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Grimsby In February

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 15/02/2005

‘Would you like to go to Grimsby on Saturday?’ They're playing Shrewsbury.’ I asked my children. ‘It does mean getting up at quarter past five, though’.

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‘Me!’ exclaimed Revis (9) enthusiastically. Merlin (12) stopped and thought for a moment before announcing ‘I think I might have some homework’. That’s a first. My eldest son Deej (15, very cool indeed) stated dismissively ‘It’s not a question of homework’. I took this to be a no.

Saturday came, and Merlin, Revis and I set off from our home in Basingstoke to the Promised Land. Merlin had re-considered in the meantime. I imagine it was the attraction of Grimsby in February that did it. Folk talk of Paris in the springtime, but Paris isn't Grimsby, and they're not playing Shrewsbury. It must be that.

Since I last wrote, I have actually seen Town score a goal. Twice in fact, against Leyton Orient away (2-1). Normality was restored with the losses against Lincoln (do we ever beat Lincoln?) and Bristol Rovers. I was tempted to go to Bristol, but decided to save my pennies for festival of football, which the Shrewsbury game wasn't going to be. Still, it meant a trip back to the wondrous frozen wastelands of North East Lincolnshire, and an opportunity to indulge in the ritual of black and white sadness.

Two hours after starting the pilgrimage, we arrived at London Waterloo station. I wonder if the original pilgrims were told that their ‘journey time would be extended because of diversion via Virginia Water in connection with planned engineering work’? This, we travelling types are told, is for our own good. Not feeling any better, we made our way to Kings Cross and managed to catch the 0810 train to Doncaster. ‘A Eurostar!’ shouted Merlin and Revis, excitedly. Oh dear. I have always tried to shield my children from any enthusiasm for trains. Clearly I have failed as a father. I had to point out though as a point of accuracy that what they were looking at was a class 373/2 ‘North of London’ Eurostar unit, not owned by GNER as Merlin had seriously explained to Revis, but hired to them by Eurostar for the ‘White Rose’ services. I can't think where my children get this trainspotterish tendency from, but it’s important to get the facts right.

‘Who was it that they were playing again?’ asked Merlin, clearly overwhelmed already by the imminent occasion. I told him about Shrewsbury, where it is and what colours they play in. I recalled seeing them three times, each time at their ground (1984/5 lost 4-1, 1986/7 lost 4-1, 1990/1 won 2-1). In the ultimate romantic gesture as is befitting for this time of year, I recalled taking my wife-to-be Sam to the away match in 1983/4. I believe this was the game where we were done over by a starlet called Paul Tester. I last saw a very frustrated Tester playing for Bridgnorth Town. I guess things didn't work out for him. It’s not just supporting Grimsby Town that is a journey of disappointment and misery. I imagine that there must have been a decision of some dubiety during the game. I believe so, because my comment to the referee ‘Oh I say, kind sir. You appeared to have failed to notice, if you don't mind me being so bold, that the Shrewsbury footballer was a smidgeon offside’ (I can't recall my exact words, which will have been lost in the passage of time) prompted Sam to ask for an explanation of the offside rule. Over 20 years on, and we're no further forward. The offside rule must be a man thing.

The train arrived in Newark, where Merlin snapped me out of my mental wanderings. ‘I can't smell the glue factory today’, he declared in a tone of disappointment. The sights and smells of the north are so irresistible.

We had oceans of time in Doncaster, so rather than spending our time on the station savouring the dismalia and inducing frostbite, which was a real possibility here today, I decided on a tourist trail of the Arndale Shopping Centre. Except that it is now called the Frenchgate Centre and it’s a building site. Do grey, industrial French towns have a ‘Porte de Doncaster’, I wonder. As ever, Donny oozed with anonymity and nothingness, and we were pleased to get on the TransPennine Express on our way to the Kingdom of Grimeswold.

An hour or so later, we stepped out of Grimsby Town station. It seemed another 10 degrees colder than Doncaster, and was blowing a gale. Just how I remember the weather conditions throughout my childhood. As we walked down the street, the children started discussing the Arctic for some reason.

The article continues in Part Two.

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