On the day that Sacha Baron Coren revealed the trailer for his brand new film, The Brothers Grimsby, we found ourselves in the town. Arriving in cinemas next year the Borat star plays the role of a football hooligan who goes on the run with his brother who serves in the SAS. I didn’t know whether we would bump into Sacha in the Pontoon Stand as Grimsby welcomed Cheltenham but I knew that I would definitely be with my partner in crime, the Lost Boyo himself, Matt.
This was the latest in a series of weekends where we decided to spend our time in a town that we had never been to before. Of course, there have been memorable trips to Brugge, Carlisle and Mansfield (a fine mix I’m sure you’ll agree) but we had huge hopes for our football packed stay in Lincolnshire. Brugge saw Matt walking around the main square topless after a bloke called Steve performed a magic trick with his Swansea shirt. Carlisle was the time I threw up all over a train and the carriage had to be shut and Mansfield… well… it was all rather civilised. What would Grimsby have in store for us? A £10 inflatable haddock named Harry, a naked man in a nightclub and a taxi driver who came close to taking us to the wrong ground.
Matt was on his half term break which meant he was already in Grimsby checking into pubs while I was sat in a mathematics lecture at University. One pub he quite literally checked into was The County Hotel as it was our hotel for the night. I think it’s fair to say I was very sceptical when he told me we would be sleeping in a pub. The County was in fact a very nice place to stay and to make things even better it is only a minute walk from Grimsby train station.
It took me a couple of hours to reach Grimsby from York, changing train at Doncaster. I’ll be honest, I had a headache, was extremely tired and couldn’t be arsed even going to Grimsby; all I wanted was a quiet night in bed. I thought I could maybe get away with going to the match, having a couple of pints and then heading to bed for a much needed sleep. All hopes of this vanished when I stepped foot into the pub area of the hotel. Sat in the far corner were Aaron and Joe who had decided to surprise me by turning up without me knowing. Matt was in on the plan.
Joe had texted me a few hours earlier asking if I wanted to go to Nantwich v Salford with them but this of course was a cover up. Apparently I didn’t look best pleased when I first saw them, and I can now explain why this might have been. I knew straight away that any slim hope I had of having a quiet night had just vanished; jagerbombs, shots and lots of beer now seemed a certainty.
We had a couple of hours to spare until kick off so opted to sink a few pints in the hotel while being in control of the jukebox. The Smiths, Ocean Colour Scene and Twin Atlantic amongst others provided the pre-match atmosphere as we sat in a vast room that had been well decorated for Halloween weekend. Having chucked my belongings in our room upstairs we caught a taxi over to the neighbouring town of Cleethorpes, where Grimsby Town play. Ironically, Cleethorpes Town FC – who we went to watch the following day – play in Grimsby.
The floodlights of Blundell Park towered above every other building in the area. As we walked down Grimsby Road towards the ground, conversation soon turned to what Matt would be buying from the club shop. Tonight was his 200th ground and he wanted a special memento to mark such an occasion. He usually purchases a scarf but tonight he had his heart set on something a bit different. He wanted to buy an inflatable fish; a haddock to be precise.
An inflatable Harry the Haddock set my Welsh friend back £10. To put this into context, he could have bought three inflatable daffodils off eBay which would have been an ideal accompaniment for Wales’ trip to the Euros in the summer. Now I know what you are all thinking, £10 for an inflatable haddock, not value for money, right? Well, ask yourself these following questions. Would an inflatable daffodil have enjoyed a Wetherspoons breakfast the following morning? Would an inflatable daffodil have worn a flatcap and supped Punk IPA? Would an inflatable daffodil spoon you while you’re asleep? The answer to all of the questions is of course no, so we felt very happy having Harry the Haddock in our presence.
Apparently the iconic fish had been resurrected this week having first appeared in 1989. Grimsby had a huge FA Cup match at Plough Lane, Wimbledon. What better way to celebrate than taking hundreds of inflatable fish? Even Des Lynam got in on the act, posing with one on Match of the Day. A Dundee United fan tried to lecture me on how the original Harry the Haddock resembled a Rainbow Trout, but I told him I didn’t really care and had better things to do than argue about inflatable fish.
The next stop was the Ticket Office which was covered in spooky Halloween decorations; Grimsby Town really had gone for it. We bought tickets for the Pontoon Stand and ventured in around ten minutes before kick off. There was a pumpkin behind the goal and a skeleton lying down at the corner flag while fireworks were being let off behind the far stand.
The Pontoon Stand is where the vocal home fans congregate. Despite this the area isn’t heavily stewarded and all the children are allowed to stand behind the goal enjoying themselves. I liked this but it gave areas of the stand the feel of a playground rather than a football ground.
Going into the match Grimsby found themselves in fourth place while Cheltenham were in second four points ahead of the hosts. Forest Green were top of the pile but only by a point meaning that if Cheltenham won they would go top of the league for at least a night. On the pitch, Grimsby handed a start to former Curzon Ashton defender Richard Tait while former Solihull Moors striker Omar Bogle started up front with Padraig Amond who I had previously seen play for Accrington and Morecambe.
The first half was pretty rubbish as two evenly matched teams stifled each other. The home side had a couple of half chances and should have had a penalty, but the referee decided the handball from a Cheltenham defender occurred outside the area. A firework flew over the ground and exploded directly over the pitch which made things slightly more exciting, but other than that we were happy to hear the halftime whistle.
We were going to go for a pint, but the bar didn’t open until the half time whistle sounded. People were moaning, but having worked behind the main hospitality bar at Stoke City for a couple of seasons I know FA regulations on alcohol consumption in grounds like the back of my hand. It didn’t seem all the effort of queuing up and in the end we just walked around the open concourse with the inflatable haddock.
In the second half, the poor old Cheltenham goalkeeper received a copious amount of unwarranted abuse from the Grimsby fans in the Pontoon. There were some proper idiots congregated behind the goal; the best way to deal with them was to simply laugh at them, and that’s what Dillon Phillips did. It all escalated at the full time whistle, but more on that later.
Grimsby had the better of the match in the second half, but Cheltenham would grab the only goal of the game when Aaron Downes scored on 68 minutes. A low corner from Jack Munns found Downes who turned and fired a shot into the top corner past James McKeown. Downes ran off to celebrate with the travelling fans behind the goal and suddenly Blundell Park fell quiet for the first time in the evening.
The abuse then began to escalate towards Cheltenham goalkeeper Phillips who bizarrely found himself being asked for a fight in the car park after the match by a Grimsby fan. He turned around to tell the fan to calm down as there were children present, but this only seemed to annoy the delinquent further as he went off on a foul mouthed rant getting his mates involved in the process.
Grimsby pushed forward for an equaliser, but it never quite looked like coming. As the final whistle sounded, Phillips turned around to the Grimsby fans who had been mean to him all night and celebrated in front of their faces. You could hear him screaming from the back of the stand such was the noise he was making. Good on him if you ask me. Unfortunately, two Grimsby coaches didn’t take to this too well and they ran over trying to drag him off the pitch. All rather embarrassing from a Grimsby point of view.
“We need a decent striker like Jon Parkin. He’d get us promoted. Lets buy him from Forest Green. He’d rather be here than at Forest Green!” came a rant from an annoyed fan as we left the ground. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself, while Matt and Aaron started reminiscing about the time the great striker offered to allow them to sit on his lap during a match between Northwich Victoria and Fleetwood Town a couple of seasons ago. You know the popular saying anyway, “If you’re struggling, buy Jon Parkin.”
As the area around the ground emptied I took one for the team and rang the taxi company that had kindly dropped us off. Thankfully the bloke who arrived knew where he was going this time despite the fact he’d only lived in Grimsby for just over a week. He asked us whether Cambridge had won, as the lads who he took to the match earlier in the evening had obviously got them mixed up with Cheltenham and it wasn’t soon before we arrived back at the hotel ready for our night out.
There was a local band singing a cover of Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget About Me as we headed to the bar. Everybody seemed to be asking us how Grimsby got on when they saw me in my black and white scarf; I didn’t have the patience to explain it was an Atherton Collieries scarf and simply informed them that they lost. Around half an hour passed and I forced the group over to Wetherspoons as I hadn’t yet been there. The Yarborough Hotel is now a listed building having been built in the mid 19th Century to serve the railway station which is next door.
A Punk IPA later and we found ourselves looking for another place for a drink. There was a sports bar/club directly opposite called The Bank, but it looked a bit naff and didn’t really appeal to us despite the cheap drinks on offer. We walked down the main street, but every pub was closed. Grimsby was literally closed by 23:00 so in the end we had no other option but to spend the night in The Bank.
There is no point in trying to explain how the night went. I feel it is better summed up the tweets that we did during the night; so here they are…
A bloke has just got naked and is now arguing with the bouncers the fact he’s being thrown out. Grimsby.
— Joseph Gibbons (@JoeBillGibbo) October 31, 2015
“Do you come in here often?” Is the question from the girls in Grimsby. No, we don’t and we never will. What a place. — Joseph Gibbons (@JoeBillGibbo) October 31, 2015
The club I’m currently in really puts the ‘grim’ into Grimsby. Bizarre place this town.
— Joe (@jawtonloe) October 31, 2015
Top Tip: Feel like a millionaire by wearing leather shoes in Grimsby town centre. — Joe (@jawtonloe) October 31, 2015
To give you an insight into the sort of place we are currently in, I am wearing Nike trainers and am significantly over-dressed. #Grimsby
— Aaron Flanagan (@aaronflan) October 31, 2015
We probably appear to be massive snobs after those comments, but we really did enjoy ourselves. It just wasn’t what we were expecting. We eventually left the establishment at 02:00, I think we may have been the last people in there much to our amazement. Staggering over the level crossing we made our way to a local kebab shop before heading off to bed where Harry the Haddock was fast asleep. We made sure to be quiet as we didn’t want to disturb him as he had had a long day.
The following morning, I woke up and didn’t feel too bad. The lovely walk in shower and a cup of tea was an ideal way to start the morning as we prepared to head to our second match of the weekend, an FA Vase clash between Cleethorpes Town and Westfields from Hereford. Overall, I enjoyed visiting Grimsby Town. The fans were passionate and the ground was fantastic. In my eyes they are certainly a football league side and it will only be a matter of time until they are gracing League Two with their presence once again.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 68 miles from York
- ADMISSION: £12 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3