An outpouring of emotion: what Grimsby Town’s return to the Football League really means

In April 2003 I watched my beloved Grimsby Town surrender meekly at home to Walsall and drop out of the second division with two games still to play.

The following season, after an 8-1 defeat at Hartlepool, a 6-0 defeat at Oldham and a 5-1 defeat at Port Vale, I stood on the terrace at Tranmere, staring into the abyss, as news of a 90th minute goal elsewhere relegated us from the third division.

Two seasons later, in the fourth division, I was at Blundell Park when Northampton Town and Leyton Orient combined to deny us an automatic promotion spot we’d held all season in the very last minute of the season.

Two weeks later we lost the fourth division play-off final to Cheltenham – a team we’d beaten home and away in the regular season, and finished above in the table.

In March 2008 I was sat in the east end of Wembley as I witnessed us lose the Football League Trophy final 2-0 to the worst kind of club.

Then, the unthinkable happened. In May 2010 I watched the Mariners plummet out of the Football League on the final day of the season in a 3-0 defeat at Burton – at the expense of perennial fourth division strugglers Barnet.

Grimsby Town were a non-league club. Neither my dad, my grandad or his dad before him had seen the like. It was an all-time low.

In January 2011 we lost an FA Trophy tie 2-1 to Chasetown. In August 2011 Grimsby Town lost 5-0 at Braintree Town in our second league fixture of the season, and the football world felt like it was collapsing in on us.

Then in March 2013, when we got our first whiff of relative success, it was snatched away from us on penalties at Wembley when we lost the FA Trophy final to Wrexham.

A few weeks later we lost 1-0 home and away to Newport County in the Conference play-offs. Exactly one year later I saw our second successive play-off venture end in the semi-final stage, this time at Gateshead.

One year on, we endured the heartache of making the Conference play-off final but losing to Bristol Rovers on penalties.

Two cup final defeats. Three relegations. Four play-off defeats. Last-minute relegations. Last-minute promotion denials. Penalty defeats and all-time lows.

Fourteen years of pain. Any glimmer of success was snatched from us in the cruellest of fashions.

So what does winning promotion to the Football League mean to us Mariners?

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

We might have already been 2-1 up when Nathan Arnold scored our third in injury time, but all those years of pain had given every single one of us such an anxiety complex that it made the final half an hour feel like an eternity – and Arnold’s goal feel like a decisive winner.

In that moment there was an outpouring of emotion; six years of promise and pain – and the end of 18 years without a thing to celebrate. I couldn’t hear words; just screams. There were hugs. There were tears. There was disbelief. A whole generation of Town fans had grown up not knowing what it was like to see their club win promotion.

But despite the torment, the lows and the near misses, we finally had our day in the sun.

And what a day it was.


9 thoughts on “An outpouring of emotion: what Grimsby Town’s return to the Football League really means

  1. Mark Middleton says:

    All those poor sods who “support” Liverpool etc from their armchairs and update their Facebook status when “their team” have some distant success that they only witness from the safety of their living rooms. They think that thet have felt a sense of achievement from a club whose door they have never darkened. They have neither felt the agony and desolation of our day at Burton….. and they will never feel the overwhelming sense of ecstasy, relief, vindication and pride that Nathan’s goal instantly delivered. They think that they are football fans….. they just don’t understand.

  2. Chris Smith says:

    Well put. As for personal torment I missed ten home games in the last three seasons and we won seven and drew two of those despite being awful at home. In 2009/10 I saw eighteen home and fifteen away games. I saw us win one of each, both in September. In 2008/9 I was very poorly, not helped by the number of consecutive home and away games I did to no avail that winter. Went on holiday and we instantly beat Lincoln 5 1. We’ve all suffered but I felt as though I was being singled out for extra punishment for some reason. So very very happy we finally went up. If someone had told me in 2010 that we would be non league for six years, I think I would have had to pack it all in. It got to the point where it was too painful. So glad I got to share in a triumph at last. I’ve been a Town supporter for thirty seven years now and promotion this year has made it one of the best as it was vital this year. UTM

  3. Karl Drewery says:

    Well said! I’m glad someone has picked up on the fact that it’s been 14 years of hurt not just the last 6. That moment at Wembley beats all of my previous memories of the double at Wembley, the wins over West Ham, Leicester, Liverpool and many more. It just meant so so much more!!!!

    That moment that Arnold put it in the back of the net I found myself hugging the very drunk man behind me, that’s what football does to you, that’s the emotion. Something my 10 year old had never seen before, something I hope he never forgets!

    Here’s to the future, thank you to GTFC for the best feeling I’ve had watching you in 23 years, just that emotion and relief! UTM!

  4. This article is superb! As a Stockport County fan I can truly relate to your constant disappointment and then some. Three years of bankrolled clubs beating us comprehensively to promotion from the Conference North (a level we should NEVER have sunken to) has taken its toll on me. You start to think the struggle and the pain will never end. I hope one day in the not too distant future I get to celebrate the way you did in May. I yearn for our return to the Football League! Best of luck to the Mariners in League Two this season. You belong there on merit!

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