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Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?



Out with the New

By: Todd Bontoft
Date: 09/01/2001

What struck me while reading the excellent book "We Only Sing When We're Fishing", the new official history of Grimsby Town written by David Wherry was how much has changed over the years and yet, paradoxically, how little has changed.

Grimsby Town was formed in 1878 and, on the face of it, this seems a long time ago. But within my lifetime, I have witnessed and can remember the Mcmenemy era. My father witnessed the seasons after the end of the Second World War and already in two generations we have covered over 50 years of football. Quite a sobering thought, and moreover, I am pretty confident most of the over 30's watching the current team will have had great grandparents and certainly great great grandparents around who could have witnessed the birth of football as we know it today. In another 30 years football is likely to have changed at a faster pace still and, if I am around, I promise to bore younger relatives silly about my experiences following the Mariners. One particular pleasure I am looking forward to talking about is a former football ground - now a housing development - that used to be called Blundell Park!

Those players just before the turn of the twentieth century, could never have imagined the impact of football and its global popularity. But then again they could not have imagined many things we now take for granted!

Some things we would consider as relatively new phenomena are clearly not! Take football violence for example. A Grimsby Town team was once rescued by 'burly dockers' from a locked changing room surrounded by marauding Lincoln supporters. The year is in the book!

Football has seen advances (your views?), in terms of the style of play, the players' attire and stadiums. But most of this is more of a reflection of society's trends, attitudes and fashions that have influenced football rather than the other way around.

For example, it was only in the 1980's that shirt sponsorship was finally allowed. Today it seems inconceivable that any team will enter the arena without the teams sponsor emblazoned across the chest of the players like an heraldic device on medieval knights. Not to mention the additional flashes strategically placed around the body from the shirt's manufacturers, to the league's logo.

In fact, not to have a sponsor on your shirt is nowadays an admission of failure. Contrast this with the somewhat pious attitude amongst football's elite that openly fought against such things, prophesising the debasing and commercialising of the 'beautiful game'. Perhaps many will argue they were right, but now the powers that be have turned full circle and are the worst offenders. Even the once untouchable FA Cup has now succumbed to the sponsors embrace. This is a late twentieth century trait of western society and we do not bat an eyelid at such intrusions as company sponsored roundabouts in our towns and cities.

What is sure is that the pace of life and change is ever increasing. Look at any league side's squad photograph from the 1960's and up until say the middle of the 1970's very little seems to have changed except hairdos and the length of the players' shorts. But now, each year's photograph is almost an epoch.

But some things never change, reading the book shows that Town - like many - are one of the proverbial 'selling clubs', buying and selling players to make the two ends meet. Grimsby Town has throughout its history managed to be over-achievers. Even during the halcyon days of the nineteen-thirties and the successful campaigns in the country's top league it was a comparative minnow compared to the clubs it was competing against. When people talk of teams doing a 'Wimbledon', they should be saying that 'Wimbledon' did a 'Grimsby'. I would suggest that followers of other smallish clubs could equally claim a similar title from their previous exploits.

Many a time you hear a club's new player or manager, that is languishing in the lower reaches of the leagues talk of 'a big club', 'false position' and my favourite 'sleeping giant'. Grimsby Town is not a 'giant' and equally is not a 'minnow' in today's football hierarchy and, despite its size and its comparatively poor support, maintains a position higher than many a 'sleeping giant'. It is, despite all our moans and groans and opinions about current, past and future board members a well run and well thought of club.

Present supporters and shareholders alike should be grateful to our predecessors for the careful stewardship of the club that has given North East Lincolnshire such a priceless gift. We need collectively that the future remains bright, even during difficult times that will surely come as surely as the good. Lennie Lawrence, shortly after his appointment talked of Grimsby Town as a 'real football club'. What exactly this means is of course anyone's guess but after 'touching' the past from the club's birth through to the present day I am beginning to know what he meant.

I fully recommend the book, which is available to purchase from Soccer Books in Cleethorpes, and put your slant on the good and bad of the past, present and future!

Todd Bontoft

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