THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

10 October ~ "Thank goodness a wedding prevents me from seeing the Mariners stoop to new lows at Altrincham tomorrow," reflected one Grimsby Town supporter on Twitter the other week. This wasn't just any supporter, mind you, this was the club mascot. And if our foam-suited official cheerleader Mighty Mariner was so severely and so publicly down in the mouth, what hope for the rest of us?

Since dropping out of the Football League on the final day of last season, Town fans have had more mood swings than a teenager listening to My Chemical Romance on a day out at Alton Towers. Gloom turned to cheer when a side boosted by some impressive-looking signings comfortably won a friendly with Sheffield Wednesday. The bookies made us second favourites for the Conference title, behind Luton. The supporters weren't arguing.

The experience of other ex-League clubs, of course, suggested that caution was advisable. "Do your idiot fans still think you're going to go straight back up?" a York City fan asked me at the end of July. The Conference takes some adapting to, for both fans and players. Going into Sunday's game at Kidderminster, Town are perched on the shoulder of the Conference play-off places. Winning performances at home against Luton, Wrexham and Newport have been the best we've seen in years. But some stinkers against Fleetwood and Hayes & Yeading were as poor as any of the dross that took us out of the League.

Great things were expected of pacy striker Charles Ademeno, who must be feeling silly after turning down a new contract at Crawley because he thought Grimsby would do better in the league. At Crawley, of course, convicted tax scammer Steve Evans has found a new place to hurl around ridiculous amounts of mysteriously sourced cash. They've moved fairly obviously to the top of the league while the rest of the Conference runs a sweepstake on the date the administrators move in.

Ademeno has been injured all season, though – instead it's Alan Connell, signed from Bournemouth ostensibly as the link forward, who's flown out of the blocks with ten goals in 14 games and has Grimsby supporters drawing misty-eyed comparisons with Clive Mendonca. Connell is widely held to be playing at least a division below his "true level” and we're braced accordingly for a January swoop from Scunthorpe, or Crawley. Central midfield has been the problem area. Michael Leary, Micky Cummins and Mark Hudson are not terrible players, but no pairing from them has produced function and balance. The arrival of Andrew Wright on loan has put a lot right, but if Scunny want him back then we'll be right back in trouble.

So could the Mariners be back in the Football League next season? Looking for precedents is a sobering business. In the early days of automatic promotion, Lincoln and Darlington both returned to the 92 immediately and fairly straightforwardly. But back then they were professional clubs in a mostly part-time league. These days, full-time status having extended across most of the Conference Premier, there seems barely any gulf in class between the bottom half of League Two and their top dozen non-League counterparts. And in the last 20 seasons only Shrewsbury in 2004 and Carlisle in 2005 have gone down and straight back up.

Our supporters are on the same steep learning curve described by fans of all clubs who drop into the Conference after a long history of League football. However this season unfolds, Town fans need to stop loading every result with awesome significance. Thursday's draw at Forest Green is no more a precursor of a 17th-place finish than the weekend win over Newport promised the league title. This, more than anything, is the way to avoid those mood swings and just enjoy the ride. But it'll help if the mascot cheers up a bit too. Pete Green

Comments (7)
Comment by curranhung 2010-10-10 13:08:17

Excellent article.

Your last paragraph contains sentences which could apply to quite a few clubs and their fans. I'm an AFC Wimbledon supporter and I've often wished that our fans would "stop loading every result with awesome significance" and also "avoid those mood swings and just enjoy the ride".

Comment by madmickyf 2010-10-11 04:13:24

It's not just Grimsby & Wimbledon fans either. I'm a Luton fan and a lot of our supporters are still carrying a "We're too big for this League" attitude which quite frankly isn't endearing us to other club's supporters. They also tend to react to every defeat as though it's a dagger through the heart of our promotion chances complete with the usual "sack the manager" calls.

Some are even declaring this season a "disaster" despite the fact we're sitting 5th only a third of the way through the season! Unfortunately one of the first casualties of a League club's relegation to the Conference seems to be it's supporters sense of perspective.

Comment by Max Payne 2010-10-11 06:57:52

When Grimsby get back into the Football League, eventually, be it this season, nest or a few your club will be stronger. Take the word of an Exeter fan for it.

Comment by billoofyork 2010-10-11 09:11:31

i penned a similar article last year relating to the trials and tribulations of the lower leagues. see it here: http://www.adifferentleague.co.uk/default.aspx?Tab=45&Page=6&Article=613

as a life-long york city fan i can empathise. all i will say is don't get your hopes up for a return this season. at least you still have a manager and a kit man. our club seems to be in total meltdown.

good luck for the season

Comment by Lincoln 2010-10-11 09:44:24

Our fans whinge if we are not up around the playoffs but I tend to celebrate every season we stay up because if Lincoln ever went down I think it would be many years before we came back up.
Hope that Grimsby are back up this season or next as I miss the derby games, as does our bank account.

Comment by Arthur Nibble 2010-10-11 13:06:21

Nice to see Alan Connell doing well. Not sure if he got enough of a chance with Brentford, but we could do with his goals right now.

Comment by lone striker 2010-10-11 13:27:11

Thanks for the comments, folks (I wrote the piece), and for your kindness towards GTFC.

@madmickyf: Yes - same here. I should have mentioned that a fair proportion of Town fans are speaking ignorantly of the Conference as a "pub league". Before we played Forest Green last week there was even a messageboard post last week arguing that if we didn't win "at least 3-0" then we "didn't deserve" to go back up.

And Neil Woods didn't help the other week, when he dumbly opined that Gateshead didn't have a single player who'd get into our first XI - after they'd drawn 0-0 with us.

When we were a second-flight club (up until 2003) the fans and managers of clubs like Wolves and Man City used to look at Town like something they'd scraped off their shoe. And we bitterly resented it, of course. Which makes it all the more cringeworthy now that shoe's on the other foot.

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