there there is no road in Grimsby that leads anywhere. The town is not a staging post, it is a destination, along with Cleethorpes, the seaside resort it joins.
Half a mile from amusement arcades and fish and chip shops on every corner is Blundell Park. All that lay beyond, 120 yards beyond to be precise, was the sea wall with the River Humber and the North Sea stretching into the distance. It is England’s closest land to the sea.
There is something unique about supporting a football club that sits on one geographical foot. This is our Town, our club and we guard it jealously.
The club crest depicts a trawler and three fish, while Harry Haddock has once again become the FA Cup fashion accessory de jour, 34 years on from that glorious day when 3,500 inflatables were pushed skyward on the far terrace for the fifth-round tie at Wimbledon’s Plow Lane.
It’s rare for Grimsby Town to invade the national football consciousness, but being a Mariner is part of who we are every day. For good and bad.
Grimsby Town travel to Brighton today to take the next step in their memorable FA Cup run
There is something unique about supporting a football club that sits on one geographical foot
It’s rare for Grimsby to invade the national football consciousness but being a Mariner is part of who we are every day. For good and bad.
My first Town game was a 4-1 win against Southend in January 1972, a promotion year under Lawrie McMenemy. There have been seven more promotions since then, three through the play-offs. There were also two play-off final defeats. And eight relegations. Sixteen division changes in 51 seasons.
Seven days at Wembley. Three wins, four losses. Standing next to my dad when a Wayne Burnett golden goal won the 1998 Auto Windscreens Trophy final against Bournemouth stands out as a glorious moment of disbelief.
Defeat to Bristol Rovers in a National League Play-Off final penalty shootout in 2015 is a scar that has never fully healed despite our redemption 12 months later on the same pitch.
It is never static, rarely humdrum. As high as topping the Championship table the night England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich in 2001. As low as being thrashed 5-0 at Braintree Town to sit bottom of the National League a month before 10 years later.
But through it all, Town fans are traveling in their numbers. From Chasetown to Chelsea, from Brigg Town to Brighton.
Singing songs about nights out in Nunsthorpe (a quiet residential part of Cleethorpes) and greasy chip butties and the more famous ditty ‘We only sing when we fish.’
The Mariners had the next highest average away in the National League last year, while earlier this month, 4,300 traveled to Southampton on Wednesday night.
More will travel from the east coast to the south coast today to tackle a side of Brighton we shouldn’t have a prayer of defeating.
On the same Saturday in December that Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister helped Argentina win the quarter-finals in Qatar on their way to World Cup glory, I watched Town lose in League Two 1-0 against AFC Wimbledon in new Plow Lane. Worlds apart.
Sunday was an uneven contest. We know that. But we are there and the black and white stripes are in worse places.
It took us six years and three failed play-off campaigns before we returned to the EFL under Paul Hurst after we first left it in May 2010.
Our miraculous play-off ride to get us back into the Football League was one to remember
Paul Hurst guides us through two campaigns that won promotion from the National League
Last season, we immediately returned in a technicolor flash, under Hurstie again, brought back to Blundell Park by our new owners, a self-made internet entrepreneur in Jason Stockwood and Andrew Pettit, the head of a family butchers. Town fans through and through.
If Leicester winning the Premier League was a story of impossibility, so was our National League play-off ride last season, beating the three clubs that finished above us, two of them away from home, all of them from a goal down and all. them in the dying minutes of extra-time.
And so in this year’s cup run. We became the first club in FA Cup history to beat five teams from a higher division in the same season.
Can we be six? I do not think so. But we will still sing. And we will still be proud.
News/Image Sources: Daily Mail