Result: Grimsby Town 0-0 Bury (EFL League 2)
Venue: Blundell Park (Saturday 23rd March 2019, 3pm)
“Hail fellow, well met!” I really should start a mission to bring that phrase back into mass usage, I thought as I headed over to the East Coast and to Grimsby, where I’d bring up the big 300. Blundell Park seemed a fitting venue for such an honour and despite my bored thoughts delving off into Alan Partridge levels of 16th century welcomes, I was very much up for seeing what the town had to offer. I just hoped that the name wasn’t reflective!
Eventually arriving at about a quarter to midday, I headed slightly out-of-the-way to have a quick peruse of Grimsby “Minster” before walking on through the surrounding gardens and into the centre, passing a striking fisherman statue as I went. Soon enough, I came upon my first stop of the day, The Parity, which is one of those large ranging free houses in the mould of a Spoons. A rowdy group of lads were providing the soundtrack in here as I entered before they were told off by a youngster for doing so and disturbing her dinner. Fair play, though they soon departed and the place quietened down markedly as I supped at a pint of Coors which, at £2.80, provided me with a fair amount of hope when it came to the rest of the day, wallet-wise!
From there I continued onwards through the centre, passing by the closed Tivoli Tavern as I did so and coming upon my second stop- The Friary. As I approached the bar, I began to see things, crazy things – things like beers costing £1.50. I must have had something I ought to have not, I figured but nope, there was the drinks all lined up with only Stella taking the “normal” price approach. As such, I opted for a Carlsberg for the magical price stated above which came in a pretty attractive glass too. Not too bad so far that’s for sure and I was loving Grimsby!
Speaking of which, Grimsby is a large coastal seaport on the East coast of England and is located in North East Lincolnshire on the River Humber’s South Bank close to the river’s estuary into the North Sea. Titled as Great Grimsby as to avoid any confusion with Little Grimsby, a village 14 miles away, it is neighboured and linked with Cleethorpes and many local villages that are now encompassed within the town’s overall reach. It is located within old marshlands and was originally founded upon islands and low-lying areas within them and the areas of East and West Marsh hark back to this. There is some evidence to suggest a small Roman presence, but the Vikings are far more prevalent, their settlement dating back to the 9th century and, indeed, it is thought that Grimsby comes from a Viking fisherman, Grim, with the suffix ‘by’ meaning village in Old Norse, with mythology suggesting the God Odin would travel in this form whilst in the presence of mortals.
Grimsby did make an appearance in the Domesday Book as a small settlement of around 200 people and transformed into a fishing and trading port in the 12th century and was later granted its town charter by King John in 1201 and its medieval St. James’ Church now serves as the “minster”. However, the 15th century saw the river’s estuary begin to silt up, restricting access and therefore leading to a decline in Grimsby’s fortunes which would last into the late-1700’s. However, upon the river’s dredging around this time, the port was revived and the area boomed once more with new docks created to cope with the new demands. The arrival of the railways in 1848 took some stress off the port and allowed for ease of transport of goods and this allowed the town’s fishing exports to grow in popularity and gain the status it holds. The upturn continued until the Great Depression and the setbacks that came with it.
During WWII, many of the area’s trawlers were commissioned by the Royal Navy into the ‘Patrol Service’, but this came at a cost with over 2,000 crew killed and a memorial alongside the 19th century Dock Tower commemorates those lost. 196 further lives were lost during numerous bombing raids at the hands of the Luftwaffe. Grimsby’s local industries soon fell apart post-war and the closures of many port companies and mines left many redundant, with the food processing apparently one of those that continued to expand instead. The town’s tram system also became redundant in the 1950’s as buses became the better option.
A few doors down sits the Old Lloyds Arms which seems to be Grimsby’s rock/metal haunt, disguised as an old-school, traditional boozer. A Stella (£3.15) was had here with little to set the pulse racing on offer once more (that’s probably the biggest gripe I had with the drinking holes of Grimsby) and I swiftly dispatched that as my head had been turned by what was across the way. It was a bar, yes, but not as we know it. No, it was on a Barge. An actual canal boat. Scenes were AOTS as I headed up what I termed the “gangplank” and down a fairly sizeable set of steps to the bar area. Again, the beer choices weren’t too amazing, but I did spy Dandelion & Burdock (alcoholic, don’t worry) in the fridge and my mind was made up.
Serving as my designated ‘refresher’ the D&B went down well enough but it was soon time to head onwards and next up was a choice of the Duke of Wellington or the Hope & Anchor. I opted for the latter as it was right in front of me and not about ten seconds walk down the side road. A second Coors of the day was had here as I awaited the bus on towards the Wellington Arms, the very pub that the Mariners were formed in back in 1878. It seemed more akin to a sports club within, and was decorated with many a piece of Grimsby related memorabilia and the like, and again the beer choices sort of reflected this as I had to settle for Coors once again.
As I complained about earlier, this day hadn’t been too adventurous, disappointingly, and I hopped back on the bus to two Blundell Parks in the hope of better things. The ground would come second however, the pub would come first, with the closest thing to Carling (their Black Fruits offering at £3) that will ever pass my lips being chosen due to….well, you know the story by now, before it was finally time to head to the “real” Blundell Park. Ground 300, let’s hope the game lives up to it, I thought to myself. How to get your hopes up….
Blundell Park itself is a brilliant, old school ground. Yes, its views from the away end aren’t superb (and that’s being rather kind), but I’d rather have somewhere with character than one of the soulless new builds that continue to rise up around the country – anyway, I digress. The old Main Stand sits to the right as you look and the middle part of the structure is apparently the oldest bit of Football League stand still in situ in the country. The large, domineering two-tiered stand opposite this towers over the rest of the ground and gives it a somewhat lopsided look, almost akin to that of Gresty Road, whilst the far end features a more modern seated stand. The away end seems to be pretty similar to the Main Stand on the whole and is all but connected to it with the one corner filled in between them. That’s Blundell Park in a nutshell, and this is the story of the Mariners….
Grimsby Town Football Club was formed in 1878 as Grimsby Pelham by members of the Worsley Cricket Club, though would only spend a year under that name before changing to their current Town name. The club moved into Blundell Park in 1898 after spending time at locations on Clee Lane and latterly Abbey Park, first competing in the Combination from 1888 and, upon the league’s collapse shortly after, applied and failed to join the Football League – instead heading to the Football Alliance. However, their stay here would be rather brief and 1892 saw Grimsby accepted to the newly expanded Football League’s 2nd Division.
The title was won in 1902 along with promotion to Division 1 but after spending two years in the top division, they were relegated and returned to the non-league ranks within a decade. However, their time outside the League ranks was short, the Mariners winning the Midland League title in their sole season out before replacing rivals Lincoln City by virtue of election process. Interestingly, Grimsby and Hull City were the two teams allowed to compete on Christmas Day due to the fishing trade’s demands, though this would later fall out of use as the trade became less of a bind. Meanwhile, the era around WWI saw Town immediately relegated to the new Third Division in the first season post-war, and though 1921 saw the club play against the newly accepted Southern League but an equivalent Third Division North was created the next season with Grimsby subsequently switching.
By 1929, Grimsby were back in Division 1 where they stayed until 1939 (outside of a two season stint out between 1932-’34) recording their highest finish of 5th in Division 1 in 1935. Town reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1936, losing out Arsenal at Huddersfield’s Leeds Road ground. They did so again in 1939, but again were on the wrong side of the result, and this time to Wolverhampton Wanderers in front of a record Old Trafford crowd. Post-WWII, Grimsby were relegated from Division 1 in 1948 and have not returned since, with the vast majority of the 50’s & ’60’s saw the Mariners flit between the Second and Third Divisions, the latter of which ceased to be regionalised during this time. Under Bill Shankly, Town finished as Third Division North runners-up to local rivals Lincoln City in 1952, missing out on promotion due to only one from each region going up at the time. Shankly would later depart, though Town were still promoted as champions in 1956, despite having to apply for re-election the previous season, in doing so, becoming the only club to go from that extreme to the other consecutively.
However, things would soon turn to the wrong side again and by 1968 Grimsby were in the 4th Division and were again forced to seek re-election successfully the next year upon ending the campaign second-bottom. Again things would soon look more rosy for the Mariners and they lifted the Division 4 title in 1972, going on to spend five seasons in Division 3 prior to relegation in 1977,though they would return just two years later. They would take promotion form into a further season as the club took the Third Division championship and returned to Division 2 where they’d remain until 1987 when a horrendous run of form saw them drop from 8th to the drop zone. The following year saw a second consecutive relegation suffered and Grimsby were again back in Division 4. Not only that, but Grimsby also, had to stave off a very real threat of going under altogether. They Would do so happily and continued on to a swift return to Division 2 by 1991.
Division 2 would become the Division 1 upon the Premier League coming into being the next year and Grimsby set about setting the ground works to be a steady side in the second tier. They remained there until 1997 she was they were relegated once more, this despite the efforts of the legend that is Clive Mendonca. 1998 was a good season for the team and after a 3rd placed finish in Division 3, Grimsby would make a double appearance under the twin towers of Wembley, and the first of which saw them defeat AFC Bournemouth (not just Bournemouth remember, that’s a different club altogether) to lift the Football League Trophy, having defeated Burnley in the Northern Section final to get there. Their second was in the play off final where they met Northampton Town and again were successful, a 1-0 triumph meaning Grimsby were back in Division 1 – and with a 100% Wembley success rate!
This spell wasn’t particularly good for Town and they regularly battled the drop over their five-year stint, eventually going down in 2003, though they did record victory over holders Liverpool at Anfield in the League Cup. Financial issues were suffered again due to the collapse of ITV Digital (I still remember the silhouette of Monkey, hanging in the background of an ad – imagine that nowadays, though PG tips has Lazarus effects it seems!) and 2005 saw Grimsby relegated back to Division 3, or League 2 as it was, and still is I suppose(!), known. Despite a strong promotion challenge, they missed out on an immediate return after dropping into the play-off places and going on to lose out in the final to Cheltenham Town at the Millennium Stadium. 2007-’08 saw their 100% Wembley record end (though this was at the “new” one) as the Mariners lost out in the Football League Trophy final to MK Dons, though things would still go on to get worse as Grimsby were relegated from the Football League in 2010 after the best part of a century there.
In the Conference for the first time, Grimsby started out in mid-table before finding their feet and reaching the 2013 play-off semi final, losing out to Newport County, the season seeing double disappointment after Town had previously lost to Wrexham in the FA Trophy final at Wembley on penalties. 2015 saw a second play-off place reached, but again the club were defeated on spot-kicks this time in the final to Rovers, as the new Wembley proved less kind than its predecessor. However, it would finally reward Grimsby for its persistence in 2016 as they overcame Forest Green Rovers in the National League play-off final under the arch to return to the EFL League 2 after six years away, despite having suffered a second FA Trophy disappointment months earlier at the hands of FC Halifax Town. They have finished the last two seasons in 14th and 18th as they look to gain a foothold with a view to another rise up the leagues, akin to those that they’ve done before.
The game got underway and there was little in the way of action early on with the first twenty minutes or so seeing just the one shot per side, Martyn Woolford seeing a shot comfortably saved by Bury stopper Joe Murphy in the 9th minute, whilst Jay O’Shea saw his own effort kept out by Murphy’s opposite number, and Grimsby skipper, James McKeown, some ten minutes later as both teams tested each other out.
As the half continued on towards the half-hour, the game continued to be a pretty uneventful contest in truth (despite the match report on Auntie Beeb trying to convince otherwise) and after Luke Hendrie’s drive was kept out for the hosts, Bury duo Eoghan O’Connell and Jordan Rossiter both spurned chances on goal, with only the former forcing McKeown into any kind of action. The remaining minutes somewhat mirrored those of the early part as the action died out and the half came as something of a relief. 0-0 and it was…..well, grim.
I was lucky enough to spend the second half in the company of Shakers fan Mick towards the rear of the stand where it turned out it mattered even less where you were for this match as even less went on to occur by the seaside. Bury, now attacking the away end, started the half strongly – O’Connell testing that McKeown was alert a couple of minutes in, whilst O’Shea fired over with the Shakers looking to press home their possible title and more likely promotion credentials.
The best chances of the game would come along during the final quarter, with Bury’s Byron Moore seeing a goal-bound effort superbly blocked on the line and the resultant loose ball cleared away, before Nicky Maynard was well denied by McKeown from close range. However, the Mariners would come on strong as the contest drew to a conclusion – Jake Hessenthaler, Harry Clifton and Charles Vernam all seeing shots fly just off-target, whilst Bury would reply as Grimsby looked to drop in and consolidate late-on, but due to substitute Gold Omotayo not quite having the touch his name promised on a couple of occasions, the sides would deservedly share the spoils in a game that threatened to, but never quite got into full flow.
Having lost my bus ticket somewhere along the way, I set off on the half-hour walk back into Grimsby with the goal of beating the bus – one which I achieved. Splitting the walk up with the earlier missed Duke of Wellington, a decent watering hole, for a pint of Stella (£3.10), I then completed the day with a visit to Grimsby’s ‘Spoons offering:- the Yarborough Arms, which handily neighbours the station. As such, I could wile away the time through to the train back to Manchester without issue whilst sipping at a Punk IPA. No problems it seemed, but then I saw it. Delayed. Cancelled. Trains were falling apart and I had no idea of the cause. As it was, the train eventually pulled in and we set off, seemingly clear of issue….that was until we arrived in Barnetby – a place that is now ingrained in my memory for all the wrong reasons. Despite nodding off two times, both times I awoke saw us still in the Humberside outpost and we were soon informed of likely ‘alternative transport’ that was being arranged. And we all know what that means.
With a Northern service stuck along with us, we soon got the news we were waiting for. After a good hour-and-a-half’s wait, the track was clear and we could proceed. As everyone piled back on, I couldn’t be arsed finding a seat and so settled in on the floor opposite a group of, who I’d later find out to be, Bury fans with conversation certainly not being of normal circumstance from one of these. Upon his disembarkation at Doncaster (if memory serves me correct), I was invited up to join the group, finding out this fella wasn’t part of their group and instead was a randomer they’d encountered whilst in Barnetby. It will do this sort of thing to you, drinks, nil-nils and Barnetby.
Anyway, I’d remain with Joanna, Dave Don, Mark, Mike through the remainder of the journey (including the unwelcome switch of train at Sheffield) though we eventually rocked up in Manchester. I bid goodbye to the guys and girls from Bury and jogged off over to Oxford Road for my connection I figured I could just about make….only to miss it by seconds – I arrived just in time to see it pulling away from the platform. In some sort of slight luck, a bus was due shortly anyway and so I was still home by midnight. It had been a long day for sure, the ground being the highlight, with Grimsby’s beer offerings not being too inspiring and the game being pretty poor overall. At least the pie was decent! Oh, and I just got back my train fare in full too; isn’t it great this delay repay, when it works, that is! Anyway, onwards to another week and it’s back off over the border to a town fame for its castle….
Value For Money: 5 (added point for getting money back!)