The Postbag

Cod Almighty | Postbag


2 September 2022

Three regular correspondents share their experiences of Town which have arisen in different circumstances. All three of them sharing stories for future generations to cherish.

Déjà vu au stade Bescot.

1-0 down after five minutes, a stirring comeback in front of an ecstatic away end, and a well-deserved away win. Sound familiar? Well it does to me because I experienced precisely these events on 31st of August 2019 on my previous visit to Walsall.

Within weeks, we had gone on a winless run which sent us from the play-off places to the lower reaches of the table and which, perhaps assisted by an expletive-laden rant, cost our then manager Michael Jolley his job.

Then came Covid. That was unavoidable but the club's response was self-inflicted damage. Then the flirtation with the convicted fraudster Alex May. It finally made John Fenty's position untenable, though a change in ownership could not prevent relegation. That we came back up after a single season is nothing short of remarkable.

So I find myself in August 2022 driving back down the M6 with an incredible sense of optimism. The reason why this time round I feel my optimism is not misplaced has to do with that change in ownership.

Back in the days when I had a career in business I remember some management consultants saying that any organisation is the response to the leadership. In other words organisations act, behave and perform in a certain way based on the attributes of the people at the very top of that organisation. Under Fenty, in the latter years at least, that leadership was characterised by false economies, penny pinching and, ultimately, disgraceful engagement with a fraudster. I think that what successes we did see during that time, limited in nature as they were, were achieved in spite of not because of this lead. Now it’s completely different. The new owners are building something very special at the club. We see more and more recruitment of off the field support roles. The new owners are building a strong and transparent organisation that engages with the fans and is geared towards moving the club forward.

from Ron Counte

Letters Ed responds: Indeed, Ron, onwards and upwards!

Walking down the Grimsby Road - well, it just fills you with pride.

What a very generous review that was of the Walking Down The Grimsby Road book, which was written to record the achievements of Lawrie McMenemy's championship-winning squad. Aside from memories of the season itself (the smell of Juicy Fruit chewing gum mixed with cheap Hamlet cigars still evokes images for me of a packed Barrett Stand) I learned a lot about the generosity of Grimsby Town supporters, some of whom I still only know through Twitter and email.

At the risk of sounding like a luvvie at an actors' awards ceremony, I would like to record my thanks to the help given to me by Gordon Wilson and Jim Connor. Both are well known among Town supporters and both supplied original contributions (Gordon's poem and Jim's artwork) more than willingly and, more importantly, for nothing more than the price of a pint. The 'Programme Parade' was entirely the work of Tim Bell, who runs the wonderful Mariners Archive website. Tim also supplied the player pictures and, when the printer started asking me questions about which I did not have a clue, stepped in and sorted it all out. I still owe him a pint.

Dave Wherry, who seems to know every statistical fact there is to know about Grimsby Town, was more than happy to help clarify certain issues, and the eagle-eyed Peter Anderson was kind enough to read the whole thing several times before it was published. The staff in the local history part of the Grimsby library were also extremely helpful. Even when I broke their microfiche machines and jammed their printers they were remarkably tolerant.

Completely out of the blue, I received correspondence from former Town full-back Allan Marley's son, who allowed me to use Lawrie McMenemy's letter to the players at the end of the 1971-72 season as the back cover, as well as to quote from personal correspondence sent by McMenemy to Marley's parents. I also discovered, via a Twitter message, the name of the Town supporter who famously threw away his crutches after the Stockport game when the Mariners virtually sealed promotion, a story McMenemy still dines out on!

And, of course, there was the usual help from Dave Roberts at the Mariners Trust. As well as organising the printing, finance, and distribution of the book (helped by other Trust members) Dave was also responsible for the 'double celebration' evening in early May. People might not know that due to various airplane cock-ups he ended up driving down to Heathrow and back again on the same afternoon/early evening to pick up Joe Waters in time for the event.

My rather lengthy point here is that without the support of the Grimsby Town community, documenting parts of the club's history would either not be done or would be done much, much more slowly. I hope whoever is appointed to the post of Heritage Fund Project Manager reads this and uses the free resources I've enjoyed. It'll certainly make their job a lot easier than it otherwise will be.

from Rob McIlveen

Letters Ed responds: Thank you for this wonderful letter, Rob. I can also attest to the excellence of the staff in the local history stack at Grimsby Central Library. They were extremely helpful when I was researching trawlers based in Grimsby. Let's hope someone from NEL Council reads this and acknowledges their hard work and the value of libraries in our communities. I might also add that the presence of pints throughout this letter is very pleasing.

Looking back but looking up.

It will be exactly 75 (seventy-five) years next Saturday, 3rd September, since I first saw the Mariners. On that date in 1947 we played Wolves at home and lost 0-4. It was our last season in the first division. You can read about that sad season in Charles Ekberg and Sid Woodhead's book The Mariners. By then, all our top pre-war players, apart from George Tweedy, were past it.

I had returned home from holiday that day, and I remember cycling from Fryston Corner down Weelsby Road to Blundell Park. The average gate that season was 15,000 so I must have squeezed in somehow. Sadly I have no recollection of the game itself.

I know there are other supporters older than me, but I wonder how many first saw the Mariners before that date?

Football has changed enormously since then, much for the worse, and as things are arranged at the moment, there is no chance of the Mariners getting back into the real first division. At least, thanks to our new local owners, we now have a club to be proud of.


from Antony Chapman

Letters Ed responds: Thanks Antony. Are there any other Mariners out there that can share memories like this? Please let us know.

Have you got something to share? It could be about the Town, the town, the county or football in general. All you have to do is tell us.