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|Them were the Days|
Way Back Then - Part 5
By: Chris Smith
Date: 08/12/2010 (Last updated: 13/03/2011)
AS I've said in an earlier article, football seasons started at a more reasonable time and the first league game was against Shrewsbury at home. Not a crowd puller and not much of a game although Kevin Drinkell started where he had left off the previous season by scoring late on only for the visitors to equalise with what seemed like a Batchy error.
He said the ball hit a divot with a subsequent flukey bounce and we let him off but we did shout for him to watch out them during the season as part of the banter. I'm struggling to remember the last time we had a regular laugh with one of our keepers but Nige could take it in good part but was a bit touchy about the "Hello Nige got a three wheeler?" in response to some well publicised driving issue. Apologies to Alexei Sayle.
Next up was Carlisle away, a ground I've never seen us play at, before a Tuesday night home game against Leeds. Given the events of the previous year, this was made all ticket and these could be purchased from Tates by giving a Grimsby address and answering a few questions. This did impact on the crowd which was less than 8,000 although we didn't give two hoots after a 2-0 win. We had our annual draw against Newcastle on the Saturday before drawing at Middlesbrough. A measure of revenge was gained in a 2-1 win over Fulham before three away games led to defeats at Barnsley and Man City with a goalless draw at Huddersfield. It was difficult to tell how our season was going to pan out but we had signed Chris Nicholl as a centre half and this, in my book, was to be the cue for our successful season.
I hadn't done an away trip yet, but there were going to be plenty to follow. The day we played at Huddersfield, I had been down in Swindon visiting Wojc whose family had just suffered a tragedy but we took time out to travel to Crewe on the Swindon supporter’s coach and see a 2-0 defeat. The old Crewe ground was a tip even in those days of Spartan stadia. It was a good day out and the Swindon fans were keen to speak to a Grimsby fan who knew a lot about their club having had a tremendous respect for the Mayes/Rowland strike force of a few seasons earlier.
Paul Wilkinson, who needs no introduction, and Paul Emson, a winger and local lad back from Derby had found their scoring boots and contributed in the following week’s 5-0 spanking of Brighton who should have won the FA Cup the previous May. Another scorer was Gary Lund and we could have been looking at many years of success with these players although it didn't quite work out like that. We were really on form for this game and the Brighton manager, Jimmy Melia was sacked the following Monday so he wouldn't be see wearing white spats at Wembley anymore. This win lifted us into mid table and a 2-0 win over Palace at home the following Saturday saw us in an even more useful position.
The first away trip of the season for me was Coventry away in the League Cup second round second leg. We hadn't won away since Middlesbrough in September 1982 but had held the then top flight team to a goalless draw in the first leg. There was a fair following for this game although nothing like the numbers in the same competition in 1989. The home fans had a very leery element and wanted trouble. Unfortunately they got it from a particularly vicious group of followers which ended up with one home fan nearly being killed. We lost 2-1 but were never out of the game. Like buses, away games follow each other quickly and an optimistic Town support went to the Baseball Ground a few days later. Derby were struggling badly this season and would eventually go down. Whilst they took the lead, Grimsby went 2-1 up and that was how it stayed for our first away win in 13 months on foreign turf. I was impressed with the Derby support that got behind their team even though they must have known then that they would do well to avoid relegation. I'd not known us go so long without an away win so felt privileged to see it. I'd also come in a car so no running the gauntlet to Derby station again.
Watching Town wouldn't be the same without a real high followed by a low and my third away trip of the campaign saw me at Fratton Park. I've written elsewhere about the weekend but suffice it to say that it was one of alcohol and related atrocities, the first time I'd had a bout of misbehaviour since leaving Essex. It must be my mates from college, Your Honour. It was a delayed trip back up North due to a Sunday train strike so it was a disheveled sorry looking individual who turned up for work a mere four hours late on Monday lunchtime.
We made amends with a home win against Charlton before winning at Swansea. A disappointing draw against Carlisle who actually also challenged for promotion to the top flight this season was followed by a Sunday match away to Blackburn Rovers. Fortunately, Steve from next door had a mate who liked the odd away trip and he was up for a drive to Blackburn which was just as well as I remembered what a dog it was to get to on public transport from the previous season. It still is awkward. I live in Yorkshire now and have been tempted by Blackburn’s ticket pricing to take in a Premier League game on a Sunday but it looks like I'd need to leave on Saturday and would get back on Tuesday. The driver, who had also managed to get back from Coventry in less than two hours driving up the A46, didn't waste any time getting to Blackburn where we had time to shovel about four pints down before the game. We left Blackburn at five after a one all draw and I was in The Cricketers at opening time (7 in those days) so was deeply grateful as well as impressed. The game had taken place on a Sunday to see if they would get a bigger crowd and it was about 1,000 up on their average. What I remember about the ground was the enormous terracing which constituted the away end and the acoustics from having a roof. Unfortunately even a good travelling support appeared to be dwarfed by the stand.
We then stuffed Oldham 3-0 and the goals were coming from everywhere. The next game was Chelsea away and being a week before Christmas, I passed on it. My eyes were focused on the home game against Wednesday on Boxing Day which was looking like a promotion six pointer. Town won 3-2 at Chelsea, I think after being 2-0 down, but this was overshadowed by the deaths caused by the IRA bombing of nearby Harrods.
Continued in Part 6
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