The Fishy - Grimsby Town FC

Question of the Week

Should League Two clubs take money from the Premier League?



Swanning It - Part 2

By: Chris Smith
Date: 22/12/2009 (Last updated: 12/09/2010)

HAVING arrived at Leppings Lane, we walked the wrong way around to the ticket office. This is when you realise what a big ground Hillsborough is. I’m not as familiar with the place as I used to be when watching Town here when I was normally trolleyed as one of my Yorkshire friends puts it.

As we picked up my tickets, a home fan went to the Info Desk in the club shop and asked where he should go as he’d forgotten to bring his season ticket with him. Glynn’s response of "Home!" didn’t go down too well. Almost as diplomatic, when at Bramall Lane last Saturday, he was recounting past Town v Blades battles at the away end and where I had to ask him to speak up as all the big lads didn’t quite catch what he was saying.

The unrestricted view I’d been flogged on the website wasn’t quite what it seemed but given the spaces available at the top of the Kop, we thought we’d settle ourselves there. I have to say it was a very impressive stand. I understand it was the second cantilever stand in the country after those well known pace setters, the Scunts. The leg room in the corner where we were was the equal of the room you get at Man City and Bolton but sadly, most of the ground is cramped for seating. Unfortunately, we weren’t far from the Wednesday band that seems to have won a reprieve as even their own fans got the club to ban them some seasons ago. It’s like listening to a comb and paper and kazoo at two hundred decibels with the obligatory drum.

A steward told us the club had hoped for 24,000 given that it was kids for a quid but my guess of about 18,000 was nearer the mark. This wasn’t helped by a smallish Swansea following although hats off to anyone travelling a long distance at the moment, even if they are Welsh. This posed another problem in that ideally, we would have liked to have seen both teams get nil points from this fixture.

Glynn also told me I wasn’t the first Town fan to be on the Kop. When it was an open end, plenty of Town fans came here in 1975 or so to admire the foothills of the Peak District or something. Mind you, it felt as though we were already in the National Park after getting to the top.

It sticks in the craw of Sheffield United fans that Wednesday have been given money to splurge on their ground in 1966, were able to host games in 1996 and have now been given the nod over Bramall Lane should England win the World Cup bid. The young lad I take to Blades games calls this place Swillsborough in fine keeping with the Pigs taunts that both Sheffield clubs throw at each other. You have to admire the venom they reserve for each other. Perhaps if Town could get a rivalry going with Grimsby Borough, we could have some high profile games and the townsfolk could have a regular pop at each other. Oh, they already do?

Wednesday hustled and bustled for the first five minutes before a classic counter attack saw a Swans player (Darren Pratley, once on loan to Brentford-good lad) away on his own and you knew he would slot home albeit from distance, after drawing out the Owls keeper. This didn’t put off the home side who fashioned a few half chances but rarely looked like connecting with some of the hopeful balls into the area. It really was a bit like watching Town a few weeks ago.

To be fair, some of the home support tried to get behind their team but there was an air of resignation. From what I heard on the way to the game and what I’ve seen on my flavour of Look North, most fans still backed Brian Laws, recognising that a club tens of millions in debt will not have money to spend. So, whenever I think Town are badly run…

The band were finally silenced on the 35th minute when Swansea again broke at the far end of the pitch from us and a ball from the left was met by Pratley who slotted in from 12 yards. Given Wednesday hadn’t scored for five games before today, it was effectively game over. It was surreal watching the taffies bouncing up and down and not being able to hear them as they were so far away. It was classic Town of a month ago where you knew that despite all the huffing and puffing, a few clinical finishes would demonstrate how it should be done.

Half time Wednesday 0 Swansea 2

Having discovered on Friday night that it was easier to keep warm by standing up and shuffling about ( a bit like our defence) we made our way to the very back row of the Kop and weren’t ask to sit by any stewards. Swansea were first to attack and a third goal would have opened the floodgates but they didn’t pose much threat throughout the second half. Nor did the home team for that matter. The Swans largely cruised to the win and were able to get away with some awry passing themselves. However, they do look like a good footballing side and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the promotion shake up. Whilst not prolific scorers, they are tight defensively. Very much from the Buckley Mark 1 mode. As the game drifted, we amused ourselves with past trips to Swansea. Whilst I haven’t been to the Liberty Stadium, I went twice to the Vetch and it wasn’t friendly on either occasion. The last time we went, which was for a midweek FA Cup game, we gave the fog on the M4 a miss on the way home and looked for a possible watering hole. Having seen a pub sign, we went in with our Town shirts on to realise it was the Ninian Park Tavern. If we’d lost to the Jacks, I wouldn’t be typing this now. (Shame, I hear you say)

The home fans were streaming out with ten to fifteen minutes to go. To be honest, we left early as well, so we could get onto a tram. It didn’t look like we’d miss anything and we didn’t. Having said that, I found it absorbing to watch and felt I’d got my money’s worth.

Full time Wednesday 0 Swans 2

Swansea are now even more handily placed for the play offs and Wednesday are staring into the abyss. The caretaker manager has set a target of 10 wins in the second half of the season to stay up which is the limit of their ambitions. It looks a tall order given their current record of four. Their next game is at home to Newcastle on Boxing Day. Normally, I’d take the problems of higher level clubs but I think I’ll let them keep their £25 million debt.

Despite having really disliked Wednesday as a younger Town fan, I did work in Sheffield at one time and have bumped into quite a few of their fans here and there and the old animosity doesn’t really come into it any more. In fact many of them are a good laugh. We don’t seem to have been on their radar as much as we’d like to think we were. Having said that, I seem to have put the curse of innate crapness on them having seen them lose this season to Frickley (now Town reserves), the Blades and now Swansea.

Glynn was chuffed to get a third tram ride, and even more so when we changed line for the station and got back to Donny in short order. Having ten minutes to spare, I treated (or tret as we say out here) Glynn to a swift beer in the Railway. This pub holds fond memories from my days as a London Mariner when the barman would know we’d be coming from the fixture list. In the thirty minute wait for our connection, and despite having a few on the train, I’d do a quick Woodpecker cider for the sugar lift and two Blackthorns whilst Gary B would do three Stellas.

Just to round off a good day out (Wednesday lost, after all, I have to keep up appearances, I saw a game and had a laugh with a mate) we bumped into some lads from Scunny who watch Leeds all over. I first met one of them (who has deserved legendary status) on the way to work in Leeds almost a year ago. He was sat with friends table opposite and were holding one of the funniest conversations I’d ever heard and which I was able to join in. The fact I was a Grimsby regular held me in good stead among these genuine football fans and it was good to have another laugh on the way out of Donny. Again, it is good to be able to talk to fans of "bigger" clubs without being patronised. If Leeds hadn’t been so expensive, I’d have considered going there last Saturday. I work with plenty of their fans and enjoy some good banter.

Whilst I understand fans who can’t watch a game as a neutral, I enjoy being able to do so with nothing at stake for me emotionally. In fact, I take my hat off to fans that have only been to Town games as I would have been driven more insane than I already am by the tedium. It has been poor but thankfully now getting better.

That is forty two competitive games for me so far this season, including a fair number of non-league fixtures. If the weather improves, it’ll be Goole at home on New Year’s Day followed by our game against Barnet and Blades v QPR the day after.

Not forgetting Notts County and Port Vale of course!

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