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Diary - May 2011
Tuesday 31 May
Wipe the sleep from your eye. Only four days until the weekend.
Fleetwood Town, who missed out in the Conference play-off semi-finals, show their further ambitions with the signing of ex-Towner Peter Till from York City. You might scoff, fellow Mariners, but remember the days when we too were perked by the arrival of the likes of Till and Marc Goodfellow? It might not be wasted either, as the capture of tick-tock midfielder Keith Briggs from Kidderminster is a shrewd signing which improves Fleetwood's squad for next season, as does the season-long loan of Richard Brodie from Crawley. The management team there is moving quick to get something in place for next season.
At Town, though, we need to remember "it's not as straightforward as playing Championship Manager". So all of you trawling the web looking at what our rivals for next season are doing get back into your boxes, leave the managers to it, and wait, yeah?
An update on the club's "proposed partnership" with Oasis Academy Wintringham indicates a "positive response" at least least this is how the club paints this. In the absence of anything contrary is this such an easy sell? It's a common-sense approach which ensures that "our town benefits from a self sustainable youth system that is not solely reliant on the success of a first team". It's also something a number of clubs are looking into, and certainly will let young footballers schooled at the club have access to a more rounded education. How much the club will be involved, and whether it will help maintain or raise the standards in the club's youth system, is another matter, and difficult to assess in lieu of any detailed information. Given the impact on the club this might afford, anyone out there willing to do some further digging?
And finally, you'll be pleased to know that in these times of austerity you'll have less far to travel to all the away games next season. Great news! And while we're willing to overlook the SNOS neglecting to make clear its presumption that they are working on the logics of fans departing from Grimsby, it has us thinking: did anyone go to every away game last season?
Friday 27 May
Good morning people your Guest Diarist welcomes you to another blooming bank holiday weekend. This year I'm eating my home-grown strawberries as I watch the French open rather than Wimbledon does that mean the next football season is any nearer? Sadly, not. No early signings to generate false optimism. But at least there's no-one sniffing around Mr Connell yet either. So that's the news out of the way then.
Sometimes half-truths can make you smirk, even ruefully smirk. "It's not as straightforward as playing Championship Manager," speech-marked one of the Town managers to the Telegraph. But other half-truths can make you fume. You know, the sort politicians peddle all the bloody time. Even local politicians who often do it relying on their electorate's perceived ignorance and lack of education, and their perceived gullibility.
Councillor John Fenty (Con; Topcon), the ever-determined chairman of Grimsby Town FC, is often guilty in my eyes of trotting out half-truths. The blather he came out with in response to a fan questioning why he backs a manager one day and sacks him the next was simply pathetic. To paraphrase Mr Fenty: oh, I always support every manager to the hilt right to the point where the board sacks him. Just think about that for a nano-second.
He's the man that held a bankruptcy gun to the shareholders' heads to make them promise to give him total control. He's styled himself as a rich-for-the-area fan investing in his favourite team. A benign fan who will always loan the club money, whether it is good for the club to borrow it or not. A man who is on record as saying the club is a community asset. Except Mr Fenty controls it and seems remarkably reluctant to contemplate giving the fan community any sense of that ownership. Absolutely: that financial weapon remains resolutely pointed at us unwaveringly; for year upon year.
But more and more fans are starting to mutter that Fenty is not saving the club, but killing it slowly. Not death by a thousand cuts but death by a thousand wrong-headed bad decisions. And those decisions have weakened this 'community asset' so badly that by the time the financial cuts really hit home (probably next season unless we get a huge slice of what Fenty likes to call football fortune) the entity will be too weak to survive them. To say the board sacked Neil Woods, thus implying that he still supported him, is a half-truth of the worst sort. A totally unnecessary disingenuity.
But he's always doing it. Like when the Fentydome Great Coates project was in 'full swing'. When folk questioned whether it would be better for the club and the town to incorporate a new Blundell Park in a joint regeneration scheme for the docks and the Riby Square end of Freeman Street which would have breathed life in to a sad decayed part of Grimsby, Fenty trotted out half-truths. A project with shared risk which would have kept the football club in the heart of our town but Fenty resorted to a few less-than-half-true inarticulate sentences about how impossible it would be to build on that piece of ground because it was so low-lying. That was wrong-thinking disguised by half-truths. Ask any Dutchman. It cost Grimsby dear and was one of the bigger nails in the Fentydome coffin in hindsight. The only way the club was ever going to get a new stadium and stay solvent was in conjunction with the community. But that didn't suit Mr Fenty for whatever reason.
And in similar vein his stumbled response this week to a question about restoring standing terraces to Blundell Park. Oh no, why it would need an act of parliament to allow that to happen, spluttered Mr Fenty. Half-true. Half-true, but if you read the football licensing guidelines carefully a case can be made for allowing standing in sparsely populated stadia. Because Town have been in a division where all seating is compulsory, they don't escape the requirement despite their (many) subsequent relegations, but with attendance running at just over 30 per cent of capacity there is a viable case to apply for a licensed standing area.
But at least that question was acknowledged with some kind of reply, even if it didn't stand up very well. Unlike many others which were plainly ignored without even the manners to append a sentence at the end to say a few words of platitude like I'm sorry I didn't address all the questions posed (especially those pesky ones which illustrate my failings).
The chairman obfuscates with half-truths to defend poor decision-making and ten years on our club is half-dead. It's like Fenty has put a wild duck in a pen and fed it entirely on white sliced bread. The duck will be alive, it will even gain weight. But ultimately it's a dead duck. And on that Cantonesquian note I'll get me coat. See yer.
Thursday 26 May
Volcanic ash is threatening my imminent holiday, there's too much fucking wind and there's a distinct lack of that lovely summery weather we had for about five minutes a few weekends ago; all this, coupled with being at work and it being a Thursday, and your Part Time Diary could be forgiven for lashing out at our appallingly run football club, our self-contradicting, clichι-spouting chairman and the error-strewn superb new official website which reports every error-strewn action by our appallingly run football club. It would be an entirely appropriate course of action in fact. But then again, I do like supporting Grimsby Town.
Grimsby can be infuriating when they concede stupid late goals, and they can be humiliating when they get stuffed at home, but that just makes it better when they win. I like supporting a proper team, my local team. I'd rather spend 90 minutes freezing my bollocks off at Blundell Park watching some, let's be honest, pretty horrendous football than watch a Liverpool or a Manchester United in the pub every other Sunday and pretend that I have a connection with them because I went once and I have a shirt. Grimsby is an identity and I'm proud of it; I like singing about fish. I like telling people I'm a Grimsby fan. I like the 'oh, you do know about football and you're not a cunt' look that you get from other like-minded, discerning fans of lower-level, non-corporate local football teams.
I feel privileged to have seen my team at both Wembleys and at the Millennium Stadium, and it means more than watching them at Wembley in the pub like so many Man Utd fans will be on Saturday. They can keep their European Cup final against Barcelona, because our Football League Trophy final against Bournemouth meant so much more; and they won't get a golden goal or have Harry Haddocks waving about.
AFC Wimbledon winning the play-offs was great the other day. They deserved to go up. They deserve to keep going up until they get back to the level they were at before being stolen in order to aid a supermarket development project. They've got proper fans, fans that decided against supporting a team miles away and built the one they had back up. There are a lot of people in Grimsby that decided to support the team miles away, but there are enough that didn't, and I'm happy to be a Grimsby fan.
I hate that the club is in the Conference and that we keep getting worse and worse. I wish I got to watch us play at the grounds we used to in the not-so-old days and I hope one day we will again. I don't like a lot of aspects about how the club is run they're discussed on here daily but I really do love the club. I wouldn't change my team for the world. Grimsby certainly isn't a team you'd pick unless you're from Grimsby, and I like that. Football should be about identities: there's a tribal element to it. That's why we have rivalries and that's why it's important to protect the identities of clubs like Wimbledon. Congratulations and good luck to them. I hope we join them next year; but if not I'll still be a Grimsby fan and so will you and I'm fine with that.
What's that? They've sacked the scouting network? Oh for fuck's sake Town; and that was going really well too.
Wednesday 25 May
If there's one thing Grimsby Town Football Club could always be relied on to get right during the past decade of disaster and let's face it, there can't be more than one thing it's the playing surface. Year after year, relegation after relegation, as bad has turned to worse on the pitch, the pitch itself has continued to win plaudits and award after award for groundsman Mike Phillips. Just as the first thing you'd expect Deadly John (Topcon) to invest in this summer is a new midfield, the last thing would be a new field.
But your original/regular Diary has opened today's Grimsby Telewag to discover that Town will be sinking a cool £25,000 into the pitch (not literally) at Blundell Park and the Cheapside training ground. For why? For the grass to be watered more, making the ground softer. This, it's believed, will better facilitate the 'high-tempo' tactics favoured by Shorty and Shouty, and could also lead to fewer injuries to players. Drawing water from a bore hole, if this aspect of the plan proves workable, will also save the club money in the long run so full marks to the chairman for an uncharacteristically far-sighted decision. He even manages to get through an entire Telegraph interview without using the phrase 'going forward'.
While we're being kind, there are, in fact, two things Grimsby Town Football Club can be relied on to get right during the current epoch of excruciation. The second, lest we forget, is the
the matchday programme. For 2010-11 Town's prog has been named the best in the Conference Premier by the Soccer Club Swap Shop: the club's fourth such divisional award in consecutive seasons. Whichever league the ineptitude of the club's players and directors drags us down to, then, we can rest assured that we will always have the best programme in it.
So can we make it a hat-trick? Well, this is, of course, Be Nice To Town's Superb New Official Website Month. So rather than dwell on the inconsistent spacing on the SNOS' front page ("QT Part 1- Freeview... QT Part 2 Free view"), let's just enjoy the fact that there aren't any spelling mistakes. Bravo!
Tuesday 24 May
Now then. With Idle Diary failing to live up to his name and spending all day in and out of meetings, it falls to your original/regular Diary to bring you all the hot GTFC gossip this blustery Tuesday. Sadly for any reader seeking a summary of Deadly John (Topcon)'s question and answer thing, I can't bring myself to read it. After nearly ten years of writing the Diary and most of that with Grimsby's most successful Conservative in the chairman's office I would sooner scour the surface of my eyeballs with a Brillo pad than spend another minute listening to the sort of ineffectual, half-coherent business drivel spouted by the man who killed the football club I loved.
Besides, you know what he's going to say anyway. He's going to say "going forward" a lot "going forward", of course, is the new "in the building" and he's going to do his usual thing of trying to clarify all the things he didn't say properly the last time he opened his trap. So this time tomorrow he'll be explaining that when he recently mentioned the possibility of Town going part-time dealt with extensively in yesterday's Diary he only meant it was some kind of hypothetical whatever (I'm paraphrasing, of course: he won't say "hypothetical") and shouldn't be taken as an imminent possibility. Going forward.
If the chairman has got an ounce of sense (yeah, I know just go with it) then the next thing he should read is a brief and very interesting article by the economist Chris Dillow, which I came across yesterday. One of the things Dillow does very well is draw parallels between, on the one hand, economics and, on the other, things that actually make sense and are possible to understand. In this article he's saying investors should leave their money where it is for longer instead of chopping and changing. To illustrate the case he cites research into football management from the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium and evidence that sacking the boss every five minutes is bugger all use to anyone.
The piece includes a pertinent quote from billionaire investor Warren Buffett: "When a boss with a good reputation joins a firm with a bad reputation, it is the firm that keeps its reputation." This, of course, strikes a terrible resonance with Deadly John's tortuous search for new management after his deplorable sacking of Neil Woods. And why the constant change? Partly, says Dillow, the urge to do something, even if nothing would be better. And partly "a second reason, which arises from one of the most ubiquitous irrationalities of all over-confidence. We tend to believe that our next big decision will be right even if our past decisions have been stupid. So club owners think they have the ability to find the right manager, even though their previous appointments were duds."
So will Woods' eventual replacements defy the chairman's track record? Well, to their great credit, they have at least identified an area of the Mariners' squad where they particularly need to recruit new players. In today's Grimsby Telegraph either Shorty or Shouty can be found explaining that central midfield "is an area we need to look at and we are doing that". Given that the only central midfielder currently on the books is an 18-year-old boy with barely half a dozen first-team appearances to his name, this is deeply reassuring in every way.
Monday 23 May
Mardy Diary writes: Fenty has spoken in glorious technicolour freeview. I've not listened to it myself, I've grown a bit tired of the business speak to be honest. Well, I grew a bit tired of it in 2006, but my tiredness has grown further. Or rather, I've grown more tired of it. You can probably tell by the state of this opening paragraph.
Apparently, within this little king's speech, Fenty talks a little about the future financial viability of the club, and in particular doesn't "rule out" that the club may have to (possibly) consider going part-time should it remain non-League for the forseeable future. It's one of those if/but/maybe situations, idle speculation, supposition, that sort of thing. Where the club actually ends up is down to a number of factors most notably whether Fenty has finally lucked-in with the appointment of er, George and Ringo. However, it's hard to tell if this is genuinely Fenty coming to the realisation that his throw-money-at-it business model is not practically realisable, or whether it's yet another of those "you'll be screwed without me" benign dictator-type speeches.
But either way you read it, I'm sure a lot of supporters will baulk at the thought of part-time football. However, we are where we are and the longer we remain where we are, the more we need to act like what we actually are. Jesus I think I've been on a Fenty management course.
Anyway, we've been told that next season there's a playing budget of £900k, but also that the club is predicting a loss of £800k. Now, even someone with limited maths skills can see that our 'real' playing budget should be nearer £100k for the business to remain profitable. A team of youthers and part-timers essentially. Of course, cost cutting isn't the only route to profitability and I'm sure that £800k loss would be offset somewhat by a successful season and a couple of half-decent cup runs. But success here is promotion, as even a half-decent season and a trip to the play-offs won't cover that sort of loss. So again, we're taking a big gamble on promotion and if that fails then it would seem it's the last throw of the dice. Or the last throw of Fenty's dice, at least.
Personally, I want to see an end to the money-chucking it's not exactly brought us great rewards over the years. We can talk about the mitigating circumstances of the ITV Digital collapse, but removing that year of silly funding from the equation (and it was silly funding), the income wasn't immeasurably different between our pre-ITV digital season and our last season in the Football League. Maybe things would've been different without the outstanding tax debt hanging over us, but trips to Cardiff and Wembley and big cup games more than covered that loss. And it's worth noting here that both Slade and Buckley achieved these successes with relatively small squads and reasonable wage budgets.
So, while wages did drop substantially (and rightly so) from the second tier to our first season back in the fourth division, they then increased year on year. The loss in gate receipts/TV money/sponsorship could easily have been mitigated during our drop by a sensible policy on squad size and wage bill. Yet what we have endured instead is a sort of artificial fiscal reality created by the continued injection of money by Fenty, which itself has created an expectation of a wage budget that is beyond our means.
And for all that money spent on the wages of hundreds of players, most of whom you and I have long since forgotten about, we have received little in return. Yet, with the current playing budget for next year as it is, we continue to go down this route. Whether the new duo use all that budget remains to be seen. They at least have a history of working to a tight budget, but sometimes the lure of money to spend is too difficult to resist. However, if they don't get us promoted next season then Fenty's legacy may well be part-time football at Blundell Park. I doubt he'll get a statue for that.
Friday 20 May
"We are a million miles away from being able to say anything positive." Your Guest Diarist has enclosed Mr Fenty's quote from yesterday in speech marks because of the Grimsby Town chairman's earlier lecture on the subject which was broadcast within a "tough" interview conducted with him by club media man Dale Ladson following shouty messageboard outrage at the chairman's recent newspaper rantings.
Fenty had explained that articles in the Grimsby Telegraph were not attributable to him unless the words were contained in speech marks. When those pesky journalists analyse what he has actually said and then produce newsworthy headlines to prιcis his sentiments, well, that's nothing to do with him, he believes. Gentle reader, it is obvious that the man fails to analyse his own output, before he makes it, to avoid unintended consequences. And when very poorly chosen words come back to haunt him he gets very angry indeed (Fenty is no Ken Clarke, who at least has his jazz knowledge and a sense of humour to fall back on).
So when the Town chairman said in a newspaper interview that Grimsby's recent signings were a disastrous mistake he didn't mean anything more than to complain that the club's decision-making processes to determine the suitability of new signings were inadequate, apparently. He wasn't having a final dig at the guy who signed them, who had stuck out for a contractual settlement after being fired and got it. He didn't mean to imply that the players were effectively worthless, and his public anguish about their capabilities was not a warning to other clubs not to touch them with a bargepole due to injury problems and perceived general rubbishness at playing professional football.
No, Fenty hastened to add yesterday, they might be good players after all! But why, you ask, is the chairman a million miles away from being able to say anything positive? Why, when he has two exciting new friends who are mad keen to change everything and make stuff good? They want different players, a different office and a different way to operate the second string. And a club linesman who knows what he is doing for when we play exhibition matches (I know it sounds expensive but we can't work with amateurs any longer). Fenty is utterly convinced that next season is going to be a good season success is in our sights.
Don't you worry your heads, faithful season ticket holders: there'll be no massively discounted or free match days at the end of next season because we are going to be a successful team again. No, season tickets won't be cheaper, and, no, I can't guarantee there won't be individual match offers that mean your season ticket was hardly worth buying. But these new chaps are bound to succeed with our cunning new plan, as hinted at by the chairman, to base our game on that played last season by the bottom six in the division. Never mind the quality, feel the aggression. You'll just smell it like napalm in the morning.
That 'million miles' quote? It's a new stadium that Fenty refers to in this instance. Well, I think that's what he meant, unless someone howls on a messageboard, in which case it might turn out to be something completely different. He's still working on plans for a Fentydome, of course being a local politician as well it's always wise to maintain a diary full of pointless meetings where one can harrumph about academic compulsory purchase orders and the need for the council to support the "community asset" that is GTFC. Fenty was answering questions from the fans on a limited subscription-only video channel. Anyone could ask a question but you have to pay to hear the reply a tactic Fenty is thinking of trying out with the council customer services, I'm told.
I hope Mike Parker has subscribed to Mariners Player because it would appear that is the only way the would-be-bigger investor gets to hear the TopCon's dulcet tones. Mr Fenty thinks Mr Parker is buying another £350,000 of shares. He hopes he'll see him in the board room afterwards, even if only as a major shareholder, not a board member. So consider yourself invited Mike. But note I didn't use any quotation marks in this paragraph so it might be a different truth I'm telling you as regards your welcome. Fenty needs your cash because he explained in a direct answer to a fan's question that there will be a shortfall of at least £800,000 next season maybe nearer a million with the inevitable squad churn and the fact that the chairman has built the budget assuming that Town will average three thousand through the gates next season. What, I suspect, he doesn't need is competition from you with your aggravating common sense and pesky good ideas and that. See yer.
Thursday 19 May
For some reason your Part-Time Diary has managed to avoid all Grimsby Town news this week, well, up to now of course. It's not been a conscious decision; I've not been resting my tormented soul by taking a break from all things Blundell Park. I just forgot really, and then I remembered so let myself deliberately forget again. It's definitely something I'd recommend. I may even do it again next year. So back to it today anyway it was more a three-day mini-break than a week all-inclusive, and turns out I didn't miss anything. Great. It makes me wonder if I completely stopped keeping up if anything would ever change again, or would the club just remain in this endless and monotonous cycle; get a manager, get some players, sack a manager, sack some players, get relegated, don't get promoted, then start again. It's like when you watch Eastenders for the first time in six years and the characters have changed but the storylines are the same, so you know exactly what's going on; it's because the same bloke is writing the script.
Some news I was quite taken aback by was the arrival of the 'Be Nice To Town's Superb New Official Website Month', which promises to be a celebration of all things great about the official website, a carnival of digital media focused solely upon the SNOS. It's going to be interesting. One thing I love about the SNOS is the way it keeps you up to date with the latest alternative revenue streams the club is trying in order to sustain the stint in non-League football.
The latest effort is hiring out McMenemys bar for use as a wedding reception venue. I'm not a married man, nor do I have much experience of weddings save for the usual 'plus ones', which I have seen through rather impaired vision but to me McMenemys looks the ideal venue for any wedding, all those happy memories tied up with the happy memories of supporting your home town team. It's like a rite of passage; you've spent your childhood growing up out there in the stands and now, as you enter the responsibility of married life, you can celebrate in the exclusivity of McMenemys, with the other love in your life. I'm not sure about the 'full service' for all guests though, sounds expensive.
So to some football news, enough of all that soaps and wedding stuff; you can see what this close season business has reduced me to already. Shorty and Shouty are trying to get another keeper in to challenge KA Kenny Arthur, although if they do then their maverick penchant for having only outfield players on the bench will surely leave one experienced goalie pretty fucking redundant. Maybe Kenny could ply his trade in the stands, knocking out his gloves to the kids; he'd probably do alright in the winter. In other news Lee Ridley has had a hernia operation, so he won't be playing on Saturday, just like everyone else. Hopefully he'll be back up and running for next season because he's been a solid left-back, nothing remarkable or spectacular but steady, which is good.
That's about all for today but we have had an informative email from Chris Mills in relation to original/regular Diary's bemusement that 29-goal genius Alan Connell was not included in the England C squad:
The rules state, as far as I'm aware, that all players in the England C squad have to be under the age of 23. As far as I'm aware Connell is in his late 20s... Hence why Paul Fairclough has been so cruelly robbed of a strike force consisting of Connell and Tubbs this season... But let's not draw too much attention to that partnership in case Steve Evans gets any ideas...
Ah. So 29-goal Alan Connell is ruled out due to his 29 years. I think they should definitely make an Olympics-like exception and allow three players over 23: I might even start an Alan for England petition, or a chant at least. Oh and don't worry about Steve Evans getting any ideas; I'm pretty sure he doesn't read.
Wednesday 18 May
Grimsby Town Football Club are seeking a sponsor for their official website. The company or organisation that steps forward to take up this opportunity will see their branding appear on the site for the duration of the 201112 season, reaching an audience of thousands of the club's supporters in the Grimsby area and worldwide, as well as people from the media who visit the site. Interested parties should email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
By this point some of you particularly those who've been reading Cod Almighty since this site began might be wondering if your original/regular Diary is feeling quite well. I'm fine, thankyou. It's just that I've spent nine years now patiently drawing attention to areas where Town's superb new official website might do better, for the benefit of the club as a whole. And it's probably fair to say that standards on the SNOS have not noticeably improved over that time. So I'm trying a different tack. The period from now until 18 June is hereby declared Be Nice To Town's Superb New Official Website Month! I hope other diarists will join in with this initiative, and be nice to Town's superb new official website then, when the month is over, we'll see if the love and kindness approach has coincided with an upturn in standards on the SNOS.
It's not as if any of us who write for Cod Almighty are deliberately unkind, of course. When we point out anything at GTFC that we feel could be improved upon whether this be the website or anything else it's constructive criticism, made not out of spite but because we believe the club can and should be better run. And we've got nothing personal against Town's passive-aggressive, media-bullying, language-mangling, stadium-project-failing, manager-backing-and-manager-sacking, three-times-relegated, Conservative chairman Deadly John (Topcon). It's just that, well, it just doesn't seem very clever for the Mariners to announce that they want other clubs to sign some of their unwanted players, and for the chairman to then give media interviews about how shit those players are and what a terrible mistake our club made in signing them. It just doesn't seem to bestow on our chairman or our club much credibility when he gives his unconditional, ongoing backing to Neil Woodses and then sacks him a day later.
And if Neil Woodses has got an ounce of sense he'll get a youth team job with a much better club, take the compensation money and run a million miles laughing out loud when he sees Deadly approaching with an olive branch and threatening: "Who knows, the way things ended doesn't preclude him coming back to the club at some stage."
In other news, FORMER Town midfielder Bryan Hughes is playing in Iceland and FORMER Town defender Rob Atkinson has made the final squad for tomorrow's England C international against Portugal. CURRENT Town defender Scott Garner missed the cut after being named in the initial squad for the match. And the Diary isn't sure which is more bizarre: a final squad of 16 players being formulated from an initial squad of 40, or the fact that 29-goal genius Alan Connell was nowhere to be seen in either.
Thanks for your emails, folks it's very often the only way we have of keeping the Diary running through the close season. This week we've received an excellent one from Chris Beeley, which we'll hand over to Part-Time Diary for tomorrow. If you'd like to talk, please email email@example.com. Today we end with a contribution from David Martin, who simply describes Monday's diary as "pure brilliance" and "proof at last that someone from Grimsby has a bit of talent". This seems a bit unfair to the likes of Turgoose and Peasgood, David, but thanks ever so much for the compliment!
Tuesday 17 May
Update: after being asked to remove the link to the GTFC mail server, as published publicly on Twitter by the same representative of the club, we have decided to agree to the request. The point made in the Diary still stands though. Bleedin' amateurs!
The other day on the Twitterz, the user known as gtfcprogramme posted a message stating "one of the lowest points of being a #GTFC fan revisited" and a link to another website. Expecting the accompanying link to take me to a report of Town's tonking at Hartlepool (which I'm not going to link to, for reasons we've covered before), I was a bit surprised that I ended up on a log-in page for the GTFC mail server [link removed].
So, the next time someone says that we're a big team, that we've the best titles to fans ratio out of last year's league teams, and that we're a professional club, we should be higher!, let me scoff. Seasons full of defeats, whether they were heavy at the hands of Hartlepool or not, were bad times. But they weren't one of the lowest points, Mr gtfcprogramme Twitterer. The low points have been this past season, and every single fucking day of this season equating to one great big massive low point as the club has NEVER BEEN ANY LOWER. And now, the more I read and re-read Fenty's close-season analysis of Woods's signings, how there wasn't enough research put into them... Well, I think linking off to the club's Outlook server on a public forum is probably emblematic of where we are now, dear supporters.
Monday 16 May
Mardy Diary writes: I've got a car for sale interested? I thought it was what I needed at the time, but it turns out I was completely wrong. You can take it off my hands for free, but the insurance and tax are a bit expensive so you'll have to make sure you can cover that.
If I'm being honest, it was stupid buying the car in the first place. The guy who sold it to me must have seen me coming it's been nothing but trouble. If I could go back to the day I bought it, I'd say "no thanks, mate". It's always breaking down, you see it's not very reliable at all. In fact, I've only managed to get it out on the road a couple of times this year.
Sure, on paper it looked a great deal at the time. Although I was a bit suspicious when the guy who sold it to me wouldn't let me look at its service history or get it checked out by a mechanic. But I thought, what the hell, what could possibly go wrong? So I took out a three-year insurance and breakdown cover package as I expected to have it for a long time. Seems I was wrong to do that I wouldn't advise anyone else to make the same mistake I made. Complete waste of money.
You see, I bought it on the recommendation of a friend at the time. And I might have told everyone that he was my best mate forever at that time, but a couple of months later I went off him. Now I don't see him any more. My new best mates (I've got two now two is better than one, right?) have told me to get rid of the car because it's no good. They're good mates, these they can use the internet and everything. They went on that internet and showed me some other cars I could get for the same money that would be more reliable. You've got to appreciate that sort of effort haven't you? I mean, I've seen how these guys go about business they'll definitely make sure I get the right sort of car next time. These guys are going to be my best mates for a long time. I can definitely see it.
Yeah, you might call me fickle and accuse me of changing best mates every six months, but if your best mate lets you down then what are you supposed to do? Sure, Guest Diary has had the same best mate for years, but then his best mate is more reliable than any of the ones I've had. His best mate has been giving him relatively good advice for years. OK there were a couple of years where the advice he got from his best mate wasn't so great (I think I told him to ditch him at that point), but generally, since then he's stuck with him.
Anyway, who wants my car?
Friday 13 May
It's been a bit of a sad week really. English goalies deserting their country because they are sick of being messed around by the manager and are too nervous to play consistently; Nick Clegg looking sad all the time; the depressing return to folk bleating that "that dossier was dodgy" when the name "dodgy dossier" had kind of revealed that ages ago. Rumblings of bad management behaviour in public at Blundell Park (inexplicably omitted from these free video highlights) and a public announcement by that nice man at Boston that the combined arrogance of his two former managers and the Grimsby chairman has left him with no option but to take the lot of them to court.
Your Guest Diarist couldn't possibly comment on any of these things, because I wasn't there. But our regular reader knows that I'm a totally judgmental sod and either take agin folk or root for them. Well, in these cases I took agin Messrs Capello, Clegg, Campbell, wotsit, thingy and Fenty right from the start. And without a trace of schaudenfreude my first paragraph sort of traces the sad downward spiral that was the first decade of a new millennium.
As for real news which doesn't contain spin, spite or bad behaviour, well, that's hard to find. We know most of the pre-season friendlies, we await a fixture list, we await signings. A lot of folk are screeching about Styche, who made a big jump up the pyramid when he signed for Forest Green. He's not a bad player because he plays quite simply and he scored goals last season (weird saying "last season") despite not a terrific amount of forward support. And he has a memorable name. I've taken for him but who knows whether our management team are looking to sign from this division or lower.
I know one thing though. I spend a lot more time looking down the divisions from us these days than I do looking up. The politicians call it "direction of travel", I believe. See yer.
Thursday 12 May
At a loose end this Saturday? No Grimsby players to vent your frustrations at? Still want to moan about your club being shit? Well, why not spend some time emailing John Fenty questions in the exclusive chairman's special question time bonanza extravaganza thing. In the club's latest public relations exercise the superb new official site implores you to "send your burning questions to Grimsby Town chairman John Fenty. Any thing reasonable goes." Of course the first, and also entirely reasonable, question has to be: why the fuck has somebody been inexplicably allowed to put a space in between 'any' and 'thing'?
Your Part-Time Diary can think of several questions. Why do we continually sack managers? How much has the club has spent on paying off players in the last ten years? How much time and money was wasted on stadium planning while simultaneously plummeting through divisions? Do you think the ticket prices are fair and what have you learned from the final game of last season? What is your plan if we don't get promoted next season or the season after, or what if we're relegated? You know big questions, nothing about the catering or the use of heat-insulating drinks carriers in the ground. But what can he really say to these important questions? I'd expect the generalised answers we all recognise and loathe, about playing budgets and cutting costs and the like.
Atkinson and Garner have made the England C squad to play Portugal next week, although in a colossal squad of 40 players it's entirely possible that they don't get anywhere near the pitch. Ah well, it's some Mariners-related news. There's a definite lull of action at the moment: it's too early to start signing people, no one else has left since last week, and Shorty and Shouty have barely released a soundbite since then. I'm still at the stage where the season ending is a relief; I'm not missing Grimsby yet. I'm sure it will come and the boredom will set in, probably just before I get all stupidly optimistic for next season, forget about the mess that is the club and convince myself that with these five new lads from Boston we're definitely going to storm the league.
If you fancy reliving the past season 'in depth', the Telegraph has produced a
It's not very 'in depth' at all and looks like they've printed off a load of results and team line-ups and just thrown in some adjectives to beef it up a bit probably a good thing, as anything more than an 'in depth' summary could get rather depressing. Oh. and Blundell Park is now attracting the lowest average attendance
since the Second World War, which says a lot about the division we're now in, as it is a very respectable average for the Conference. How the mighty Mariners have fallen. Even putting an alliterative 'mighty' in front now sounds wrong. How about 'meek' instead?
That's all today, so go on get emailing Fenty, even if it's just to annoy him or to ask for tips on the frozen food business. Just remember to keep it reasonable.
Wednesday 11 May
Town's reserve team fixtures are to be arranged differently next season in a small procedural change which seems to be profoundly misrepresented today in both professional and amateur media. "GRIMSBY Town has ditched its Reserve team for 2011/12," reports the Grimsby Telegraph, lapsing into US English by treating a sporting club as a singular rather than a plural noun, while our friends at the Fishy go for the headline "Reserve Team Axed". So will the reserve team cease to exist, as these assertions suggest? No, it will not. Shorty and Shouty have simply taken the Mariners along a similar track to a number of other clubs by withdrawing from the reserves league and arranging ad hoc friendlies for the second string instead. "Rob and I feel we have enough good contacts to arrange games as and when we need them at that level," explains the one who isn't Rob, "maybe even more regularly." Look out for next week's reports that Blundell Park is being demolished and rebuilt after an admin assistant at ticket office moves his chair slightly to the left.
Your original/regular Diary has seen King$ton Communication$ FC come a long way since Town offered them the use of our ground when that tennis bloke locked them out of Boothferry Park. They landed on their feet with their municipal stadium, built on the profit from privatising those funny white phone boxes. Eventually they even managed to get out of the fourth division in the right direction, too, which is more than Deadly John (Topcon)'s Mariners have ever managed. The rest, of course, is glorious history: the Premier League years, the innovative chants, the chairman sneering at GTFC's financial status when we wanted to sign Kevin Ellison.
And as reported here by Idle Diary yesterday, of course, KCFC have found it in their hearts not to trouser half the money when they deign to play us in a friendly this summer. Not that the sum involved is to be sniffed at, you understand or at least not for a cash-strapped, albeit rich-chairmanned non-League side like us, sir. Town beancounter Steve Wraith has told the Grimsby Telegraph that the amount could be as much as £30,000. Our north bank neighbours have attached just one condition to their offer: that the money be used to support the youth-set up at Blundell Park. And at this point surely only a cynic would wonder where, if Town were unable to keep their youth set-up going, the mighty Tahgers would look next time they wanted to sign a player like, say, Jack Barlow.
So, what else is happening this summer? A friendly against Rotherham was also announced yesterday, and Town's superb new official website promised: "We will have some more pre season dates for you later today," shortly before failing to publish some more pre-season dates for us later that day. The SNOS has, however, managed to bring us some important milestones in the 201112 campaign, including the first day of the season (Saturday 13 August), the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup (Saturday 29 October) and the likely sacking of Shouty and Shorty (Monday 31 October).
Tuesday 10 May
Idle Diary writes: While our beloved Mariners have slid down and off the Football League cliff and landed, like Wile E Coyote, in a cloud of smoke in the Conference, the Cod Almighty team have tried to report on the club's misfortunes (and the occasional bit of fortune) in our special little way. It's not to everyone's tastes, but to be honest we haven't really cared. We set this up to do things our way, not the way the Fishy's way, which is where most of us were being published, way back in 1999. We shoot from our hips and if you wanna come along for the ride, just grab your skateboard and hold on to our bumper. The fact that over the years we've been held in high esteem by our peers has given us immense pride, and then to be recognised by When Saturday Comes a few months back with a gold award was like, WOW!
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And you know what, it's the turn of the team at Radio Humberside to gain some similar recognition, and from an award that is sponsored by a proper massive capitalist machine! Last night the 95.9FM team were winners of a bronze award at the Sony radio awards for their coverage of GTFC's relegation coverage. Great work from Burns(y), JT, and the rest of the gang. Does that mean we can all have a massive collective piss-up now and share a trophy cabinet?
Anyway, less about US, US, US and more about the club, whose pre-season will be set and sorted before "we go on holiday" says Rob Scott, with a definitive air of forward planning to it. And just to add an edge to the usually meaningless exercise-boosting fixtures, Hull have already agreed to waive their fee so the match against the Tigers has effectively become a fundraiser for the Town's financially stricken youth team. Is that a "hooray!" for Hull or a thanks for their patronising gesture?
The fixtures for the full team's upcoming season will be announced on 1 July 2011, by the way. Note it down in your diaries!
And finally, to close things to an end, a quick note from Dr Phil Watson on Lincoln's relegation: "This was entirely predictable. I think the Lincoln team that played us in a pre-season friendly (Lincs Cup, 4-2 to Town) was the worst I've seen at BP in recent times even including the ones in black and white stripes." Harsh, but fair? With the relegation to and from the Conference settled, a few eyes will be in the Conference North and South play-off finals to see a finalising of Town's opposition list for next season. If you're a reader who lives near any of these finalists, let us know about the mood round your part of the woods.
Monday 9 May
Mardy Diary writes: And so the dry summer months begin already. There is no great news in the world of GTFC, although to tell the truth there rarely is much news. This fact isn't usually a barrier to the Grimsby Telegraph though, with their endless stream of interviews with players, managers, chairmen, ex-players, ex-managers, coaches etc. etc. But alas, not today. Not even a "we know we've been a bit rubbish lately, but we'll get better next season". I suppose there's not enough players around to say that at the moment, though. Give it a few months.
We won't hear of new signings for a while yet of course, although if rumours are to be believed then one or two could be making their way over from Boston soon given the result yesterday. A real pity that as I fancied Boston to come up and it would have been good to play them next season. And not just because they'll bring a few fans and create a bit of atmosphere and help finance our failing club, but just because it's nice to have a few local games a season. And we've got some good recent history with Boston.
One local derby will take place next season though now that Lincoln have done the decent thing and got themselves relegated to keep us company. Once they saw that we weren't going to make the play-offs they brought to a halt their upsurge in form and focussed on picking up as few points as possible until the end of the season. They just wanted to ensure that we weren't left alone down here in this Football League hinterland. Bless them for that. That's what a local team will do for you, you see? Wonderful commitment to the county.
I am pleased Lincoln were relegated. Not in a tedious "ha team from down the road, we really hate you even though you're essentially the same as us, and therefore we're acting out a sort of weird self-loathing in public" kind of way. No, I'm pleased in the way I would have been pleased if Boston had been promoted. I'm not buying this "well they came on our messageboards when we were relegated blah blah" rubbish. Well, if you didn't enjoy it when they did it, why are you so keen on stooping to that level now? Besides, one bored 15-year-old with multiple messageboard pseudonyms does not constitute an entire fan base.
That said, I will enjoy it if we give them a pasting next season.
Friday 6 May
Let's take a moment together, gentle reader. In this, the deafening quiet at the end of the season. While we wait for the pointless votes to be counted, let's talk a few statistics.
Total players pulling on the Grimsby shirt in the past two seasons? A mere seventy or so. Home win ratio in that period? Once in every 4.1 games. Total number of draws? I can't count that high, even with my excess joskin fingers and toes. Twelvety something.
I could go on but that's enough for a start. But at least we will have oh, at least half a dozen players we recognise in the squad that assembles for pre-season training after the dog days of May and June. Maybe even enough to have a five-a-side knockabout without resort to youth or signings.
No, I can't stop counting sorry. By a very quick reckon-up, Town have employed almost two hundred and fifty first-team squad players under the ten years or so of Mr Fenty, averaging thirty six squad members per season. And too many managers and caretaker managers to count on the fingers and thumbs of both my hands. An average of more than one manager a season. And despite all those numbers there has never been any real competition for places. Just an endless conveyor belt of haircuts, attitudes and disappointment.
How does Dave Moore, appointed physio in 2001 by a nice coincidence, fucking cope with it? Moore-o is the one rational, sane figure at the club. He comes to work, he listens to an endless succession of young men groaning and moaning and bragging and generally being petulant. He patiently fixes them up. He gets them twisting and turning; he sends them back to train with the first team. He shrugs and he goes home. The man has the patience of a saint. Steve 'The Kitten' Croudson deserved his 'unsung hero' award of course. Although the philosophy of an 'unsung hero' award takes some pretty deep thinking to get your head around. But I say Dave Moore is even more deserving. I really do.
Let's rummage the Diary email inbox: Alan Dickens, a Mariners exile in Essex, has said this:
"Just thought I'd drop you a line from sunny Chelmsford and share a few thoughts on the goings-on in this neck of the GTFC empire. (Woodses gone but still not forgotten what's he doing now?
"Anyway, you probably have noticed that Braintree Town (12 miles from Chelmsford and about a sixth the size) have made it as of right to the Conference Premier a remarkable achievement really and I suppose on a par with clubs like Histon, Hayes & Yeading and Forest Green making it how do they do it? It puts Town's plight in perspective, it really does.
"Chelmsford City lost last night 4-1 at home in the first leg of the south play-offs, so don't suppose Town fans will have to slog down the A1, A14 and M11 twice next season (get Multimap out now and start swatting up for Braintree see you there!).
"Oh yes, don't write off the Pilgrims not to get back York Street could again be an away trip next season don't suppose anybody's going down there on Sunday to support Guiseley? Who, where is there no end to it? Let's get back in the League at least we know who everybody is."
To be honest, Alan, I'd contemplated going to York Street myself on Sunday but my loyalties would be with the new, improved Boston who have a nice ground and a nice chairman who seems ethical, sane, rational. Not qualities football fans come across very often these days. If Lincoln came down and Boston came up we'd all have some decent local fixtures next season, which would be good for the clubs and the fans alike I reckon. So come on Boston I say.
And Bob Smith has dropped us a line claiming royalties: "Loving your work and take on things as usual. After a shocking season I would be interested to see a league table for 2010-11 based on playing budgets versus actual final finishing positions on points. May I suggest that we would be the biggest underachievers by a mile. On another note I love the way you pull up that classic SNOS pre-season directions to Southport rather than Gainsborough classic. It was me that spotted that for you: any chance of some sort of royalty payment? I promise to invest it in fine real ales!"
Thanks Bob, but you are going to have to console yourself with self-bought ale, like us. When Cod Almighty started I don't think the intention was to document and comment on the slow pitiful downfall of our club. We never set out to count bad things; we wanted to celebrate all things Grimsby, to meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same. Dreams are not our master but we've been twisted by knaves alright. This Kipling paraphrasing has got to stop. Now. See yer.
Thursday 5 May
Well, what a start to the close season. Axe wielding, axe swinging and squad culling have left futures in the balance at Blundell Park. Sounds like a bloodbath down there, best to avoid, as usual. Shorty and Shouty have got their hands on Deadly John (Topcon)'s axe and are causing carnage. Of course it's not a real axe, we all know it's not a real axe, it's just a way to add a bit of interest to a familiar story about a few, well several, employees being politely told that their company won't be continuing to pay them beyond their fixed-term contract, due to a change in company direction. "Employees' contracts not extended due to failure to meet targets and Tory cuts" just doesn't invoke the senses. We want axes, culling and mohawks strewn around the ground. It's like The Last of the Mohicans in black and white and with less passing. Yeah.
So we're going to have another team's worth of new players. Your Part-Time Diary is looking forward to spending another summer searching for players I've never heard of on Wikipedia to find out how many goals they did or didn't score during the 19 games they played for Exeter in 2005. Then checking what they've done subsequently to make a completely improbable assumption on how incredible or shit they may be if they sign for Grimsby. Which they invariably don't, choosing instead to sign for Exeter, again, mainly because it's not situated in Cleethorpes. I used to enjoy the transfer window in the summer, following the rumours and potential targets, but that was when I knew the players we might be signing and when it was just a few additions to a squad, not a whole new squad, again.
So who will we get this time? I wouldn't even be able to guess, short of saying we might get a couple in from Boston. Will we even get better players? The theory of releasing your weaker players and replacing them with better players is brilliant: a surefire way to improve. Worst players out and better players in will eventually make a better team. Grimsby have tested that theory several times and the results have been less than impressive. Does this mean that maybe you could build a better team by keeping players together over a few seasons, maybe with the same manager in charge so they can build a unity, so they understand each other's games, play for each other and for the club, and then they might even manage to pass to each other properly? Or have I just been watching too much of the European Cup?
There's not much in the way of news today. There's probably not going to be much happening for a bit until all the other clubs wield and swing their respective metaphorical axes and there's a pool of bloodied, unwanted players to sign up. And there've not been any friendlies announced, as the proper league hasn't even finished yet. So we'll leave it there. We've all got more important things to be doing today anyway, so I'm going to go to a Salvation Army building to vote. I imagine John Fenty (Topcon) is in turmoil today: will he back his Tory brothers or will he just get that urge to vote for change? You know he loves a bit of change.
Wednesday 4 May
Supporting Grimsby Town Football Club can be a confusing business at the best of times. There are those occasions when the budget for players' wages is cut, and then it isn't. There are the days when one of the directors is leaving at the end of the season, and then he's leaving immediately. And don't get your original/regular Diary started on that time when the team playing a friendly at Gainsborough and the club's superb new official website directed travelling fans to Southport.
This week is no exception, as the above screen grab from the Newsnow service illustrates. And yet it really shouldn't be that hard. Let's break it down. How many players have been released, exactly? And how many more are likely to leave? The contracts of Cummins, Hudson, Hughes, Leary, Peacock, Sinclair and Watt are about to end and the club has not offered new terms. So there's yer released seven. The contracts of Atkinson and Straight Peter Bore are about to end and the club has offered new terms so as to secure fees when they fuck off to Rotherham. So there's two more going, and at least GTFC learned the Bosman rules in the end after the Butterfield debacle. The contracts of Ademeno, Duffy, Fuller, Makofo and Samuels are not about to end but Shorty and Shouty have already seen enough, and the players have been "told they can look for other clubs".
As Idle Diary noted here yesterday, "told they can look for other clubs" is a sort of modern parlance meaning "transfer listed" but it's a term that seems to be used only in instances where the club holding the players' registrations does not expect to receive a fee. Indeed, it's hard to avoid the impression that at least some of the managers' £900,000 kitty for 2011-12 is going to be blown on getting shot of Rob Duffy.
Meanwhile, Andi Thanoj, Charlie I'Anson and Sam Mulready have been offered short-term pro deals. And as ever, you can use the Cod Almighty contract tracker thing to keep up to date with the squad as it continues to contract and expand over the coming months.
So are there any surprises among the departures? Not really. It's a shame to see Lee Peacock sent on his way just after his return to full fitness made possible some excellent performances towards the end of the season. But everyone on the messageboards says his wages were too big, and when was a messageboard ever wrong about anything? Some might have been surprised not to see a single one among Town's existing central midfield retained, but so ineffective has the team been in the middle of the pitch for at least the past two or three seasons that this total wipeout will seem to many the only way of rebuilding the side. Insert your own cynical joke here about Shorty and Shouty's preferred style of football requiring little in the way of midfield personnel anyway.
Here at Cod Almighty we'll be doing our best to keep you diverted over the summer. As ever, we'll try and keep the Diary ticking over on a daily basis. But we need your help to do that. And that means your emails. Fire 'em off to firstname.lastname@example.org and we might just succeed.
The first such email to the Diary this close season comes from David Elvidge, who writes: "Just a note to thank you all at CA for your excellent coverage of Town's first season in the Conference and not least for a fair number of hours spent at a keyboard. It's much appreciated by this ageing north Norfolk rocker who, whilst not being able to get to many matches, still manages to feel part of the fan scene through the Diary." Thanks, David it's bloody hard work sometimes achieving a CA/life balance, so we appreciate your appreciation.
David continues with a titbit about his local paper's excitement over the recent GTFC debut for Kings Lynn-born Sam Mulready, and adds: "I leave you with the thought that not long ago Norwich City were in spiralling decline, yet have turned things around and will be in the Premiership next season. We've all done it so many times before, but dare we hope that next season will indeed be a new beginning?" We daren't, David, no. It's a comforting thought. But turning round this wretched mess of a football club will take two seasons a la Slade, and Deadly John (Topcon) still shows no sign of mending his ways. See you for the 2012 sack race!
Tuesday 3 May
The previous diary was written so long ago it seems, but it was only last Friday; Friday last week, but also the last Friday of last month. And now it was "last season", as Town ended their campaign with a 2-1 defeat at promotion play-off contenders Wimbledon. It's OK to shrug, you know you're not alone. And being not alone is very much a Town thing this season, with the club boasting a top three following at away games during this campaign certainly the club was a contender in one way with such a fanatical following. Well done, fellow Mariners. Let's just try to take those rare moments of awesome in an otherwise unforgettable season, and hold them in memory.
A decent few of those glimmers of light came from the shimmering feet (and, occasionally, head) of Alan Connell, whose 29 goals tapped, slapped, and nodded in this season will not go unnoticed by rival club managers. Connell is wise enough to recognise that his future at Grimsby Town isn't down to him but the Mariners' managers no doubt based upon whether they can build a side this summer that can challenge next season or if they decide to cash in on their prized asset if a suitable offer is received.
Whether Connell is here or there, today is when his teammates found out if they have a future at GTFC. The public will be informed "around 2:30 today" on the SNOS. If this is very soon for the outs, we will have to wait for the ins, reckons Paul Hurst. That's how football works. Hopefully there isn't a massive clearout which leaves the managers in a tight position a week before the new season starts, a la Newell.
Let's just see what happens...