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Diary - April 2011
Friday 29 April
Dale Ladson, Grimsby Town's media interviewer, is concerned about the inconsistency and mental frailty of the Grimsby Town first team. In his subscription-only pre-match chat with the quiet half of the GTFC management limited liability partnership he asked: "How are you getting the message across to the players?" The reply was deadpan, straight out of Airplane! "In the team talk before the game."
But the ways to get that message across seem to have been exhausted with the present bunch. Your Guest Diarist expects that the passion tank is empty, the expletive bank is overdrawn, the exhortations are sounding hollow. It's a dead rubber with this lot. Just get Saturday over with, they'll be thinking, and then see how many we can get off the books as quickly as possible.
Except, of course, the chairman wants minimal player pay-offs in order to make true his brag to the press about "no cuts" and refute the Radio Humberside rumour. So will we get a nasty case of stalemate stand-off? The management duo is bound to bleat that we can't go up with this shower – we need a new shower! Ones without chips on their shoulders, ones who will do it 'our way'. No room for Charles here – we want Charlies! Our brooms need to sweep, Mr Fenty; churn costs money but it'll be worth it. Oh yes, we won't fail, the managers will insist.
Carrying on in his quietly spoken way, the nice one used all the stock words to dream how it could be: in no particular order and without thought of coherence came out appetite, hunger, desire, passion, pride in the shirt. No mention of skill, control, pace, getting behind them, quick-passing, counter-attack, decision-making, sharp-shooting. No getting it down and playing it. Play high-tempo pressing football – shit, look where playing 'pretty football' has got you. It's a new beginning – part eleven.
No wonder the chairman nearly wets himself with excitement when speaking of his new appointees. It's another untried road for him to blunder down. No doubt next season we'll beat the bottom six (which we failed so miserably to reliably do this season) but this time the top six will stuff us (the only time this year we have been consistent is in taking points off the leading bunch). So, a change will be as good as a rest, but tenth will still beckon come the spring. Whether the twosome last that long depends to some degree on the order of the fixture list.
So, Wimbledon away tomorrow. A side who disappointed at Blundell Park, to be honest, but have been consistent enough to secure their place at the top of the play-off heap with matches to spare. Thanoj is fit, Bore has had his rest and Ademeno has sulked his way back to fitness with Dave Moore. But they won't pick Charles – he missed Thursday training with the rest of the lads. So they say he's not even in contention. The voices who whisper pain inside his head have won.
Robbie Stockdale's interview was a more enjoyable one. The Yoof have done well in terms of league results and first team promotions. Four players promoted to the fringes. Four. One justifies it; four is considered exceptional. I'Anson, Thanoj, Mulready and Marshall from the second years appear to have a future. By default, one assumes, the rest do not. The second year YTs, Stockdale asserted, "have to be ready for the first team squad now. We can't afford to wait for the slow-growing ones." Harsh, but fair I'd say.
So one last match to trek to for the faithful few, and a local game for the London lot. One last afternoon listening to internet commentary or Ceefax checking for a few more. And then relief. A chance to recharge our blind hope batteries. But that season ticket decision just gets harder and harder and some good fans will understandably fall by the wayside. But, despite it all, we'll still be here, raking over the board's coals and finding the odd nugget of gallows humour I hope. See yer.
Thursday 28 April
Why are you here, gentle reader? There's nothing to learn here today. Your Guest Diarist is belatedly scribbling something today because Part-Time Diary has been sent to Milton Keynes by his boss on offshore banking business. The tumbleweeds of news are far and out of sight so if you insist on something to read then I'll dip my hand deep in to the googlesack and see what comes out.
Well, Robbie Stockdale has alarmed the Telegraph readers by telling them he's worried for the youth team at Town. For the first two seasons of our non-League status we get half what we used to from the League (by bank transfer, I understand, rather than the quaint populist parachute payment method). But hey, there's a whole season to go before that wasp bites us. And the superb new official Town website has promised an interview with Mr Stockdale where he, ermm, takes stock of the youth squad for us. In terms of who's succeeding and who is failing and that sort of thing. But it's not published yet for us to chew over. What I do know is that the news is bad for quite a few of the yoof.
And Bradley Wood has confirmed our best and worst suspicions about the new managers. He's their kind of guy. All-action, fit and runs until he drops. But a bit clueless once he gets the ball. The tactics will be simple next season – win the ball, win it back again. Win the ball and get it as fast as possible to the other end – the danger end. If you concede a few free kicks it shows you have desire to win the ball and that you are doing your closing down. Leary and Wood – the dream partnership. Athletic, mobile, aggressive. Leary and Wood – the nightmare partnership. Can't pass, no vision, little skill.
Town are marooned in 10th place while Wimbledon are equally marooned in second. So will they go easy on us, afeared of injuries affecting their play-off line-up? Well, we can hope. But more on that tomorrow. See yer.
Wednesday 27 April
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since a thrilling debut by a locally born 18-year-old goalkeeper restricted big-spending Wolves to a 0-0 draw at Blundell Park. That was way back in 1999, of course, and big things were predicted for the youngster. Big things would surely have been achieved were it not for the persistent injury that forced him out of the professional game. But 12 years later it's a fine thing to see Steve Croudson receive official recognition at GTFC's player of the season awards last night. While 27-goal striker Alan Connell (is it 27?) predictably scooped most of the gongs on offer, Croudson was given a number of awards after returning heroically to first-team duties with the Mariners this year when Kenny Arthur was injured and then dropped. It's not just that these were his first appearances for the club since 2001 – it's that he should really be sticking to his role as goalkeeping coach because, on the eight occasions he's taken the field this season, he's risked knackering himself up good and proper. And not once, in serving his hometown club in this way, has he flinched.
So it's probably a safe bet to say Grimsby Town Football Club wouldn't be in anything like their current sorry state had they been able to field 11 Steve Croudsons for all those years since the Kitten first took the field. Well, they would, because you'd probably get relegated several times anyway if you put 11 goalkeepers on the pitch. But you know what I mean. Town's superb new official website, meanwhile, just keeps on performing as consistently as ever, declaring that the Grimsby Town Supporters Young Player of the Year was "10">BRADLEY WOOD". There are some who'd say this club doesn't deserve you, Steve.
Why? Well, your original/regular Diary has no wish whatsoever to be cruel about the cretins who deserve to be publicly flogged for the appalling series of catastrophes that their incompetence has visited on our football club. In only the most recent of these, of course, the great football and business minds behind GTFC have proved themselves incapable even of announcing a playing budget without making a massive great pig's arse of it. In particular, it will be interesting to see how Shorty and Shouty's repeated insistence that they'll get rid of underperforming players this summer squares with Deadly John (Topcon)'s assertion that the club is "aiming to pay off the minimal number of players possible". Surely that number would be zero. And how can you pay off zero players and still get rid of Rob Duffy? I don't know, but finding out is sure to prove as interesting as ever – and probably just as deeply traumatic!
Good Friday 22 April
Town are at Barrow tomorrow and there'll be four managers prowling the touchline. For Barrow have two chaps called Darren Sheridan and Dave Bayliss co-managing the club. We have two too of course but their names will just never stick in your Guest Diarist's head. Bayliss is a sprightly 43 year old midfielder who still gets picked despite his advancing years and his terrible temper. The Barrow boys got stuffed at Newport last Saturday and his co-manager took Bayliss off before half time because he was going to get sent off any minute. So they have angry and soothy too.
The shouty half of our management partnership was still too angry after the midweek victory at Mansfield to speak to camera, so the softly spoken other one deputised. He used the word nice five times in his first answer to prove to us what a good guy he really is. Later he used the words "not nice" to describe the sacking of youth teamers that he had barely had chance to assess.
Shorty philosophised that "that's what football is all about – winning games of football" as though we might mistakenly think it was about slavishly handing over a goodly chunk of our wages to watch blokes whom we don't know very well, not trying very hard, and to enable a local ex-fish merchant turned builder to waste the rest of the cash (as well as some of his own) on ill-thought out business plans that never get off the ground. This whilst denying other investors the chance to do the same or, one hopes, a bit better, unless he remains top dog and takes all of the decisions all of the time. Forever.
With games Tuesday, Friday, Monday the training on Thursday was 'light but bright' Shorty told us. With lots of goal scoring so that players get used to the ball hitting the back of the net. Sadly Charles 'Charles' Ademeno is injured so he couldn't claim to be the best finisher as well as the fastest runner at the club. Injured too remain Kempson and Ridley whilst Serge Makofo picked up an injury in his astonishing reserve team hat-trick performance at Leeds. All the more chance to further blood the yoof then with the very youthful Mulready and Southwell who are both first year YT'ers knocking on the first eleven door. Is it South-well or is it pronounced Suthell? If you know the answer to that then you probably know how to calculate on what date Easter will fall. But the religious types do seem to have got it right for once with a little spring heatwave in progress.
Chairman Fenty (TopCon) has issued a blathering video statement in response to the Radio Humberside rumour-mongering about a £200,000 cut in the playing budget for next year. Without acknowledging the radio station Fenty became Gordon-Brown-earnest in tone, trotting out a rapid succession of figures. He exhorts the viewer(s) to believe that just because next year's playing budget is £900,000 compared to £1m plus £70,000 for transfers this season then it is, in fact, not smaller at all. Aah! The master stroke of Fenty's devilish strategy is that the £1.07m included £200,000 spent on paying up players' contracts early. The £900,000 for next season is all for players! So no cut at all he says – hah!
Except, hang on, aren't we releasing players like Makofo, Ademeno et al who have years left on their contracts? So won't we have to pay them off? And haven't the new managers also told us very recently that the penalty for squad churn has to come out of next year's playing budget? Will Town ever stop paying off players to leave because the new manager doesn't like the cut of their jib? The chances are slim, gentle reader, and Fenty, yet again, has not explained anything accurately; he's failed to tell the simple honest truth. There is nothing wrong with cutting the playing budget but there is something wrong with trying to pull the wool over fans' eyes so pathetically.
Fenty says "he has never been so excited to work with a management team", making it sound like a businessman describing his first paid-for group sex encounter. He'll support them, of course, "right up to the point where he sacks them". Even the day before he sacks them he'll be right behind them. He has a long term strategy alright – it is simply to stay in charge. Top dog, Top Con Fenty.
In other news the club has withdrawn player interviews from Radio Humberside this week in a rather pitiful attempt to retain some value for Mariners Player subscribers. In vengeful return the radio station has broadcast equally pathetic hints that it might not bother with Town games next season. And between both entities sit us Grimsby fans, including the silent majority who don't write online diaries, or pontificate on messageboards and websites. The ones who suffer from these stupid, pointless childish spats as well as having to carry the heavy cross of supporting Grimsby Town throughout our lives. Happy Easter then to us, the meek majority who are alternately bullied and exploited by the idiots in suits. See yer.
Thursday 21 April
You've won the lottery, or maybe your idea on Dragons' Den attracted unprecedented interest from all five smug panellists, and you're rapidly heading into yacht purchase territory. Or perhaps you've scooped millions out of the mobile communications market, flogging handsets out of a warehouse. Either way you're loaded, so congratulations. You're also on this website so, unless you've got horribly lost trying to place an order for flaky white fish, you're also a Grimsby Town fan, or have at least a passing interest in the club, football, or people writing about football. Let's say you're a Town fan anyway. How do you fancy putting a few of those millions into the club? You do? Brilliant.
Your Part-Time Diary imagines it's harder to attract investment in the proper, real world. People with money tend to have it because they're good at making it and keeping it; basically, they don't often piss it away like a lot of the rest of us. So could GTFC ever be an attractive investment? Well, investment in itself would imply an expectation of profit, which is certainly not synonymous with Conference football, or most football for that matter. Putting money into football is like a night on the Jaeger bombs: it feels good at the time, but eventually you'll end up with a headache and an empty wallet. Except at Arsenal, apparently, but Grimsby are about as far from Arsenal as Britain is from having talent.
So what can Grimsby offer you if you decide to launch your money blindly in the direction of Blundell Park? Well, we can safely say you'll be investing halfway through the season to cause maximum disruption to the playing side of the club. Don't worry, this will serve to deflect attention from another stuttering season, and we all want the summer off, don't we? At first you may find it strange that some other investors, who've invested significantly less than you, have the same influence with their votes; don't worry, you'll get used to it. Now down to business. You've got loads of cash, right? Good, because with it being mid-season we're planning on sacking the manager(s), assistant, physio, whoever basically, so we'll need some money for that. Oh, and that means we'll probably be getting rid of the majority of the players at the end of the season, so we'll need to pay off their contracts. Isn't it expensive to pay off a three-year contract less than six months into it? Well, yes, but don't worry, you'll get used to that too.
So what about your investment going forward? We like planning stadiums here. With your money we'll set up a project for a stadium somewhere out in a village. They probably won't like the idea so they'll be loads of objections and hold-ups. Couldn't this divert attention from the decline of the actual football team, which results in successive relegations, thereby rendering any new stadium utterly fucking pointless? Hmmm, well, could do, but we really do like planning stadiums here. Hey, we might even con a local business out of a shedload of red hats for some naming rights for our imaginary ground. We'll also be looking to invest in the playing side each year. Oh right, to improve it? Well, hmmm, to sustain it, really – you remember me saying about the paying-up of contracts with all these new managers. So it's a bit of a lottery to be honest – some seasons are better than others, but it usually ends up with us getting relegated eventually.
Do I get anything else? Well, with you being a proper director now you get a say on the big issues, flasks, burgers and what goal celebration music to play to piss off the fans most. We'll also get you your own weekly slot at the car park to broadcast, erm, well, whatever you like really – just do it off the cuff and we can clean up the mess later. Don't worry – the fans are used to hearing contradictory, conflicting and generally untrue statements from the club. As a sweetener, as if you'd need one, we'll throw in a 25 per cent discount card for McMenemy's, a lifetime supply of Youngs (not the salmon ones) and a signed Tony Crane shirt. Interested? Thought not.
Wednesday 20 April
Wake up! It's a beautiful morning, a brand new day, a new dawn for a new era! Everything
is different, yet everything looks the same. It is I, hibernating Deviant Diary, returning to
your lives to lighten the load and brighten the day with a short positive tweak to the news
and views following the mysterious affair of Mariners style. No thousand word dissertation
today, just sunny delight.
To pass, to punt, that was the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings
and shallows of outrageous post match radio phone-ins.
Well, wasn't that nice. Mr Shouty and Mr Shorty were smiling not snarling in their matching
leisure tops as they watched Town do some high energy dancing; less Wenger Boys more
Venga Boys these days, but when you are in the gutter you can only look up at the stars.
Ah, such lovely views of the bright lights of picturesque, not picaresque, Mansfield. Ah,
such lovely hair on bouncy Dale Southwell – a nice Torresian fringe slope you could ski
jump off .
Ah, such lovely views from 10th in the table. You'll have to wait for the official unofficial
match report as sister of Butcher is apparently due in for a drive-by sandwich. There are
more of them out there?
So why don't we all have a calm down pill and just soak in the sun, or perhaps aestivate so
you don't dessicate. Nothing matters this season remember. Let's all be cool and grown up
and just relax our way into the long hot summer of love. Make love not loath, man.
See, no links! The impossible is possible.
Tuesday 19 April
There's this guy I know, let's call him Simon, who along with his mates and some of their mates, and then with people they didn't know, decided to get together late last year to talk about something they thought wasn't right. Now all these people, and there's about a good 20 of them, they were from a number of businesses, from across the city they worked in. They had a big chat and realised that although they may not agree eye to eye on little details, they would all agree they should put aside their differences, agendas, their politics and their egos to work together for the common good. Any "holes in knowledge" or experience would be recognised and help sought. But together they would work for a common good. That common good was making something better than it was, raising from the shambles it was, to not create something new, but to improve what was already there and sustain that improvement for something that the local people would be proud.
These people agreed up front they would not make public any disagreements, they would work democratically, and the focus would always be on improvement, connecting, and engagement. It didn't take much. It seemed sensible to not subvert the aims with airing "closed air" chats. In the main these people were sensible thinking men, and the few that were known for impulsive actions? It was made sure they wouldn't be in positions where this would be dangerous, and if they were they would be prepared and controlled. All along they remembered their goal. All along. And they still remember. And they are still making progress. Some people come, some people go, but the simple agreements up front and the goal – always remembered. The common good: improvement, progression.
I say this on the day we remember the events at Wembley 13 years ago, when Town beat Bournemouth on a day as fabulous as this, when the club were sniffing promotion from the third division, and we supported a club that seemed pretty much united. There was the odd dissenter about the board (probably Bill Carr), but you couldn't argue that the club pretty much worked that season for the greater good. Board action was kept in-house, everyone involved with the club moved towards the greater good. But above all the board led by example.
And look at Grimsby Town Football Club today. Graceless is the politest way of describing it, a fucking mess is the more blunt approach. And while Fenty, Furneaux (still lurking the shadows bad mouthing "the likes of Parker" we hear, you sinister little cunt) and co aren't quite at the levels of Harold Ballard, those at the top, those supposedly guiding are more content to do their rumour spreading, discussions through the media. We've levelled it before and we'll level it again: it's small town businessman mentality.
You've put your money into the club, and at times as a financial "correction facility" (the three year deal for the now-unwanted Serge Makofo a case in point), but let's not make out this is benevolence from, say, Fenty. Sooner or later that money will be withdrawn from the club one way or another. Irrespective of whether the fans support the board's decisions, the board must make decisions that lead by example. The shambles over recruiting the latest managerial team would be forgotten it it wasn't for the misery of watching yet another clear out. Yet another remit from the board to "do whatever it takes". Can we just stop this fucking madness please?
Sorry, another Tuesday, another Idle Diary mumbling on about the Vicious Cycle of GTFC. But given the way I've been able to play a part in changing attitudes and help galvanise a group of people in the city I work, taken on board criticism, and able to handle it politically, I am scratching my head how Fenty – a local councillor for fuck's sake! – can't show the same decorum, control, and appreciation of his limitations than a hot-headed gobshite like myself. On Saturday, while Town were fucking up yet again (comedy half time text from Mr Tony Butcher stated "we can still draw it from here!"), I was part of a movement that is driven towards a greater good. It's not that hard, it really isn't, to just get the basics right and show some fucking professionalism.
Anyway, there's a game tonight at Mansfield. Rob Duffy can't play against his former team, bizarre given how long ago we signed him. Couldn't care for the result to be honest so I haven't looked any further. Not something I would have thought I'd have said 13 years ago, or even 14 years ago when Town were on the brink of relegation under Kenny Swain after a pitiful season. Hey ho, eh. Limp to the end and see what happens in the summer, and all that. Start again, again.
In the classifieds corner a note from Jason Ives about a course they are doing down at Playsport with Jonnie Rowan, a football development programme for kids from five to fifteen years of age. We're always glad to promote the work of people like Jase and also linger for a moment on the nearly men of Town's recent history, which Rowan was.
And finally, as I finish off this Town's reserves have reached half time in their last fixture of the season against Leeds United. The score is currently 2-2, and if the stiffs go on to win it I'll do a cartwheel in the middle of Leeds on my way home. Possibly no cartwheels for Town youngster Tom Corner, when the final whistle will mark the end of his career with the Mariners. All the best, Tom. Hope you go on to prove them wrong to let you go.
Monday 18 April
Your original/regular Diary is now so disenchanted not just with supporting the Mariners but with football in general that I didn't even bother finding out who'd won the FA Cup semi-finals over the weekend. In the end, though, the outcome of one of the ties ended up coming to find me. Stoke City's 5-0 win over Bolton Wanderers started popping up so often in all the feeds and monitoring tools that I use to track mentions of Grimsby on the web that eventually I needed to click on one of these mentions and see what was going on. And blow me down if the Potters' win wasn't the biggest in an FA Cup semi since our beloved GTFC were thrashed by Wolves at Old Trafford in 1939!
This is the point, of course, at which every self-respecting Town fan is contractually obliged to point out that the game set a record attendance of 76,962 for Old Trafford which still stands today. We are also fond, of course, of pointing out that the Mariners' goalkeeper George Moulson came off injured early in the game, and with no substitutes allowed we had to play with ten men and an outfield player in goal. What we don't know, though, is the proportion of that enormous crowd that were supporting the Mariners. It may be that 76,900 or so had turned out to see the Black Country side, and that the population of north-east Lincolnshire remained as resolutely uninterested in football as ever. And, crocked keeper notwithstanding, doesn't it say something about the football club we love that the proudest moment in more than 130 years of history is getting a chuffing bloody enormous great tonking?
One or the other of Town's managers, as you've now come to expect, is to be found today in the Grimsby Telewag reciting the now-obligatory "grrr, all these players are shit, we're going to sack the bloody lot" spiel following said players' inability to turn a win from a two-goal lead against part-time opposition again on Saturday. Me, I still don't know which is Shorty and which is Shouty, so I can't be bothered to read it.
For all their spouting about the shortcomings of the players they keep selecting, though, the first two of many to be sent packing by S 'n' S are a pair of youngsters they will barely have seen play. Tom Corner and Mark Gray, graduates of Town's much-vaunted youth system, are already looking for new clubs, which seems to the Diary to be a case of misplaced blame given that it's all Deadly John (Topcon)'s fault.
And finally, how much do you want to pay to watch the Mariners? That's the question being asked today by the club's superb new official website. Before you present your cheque for 12½ pence and a mouldy conker at the ticket office be mindful that the club's superb new official website is just ushering you on to the club's superb new official messageboard to discuss it, rather than actually committing GTFC to any kind of innovative new Radiohead/FC United of Manchester-style pricing system. For those of you on a budget, though, this ought to be good news, as the age profile of the official messageboard community should ensure that tickets can easily be purchased out of pocket money and paper rounds.
Friday 15 April
Seventeen years ago that Manchester United played at Port Vale in the cup. Youngsters like Beckham, Scholes and Neville senior were picked for the tie and the local MP threatened United with the Trades Descriptions Act. The type of football generally played in the Conference must get purists muttering in similar vein – but don't get me started on that because your Guest Diarist must take a few moments to ink a couple of minor, yet significant, milestones on Chairman Fentycon's GTFC project plan this morning.
The first, you might say – given that there is still time to laugh it off as a momentary blip – is a cheap shot. Grimsby, after over forty games this season to recover from similar lapses in form, now sit in the bottom half of the table. Again: what we achieved in the old divisions two, three and four with such depressing regularity, we have managed to repeat in non-League football. We've slid downwards again, slowly but just as inexorably.
Oh, it's 'gel time' and systems are in transition after the needless/essential (delete as appropriate) sacking of yet another manager. Don't get me wrong – the last manager's performance results-wise was rubbish. Just like the half-dozen or so who preceded him, who all failed 'miserably' after being given 'loads of time' to chart a new, successful course. A worrying trend, that – all these managers with exciting and experience-laden CVs join the club and instantly become a total disappointment, leaving the chairman with "no option but to begin again".
The superstitious among you might worry that the club, or someone in it, is cursed. Imagine the scene as the old crone croaks at Fenty: "You should have stuck to fish!" before spitting the incantation at the bewildered tie-wiggling Tory, who then finds himself with a mouth full of incoherent, idiotic junior management phrases and a club that fails to thrive however much he spends on it.
The second milestone, of course, is that over the last few matches Grimsby Town have officially and finally completed the horrible metamorphosis in to a non-League club. This is not a temporary spell in purgatory, gentle reader: the descent into hell is complete.
"Class doesn't tell here," said Bryan Hughes to himself as he hobbled off with a fortuitous recurrent Achilles problem. Grim-faced fans have shaken their heads sadly at the new shape, the new tactics, the 'oh-so-necessary' measures 'to prosper in this league'. The players have tried to adapt but most look as limp, as diffident, as horribly out of time as the audience dancers on old Top of the Pops repeats. Will the attendance tomorrow, after three home games in eight days, sink below two thousand? Were there even actually two thousand there on Wednesday night?
But, you might blurt indignantly, we are a big club for this league and we have pots of money behind us. Nonetheless, the 'customer experience' is now decidedly non-League from a footballing point of view.
What will be the season ticket price structure for next season? We cynical Cod Almighty types anticipate a triumphal launch announcement that will remind us that prices "have been frozen for the third season in a row". But we are a mid-table non-League club which plays less and less attractive football. The brand is devalued, the sell-by date approaches, the price should come down.
And, a few games in, the replacement style doesn't seem to be really working. The win ratio is stubbornly stuck at 0 per cent. The players' feet have got stuck in the gel. Time to get some more players, then. Whose name is worth putting on the back of a replica shirt these days? How many folk are going to stump up for the new home shirt and a season ticket next season?
But Mr Kempson's season is over already – he has, in the modern parlance, done his metatarsal. The managers, at the time of writing, haven't faced the superb new official Town website camera to preview tomorrow's match for the customers who paid for this facility. It was the relentless optimism of the interviewer that got to them, I think. The 'we were a bit shit most of the time I suppose, but remember those odd few seconds in the last game when we weren't' line of questioning might draw a grudging nod from Shouty, but he's sick of skirting around the issue – this lot are not big enough, or fast enough. Don't play ugly enough. Don't listen to my screaming rants from the technical area. Don't respond to my half-time ultimatums.
Dave Moore, silent in public these days, keeping his head down and letting the new crew get on with it, has let it be known that Ridley is fit again. Hughes, of course, has almost certainly ended his season; the achilles has hobbled him. It was nice knowing you, Bryan, but the memories, well, there aren't any really – and that's a damn shame. Samuels is still crocked which is a shame too, but Charles 'Charles' Ademeno has finally finished the delayed suspension necessitated by his idiotic behaviour in a reserve game. I hear he was 'really bright' in training while suspended but, sadly, it is the Ademeno thigh's turn to prevent the ambitious thinks-he's-a-speedster playing any part tomorrow.
It's Bath at home, by the way. Bath City, who beat us away, and who are above us in the table. Now there's something to play for – revenge over Bath and a chance to overtake them in the table. That 13th spot is surely ours more than theirs, eh? A club this size... nah, you are right – we won't win again any time soon, will we? Enjoy the football, if there is any. See yer.
Thursday 14 April
A few weeks ago John'll Fix It Fenty fixed it for Town to stop their fog-flooded match against Rushden, which they happened to be losing, and play it again from scratch yesterday. The logic was that, by this point, the shiny new manager(s) would be in charge and we would probably win, thereby cementing a play-off place, pissing off the cocky cockney Justin Edinburgh and vindicating our chairman's underhand and embarrassing actions. For some reason the fact that Grimsby are pretty shit no matter who happens to be sitting/standing/crouched in the foetal position on the touchline was not factored into the equation. Nor was the commonly held belief that changing your manager once a season is certainly not a surefire way to improve results. Did Town grasp the reprieve handed to them? Did they fuck. Can we blame them? Can we fuck.
Grimsby won't reach the play-offs and they won't get relegated. Most of the players have been here for less than a year. They were brought here by one manager, to play a certain way, with the intention of stabilising a sinking club and building a progressing team who would, in the next few seasons, be able to win promotion back into the proper leagues. I don't know if Grimsby have a mission statement, but your Part-Time Diary thinks that would be a pretty good one. But that's all gone now. Now there are two new managers, intent on telling a lot of the players that they're shit and they can fuck off in the summer and to play in a different way. They're more aggressive than Woods was and they're winners – well, they were winners, until they came to Blundell Park. They haven't got a win for Grimsby yet. Is it going to be another 25-game winless streak like under Woods?
I doubt it. This team is better than the one Woods inherited and they're in a poorer league. They probably will start getting results, maybe they will do OK, but I'm not holding out any hope for good results in the rest of this season because the goalposts have been moved; Woods out, Shorty and Shouty in. A complete change in style will take time and money and so there's at least another season of building ahead. Again. All of which means I can't blame the players or the managers, yet. Maybe it's Richard Lord's fault?
So we drew with Rushden this time. Fenty only succeeded in stringing out a miserable season with an extra game, and an extra meaningless point. I wasn't there so this isn't a match report, but there's plenty about. Scott's angry
as usual; he needs to stop letting it get to him. I'm not angry any more, just disappointed. I think that's how Woods seemed in the end too.
Anyway, it's almost over now, it really is – only two weeks of football left then a long summer to build up hope again. There'll be plenty of Telling The Telegraph, some new players to mispronounce and maybe the odd misleading friendly result (see Leeds '09, Sheffield Wednesday '10). I'm looking forward to it.
Wednesday 13 April
Want to inflict a lifetime of misery on your children by brainwashing them into supporting the same appallingly run football club as you? Me too. Let's look at Town's superb new official website and see how much it costs. Oooh, look – the SNOS has a handy travel guide for the crucial end-of-season mid-table training session at Mansfield next Tuesday. And oooh, what's this? "U7s go FREE when accompanied by a paying adult." Why, that's marvellous! Get your shoes on, Baby Diary – we're going to Field Mill! What? "This offer applies ONLY to home supporters." Oh. Well, why mention it on the away team's official website, then? Oh, yes, of course – we support an appallingly run football club.
Some might deem your original/regular Diary's treatment of GTFC a little unfair at times. Alright, so Town's superb new official website is neither superb nor even particularly new any more. But come on – it's just a little mistake. Whoever it is has just copied and pasted that text from Mansfield's site, and they just couldn't be arsed to read through it while they were doing it. Is that really so bad? No-one died.
Well, if only slapdash text on websites were as bad as it got. If only these small examples of incompetence existed in isolation. But they don't. They're just the minor symptoms of a deep-rooted problem with much more serious consequences. They're like the bubbles in the bathwater in Escape to Victory, indicating that the bottom of the bath is about to collapse into the dark tunnel below.
OK, so in the one case, the Allied prisoners of war escape from their Nazi captors and in the other, Town throw away their Football League status of well over a century, despite having a shitload more money than the clubs who run rings round them every week on the pitch, and after relegation the chairman says he's building for the long term, publicly pledges support for the manager, and then sacks him 24 hours later – despite the club sitting within close reach of the promotion play-off places. And as of last night, the Mariners have entered the bottom half of the Conference table for the first time. So after six years or so of Deadly John (Topcon)'s chairmanship the club is still reaching new lows, both off and on the field.
(So if you've come to the Diary to find out who's playing in tonight's encounter with Rushden & Diamonds,
have a look at the BBC or the e-Telewag. I haven't, because I scarcely care a damn any more.)
Of course, if they made a film about Town, there'd be more to it than the main story of the team's ongoing inability to win games of football or even just vaguely stop being rubbish for more than five minutes at a time. There'd be a gripping sub-plot where the club squanders a fortune on consultancy and design fees for a new stadium with a hopelessly outmoded planning model and large gaps in the development funding, which will of course never be built. There'd be the hilarious scene where a promising young player named Danny Butterfield leaves on a free transfer because nobody at the club understands the Bosman ruling. And who could forget the bit where the star striker needlessly misses a crucial fixture because the management don't know how the league's disciplinary system works?
In one interesting development, though, the Diary has discovered that Town's customer service email has started working again! Cod Almighty was told in 2005 that the email@example.com address was "defunct" and we watched in perplexity as it continued to appear, year after year, in the club's customer charter. Just recently, however, we tried using it again, in some sort of final gesture of blind, stupid hope – a bit like, you know, buying a season ticket – and to our enormous surprise, we received a reply!
It's just as well this is the case, because right now there's one important use we can put that email address to. A couple of weeks ago, after the emergence of goal celebration music at Blundell Park, I emailed the club to ask whether it would continue next season, because I won't renew my season ticket if it is. Someone called Nick Dale, GTFC stadium manager, replied: "Goal celebration music has been played when we score for several seasons now, are there any issues with regards to this that we need to be made aware of?" This seemed a little odd, because, far from several seasons, I'd only been hearing goal celebration music for the last match. Anyhow, the club has set up a third poll about this issue. The first two were on the main official website, and fans voted against music both times. But this time, to rig the poll in favour, they've put it on the official website's messageboard, so that only the under-12s can vote.
What can you do, reader? You obviously don't want goal celebration music, because you're reading the Diary, and are therefore a supporter of discernment and independent mind. But you won't be registered on the official website's messageboard, because you're over 12 years old. So email firstname.lastname@example.org and Nick@GTFC.Co.Uk (yes, that's really how it appears in his email signature) to tell them not to be so daft, turn that bloody music off, and allow the supporters to support the team in the way we choose, rather than get sick on spoon-fed godawful landfill indie rock at the precise moment when we should be experiencing joy. God knows that any moments of happiness for Town fans are rare enough these days – so let's not allow these idiots to ruin the few that we have.
If you can also find out why Nick thinks the music "has been played when we score for several seasons now, are there any issues with regards to this that we need to be made aware of?", that would be a bonus, of course. I've already asked him to stop using splice commas. Thanks.
Tuesday 12 April
Idle Diary writes: Tuesday! The traditional day for midweek Town action! Except no, not this week – it's tomorrow night, so you can stay in and watch the thrilling and exciting Big Cup match between a team that is only English through its base against another team that is English through its base. Brilliant! What to do with our lives tonight, eh. It's like the club wants us to watch that over-hyped Super European Trophy shit. With such a small-minded approach, no wonder Steve Burr stayed at Kidderminster Harriers rather than be Neil Woods' replacement.
The only Town-related news is that Michael Coulson is fit, but could be fitter. That's it. That is all there is. Nothing more. You want news? This is the news. And here's something about bee roads in Yorkshire. Sorry. I can't make this shit up. I don't have to. This space is as small or as big as we need it to be.
Something is missing from my life, so rather than spread misery, after I put this diary live I promise to try and produce more happiness in the world and less misery. And no, I am not giving up following Town.
Monday 11 April
Mardy Diary writes: I know this diary hasn't been performing as it should in recent weeks – everyone's aware of that and is trying to get back to the days of witty, insightful diaries. At the end of the day, no diarist goes out there to write a bad diary – everyone wants to write a good diary, but sometimes we're just not seeing it through to the end. In recent weeks, I think perhaps we've started strongly in the first few paragraphs but for whatever reason we've not been able to maintain that level until the end, and we've let ourselves down. It's alright writing that killer first line, but if you don't follow it up with a high standard of writing it just goes to waste.
Of course, all diarists have to realise this is a team game. I think you can try as hard as you like to write a diary but in recent weeks we've had too many passenger diaries. People need to grow up a bit, even Guest Diary, and start taking responsibility. We may be coming to the end of the season, and certainly with the pre-match factfiles disappearing you can see that people's minds are already on their summer holidays, but there's a job to be done here. If we take our foot off the gas and coast through then we're doing the readers a disservice.
It's hard to see what the problem is – in the pub all the diarists are saying the right things and everyone is as keen as each other to put the recent poor diaries behind them. But then when it actually comes to writing the diary, something goes wrong. I don't know if it's just a lack of mental toughness or that there's no natural leadership there. But, no disrespect to the likes of the Vital sites, we should be able to outperform sites like that and not find ourselves relying on links to the Grimsby Telegraph to see us through to the end of a diary. If the Vital sites can get through to the end of the season with their poor grasp of the English language and a gut-churningly offensive approach to website design then we have no excuse.
But we simply haven't been good enough in recent weeks – we know that, the readers know that, Tony Butcher knows that. People have to realise that writing a diary is a woman's game and the diarists need to start showing their feminine side if we've any hope of improving. It's looking unlikely now that we'll make it to the yearly fanzine awards, although it's not impossible, but that's no reason for people to stop trying.
People haven't paid good money to read these diaries, and perhaps that plays on the minds of some diarists when they go out to write a diary, but that shouldn't be an excuse to not perform. Some diarists might be out of contract at the end of the season and might have their eye on another writing job somewhere else, but if they don't perform then they're fooling themselves if they think they'll land another job. No-one at the Guardian is going to be interested if they're not making the effort and the best they'll be able to get is the horoscope column in Drains Weekly.
I know some people say that the pressure can get to some diarists, and that when someone's emailing you telling you that your diary is rubbish then that can affect your writing. But this is the kind of territory you're in when writing diaries – it's part of the diary writing game. A professional diary writer shouldn't let things like that affect them – you've got a job to do and you need to get out there and do it. If you write a good diary, or manage to point out yet another hilarious gaffe on the official site then people forget about all that. It's our job as diarists to block all that out and try to perform to the best of our abilities.
At the end of the day, Ron, it's a results-based business.
Friday 8 April
So gentle reader, the dog days of this season continue with tomorrow the commencement of another three home games in eight days. Another week of dwindling attendance, absence of atmosphere and also absence of hope of imminent tangible improvement in our beloved club. Your Guest Diarist notes that tomorrow is Kidderminster – a club in better financial shape than earlier in the season and a team that seems to be going great guns under thoughtful tactician Mr Burr.
The Kiddies have had a string of decent results against 'big' teams lately and no doubt the Grimsby scalp will be seen as very much available. Crumbs of comfort? Well, one of their strikers is definitely injured but then Lee Morris isn't really the reason they are where they are in the league. Chris McPhee has been pushed forward this season and Burr's move looks a really wise one as, to quote Big Ron Atkinson, 'he's been scoring for fun' ever since. Plus his all-action style made sure Kidderminster successfully prevented Town's attempted comeback when they beat us at their place.
Steve Burr has signed a new three-year contract now – reassured by his chairman that some semblance of financial stability has been achieved. So Kidderminster remain a bit skint, but with what seems a good management team and a balanced squad of players, who show great spirit as well as a bit of ability. Town, on the other hand, have directors who brag about nearly a million-pound loss, a management team with a lot to prove, and a squad whose collective head drops as soon as they concede. McPhee had league offers after his successful first spell with Kidderminster but elected to stay and seems to be having the time of his life. He's a leader, which is something else that Town have not.
The subscription video preview had the other one's talking head this week. Saying the same things but in more emollient tones. How bright the lads are in training Dale! How early some of them come in, how late they leave! The facilities are there and some of them use them. I even caught Charles 'Charles' Ademeno looking especially bright in a funny little game between striped canes in the background. Everyone bar Ridley is training again. Lee is still 'struggling' but Bore's groin, Cummins and Watt have all trained most of the week. Leary got the all-clear too late to play for the reserves, but whichever manager it was sounded quite bewilderingly excited by his physique and general conditioning. Ooh, lots to choose from and nothing to play for.
It would seem that many bookies have both sides at 6/4 to win the game, which sounds very short for Town in my opinion. Oh yes, you can pontificate about our home record and how it's time we won one etc, but I reckon a draw is more likely than a win. And, to be honest, a home defeat against a side busting a gut to overcome a rather harsh five-point deduction and make the play-offs is even more likely.
I thought I had contrived to miss this game but circumstances dictate that I will be there in the pleasant spring sunshine to see how well the pitch looks and how uninterested the thin crowd becomes as the collective mind wanders to the subject of how long this malaise will continue. And what excuse we can come up with to miss the match on Wednesday. See yer.
Thursday 7 April
At least Grimsby are still solvent. That's one thing, probably the only thing, we haven't had to worry about over the last decade. There's been no money, of course, but we've never had the winding-up scares of other relatively similar clubs. I know it's been close and it's never been comfortable but things really could have been much worse. Although maybe the frugality we displayed after the ITV Digital monkey fuck-up cost us a few divisions? While Wednesday were out blitzing a million on Shefki Kuqi we were carefully loaning out and dropping Phil Jevons to avoid paying any more cash to Everton; these were the days before administration penalties, before regular court appearances for clubs. Still, we haven't gone bust, had any points deductions or been locked out of Blundell Park. Today your Part-Time Diary is taking the positive.
The positive being that things could, conceivably, be worse. There are clubs in this league of non-League as close to meltdown as a certain Japanese power station. When Saturday Comes has provided a summary on six of these troubled clubs. The Conference doesn't mess about handing out points sanctions to clubs with financial irregularities and, although I would not like to see any club go out of business, it cheers me that Grimsby are not on that list this season. I'm still clinging to the positive. Although the managers at three of those clubs decided last month that their careers would be better served there than at Blundell Park. Wonderful.
But it did get me wondering about next season, another season in this league. With limited television money, potentially and probably fewer season tickets sold, lower attendances unless form improves very quickly and with two new managers apparently all too ready to move people on and therefore pay up contracts, finances are going to keep getting stretched. How long can the club survive in this league? What if things go really badly? Then I wonder if this really is as low as we will slide. Could things get worse not better? The season after we sack a manager has historically been pretty fucking dire, generally culminating in relegation. The positive is rapidly fading out now. I do worry about not having a team to support and, as shit as they may be, I'd rather have them than not.
Anyway, back to positivity and the news. Garry Birtles has cancelled yet another book signing because of his Sky commitments. I'm sure its not Garry's fault: it will be that evil Mr Murdoch who's causing him to keep missing these book signing jollies and keeping your Birtles biographies unsigned. And if Sky had coughed up and just paid a decent whack for Football League coverage we may never have had that whole ITV Digital fiasco. We'd still be in the first division, McDermott would never have retired and the Fentydome would be alive and kicking. It's as if he just hates Grimsby. That's Murdoch not Birtles, of course.
In team news, Michael Leary is still awaiting the all-clear to be included in the squad against Kidderminster on Saturday. Although for him to be in contention is, of course, a good sign. So we trundle on to Kidderminster at the weekend. Kidderminster are sixth and have the play-offs to aim for; lucky them. They had five points deducted, and they're there in that struggling clubs article, but they've still got a chance of the play-offs. In fact four out of those six financially crippled clubs are above us. What does this tell us? That the reason we are at this level is not financial at all – but down to pure, simple and basic incompetence. Stay positive.
Wednesday 6 April
As conclusions go, of course, the winner of Town's next player of the year award is as foregone as the Liberal Democrats' meltdown at next month's local elections. Nevertheless, the club is going through the formalities with some eagerness this season after cancelling last year's awards night on account of absolutely everyone being completely shit. The 2011 ceremony will take place on Tuesday 26 April at Blundell Park's high-class McMenemy's suite and you can vote now using a page on Town's superb new official website that looks like it was designed in 1996. "The favourite... is likely to be 24-goal top scorer Alan Connell," declares the Grimsby Telegraph with admirable understatement. Interestingly, your original/regular Diary's calculations show that if the player of the year award were determined using the alternative vote system, the outcome would be exactly the same, except 0.018 per cent less unfair.
"A YOUNG Grimsby Town reserve side were beaten 3-0 at local rivals Lincoln City this evening," reported the SNOS yesterday, as if most Grimsby Town reserve sides are usually brimming with age and experience. "Michael Leary was not given permission by doctors to play the match," adds the site, shortly before including Leary's name in the starting line-up given at the bottom of the page and adding that he was substituted by Liam Dickens after 76 minutes. So, GTFC's reserve team and superb new official website both remaining true to form there.
Speaking of reserve sides and whatnot, CA has heard from our highly impressive, top-secret and very intriguing sources from within the game – oh, alright, we read it on Twitter – that HotPob have this week been to watch a match involving Plucky Scunny's second XI. Let's hope they unearthed a rough diamond or two to prise from the grip of new Plucky Scunny manager Alan 'Nil' Knill, because it's not like the Mariners need any tips on how to lose a reserve game against Gateshead.
Today's episode of Tell The Telegraph We've Not Been The Best Lately But We'll Get Better Soon, Honest comes from club captain Lee Peacock. Before you sigh in despair and hurl your computer violently through the nearest window, though, spare a thought for lonely Peaks, who has just moved his wife and children down to Portsmouth. "That was because I was told [by a previous GTFC manager, Neil Woods] I wasn't getting a new deal and I wasn't going to keep my house in the area and pay rent through the summer if I wasn't going to be here. That may change now the manager has."
The Telewag, unfortunately, doesn't go on to explain whether the Peacock family has an existing property in Portsmouth and Lee is currently crashing on Rob Duffy's sofa, or whether Mrs Peacock and the children – like many other residents of Grimsby in recent times – just couldn't bear watching the Mariners any longer and did one to the south coast to get as far away as possible. But given Deadly John (Topcon)'s record of hiring and firing, you'd think Lee would know better than to think his time at GTFC was necessarily up just because a new contract wasn't forthcoming from whoever happened to be the manager that month.
Finally, let's have a look at your emails, readers. As you know, you are all invited to comment on anything in the Diary by emailing email@example.com. Antony Chapman has done just that by suggesting some alternatives to the term HotPob, used by the Diary as clumsy shorthand for the two Angry Young Men who have currently taken a short-term lease in Town's managerial dug-out. "How about Scurst, or Shurtt," offers Antony, "or perhaps more appropriately Hurtt?" Thankyou, AC – I like all of those – but I'm also wondering now about individual Spice Girls-style nicknames for the two. Shouty and Shorty seems a good bet to me, and it will save me having to learn which of their real names applies to which man. Because let's face it, it's hardly worth bothering just for the seven or eight months it will take Fenty to sack them.
We sign off today with a chucklesome link from Matt Pakes about that terrible Rooney business. Thanks Matt, thankyou all for reading, and bye for now.
Tuesday 5 April
Idle Diary writes: Is the season over yet? There's still one, two, three, four, five, six, seven fixtures left. Town are 11th in the table, 13 points off the play-offs, and 12 points off the relegation places. It'd take a miracle for Town to end the season having sneaked into the top five, and likewise it'd take a dis-as-ter for Town to be relegated. A point here and there is all it'll take. A lucky point, a sneaked point.
No need for any real effort from the players now. Any slim chance of Town bouncing back to the Football League expired when Fenty decided to play managerial Russian roulette. Personally, I can't blame the players for not being that arsed really. Can you? What have they got to play for? Contracts? Ah, those that were worth it will end up elsewhere, probably blossoming, as seems to happen frustratingly often. The rest? Their minds will be elsewhere, wondering if they will drop out of the game. A team of the odd trier and the rest not trying – it's not going to do much, is it? Fenty acknowledged previously that the rest of the season would be time for the new management team to "get to know the players". Fenty's already written the rest of the season off. So the rest of us can as well.
After the game this Saturday against Kidderminster, there's another next Wednesday: the rearranged fixture against Rushden & Diamonds. If you fancy going, remember the club is getting fans to pay for entry. It's all, quite frankly, taking the piss, especially given the chairman's involvement in getting the original match called off and the current purgatory state of affairs in terms of the team's position. We've all – with ever-decreasing regularity – sat, paid, and witnessed Town's slide into pathetic shitness. This just seems a nadir in a number of ways, the nadir of a long and calamitous period for the club. A period during which no end of people – like Tony Rees – roll out the latest "it's sad to see where the club is now" soundbite.
Chumps. That what we are. Time and time again we have paid, through the notion of hope, to watch our team, watch the team put together by the board's appointments. Just write the rest of the season off for us fans, Fenty! How much income will the club lose? Just add it to the ever-growing amount for annulling managers' and players' contracts early and let the fans in for free. Give something to the fans, and see if the fans respond. If the crowds increase, if the potential can be glimpsed from the terraces again, there could be a solid inclusion policy from both sides of the fence.
I've sat here trawling for Town news and there's fuck all today. But I found myself reading an honest and grounded take on football in Grimsby from Tony Leggett, on developing the local Grimsby leagues. That's the sort of thing Town could do with. None of this wanky pseudo-psychological battle babble from the new GTFC management team. Leggett's take is the sort of precise, honest, and considered approach that Mike Parker seemed to so refreshingly bring to the club. None of this fluffy waffling on, like Fenty has shown time and time and time and time again, and Rob Scott seems to follow in that trend. Anyway, whatever, eh. Good luck to them, dutifully the latest charges to be handled the GTFC hot potato by feckless Fenty. Ignore me. I'm just verbalising years of hearing it all before mixed with a "this is our new approach", locked in the cycle of management changes. A bit like the board.
Michael's Leary is back for the stiffs this afternoon, by the way. After his health scare, all the Cod Almighty team are glad to see him back.
Anyway, time's up. This made me laugh. I hope it puts a smile on your face too. There is, after all, only a month of pointless fixtures left. Laters.
Monday 4 April
Mardy Diary writes: Hmmm. Well, then. Urgh. Hnph!
Shuffle, shuffle. Sigh. Yawn. BDRRrrrrr. BDRRrrrrrr. Twoing. SNAP.
Pfft. Errrr. Right. These Monday diaries should be easy really, shouldn't they? But I'm not sure what to say other than what has already been said before. I think, like the players, I've given up on this season. I can't even be bothered to learn the names of the new managers: I know it involves a Paul, Scott and a Hurst – and there's another name in there somewhere, but I'm unsure of the order. Rob, that's it. I still don't know what order they all go in.
Regardless, the management have taken little time to swing from "there's some talented players here – we won't need to change much" to "they're all fucking useless and lazy and they can fuck off". Welcome to the club. And so it feels like there may be big changes again next season, new names and faces to try and remember. I'll not bother to learn the managers' names until August I think, when there's a whole new team to learn at the same time. Save myself a bit of bother.
There's not even anything in the inbox – you've all given up too, yeah? Who can blame us? Who can blame anyone, other than the players? The cycle, the painful, repetitive, predictable, depressing, life-wasting, relentless, miserable, turgid, plodding cycle begins again. Or rather, it will in the summer. So now it's twiddling thumbs time. The hoping, praying, pleading desperation begins. There's always next season, or the season after, or... sod it, let's forget about it for 20 years when the renaissance will start and we'll establish ourselves as a middling fourth-tier club. I can barely wait.
Can we even afford another clearout? What was it last season – £200k? There's no money left even with further Fenty/Parker bailouts. We may as well fill the team with 18-year-olds, ride out the next 10 years and have a storming team in 2021. At least I'd get enough time to learn the names of the fucking players.
Ooh, look... a robin...
Friday 1 April
There's a lot of it about. Not customer satisfaction, but surveys about customer satisfaction. Slyly worded self-serving online questionnaires poke your Guest Diarist everywhere I travel on that interweb. But on one site I'm safe; there's one place that never bothers me with anything like a properly formed customer satisfaction survey. The superb new Grimsby Town official website is the mouthpiece of the club these days. Except, of course, when our far too easily rattled chairman rushes out into the club car park to issue off-the-cuff statements to a few lounging stewards, and to the cleverly projected holograms of some shouty messageboard people. The club listens to the few hysterics but it has no interest in asking the majority to articulate their desires, their pleasures, their frustration and their pain. No surveys here.
So, are we supporters happy to have to constantly exercise our brains, furiously developing mental identikit images of our ever-churning squad of players? I don't think the introduction of players wearing their name on the back of their team shirt was really, truthfully, designed to overcome the difficulties of playing 40 different players in a twelve-month, do you? And do we prefer to watch our team try to play football at home and lose, or watch our team play a tragic long ball game at home and still lose, without forcing a proper save from the opposition goalkeeper (which was a tactic that was a really pleasant surprise for Mr Cooper)? To digress for a second, here is a report on the Darlington game penned by that 'colourful-for-a-fee' ex-referee Jeff Winter. Do the majority of fans like having a new manager every season? And do we like the inevitability of the new manager bringing another conveyor belt of players?
Do we prefer to listen to music when Town score? Do we actually like turning out on a Friday night for a football match; do we really prefer our Saturday afternoons free? And what would we prefer – our board to be truthful about their immediate intentions, to admit their mistakes just once in a while? Or for the chairman to be routinely disingenuous; to give shifty, gnomic responses in radio interviews and terminate them abruptly when the interviewer persists with a line of perfectly correct and professional questioning? To actually tell bare-faced lies every now and then? Did we actually feel alright that the club deliberately ran up a huge tax bill which put the future of the club at immediate risk and then spent years paying it off when the same amount of cash was being wasted on a failed-before-it-started project for a new out-of-town stadium?
And how is our 'brand' doing among our peers in the industry? Well, in our first season of Conference football (of perhaps many, I'm afraid), one chairman has issued a public statement criticising the behaviour of the board of Grimsby Town. Another has issued a lawsuit against the club. And the rest have almost certainly had a right old laugh after the embarrassing and highly public arguments between Grimsby Town board members. Of course there is also the matter of the best part of half a dozen managers turning down flat job offers from Grimsby – despite most of them working for smaller, financially parlous clubs with about as much job security as a lumper at the fish docks had in the 1950s.
So what about employee satisfaction? Well, first the low-waged were given an arbitrary pay cut which did the best part of nothing to correct the club finances given the hundreds of thousands of club monies wasted on ill-judged loan players and a totally unattainable new stadium pipe dream. And now our first 20-goal-a-season striker in donkeys' years can't wait to leave, we are reliably told; while our cameo striker (the one with the haircut) went on local radio and expressed surprise and a tinge of disappointment that the manager had been sacked "so soon".
And two of our higher-rated players have turned new contract offers down flat, preferring to risk unemployment rather than swallow the shilling for another season or two at Grimsby Town. Having read what seem like hundreds of player interviews in the last few years, I have distilled the opinion that they want to avoid relegation or occasionally secure play-off status for purely personal reasons; I never get much of an impression that they want to do it to repay the club.
And that is because the club has not given them the strength of purpose, the committed loyal support, the structured but disciplined environment and the heart and soul for them to want to strain every sinew for the club cause and to want to applaud the club for being a great employer. Respect breeds loyalty and motivates effort – and there's precious little respect around Grimsby Town under John Fenty, gentle reader. And without it the club will continue to ail and continue to fail.
In case you care, by the way, Town are away at Newport tomorrow. Ademeno is suspended, yes, really this time. Bore, Ridley, Kempson, Watt and Leary remain injured. Cummins has done his hamstring. And Atkinson is demob-happy so don't expect owt from him. But, fear not, Hughes has actually trained this week.
Plucky Newport are a club whom have been shat upon from a great height by the Welsh FA recently. The FA promised them, on numerous occasions, an allocation of tickets for the Wales v England game which Newport sold on to fans of the club. The suited pillocks at the FA cashed Newport's cheque, even promised them the tickets were being couriered "as we speak" and then, at the last possible minute, admitted they had been "checking the wrong database" or some such twaddle and the fans who had spent their cash and made their plans would have to find a way to watch the game on Sky TV instead. Football is just run by total shits isn't it?
In a week of depressing and frustrating home performances that finally dispelled the we'll-get-there-in-March play-off myth; when one of the new managers has told the club subscription channel that they don't want to play 'lump-ball' but it is the quickest way to get the game into the right area of the pitch (and the other way of playing couldn't have worked; otherwise he would not be in the job); and, in a week when the new management team realised the frailties of the squad they lauded as being so large and talented on arrival, the size of the task ahead got noticeably bigger. To the point where it is bigger than a big thing.
It's census week and in the year when the Tory government had the temerity to moot a happiness survey, I reckon it's time the 'customers' of Grimsby Town told the board how devalued the 'brand' has actually become. And how our customer satisfaction is really looking. And how much confidence we have with Deadly John (Topcon) at the helm. See yer.