap night of lying awake unable to sleep, at any rate. And that's quite enough self-pity for today, thank you kindly.
Having amassed just a solitary point from the last eight league games, one might suspect Lord Buckalot might have had the odd sleepless night as well recently. Buckaroo's woes will not have been eased by Bollando contracting one of those horrible ankle hurty diseases on Tuesday, although by the sound of things the performance of the team at least would have made the Buckster's evening cocoa taste a little sweeter that night. Barnestormer is still feeling like a fresh lump of dogger on Bradley Pitches, so the Big Scary Montster will get another chance to impress between the sticks against Barnet tomorrow. Which is to say that he'll start in goal, not that there's some weird kind of inter-club slalom event taking place.
Town have loaned two players this week, bringing in 20-year-old defenders Sam Hird and Rob 'Not Ron' Atkinson from Doncaster and Barnsley respectively. The Grim Tel reckons both go into the squad for tomorrow, although both are likely to provide cover during their loan spells rather than replace the players we have already. With injuries, illness and suspensions all affecting the availability of Town's squad, last night's closing of the loan transfer window might turn out to be a real pane. Window? Pane? No, you're probably right.
I learned two very pertinent lessons on Tuesday night: firstly never bet more than you can afford to lose; secondly, never bet on something you want to happen. A five pound one-off bet in addition to a one pound 'accumulator' both involved Carlisle not losing to Grimsby inside 90 minutes. While six pounds may not seem more than one can afford to lose, it must be remembered that everything is relative and six pounds represented a significant chunk of my expendable income. This said, I didn't actually mind because of the fact that Grimsby beat Carlisle, which has led me to consider my future betting strategy. As of tomorrow I'll be betting either on Town to lose or to not win, depending on my expectations for the game. In this way I will receive a compensation payment from Bet365 every time I'm let down by my team. It's the ultimate in bet hedging and expectation management. I'll let you know how it goes; in fact with Town's current league form this might turn out to be quite a profitable little enterprise!
And only eight days 'til our next cup game. The unprecedented treble of Football League Trophy, FA Cup and fourth division promotion is still on. Come on you Mariners!
All of which brings me to the end of today's sleep-deprived ramblings. Hope you have a nice weekend, whatever it is you're doing. I'm, well, let's be honest: I'm going back to bed.
Thursday 22 November
It pissed it down all day and all evening on Tuesday. But Blundell Park's lovingly tended pitch remained in pristine condition, allowing both teams to play an open, passing game – unlike the match your Guest Diarist watched last night on BBC1. I suppose you all watched it with me, and I just thank my lucky stars that I put on me big coat and had the fortune to see a stand-out game 24 hours earlier.
Even the ref had a good game and the bloke from Cumbria's News and Star was well impressed with Town, and particularly Gary Jones:
Gary Jones, 32, was by a street the most influential player on the pitch last night. The reason why Grimsby can perform like this in cups but struggle so wretchedly in the league is a mystery in itself, but Jones' presence and awareness surely offers them a way out of the gutter.
I couldn't have put it better myself. No, I really couldn't, because if you read the remainder of this bloke's report you will notice that it is a rather fine piece of provincial journalism. Not like what that Grimbsy Telegraph churns out most of the time. Yes, the paper that can't even spell eponymously.
The tall striker had already brought a pile of anxiety to United's first half when he hit the post with a header and then drew a fine, diving save from Keiren Westwood in a matter of seconds. Then in the 62nd minute he claimed a splendid goal.
First there was a clever dummy which foxed Peter Murphy, and a dart into space which was rewarded by Danny North's neat backheel. Jones' finish was a triumph of technique, an inswinging shot with the outside of his right boot that bashed the bottom of the bar and fell into the net.
So while the FA board are busily shuffling deckchairs in Soho Square, Lord Buckley and his lanky, verbose, and just lovable cohort Mr Watkisses are desperately phoning round on this most peculiar deadline day for a centre-half. This is presumably in anticipation of many more lapses of discipline by Messrs Fenton and Newey. Wouldn't it be handy if they found one who could deputise at left-back as well, eh? As for right-backs we had one who lasted 20 years, but his successors only seem to last about a month so far this season, don't they?
The Grimsby Town official website authors seem confident that a suitable centre-half will be secured on loan by the end of the day. And those guys should know because Buckley's had to borrow their mobile due to the ongoing local difficulties with the phone system at BP (oh, so that's why we need a new stadium – the switchboard at Blundell Park is just knackered, friends). No, I have no idea who it will be and I made up the bit about the phones, although the idea that no-one went on Tuesday was because someone left the club phone off the hook is equally implausible.
Having tried and failed all afternoon to get through by telephone, I resorted to the superb new official website which invited me to buy my ticket online (to save time and queueing they said, or summat). Sadly the cup replay match had not been deemed fit to be presented as an option. In fact the only game I was allowed to buy a ticket for was the one last Saturday. I registered as an official prospective ticket buyer and received a curt yet fatal error message. Nil desperandum, because five minutes later I had an email congratulating me as a fully registered person. Not that it did me any good, because when I tried to buy a ticket for a match four days earlier it told me: "You are not authorised to view this resource." What I think they meant was that by buying a ticket for a match that has already taken place I would have had to do time travel and that would have got the Cardiff lot off the telly on my back.
Anyway, before I go, here is something funny out of today's Grauniad. See yer.
"When you have tackled the Gerrard v Lampard conundrum head on like I have," Big Mac tells the world's media with a reassuring smirk, "then believe me the Palestinian situation is something you relish." The Yorkshireman quickly gets to grips with the problem of accommodating "two absolutely top-class peoples who would walk into any other country on the planet" on the same tiny strip of grass by proposing that Hamas withdraws from Gaza because of a "wrist injury" and drafting in Mahmoud Abbas to play a holding role alongside Ehud Barak who is given licence to "roam about and blow things up". However, he singularly fails to solve the West Bank problem. A source close to Venables tells the News of the World: "I, er, sorry, Terry told him Stewart Downing didn't have the character to deal with Mossad but Steve just stood there swigging from a water-bottle and pretending he hadn't heard."
Wednesday 21 November
It was going to be the perfect build-up as Town travelled to Barnet on Saturday. "The team without a clean sheet in seven months faces the team that has never scored against them... something's gotta give!" But of course, rubbish old Grimsby had to spoil it again last night. Not only did the Mariners record a thoroughly deserved win over Carlisle Five: they also contrived to go 90 minutes without conceding a goal for the first time since 28 April, when Sir John McDermott was bidding goodbye to Blundell Park, Tony Blair was Prime Minister, and people in England were still free to inflict deadly diseases on public service and hospitality employees by smoking in enclosed public places. The only goal of the game, if you don't know by now, was scored early in the second half by Gary Jones following a superb link-up with Danny North. Both frontmen impressed – as did Gary Montgomery, who was called upon at late notice to keep goal after Phil Barnes withdrew with the poorly. In all the excitement of the build-up, a subeditor writing headlines for Carlisle's News & Star forgot that football matches aren't always won by the side 45 places higher in the Football League; young sub keeper Leigh Overton is having his name widely misspelt; and the Grimsby Telegraph's David Pye was so gobsmacked by the disparity between Town's league and cup form that he got his metaphors in a twist, urging the Mariners to "marry the two contrasting ends of their current spectrum". But, as Alan Partridge would say, let's not get bogged down in that whole gay hornets' nest.
So, Town having recorded their second FA Cup win since the first week of the millennium, another third division side awaits in the second round – and that would be Huddersfield, away, on 1 December. The Diary seems to think Town have a good recent record against Huddersfield. And when I say a good recent record, I mean this season, really.
And as if all of that isn't tremendous enough, Town have signed a player. Sam Hird arrived on loan from Doncaster yesterday, a 20-year-old defender whose only first-team start in his career so far came in Rovers' 2-2 draw at Blundell Park in the Dulux Cup last week. Hird was booked for unsporting behaviour after 69 minutes and substituted shortly afterwards, so whatever it was, let's hope he's said sorry.
Tuesday 20 November
Town's team news for tonight is fairly bleak if the BBC is to be believed – and when is the BBC not to be believed, apart from when it suggests that the Queen has had a barney with a photographer, or when it tampers with footage to imply that striking mineworkers at Orgreave charged the police when it was actually the other way round? According to Auntie's sport website, Martin Butler, Nick Fenton, Gary Jones, Paul Bolland, Isaiah Rankin and Danny Boshell are all out of this evening's FA Cup first round replay at home to Carlisle Five, but the club's superb new official website said yesterday that Fenton was still training and Jones "should be available", while Bolland would undergo a late fitness test. What, then, is the truth? And what is "truth"? It's whatever the Grimsby Telegraph tells you, apart from when it suggests that you can't leave your house without being mugged by 2,914 workshy asylum seekers who want to legalise gay adoption. For the time being, though, we can take the local paper at its word when it reports that, basically, Lord Alan Buckley won't know until an hour before kick-off who he's got available. "I really won't know until an hour before kick-off who I've got available," says Lord Alan Buckley.
Monday 19 November
Do you want to know the Diary's new theory? I thought of it the other day, while Town were being beaten by Morecambe. It's called the Half Time Against Rochdale Was The Tipping Point Theory. And it goes something like this.
Up until half time against Rochdale in mid-October Town's players had been playing really well all season without winning matches. It has been proven many times, by science and stuff, that this is a stressful and demoralising state of affairs which is fundamentally unstable and can proceed only for a finite period before the pressure caused by unequal forces on the pitch and in the league table causes an implosion. This is precisely what happened halfway through the Rochdale game. In the first half against Rochdale the players played probably their best football so far that season, and they still weren't winning. This was the point at which the implosion occurred, as the players collectively just sort of said "oh, for fuck's sake! GAH!" and lost the heart and will to carry on as before. Since then they've just been too demoralised and pissed off even to continue playing well. So now they're still not winning matches and they're playing shit as well. Except in cup games, where the destabilising pressure exerted by the league table does not apply.
What? What's that you say? That's all very clever, Diary, but how do we reverse the process? Ah. Well, I was just about to come up with that part of the theory when I was distracted by Dave Artell fondling Martin Butler's bum. You know the email address, though.
Anyway. Just before the name of Dave Mulligan slips our minds entirely, let's commemorate a very special achievement by the Scunthorpe full-back. True, Mulligan's loan spell with the Mariners earlier this season is unlikely to be remembered very much more fondly than those of, say, Mark Nicholls or James Lawson, and he may have been utterly useless against Chester City in the English fourth division – but he found his level at the weekend in no less grand a tournament than the World Cup, scoring New Zealand's winning goal after coming on as a second-half substitute as the Kiwis battled bravely back from a 1-0 deficit against the mighty Vanuatu. It is doubtful whether the Iron see Mulligan as the man to consolidate their impressive start to life in the second division – the player still has yet to appear for Scunny's first team this season – but with some home fans at Glanford Park having apparently booed their team off the pitch following a goalless draw against Leicester last month, it's nice to see that a peculiar sense of perspective isn't exclusive to this side of northern Lincolnshire.
Friday 16 November
They fuck you up, your Grimsby Town
They may not mean to, but they do.
They kill you with their going down
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
by fools who love to crow and gloat,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Town hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Stay to the end – you know you can,
And let Buckley just be himself.
Today's Guest Diary has been brought to you by the spirit of Philip Larkin; a hully-gully poet whom has joined the Town debate with a re-working of his poem 'This be the verse'.
Thursday 15 November
Justin Whittle is no ordinary footballer. It is notoriously difficult for a Grimsby Town player to endear himself to the club's fans, and all the more so when he arrives at Blundell Park from hated local rivals King$ton Communication$ FC, but Whittle has managed it in spades. Indeed, the proudest moment experienced by Town fans over the past few years was when Alan Shearer, following his tussle with Whittle in a 2005
League Cup game, next appeared on the BBC with the stitches still clearly visible in his lip. And there can't be many players who were bought out of the armed forces by Glasgow Celtic in 1994. It is fitting, then, that so singular a player looks set to miss the Mariners' next two games because of an unusually acquired injury. No, really, it is. According to Town's superb new official website, Whittle will have to sit out the forthcoming home matches against Morecambe and Carlisle Five "after turning his ankle during the penalty shoot-out win against Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night". And the Diary is buggered if I can think of another player who has managed to turn his ankle during a penalty shoot-out – not that I'd accuse the Sarge of feigning it, of course, and certainly not within his earshot.
Step away from your conspiracy theories! Danny North is back – and without the merest hint of a suggestion of an inkling of him signing for Leeds or anything untoward between Aidan Davison and Wayne Burnett. In Tuesday's draw against Donny the big-hearted young striker was given his first sniff of first-team action since the previous round of the Dulux Cup at Rotherham more than a month earlier, and most observers concur that Danny looked something like the exciting player they saw emerge towards the end of last season. "I knew I had to work hard and work my socks off all game to stay in the manager's thoughts," the player has told the Grimsby Telegraph. Now that Town are just two games away from the tournament's Wembley final, North goes on to reflect on the side's chances of lifting the trophy. "Now it's all League Two teams I think we have a chance," he says, unwinding a spool of twine with an unairworthy kite at the end of it. Things have changed since you were scoring hat-tricks against Barnet, Danny!
An email from Boston-supporting Diary reader Pete Brooksbank is always a welcome sight – and not just as a reminder that there's always someone worse off than yourself. "'Tis my sad duty to report that ex-Grimsby man mountain Tony 'Turning Circle' Crane has been suspended by Boston United today following an as yet undisclosed breach of the club's stringent and meticulously observed internal codes of practice," writes Pete. "Disappointing, since Crane, believe it or not, has been Boston's best player this season, but it's important that the club upholds its fine traditions of punishing those who show a brazen disregard of rules and regulations. I'm sure you agree." Yes – suspended as a prelude to his installation as chief executive, we must assume. "This has (I'd like to say 'co-incidentally', but let's face it, it's Boston) emerged on the same day that the loveable Pilgrims have been hauled before their 1056th FA disciplinary hearing in five years. It seems that ex-Hull utility blokey Tom Matthews apparently forgot to tell Boston that his registration was actually held by the Aussie FA. Strewth mate!" Insert your own Boston/convict jokes here, readers.
Wednesday 14 November
If you were planning to watch Town's reserves play away against Hull today, don't cross the bridge. Don't even go to Winterton, where the match was actually due to take place either. Because Town have rung the Tigers and cancelled. The official site was terse on the matter: "Today's Pontins Hoildays [sic] League game against Hull City has been called off at the Mariners' request. It has now been rescheduled for 13th February at 7pm."
Town won on penalties last night then, after a game that seemed full of incident. A match where one hopes Ryan Bennett learned the merits of playing to the whistle; when the Humber breeze helped Town score a second; when we gave away yet another fairly unnecessary penalty; and when, in the immortal pithy words of Lord Buckley, Nathan Jarman's attempt in a one-on-one with the Donny keeper was "fairly pathetic". The word everyone seems to be using to describe this last-gasp win is 'dogged'. Sadly, Jones the Lump went off injured after looking bright and effective in his partnership with young North. Your Guest Diarist can't find out yet whether his injury is serious or not.
So Town find themselves in the last four of the northern section and with teams that you would think we had a chance of beating. No doubt we will go out at home to Bury then. But that's not 'til after Christmas, so thoughts turn to Saturday's home game with Morecambe. This is an important match to win. No doubt AB will tell us on Thursday that all games are important, and that no game is that important. That it is ours to lose, and so on. But we have to start winning home games, and anything less than three points will ratchet up the nervous state of the average Town fan, and send the hysterical ones into messageboard-screaming abdabs.
The job on Saturday may be a tad easier if the opposition star player is crocked. Carl Baker, whom we should categorise under 'free-scoring midfielder', is a definite doubt with an ankle injury. This may be a cruel hoax. Or maybe he isn't even that good. More on this story later in the week.
The Grimsby Telegraph is running a voucher offer – if you get two tokens from this week's papers you can get in on Saturday for a fiver. Which is a bloody good deal, as it applies to any stand. Mr Bolland has been talking to the Telewag after last night's game, praising the team's improved workrate and character. He also strongly hinted that the Donny goalkeeper had been close to getting pulled up for coming off his line a time or two earlier in the penalty shootout. Bolland did well to despatch his second penalty, and had bottle enough to put it the same side.
As for Ciaran Toner, he was nowhere to be seen. Some say he was sick. Some said nowt. See yer.
Tuesday 13 November
Chris Lumsdon won't be eating at McDonald's anytime soon after admitting he had no appetite for Carlisle under the club's former boss.
You've got to love the tabloids, haven't you?
The schemer is determined to kickstart United's FA Cup campaign – but revealed he came close to quitting the Cumbrians under Neil McDonald.
In today's Mariners World interview Lord Alan Buckley remains in fine form – even if his team doesn't. The Town boss is pleased with his side's most recent performance, though, when an unexpected draw at third division high flyers Carlisle Five followed radical changes to the Mariners' line-up and formation (was Saturday the first time in at least 1,079 games as a manager that Buckley fielded a three-man defence? Enquiring minds need to know). Gently pointing out that tonight's Dulux Cup opponents Doncaster appeared in last season's final at the Millennium Stadium and not, as crack interviewer Dale 'The Lad' Ladson suggests, Wembley, Buckley sounds as relaxed as ever in explaining that Paul Bolland and Danny Boshell are a bit doubtful for this evening, Danny North hasn't been as good as last season and Straight Peter Bore thinks he should play up front. Tonight's formation and starting XI are anyone's guess really – as is the outcome; Town's three best performances this season have been against higher-division opponents, but they're sure to dob it up a treat now that the Diary has pointed the fact out.
Monday 12 November
Now then! Town's results so far this season have been rubbish, but not relentlessly so, as anyone who was at Blundell Park on the evening of Tuesday 4 September will grudgingly be forced to admit. As, indeed, will anyone who just used Ceefax to follow proceedings as Lord Buckley's men tonked third division Hudderfield by the increasingly astonishing margin of four goals to one. The West Yorkshire side are sure to be praying, then, that Carlisle Five will overcome the Mariners when the two sides meet in their FA Cup replay next week, as the winners will travel to Huddersfield in the second round. The replay will take place sometime next week (on "Tuesday 19th November", says Town's superb new official website, where they like to publish important information without checking that it makes the least bit of sense) and follows Saturday's, um, battling 1-1 draw at Brunton Park, when Tom Newey became the third Mariner in four games to be witlessly sent off as he gifted the Cumbrians their late equalising penalty with a deliberate handball. So could lightning strike twice? Well, according to Wikipedia, lightning strikes the Earth on average 100 times per second. Then again, according to Wikipedia, S Club 7's 'Reach' was composed by the late Ronnie Hazlehurst.
It's been a quiet few days in the Diary's inbox – except for an email from Wycombemariner which begins by quoting last Wednesday's Diary: "But I still like Ben's email, because it's calmly and clearly reasoned and doesn't say BUKCLY OWT in capitals 80 times." Why? "I wrote the said message that Diary refers too," claims our correspondent, presumably referring to a forum posting. In fact the Diary hasn't visited a football messageboard since about last December, so all messageboard postings portrayed in the Diary are fictitious and any similarity to actual messages is entirely coincidental – not to mention really quite funny. "I spelt 'Buckley Out' correctly and it was only 75 times not 80," continues WM. Well, that's alright then. In fairness, Wycombemariner admits "proceeding to lose the plot" after last Tuesday's defeat at Bastard Franchise Scum FC as "I went over it all again in my mind. Can you blame me? Did you witness the 1st half? It was enough to drive someone to murder, preferably Ciaran Toner's." Well, he got dropped for Carlisle, which is much the same thing.
Friday 9 November
Hi guys. Durham Diary here, definitely arrogant but hopefully not up my own arse. Or anyone else's for that matter, in fact let's try really hard to make today's diary a no arse zone, OK?
Everyone has their opinion on Mr Buckley, and everyone seems determined that everyone else should know exactly what they think about him. So how about this, I'll say briefly what I think, but I won't tell you that I'm right or that you're wrong. If you don't want to know what I think skip on to the paragraph about Carlisle, and hopefully we'll all be able to coexist in happy harmony.
So here goes: firstly, Buckley is almost certainly the most successful manager we've ever had. Three times he has promoted us, and he's the only person since 1980 to ever get us promoted. Never once has he relegated us, or any other club under his stewardship. This is no mean feat for someone who has been a manger for well over 1,000 games, and a statistic that shows the man deserves far more respect than he receives in some quarters.
Secondly, he has had a poor season. 11 points from 15 games is less than this club should be able to expect. All excuses aside, the buck ultimately stops with the manager, and therefore this season he has not been good enough.
Thirdly, Town do play good football under Buckley. Most of us would prefer, if results were comparable, to watch Buckley football than the bash and crash that we witnessed under Slade. The results in Slade's second full season were not, however, comparable to the current results. But let us not forget that in Slade's first full season we finished 18th, and this is Buckley's first full season (this spell!).
Let's separate the past from the present, but not neglect the fact that Buckley has proven himself to be a good coach and a successful manager. Results need to improve, which means ultimately Buckley needs to improve. Will we be relegated this year? No, I don't honestly think so. Will Buckley resign or retire? No, he is too proud, and has enough confidence in his own ability to believe he will turn things round. Will the board sack Buckley? No, they can't afford to. Should the board sack Buckley? No, I don't believe so. He is a good manager with a proven track record at a club crying out for a period of sustained stability.
The last thing to say is that, given the club are in no position to sack Buckley, what Grimsby fans need to do most is support their team, support the club, and support the manager. This applies even if you don't think he is the right man for the job. In this instance there is nothing constructive that can come from anything other than supporting the current manager through the team's current bad run.
Carlisle. CARLISLE! Woo hoo, you lot who have zoned out during all of that can join me again now. In fact I think I've zoned out too. FOCUS! Town play Carlisle away tomorrow in the FA Cup. Carlisle have been so good and Grimsby so poor recently that FA Cup tradition almost defines this as a victory for Town! I'd love to be able to tell you how to get tickets to support your team, in fact I'd love to know myself since I can get there for £12 return on the train, but the not so SNOS are still trying to tell you the next two away matches for which you can buy tickets are Rotherham and some dirty bastard scummers. Couple this with the fact that trying to buy tickets online from the Carlisle official website leads to some pretty horrible looking error messages and you're screwed!
Carlisle seem to think Toner is some hardworking, tough-tackling, flair showing Superman, so with any luck they'll detail five of their creative players to mark him out of the game! You never know.
Finally today, Town's SNOS is running an article telling anyone who bothers to read it that Luke Foulkes has joined our old chums Boston United on loan until January, when presumably he will be able to move there permanently. Current members of Boston's playing staff include Jonny Rowan, Matt Bloomer, and Tony Crane. Oh, crap! All that effort and then I ruin it by mentioning the arse in the last paragraph!
Thursday 8 November
The battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 can teach us a lot about football, gentle reader. The Norwegians arrived in about 360 longboats, but when those that were left went home, after promising never to be naughty again, they found they needed fewer than 40. Nowadays the other boats would end up as prizes on Bullseye, or being auctioned between middle-aged men on eBay (only used once in a smoke-free home, and look at my great feedback). But your Guest Diarist can't be arsed to find out what happened to more than 300 longboats in those long-gone days.
The Vikings had left their armour on board ship while they sunbathed and swam in the river. When King Harold surprised them, things looked grim. But luckily they had brought a berserker with them and he stood on the bridge for ages, twirling his axes and killing folks who came near and that. But a clever soldier on the English side rowed under the bridge and sneakily speared him from below. That was it then really. Carnage time.
So the young lads who were pressed into service for the reserves yesterday and got completely stuffed 9-1 at Barnsley should think about that defeat positively. A lot better than getting butchered on a four-day mini break near Tadcaster, eh?
Later that week Harold had to dash down to Kent to take on the bloody Normans who had shown up asking for a match. Two battles in a week too much for his lads? Well, it shouldn't have been – they dug in at the top of a big hill and played 4-5-1 for an hour. The Frenchies were fucked to be honest, against that solid shield wall, and were about ready to go home. And then, a self-important housecarl by the name of Leofwyne Fenton (or was it Gyrthe Toner?) buggered the job up by breaking ranks and charging. The discipline was lost; everyone joined in and got scythed down by the opposition cavalry.
But when the Town tapestry gets embroidered it had better not show Lord Buckley with an arrow in his eye. For you can tell your troops what to do until you are blue in the face – but will they listen in the heat of battle? Will they fuck! And then the story gets so distorted by nerdy binocular-wielding match reporters and doom-laden pathetically self-important messageboard nesbits everywhere that you struggle to remember how good the king has been. And still is. Harold was a perfectly good leader, in need of reliable and disciplined support from his troops. Buckley deserves a standing ovation for putting up with all this shit, not arrows in his hat. See yer.
Wednesday 7 November
Right, first of all, the Grimsby Telegraph, Milton Keynes Dons, as they are known to some people, are not "the side who made their name as the Crazy Gang". That was Wimbledon. Milton Keynes Dons are a different club, who happen to have stolen Wimbledon's identity and league position. Do you think you could just stop insulting football and its supporters and start recognising this really quite important distinction?
As sharper Diary readers may have figured out by this point, I'm really not in the bloody mood for it today, so I'll hand over to Ben Gresswell, who emailed a few days ago in response to, well, someone else who wasn't in the bloody mood either: Doldrums Diary, who expansively and fairly eloquently bemoaned the state of Grimsby and Grimbarians on this page last Thursday. Ben writes:
"At first I was a little shocked by the nature of today's diary but then after finishing my Quaker Oats Oat Bar I began to feel some sympathy towards how Doldrums Diary is feeling.
"As a regular visitor to Cod Almighty and especially the Diary (which automatically puts me into the 'bright' section of society – oh, and I don't live in GY either), I too have supported Lord Buckley through thick and thin. However, I do believe that we have a tendency to wear rose-tinted Buckley glasses and look back too often to our past glories. We will never forget the good that he has brought to our beloved club over the years but we must admit that Alan is a stubborn man who is not adept at shaking things up and ringing the changes. Playing attractive passing football is one thing. Playing attractive passing football and getting out (or staying in for that matter) of division four is another.
"Let's look back to our former glories with Al for a moment. When we secured successive promotions in '89–90 and '90–91 we had some absolutely top-class (at our level) players who played exciting, attacking football. Gilbert, Rees, Childs, Birtles, Futcher, Cockerill, Cunnington and McDermott to name but a few. I remember watching these players and thinking that every time we moved forward we could and probably would score. The same could be seen in the Wembley seasons of the late 90s. I don't see this today with our current squad however. Yes, they are capable of playing some pretty football but do we actually look like we are going to score? Well, no actually.
"I guess the point I am trying to make is that if we are going to survive or indeed thrive in this league, things have to change. Not necessarily the manager, nor so the chairman, but our tactics and to some extent our players. It would be refreshing for Lord Buckley to admit that our current system is not working. I can imagine that for a manager who has built his reputation of producing quality teams playing passing football that this will be hard for him to do but until he does, our beloved Grimsby are going to be staring at the basement trapdoor for some time to come.
"So, come on Al, most of us are 100% behind you and the team but even you would have to admit that it's not looking good at the moment. Swallow your pride, try something different. If you don't succeed, we can't blame you for not trying."
Personally I reckon it's bugger all to do with the system and the quality of the players, and everything to do with the slough of negative thinking that afflicts almost every set of footballers from time to time – and which the moan-for-most-of-the-game then leave-10-minutes-early to-avoid-non-existent-traffic nesbit minority at Blundell Park is exacerbating among the current team. But I still like Ben's email, because it's calmly and clearly reasoned and doesn't say BUKCLY OWT in capitals 80 times. What do you think? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org – if you've still got sufficient will to live to compose an email!
Tuesday 6 November
For most ordinary people, life is little more than the long hours of meaningless drudgery that the capitalist system requires of us in exchange for the basic necessities to sustain it. In other words, life is hell. But even its darkest moments may be shot through with rays of light. And so it is that, even as the Mariners follow up each successive low ebb with another, lower ebb, proving that even at the bottom there's always room to fall further down, Ryan Bennett has been put on stand-by for the England under-18 squad in their friendly against Ghana later this month! "It's a big honour for me to even be considered," the 17-year-old centre-half tells Town's official site. "When you look at the squad, there's one from the [second division] and a keeper from Huddersfield; the rest are from Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea." He's not actually in the squad, you understand, but when the game approaches and those duplicitous Premiership bastards order their players to pretend they're injured, young Ryan will be top of the list to step in and replace them.
Even this shaft of radiance could plunge the Mariners back into deeper darkness, however, because if Bennett is promoted to the full u18 squad then Buckley's battlers could be left up the creek without a right-back. Granted, GTFC may not have a fixture on 20 November – the day the England game takes place at Gillingham – but preparations for the weekend's visit to Barnet may have to go on without a defender in that position, as Shaleum Logan could play his last game for Town this evening at Bastard Franchise Scum. A preview of the match in today's Grimsby Telegraph says "it is understood" that the free-scoring loanee will be returning to his parent club Manchester City. "He goes back after tonight and I haven't discussed anything with Man City, to be honest," says Alan Buckley as the newspaper abdicates its journalistic responsibility to at least request from the manager an explanation of this seemingly perverse decision.
Do you want to know anything else about tonight? Martin Butler and Isaiah Rankin should both be back in contention while Bennett replaces Nick Fenton at the centre of defence (a switch that should not have had to wait, in the Diary's opinion, until the latter got himself suspended). I trust you're not planning to treat BFSFC as a legitimate football club – or indeed as anything more than the scum they are – by actually attending the match. No? Good.
Some of you were kind enough to email the Diary while I was away last week, giving me something to come back to other than relentless misery. There's a massive missive from Ben Gresswell, which will have to wait until we've got more space (ie. less news), but James Booth shortly and sweetly calls our attention to an article on the BBC website discussing potential stadiums for a World Cup in England in 2018. "What about the 'Harry Haddock Dome' at Grimsby?" asks the author Steve Boulton, whose brief was presumably to sap his readers' will to live. "Although this is (presumably) a joke," muses James, "if Positive John reads it he might get ideas for funding the Fentydome." Well, let's face it: if ever there was a man in need of a plan B, it's PJ.
"Just got back from Portugal on holiday," wrote David Elvidge. "While there I got chatting to two blokes from Walsall, who mentioned the standing ovation accorded to our manager at a get-together of former players." Yes – it's just a shame he has never received anything like the respect he deserves from 'supporters' of his current club. Buckley, I mean, not David; I'm sure David's popular enough. Elvidge, give us a wave! Elvidge, Elvidge, give us a wave! Boooo.
Monday 5 November
Little by little the night turns around.
As Town fall like a crumpled leaf onto the overgrown garden of despair it's Devious Deviant Diary contemplating a riposte to the rabid post-Rotherham ranters and recommending a sturdy lawnmower of love to help you through the day.
After Saturday's South Yorkshire pudding the pitchforks are out in spades. Ah, Nesbitboards, the emotional mulch of festering dead leavers and rotten vegetable men in the compost heap of Grimsby life. Why does anybody read them? It's like listening to six old drunks in a snug bar. Witness the man who wails at the wall and wallow in self pity if you wish, but shall we be calm and rational, just like Ciaran Toner? Calm and rational? How very unGrimsby. With a little luck we can work it out.
It's not all bad news for the women's team is sweeping all of Lincolnshire away in a Tsunami of goals. So that's where that elusive striker is.
Forward to the future: Town have been ordered by the Football League to play a professional football game tomorrow against a bunch of mercenaries in Buckinghamshire. It is not obligatory for our brave boys to hold their noses, but the stench may be overwhelming. It's Logan's last run but at least it's nearer Walsall, so Martin Butler may feel like dancing a bit more than he did on Saturday morning.
Remember that love is the shadow that ripens the wine. Let's give them some love now and again, eh.
Friday 2 November
Your Guest Diary has just wasted ninety minutes of his life fixing yet another obscure flipping Windows bug. So if today's Diary is a masterpiece of brevity, or even just short and shit then blame those twats at Microsoft.
I thought that my own career had some fairly unusual highs and lows but I take my hat off to that average coach but awful manager, Peter Taylor. From being boss of England (for one game admittedly) to manager of Stevenage is, what the journos would say, a rollercoaster ride. The down bit, especially.
Any road on to Grimsby Town, and the official site (which is both, erm, superb and new) has given us the injury and suspension breakdown ahead of tomorrow's game at Rotherham. Montgomery will replace the suspended Barnes in goal and it is expected that young Leigh Overton will be the sub 'keeper. Isiaiaih Rankin has had a 'stomach strain' all week and hasn't trained. Make of that what you will. The enigmatic ankle is still playing hard to get, showing nothing on an X-ray, but Bolland was having a scan on it yesterday. I expect there's a bit of floating bone playing hide and seek with the medics. I do watch House you know, so I am an expert in imagining what may be the trouble. The acerbic one-liners, I am still working on...
I don't think Bolland will play, so the midfield (assuming we go 4-5-1 in a tough away game) more or less picks itself. Lord Buckley said as much in his interview with Mariners World. He also sounded convinced that the poor run of results lately can be put down to the fact that "we never look fluent without the midfield trio of Bolland, Hunt and Boshell playing". Buckley paid tribute to the work rate this season of Rankin, but was forced to note that the goals ingredient was missing in his play. Yes, Alan, some of us had noticed. AB confirmed that Butler will play solo up front tomorrow, and the game should be interesting as those Miller boys have adopted a 4-3-3 formation lately to great effect themselves.
I have to meet a Scottish biker in Newark now, so that's yer lot for today folks. Let's hope for a battling point or summat tomorrow. Enjoy the weekend, and if you are off to the match, I hope you get something worth watching. See yer.
Thursday 1 November
There are some nice things about living in Grimsby. The relative absence of traffic, for example. The unpretentious friendliness of most of the residents. The fact that you can often go two or three days without hearing a Cockney accent. The absence of the 'I wish I were a cat so I could lick myself all over' sense of smug superiority that has infested the middle-classes of so much of the rest of the country. The possibility of enjoying a nice walk in the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and wondering why it is considered an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty when it has been Farmed to Shit. The sea. The history and romance of the fishing industry. Weelsby Woods. All these things are OK. However...
Some of you may have noticed that the football team is giving us a lot of grief at the moment. We are a Gary Henshaw's width away from the foot of what tends to be called the 'basement division'. We are playing Rotherham shortly. We will lose. Then we are away at that team who play if Milton Keynes, where we will lose. Now I love Alan Buckley, and I was fully in favour of his re-appointment, but I must confess I have been having my doubts. Last Saturday, when we decided the best way to play against a team with a centre-half in goal was to continue to play neat triangles in the middle of the pitch, and brought on the World's Smallest Man to play up front when we had a Goalkeeper Devouring Lump slavering on the bench, crystallised these doubts. In fact it reinforced my long-cherished theory that footballers and football managers do the job because thay are too thick to be spectators. If the referee hadn't distracted me I might even raised an eyebrow at one stage, maybe even uttered an oath under my breath.
I'm determined to continue supporting Buckley however, simply to irritate Messageboard Nesbits, who recently have been spouting – yes, spouting – the most appalling piffle simply to criticise the man. Here are some of my favourite quotes of the season:
"Buckley's style of play isn't successful and it never has been."
I may have paraphrased the last one slightly.
"I never liked him, even when he took us to Wembley."
"We aren't making any chances this season."
"His football is less attractive than we had under Slade."
"I am a know-nothing no-brained nesbit who hates Buckley because he has achieved something in his life and I never will, because I am a twot."
Now, I suspect that most people reading this Diary have two things in common. Firstly, they are pretty bright. Secondly, they don't live in Grimsby. These things are of course related, since people who are bright tend to take one look at Grimsby, say "hell, no" under their breath and take the first train to somewhere else.
This has had the result of making Grimsby a kind of Thick Ghetto. This is why the jaw tends to drop when reading a GTFC messageboard, or yesterday's front page story about the stadium which claimed that English Nature had reservations because "two Golden Plover lived there." Still, paradoxically, I love the place, and many of its people. I am Grimsby Till I Die. Next season, when Scunthorpe is the only Lincolnshire town with a Football League team, I will be irritable and distant, and friends will comment unfavourably on my mood.
By the way, Mr. Alan Buckley, I would imagine you are familiar with the Paul Bowles poem Once a Lady Was Here? No, PAUL Bowles. Not Stan Bowles. Well, the last line – "But yesterday is not today" – is one you'd do well to bear in mind when crowing about how great you are to the local press. I'm supporting you, but its gets harder with each passing (pun intended) defeat. I really do believe we are in big trouble here. Mind you, amongst all the other personality disorders I own and cherish (many a result of being brought up in Grimsby) I do have a pessimistic streak as broad as Tony Crane's pants.
Oh, before I go, do you find it unbelievable that John Fenty has said that he now has to find retail businesses to make the stadium project viable? Shouldn't he have done that beforehand? Now, no one respects our chairman more than me, and if I wanted a bag of kippers he would be one of the first people I'd turn to, but, as with Alan Buckley, sometimes one raises an eyebrow, Now I'm delighted he didn't appoint the then-available Danny Wilson or Ronnie Moore to manage Town, probably because he had never heard of them. Grimsby is an island afer all, and to appoint people from beyond the island would be just too avant-garde. And I'm delighted that he asked the judge if he could drive home after being banned from driving, which always makes me laugh when I think of it. In fact the man just delights me generally.
Forget I said anything. I'm abandoning this rant now, because I've just been told what Dave "Environmentally Friendly" Boylen said on Radio Humberside about birds last night (or may have been Jimmy Krankie – they look and sound so similar)... If I don't stop at this point I'll get into that, and our new goalscoring sensation, and Compass FM, and before you know it I'll have turned purple and have a vole as a best mate. Calm down. Deep breaths. Aaaaaaah. I'm in my special place now.