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Way Back Then - Part 9

By: Chris Smith
Date: 19/02/2011 (Last updated: 13/03/2011)

A MIXED bag of results was to follow. A 2 1 home win over Shrewsbury was followed by a useful goalless draw at Brighton which I thought about going to but dwindling savings and a need to fund my two week Christmas layoff at Salvoes meant a crafty Saturday afternoon drink under the auspices of shopping although licensing hours meant a two hour break in proceedings.

It was nice for a change, to pull faces at a telly shop window until the salespeople switched them off lest the drooling faces put off any potential customers. We then lost 3 1 at home to Palace (Palace, palace, who the **** are Palace?) before doing Boro by the same scoreline.

I went on the coach to the Birmingham away game on Boxing Day which resulted in yet another journey of agonising unrelieved bladder due to a number of cans on the way and we bought a few more off some rather ill youngsters. We were robbed by a really poor refereeing display where we had two goals disallowed. A few days later, and we had another away game, this time at Charlton which I have written about elsewhere. This is where we started meeting up regularly with Hilton and Julian at Stevenage who had selected Town at random as a team to support. With Don, Anch and Lou, it was a fair sized party that headed off yet again to the Market Porter. Unfortunately we turned a half time 1 0 lead into a 4 1 defeat. It was still a good day out however and a direct train back to Grimsby in time for a few hours at the Barge.

It was with some trepidation that we faced a very in form Huddersfield on New Years Day but a 5 1 win with a few goals by Bobby Cumming was a good way to banish the previous nights cobwebs although I hadn't committed the excesses of the previous year. This meant that we headed to Notts County for the FA Cup game in good heart. Please see earlier league game for travel arrangements! There was a difference in that I wasn't travelling with the gang from Salvoes. Tony was at home from University and Don and Anch were travelling up from Stevenage for the game so we arranged to meet up in Nottingham for some pub grub and the obligatory lunchtime session. Tony and I broke our journey in Lincoln for reasons explained earlier but unfortunately arrived before opening time. However, our ploy of pressing our faces against the window of the Treaty of Versailles led to a capitulation by the landlord and we managed to shovel two pints down before catching the train to Nottingham just a few minutes after eleven. We exited the station separately from other Town fans after struggling to find somewhere to relieve ourselves of our intake. Unbelievably, toilets on trains were not a given in those days and it was regularly joked that cattle refused to travel on the local boggler boggler DMU trains.

Town did have a healthy support at County although numbers were almost certainly reduced by the game being in doubt through frost. I'd actually forgotten to put on my glasses which would be impossible to do today as I wouldn't trust myself to find the garden gate without them nowadays. To further confuse matters, the pitch had large patches of white over it which resulted in an orange ball being used. As I am colour-blind, it meant I could follow very little of the action but took my cue from my travelling comrades when we scored our two goals. I think we went two nil up, but were certainly pegged back and a replay took place a few days later at Blundell Park.

I can't remember quite how the scoring went in this game, suffice it to say that another Gary Lund hat-trick resulted in a 4 2 win. My abiding memory is Bobby Cumming being fouled and taking his revenge by aiming a shot at a County player where it was designed to hurt. This resulted in a corner from which we scored which made his revenge all the sweeter. A 1 1 draw followed against Blackburn, but it was now the turn of cups to take priority. Whilst Town were handily placed in the top half of the table, it was going to take a lot more consistency for them to make the same sort of challenge they had the previous season.

Norwich were the visitors in the Milk Cup a.k.a League Cup quarter final. It was a credit to Town that the game went ahead as snow had to be cleared from the pitch. The City goalkeeper was on the receiving end of a few well pegged snowballs from the Pontoon’s younger element. Unfortunately, it was to be a rare game where Town’s players couldn't perform to the same level of accuracy as the mischievous Pontoonites and a single goal settled it. Although Norwich won the trophy against Sunderland in a final contested by two teams who would be relegated from Division 1 at the end of the season, it was a disappointment to our fans given that we had already beaten the best team in England in the previous round. Further tragedy would also follow for Norwich as they were denied the chance to play in the UEFA Cup as a result of English clubs being banned following the Heysel disaster at the end of this season.

Despite this, we were confident when we faced Watford at home in the Third Round of the FA Cup at the end of January. A goal by the promising Steve Foley, who had been chipping away with a few over the season, seemed to have put us in the driving seat by the halfway mark but the Hornets scored three and that was the end of our cup exploits but many fond memories from this season. The crowd was a healthy 13000 or so which was creditable given that Watford were not the biggest draw given that they had only frisen from Division 4 the year before us. Despite this, they had finished as Division 1 runners up only two seasons before and had been FA Cup finalists the previous year. Unfortunately, some of our geographically challenged fans had caused a major disturbance in their section, which resulted in the travelling support labelling our fans as the most hostile they had encountered at away games, despite the Pontoon chanting "Welcome to Cleethorpes" during the fighting. This was no mean feat given that hooliganism was at its peak at this time. Whilst there were no particular stand out riots as per Chesterfield in 1990, there had been the usual aggro at the home game against Leeds with Norwich fans also targeted as they left Grimsby via Scartho, or Skaffa as it is better known. The strange demolition of the Clee Park pub, which had always been packed on match days had resulted in a rather obvious ammunition dump given its proximity to the ground as Huddersfield found out when the season of goodwill was temporarily suspended on New Years Day. As I mentioned earlier, it had also escaped Sheffield United’s attention that passing glass bottles to fans from the bar wasn't the greatest idea in what was to all intents and purposes, a local derby game with quite a bit of history.

I have read quite a few of the books covering terrace culture at this time. I hasten to add that it has been purely in the interests of research and to appreciate the cultural diversity (oops, the current parlance is now "celebrate" cultural diversity) of the opposition casuals. It is only a vicious rumour that I like to look to see if the CBP get a good mention and have a quiet little chuckle if they do. Matches against Town get a few mentions from this time. The Blades Business Crew mention a bit of argy bargy in the Upper Findus this season which was the next home game after the Watford defeat and which we lost 2 0. The book is memorable for a mention of an ambush on them by Town fans in London and the ridiculous ‘taches that the protagonists have in some of the pictures. At least when I have had anything on the top lip, it is purely through a complete antipathy towards shaving which has been quickly rectified by a recognition that this has contributed to a waste of lager suds being trapped there on the rare occasion that I didn't just open my throat and pour it down without the glass touching my lips, which I am assured was quite a common occurrence with me. However, the BBC book piccys seem to show stylised ‘taches. Purrlease! I thought I lacked style. "Scally" also refers to Town fans taking over an Everton home pub this year. I know a few of the lads involved in that as I saw them later at the ground but I’ll leave their names out of it on payment of the appropriate fee.

I gave the Leeds away game a miss as far as I know. Whilst an easy one to get to, I was now starting to have to count the pennies. As is usual in alcoholic drinkers, my capacity had been creeping up steadily and my money was consequently becoming more stretched. In fact, I was sometimes tapping up my youngest brother, Jeremy who was still at school, for a sub prior to Thursday payday. What a tightwad! Sorry, didn’t mean it and can you do me score only...? I was also becoming very aware that as I was beginning to not meet my aims of satisfying my drinking and football ambitions on my wages, it was going to be time to move to where the work was i.e. London. I wasn’t doing this as a result of listening to "On yer bike Tebbit", accurately depicted as a vampire in Steve Bell’s cartoons in the Grauniad, but under my own recognition that Grimsby was finished as a town economically and has been ever since to be quite honest. Chuffin Nora, as we say over in Thorne, this is becoming a social commentary, but again it is quite relevant to an account of Grimsby Town. Our tremendous away support is due in no small part to the migration of many fans to wealthier climes at this time. Many have never moved back and I have spent less than eight of my thirty adult years up north. This includes the last five having managed to get a transfer with my employer. However, I had expected to spend the rest of my days down there and had adapted to it but divorce can offer new opportunities if nothing else. You may be pleased to hear that at long last though, the mockney accent is receding only to be alarmed that I have started to get a distinct Yorkshire twang when I spend too much time in their company.

The next two home games saw us play Notts County (won 2 0) and Cardiff (won 6 3!). The Cardiff game wasn’t that good really, more a comedy of errors, but hey, am I complaining? We then went to Wolves in midweek and won 1 0. Had the playoffs been around at this time, perhaps there would have been a bit more interest from the locals but the gates for the last two home games had been less than 5000 and they would drop further. In fact, the decline was starting to set in as apathy set in among fans that were still seeing plenty of goals (only champions Oxford scored more league goals than us). Oddly enough, it could be argued that there wasn’t enough excitement as the previous four years at this level had seen two promotion and two relegation campaigns.

Carlisle then nabbed a point at Blundell Park before Pompey inflicted a 3 2 home defeat. We then lost at Oldham and Oxford and promotion was now virtually impossible. We therefore played Birmingham City on Good Friday with only pride left to play for. Gary Henshaw scored from the spot and we avenged our unlucky defeat to them on Boxing Day. Brum finished runners-up to Oxford in the end so we could only think of what might have been... There was also plenty of trouble after the game with Birmingham fans stopping the train three times after it was bricked by home fans resulting in some running battles near Docks and New Clee stations.

I missed Huddersfield away as it was played on Easter Tuesday afternoon so we gathered in the checker’s hut in the Salvoes repack factory for updates. It finished goalless so at least we hadn’t missed anything. Spending too much time in this small hut was a dodgy business as it wasn’t unknown for a certain fork lift driver to block the door in and the rev up filling the room with diesel fumes. He also used to make out that it had broken down and the unwary would give it the requested push only to get a faceful of fumes from the lying bastard.

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