24 April ~ On the September evening when Sven's men put five past Germany in Munich, Grimsby Town were sitting pretty at the top of Division One. Today, less than nine years on, the Mariners are 90 minutes away from losing their Football League status. Sadly, I don't think anyone is that surprised. The writing has been on the wall for a while now.
I'm sure I don't have to remind people that without Luton's stupidly weighty point deduction and Chester being well, shit, Grimsby would have been booted out of the Football League last season by Christmas if it was based on performance. Unfortunately for Town, no League Two side has been docked points for going into administration this year, so relegation is going to be sorted out the old fashioned way – the two worst teams in the division. Fair enough, I suppose.
Today's encounter against already relegated Darlington – the only team in the division that can "boast" a worse record than the Mariners – is, at least on paper, a huge game for the club. Mathematically, there's a faint glimmer of hope. But I wouldn't hold your breath. Town need to win their final three games of the season and hope Barnet, Lincoln or Cheltenham Town do the unthinkable and lose their final three.
Last weekend Grimbsy succumbed to a soul-destroying 3-0 home defeat to in-form Torquay United, in a game that was described in the local press as the "game of the century". Cheesy commentator Guy Mowbray was even seen swaggering about Blundell Park in an ill-conceived tank top and sunglasses combo – the Beeb must have shared a similar sentiment. Despite the rousing attempt by the media to create a buzz around the town after a recent revival that saw the Mariners secure four wins in their last nine, a trio of soft second-half goals effectively ended any chance of survival. At the final whistle, instead of capturing images of hopeful supporters cheering off their defiant team after an crucial win, Mowbray and his BBC cameraman was left to film thousands of deflated supporters quietly ambling out the exits and a half-hearted pitch invasion, lead by a handful of angry adolescent kids. What their aim was no one knows. Judging by their bizarre behaviour once they got on the pitch neither did they.
If results had gone differently last week, today might have been a very different story for Grimsby. No doubt they'd have packed out the away end, sung from the first minute to the last and given Town a huge advantage over their condemned opponents. But they didn't. So today's game is probably little more than a dress rehearsal for next years Conference clash.
If you're a Leeds United fan I hope this has put your recent "struggles" into perspective. I know some Town fans that would give their left plum to be in your position. The others would probably give both. Rob Andrews