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Diary - April 2008
Wednesday 30 April
GTFC's torpid backroom team have decided that this weekend's visit to Hereford will be quite enough of the south-west for 2008, thankyou very much. It was reported last week that the Mariners would be taking part in a quite interesting-looking pre-season tournament in Devon this summer, but after the club's shrugging suits travelled to Devon to see how far away it is, they have deemed that the usual uninspiring kickabouts against Scunthorpe and Gainsborough will suffice instead. "The decision has been taken that the Mariners will not be involved," reads a statement on Town's superb new official website, using a passive verb construction to diminish any sense of responsibility for the move. "When we played Gainsborough last summer and realised we'd directed travelling Town fans to Southport instead, we had to turn the computer back on to correct our hideous mistake just when we were in the middle of our Ovaltine, so by playing them again this year we can keep things nice and easy by just copying and pasting from the same page," is what they could have added, but didn't.
Speaking of this weekend's trip to Hereford, which we were, the Bulls have responded quickly to their automatic promotion by cutting admission prices for the end-of-season party. Hereford, who have secured third place in the league despite a stadium that is more than 100 years old and an average attendance of 3,303 (cf. Town's: 4,115), announced earlier this week that a seat for this weekend can be had for £13 and a place on the terraces for £11. There is no specific information from the Bulls on whether the offer extends to Mariners fans, but one assumes this to be the case given that Football League clubs are compelled to charge visiting supporters the same price as home fans in similar accommodation. Except Town, of course, who charge home fans £16 to sit in the Pontoon and away fans £18 to sit in the Osmond. I really must get round to reporting them to the league for that sometime.
After Town's superb new official website reported yesterday that GTFC's women's team had secured promotion with their weekend win over Winterton Rangers, the Grimsby Telegraph has clarified the situation somewhat. The women, explains the Telewag, are not necessarily going to be promoted after all but "now have a chance of going up into the East Midlands regional division pending a meeting of officials to decide who gets relegated from that particular league". The Diary would have thought the the teams at the bottom of it would be a good place to start, but perhaps meetings of officials to decide promotion and relegation could be the best way forward. Someone tell the Premier League!
Lastly today we have, depending on your disposition, either a stirring story of the faith being placed by GTFC and Lord Alan Buckley in the local young players whose hearts swell with pride as they pull on the black and white jersey of the team they supported as kids, or a clever piece of spin designed to downgrade supporters' expectations of transfer market activity this summer. Just half a week after Town's heavy defeat at home to Peterborough had the manager alluding to major changes in the squad over the close season, Lord AB can now be found in the Telewag emphasising that "I'm keen to strive for more improvement from our young players as well." Uh-huh. "We have a lot of talented youngsters who have done well this season and that's not to mention the likes of Matty Bird, who I want to try and bed into the first-team squad," explains the boss. In fairness, the likes of North, Taylor, Bennett, Hegarty and Till are all young enough to continue to improve although none of that will fulfil the need for an all-round, box-to-box central midfielder and an inspirational team captain who can organise and genuinely motivate those around him. Something tells me Tom Newey is not really cut out to meet those latter criteria in the long term, eh?
Tuesday 29 April
First up today, cast your cares away, forget all the gloom of 16th place, and let a smile light up your face, for the Town are going up! A one-nil win over Winterton Rangers on Sunday has secured promotion for GTFC's women's team, reports the club's superb new official website on what seems to have been a tense top-of-the-table affair, the winning goal being scored by midfielder Charlotte Goodwin with 15 minutes left to play. A decent crowd of 200 turned out at Blundell Park for the match, adds the SNOS, which the Diary will be keeping an eye on in the hope of more coverage of GTLFC in the future, or at the very least of finding out which division the Mariners' women will be playing in next season now that they've climbed out of the Lincolnshire County Women's League.
A step back in time now, albeit not that far, as Town's latest mention in the media outside North East Lincolnshire comes in the Liverpool Daily Post and an interview with Danny Coyne. The Tranmere keeper enjoyed a couple of good seasons for the Mariners in the early part of this decade, of course, as our fishy heroes clung on for dear life to second-flight status a time he harks back to with a fondness that is barely perceptible. "The statistics for one season at Grimsby said I was making about eight saves in every game," says the player. "Looking back, that might have been an average right the way through. We stayed in the Championship so it was success as far as we were concerned." Not the fans though, Danny, who could be found on a daily basis filling messageboards with bile as they bitterly bemoaned Peter Furneaux's lack of ambition, accusing the then chairman of being content merely to preserve the club's second-flight status. It's like one of those Aesop's fables, except with Willie Falconer instead of a tortoise.
Continuing to see ourselves as others see us, let's have a quick look at Peterbororough's Evening Telegraph and its account of the Posh thumping GTFC at the weekend. On the debit side, it is unnecessarily cruel to point out that "Posh teased, toyed with and ultimately tortured a Grimsby side who looked bemused and befuddled long before the end", but the Diary admires the chutzpah of the reporter's claim that Peterborough are the fourth division's moral champions this season because their football is so much slicker and easier on the eye than the more direct fare served up by Bastard Franchise Scum. It's just like Town being moral winners of the Dulux Cup on account of being the last legitimate football club left in the tournament.
Staying with Peterborough for the final item of today's Diary, we have an email from an anonymous Posh fan who writes: "I have been an avid reader of Tony Butcher's literary masterpieces for a couple of years and logged on with great anticipation to read his description of Saturday's match only to find he was indisposed. I would like to wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to next year's offerings describing your promotion from the footballing abyss. All the best." Thanks, anonymous Posh fan! The Diary has been relieved to learn that Tony B is on the mend, albeit not as quickly as we would have hoped, but hopefully he'll be fit to bow out for the season with a masterpiece of taking the positives from Town's limp 3-1 defeat at Hereford this weekend!
Monday 28 April
When Lord Alan Buckley returned to GTFC in November 2006 and almost immediately loaned Peter Till from Birmingham and Martin Paterson and Anthony Pulis from Stoke, and all three players played a significant role in the easy 2-0 win over Accrington that followed, the Diary foresaw an era of improvement based on similarly prompt and effective activity in the transfer market. A year and a half down the line from AB's return, Town have climbed from 22nd to 16th in the league table and Ciaran Toner is still in the team. But the manager has at least responded to Saturday's trouncing by Peterborough by promising changes for the 200809 season "Conceding far too easily has got to be sorted for next season and that will mean one or two players may be leaving," is the quote on the club's superb new official website and at least it is widely acknowledged that Town's latest beating was at the hands of opponents who are clearly much too good for the fourth division. "The latest side to head back down the A180 with all three points are a class act," confesses Manchester United's David Pye in the Grimsby Telegraph. True, Darragh MacAnthony's cash has bought the Posh an excellent team, but if they did take the A180 then maybe they should invest in a sat-nav as well, since the best way to reach Peterborough from Cleethorpes by road is clearly to take the A46 through Lincoln and then pick up the A1 at Newark.
When Mansfield Town visited Blundell Park a little over two years ago, a group of Stags fans wished to display a banner reading "HASLAM WHERE IS THE MANSFIELD £MILLION?" in response to the money being taken out of their club by chairman Keith Haslam. Haslam asked his counterparts at Grimsby Town Football Club to prevent this peaceful protest and, ever eager to accommodate the requirements of other clubs, GTFC instructed their stewards to stop the banner being displayed in the ground. "Not that violence and intimidation are the Diary's style," I wrote on 17 January 2006, "but when peaceful and well-intentioned protest is unreasonably silenced you can almost understand why people sometimes go too far, can't you?" It gives the Diary almost no pleasure at all to learn that on Saturday Haslam was assaulted by an angry fan in his own boardroom, so in the same breath let's wish the dodgy get a speedy recovery from his minor injuries and Mansfield Town a successful supporter-endorsed takeover as soon as possible.
"This has to have been one of the strangest seasons for quite some time," writes Town fans and celebrity clap doctor Felix Oliver-Tasker in an email to the Diary. "I dread watching Final Score these days. At one point I was almost resigned to Town playing in the Conference, then suddenly we were knocking on the gates of the play-offs and playing in the Paint Ball Cup final and now we haven't won a match since. What's gone wrong? It can't be the revered Mr Buckley so it must be the players. Let's hope we can do better next season and get out of this horrible league. However, on a lighter note, we had a client last week who was sure he'd caught brucellosis from an Australian guy he'd picked up in the Walkabout bar. It turned out to be clap but he took a lot of convincing." Thank goodness there are sexually transmitted diseases to brighten Town fans' lives, eh? Always nice to hear from you, Felix, though I must confess to having had to Google 'brucellosis' to find out what it means. Still, it could have been worse. On some websites they'd have had to Google 'Australian'.
Friday 25 April
During the Second World War Desperate Dan did everything he could to stop those pesky Nazis. Examples of his will-to-win spirit, coupled with his prodigious prodigiousness, included skimming stones across the sea that sunk enemy ships and inhaling vast quantities of gas so he could fly into the sky and swat Messerschmitts down with his bare hands. In short he was a hero, albeit a perpetually hungry one. Your Guest Diarist relied heavily on Dan for entertainment in those sixties days before the Beatles introduced him to dancing and girls. Latterly my heroic figures have been closer to home: Livvo, Jones the Stick and Justin Whittle. This seems to have coincided with my loss of interest in dancing, although I wouldn't mind going to a northern soul session with Macca as it happens.
Sergeant Whittle's name has not been mentioned by either the official site or the Grimsby Telegraph as being in any way injured or otherwise unavailable for tomorrow's last home match of the season against Peterborough. So my fervent hope-against-hope is that Whittle will figure in the game, given that it is his last chance to be saluted by the Mariners faithful (all twenty-nine hundred of us or thereabouts) before the expiry of his contract with Town. Like Desperate Dan, Justin seems to belong to an earlier age when right was right, tackles could be a fraction late as long as you got a bit of the ball, and it was OK to inspire people by example. Oh, and eating enormous beef pies was a very good thing indeed.
Nowadays you can be locked up for trying to inspire people ("He invaded my space I need counselling!"). Why, they even took Dan's gun off him in the end, you know, and changed his character to that of a bumbling fool. But Dan will always be a heroic figure in my eyes daft as a brush but strong as hell, and always looking out for the underdog. Justin Whittle is not a technically gifted footballer, but he has a heart like a lion and he is a character to root for. He lifted my heart many a time after a dismal result by trotting over to the Pontoon to applaud the fans. And, of course, he 'did' Shearer in the most magnificent way. Even Desperate Dan would have been proud of that one.
We will have to be careful tomorrow or the away fans will outnumber us, as the Posh reckon they will sell two thousand tickets for the match without breaking sweat as they continue to dream of catching the BFS at the top of the table. In lieu of a factfile here are a few of the things that might have gone in it.
Town are 5/2 to win most places which is nothing like long enough, so have a daft punt on Jarman to score first at 11/1.
Town team news: Jones is recovering from his operation; Hunt is out with his Achilles; Till has a nasty twisted knee and is out for the season; North is back in contention, but Jarman must start (it's the law). Buckley has said he may well pick Peter Bore, although it sounds like not as a striker. Posh news: Liam Hatch is out with a bad knee but Shane Blackett might be fit enough to return. Tommy Williams might keep his left-back place after doing well against Hereford. All the forwards are ominous absentees from the injury and suspensions lists. Shit.
Refwatch: the ref is Mr Melin from Surry. We had him away to Brentford in December when, despite a decent away win, Tony Butcher felt he had to describe Melin thus: "This big drip was absolutely awful. He had no grasp of the basic concepts of physics, for he consistently interpreted falling Townites as failed foulers. His insistence on throw-ins being taken from exactly the wrong spot further back was his only idea of firm control."
Speaking of pies, the rumour is that tomorrow might be your last chance to get one at Blundell Park. It is the end of another era, it would seem: let's hope we get to give Justin a proper send-off. See yer.
Thursday 24 April
Does the name Henry Boot mean anything to you? A week after it was originally scheduled, GTFC have made their newest announcement on the club's proposed new stadium at Pyewipe, and as tends to be the case with official announcements from GTFC, it raises more questions than it answers. The gist is that the High Court has declined a request, made in February by somebody called Henry Boot, for a judicial review of its planning permission. Who is Henry Boot? We are left to do some Googling and discover that he/it is the person/company behind a new £30m retail development in Grimsby town centre. Why didn't the club or the Grimsby Telegraph report the request until now? It's apparently put back the whole Fentydome project by another half a year, but again we are not told. "The last six months since the council determined the planning application for the club's relocation to Great Coates has been surreal," John Fenty (Con) told the Mariners' superb new official website, as a floppy clock folded over the branch of a nearby tree.
GTFC's communications team were rather quicker off the mark when the local media in Devon reported yesterday that Town would be taking part in a pre-season tournament this summer down in the south-west, alongside Crystal Palace, Hereford, Kidderminster and local non-League outfits Torquay United, Bideford, Eastleigh and Clevedon Town. Forced to actually tell us something for once instead of discovering it from other sources, the superb new official website wiped the sleep from its eyes to emphasise that Town "have not confirmed they will be taking part" following a visit to Devon by club suits on Monday. "A potential drawback could be the six-hour journey down to the south coast," explains the SNOS, neglecting to remark that they could have worked that out from the RAC routeplanner website without needing to send Dave Boylen down the M5 with a stopwatch on his dashboard.
While Town fans continue wonder where the first XI's next point is coming from, the reserves rounded off their season with a battling 3-2 win against Lincoln yesterday afternoon. As the SNOS explains, "The Imps took the lead through trialist Neil Harvey" (the Imps actually fielded a starting line-up composed entirely of trialists), but goals from Danny North and Straight Peter Bore gave Town a second-half lead. Lincoln pulled back to 2-2 on the hour but Andy Taylor popped up late on with the winning goal. Hooray! Let's see if the first team can do likewise on Saturday, eh? Ta-ta for now.
Wednesday 23 April
Today's Grimsby Telegraph breaks up the boredom of a close season that began at Easter by going into quite unnecessarily graphic detail about the fabulously gruesome operation undergone this week by Gary Jones as the big frontman looks to get his dodgy ankle back in working order and win a new contract with the Mariners. If you want to read it word for word you'll have to go to the Telewag's website, as your squeamish Diary hasn't turned so deathly a shade of green while reading medical reports about Town players since poor Darren Mansaram "ripped something off the bone" in August 2003.
The Diary, as you know, can be fairly unforgiving of errors on Town's superb new official website. And, let's face it, there are plenty of them to be fairly unforgiving of. You will find no criticism here, however, of today's piece on the SNOS about the reserves' final league game of the season at Lincoln this afternoon. OK, so there's no explanation of why Gary Montgomery isn't in the line-up despite featuring on the bench for the first XI's trip to Bradford at the weekend. And there are 14 players named in the team, with no indication of who will be substitutes and who will start. But the piece points out that "Danny North gets another run out as he continues his recovery from injury, and local youngster Craig Norman gets another chance to impress Stuart Watkiss". It tells us where Town's and the Imps' reserves teams stand in their league table. And to guarantee empathy and indulgence from the Diary most of all, it was posted on the SNOS at something like half past midnight last night. It is important to maintain high critical standards, but at the same time it would be pretty harsh to apply them unbendingly to someone who's still doing their day job while you and I are tucked up in bed dreaming about last-minute points deductions for Peterborough, Bastard Franchise Scum and a dozen other clubs unexpectedly catapulting the Mariners into the automatic promotion places.
No such leniency is found at the keyboard of Diary reader Alan Warren, who has emailed regarding the SNOS's recent announcements, non-announcements and meta-announcements about GTFC's proposed new stadium on open land at the far edge of Grimsby. "When we have cleared up some of the remaining issues and technicalities we will share the latest update publicly," quotes Alan from the SNOS, asking: "Does this mean they just need to learn how to turn on and use the spell checker in Microsoft Word?" That and convert the web server to run on mains electricity rather than the generator connected to the treadmill used by that retired donkey from Cleethorpes beach. See you tomorrow!
Tuesday 22 April
What's Peter Till's best position? For Birmingham City reserves he often used to play up front. Alan Buckley signed him to play as an orthodox right winger. And for most of the last three months or so he's played as a withdrawn support striker, in the hole that Kingsley Black disappeared into sometime during 2000. But for the rest of the current season Till's position is likely to be nothing more than horizontal, due to the nasty knee injury picked up by the skilful 22-year-old striker/winger/support forward in the process of opening the scoring at Bradford last Saturday. At the very least the player will miss the final home game of the season against Peterborough this weekend, as Town physio Dave 'The Rave' Moore has told the Grimsby Telegraph that the injury "looks like it's medial ligament damage... As for playing again this season, I wouldn't think Peter has a great chance." Let's hope that by the time the lad comes back, the Buckster has brought in an all-rounder for the centre of midfield, so the team can get back to 4-4-2, Till can get back to his best position wide on the right, and somebody can actually pass the ball to him.
GTFC have made an announcement about the club's proposed new stadium. The announcement announces that the announcement announced by the previous announcement has not, in fact, been announced, and will now be announced later. Watch this space for further announcements.
"I was most pleased to read Tetney Diary slagging off of all and sundry on Friday," wrote Ben Gresswell in an email back on Friday afternoon, "as that was exactly what me and my mate had been doing in the office up to the point where I broke off to do some work (aka reading the Diary). Nobody was exempt. We had Fiona who looks like a female Harry Potter and is teacher's pet (such a swot), then we moved on to Steve who is Harry Potter and the other teacher's pet (big time swot). Then we got to the boss who thinks she's God's gift but in fact is a fat-arsed dumpling with a beard! Not to mention Dave who looks like a pervy BFG and has long fingernails. Even Kris couldn't escape. He's the nicest guy in the world, that's why we slagged him off. You can be too nice you know. Anyway, like Tetney Diary no doubt, I feel a lot better for this childish exercise and will now enjoy my weekend. I'm sure I will be nice to everyone on Monday (but not too nice!). Here's looking forward to the end of this season and the start of the next which might actually mean something to someone. Oh, and Yorkies or not, here's hoping that Rotherham find a buyer." Amen to that and there've been some positive developments on the latter, I believe. How's this week then, Ben? Is there anyone left to slag off, or do you just go back to the start and begin again?
Monday 21 April
Almost-fit striker Nathan Jarman has told the Grimsby Telegraph he is "sick to death" of the disheartening string of defeats that has seen the Mariners plunge, in less than a month, from ninth to 15th in the league table the same position in which they ended last season. While Jarman again caught the eye at Bradford on Saturday, and Alan Buckley's team performed well as a whole, Town recorded their eighth defeat in the last ten games thanks almost entirely to two bad mistakes by Tom Newey. While the manager has acknowledged quite forcefully that his left-back was in error, Newey's display at Valley Parade is far from the only stinker he has had in recent months, yet Buckley has persisted in selecting the player. Jarman at least sounds like he's got his head screwed on the right way, though so ne'mind about missing the play-offs we'll finish in the top 10 and build some confidence going into next seaso... oh.
Last Tuesday, when GTFC announced that there would "HOPEFULLY" be an announcement about the club's proposed new stadium last Thursday, the Diary playfully offered odds on a range of names being revealed as the 'anchor tenant' required to get the Fentydome and its outdated, unsustainable concept of exurban retail and leisure development up and running. Four days on from last Thursday the club is still to make an announcement of any kind even one announcing that the announcement was postponed and would be announced later on instead. Things really do look bleak for the project if even Mad Harry's developed cold feet.
"Thank you for honouring me with a page on your site," writes Dave Chambers, who last week penned an excellent piece all about why we should still be happy even though everything is rubbish. "I will forward it on to all my mates. On a more serious point, was there supposed to be an announcement about the new stadium? And if they wasn't I hope you are going to make a big point about it. I'm absolutely bored of the club's constant teasing on this issue. What happened to the days when we were promised news of the weekend's team and the sniff of a signing?" I think it's all on Mariners World now, Dave a snip at just four quid a month and free hairdryer sound effects with every interview.
"I'm sorry, I fell asleep. Did we work out what the news on the new stadium is?" writes Durham Diary in an email. Well, not exactly. DD goes on to remind us that GTFC have postponed the forthcoming 2008 v 1998 exhibition match and has spotted method in the SNOS's punctuation madness. "Good to see the club has realised that of the players on either side set to appear, only John McDermott is a legend. It would have really annoyed me if they'd called it a 'Legends match', since none of the others are, but by calling it 'Legend's match' they are rightly accepting that the match exists for his McDermottness alone. Good on them. Wonder how it makes all the other players involved feel." It still amazes the Diary that the club originally scheduled the match to take place before the current season ends although at least it was only going to precede the chronological end of the season on 3 May, rather than the actual, effective end of the season on 4 March.
Friday 18 April
"Bottom of the Barrel Diary looks forward from deepest Tetney to Town's electrifying encounter at Bradford on Saturday" were the final words of yesterday's Diary, but I'm pleased to say that the editorial policy of CA has always been somewhat laissez-faire and today you will be treated to the same old gubbins as usual. Having said that, on Tuesday night a site bigwig told me that I was on no account to mention Daryl Clare or badgers, so brutal undemocratic censorship has reared its ugly mug. Fascists. Yeah.
So... 'Common People' by Pulp, eh? Do you know what really irritates me about that song? It's the bit where it goes:
You'll never live like common people
How about reading a book? The library is full of them, and it's free! Then perhaps you wouldn't fail, your life wouldn't slide out of view, and you might not end up such a worthless tosswit. And what does Jarvis Cocker know about common people anyway? His mum in all probability John Fenty in a dress is a Tory councillor. He was brought up in a big house. He's just patronising the working class. That's what he's doing. And yes, I know the song was released over ten years ago, but I've been too angry to talk about it until now.
You'll never do whatever common people do
You'll never fail like common people
You'll never watch your life slide out of view
And dance and drink and screw
Cos there's nothing else to do
So... John Fenty wears a dress? No he doesn't, and neither does Alan Buckley. Did you see the Buckleymeister's comments after the Wycombe match? Supporters should get real, apparently, because our budget is tiny compared to some other fourth division clubs. Whoa whoa whoa, hang on a second. Wycombe? Entered the league in 1993 after being a non-League nobody since dinosaurs roamed Freeman Street? Never been anywhere or achieved anything? Well, let's put the footballing giants of Wycombe to one side for a moment and look at the table. Who else is above us? Morecambe. Hereford. Rochdale. All the big hitters. Rotherham were as well, until the Mighty Axe of Deduction fell, and they clearly haven't got a pot to put peas in. In terms of attendances we are ninth in the league, which isn't bad for a team who haven't been in the top nine all season. We've been to Wemb-ley and sold lots of shirts. Yes, yes, I know, tax-debt, ITV Digital, whatever. But still. And didn't Fenty say last year that we had one of the biggest budgets for players in this division? Well, I'm sure he did, but this is Cod Almighty and 'research' is a dirty word so you'll have to take my word for it. Makes you think though, doesn't it? No? Oh.
So... let's start a campaign! CA is produced by two or three very clever people, all of whom can write. The Telewag has three regular columnists. A lady with glasses, whose column consists mainly of funny emails her friends have sent her, and incisive comments on matters of the day such as 'someone should tidy up this litter' and 'killing people is wrong'. Then there's sports photographer Geoff Ford, whose brain works with the speed and agility of a snail getting out of bed in the morning. Then there's a doddery old chap with alzheimers. Why not replace these three with the Cod Almighty people? Then you could enjoy CA Diary-style excitement every day on hard copy! You'd never have to read Geoff Ford or the other two again! Written word nirvana! Dreamland! Email your MP. The Cleethorpes one, mind, not the media-luvvy one who couldn't find us on the map as it's so long since he's been here.
Right, that's everyone slagged off. Good job my wife is a lawyer. I'm off up the road to badger Daryl Clare.
Thursday 17 April
"Grimsby Town goalkeeping coach Steve Croudson stepped back between the sticks for the reserves at Blundell Park yesterday and helped the second string to a 1-1 draw against south bank rivals Scunthorpe," reports today's Grimsby Telegraph. That's nice, then, isn't it? A battling draw against that lot down the road, with a key role for Town's former keeper, who once spent a month on loan at Glanford Park, of course, while under contract with the Mariners. The bench featured a couple of trialists, and the club's superb new official website features a few words from Stuart Watkiss, who explains that "Mark Gray is under 16 and playing in the reserves and doing very well. Jamie Steel and Drew Rhodes, both midfield lads, are starting to form a good partnership in the centre of the park", while hang on... what? Grimsby Town goalkeeping coach Steve Croudson? When did that happen? Why did nobody tell us? Last thing the Diary heard, he was running a pub. Next week will the Telegraph and the SNOS casually slip in remarks to the effect that Ronnie Bull, Paul Agnew, and the landlord of the Honest Lawyer have been secretly giving extra one-on-one coaching to Tom Newey?
So who are these trialists? One is Tom Griffiths, who a quick spot of Googling reveals to be a member of Doncaster Rovers' youth team with a suitably entertaining Bebo profile and a tenuous grasp of numeracy. "Describe yourself in five words," asks a Q&A thing on Donny's official website, the five words being "Ginger, slow, massive nose". The other is Craig Norman, position unknown, described by the Telegraph as a "local player" and the SNOS as a "local boy" and a "local lad", hopefully in reference to his nearby upbringing rather than a penchant for spending every waking moment down the pub.
Staying with the young 'uns, good news has emerged regarding Ryan Bennett's international exertions. Although the FA's report on England under-18s' match against Austria last night mentions a slip by the Mariners centre-half, our lad played a full 90 minutes for the national team, which presumably contributed to his side's clean sheet in a comfortable 2-0 win. Maybe the attendance of 2,306 helped him to feel at home.
That's all for this week from your regular Diary, but do pop back tomorrow as Bottom of the Barrel Diary looks forward from deepest Tetney to Town's electrifying encounter at Bradford on Saturday. T'ra!
Wednesday 16 April
Today's Grimsby Telegraph headline "Buckley vents fury at fans" seems to the Diary profoundly and wilfully misleading, as the Town manager's response to his team's latest defeat includes only the mildest of retorts to a small number of spectators who voiced their disgruntlement last night. Indeed, it can only have been a small number of spectators, since the attendance at Blundell Park to see the side go down 1-0 to promotion-chasing Wycombe dipped to its lowest for a league game for 20-odd years (probably, if I could be arsed to look it up). Citing the lack of resources available to build a team, a not-apparently-all-that-furious Buckley told the press: "It's a very difficult job and it is a shame one or two people who probably would have been first on the bus travelling to Wembley don't understand that." It is also a shame one or two people at the Telegraph, which did very well out of inflating the significance of Wembley and distracting everyone concerned from Town's important programme of league fixtures, seem happy to relieve their end-of-season ennui by stooping to shit-stirring hyperbole.
And if I hesitate be kind, cos in the darkest night I know the sun shines. The Telewag does rather better, in the absence of an update from Town's superb new official website, in informing us that Ryan Bennett has made the starting line-up for tonight's England under-18 friendly against Austria. With 36 starting appearances for the Mariners behind him, the London-born central defender, who turned 18 last month, will kick off tonight's game alongside teammates from some of the four big rich clubs out of that Premier League who win things. "Getting the call-up to the squad was amazing but to be starting my first game in an England shirt is unbelievable," enthuses our lad, already displaying a firm grasp of the sort of adjectives players are expected to produce at the highest level. Good luck, Ryan!
I'm told there are many readers who have been concerned about the gloomy tone of the Diary this past week or two which is kind of touching and Dave Chambers has gone so far as to write a smashing little piece about why things aren't so bad. So subversively uplifting are his reflections, in fact, that the Postbag (remember him?) has already started to receive emails from miserable Mariners demanding that Dave and everyone else claiming to be a Town fan must follow their example by reverting immediately and irrevocably to wearing a face like a wet weekend at all times. Nice work, DC!
Lastly today, Alan Warren has emailed to take issue with the Diary's use yesterday of the term 'focus group'. "Get a grip, Mr Diary!" he urges. "I thought Cod Almighty was an advertising and marketing bullshit free zone!" I'm sorry, Alan you're right. Thanks for putting us straight. With brand awareness like that, you could be a key driver in facilitating the deliverables of CA's new branding and marketplace refinement steering group!
Tuesday 15 April
"The play-offs may be out of reach but people are still paying to come and watch us and it's up to us to perform." You said it, Lord Alan Buckley! The Diary empathises strongly with Town's heroic team manager ahead of tonight's kickaround against Wycombe, as it must be a forlorn task trying to motivate a team that no longer has a chance of promotion. Let's face it he seemed to have enough trouble motivating them when they still did have a chance of promotion.
So will there be anything worth seeing at Blundell Park this evening? Matthew Bird watchers will have their binoculars focused on the groin of Rob Atkinson, because with Ryan Bennett away on England under-18 duty, Town's 17-year-old centre-back could make a full debut if the Barnsley loanee fails to recover from the injury that has recently afflicted him in that area. And young Matty will have to be on his mettle if he does, as Buckley's assessment of the Chairboys in today's Grimsby Telegraph fully acknowledges. "You just look at the lad Scott McGleish who has 25 goals this season, which is fantastic. They are still fighting for promotion and that may bring out the best in us," says the manager, clutching frantically at a nearby packet of straws.
"HOPEFULLY we will have some news regarding Grimsby Town's proposed new stadium at Great Coates this Thursday," says the briefest of news items on Town's superb new official website today, leaving the Diary uncertain as to whether the SNOS has suddenly started observing the stylistic convention of newspapers to render the first word of a story in capital letters or is just hedging its bets. You can have 250/1 on Ikea coming in as anchor retail tenant, 33/1 on B&Q, 5/2 on Mad Harry or even money on another announcement later.
Rob McIlveen has been following links from the Diary again, still isn't happy with what he finds, and has emailed again to jolly well say so. "Idle Theory just has to be the work of sixth formers who scraped five grade Cs, and are only staying in education because Blair/Brown is paying them to do so. It's that, or you're a mischievous bugger who's anticipating a slow news day, and you know that some of your readers will follow your links and be sent apopleptic by them!" Rob, you're such a pushover! But isn't every day a slow news day with the Mariners right now? "Well, this regular reader demands the Dairy himself explains what is remotely interesting about this: 'Idle Theory is an exploration. It does not pretend to be either complete or authoritative. It doesn't even claim to be right.' Come on Dairy, sort it for them. They clearly don't know what they fuck they're talking about." Possibly not but nor does the Dairy, for that matter, and unlike me at least they're not pretending otherwise. Anyone fancy a yoghurt?
Finally today, literally one of you has emailed on the subject of Cod Almighty's proposed expansion to our range of quality apparel. "Yes, dear Diary, I think a 'Sarge' T-shirt would be great," writes Ben Gresswell. "Just as long as there is some sort of reference to him battering Shearer on it. I hate that Geordie bastard." Thanks for being our focus group, Ben watch this space.
Monday 14 April
When you support a team that will never win anything worthwhile now that football has been made boring by the rich clubs, you have to take pleasure in smaller, symbolic victories. Victories such as the blood of Alan Shearer the living epitome of boring, rich club football being spilt on your pitch. For this, and for nearly 150 displays of grit, mettle and endless commitment to the cause, Town fans will always be grateful to Justin Whittle, who is being released by GTFC at the age of 37. Since the turn of the century, as successive managers have gambled and failed on the quick fix of loans and short-term contracts, an enormous number of players have played for Grimsby Town. But Whittle is one of the few who have earned the right to be called, in the fullest sense of the term, a Grimsby Town player. Thank you and good luck, Sarge: the Diary salutes you.
On the same subject, Cod Almighty's ruthlessly corporate fashion subdivision has asked the Diary to take soundings about the Justin Whittle T-shirt they've been talking about for ages but never got round to producing. Would you be interested in buying one, readers? The cash raised, of course, will go towards keeping this site online and ad-free, with any extra heading into GTFC coffers via shares and sponsorship type stuff. Email email@example.com if you fancy a bit of Sarge on your pectorals, and I'll pass it on to the relevant bods.
Town's superb new official website, on the same page as the Whittle news, has also clarified the contractual status of Danny North. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. Turns out that the club's top scorer was due to be out of contract this summer, but he's decided to activate a clause that allows him to extend his deal by two years once he's started 30 games. There is no word on whether Town would have offered him new terms had North not himself opted to lengthen his existing agreement with the club in this way, but we can probably assume that they would.
Difficult though it may have been to believe for anyone who wasn't there, some good came out of the Mariners' effortless home defeat to Rotherham on Saturday. As his teammates continued their relegation form by shrugging their way to a sixth failure in eight games, highly rated young defender Matthew Bird made his first-team debut with a 12-minute appearance as sub, and has been breathlessly recounting the tale to the Grimsby Telegraph. "It would be great to get a starting role before the end of the season," concludes the Grimsby born-and-bred teenager who could well get a starting role against Wycombe tomorrow night, what with Ryan Bennett being away on England duty. Given the team's recent run of performances, in fact, Lord Alan Buckley might as well give the entire reserve team a run-out on Tuesday and name himself and Stuart Watkiss on the bench.
It is on the subject of Bennett's absence tomorrow or, to be precise, on Town's official announcement of it that Neil Drakes has emailed the Diary. "According to the OS," he writes, "Alan Buckley is going all urban he's letting Ryan Bennett join up 'wit' the England party. Wicked brethren, Grimsby massive and so on." Yes and some might question the wisdom of releasing an important member of the team when injuries have deprived the manager of several other key playas. Pimp my ho, mofo!
Today's Diary was brought to you by The Airfields' amazing cover version of the Field Mice classic 'Sensitive', by Idle Theory, and by a hot water boiler that has finally given up on life. See you tomorrow!
Friday 11 April
Your Guest Diarist's biggest weakness is a tendency to feel sorry for opposition fans. A secret empathy with Boston folk, for example. And now Rotherham. A recurring bout of c.difficile administrationitis is the nastiest of afflictions even when it happens to a Yorkie rival. A bug that relegates you one season, you get over it, and then it comes back to completely screw your play-off chances the next, as in the case of the Millers, has got to be tough, eh? And yes, I will now admit that I went to Barnet earlier in the season secretly hoping the poor buggers scored against us and got a point or summat.
That's my trouble; I'm just not one of life's winners I'll take an exciting 0-1 over a drab 1-0 any day. No doubt scorn will be poured upon me for having the temerity to say that I think Town have had a typically Town season: occasionally really good, often dire, another brief blink in the spotlight of publicity, skint and then saved again to play out the dog days of the season in mid-table obscurity with the overdraft just about under control. I happen to think that's pretty good really, given the paucity of our week-to-week support and consequent financial constraints. We won roughly as many as we lost, and we live to fight another day. Same old same old, and long may it remain that way. Ambition gets you nowhere unless it is plausible and funded. Ask Mr Huxford.
So now we are at home to Rotherham, whom anybody can thrash since they got the admin disease. But Town are on an awful run too, and the injury situation has not improved. Lord Buckley told Mariners World that, at worst, he will be down to his last 16 players from which to choose tomorrow's starting line-up. Bolland (thigh), North (tendonitis) Atkinson (groin), Whittle (old and knackered) and Hunt (Achilles) are all limping about about apparently. Sorry Justin, but I can't seem to find out what is actually wrong with you, mate, but your gaffer says you have a problem. The Lump was sick earlier in the week, but is now better, and Till's hamstring is alright now as well. All of which is good news for young Matty Bird of course, although it would be a baptism of fire against those big rough Rotherham lads I fear.
Young Ryan Bennett, though, has been released by his manager to go and join the England U18s for their match next Tuesday. Buckley admitted, given Town's nothing-left-to-play-for state, that it would be churlish to do otherwise. Amazingly, Rotherham have a player in that squad as well: goalkeeper Mark Oxley. Young Oxley is a bit small, but very very good, I'm reliably told. Ryan Bennett, interviewed by the redoubtable Dale in celebration of the call-up, can't wait to stop talking about this season and get on with things. An enthusiastic, ambitious young man who wants to be bigger, stronger, faster and better. Who is not surprised that the next England shirt he pulls on will not have been bought at the shop. I should be more like him, I really should. Let's hope he gets a game. See yer.
Thursday 10 April
Is it just me, or is all this shenanigans at Birmingham actually dead exciting?
Welcome to Thursday's Diary, readers. As Town's floundering first team looks set for an anticlimactic lower mid-table finish to rival last season's anticlimactic lower mid-table finish, the reserves have given them a timely lesson in playing like you give a stuff. Contrary to widespread expectations OK, my expectations Stuart Watkiss's side ran out 3-2 winners away to league leaders Sheffield Wednesday last night, coming back from a two-goal deficit at half time to end a run of three straight defeats. Straight Peter Bore made it 2-1 with a header and rookie midfielder Drew Rhoades blasted an equaliser from 30 yards, reports the club's superb new official website, before Andy Taylor put away a last-minute penalty following a foul on Nathan Jarman as he was "reproducing a Cruyff like moment", presumably meaning that the former Barnsley youngster wrong-footed his marker by shaping to cross and then dragging the ball back between his own legs and turning through 180 degrees before chain-smoking 40 cigarettes.
Before your regular Diary calls it a week and hands the reins to Guest Diary for tomorrow's juicy round-up of GTFC gossip, there's just time for an email from David Elsey. David points out, a propos of yesterday's Diary, that "Kev, Dave and Andy weren't the only local Moores, as Roy is their father and Norman his brother." Thank you, sir. I would ask where Dallas fits in to all of this, but someone would only mention Garrison Southworth turning out to be the long-lost brother of Miss Ellie.
Wednesday 9 April
Many a Moore has made matches for the Mariners. Some achieved great renown, such as Kevin Moore, who made 400 appearances in the 1970s and 80s. Kev's brothers Andy and Dave Moore also turned out for the Town the latter now serving as club physio. Perhaps less well remembered are Gary Moore, who managed 15 goals in the late 1960s in between learning heavy blues/rock guitar, Norman Moore (194647, seven appearances, one goal), Roy Moore (194850, three appearances) and Tony Moore (joined on loan from Chesterfield in 1970). Kev, Andy and Dave, of course, were Grimsby lads, which is not something that can be said for the latest addition to the Mariners' Moore pantheon Dallas Moore, a 17-year-old American who has joined the club's youth team on the recommendation of Neil Woods' contacts at Ipswich. Well, it worked with Ryan Bennett, and young Dallas is a six-foot centre-half who has apparently cut down on the Big Macs after Town initially rejected him on fitness grounds last October. So says the Grimsby Telegraph, which brings a suitably parochial tone to the story, gazing in amazement at a passing aeroplane while it describes Moore as "a bright young prospect from the land where dreams come true". Which is perfectly true if you dream about schoolkids massacring each other with machine guns and being the only developed country in the world without a national health service.
Speaking of Ipswich, the Diary has discovered two or three references to the Suffolk side's released under-18 captain Curtley Williams having lined up a trial at Blundell Park. An 18-year-old central midfielder who admires Steven Gerrard and watches Countdown, Williams has apparently also secured a run-out at second division (albeit not for much longer) Colchester, so we ought to assume Town are very much the plan B here.
The Mariners' superb new official website infamously marked its launch last July by giving directions for a Lancashire seaside resort to fans travelling to a pre-season friendly just down the road in northern Lincolnshire. Nine months down the line, though, the SNOS has just about learned its lesson. Last night, when it published details of this evening's 5-1 defeat for the reserves against Sheffield Wednesday, the site stated that the game was to be played at Hillsborough, despite the Owls' official site stating clearly that the match would take place at Stocksbridge. Today, happily, the error has been corrected in plenty of time for travelling Mariners to adjust their plans. In any case, Stocksbridge lies a mere seven or eight miles up the road from Hillsborough considerably less than the 132 miles that separate Southport from Gainsborough.
Tuesday 8 April
Good afternoon, Town fans. Today, it seems, John Fenty (Con) hasn't used the Mariners' official website to tell his milkman he'll need an extra pint tomorrow morning, so we'll just have to find something else to talk about.
For some time now the fortunes of Town's reserve team have mirrored those of the first team if you can imagine a mirror that turns everything upside down as well as back to front, that is. For the first XI the 200506 season, when they nearly got promoted, was the only one for about the last ten years that wasn't overwhelmingly dreadful and the reserves managed to go through the entire campaign without a single win. And just as the stiffs surged impressively up the league in the following season, the first team returned immediately to mediocrity. But now, excitingly, the cycle looks set to be broken with both the first team and the reserves suffering simultaneous strings of defeats! Since qualifying for the Dulux Cup final Lord Alan Buckley's side have reverted to the shite form that marred, well, most of this season, and lost five of their last seven games and by going down 2-0 at home to Sheffield United yesterday Stuart Watkiss's second XI made it an impressive three defeats in eight days. If we're celebrating failure then surely the reserves deserve a civic reception of their own.
With no new signings having arrived at or, indeed, departed Blundell Park in the last few months, and hence no new signed shirts being available to flog on eBay after 28 minutes of loan substitute action, GTFC bosses are on the lookout for new ways to bring down the club's towering overdraft. The latest appears to be a scheme whereby young players brought to the Grimsby area to join the club's youth team, instead of being accommodated in five-star luxury B&Bs on Isaac's Hill, crash on Town fans' sofas. "Youth boss Neil Woods will have a whole new batch of YT players for 2008/9 and is hoping that Grimsby Town fans can help house these promising young stars," reports today's Grimsby Telegraph. It's certainly an enterprising proposal but surely a few more quid would be in the offing after a well thought-out pitch to the commissioning editors at BBC3's reality drama department. Boooo Twon no ambishun!!
Monday 7 April
The Mariners' chairman John Fenty (Con) may have many skills and virtues, but adept communication does not number among them. Never has this deficiency been more in evidence than in a new item on the club's superb new official website, headlined "Chairman's response". So, chairman's response to what, exactly? Why, "(Thread) Chairman UTM2007 WRONG Extracts picked on and skewered [sic.] from the Chairman's Wembley program [sic.] page", of course. Reading very closely between the lines of the decontextualised blizzard of gibberish that follows, it appears that Mr Fenty has been slumming it on the forums again and is persisting in his habit of using GTFC's official internet presence as a sort of personal messageboard thread to rebut the sort of criticisms that are made by a small minority of Town fans in the darker recesses of the web, only to succeed in giving them a much wider audience than they would receive without his clumsy interventions.
And if Mr Fenty's judgement of when to communicate is questionable, his knowledge of how to communicate is abominable. So cack-handed is the entire exercise that the reader is left uncertain which sections of the text are quotes from the messageboard posting and which comprise the chairman's response a damning state of affairs given the quality of most messageboard postings although it is worth persisting simply for the remarkable phrase "Blocks of shares changing hands (green eyed monsters)". I could be wrong about all of this, of course it's impossible to know for sure but it seems to the Diary that the average Town fan's reaction to JF(C)'s latest outpouring is again likely to be something along the lines of: "I'm sorry, Mr Fenty I think you're doing a good job as chairman and everything, but really, what the fucking hell are you on about?"
Yeah, alright I'm just annoyed cos he's never had a go at the Diary.
Friday 4 April
"Maybe it's coincidence, maybe it isn't," brooded Lord Buckley darkly to his loyal media serf Dale. The great man was musing, nay, ruminating the cud that is an unexpected injury crisis following the team's night out in London. The superb new official site explained things most succinctly thus: "Six players are carrying knocks ahead of the trip to Spotland; Paul Bolland (dead-leg), Danny North (knee), Peter Bore (thigh), James Hunt (hamstring), Rob Atkinson (groin) and Ciaran Toner (knee) are all doubtful." After every player declaring himself fit as a fiddle and raring to go a week ahead of Wembley, the injury list is disappointing. The players had Monday and Tuesday off and couldn't be arsed to move much on Wednesday (according to the manager), and the injuries may mean an earlier-than-expected bench debut for young Master Bird and a start for Andy Taylor ("Hooray! Go for it!" exclaims your Guest Diarist, who used to watch Andy's dad Johnnie banging in the goals for Caistor Rovers a generation ago).
Town are away at Rochdale tomorrow a team having one of their 'we can beat anybody, and we will' phases which they get about twice a season, it would seem. Only this time they have managed to garner enough points in their other spells to ensure that they are odds-on to make the play-offs. Given that we cannot possibly get there (oh surely not, stuff your arithmetic up your jacksy, gentle reader) it would be nice to see those Spotlanders get a glimpse of limelight. Heaven knows it is rare indeed in those parts; they have been in the basement division for over 30 years and have only made the play-offs once, about half a dozen of your Earth years ago. Which, of course, they lost. They tend to get the better of Town lately though, so given the squad's attitude in training this week, and the horrible playing surface, an away win looks about as likely as a funny joke from Harriet Harman.
For those skint after Wembley this away match might look one to miss. But think on, folks: this is probably the last competitive match of the season. So try and turn up if you can. Another event worth turning up to is one of the Workers' Day memorial services next week: "Three Workers' Memorial Day Services are being held on Monday April 28, in North East Lincolnshire towns, to remember fellow workers who have lost their lives or been injured at work. Organisers want all unions to show a united front against such deaths and injuries in the workplace. The services will be held at 10.30am in the grounds of the War Memorial, Pelham Road, Immingham; 1pm at the War Memorial, Nun's Corner, Grimsby; and 3pm at the Workers Memorial Pier Gardens, Alexander Road, Cleethorpes." So reads the missive to Mr Diary from the NUJ, who have asked us to publicise these worthy events. Consider it done, comrades, consider it done.
Hang on though I'd better come clean, folks. I won't be going tomorrow as I am trying to buy a fresh car. I'll leave you lot to think up your own excuses. See yer.
Thursday 3 April
It's Thursday, it's a Diarist's dog-day afternoon. I'm gonna rob a bank and demand a sex change for Ciaran Toner. My name is Deviant Diary and I'm not a postbag. Have we a dodgy e-postman or is Mr Angry mellow and yellow these days? Whither the Postbag?
We have forgotten Sunday's stroll through Wembley Park.
Ah-ha, you all fell for Durham Diary's April fool! Well, c'mon, he's a student, so today is merely yesterday's tomorrow. Time, like his underpants, is an elastic concept to him. Oh, it's real: Town are having a made-up exhibition game for no reason. What lies beneath? Conspiracy theories, on a postcard, to the Postbag.
With the news blackout at Blundell Park continuing, shall we amuse ourselves with thoughts of Big Clubs in Turmoil? Ah, Sheffield Wednesday, bless their little polycotton socks, had six loan players in their squad for last Saturday's game against Stoke. Brian, you're only allowed five chicken sandwiches at a time. Hark, I hear the sound of grumbling from a long forgotten iron age village buried under a golf course near Brigg. The Big Club equaliser was scored by one of the loan players, so surely they should lose points. Being as they are a Big Club, they'll only get a paltry fine no doubt, rather than placed on a catapult and pinged into the Blue Square North, as the string vest brigade that runs the Football League only punish the weak and weary. Remember, SpongeNigelSquarepants says "we must stay focused and take the positives". We are, Nige, we chuckingly are.
Whither the Fentydome? It's at least 27 hours since small town aspirant politician PJ Fenty (Con) stayed focused and took the positives from the day trip to Hanger Lane. Perhaps he's too busy driving the mean streets of Humberston wooing his electorate. All the animals come out at night PJ. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off your streets. Maybe the Fentydome is in trouble, eh? Or maybe he's applied some science and not just relied on his messianic belief. Do be careful if he turns up for the Rotherham game with a Mohican haircut though. Hey Burnsy: are you talking to me?
In world news do we recall Terry Cooke, the pie-munching parka-boy from yesteryear? How amusing to find him upstaging an extravagantly paid tattoo artist last weekend. The erstwhile moaning Marinerette starred in Colorado Vapids 4-0 defeat of the family-sized LA Galaxy Bar. No news of the great Jake Sagare though. So get out there and inform the postbagman of Sagare sightings.
And finally, it's never too late for some revisionist history. "As the first goal was offside and the second goal was headed in via the devil's arm both goals weren't goals. We won the half time mascot penalty shoot-out, so therefore we won the cup". Yes, that's right, we won the JPT thanks to the Mighty Mariner: you're so right Mr Simon Rhodes of Newcastle, England. How's your mother?
My elastic has snapped, there is no more time. This diary's over, thought I'd something more to say...
Wednesday 2 April
Hi guys! Durham Diary here, bringing you a dose of thoroughly unseasonal cheer. Chins up everyone! Town are in a lesser state of poverty than they were before the weekend, and despite being totally outplayed we still come away from the game feeling hard done by. It's the Grimsby mantra: if you can't win at least make sure you've got something to complain about!
The players are back in training today, wounds well and truly licked. With any luck they'll be absolutely bursting to win these last few games, and I'm certain Mr Buckley won't let anyone feel sorry for themselves. Presumably not training, however, will be those travelling to North Ferriby for a reserve fixture against Hull tonight. Former Hull stalwart Justin Whittle is included in a squad which also contains Messrs Toner, Bennett and Bore who can all expect to feature in the first team's end-of-season run-in. Nathan Jarman will hope to push his case, having scored twice against Sheffield United reserves on Monday. Jarman was born in Scunthorpe, and will be playing for Grimsby against Hull. Probably not worthy of mention, but that's the way the world goes round.
The SNOS and Grimsby Telepath are both reporting that a match has been arranged between the Wembley teams of 1998 and 2008. Already confirmed for the match are Tony Gallimore, Dave Smith and Lee Nogan, along with Wembley goalscorers Kevin Donovan, Wayne Burnett and Kingsley Black. The team will be led by his Holiness Saint John McDermott, and will play members of the current squad at Blundell Park on 28 April.
And there's not a great lot more to tell you really today. If you're going to Rochdale at the weekend I hope you have more luck than the one time I went when the match was abandoned at half time with the pitch hidden underneath about a foot of water. And look on the bright side: at least by not playing him at Wembley that wise old head Buckleys has delayed the imminent and unavoidable departure of Ryan Bennetts by keeping the television cameras off him! It's just a shame Phil Barneses didn't have a shocker, eh? Byee!
Tuesday 1 April
"No craft without graft" was the motto of Middle Aged Diary's school, and if Sunday's performance has left us a shade disappointed that it was longer on work-rate than it was on skill, then we can surely take solace in the way this has been acknowledged by both players and manager. It has been the emphasis given to both parts of the equation that has won great Grimsby sides of the past a place in our hearts. The Town team of Alan Buckley's spell was a living refutation of the belief, commonplace at the time, that you could not combine hard-work and flair. His second assembly spent the Tuesday after a Football League Trophy final travelling to Carlisle to secure an emphatic 1-0 win (emphatic 1-0 wins are another Town tradition). One of the many abiding images of the 1997-98 season was the subsequent match to that, the Mariners playing themselves to a standstill to withstand the physical battering of a Watford side chasing the third division title, and take the point that made a play-off place certain.
Alan Buckley does not really do plaintive, although there is a note of that in his reflections on the missed penalty and the admission that the selection of a less than fit Danny North was a gamble that did not pay off. The dominant tone of his latest interview, however, is the bullish assertion that the season is not over.
While the rest of the club had the day off yesterday, Neil Woods took a young reserves side to Sandy Lane (why are there so many Sandy Lanes, and why do so many have non-league grounds on them?), home of Worksop Town, to play a Sheffield United XI that featured both Nicky Law's son (also called Nicky) and a loan player from Internazionale. Trailing 3-1 at half-time, and with goalkeeper Leigh Overton having been sent off, the selection "won" the second half 2-1 with two goals from Nathan Jarman adding to the first half score from Liam Davis.
Further evidence of a reviving Town: provide the graft and the craft will come.