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Kerr taker manager
Wednesday 22 May
It's George Best's birthday today. How do I know that? Well, there's so little GTFC news that I was bored and googling stuff. You never know, it might pop up as a quiz question. Anyway, London Diary here, keeping things moving.
Apparently we're interested in signing George Kerr. I'm not entirely sure signing a 70-year-old will help... oh wait. Wrong Kerr. It's Scott Kerr. Concur? Good. According to the Telewag, Kerr (S) is on a list of 2,549 other potential targets this summer and may be in talks with the club. According to York fans he's good. We like good.
Anyway, having George Kerr back at the club last week had me thinking about returning managers. The 'special one' has officially left Real Madrid and is supposedly heading back to Chelsea for a period of time that nobody knows. I like to think that Jose Mourinho called up Alan Buckley for his opinion on going back to a former club. As a manager, going back to a former club is always going to be risky – will the fans still like you? Will the players look up to you? Will you still have your favourite parking space just by the club shop? Alan Buckley knows about this more than anyone else. Or does he?
This then got me wondering about managers who have returned to a club they have previously managed. Various gaffers have returned to clubs twice. Just look at Luiz Felipe Scolari, Harry Redknapp, Kevin Keegan, Eddie Howe, Kenny Dalglish et al. Steve Coppell returned to Crystal Palace four times, but in various roles: manager, director of football, flicker of the Subbuteo, tea lady, but not manager every time. Brian Laws technically is in his third stint as manager of Scunthorpe, but only because he was sacked for three weeks. I'm not counting that. They were on a Ross and Rachel style break. They were still going out. He's only managed them twice.
So, can anyone name a manager who has returned to manage the same club more than three times, like when Sir Alan of Buckley did? For the record, Sir Al managed Walsall twice (and a third time jointly) and then Grimsby Town thrice (and a fourth as under-17 boss). Get your Tony Pulis thinking caps on (he managed Stoke twice and so could do a third) and let us know. Ciao babes.
Tuesday 21 May
Mardy Diary writes: So some proper news at last, and good news it is too – unless you're the worst kind on internet messageboard dribbler. The Supporters' Trust has gained the requisite number of members to trigger a place in the GTFC boardroom. It's released a simple statement so far, with more to follow in the coming weeks.
This is most definitely GOOD NEWS. It means we, as supporters, have proper representation on the board. And although details are sparse at the moment, the trust seems to be suggesting that it will have access to information and decision-making beyond a level usually given to supporters of non-fan-owned clubs.
So, if you want a say in how the club is run and you're not already a member, then now would be a good time to sign up. This is an important first step for supporters and we should support the trust to ensure that fans retain representation at board level into the future.
Also, as we don't currently have a chairman then I presume this role will be rotated among current board members, right?
Anyway, last week we asked you to tell us about players who you thought stood out in poor teams and we've had a grand total of two (well, one and a half) replies – but that's better than nothing.
First up is Paul from the excellent Too Good To Go Down blog, who says: "I always thought Nick Fenton was a quality defender who, unfortunately, played for two seasons in very limited sides. Signed by Graham Rodger, he was a very capable centre-half who struck up a great partnership with Justin Whittle. He popped up with the odd great goal too and I think most fans were surprised when Buckley released him in the summer of 2008. The fact that Fenton has remained a Football League player with Rotherham and Morecambe in the five years that have passed whilst Town slid out of the League speaks volumes. Although I wouldn't advocate re-signing him, having the experience of a Fenton-type player to play alongside Shaun Pearson next season would fit quite nicely and add a bit of guile and know-how."
I think I'd tend to agree with that summary. Although I think what probably contributed to his release was his form towards the end of his last season with us. I remember suddenly being very annoyed by his performances – not because they were that poor, but because by his own standards he seemed to have regressed a bit. I'm not sure what contributed to that, and he may have just wanted out anyway – but certainly prior to that he seemed a solid, dependable centre-half.
Dan Humphrey raises a different point related to last Thursday's diary. He says: "This season's Young Player of the Year was difficult because we ended the season with a young squad. When the squad has numerous young players in their early 20s, many voters might be unsure as to who is/isn't a 'young player'. All relative." True, Dan – it was a very young squad.
He goes on: "Does it have to be a first team regular? Or a youth team product? Would someone early 20s; McKeown, Thomas, Pearson, Cook, John-Lewis be too old? (Not checked their ages.) This year Young Player could have been anyone except Disley, Miller, Hatton, Colbeck or Niven. (Guess Hearn and Hannah too old too.)"
It's a good point. How old can you be to still be considered a young player? Is it just the youngest player? If, say, we had Wrexham's squad with its average age of 39 or whatever, would 28 be considered young? Are there rules? We need rules, goddammit!
Anyway, thanks to those who've written in. Keep them coming to see us safely through the close season – or at least until the end of next month when we will hopefully have some exciting Cod Almighty-related news...
Monday 20 May
There is news in the air but I'll leave someone else to review the latest from the Mariners Trust. Middle-Aged Diary is much better at the past than the present, and if you are of my vintage, it will do your heart good to browse these pictures of Joe Waters back at Blundell Park.
Thanks for your responses to Mardy Diary's plea for correspondence. They included one or two (well, OK, one) suggestions for good players in poor teams. Please keep them coming. No doubt another diarist will feature them later in the week. However, I'm going to break my promise to return to the theme today and instead take up a theme suggested by Charles Lumley. For once, this part of your day should belong not to Grimsby Town but to the Doncaster Rovers Belles.
One match into the current Women's Super League programme, the FA announced that, no matter what happens on the pitch this season, the Belles will be relegated into a newly formed second tier. You can read more about this from Popular Stand here and here. I have looked in vain on the FA and WSL websites for a defence of this decision; the best construction you can put on that is that the FA does not feel required to justify itself.
All the thoughts that occurred to me, and others besides, were anticipated in the articles above. All that remains is for me to remind you why we should all care. The decision to relegate a team regardless of results, with almost a full season to play, has been taken by the FA, the supposed guardians of the whole sport, as played and watched by men as well as women, children as well as adults. It is a decision so insensitive to the very nature of sport that it undermines all trust in their judgement. They did something like this to Wimbledon. If they can do this to the Belles, they could do it to anyone, in any competition, each transgression made easier by the last.
Football was almost never pure, but that is no reason not to take whatever steps we can to halt its increasing adulteration. Please sign and share this petition: it is not just the Belles who need you. It is football, as sport, not business.
Friday 17 May
Mardy Diary writes: It's really difficult to come up with anything to say in these summer diaries. Especially when there's so little news or genuine rumour, and especially when I've had a pub lunch.
So this diary is just going to be a simple plea: send us some mail! We'll publish it. Well, OK, if you send it on the day when we've just signed 10 players then we probably won't, but any other day and you're in.
Anything Town- or football-related, get a topic going and we'll keep the conversation going over the barren summer months. Best goalkeepers' haircut; most comical goal by a left-back; strangest person you've ever sat next to at a match (Tony Butcher for me); pathetic football memorabilia. Whatever you want to talk about, here is the place to do it.
Otherwise you'll have to tolerate more diaries like this one...
Thursday 16 May
If the Telegraph has taken to sourcing its stories from the messageboards, what hope has your Middle-Aged Diary got? Pausing only to congratulate Andy Cook on being named by the Non-League Paper as the Young Player of the Year (creating the paradoxical situation that he is officially the best young player outside the Football League but not within his club), let's change the subject.
Lists of great players are usually dominated by those who played in successful teams. Spare a thought for those who stood out against the tide in poor teams. Three occur to me, from different eras.
In the post-McMenemy mid-70s, Town spent two seasons in the bottom half of the third division before they were relegated. Many players from that time we associate with more memorable periods, whether before (Jack Lewis, Harry Wainman...) or after. A fair number of the players you will be remembering tomorrow night at the evening with George Kerr made their Town debuts in the battle against relegation. Mike Czuczman had left by then (to return as a squad player some years later), a solid reassuring presence in central defence, no-nonsense clearances frequently provided by means of ponderous bicycle kicks. That I associate him with the mid-70s lull is maybe a trick of perspective. He joined Town in the 1971-72 championship season. Perhaps defenders come more to the fore when a side is struggling.
The same argument could be made for holding midfielders. Bobby Roberts' 1987-88 side had a lot of damage to undo and couldn't quite undo it. Marc North and Steve Sherwood went on to help in the Buckley revival, but Donal O'Riordan had moved on, leaving Blundell Park in tears when relegation was confirmed on the last day, with the scant consolation of his being named in the divisional team of the year.
By contrast, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro was a forward, and one who went from strength to strength even as our Football League existence was being snuffed out. Signed by Mike Newell, he made an immediate impact, waned, and then regained his form, adding greater awareness to add to his skill and speed under Neil Woods. Other players from that period we can at least associate with our third Wembley visit. Akpa Akpro deserves far better than to be remembered only as part of the team that lost our League status.
Send us your favourite players who shone in adversity and I'll review them on Monday when I'm back in this seat. See you then.
Wednesday 15 May
For most of today your original/regular Diary has been thinking back to the 1990s. It wasn't the memory of Alan Buckley marching Town up to the top of the hill, nor Brian Laws marching them down again. It wasn't even to do with Blur playing Cleethorpes Pier. No, for some reason I was reminded of the Great Grimsby Baked Bean Price War, in which the giants of Tesco and Sainsbury's duked it out with upstart newcomers like Aldi for the title of cheapest beans in town. My memory may be ailing as I enter middle age, but I seem to recall a point being reached when one supermarket was actually paying customers 2p per can to take them away.
Maybe there's an analogy with football's transfer market, where most players are no longer assets but liabilities – financially speaking, at least. As the directors of football clubs have bought into the attention-deficit disorder values of the modern age, managers are increasingly sacked willy-nilly. When a manager is sacked, the players he leaves behind are mostly financial liabilities. In nearly all cases, you can't sell them: you have to pay to get rid of them, to clear some squad space for the new boss's acquisitions.
The best players, of course, retain a value. Ryan Bennett, say, proved a saleable commodity (notwithstanding future outbreaks of idiotic tweeting). But figures like 'Penis' Peter Sweeney, Barry Conlon and Lewis Gobern (remember him? No, thought not) can only be considered a footballing equivalent of the grubby and slightly dented tin on the shelves at Netto, priced at minus two pence, which you open only to find two inches of salt water, below which at last lies an obscure stratum of undercooked haricot beans, reluctantly adhered to by some pale approximation of tomato sauce, offering up a taste and texture no kinder to the palate than gravel.
Dayle Southwell – less, perhaps, a bad tin of beans than a pre-packed bag of fresh salad leaves – has signed a new one-year contract with the Mariners. This, apparently, is news; I know – we all thought that had happened a couple of weeks ago. But then these are the premature dog days of summer. While the football rolls on for a month everywhere else, we poor Conference souls are already well into the period when the sport content of our local paper becomes indistinguishable from the time-killing speculation of the messageboards.
Still, good luck to Town's hopeful young forward, who didn't do much wrong during the 2012-13 campaign – largely because he wasn't given a chance to. Dayle, as we know, was forced to watch as a succession of forwards were brought into the club and thrust into the first team ahead of him. This must have been especially tough when one of them was Richard Brodie, who seemed far more a throwback to the recent Netto beans model of GTFC signings. Southwell is still to prove himself, but we'll all hope fervently that this time next year he's not left on the shelf.
Tuesday 14 May
"I'm no bait", "I 'in't a mob, I won't moan 1 bit", "mon tibia". Not, as you might think, the interior reflections of the referee, the Blundell Park crowd (full of new season good intentions, even if they would struggle with Michael Gove's new grammar test), and the new French signing Scott and Hurst will no doubt have secured, shortly after a ferocious tackle, next August. No, that is a representation of Grimbarian social media users eating their words after Scott Neilson (he of the anodyne quote for the benefit of Bedfordshire readers) signed a one-year contract with the Mariners yesterday.
Football makes us all lay judges and it is a particular pleasure when our condemnations are disproved. If the person who, slagging off a player moments before they score, does not accept in good part a sarcy "And you were just saying how well he was playing!" change seats; never mind not being a proper fan, that would not be a proper human.
After your Middle-Aged Diary has forgotten the David Cameron-like panic of Tony Gallimore being faced with a rampaging, confident right-winger, I will remember the afternoon he ventured hesitantly up our left flank and from close to the bye-line, shovelled over a cross which Stacy Coldicott bundled home – a crucial winning goal in an against-the-odds escape from relegation. It was a moment bathed in goodwill. As Gally trudged back to his starting position, a rueful smile on his face after a quiet, congratulatory word from Macca, spectators told each other how they had always said he was a model professional.
There is a rich source of anecdotage in the things we have said at a match, instantly and happily proved wrong, so share them. The days are getting longer and the news feeds are getting emptier; your Diary needs you.
On which note, Rob McIlveen has written in: "I'm stunned by the number of fifty-somethings who have emailed me about my appreciation of Kevin Moore. Evidently there are a lot of us out there who read the Diary but only rarely feel moved to contribute to it. So, at least some of us of a certain vintage do feel it fitting that GTFC rename the young player of the year the Kevin Moore young player of the year."
If part of the fun of being a fan is not having to stand by your opinions, Rob is determined to put his money where his mouth is. He reaffirms his willingness to fund an appropriate trophy or shield, and asks Cod Almighty to make the arrangements with the club if it wants to take advantage of his generous offer. We'll do our best Rob, and if anyone from the club (or the Trust, perhaps) is reading this and wants to be put in touch with Rob, we'll happily act as go-between.
Thank you, Rob, and thanks to you all for reading.
Monday 13 May
Well, at least my new boss will be happy. Yes, your not-so-special Bonus Diary is looking on the bright side of life in the echoing chasm that bookends Town disappointments.
They won't be chortling in Chorlton but will be doing wheelies in Wigan. In the traditional end-of-the-pier finale, Hollywood bigshots the Abu Dabby Doodlers flunked and flounced in the teatime shuffle, so let's be happy for fellow little clubbers, the derided untermensch of glitterball society. Remember what Craig Shakespeare said when he curled in a 25-yard cracker at Maine Road: "Jealousy doth like a green bug-eyed flagsnapper gnaw at your innards." Envy at others is simply calling the pot tin. But when it comes to 'Ull, don't get envy: get even.
Elsewhere on Planet Nutball the post-season, pre-pre-season season of speculation and simulation cranks up to level one and a bit. He wore no shoeshine, he played toe-jam football and temporary Tom Naylor has been released by Derby County. One and one and one is free, so some see Naylor and Town come together.
I must find out whether my new boss took up my suggestion to rollerskate her broken-toed daughter down Wembley Way. Was that healthy and safe, or had I gone mad? Sorry, got bored with non-news and drifted off into a reverie. Perhaps a skateboard would have been a more 21st-century modern girl way to sashay into the cup final. It really is time someone invented hoverboots for all; it'd certainly cut down on the wear and tear on Hadrian's Wall and other sites of antiquity.
Speaking of antiquities, George Kerr's pie and nostalgiafest this Friday evening still has tickets available, with a very special guest, live and exclusive, all the way from Memphis or somewhere over there in that America of theirs. Mighty Joe Waters, the pint-sized Pontoon pin-up, will be joining a full supporting cast in the McMenemy players' affectionate new version of The Madness of George Kerr. Younger readers get googling: it's a really big deal to any Townite over 40. It's unlikely to be dull, what with Wee Georgie's reinvention as Radio Humbs' resident surrealist sidekick.
It's next season already and Town's playing success just keeps on rolling on! They've reached the quarter-finals of the Lincolnshire Cup! Again! When we beat plucky Scunny on 20 July, only Lincoln will stop us marching into yet another final, against Boston or Gainsborough. Fixture congestion! It's another FAW conspiracy fixing things for Wrexham! It's best to get your paranoia in early, for that's a dish best served with mould, or perhaps served in Mold.
It's raining outside and it's raining men. Halleluiah, Scott Neilson returns and it's humble pie all round.
Friday 10 May
Mardy Diary writes: A document has been leaked to Cod Almighty outlining proposals for changes to the Conference's structure next season. The plans – which will apply to the Conference North and South divisions along with the Conference Premier – follow continued pressure for change placed on the league from certain sections of supporters.
Under the proposals – codenamed Operation Tinpot – the team with the largest fanbase (based on numbers through the turnstiles over the season) will be given the automatic promotion place. The teams with the second and third largest will contest a 'sell-off' final at Wembley with the winner decided by how many tickets each club sells of their allocation. No actual football will take place on the day.
Speaking to a contact at the Football Conference who did not wish to be identified, we were told that the measures are likely to be in place for the coming season, finally ensuring that Luton gain promotion back to the Football League. The sell-off is likely to be between Grimsby and Wrexham, where Wrexham will be hoping to emulate their FA Trophy final sales rather than the sales from their recent play-off final.
The change is also good news for Stockport, who will see themselves immediately promoted back to the Conference National after a single season in the Conference North, with the chance of automatic promotion back to the Football League the following season.
A spokesman for Big is Best – a big club lobbying group – welcomed the changes to the league structure. John Bigclub, chair of the group, said: "What we see here is the natural progression to a more modern league which rewards size rather than the outdated meritocratic system. Last season we witnessed minnows such as Dartford finish closely behind gargantuan big-club Luton based solely on footballing ability. This system, where such a small club can have success just by being any good, has to end."
Jeremiah Gate-Receipts, a member of the respected big club think tank MASSIVE, also welcomed the changes. He felt the proposals "added clarity and common sense" to the league structure, adding that the changes would "pave the way for a system that the fans have been craving for years". When questioned about the effect on clubs who lacked the ability to draw in as many supporters, he stated: "Nobody really cares about tinpot teams like Timsworth and Weaking, do they?"
Already, sycophantic and self-obsessed whiney fans of mid-to-large sized clubs have been tweeting at Alan 'Bleurgh Squire' Algar asking what odds they can get on their team for the title next year, then arguing when he responds: "Two billion to one, unless you're Luton – in which case we're not taking bets."
Teams in the Football League are said to be taking a keen interest in the proposals with the hope that a similar system can be installed in the League the following season. In particular, massive clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves are hopeful of finally finding themselves in their 'true' position – the bottom half of the Premier League.
At Accrington a club spokesman simply said: "Bugger!"
Rumours that Forest Green plan to change their name to the New York Yankees in order to exploit a semantic loophole in the proposals have not been confirmed. It is also alleged that Kidderminster, Hereford, Telford, Tamworth and Nuneaton have plans to merge under the name The Midland Alliance FC to secure promotion to the Football League.
More on this massive story next week...
Thursday 9 May
It was before the alleged assault on Dayle Southwell last weekend that I thought it. The Southwell thing just confirmed it.
I've been feeling it for ages, really, if I'm honest. But only quite recently have I found a way of articulating that feeling.
Here's what it is.
If I hadn't become a Town fan when I was little, there's no way I'd get into football now.
Before we go any further, let me say this: your original/regular Diary isn't going to jump on that 'Against Modern Football' bandwagon. True, the AMF movement makes many valid points about the corporate pillage of our game. Football is too expensive, and if money is the lifeblood of the game than much of the money paid by fans is sucked up by various parasitic bastards in suits: from the agents and 'advisors' to the 'investors' and carpetbaggers. The Premier League has severely damaged the competitive balance of the English game and the latest changes to its 'parachute payment' system threaten to destroy it altogether.
But AMF throws out the baby with the bathwater. It's not friendship scarves that bother me about modern football. It's not all-seater stadiums, or players having Twitter accounts. It's not even fans with prawn sandwiches: the supposed gentrification of football is a metropolitan thing. Even a tray of chips is probably deemed too much like health food to make it onto the menu at the kiosks inside Blundell Park.
No, scratch the surface of AMF and you find an ugly, reactionary nostalgia for the days when men were men and attacked each other outside football grounds in large, Stanley knife-wielding gangs, in between admiring each other's nice clothes. Women, of course, were nowhere to be seen.
So what is it that boils my piss most about modern football? It's the sense of entitlement. It's all the fucking endless moaning, every day of every week, that My Club FC should be higher up the league because, um, stuff. That My Club's current status is 'unacceptable' so we should sack the manager, regardless of whether or not such an action is likely to improve or degrade that status. That we're not like other clubs: we're better, because, um, er... things, probably we're really good fans or something from 30 years ago, or something else that every other set of fans in the country will claim with equal vehemence, so we deserve everything and we deserve it now, and if we don't get it we'll scream and scream until we're sick.
But what does this have to do with the alleged attack on Dayle Southwell last weekend? Am I implying some connection between this sense of entitlement and the possibility that a footballer might be assaulted by a supporter after a team finishes fourth in its league?
Well, actually, yes, I am. This may just be extrapolating from Middle-Aged Diary's reflections here on Tuesday. But if you go around thinking you're 'too big' for this 'tinpot' league, and you 'have to get out' of it, you can work yourself up into a right old state. You can get angry about things you shouldn't really get angry about. If you
feel frustrated because you think your club is in too low a league, then of course it doesn't follow that you will headbutt a footballer for failing to win promotion. But if you headbutt a footballer for failing to win promotion, it's pretty certain you feel frustrated because you think your club is in too low a league. These are two points on a scale, not two different scales.
There it is, then. I've got to the bottom of this loathing I feel for modern football. So what will I do with this loathing? I dunno. I'm not going anywhere. However pissed off I get with what the game has become, I'll always be a Town fan. I've got my memories to keep me warm at night. Promotions and great cup victories, sure. But memories from a time when, in the absence of promotions and great cup victories, we stayed cool. We lost a match, sighed and perhaps muttered darkly a little. We didn't scream abuse. We didn't headbutt anyone. We didn't dream of calling for a manager to be sacked, unless he was Mike Lyons. And we went to the match again the next week and we just kept on going.
The next generation of fans, however, won't have those memories of GTFC. And what worries me most is that GTFC won't have the next generation of fans.
Wednesday 8 May
You know how yesterday, I promised to get down from the pulpit? Unfortunately for you, I only said next week... No, relax. Your Middle-Aged Diary has been called into unexpected action, but, responding with all the alacrity of a millionaire forced to come on as a sub in a friendly international, I am all preached out.
The big news in Grimsby is that Craig Disley has signed a new one-year contract... actually, the only news in Grimsby is that Craig Disley has signed a new one-year contract. It is particularly welcome as it means we currently have a squad peculiarly well adapted to return the Mariners to the real glory years of the 1930s, with a 2-3-5 formation.
Elsewhere, the news seems to have been overshadowed by the retirement of Alex Ferguson. At the time of writing, exactly 76,972 people have made a joke on the social media associating the manager of their club with the vacancy at Manchester United.
On Twitter, Lloyd Griffith has calculated that during the quarter-century Ferguson has been in charge at Old Trafford, the Mariners have got through 22 managers. The need for managerial stability is a truism, although there have been times when, while hoping in the abstract for the carousel to stop, one really does hope you don't get lumbered with the baggage that happens to be next to you when it does. Suppose it had come to a grinding halt when Nicky Law was in charge? Give them time, however, and you do see people mature into the role, as they can no longer blame their predecessors for the state of iniquity they inherited and have to concentrate on making their own decisions come good.
It will be interesting to hear the excuses the next manager of Manchester United tries to conjure up though.
Tuesday 7 May
Last week, your Middle-Aged Diary waffled on about various things, which I came to summarise with the line "Respecting other teams does not make you less of a Town fan". Quite a few people were kind enough to respond positively, so, with apologies, and in the absence of too much hard news (although the club's request for suggestions to commemorate Kevin Moore deserves highlighting), I'm going to carry on in the same vein (but I promise to get down from the pulpit next week).
Respecting other teams makes you more of a Town fan. It is pitching it too strong to say that respect for the league we are in is a necessary condition for achieving promotion. The experience of Crawley and Fleetwood demonstrates that you can buy your way out of the Conference, but you leave with the contempt of your peers. What is most valuable about a club is sacrificed for short-term success, endangering its long-term survival. A risk you are prepared to take? Ask a Rushden Town or Irthlingborough Diamonds supporter how that can turn out; where are Ru$hden & Diamonds now? Besides, the cut to the Mariners' budget evidenced by the players released last week makes it clear that this is not a model available to us.
Clubs like Wimbledon have been promoted with everyone's best wishes and many former League clubs like Torquay and York have returned to the fourth flight stronger for their experience of the fifth. Arguably one or two clubs continue to "languish" in the Conference, convinced that somehow they are too big for this stage, asleep in a dream of paranoia in which everyone but themselves is responsible for their decline. That is no nightmare: it is a daydream putting off the moment you have to wake up and start to put things right.
We are in better shape than we were three years ago. We have the core of a playing squad which, more often than not, rolls up its sleeves and plays, no matter the state of the pitch or the emptiness of the stands. We have supporters who are supportive, especially away from Blundell Park. Paradoxically, even the release of players last week is a sign of a club planning to live by its means.
But then there is still work to do. If our major shareholder feels that his visitors to the directors box need lessons in etiquette, and the best way to teach that etiquette is to "deconstruct" a flag, there is still work to do. If we have supporters who, 20 minutes into a home match against a team of part-time players start grumbling because we haven't scored yet, there is work still to do. If, every time a refereeing or administrative ruling goes against us, we mutter about a "tinpot league", there is work still to do. And if we have one supporter who assaults a young, locally born striker for not getting us promoted, there is work still do.
These are tenuous, but still tangible, ties between lack of respect and lack of success, perhaps not making it impossible but certainly making it harder for us to put things right. The more respect we show those around us, the easier we will find it to analyse how we can improve.
Monday 6 May
Miss Guest Diary writes: Even with a week to get over it, I was still feeling a bit miffed with Newport and so was rooting yesterday for Wrexham to win the play-off final. Not, as some might think, because I was upset at Town losing last week. No, on the day, Newport were simply better and deserved their victory: the reasons I didn't want Newport to get promoted were far more petty and childish than that.
Firstly, I hated the temporary stand behind the goal at Rodney Parade from which we watched the game. It bounced and swayed around alarmingly every time the fans jumped up and down – which they did a lot to ease the tedium of the second half – and which left me feeling slightly queasy. Secondly, I felt that it showed a complete lack of class not to wait until the Town fans had left the ground to announce that Wembley T-shirts had already been printed. But I changed my mind when I read this article about Newport's fortunes in the last few years. Losing to a club who had a lottery winner come in last year and take over as chairman could feel a bit unfair, but it's no different to the club being bankrolled by a local businessman. Anyway, Les Scadding sounds like a great bloke and I wish him and his club all the best for next season in the Football League.
I am very disappointed about the release of Ian Miller and Bradley Wood, so I'm not yet thinking about next season for Town. Except to pose the question to my other half as to whether we might "take a year off" from going to games. I've asked this every summer since we became non-League but not in a really serious way. I know we'll be heading down to Blundell Park as soon as the season tickets go on sale, and I confess to already looking forward to revisiting grounds we haven't been to for a few years, like Chester and Barnet. And I've absolutely no idea what we would do every weekend if there was no Town match to go to.
If you don't live in Lincoln or read The Guardian, you will probably have missed the news that Lincoln Ladies football team is being "relocated" to Nottingham and will be known henceforth as Notts County. Presumably this has not received much publicity because it concerns the women's game, but it is still to be deplored as another instance of franchise football.
Friday 3 May
Mardy Diary writes: What is there to say? The season has finished early, players have been released and Shouty – bluffing or not – has stated that there are unlikely to be any signings any time soon. All we have to wait on is to see if Disley and Southwell sign the deals offered to them. The rest is speculation.
The reasons for the cutbacks are financial ones and, as yesterday's diary pointed out, we're hardly in a position to complain: we must cut our cloth or risk the future of the club. The Telegraph hints that the managers may look to the leagues below the Conference to unearth a few Lawsian 'rough diamonds', although Shouty doesn't actually say that they'll be doing this. But then he tends to keep his cards close to his chest, that one.
Of course, raiding the divisions below can reap rewards and McKeown, Pearson and Hearn show that you can get a quality footballer at that level. Indeed, Buckley's first team was built around a group of non-League players (when it really was non-League) and the likes of Tillson and Cockerill certainly knew how to pass the ball about. Paul Groves also came into the professional game late, having spent a number of years working his way up through non-League.
There's a belief among a certain sort of football fan that as you drop down the leagues you just get teams of hoofers who want to kick you off the pitch. The truth is that at all levels you get teams playing this type of football (and Mansfield employed it successfully this season) – but to equate all teams of a lower level than your own with the local pub team is daft really.
I've seen quite a bit of Conference North and Northern Premier level football over the years. While the quality in terms of football is generally more miss than hit, I've rarely (if ever) seen a team try to kick the opposition off the park. Mostly the teams appear to be made up of ageing ex-pros (and by ageing we're talking 36 onward) and youngsters who were released by League clubs or who were missed and are working their way up.
Sure, within that mix of teams you get the bankrolled teams building a squad of ex-pros (see Gainsborough until recently) and the phoenix clubs with a large fan base (for that level) – Chester, Halifax and so on. But mostly it's a team of players seeing out their careers alongside young lads who are inconsistent, unfit, late starters, or skilful but 'lightweight'. So it's quite amusing when people talk of sending Dayle Southwell on loan to a Conference North club to 'toughen up'. Sure, send him there to get some games and experience, but chances are he'll actually be playing among a group of players of similar ability and strength.
So deciding you're not going to BP next season because the budget has been cut and the players won't be as good is a bit previous. We have no guarantees that the players signed will be better – we can only hope at this stage. But I think recent history at the club has proved that splashing the cash doesn't necessarily bring reward: often quite the opposite.
Have a good weekend.
Thursday 2 May
Congratulations are due to James McKeown, who has been voted Town supporters' player of the year, and to Andi Thanoj, who has picked up the award for young player of the year.
As you probably know, we don't have an official party line at Cod Almighty. We're a group of people with opinions that sometimes differ. But nearly all of us have argued, at some point over the past two or three years, on one thing. Town can't go on spending half a million to a million pounds more every year than they earn. Whatever assurances we get from Flagsmasher Fenty about his loans being 'benign' (and indeed, the GTFC community has already witnessed several times precisely what an assurance from Fenty is worth), the club can't go on adding substantially every year to an already very large debt.
Town have today announced the release of eight players: Bradley Wood, Ian Miller, Derek Niven, Greg Fleming, Simon Ford, Frankie Artus, Greg Pearson and Louie Soares. (Well, apparently, they announced that nine were being released, but then they changed their mind about Sam Hatton.) Soares and Pearson clearly had no future with the club. Artus, Ford, Fleming and Wood were effective squad players. Niven and Miller were established members of the first team.
So what's going on? Why get shot of useful squad players who, in Ford's and Fleming's case, were signed as squad players? Why release a footballer regarded by most as one of the best central defenders in the Conference?
It's the money, isn't it.
So am I going to get cross at the first signs of GTFC starting to be run on a more sustainable footing? No. That would be hypocrisy. Your original/regular Diary, like the rest of the CA team, accepts that our club can't go on living beyond its means, even if that means remaining in the Conference for longer than we would like.
What I am annoyed about is the fact that Town have released one of their best players, apparently for financial reasons, just a day or so after Flagsmasher Fenty told us next season's budget would be only marginally smaller than this season's.
By all means start to run our football club in a more sustainable way. But don't try and do it on the sly.
Wednesday 1 May
Afternoon, all. Your original/regular Diary will begin today by adding my voice to those regretting the loss this week of a Grimsby Town great. Moores Kevin and Dave were mainstays of Town's first XI when I began watching the side. While an eight-year-old boy will not remember the fine detail three and a bit decades later, I do remember the confidence more seasoned supporters placed in Kev. It was a confidence that
no GTFC defender has since inspired in quite the same way.
I don't want to go on and on, because the UK is tending these days to make a fetish of public mourning. But I think everyone's quite shocked by the loss of Kevin Moore because he was only 55. So if you want to share your memories of him, or just read the words other people have sent to us, we've set up a page where you can do just that.
Some of us at Cod Almighty Towers have been wondering this week about the future of Bradley Wood. He might not be the best player at Blundell Park. He might not even be the best right-back at Blundell Park. And shortly after this diary is published, he may find out that his next step must be to seek another club. But there's something inextinguishably GTFC about him which makes us hope he can stay.
We talk a lot about Grimsby Town players, as opposed to footballers who merely play for Grimsby Town. Bradley Wood is a Grimsby Town player. His style and approach to football, in some incalculable way, approximate to the way we perceive our club, even our town. Even if he isn't a local lad. Who else in the current squad can we say that about? Possibly just Andy Cook. Who else in the squads of the last decade? No more than a single XI.
You don't have to be a Grimsby Town player, but it helps. Scott Neilson never quite fitted the bill but that needn't be a deal-breaker. A daft red card and a perception of selfish play were cited by many fans when the player left for Luton mid-season and gave his infamous "Grimsby don't really want promotion" interview to the Bedfordshire press. He's ready to build bridges now, of course. Since he left, Town fans have watched a succession of other temporary wingers try and fail to play consistently, or pretty much beat the first man with a ball into the box. As the supply to the frontmen dried up, so too did Town's league form and chances of promotion. I think we're ready to build bridges as well.
Today isn't just the day when new contracts are offered or withheld: it's also the time for Town's player of the season to be announced. There's more to this, of course, than adding up a column of numbers. But our man of the match awards this season show Craig Disley way out in front (just as he was last season, in fact). And in Disley's case the stats back up the instincts. Three or four games in to his GTFC career, the CA team were more or less unanimous that if a central midfielder of Disley's quality had come our way sooner, we might never have dropped out of the Football League. Sign him up, Shorty and Shouty!