It can take decades to build up a sense of familiarity at a new stadium – just ask fans of the Lincolnshire side, who are reflecting on 30 years at a ground that in 1988 was the first of its kind
20 February ~ When Glanford Park opened, there was no stadium-building industry. No consultants, no specialist architects, no bespoke CAD software – nothing. Which might explain why the design isn’t the most adventurous. It screams: “It’s a new ground isn’t it? What more do you want?” Glanford Park is what those people who make models of football grounds out of Lego wind down with after a long session trying to recreate the works of Archibald Leitch. But who cares, it was ours, with Strictly star (and indeed reigning champion) Kevin Clifton one of the mascots on the opening day. Despite all the fuss about “Kevin from Grimsby” he remains and always has been an Iron fan.
A new ground brings a new dilemma. Where am I going to stand? I’d taken a spot on the terrace at the Old Showground next to a friend originally but for my debut in the Glanford Park home end I was going to decide myself. I chose a turnstile at random and walked down the walkway. Left or right? Right. Up this flight of steps? Why not. Then I tried a few spots out, though they were all pretty much the same view, before deciding. And 30 years later I’m still there.
I didn’t know the people around me but I came to know them well. We ended up going to away games together and to each other’s weddings, big birthdays and the like. Some have moved away, some have given in to the seated life. But that’s life and I haven’t exactly been an ever present either. Work, holidays and illness affect everyone – and boycotting the Checkatrade obviously. Then there were two seasons when my wife wanted to sit down. But as it happened this coincided with Peter Beagrie playing right in front of us, turning right-backs inside out on a weekly basis, depositing one on his backside twice in one game. Plus, being near the dugouts gives you a better view of the managerial shenanigans – such as opposition managers remonstrating with the fourth official that a tackle, which would probably be classed as an assault before the magistrates, did not deserve a red card. Usually accompanied by said player feigning astonishment and making that round sign with his hands to say “I got the ball” as if that makes any sense when the victim is on a stretcher receiving oxygen. But my wife eventually had enough, and I was back on my spot on the home terrace. It appeared to have been kept open for me as best I could tell.
Fifteen years on and remarkably it seemed we were getting another new ground, part of a multi-billion-pound housing development which was to see the building of five new villages. The architectural drawings of the new ground promised sterility. The ground, as must be the case these days apparently, was to house a budget hotel, NHS and other offices and the like. And of course, the ability to morph into a venue that might tempt Little Mix or similar. It looked like every other ground and nothing like a ground at the same time. We could be forgiven a lack of imagination in 1988 but what excuse is there these days for every ground to be so lacking in any character or architectural adventure?
So for a while we were to be on the move again. The club even had special “Farewell to Glanford Park” beers produced by a local brewery during the 2016-17 season. It was as if we were living out of a suitcase for a while, the garage full of packed boxes. Then the overall project faltered and the new ground was no more. We would redevelop Glanford Park instead. Good.
So I’m still standing on that spot. But not always these days, as my grandson is not tall enough to stand too far from the front. Another generation begins. After a recent dismal defeat to Gillingham in the pouring rain he could only ask one question – when can we come again? He’ll have his own spot one day. Ted Flanagan
Photo by Paul Thompson/WSC Photos: The view from the terraces of Glanford Park