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Mecca Revisited

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 11/07/2004

SOME of you may recall my previous ramblings after my visit to Grimsby and Cleethorpes to see those Mighty Mariners (Terrible Trawlermen) lose with the last kick of the game to QPR.

Home > Features > 2004 Features > Mecca Revisited

Well suffering is forever and all that, so to purge my withdrawal symptoms, I decided that that another adventure was called for, this time to see those giants of Great Grimsby take on AFC Bournemouth. Before I go on to that, let’s catch up on events.

Readers from last time were treated to tales of long train journeys, descriptions of the bleak and frozen wastelands (as my wife Sam calls anywhere north of Hatfield but North East Lincolnshire in particular), fish and chips, ice cream and train breakdowns. I also vowed to go back to see Grimsby vs Stockport. Well, it never happened. The prospect of a six and a half hour journey each way without delays, even with the attraction of diversion via Virginia Water and two replacement bus services, somehow didn’t appeal. ‘Grimsby is an isolated place. Discuss’. Now I realise that my lack of commitment here is very girlie, adding fuel to the same recent accusation of me for refusing to eat any more doner kebabs after one encounter too many with those gourmet grease mountains. In mitigation, I did go and suffer at Wycombe (lost 4-1) before taking an hour to get out of the car park. The Wycombe game led to valid accusations of some of the Town players being unfit to wear the shirt, and our Captain Marvel of the day, manager Paul Groves, decided to become Roy of the Rovers as well and played himself the next week against the top team Plymouth. The result was a 0 - 0 draw. Now that’s real success. Unfortunately it didn’t last (hell, this is Grimsby Town FC we’re talking about) and a 5-1 defeat by the might of Port Vale, followed by a 6-0 loss at Oldham meant that things weren’t going quite as well as they might be. Grovesie was offered the chance to stay on as a player, but decided to give up football and joined Scunthorpe United. At the same time that magnificent magazine ‘It’s a Grim Exile’ ceased production. Had its editor Andy Stephenson become fed up with trying to provide optimism and put on a brave face, or was it the rubbish that I was sending him that caused him to stop? I wonder if they’ll learn about all these developments in history* lessons of the future (* probably called ‘Boring Stuff from the Past Studies’ these days, but I can’t confirm that). It’s important enough.

From a personal point of view, my QPR trip resulted in one nice bonus. Through the match programme and The Fishy website (a plug there), I came across an old school and college mate with whom I shared the suffering over 25 years ago (hi Swanny!). Once reunited, we spoke on the phone for ages reminiscing about away trips in the late 70s to places like Hereford (won 1-0, preceded by a beery lunch presided over by a genial landlord called Ron), Aldershot (lost 2-0, had a cold, a horrible place) and Bournemouth (0-0, dire pint of Eldridge Pope, but at least they had Manfred Mann’s Earth Band on the jukebox). Ah Bournemouth ... that brings me back to my current story.

Well nearly, because a momentous trip like this requires preparation. This started with consideration of the train journey. Great news! We could travel via Doncaster. Now I know that nothing involving Dismal Bloody Doncaster (as a railway colleague referred to it one day when answering the phone) sounds remotely attractive or exotic, let alone great. On the other hand, not having to smell the glue factory in Newark, and cutting the journey to only 5 hours each way before delay made the trip via Doncaster irresistible.

It was the plan to have a nice family day out in Grimesthorpe until my eldest son Deej, using his finely honed stroppy teenager skills, pointed out that it’s a long way, he can’t stand trains and he hates football. A family summit was held. It was decided that my wife Sam and Deej would stay at home. Deej could spend his day killing things on the computer. Sam would have been happy (in the very loosest sense of the word) to come, even though she doesn’t like the people, the place, the cold or football. There’s a compatibility issue here. A member of my family said of Sam when she first visited Mecca ‘We’re not using to having people who smile round here’. Very black metal. Anyway, this left Merlin (11) and Revis (8). I asked Revis if she wanted to come. She said she would and ‘does this mean I have to wrap up warm?’ No contest with Merlin - the colder the place, the more terrible the football, the better. He should have a nice day. So, three of us left the house at 0615 to catch on the 0653 from Basingstoke in the direction of the Promised Land (that’s Grimsby, not Waterloo, to clear up any misinterpretation)...

....and 5 hours later, arrived at Grimsby Town station. No hiccups this time. We were even able to afford ourselves a laugh at the sight of hordes of train spotters at Doncaster with nothing better to do than wait for that elusive locomotive. What sad people. It was a glorious day in Grimsby (I don’t get to say that very much), bright sunshine, blowing a gale (‘does it ever stop being windy here, dad?’), with the aromatic waft of fish and chips coming from the Wellowgate direction. The Grimsby Telegraph headline proclaimed ‘Rises in Suicide’. Cool.

The article continues in Part 2

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