“Look at the scenes behind the goal! The agony is finally over!”

We all know what happened on Sunday 15th May 2016.

Grimsby Town beat Forest Green Rovers 3-1 in the National League play-off final to win promotion back to the Football League after a six-year absence.

We’ve seen the goals a million times. We’ve replayed them again and again in our minds, and on YouTube.

I think it’s fair and accurate to say, I could never get fed up of watching Nathan Arnold slot away our third goal in injury time.

But as I was at the match – and not listening from a hotel in Seattle (as I was in 2015) – I always wondered what it would be like to watch the TV footage but with John Tondeur’s commentary.

So, ladies and gentlemen. After a few hours of trying to work out how the hell you put something like this together, here you have it.

Grimsby Town’s play-off victory as you’ve (possibly) never seen it before. Enjoy.

Take it away, JT!

 

 

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

Grimsby players celebrate on the pitchIn 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.

Play-offs: why it’s Grimsby’s time

Town have limped into the play-offs. Typical of the way we go about things, we did it by losing at home to a lower mid-table team. I was going to do my blood-pumping, finger-pointing Kevin Keegan-style ‘love it’ speech about denying Tranmere a place alongside us in the top five next weekend, but who am I kidding? We won’t win on the Wirral. With our immediate future secure, and nothing to lose – except a football match and more faith from the fans – Hurst will undoubtedly tinker his team and give game time to the kind of peripherals that won’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of playing any minutes for us in the play-off matches.

Then I remember the time Newport turned up at Blundell Park on the last day of the season in 2013, looked shite, lost 3-0, then turned us over in the play-offs twice the very next week. So maybe we shouldn’t read anything into how we do at Tranmere. I wouldn’t be disappointed in finishing 4th anyway because having the home leg first could be a blessing. Let’s get that sod out of the way – we’ve been much better on the road of late (that goes for the fans too).

And I wouldn’t be too worried about finishing 5th either as Forest Green have fallen asleep and dropped their cigarette down the side of the sofa. Braintree are the team to beat. Over two games against them this season we’ve shown that, well… we’ve shown nothing. We’ve scored a century of goals in all competitions, and none have come against these ultra-organised part-timers. The one reason I wouldn’t like to finish 5th, though, is that no team in the 13-year history of the Conference play-offs has won promotion when finishing in this position. That’s a fact, and you can have it for free.

I was at Prenton Park in May 2004 when Rovers came from behind to beat us 2-1 – and then news filtered through that Chesterfield had scored a 90th-minute winner to dump us into the fourth division. The Tranmere fans basked in our demise. Now they’ve fallen upon equally fallow times, it’d be quite nice to guarantee their place in non-league for another season while we have a fourth stab of working out how to win these bloody play-offs.

Is anyone else livid about the hand that fate has dealt us? First Cheltenham deny us promotion to League 1 in 2006 (justly so on the day, I hasten to add), then they have the audacity to absolutely steamroller the Conference when they’ve spent a fraction of the time we have in this division. Barnet have shafted us over too. They were fourth division fodder for so long, but stayed up at our expense in 2010. Once they finally (and deservedly) joined us down here, they got their shit together far quicker than us to return to their natural habitat of 20th in League 2.

And, last year, just when everyone pointed out that no team has gone straight back up in 10 years, a team goes straight back up – at our expense, obviously.

A fourth consecutive play-off defeat doesn’t bear thinking about. It’ll be too much to stomach. Instead of entering the play-offs with excitement and anticipation, we’re now entering them with trepidation; older and wiser, knowing exactly what they can do to us.

But we went into the play-offs in 1997/98 with no form to speak of. After losing to Newport and Gateshead we learnt lessons that we applied perfectly against Eastleigh. And now we know that if we get to the final at Wembley, we should be out of sight before the referee has any chance whatsoever to affect things by making terrible decisions (and certainly before penalties become anywhere near a possibility).

Hang on to your hats!

Grimsby Town would win the division if all their games were away from home

Grimsby Town fans in the stand behind the goal at KidderminsterFor a lot of Grimsby Town fans, the concession of Saturday’s late equaliser at Kidderminster wasn’t entirely unpredictable – if not for the fact that we did it at inconvenient times last season, then for the fact that we’ve established a strong pattern of drawing many of our season’s openers (a sequence that fellow GTFC blogger Too Good To Go Down brought to our attention last week).

I spend a lot of time looking for things. If it’s not my car keys, or the sunglasses that are already on my head, then it’s sequences in football. Statistics, innit. Football, and sport in general, go mental for them these days. Former England cricket coach Peter Moores was infatuated with them. One of my favourite statistics of all time is this one, from The Naked Gun:

“Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living. And there’s only a 10% chance of that.”

It sort of captures a sense of the absurdity of living in a world where only statistics exist. You become so fixated with the numbers that you stop looking at humans on an emotional level – the very thing that has a direct impact on performance.

But that’s probably an argument for another day, because I’m now going to completely undermine myself and say that there’s something deeply satisfying about scrutinising data and lifting something from it that others haven’t seen. And then professing, in your most know-it-all tone, ‘Did you know…’

Well (know-it-all face initiated) did you know just how remarkable the Mariners’ away form is? I didn’t, until I had a sudden urge to check.

We’ve lost just one of our last 22 away games.

Let me just clarify that this includes the play-off semi-final victory at Eastleigh, and the play-off final at Wembley, which, for the purposes of this analysis, I have claimed as a draw.

Since the 3-2 defeat at Lincoln City on Tuesday 9th September 2014, Grimsby have only lost once away in the league. That was on Saturday 7th February 2015 at Forest Green, when that steward acted like a complete dick to one of our fans and managed to avoid punishment.

The sequence looks like this:

D W D W W W D D W W W L W W D W W W D W D D

That’s 13 wins, eight draws, one defeat, 34 goals scored and 18 conceded.

Now, I grew up at a time when Town were absolute dogger on their travels. We’d get beaten 3-0 at Barnsley, 4-0 at Charlton and then magic up a bizarre 1-0 win at somewhere like Fulham – just enough to complement the decent home form that used to keep us in the first division, or whatever you want to call it.

I think it’s fair to say that you travelled to watch the Mariners more in hope than expectation back then. Now it’s the other way round. We’ve fallen a fair way through the leagues, granted, but it’s actually a pleasure to follow the Mariners around the country these days.

I think that’s why our army of followers has swelled in the past year or so. I think it’s why we took just shy of 1,700 to Kidderminster a few days ago. They will follow a team that is successful – and we’re now pretty successful in our away games.

Those 22 games fall just one short of a full season of away matches. And at 47 points it’s enough to win you the title if you can muster a similar record at home. For almost a year now we’ve been playing like champions across the country; now we need to play like champions at Blundell Park.

Tonight’s match at Barrow would be an excellent start.