I know, right? A Lincoln City fan saying Grimsby away doesn’t matter this evening. How mad is that?
It’s how I feel, and I can justify my reasoning. In my eyes, tonight’s game is a win/win for the Imps for a couple of reasons. To set some context, Mark Kennedy has already stated that the players who started the game on Saturday at Crewe will not start this evening. That means a youthful side running out at Blundell Park. I feel for Grimsby; it would have been nice for them to see some footballers from a higher level, but that’s what happens when big clubs visit lower-league sides these days, isn’t it? Luck of the draw.
I confess I’ll poke a bit of fun at Grimsby throughout this article, but I do have a serious point to make, and one I have no doubt will create some conversation. Mark’s comments resonated with me, mentioning how despite it being a local derby, we wouldn’t be putting a full-strength side out. It got a few comments from supporters about how all Grimsby games matter, and I found that interesting. Do they? Do all games against Grimsby matter? I’d argue not.
Firstly, why is it a win/win? Well, if we go there and lose or draw with a second string, what’s the damage? Our players have minutes in the tank, no points are lost, and despite a little bit of banter being traded on social media, there’s no comeback. When we beat Scunthorpe a few seasons ago in a friendly, it didn’t matter. It did hurt them, they had a full-strength side out and were still beaten, but this will be our second team, essentially, or players needing minutes. If we lose, it won’t spell the sort of decline Scunthorpe saw after our win there in 2018 (we were promoted, and they were relegated), just like our losing 2-0 against them the following year meant nothing.
However, go there and win, and the fringe players will have achieved something. Grimsby perhaps won’t take it to heart, but players expected to get a runout, Charlie Kendall, Jovon Makama, and players like that, they’ll take confidence from the result. For me, a win tonight is positive, and a draw or defeat really can still have positive elements around fitness and minutes.
I got excited after we beat Boston, but did it count for anything? Not really. Grimsby are a more traditional rival, so is it right that all friendlies against them matter? Let me ask you a question – do you remember our last few competitive games against Grimsby? I recall beating Jolley’s side 1-0, winning 3-1 in the snow, drawing thanks to a (justifiably)disputed John Akinde penalty. Those games mattered. Without checking, were they the last three times we met? I’d wager so (checked, yep).
Now, what about the last three friendly games against Grimsby? Go on, have a think. I’ll wait.
0-0 last year (in front of 3,800) is one, but did you get any more? We lost 1-0 in 2005 in front of 1523 and drew 1-1 in 2000 with 1432 watching; not exactly a source of bragging rights. In 2005, we played them twice in the league, and the collective attendance was over 13,000 across two matches. The truth is, whilst last season’s game was well attended, normally, these friendlies are not bothered about at all. It’s the world of social media that has made them what they are and built them up. My first outing as Poacher The Imp, back in 1998, was in a game against Grimsby. We drew 2-2, and there were 1345 supporters there.
Distinction Between Local Rivals and Hated Clubs
I grew up hating Grimsby and Boston. I made a crack during my best man’s speech at my brother’s wedding, in Boston, about football. Mum would introduce me to someone she knew and say something like, ‘but he’s a Grimsby fan,’ as if it would affect my opinion of said person, and I’d act as if it did. I had a bit of a hairy moment away at Grimsby in the 2006 play-off semi-final, and that further clouded my judgment of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Grimsby, but I’ve got to a point where I’m really not sure that proximity is a wholly justifiable reason to hate a club. In fact, I wonder if having Grimsby in our division would be better than them being in the division below – big crowds, passionate matches, and the like. I recall the season we had Boston, Hull, Grimsby, Mansfield, Notts County, and Scunthorpe in our division – huge matches, big crowds. Having local rivals is a good thing, but I don’t hate them. I don’t want them to slide out of the Football League (although I laugh when they do). I want them to exist. I’d rather have had our tussle for tenth last season accentuated by Grimsby or Scunthorpe losing every week down in 19th or 20th as an added bonus.
When it comes down to it, what is the difference between Lincoln fans and Grimsby fans? The smell of fish? Not much else. We both support our local club, we are from the same county, we enjoy the same highs and lows. I have more respect for a local person following their club than someone in Louth claiming to support Man Utd, but the closest they get to Old Trafford is Manchester Airport when they fly out to Benidorm for a week to eat English breakfasts and drink in Irish bars. Indeed, what’s the difference between us and Boston fans (webbing, perhaps) or Scunthorpe fans (if there are any left)? Very little, aside from the usual jokes that, in fact, have little relevance to real life.
I recall a moment in 2016. I was travelling to a conference with a guy called Wayne on the Monday after they’d won the play-offs. All the way there, sporadically, he sang ‘We’ve got Amond, Padraig Amond’. It did my head in, but he was just a genuine supporter of a local club wanting to celebrate something. Was I any different a year later? Yes, because I didn’t work with any Cods, but I’d have definitely got on the banter bus (can’t believe I just wrote those words) if I had. Would I have had the same banter with a Forest Green fan? Not a chance.
I chuckled the other week at Boston. My nephew, born and raised in Boston, standing in a Lincoln shirt singing the Addams Family song to the home fans. He then said one of his schoolfriends was a Boston fan who went all over watching the team, and he was looking forward to ribbing him when they got back to school. That’s local rivalry for you.
Tomorrow, if we lose, there are a huge number of Grimsby fans likely to drop by my socials. I worked with a lad called Richard at Wragby Plastics 25 years ago – he was massively encouraging when I started running last year. Loads of the Howdens boys were Town fans, and they’re bound to say something, especially as I managed Louth, and our sister branches were Cleethorpes and Grimsby. Hell, even my first serious girlfriend had a brother who followed the Cods. I don’t hate those people; I respect them for following their local team, especially when it’s one like Grimsby, run badly for years (up until recently).
No, I don’t hate Grimsby, I love to hate Grimsby, and there’s a huge difference. That certainly doesn’t feed through to a friendly; you all know the types of clubs I despise. Forest Green, Fleetwood, Salford, MK Dons. Teams bankrolled to false positions, teams that could only sustain Championship crowds on new fans wanting to see bigger clubs play. Teams that every year distort the transfer market pay inflated wages and spend more than their legitimate income on wages. If you pay £1.01 or more in wages for every £1 you spend, you’re part of the problem, but that’s another article. I’d take more pleasure beating them in pre-season and more pain losing to the likes of them than I ever will a friendly against a lower league club from 25 miles up the road.
As for tonight, sure, I want us to win. If we don’t, I won’t lose a moment’s sleep. It’s just s shame that we can’t impress our current superiority over our local rivals in a proper competition, because I’m damn sure I’d rather be playing them this season than Fleetwood Town.