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Happy Days - Part 2
By: Chris Smith
Date: 08/02/2010 (Last updated: 12/09/2010)
LITTLE did we know what was to come though, and I suppose I’m writing this to remind myself that football can have nice surprises and it is particularly poignant given our situation almost exactly twenty years later.
Having seen four consecutive away games, I fancied another home match and Tony and I went up for the Donny game. We got our scoring boots back with Tony Rees and Dave Gilbert obliging in a two one win. The atmosphere was fantastic and I had to be helped up as one of several fans tripped up in the crowd surge. It was bloody fantastic! It was also our first out of seven consecutive wins which took us to second place where we stayed. Exeter were to finish ten points clear, but we beat them in that run.
My next game was another hugely enjoyable run out to Kent. We started off in Chatham, where Tony had worked one summer, and eventually to Gillingham. Again, a really impressive following had assembled from Grimsby. The football chanting was interspersed with songs of defiance about how we weren’t going to pay the Poll Tax, before our attention was drawn to a chav couple rowing in the street outside. Micky has mentioned this on a thread a few months ago and I have to take his word for it, but the bottom line is that many of the Town following derided said chavs with me deciding to really go for it. Apparently, this very wound up partner was then offering out all of us who were peering outside from the open end. Football, three points, political gestures and cabaret. All in ninety minutes. This game was also quite typical of our promotion campaigns under Alan Buckley Mark 1. Domination of a game, two up and then concede in the last minute. The journey back to Victoria was an even better singsong than the one after Maidstone. There was so much optimism.
Lincoln at home was next up and again, unmissable. A crowd of over 10,000 saw Dave Gilbert convert a penalty to put daylight between us and them. The Independent had a half page feature on this game and mentioned the volume of the Chip Butty song, describing the Pontoon as "packed to the rafters". I didn’t see some of the next games. I was working Grand National Day when we were at Halifax and didn’t quite have the funds to travel on other occasions. Those weekends, I would watch Hayes or Kingstonian (now home to AFC Wimbledon). Town had a 100% record when I went there, so if you club together for train tickets…Kingstonian also had the cheapest cider in London.
I could write an article in itself about the Friday night game at Southend where a two nil win in front of a few thousand Town fans all but confirmed promotion. We went in a large nearby pub beforehand which was full of Mariners. Rounds of three pints each were ordered. Grimsby are back, Grimsby are back ohh oh!
Although we only drew at home to Hartlepool the following midweek, Exeter did us a favour by beating Lincoln and we were up with two games to spare. I remember listening to the radio in my home in Feltham and feeling the same excitement I had in my first season as a fan, exactly ten years and eleven seasons before. We’d now been promoted and relegated twice in that relatively short period of my support.
I was privileged to see Garry Birtles get a hat trick in the five one stuffing of Wrexham. I’m sure we could have had more but everyone wanted Garry to get his third. Ten years after running on the pitch against Sheffield United, I did the same with thousands of others. We were back.
I’ve often said my favourite game was Sheffield United in May 1980. My favourite campaign was 1989/90, not 1979/80 or 1989/90. I think it’s where you come from and overcoming adversity that is the measure of real triumph. Our next promotion, whether from this league or the BSP, will be so sweet.
Although the season ended with a defeat at Chesterfield, where the game is remembered for off the field activity, I was as full of hope for our future as I had been in 1980. I’m not suggesting Town will go on a blinding winning run now as I just can’t see it, but we have faced adversity before. Relegation needn’t be the end.
I see Mansfield got over 7,000 for their pay what you want match yesterday. Oxford and Luton get over 6,000 with Oxford’s gates impressive given they went down in 2006. Let’s also get some perspective. AFC Wimbledon have travelled from the Combined Counties League to the brink of league football in short order, a far harder task than that we face. Aldershot had a really long journey. In truth, it’s my pride that’ll hurt more if we go down, so don’t encourage the obnoxious rivals who visit our site. They’re almost certainly social inadequates in any case.
Keep the faith. UTM.
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