Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Grimsby Town (England)

This week Grimsby Town were relegated out of the English football league for the first time since they were elected to it 99 years ago. That they didn't make it to their centenary is something of a footballing tragedy for a team with such a long history and great fans. But it's not always been doom and gloom for The Mariners.

Formed in 1878 as Grimsby Pelham, they play, not in Grimsby itself, but the nearby East Lincs seaside resort of Cleethorpes, and in their beautiful old Blundell Park stadium have the closest ground in the UK to the coast. They came together back in the early days of association football when the members of Worsley Cricket Club decided they fancied taking up the new sport to keep them busy on the long Victorian winter nights.

Their first spell of league football started in 1892, when the English game first stretched to two national divisions. Indeed, they even made the top flight for two seasons in the early 20th Century, but after a couple of bad seasons found their way out of the structure for a couple of years until they found their way back in 1911. Back then only they and Hull City were officially allowed to play on Christmas Day, because of the curious demands of the fish trade. That tradition was never revoked, but neither club has called on it for a great many years now.

Thier highest ever league position was when they came fifth in their second stint in the old first division in 1935. And in 1939 they lost an FA Cup semi final to Wolves at Old Trafford in front of 76,962 - to this day still the Manchester ground's highest attendance. Since then the club has regularly yo-yo'd up and down the leagues, narrowly missing out on promotion to the top flight on more than one occasion.

Blundell Park's Main Stand, running along the north side of the ground, is said to be the oldest stand in the football league, dating back to 1901, while the more recently built Findus Stand that lays opposite, offers spectacular views of the shipping traveling up and down The Humber Estuary, if the football gets a little difficult to watch.

Noteworthy former players include Wimbledon's FA Cup hero keeper Dave Beasant, Tony Ford, the all time record holder for an outfield player in England, with a massive 931 appearances, the free-scoring Clive Mendonca, Wales international John Oster and orange-hating England manager Graham Taylor. They've also got a pretty impressive roster of former managers. Southampton's cup winning coach Lawrie McMenemy saw some early action here, Hungarian Elemér Berkessy became the first foreign manager on English soil back in 1954, but most impressively, Liverpool legend Bill Shankly put in a three year stint at the club in the early 1950s.

Grimsby Town is a great old club, in a fine part of the world and with some of the friendliest and funniest fans in the country. I hope their spell in non-league is a temporary one and they bounce right back and climb their way back up the leagues as soon as they can. 

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