|Season 1, Leg 2 - Grimsby|
|Written by Mark W|
|Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:17|
Grimsby Town v Oldham Athletic – Friendly match
Blundell Park, Cleethorpes
19 July 2008, 13.00 K.O.
Blundell Park is one of those grounds I’ve been to countless times over the years but it is a fair amount of time since my last trip. We were in the same division as Grimsby for many years and we always seemed to get them in the first round of the league cup, over two legs.
I’ve got real mixed memories of the ground. I’m sure I can recall Andy Ritchie scoring a hat-trick there one Christmas (in my head this was the day after he had scored a hat-trick against Wolves at Boundary Park but that can’t be right). I can also remember winning the home leg of one of those league cup games one nil and then getting battered by five in the return. I took my wife to that one and I think it was one of the key reasons that she now hates football! My overriding memories though are not about games but about the place itself. You always used to be able to get fish and chips for a quid from the chippy next to the ground. They called it a small portion but you got more in that than you did in a full portion back in Oldham. I don’t know why, but the ‘Leaking Boot’ was also one of my favourite away pubs. It was a huge place where you’d always get all the away fans gathering and there was usually a good sing song to be had, before going into the ground to be deadly silent! The other thing that always stood out about Cleethorpes (because that’s where the ground is, rather than Grimsby itself) was the smell. The whole place reeks of fish.
I’d made the arrangements after the Rhyl game. I was going to drive over, taking Mike, Rachel and my dad and we’d meet the others in the Leaking Boot. Imagine the impact of the shocking news I received on the Friday afternoon then. An email from Terry breaking it to me that Health and Safety had shut down the Leaking Boot and it was going to be transformed into a ‘Boutique Hotel’. Why on earth would anyone require a boutique hotel in Cleethorpes?
We set off mid morning with a quick stop at Boundary Park to pick up Rochdale tickets and parked up behind the away end about quarter to twelve. The stretch of Road between Grimsby and Cleethorpes (Grimsby Road unimaginatively) was notable for one reason only, the ‘massage parlours’. I think we all accept that red light districts exist, but they don’t normally include the main road into your town. Maybe I’ve misunderstood it. Perhaps there just isn’t much else to do around there.
The other thing we’d spotted on our way in was a pub, not too far from the ground. We walked round to the Imperial only to find a notice hung outside stating ‘Home Fans Only’. We didn’t really think too much about it as it was only a friendly, we could blatantly see Latics fans already inside and none of us were in colours at that point anyway. Without a hint of a smile, the guy guarding the gate stood to one side and let us in.
The pub itself was not the sort of place you’d go to through choice and was probably summed up by the advert to ‘Hold your 18th Birthday Party Here’. Not, I suspect an offer being advertised by pubs where underage drinking is a problem. While we were ordering the drinks, Rachel noticed a sign in the window. Surely not, but yes it seemed that a hero of the glory years had found himself another job and this very evening's entertainment would feature ‘Ian Marshall’. If only we were staying the night.
Driving over we’d been through the most ridiculously changeable weather. One minute it was bright sunshine, the next I had to put my lights on because it had gone so dark. The rain was torrential, the next it was dry as a bone. Luckily, by the time we arrived, it was a beautiful sunny day so we decided to sit in the pub’s beer garden (OK, car park). I’d told people where we were but when Margaret and Terry arrived, Mr Jolly didn’t want to let them in. He eventually agreed but only with the warning that they would be asked to leave when it got busy. Trust me; this wasn’t a pub that was going to get busy at a friendly. Soon, plenty of other Oldhamers had arrived and we must have made up a good 75% of everyone there.
The police were clearly treating the game as their big training session prior to the start of the season. While we sat with a beer, we suddenly saw about ten Latics fans being escorted along the main road towards the ground. Presumably these had arrived on the train and mustn’t have known what had hit them. This police ‘crackdown’ continued later in the ground where we watched a group of Grimsby fans being videoed and ejected from the stadium for, we assume, persistent standing. It all seemed a bit OTT but I guess they have to practice.
Following a bit of a team photo with the flag, we moved on to go and sample those famous fish and chips. What a disappointment. I think I must have been reminiscing about the old days because when I started on it, all seemed well. Mike and Rachel both complained that they were swimming in grease but I wasn’t having any of it. Then the aftertaste hit me. Pure lard. Oh well, looking on the bright side, at least I’ll be regular for the next couple of days.
We now experienced the first of three lessons of the day relating to the flag. As one of our aims is to have a picture of the flag outside each ground to show where it has been, we headed for the main entrance. We found someone to take a photo using my phone and then happily headed for the away end. It was only once in the ground that I looked at my phone to find that the photo hadn’t taken. Actually, I guess this was actually lesson two as we had by this point, learned that you need to leave extra time for taking the photo as we got into the ground just after kick off.
The third lesson came when trying to put the flag up. I tried to hang it above the tunnel where the fans get into the stand as there was plenty of room but it seems that this was not acceptable. I’d checked to make sure I wasn’t covering any advertising but I hadn’t realised that I was covering the word ‘Exit’. Silly me, I should have realised that if I’d left it there, there was every likelihood that we would have all been left unable to find a way out. Instead, I was instructed to put it over some empty seats. This was the point at which I realised that the flag does not have ties at the bottom, only in the top corners. This means that although you can tie it over the seats, it will blow over the back and lose visibility the minute there is a gust of wind. We made the best of a bad job and will have to sort that before the next trip.
As with the previous game, this was effectively treated as two 45 minute matches, with wholesale substitutions at half time. Despite this, I was impressed by what I saw. Within 5 minutes we were in front after a superb strike from JP Kalala and throughout the first half I thought we looked the better side. The new Jamaican we’d got on trial from Stoke shone and showed a lot of pace and some very good touches. Unfortunately, the defensive frailties we know so well from previous seasons struck again and we ended up going into the break all square.
During half time I recognised a guy who had taken a picture of the flag while we were posing for the photo that didn’t come out. Despite my complete lack of technical knowledge, we eventually managed to transfer the picture onto my phone. At least that saved us having to venture back round to the entrance after the game.
I thought that after the restart, we were in complete control. We played some very good football. A lot more pass and move than we had been utilising at the end of last season. It was good to see Lee Hughes get a run out for the last twenty minutes as we will need him to be fit if we are going to make a sustained push for promotion. Despite all the possession we had, I was struggling to see where a goal would come from but after the introduction of Hughes, we showed a lot more goal threat. Just after Deane Smalley had missed a sitter, Chris Taylor managed to put in a great cross that despite trying, he just couldn’t miss. Hitting the bar from about two foot is a real talent but I guess if it bounces down over the line, we can forgive it. Five minutes later, it was all over. The 100+ Latics fans who made the journey could go home safe in the knowledge that our 100% start to pre-season was still in tact.
The drive home was much more comfortable than earlier as the weather was much friendlier to us. The only frustrating part was the bit where I crept past the two police cars at no more than 74mph for what seemed like a good ten minutes. It did give us a great opportunity to listen to the best of local radio, always a treat at away games. BBC Radio Humberside was hosting a competition called “Banger or Wanger”. I have no idea what it was all about but it seemed to just be an excuse to make lots of sausage related jokes. Glad to see that our licence fees are put to good use.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 11 June 2011 20:49|