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Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
In The Eyes Of The Lord!
By: Richard Lord
THE mantle has been well and truly passed on to me. I don’t mind - I was going to take it anyway – it’s just the circumstances in which I’ve become my family’s main Grimsby Town supporter that hasn’t been ideal. Not that it could have been any other way, you understand.
Sure, the rest of the family support the Mariners, occasionally, but not to the degree that I do. Perhaps that’s a little unfair on them; my dad reckons he suffers from a nervous disposition and shies away from attending games, and my mum, well… I think she follows the old Grimsby tradition of not going to games but always makes sure to ask how we ‘got on’ upon returning from Blundell Park. She’s always the quickest to get over a demoralising defeat. Is there such a thing as a defeat that isn’t demoralising? I wouldn’t have thought so. My dad, having stayed at home and listened to radio updates, asks for a very brief description of the game before giving a little moan in response and skulking off to play with his stereo system in the front room. I take forever to get over a defeat – especially if it’s been one of those crap Friday night defeats. My mum told me I was being ‘melodramatic’ when I once claimed my weekend had been ruined by a Friday night 5-2 defeat against Charlton. Saturdays are rubbish without Town.
But I digress. Traditionally, for me, Saturdays were all about going round to my grandparents’ house for tea. When I was too young to attend games I used to watch the scores come in on Grandstand (Steve Ryder era – I’m not that old) before we’d get in the car and go to see my nanna and grandad. We’d usually wait for Town’s result to be read out, even though we’d know the result from listening to the radio. Somewhat unsurprisingly, we didn’t hang around for the announcement if we already knew we had lost.
There was something about my grandparents’ house; the top end of Manchester Street was tantalisingly close to Blundell Park and, as a growing boy who couldn’t afford to pay for match tickets, I was restricted to peering through the gates. Sometimes, when I used to spend the afternoon with my grandparents (normally the first Saturday in December to put up their Christmas decorations) I could hear the crowd noise filtering through the streets and houses; through the sea fog and mist. In December 1996 I actually heard Graham Rodger’s winner against Crystal Palace before the radio – or ‘wireless’ – reported it.
I used to get excited when I saw a proper first-team player get a run out. I never understood why they didn’t play as well as I expected them to, while my grandad never understood why we tried to ‘bloody tip-tap it into the net’. My grandad was a man of little patience. We would take up our seats in the Main Stand, near the police box, and freeze our balls off for 90 minutes while the ‘better’ players ran around disinterested and the proper reserve players performed with a bit more purpose – although lacked a bit of skill and know-how.
Two things were certain when we used to watch a reserve match: I’d take along a packet of fruit gums to keep me happy, and grandad would always tread in dog muck on the way home, usually along Harrington Street, on the block between Neville Street and Fuller Street. “Shit!” he’d say. I’m sure it was the same dog each time. He must have seen grandad coming.
When I first started to reap the benefits of saving (in line with a rise in pocket money) I went to proper matches with my mate Pete, along with his brother Paul and an array of his friends. It felt like my dad and my grandad had given me the appropriate grounding to be a Town fan – the right way. And when fellow class-mates at school would ask who my favourite footy team was, I always replied ‘Grimsby’. I didn’t understand why some of my mates said they supported top league clubs. They never went to any of their games at any level.
Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of attending a proper big match with my grandad, which was a shame since we’d been to all those reserve games. On one family video of my tenth birthday you can hear my grandad in the background say ‘He’s going to play for Grimsby Town reserves one day’, which only now I find rather unusual, but at the time it made sense and was a perfectly good thing to aspire to.
What my grandad didn’t know about Grimsby Town’s history he could write on the back of a packet of cigarettes – if my grandad could write, which he couldn’t. Well, not legibly, anyway. He – and my nanna, to a certain extent – were an institution. They knew so much about the town, having both been born and brought up in Cleethorpes. They lived more than half their lives down Manchester Street, yards away from the ground; it was where my dad and uncle were born, and it was where I used to go every Thursday and Saturday evening for tea – and the odd Tuesday night, if we had played that night. I used to walk there after the match and wait for my dad to come and pick me up in the car because it was too dark to walk home on my own.
It was a sad occasion when my grandad passed away in February 2004. It was the same day I spent £29 on a rail ticket to see us lose 6-0 at Oldham, and I could only presume that grandad knew what was coming and thought ‘sod it!’ The train journey there came so close to being disastrous on three occasions that it was laughable, and when we were 4-0 down after 20 minutes all you could do was laugh.
Just recently my nanna passed away, and with them both goes Manchester Street, reserve games, stories of old – people who could tell proper stories, in the old fashioned, proper way. They really were Grimsby (and Cleethorpes!) through-and-through. We’ve lost two people who could tell so much about the town – and the thing that so obviously binds the family together: Grimsby Town FC.
This club runs through my family, and I suspect it does the same with others too. It has somehow become intertwined with my family history. I may not live in the town any longer, but the football club, for obvious reasons, will stay with me forever. I’m passionate and proud to support Grimsby, because that’s where my roots are – and the spine that is the trunk of my family tree.
By Richard Lord
This column first appeared in BAWC Issue Nine. To subscribe to the Mariners only paper based fanzine email firstname.lastname@example.org
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