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Then and Now

Grimsby v Cambridge - A Potted History

By: Chris Smith
Date: 19/02/2014

IT was nice to see Grimsby Borough wish the Mariners all the best for their Trophy semi final last weekend via social media. It made me reflect about how often I’ve been watching games at the Abbey Stadium. Over thirty years now.

I first went in the 1981/2 season. I meant to go the previous year as I was at university in Colchester so it would have been an easy trip but there was a platform alteration at Ipswich so I missed the train. And a 5-1 defeat as well. One of my rare strokes of good fortune.

The 1980/1 season saw Town come close to three consecutive promotions having just come up from Divisions 3 and 4. We played Cambridge in the autumn and had struggled badly to score goals although we weren’t letting many in either. I was going to watch Ipswich on some Saturdays (when they had a magnificent team) and when a Town game was out of reach. This Saturday, I was sat in the student flat kitchen and cavorting up and down as Town scored twice in about the first ten minutes. Joe Waters got the first inside ten seconds! I can still picture that afternoon and all the optimism for the future that I think only a teenager can have, especially when they support a team of which they are incredibly proud.

The following season was largely a struggle. We lost 2-1 at home to Cambridge just after I’d gone back to university. After a promising start, including a 2-1 home win over QPR, we weren’t to win at home again until after mid March when we beat Derby. During that run, we played at Cambridge and this time I was determined not to miss it. This was my justification for arriving in Cambridge just after midday with a Swindon supporting mate. In those days, you could get a rather tasty drink, Taunton Special Vat Cider at 6% ABV. Not a great idea before a lunchtime session and one of my old schoolmates, seeing us crawling along the road, decided to disown us when I slurred a greeting.

1981/2 was memorable for the songs and Toni Basil had been in the charts recently so when Mick Brolly put us in the lead, there was the inevitable chant of ‘Oh Micky you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Micky, hey Micky Brolly’. The big mistake that I and many others made was to start bouncing up and down celebrating seconds after being held up only by the crush barriers. Quite a few of us landed in an ignominious heap. Cambridge always seemed to be a particularly boozy day for Grimsby fans after that, not just me. The lad who disowned me thirty years ago (you know who you are Don!) sent me a text last weekend saying how I always enjoyed Cambridge and I had to smile wryly. Not for the football as I’ve seen some terrible games there but definitely a much anticipated day out. The game finished two apiece by the way.

I was still a student for the 1982/3 season and the away game was my eighteenth of the season. Not bad going. I wonder how many others started their away game addiction after getting their grubby mitts on a student grant…..

We’d beaten Cambridge earlier in the season but by March were starting to fall from our fourth place the previous month and we ended up staying up only on the last game of the season. We were abysmal away from home and I hadn’t missed a massacre at this time. This game ended only 1-0 to the home side but the manner of it led to some rather forthright debate among the travelling fans. There has always been the situation where some fans never criticise the team and others are far more ready to do so. Anyway, the Grimsby tradition of being able to cause a fight in an empty room came to the fore as the relatively light numbers started to batter each other to the astonishment of the home support. You had to laugh at the half hearted chant of ‘Grimsby took the Grimsby’ as a few lads spat the remains of their teeth out.

Unfortunately, I missed the next away game there as I was back living in Grimsby for a few years. My mate Don lived in Stevenage and went up to the night game shortly after Christmas. A Town fan who had obviously drunk more than even I had in 1982 spent the first half taunting the home keeper with a haunting ‘You’re doomed goalie. Here we come again. You’re doomed I tell you’ Unfortunately he kept up this dirge in the second half and our own Nigel Batch was much less accommodating and informed the miscreant in no uncertain terms that we had changed ends and he could cough. Or something like that.

That game ended in a draw as did the home fixture which was a goalless draw with Dean Greygoose in inspired form in goal for the visitors. It was very much a case of two points dropped as we started to fall away from the top three. Cambridge had set a record at this level for the number of games without a win, thirty one I think, and went down so our paths didn’t cross for a good number of years.

We next met them at the start of the first Buckley era and to see both teams was an utter contrast in styles as Cambridge played a cynical percentage game managed by John Beck and Town started to play an aesthetically pleasing passing game.

The article continues in Part 2

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