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Then and Now
Then and Now

Grimsby v Cambridge - Part 2

By: Chris Smith
Date: 19/02/2014 (Last updated: 31/01/2018)

I WAS still working Saturdays managing a bookies when we were stuffed 4-1 at Cambridge in our first game back in Division 4 but saw us beat Torquay at home the following weekend in front of a small but passionate crowd.

I knew I was changing jobs in a few months and was looking forward to seeing Town on a regular basis again and it didn’t matter that we had dropped two divisions in as many seasons. I saw it as a privilege to be able to watch them. After the London Mariners came together in the aftermath of the Wimbledon away FA Cup game, a series of more good days out at Cambridge was on its way.

Town did manage to exact revenge in our home game as we pushed to ninth place but 1989/90 was to see both of us promoted. A goalless draw against them at the start of the season was followed by a 2-0 defeat away in January, a typical bleak day on the Fens with no football worth talking of. However, a month later we were to embark on a seven game winning run which took us from thirteenth to second position. Despite the indifferent start to the season, this rates as one of my favourite years as the dilapidated Abbey Stadium and Gillingham and Maidstone (playing at Dartford’s old ground) was where many of us were to be seen and counted. I’d had a trip to Cambridge before the season started and scouted out some likely watering holes. We thought it’d be rude not to go in all of them as we ended up tottering down Newmarket Road. Cambridge was also in Network South East so the discounted rail tickets subsidised some fine drinking.

The following year we lost there again. I can’t recall a sunny day there from this time but strangely enough, these grounds hold the fondest memories. It would be easy subsequently to go to Wolves, Forest, WBA, Newcastle etc but these were the places where we would grind out the results that would get us promoted again although we normally lucked out at the Abbey. We both came up this year as well having taken three points off each other.

Despite Town playing the silkier football, Cambridge were to make the play offs the following season in a bid for the top flight. They weren’t popular outside their own town but Beck’s team did get results. We were struggling when we went there on another drab January day but avenged our opening day 4-3 defeat with a 1-0 win courtesy of Jim Dobbin. The home side had a young player who had been causing problems on our right. Unfortunately for him, he had a hair cut which looked as though it had been done by someone who had imbibed as much as we had and his game went to pieces as he was regaled with ‘Did your mother, did your mother, did your mother cut your hair?’ Not bad and good to hear it again at Histon the other year although their keeper wouldn’t agree. I started that one by the way. Just saying….

Normal service was resumed the following January during a season when we won at Newcastle and Chelsea but it was hard to be downhearted in these times. We had a run of seasons where we weren’t in danger of going down and sometimes pushed towards the top. Football was as it should be; a good day out and anything gained on the pitch was seen as a bonus. How I wish we had those times back again. To be quite honest, I’m surprised we can remember them.

Cambridge got their more than welcome comeuppance in 1993/4 and we didn’t see them again until we fell into the bottom tier in the 2004/5 season. They went down that year as well which tells you how long they’ve been stuck in the Conference. It’s just occurred to me that I’ve seen us play them in four separate divisions and that would include Luton and Wrexham and doubtless a few others. I wouldn’t have believed that could happen twenty years ago.

I missed the away league game this season but went last year and the season before. The latter was a fantastic performance as Town kicked into gear and for the first time at this level looked as though we could make the play offs. It wasn’t to last but the plaudits we got off the Cambridge media for our football and support were a joy to read.

It looks as though we could both be in the play offs at the end of this season although nothing is a given. I do idly wonder if some of their fans look back wistfully when we meet. As I watched the game last Saturday, I certainly did. Whilst I had a good shout, I spent a fair bit of time caught up in the past. The best game I saw here was in 2012 but I’d give pretty much anything to watch the dire games in the second tier like we used to. The drinking is over as well but no real regrets. It was a real rollercoaster ride. I’m so glad I was there for it.

It is disheartening down here sometimes, but do you know, this love affair with the club is still going strong. That pleasure you get meeting up with old friends and those not so old. We’re in it together and we have a job to do.

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