Friday, 7 May 2010

Come on you Mariners!

I've steered clear of talking about football on here. Even two years ago, when my beloved Leicester City slipped into the third tier of English football for the first time ever, I resisted the temptation to blog about it. Football gets talked about quite enough elsewhere.

Grim as it was at the time, Leicester's slide down the divisions was never likely to be terminal. The chance to regroup and start afresh seemed to do them good, with a Division One title and now a place in the Championship play-offs the result. If, later this month, they come up with the big-money prize of a place in the Premier League, then 2008 will be well and truly forgotten.

But tomorrow, the first professional club I ever went to watch face a relegation that could have catastrophic effects. My dad's a lifelong Grimsby Town fan (he can remember them as a top-tier team, just after World War Two), being born and bred in nearby Louth, so the first football match I was ever taken to was Grimsby vs Peterborough, in 1976. The Mariners lost 3-1, but ever since they've held a place in my affections only a little lower than the Foxes.

In 1998, me and the old man twice made the trip down to Wembley (Grimsby's first-ever appearances there) to see them win the Football League Trophy and the Division Two play-off final. At other times, occasional spells in the second tier have been interspersed with desperate battles in the lower divisions. But through it all, they've never slipped out of the Football League.

This is a club that, in 1939, played an FA Cup semi-final against Wolves at Old Trafford that still holds the record for the biggest attendance at that ground. A club that helped make Bill Shankly's name as a manager, long before his eventual deification in Liverpool*. A club that has consistently produced quality football and footballers, out of all proportion to its size and the size of the town (and whatever Scunthorpe or Lincoln fans tell you, they've been the footballing standard-bearers for the huge county of Lincolnshire). Oh, and whatever the limitations of Blundell Park, it's a stone's throw from the best fish and chip shops in Britain, meaning a trip there's always a pleasure.

Tomorrow, that could change. They must win at Burton Albion, and hope Barnet lose to already-promoted Rochdale, if that proud 118-year record isn't to end. If it does, the financial consequences could sink the club forever.

So, no offence to Barnet, but I'm praying that they slip up against Rochdale, and the mighty Mariners rise to the occasion just along the road from here in Burton. If Grimsby do save themselves, at least they'll be in the right place to celebrate.

Come on you Mariners!!!!!!!!!!

* Shankly, in his autobiography, claimed that his 1951-52 Grimsby team was: "...pound for pound, and class for class, the best football team I have seen in England since the war. In the league they were in they played football nobody else could play. Everything was measured, planned and perfected and you could not wish to see more entertaining football."

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