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Our Darkest Hour
By: Chris Smith
TOWN continued their one tentative step forward and two definitive steps back at Blundell Park last night. The only saving grace was that Bratfuh were nothing to write home about although that really does sum up how poor we are.
Whilst three consecutive draws was an improvement, the fact that we didn’t really muster much in the way of chances in the two goalless games against poor teams indicates what a struggle we have. Whilst we might not lose games on the odd occasion that we don’t concede, we aren’t going to win any when we don’t score either. (As the Metro newspaper says in one of its columns “No S*** Sherlock!”)
Goolemariner and I made the effort to go as we are season ticket holders although we are likely to be more cautious with our hard earned next summer. Talk about feeling ripped off. We come with zero aspirations and as a few posters on The Fishy have noted, there is an air of resignation regarding relegation. For a long time now, our visits to BP have been a purely social event, having a bit of quality time with my folks and meeting friends at the game. Oh, and confirming that we will be at the next away game with fellow travellers, Muppets that we are. Having said that, last night has thrown doubts on Saturday’s trip.
This is the fourth autumn running that we have found ourselves in this position, and each season we have got weaker, so the club don’t seem to have learned much. As was evidenced on the pitch, the players don’t seem to learn from their mistakes either (if they care that is).
It was a poor crowd that assembled, and had it not been for the number of season tickets sold in the summer, would have been considerably lower. Having said that, I should say a poor crowd by our usual standards. Looking at other attendances last night, we still feature among the best supported clubs in our league. Bratfuh, who a work colleague has told us are not a happy ship, brought about 400 or so and were deathly silent until they scored so any digs about our silence on their part are hypocritical to say the least.
Big Jim and Broughmariner were enticed to this game. I don’t think Jim’ll be back for a while and had it not been for the impending arrival of our Austrian fan club for the Dagenham game, I don’t think our Brough supporter would be either. I’ll hang on in there though to wring every last cent out of my Northern Rockesque investment. I even got the season’s programmes in advance so I don’t feel light in pocket after another fruitless journey. I see Poojah’s open letter even got a one sentence mention in last night’s programme and a bigger one in Lincoln’s on Saturday. It’s a pity the programme didn’t say “message received and understood”.
By the way, this isn’t a match report, so turn away now if that’s what you expected. There are several reasons for this; I wasn’t asked, I can’t keep track of all the loanees so can’t recognise half the players nowadays, and there was nothing to write about as far as the game went anyway. The most poignant comment is that it was a good job that Bratfuh were mediocre otherwise they would have run up a cricket score. The main thing that came out for me yesterday was the lack of optimism. We were sat in our usual isolation in the Upper Findus, although I did get chatting to Phil in the row in front of us who saw the re-election campaign and struggles of the late 1960s. We got to talking about the 1980s team, THAT Joe Waters goal against Sheffield United in May 1980 and the fact that the Town team on that day could have given ANY English club a game. I’d actually forgotten that as I’d headed home on that heady afternoon, I’d speculated we could have turned over virtually anyone bar Liverpool.
I’m glad I saw all that though and do feel for the younger fans that have seen sweet eff all as far as success goes. The current squad and particularly the lead swingers are an insult to the institution that is Grimsby Town. I didn’t want Slade back, to be quite honest, but I can understand why some did, especially those fans of a decade of less that have seen virtually nothing but struggle. Actually, that isn’t the right word. Struggle implies effort. I’m not sure it was effort that was mainly lacking last night although I was disappointed Conlon had such a poor game.
As is usual, Town didn’t get going until they went a goal down. Just before that I had taken a work call with the caller apologising for interrupting my football and I was perfectly sincere when I said he was interrupting nothing.
A long range effort put Bratfuh one nil up and it was already going to be an uphill task. It was a good goal and drew a smattering of applause around us. In the first half however, Town had just the one chance to pull a good save off the visiting keeper. The problem is that Town aren’t penetrative enough, can’t take responsibility so the ball tends to get passed backwards when we need to pressure and we always fail to get to the second ball. This is not going to change overnight either. Aside from our long decline, this club needs root and branch reform. I’m not certain we have the time to do this and stay up. Perhaps the best thing to hope for would be to go down but finish strongly so we aren’t eaten alive next year. That is another point. If I thought the decline would stop there, it might offer a crumb of comfort. The stakes are so high but judging by last night, it doesn’t seem to have registered on the radar of our so-called heroes.
It was an underwhelming half time. We hadn’t made much noise as fans and whilst I appreciate that it would be great if we could make the ground rock, sometimes the spark has to come from on the pitch. That isn’t happening. I always used to think our fans were fickle, but they have turned up in numbers, especially away from home, during this depressing period, and in doing so (at home)have provided GTFC with much needed funds. I can’t knock a perceived lethargy among our supporters. I struggled to get going at Leeds, seething as I was after the Bath non-performance and a game where I did make my feelings felt. I was surprised to hear on Radio Humberside that there had been some forthright views made from the Main Stand. Noise from there? Anyway, given the attitude of many of our players, I’m not sure singing makes a blind bit of difference. As for booing, folk pay their money and are entitled to state their discontent. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more often.
One of our regular travellers left on the second goal. He’ll be at Macclesfield but had seen enough. Whilst we had put what passes for Town pressure on in the early second half, I never felt we would make the breakthrough. Despite not having the best long distance vision, I looked on with astonishment at McCrory’s suicidal header which settled the game for most of us.We left on the third as had been pre-agreed. There are a few reasons for this. One is I’m sick of watching away fans celebrating at the end of the game and the second is that I DO work for a living and any quality time in midweek evenings is precious to me. I wasn’t getting that quality last night so it made a change to get home from a BP fixture before eleven.
I can’t say that I’m actually that depressed about things. I’ll follow Town whatever and will support any other form of the club should the worst happen. I’ve had plenty of good times after all. I have acceptance and I don’t place my general emotional well-being in the hands of whoever happens to be employed for want of a better word at Town. If I did, I’d be back on the piss right now. That isn’t defeatism or indifference, its called realism.
This has been a long time coming. I said on the way home that I am at that point I was after the Brentford home game last season. We managed to follow that with a 5 1 win over Lincoln which I missed having opted for some spring sunshine. It is the eternal hope that makes me think we could possibly get something at Macclesfield and the thought of a day out with friends that tips the balance in favour of going. I’m giving longer away journeys a miss because I’m more careful about balancing cost and time. I’m fortunate in that I can easily afford to go where I want, but I don’t buy books I won’t read or films that I won’t watch so why would I want to travel to the other end of the country for an unfulfilling day? I learned a lesson last year when I went virtually everywhere whilst ill and having difficulty managing another health condition. I’ve drawn a line. The thing is, once you have drawn it, it is relatively easy to abide by and anyone who has had enough after last night’s non performance may well do so regarding attending at all.
And anyone who does make that decision deserves to have that respected by the rest of us. If it involves that much pain, why should fans keep exposing themselves to it? It isn’t about being disloyal. It is this unrecognisable incarnation of a Town squad that is disloyal to us. That is the dilemma. Journeymen have no loyalty and whilst we need new blood, not all loan players are successful or committed.
Perhaps Neil Woods could take the Town squad to a run down non-league ground so they can see where their lack of application and ability will take them, if anyone was daft enough to have them. I doubt some are Blue Square standard, Premier or otherwise. The side last night couldn’t compete at that level right now.
Talking of which, I was looking forward to a non-league game tonight but it has been rescheduled. I like to see a game played by passionate players in front of enthusiastic fans at clubs run by dedicated volunteers. It revives my spirit and love of the game. If Neil Woods can bring about the required mindset, then all power to him. As for the managerial debate, I’d support the club whoever was at the helm. I think Neil Woods is a really good servant to the club and I hope as much for him as for us, that things work out. I’ll trust him to do his best, as I’m sure he will, and that is all he can do. Lets hope some of our players, and they know who they are, can follow suit.
Anyway, when we are playing regularly at Molineux again, we can say we were there in our darkest hours. Nurse!
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