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Keeping the Faith

By: Alan Readman
Date: 23/09/2002

ANOTHER ruined weekend! Sports pages unread yet again. And we thought the close season was bad enough. But are we becoming downhearted... Er, well....

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Students of Dave Wherry's excellent history of GTFC will doubtless have worked out for themselves that we have now equalled the worst start to a season since records began way back in Victorian times. Only once before since 1888 has the sorry tally of just two points from nine games been 'achieved' and as that was in a wartime league in the First World War it probably shouldn't be counted anyway. Whatever, lose to Brighton on Saturday and it's one for the record books.

Now, boasting as I can an unbroken allegiance to the Mariners back to the second coming of Tommy Briggs, I plead exemption from the charge of 'fair-weather' supporter. Nor for a moment would I wish the pointing out of the afore-mentioned fact to be seen as indicative of undue negativity on my part. Prophet of Doom? Not I. Indeed, people have often said of me that should a black-and-white cloud appear on the horizon there is no one more diligent in seeking out a silver lining. This time though, I agree, it is proving more than usually elusive.

The real problem, of course, is that for the true fan there is no option but to endure it. You cannot simply wake up one morning and say "That's it! I've had enough". It just doesn't work like that. This sort of obsession is for life with no remission. Some people may think otherwise but, believe me, it won't last. You can't walk away. You can buy yourself a red shirt but you'll never feel for Man. United what you've felt for Grimsby. You can tell yourself that Freshney Place is for you on a Saturday afternoon but you'll find yourself in the TV shop waiting for the results if you do. This is the voice of experience talking, folks.

Most would agree that for us adherence to Town is for the most part a roller-coaster of emotions. In 1998 we hit the heights and right now we seem to be in free fall. Some would say we have never been down quite so low. But ancient mariners like me will recall the late sixties and the dark ages of the old Fourth Division. It coincided with my days at university but that was no escape. I remember one afternoon in '69 coming out of Old Trafford having seen Best, Law Charlton, and Co turn it on. All I wanted to do was to discover Town's result. And having found it (1-5 at home to Bradford City) to see who'd scored (Stuart Brace). OK, call it insanity if you like, but I don't think I am alone out here. And the point is, of course, that although at the time there seemed no hope, on or off the field, it proved to be just round the corner in the shape of Lawrie McMenemy and Matt Tees.

Yes, I know we have moved on since then and the stakes are higher now, but the principle remains the same. As born-and-bred supporters we have no choice but to support through the good and the bad times. The corner has been turned before and it will be turned again. Time will tell whether this is to be an embarrassingly abysmal season but for us there is no luxury of jumping ship. Our role is to stick in there and by our support do our bit to turn things round.

I don't know enough to offer solutions and I don't feel there is anything positive to be gained in random shots at directors, management or players. But talking about Big Lawrie reminds me of the importance he attached to public relations and the need for the Club to involve itself with the people of the town. There was that memorable, typically tongue-in-cheek quote, after he had taken the players down to the Fish Docks one day for the dawn market, that prior to their visit he didn't think some of them had realised before that there were two six o'clocks in the same day. Fans give their all. They give passion and commitment. They deserve the same in return.

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