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Way Back Then - Part 12

By: Chris Smith
Date: 13/02/2012

THE rearranged lads’ weekend was set for Boston, where Trev had a works provided static caravan. Don and Anch made their way up the A1 whilst I made an awkward train journey changing at Lincoln and Sleaford.

The trains didn’t connect well so I spent plenty of time visiting hostelries and arriving in Boston about half eight at night and immediately offering out half a pub from outside.

It was my turn to be rather ill that night but I had recovered well enough to enjoy a good Saturday lunchtime when we discovered that Town were playing at Boston in a pre season friendly. It was too good to miss and I think we were virtually the only Town fans there. When we belted out "Mariners!" as the teams came out, the Town players looked disbelievingly at the inebriated quartet. We lost 5 3 having been two goals down most of the game. Each time we got within a goal of Boston, off they’d go back up the other end and stick another in. We didn’t give a monkeys and decided that a fat boy’s tea was called for before going out that night. This would exactly duplicate the fat boys breakfast of that morning which I think I’d had to pass on. You can guess the ingredients but we had a penchant for a variation of fried bread which was "dips". The recipe for this was bread dipped for a few seconds in the frying pan. Even worse, we would still have fried bread.

Having overloaded with cholesterol, we were well set and in a display of recuperation not seen since Lazarus, I managed to have a good Sunday lunchtime as well, to the disgust of my comrades, walking three miles to the nearest pub. I nearly ended up having 45 miles to walk home as my attempts to thumb a lift back up the A16 were fruitless, I can’t think why. Trev ended up driving me to Grantham station where I just managed to catch the last train to Grimsby.

This summer was also famous for Band Aid. I listened to the concert being broadcast from Wembley although I don’t recall Grimsby enjoying the warm weather down in London. I think my folks were down in Southampton at Tony’s graduation and I sulked as they told me how hot it was down there as I shivered. My dad was well taken with it down there and would watch Howard’s Way and jokingly refer to the characters as "the beautiful people" whilst I seethed with class hatred and envy. If they have that much money, they don’t seem to be lobbing it the Saints’ way at the moment I am thinking rather uncharitably as I write this.

I paid my first visit to Wembley on another miserable August Saturday. We had arranged a coach outing from work to go to the Charity Shield match between Everton and Man Ure. The reason for this was that many of the lads had enjoyed a cracking booze up the previous August and the plan was to fill the bus with crates of whatever prior to a pub crawl before and after the game. This plan was buggered from the start as the police had started to clamp down on alcohol on transport to designated sports grounds although it never seemed to be applied to cricket or rugby games. This was part of the knee-jerk reaction to the events of May although it had always been illegal to have alcohol on coaches. We weren’t going to breach this as it wasn’t worth the waste of our match tickets but it was a pisser of the highest order.

Everton won 1-0 (I think). I didn’t think Wembley was particularly impressive. It was a poorly appointed ground typical of the era, albeit holding 100000 fans. We made up for lost time afterwards and were due to be collected on Embankment about midnight only for the driver to see some of the party fighting outside the police station which resulted in him driving off and leaving a good number of us stranded for the night. However, we were in reasonable spirits and walked up to Kings Cross where we slept on the platform all night. Or tried to sleep because it was bloody freezing. One of the lads got the Sunday Times which I hadn’t judged within his intellectual remit but he just said it was big enough to make a bed out of. Most of the lads were ringing Grimsby when the ticket office opened to get family to pay for tickets at Town station although I was okay with having a student railcard.

In those days, the journey from London to Donny was significantly longer than now and we spent the journey telling jokes, acting out and surprisingly entertaining our carriage rather than annoying them. One lad went into the next carriage for some zeds and woke up in Edinburgh. We got into Donny where the carriage tearfully waved goodbye to the free cabaret and with enough time to get some more cans which would kill the tortoise-speed crawler to Grimsby calling at Crowle, the lockkeeper’s cottage, that farm a mile up the road and every shed backing onto the line. One good thing about travelling back on the train was that the buffet car was not subject to licensing laws. I had often been amazed with the announcement on the early morning Grimsby to London train when the announcer would state the buffet was "open for the sale of refreshments, soft drinks and that there is a fully licensed bar." I would always hope someone would go up for a can so that I didn’t look like the alkie when I closely followed.

I arrived at Town station in time to run over to The County for a few before closing time and home for Sunday dinner. My family thought I might be rather pissed off but it had been an experience and I was grateful to collapse into bed for the afternoon. I’m glad I wasn’t on early turn Monday like some of the lads. I normally swapped off my night shifts so had been a little less well equipped to deal with the sleep deprivation.

That was it for the pre season games for me and I was focussing on watching England do the Aussies 3-1 in the test series but the inevitable couldn’t be put off any longer and it was an early mid August start to the season and a long expensive trip to Brighton which I decided to give a miss for those reasons. I ended up getting the score from a transistor radio as I followed a cricket match at the Ross Sports ground (that is when I wasn’t sleeping on a rare dry afternoon with hot sunshine). We had a managed a 2-2 draw with Lund and Emson scoring and it had to be seen as a good point given our home defeat just a few months earlier. A good day out all round, a last minute equaliser, afternoon drinking and a late summer tan.

I’d like to say I was full of enthusiasm for the first home game against Huddersfield but I wasn’t. I wouldn’t say it was a chore because that isn’t the case, but I had started to run out of money and it would therefore be home games only and I think I’d come to prefer the away games. I still do despite the even mankier results and after nearly nine years off the loopy juice. I think I would have been even more pissed off if I’d known I’d just had my last football related weekend for many years but hadn’t put Saturday working into the equation. One of the things that was contributing to the home game apathy was our relocation from the Pontoon to the Osmond stand, something I never got used to. I couldn’t quite remember the rationale for this change but looked it up in Dave Wherry’s "The Grimsby Town Story" and apparently it was to do with avoiding aggro at the ground but it never seemed right to have the enemy in my spiritual home for any reason. I’m looking back now and thinking that football at that time couldn’t organise a punch-up in Top Town or a bunk-up in Cottees. Take your pick.

The first enemy was Huddersfield and a decent crowd of 6000 saw a 1-1 draw with Gary Lund scoring although I couldn’t tell you how the game panned out. The programme was radically different from the last two seasons and I didn’t particularly like it. Even a Scunt chav could have speed read it. I think the game was still in shock from the end of the previous season and league attendances for this year bear that out. I’ve dug out programmes from this year during a sporadic tidy up that ends the instant I open a programme from a long past season and disappear through a space and time continuum as a day passes without me noticing.

A third of the crowd had disappeared by the home game the following week against Charlton who earned a 2-2 draw. I was really apathetic about this one having become a regular visitor to the Valley and my pre match preparations in Grimsby couldn’t compare to the day out in London. For the record, Lund (again!) and our new signing Gordon Hobson scored for us. Charlton would get promoted this year along with unfancied Wimbledon and Norwich whilst having to vacate the Valley for financial reasons.

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