Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
20 September 2005
Grimsby Town 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
A full moon rising slowly over the Main Stand on a warm, becalmed evening in the home of moan. The away end packed to the rafters with chipped-out glamourboys; the rest of the ground crammed full of unusually happy homesters. The air fizzed and crackled - oh, no; that was the tannoy chirruping out the latest homage to Macca: Chairman Fenty presenting a wooden box to The Exalted One. The ashes of all the wingers he's pocketed? There was a special souvenir pull-out obituary in the middle of the programme, Lord his high commissioner of arts Sir John of McDermott (1987-2005), with a foreword by Alan Buckley. You remember him, don't you?
Is that Sideshow Mel in the Pontoon?
Town lined up in the Fleur-de-Lys, whatever you desire, 4-4-1-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Croft, Cohen, they still call me Mr Kalala, Bolland, Parkinson, Jones (G), Reddy. The substitutes were Barwick, Gritton, Ramsden, Toner and Newey. Ah, no babyface Crane, reduced to grey-shirted small talk with the juniors to accommodate the return of Parkinson, who squeezed into the left wing position, Cohen being offered the chance to bask in Macca's glow on the right. Other than that it was same again, Sam. Torquay, Tottenham - what's the difference?
Spurs warmed up in most unremarkable fashion with Jol watching, alone, from the dug-out. Perhaps he was taking in the occasion when his career reached its pinnacle, its acme, its zenith: finally, after all these years, he gets to stand on Blundell Park. It's his Wembley moment. Of course it is: bored by bland stadia with straight stands and level pitches - this is football, matey.
Dish of the Day: Jermaine Palmer's spaghetti carbonara. Heh, nice to see we pulled out a big gun for the big game. See, we are a proper team too, we've got a Jermaine and ours is bigger than yours, so there. It's all in the sauce apparently; isn't it always.
The moon still rising, I see trouble on the way for Martin Jol's lovely-in-blue army.
Spurs kicked off towards the Pontoon. Yeah, you see, that's why the Premiership is boring: they just don't know how to start a game - all this prissy passing and tucked-in shirts. Football is all about wellying it into touch as quickly as possible. That's the way to get the fans back.
Finally Spurs chippled the ball upfield. Jones the Stick leant in front of some kind of international striker or other and balderdashed it out for a throw-in. Yes, get in there! Still holding them to 0-0.
Passing, movement, caressing the ball aside, hips wiggling, shimmies shaking; the guests got on the dancefloor and loosened a couple of buttons to reveal a hairy chest. Ah, but is it fake fur? You could tell by the way they used their walk that they're a woman's man. Sorry, no time to talk. Pit-pat, splat: Whittle swiped Keane to the ground around 25 yards out in the centre. After he'd finished crying Keane got up and Spurs' "galaxy of stars" (sic, or is that sick?) had a huddle, perhaps comparing their text messaging techniques. After some basic trigonometry on the back of his golden calf Defoe curled the ball over the wall and a couple of feet wide of ooooh, everything. Torquay did that on Saturday with equal élan.
Shall we just let them have the ball and see what happens? Why not. Keane offside - is that his full name? How long gone? Seven English minutes and we've got in their half, aren't we plucky little people doing well; one of our players even controlled the ball! Whoops, bish-bosh bang, Keane and Defoe like a circle in a spiral like a wheel within a wheel. Keane twenty or so yards out on their right drabbled a scruffler to Mildenhall's left. That's down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone, then. Mildo tipped the ball aside, though it was already going wide. Something to do, I suppose.
Robbie Keane is a paper tiger which Spurs use to scare people. It looks terrifying but in fact is terrible.
This is nice, watching opponents content themselves with possession, pac-manning across the park. This is nicer, them passing the ball out of play. This Premiership stuff is like the fourth division: it just takes them a bit longer to give us a throw-in, and with a bit more jewellery. Reddy racing, Naybet gnawing, King kerrang!ing the ball out for a corner. In, out, Parky slipping the ball in to the near post, Jones the Lump noodling, Robinson parrying, linesman flagging, crowd OOOOOOOOing. Ping! Game on.
Hustling, harrying, Town growing with possession kept, passes being made. The concrete and clay beneath Spurs feet beginning to crumble; these are hollow men, their passes falling into shadows. Hold that breath! And... relax. Defoe free behind the defence, McDermott placing his legendary status between the young pretender and the ball. Offside anyway, but why let this masterclass of Maccaness pass without eulogy? Still Town probed, pushing at this creaking gate: are there any British bulldogs in the garden? Oh yes, Bolland snap, crackled and popped a shot into the comfortably numb Spurs-ites at the back of the Osmond. They don't like it up 'em, cried the Corporals Jones.
Gulp. Is this it? Jenas dribbling, flicks, tricks and Reid tickled behind the centre-backs, shoving His Maccaness aside. Reid poked, Vampiro Mildo raised his wings high and swooped down upon this little dormouse, plucking him from the ground and taking this morsel back to the nest for a light tea. A light tea - something Reid is clearly unfamiliar with. At some point Keane headed the ball inside the Town penalty area and it bounded towards the goal with an impish gait. It's all right, it missed; no need to call the paramedics.
Ah, Town are on the move, scraping, scrapping, slapping the aristocrats with an inflatable rainbow trout. Pounding down the right, Spurs spiked, the ball flighted to the far post where Jones the Lump used his high-fibre breakfast to noodle in front of Naybet and nod back across the face of goal. Reddy lurked; King emerged from the murk to muddle clear. The crowd rising, the roof riding the sonic boom from the Pontoon.
Cohen and Sparky Parky troubled the full-backs with persistent probing. Crosses piling in and Jones the Lump charged into the six-yard box from a Reddy flick. King slid, Jones slod, the referee wiggled like a snake and waddled like a duck; well, that's what you do when you do the hucklebuck. No penalty. We didn't ask. Cohen surging past one, two, three four, can I have a little more? Parkinson winning tackles, muscling opponents away. I repeat: Parkinson winning tackles, muscling opponents away. You read that right. Smelling salts anyone?
Ah, that's nice for them. They've come all this way and haven't had the chance to say hello. The Tottinghams tootled forward, turned up the amp to 11 and flickered Keane free down their right. The Town defence splayed like a dissected frog; the cross flew into the near post, six yards out. Defoe sprang and glanced a free header a couple of feet wide of Mildenhall's right post. Vorsprung Deficient Technic. We laughed, then remembered he's England's back-up striker.
Then we laughed again, like we did last summer. Are you interested in Jermaine Jenas? No. No-one should be. The greedy wastrel dribbled past half the Town team, ignored unmarked teammates and looked aghast that he wasn't allowed to Harlem Globetrot. Whittle superbly venus flytrapped him. They didn't come back to the Pontoon again: too embarrassed, I think. They were no match for our untamed wit.
As the game skipped gaily towards half time Town tightened the tourniquet. Spurs were slowing, mowing their own lawn in increasingly erratic patterns. More passes were tippled out of play, heads dropping, arguments flowing. Keane was at Cleethorpes station already, making his funny gesticulations. The ball was played near where he wanted inside the Town area, but not to the exact spot. He gave up.
Parkinson was more than a pest, a threat, suddenly vibrant. Cutting infield on the edge of the penalty area, rolling past his marker and drifting a shot across Robinson, who was uncomfortable with the silence. England, England's number one (well, better than David James) parried aside with the finesse of a puppy on rollerskates. Ooooh. More Town pressure, more free kicks, more chances for the Panzer division to roll forward. Rickety, ropey, Robinson doing the hokey-cokey: advancing to the edge of the area and flapping at the Kalalalalalalala bear. Shoot! He didn't; the moment was lost, but belief was stirring. Macca raiding, Cohen va-va-vooming, crosses from the left, crosses from the right. Town banging on door and the butler peered timidly through the spyhole. Parkinson again, spinning, winning and grinning as he flabbled a shot at Robinson.
Apparently Michael Carrick was playing. Did anyone tell him?
Is it half time already? Oh yes. Premiership demystification: a standing ovation, Town fans proudly beating out a rhythm. But Spurs can't be as uninterested, disjointed and plain dim again, can they? Town's defence was having a stormer: Whittle and Jones l'arc de triomphe framing Mildenhall. Keane and Defoe had to run a long way round. Plus they took heed of the 'keep off the grass' signs. Macca had his winger on toast, with a little bit of brown sauce, just to spice things up. Croft was generally coping. Kamudimba and Bolland, in particular, were a solid wedge of wonderfulness, flanked by the tireless twosome. They were clearly frightened of Reddy's pace and Jones the Lump occupied their thoughts on a regular basis. That's us - who cares about them?
We're normally 45 minutes from Doncaster; it could be 45 minutes from dreamland. No, that's not the same thing.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"The ball moved - is Uri Geller flying overhead?"
"Have I ever told you about Horace the cheeseboard?"
"I wouldn't have put Defoe in my fantasy team if I'd seen him play."
"He couldn't take the call because he was reading the Magna Carta."
"Whittle's on fire! Well, not literally..."
Robinson was greeted by the Pontoon with cheers and support, not the usual mundane insults. Ah, new tactics from the big book of Cod Psychology - buttering up the keeper so that he cooks more easily under the grill.
Town replaced Jones the Lump with Gritton and fair raced at 'em, easily repelling what counts as a thrust from someone who is paid more in a week than Town players earn in a year. Ah, what you earn and what you are paid are two entirely different things, aren't they.
Reddy was doing his thing - racing down the right, riverdancing, romancing the stone-like defenders into fouling, falling, hauling Town forward through sheer force of personality. Naybet notched Reddy's ankles: free kick. Reddy tippled behind the defence with two defenders forming a crustless sandwich: Michael rowed his boat ashore and played the part of the luncheon meat to perfection. Spurs were constantly turned inside out, free kicks a-plenty, pressure a-mighty, the Town crowd starting to ripple up and down, up and down, roaring, exhorting the boys on.
A few minutes into the half Gritton let the ball skid off his lovely lacquered hair. It dropped between defence and penalty area, right in the centre. Ah, into the car park of the restaurant at the end of the universe. Reddy blancmanged Naybet aside and sprinted on. Robinson advanced and stood in no man's land ten yards off his line, ten yards from Reddy. It's Torquay all over again, just needing a swing of his enormous pants and Reddy could walk on the moon. Reddy saw tomorrow's papers; he could hear himself being interviewed by Garth Crooks, his hair flapping behind like a superhero's cloak, believing in his own stories of fame, fortune and glory. Fifteen or so yards out he lobbed the ball over the keeper with his right foot. The ball arced, the crowd rose, some workmen prepared to loosen the bolts on the roof, and the ball gently glided across the face of goal and a foot or so wide of Robinson's right post. Reddy slunk to the ground, beautifully posing his look of despair, running his fingers through his hair.
Town were resurgent, Reddy the leader of the pack, the ground revving up with Russell Slade's wall of sound. Parkinson knees-up-mother-browning past two, cracking a low shot from the edge of the area across Robinson. Gritton slid forward, the ball missed him and post, the linesman put his flag up for offside. Hey, a minor detail of history. It's a Town effort, close enough for a concerted chorus of support.
Suddenly, they are twice the team they used to be. Pace, precision in passing, Town defence by-passed like a hamlet in Wiltshire: you wouldn't even know we were there and what a lovely view. The queen's pawn advanced towards our king; Macca moved forward and the rook flew down the flank: check. Carrick cast a perfect pass between Macca and the centre-backs. Defoe finagled himself through the traffic and was away inside the penalty area. One touch and a frazzling shot low across Mildenhall and past the far post. Phewwwwwwwww, we didn't even have to sacrifice a piece to get out of that.
Spurs took control, not only keeping the ball but actually getting towards the Town goal. Scrambles, brambles and rambles in the Town area: minor peril averted. The pressure increased second by second. The ball was played from left to right, up, down, back to the beginning. Their wingers hugged the touchline when play was on the other side of the pitch as our full-backs tucked in behind the centre-backs. Oodles of space, but none of their players pinged passes out.
And then they did, and Town were in trouble. Croft was beginning to struggle, but Macca, last survivor of the spaceship Nostromo and the last time we played 'em, was a rock. He was so much older then, he's younger than that now.
Spurs break, Town apply the brakes through a strategically placed clump. Free kick to them about 25 yards out on the centre-right. Out came the theodolytes, sextants, laser-guided toothpicks and all mod cons. Yes sirs, it's one of those tricksy training ground routines. There are a thousand ways to kick a ball over the bar and that was number 137: the flight of the bumblebee.
On the hour a Town free kick allowed Whittle and Jones to chunter upfield. The ball was cleared, Town aching with Defoe flung free down the centre. Enter the razor-clawed dragon, breathing fire and roaring like Brian Blessed with a hangover. Kalalalala outsprinted Defoe and shrugged him aside. Marvellous.
Reid - you've been Macca'd. Goodbye. With about 25 minutes left a little lad named Lennon replaced the Tottenham Teletubby. Ah, perhaps we'd have preferred Tinky Winky to have stayed on, for Lennon placed Croft in a gas-fired oven at mark 4: he'd be cooked in 20 minutes, just sprinkle a little lemon over the top. Imagine there's no possession, at least not for Town. If you've seen Town this season, it is very easy if you try.
Lennon stripped Croft of all his flesh, forcing the Croftster into a cameo of Gallimoreness, backing away as the winger advanced, edging closer and closer to goal. Panic in the Pontoon. Two, three, four times, he shingled his way into the area, pulling crosses back, across, over, through, under. Town bodies hurled themselves ballwards. Rebounds, blocks, a brilliantly timed Whittle lunge. Croft, a fabtastic tackle as a Spursite lurked on the edge of the six-yard box. Mildenhall hadn't had to make a save.
Lennon again free and flapping a cross through the area and out for a throw-in. Then Defoe replicating the illusion of danger. In the last 20 minutes Town players were zombified: the walking, running, standing-still dead. Reddy was a lone bagpiper, playing with amazing grace, still nibbling away. With less than ten minutes left Barwick replaced the straining Cohen and Town had a bit of a second mighty wind, with Reddy running them to ground in the corners. Big men up, no chances, just pressure, free kicks too, wasted, Kalalala overhitting. Lennon tied Croft into a yellow ribbon and ran off, pursued by the cast of Byker Grove. Relax, manful manfulness by Town and a rubbish cross did for that.
Listen, lads... we can still do this.
Did Gritton have a shot? Maybe, so what? Sorry, the last few minutes disappeared in a blur of delirium. Reddy won a corner on the right and almost sat down, just incapable of moving his limbs anymore. One last push, laddie! He got up and walked into the middle while the big bruisers barundled upfield. Parkinson clipped the ball into the near post, nowhere near a Town player. A defender nodded powerfully up and out of the area. The ball hung above Kalala, on the edge of the D. Spurs players raced forward, the ball stayed up, waiting... waiting... and Kalala, just waiting, manoeuvring his body into the perfect shape to volley. BOOM, his boot connected, the ball zoomed through a thicket of legs and smacked into the left side of the goal; Robinson unsighted, unmoving, unable. Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala - history is yours: a goal. The ground lifted from Earth and went on a short trip around Cleethorpes. The crowd was a throbbing, heaving mass of happiness.
Err, how long left? A couple of minutes. Knees knocking, but through sheer joy, the crowd deafening, defiant and delighted. Defending to do: Spurs urgent, balls whacked forward to the little folk, Whittle and Jones nodding donkeys, impervious to the Tottenham charms; imperious, impassable. Three minutes of added time. Even the referee was time wasting for us when Keane stood in front of Mildenhall as he drop-kicked the ball away. The scoreboard ticked on... 91 minutes... 92... a Spurs break down their left, a cross, Keane unmarked inside the area... volleyed down, across and safely into the arms of Mary Mildo.
The clock said 93, c'mon, get that whistle out. We saw it in his mouth, the arms waving, but the sound drowned by the Mariners multitude. Cue a good old-fashioned pitch invasion: uncontrollable glee, delirious delight, a Klinsmann dive into the Pontoon goal. It's a miracle! The traditional Town man-on-crutches hobbled across the pitch, shaking his props. The Town players were engulfed, the world watching. This is Town, this is our Town.
The party hasn't ended, and may never end. Pride: a much-used word, but so apposite. Our players played with it, our fans have it, we have it, wherever you go they shall know our name: Grimsby Town. Spurs? Their players can go back to their cosseted mansions and spend the money they didn't earn; we care not. They live on a different planet, we live on this island Earth, and for a day, it's our Earth.
You know Russ had a dream: that his footballing children would one day live in a world where they were not judged by their bank balance, but by the content of their character.
Mildenhall had just two saves to make. That says everything about the ten in front of him. We, the nation of Grimsby, salute you. Now go and beat Boston. Booo, sort it Slade, booo.
Nicko's Macca of the match
The Methuselah of pop-art full-backs was better than all the rest, no-one can tear him apart. International wingers on enough to buy 20 fur-lined sheepskin jackets a week hold no worries.
Sue's superman of the match
With ketchup, not kryptonite, on his burgers, it's Thunderbird 12, Mr Rob Jones the Stick, who wowed them in the living rooms of Kuala Lumpar with his magnificence. Here, there and everywhere: Jones was peerless. Russ had better keep incanting the Rush back catalogue over headless hamsters for a few more mornings; the magic potion hasn't worn off.
Mr G Laws didn't seem to do anything to annoy us (though the text messages from the armchairistas claim a first-half penalty that we didn't see). He spent the last few minutes wasting time for us. Overall he seemed to know what he was doing, not being a fussypot booker, or a laissez-faire madman. So far, so good, so why not 7.974? It's the number on the tip of everyone's tongue these days.