Getting clean: The detox begins.

Well, that’s that, then. Grimsby Town are non-league. Again.

There’s a lot to process after last night’s 3-2 defeat at Exeter, which made the Greatest of Great Escapes mathematically impossible.

There was the manner of defeat to deal with — and then there was the manner of Radio Humberside’s coverage, which had to conduct emotionally-charged (and even tearful) interviews over a phone because they refused to send a reporter to the game.

But possibly the most galling thing about last night is this:

The team that got relegated at Exeter is not the team that deserved to get relegated.

Sadly, many of those who are responsible, including former ‘manager’ and professional prat Ian Holloway, are no longer at the club.

Obviously there’s one key player who remains. But hopefully not for long.

Of course, there can be no arguments that we deserve to go down. It’s been a lousy season. A truly horrible, forgettable one.

In terms of points-per-game, there may be little to separate Hurst from Holloway — but that is to overlook the work he has done to build a team that has restored some pride in what has been a largely hopeless campaign.

He is not immune from criticism and has, for sure, made a few mistakes along the way. But that’s gonna happen when you’re forced to basically re-build a squad, mid-season.

“Player A, meet Player B. Now play like you’ve always played together. And hurry up, we haven’t got much time. Players C, D and E, I hope you were listening.”

The likes of Giles Coke and Lenell John-Lewis have brought a committed and workmanlike attitude that was so desperately missing.

Elliott Hewitt and Harry Clifton found another gear. Rollin Menayese and Jay Matete have been excellent loans.

No more darts tournaments. No more misshapen balls. No more weird post-match comments about mud being on the mud.

The temptation is to think of today as a low point. But the low point was months ago.

We’re already on the up. Okay, we’ve got to drop down to a shambolic league whose governance has been seriously called into question first, but hey — you can’t make an omelette without breaking the morale of the fans, as they say.

But the takeover edges closer. We know who our manager will be next season. We know we’ll get a hard-working team of pros.

We’ll be allowed to actually go to games.

No one wants relegation. But if it’s a consequence of the detox we’ve so desperately needed to rid ourselves of an addiction forced upon us by a power-rich tyrant, then so be it.

Delaying the inevitable. Match report: Oldham 1-2 Grimsby

I was mentally prepared to accept relegation yesterday, and we couldn’t even do that. In victory, Grimsby Town still manage to disappoint me.

Our victory at Oldham — one of the dozens of sides to have established themselves as a Grimsby bogie team during the John Fenty era — is surely only delaying the inevitable.

But it did mean social media was a happier place in the evening, rather than the depressing post mortem that would’ve surely seen hundreds of us dissect the season and all come to the same logical conclusion:

John Fenty and Ian Holloway are a pair of little shits.

It’s the Grimsby version of Godwin’s law. Instead of protracted online conversations ending with some reference to Hitler, ours end with Fenty.

I was one of the few thousand that made the effort to be at Burton in 2010 when our football club, and its fans, stooped to new lows. I felt a lot of things that day, but a general sense of ‘meh’ wasn’t one of them.

Yet that’s how I felt yesterday ahead of kick-off. It’s odd, because you’d think I’d be fucking livid. After all, getting relegated to non-league once is painful; twice would be unbearable.

But the writing had been on the wall for a long time — since pre-season in fact. Pre-season; what’s one of those? Exactly.

In attempting to keep our best player at the club, the board, in all its wisdom, offered him less money than he was already on.

Clearly, due to the lack of any sort of planning, the board felt the season wouldn’t conclude. Just when you thought no one else couldn’t be any more short-sighted than our ramshackle collection of suited gits, Ian Holloway asks us to hold his beer.

That man should not be a football manager.

We start losing lots, Fenty courts a convicted property fraudster, the takeover is back on, then it’s off, then Holloway says he’s not leaving, then he leaves, then the takeover’s back on again, then it’s off again…

Paul Hurst returns to the club, we still can’t win, then we finally win one, then we lose more, then we just seem to draw every game we play.

One of our players headbutts another of our players — that old chestnut.

The truth is, I didn’t want to pay £10 to watch iFollow and witness our relegation confirmed. There, I said it.

I’m glad those who did bother to pay £10 and risk witnessing the worst got some sort of reward.

I’ve called this article a match report, which is ambitious if you think about the fact that I neither watched nor listened to a second of the action.

“I didn’t go today Burnsy but…”

All I know is from what I saw on Twitter. Town started slowly, went behind in the first half, equalised early in the second through the much-maligned Matt Green and won it at the end with an outstanding strike from Jay Matete.

There’s your match report.

Looking at the League 2 table tonight, a defeat would have pretty much sent us down, barring an outrageous goal difference swing. We live to fight another day.

I recently watched the 10-part HBO series The Terror. It’s an excellent watch, if you like your TV programmes to be as bleak as your football team’s season, and I couldn’t help thinking about its narrative, and the parallels it shares with Town’s 2020/21 campaign.

This next bit contains spoilers — although, if you know anything about Sir John Franklin’s expedition to discover the North West Passage in the mid-19th century, you’ll be aware that it doesn’t end well.

You have the apply named Sir John — the dangerously arrogant leader of the expedition — captaining two ships into an ice pack, which traps them there for longer than the crew can bear.

You know this story doesn’t end well, yet you can’t help but watch. You’re sort of paralysed into witnessing some fairly horrific events play out.

You feel empathy for many of the crew members, but not John, who gets his leg bitten off by some kind of polar bear monster and then dumped down a fire hole while still semi-conscious.

Apparently, the writers drafted an alternative ending where John survives and gets £2.5m for wrecking the ships, and the final scene was him perched on the edge of his snooker table, warming his feet in front of the fire place looking smug.

But that would have been silly.

Stop believing and start accepting. Match report: Grimsby 1-2 Forest Green

There are 45 points to play for, and tonight Grimsby Town sit just five points adrift of safety. But let’s face it, shall we? We’re down.

This team loses when it deserves to lose, and it loses when it deserves a draw.

I don’t think we’ve actually played well enough in any of our 31 league games this season to claim we’ve deserved all three points. Maybe Cheltenham away, but that’s it.

Our downward trajectory has been so severe that it can’t simply be dismissed as naive, penny-pinching mismanagement. It’s beyond such terms.

I’m only left to assume that those responsible for running our football club since 2004 have had some perverse, deep-rooted and potentially subconscious desire to inflict pain on anyone who has ever felt anything for Grimsby Town.

It’s been that bad.

That day at Wembley in 2016 was all in vain. All of Amond’s 37 goals. Disley’s tears at Braintree. What did they give us, really? Five unspectacular seasons back in the Football League, where we’ve struggled to average a goal a game.

And what’s been our greatest achievement in that time? How many players have we signed? Crucially, how many of them would you want bring back, or wish we’d never let go?

Although it was an improved performance from Town today, against a side in the automatic promotion spots, it was a familiar story.

Bright patches interspersed with ill-discipline. Some measure of control 40 yards out but nothing beyond.

And then, of course, we concede. A whistle-happy ref is given an opportunity to penalise Town, and he does. It’s soft enough to make me angry on any other day, but today I was so resigned I just accepted it.

Town equalising before half time wasn’t in the script. A bit of good fortune, and bad defending, allowed Hanson to score his first league goal for us in over a year. It was the type of goal we usually concede. Maybe our football fortune was changing?

Don’t be silly. Order was restored in boringly predictable fashion midway through the second half.

Unless a charitable Forest Greener was going to whack the ball in his own net, the Mariners weren’t going to get anything from this game.

The full-time stats tell the story: Grimsby had one shot on target all game, and the visitors gift-wrapped it for us.

It was the same story in Tuesday night’s 1-0 home defeat to Leyton Orient. Just one shot on target in 90 minutes, only the visitors on that occasion weren’t so charitable.

Only two shots on target at Harrogate last weekend. Only two against Crawley, albeit we made both of those count.

The more players we use, the worse we get. At no point this season have we been a team; just a collection of individuals thrown together with no time to understand each other, or the club.

They’re just going through the motions. No passion, no pride, no fight.

And who can blame them, really? What have they got to inspire them? Who have they got to motivate them? Grimsby Town will get relegated to non-league for the second time in May and barely any of these players will be around to deal with that consequence.

As I jumped around, breathless, when Arnold scored that third goal at Wembley, I felt a second’s sympathy for the very few genuine Forest Green fans that day. Imagine being forced to play another season in that god-forbidden hell-hole of a league.

Five years on, it looks like we’ll be returning to it, while the vegans look set to climb into League 1.

There may very well be 45 points to play for. But this lot have only managed to pick up eight points from the previous 45, scoring an average of 0.6 goals a game.

That’s why that five-point gap is looking not just improbable, but impossible.

This is 2009/10 happening all over again – and here’s the proof

In 2009/10 the Mariners set a new club record of 25 league games without a win.

The first five matches of that run came under the guidance – if you want to call it that – of Mike ‘it’s tokenism’ Newell, who was a big hit with our female fans (and local bars). Continue reading

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. Continue reading

It’s all over for the Rovers

Fans hold their heads in their hands.Having experienced three relegations following Grimsby Town, it’s days like today that I have most empathy with fans of other teams. Two of those three relegations came on the last day of the season – at Tranmere in 2004 and Burton in 2010 – and it wasn’t simply the defeats that hurt the most; it was the hope you invested ahead of those afternoon’s big games that caused the most pain.

Even when we were relegated at Burton, there was only one scenario us Mariners fans could hope for, and that was for us to win and Barnet to lose. As it transpired, the Bees won – but we failed to do our bit anyway, and the match was effectively over after 58 minutes when we went 3-0 down. So we had more than half an hour to deal with relegation to the Conference before it was confirmed at the final whistle.

But for Bristol Rovers fans today, they would’ve had hope right up until the last kick of the game. All they needed was an equalising goal against Mansfield and they’d have saved themselves from dropping into what is widely regarded as the graveyward for former Football League clubs. Relegation at the final whistle would’ve hurt like hell – especially as they spent barely any time in the bottom two before today.

Rovers will join Torquay in what is turning out to be a heavily southern-based Conference for the 2014/15 campaign – just another reason for the Mariners to get out of this division and save on their petrol bill.

About a month ago Look North presenter and reporter Harry Gration dared to ask Doncaster Rovers manager Paul Dickov whether he could claim his team had achieved safety after they won 2-1 at rivals Leeds. But just one point from their next seven games saw them slip into the bottom three at the death when Birmingham saved themselves from the drop with a dramatic equalising goal at Bolton in the third minute of injury time.

In League 1 it looked at one point as though Tranmere had clawed their way out of the relegation zone when they led Bradford 1-0 and Notts County went behind at Oldham. But it all went wrong for them in the last 15 minutes when the Magpies scored a crucial equaliser from the spot – and then Bradford scored two goals in the last nine minutes as the news of County’s equaliser no doubt filtered through to the fans and the players at Prenton Park.

I lack a bit of empathy for Tranmere’s demise, if I’m honest with myself, since they were the club that sent us down in May 2004. The Mariners didn’t help themselves, throwing away a one-goal lead to lose 2-1, but then Chesterfield scored an 88th-minute winner against Luton to save themselves and relegate us in the process. Our match at Tranmere was just coming to its conclusion when news of that late, late Spirites goal filtered through to us, and it’s a feeling that I would never want to experience again.

The Rovers fans took delight in our demise at the final whistle, and reminded us of our relegation when we went there a couple of years later for a League Cup match. Mind you, we effectively relegated them from the Championship in 2000/01 when we beat them 3-1 at Blundell Park. I hate the phrase, but it really is a case of what goes around, comes around. (They beat us 4-0 that night in the cup game, so perhaps I’m just incredibly bitter.)

It’s been a bad day for all three Rovers teams. Doncaster, Tranmere and Bristol will not be happy places tonight.