Tuktuk Day 56

It’s Sunday and a day of contemplation. Why are Arsenal going to blow it ….again? Why are Gillingham going to go up as champions …again (cf 1964!) “Why does Saigon sleep at night, why do the Gooners talk such xxite? Vietnam You don’t give answers, do you friend?” No I am not thinking of Miss Saigon and today I am mostly contemplating North East Lincolnshire. Yes, that hotbed of football excellence ….not! Fortunately I am helped by a dear friend and Grimsby advocate, Russ Pearce who otherwise can be found chasing football games in such unlikely places as Catral (Spain), Nicaragua, Falmar and pretty much anywhere else on the planet! It is a true pleasure to read his thoughts.

Football in North East Lincolnshire

Welcome to North East Lincolnshire, a hotbed of what is, let’s face it, pretty mediocre football these days. The fans, however, are very, very passionate despite the current mediocrity.

Most people think of Grimsby Town when they think of football in this region. That’s hardly surprising as they are the only current Football League club and it’s likely to stay that way so long as the Mariners can keep themselves out of the bottom two of League two! Blundell Park is not the fortress it once was, but ask anyone who the best away fans in the division are, and a lot will say that honour belongs to Grimsby Town. Think of inflatable haddocks which have made appearances at Premier League grounds lover the years in famous cup ties, beginning in 1989 with a trip to then-FA Cup-holders Wimbledon, through to last season’s amazing run to the quarter finals where the famous fish was seen (despite initially being banned) at an incredible VAR-assisted last-16 victory at Southampton followed by a thrashing at Brighton leaving many wondering what would have happened if Brighton’s goalkeeper Robert Sanchez had been sent off early in the game for handling the ball outside his area.

Go back, ahem, almost 90 years and you’ll find Grimsby sitting pretty in 5th place in the top flight and reaching two FA Cup semi-finals. In 1939 they lost to Wolves in what is still the highest attendance ever at old Trafford. Until the formation of the Premier League, they had played in every division ever created in the English league system having been in both the Northern and Southern regions of the old third division. Recent years have been traumatic and turbulent with a long spell in non-league but brighter days are surely on the horizon with new ownership under the guidance of local businessman Jason Stockwood. The days of John Fenty are finally over but the poor investment in the club means they still have a lot to do to stay in League Two and not return to non-league football once again.

So who are the other teams in North East Lincolnshire? Well, don’t mention Scunthorpe United because they are in North Lincolnshire. A subtle difference! Other than being the only place in the UK with a genuine swear word in their name, they are of little relevance, and even less so these days as they compete with the likes of Rushall Olympic and Curzon Ashton in the National League North!

Clive Mendonca – A Legend at Grimsby Town and then Charlton Athletic

Grimsby Town are famed for playing their home games in Cleethorpes. You may or may not be surprised to learn that Cleethorpes Town play their home games in Grimsby! Having risen from pretty much park football to Tier 8 (Northern Premier League East Division), they reached the final of the FA Vase in 2017 resulting in a trip to Wembley. A 4-0 defeat to South Shields wasn’t the result everyone wanted but what a day out it was for everyone concerned! A year later they moved back to their own stadium, the Linden Club, after five years at Bradley Pitches where they shared a “stadium” with Grimsby Borough, now once again rivals in the same division as they themselves have also gradually risen upwards. Cleethorpes Town have come close to rising further in recent years but Covid put paid to their amazing run and they kind of ran out of steam after the pandemic. With any luck, the turmoil of the last few seasons is behind them now and they can push onwards and upwards from here.

Russ & Trish sponsoring at Immingham

Drop down a couple more divisions and you’ll find Immingham Town. The Pilgrims, as they are known, don’t have any sort of history in the game and are currently playing away from their own home whilst it is brought back up to the standard required. They started this season with a new manager and a new squad, mostly teenagers, and struggled to get going. A few older faces were brought in and they are now making great strides towards being able to aim higher. Their manager, Jon Davy, a good friend of mine, used to be the assistant at Cleethorpes Town so he knows what it takes to take a smaller team up a step or two. Watch this space!

A hotbed of mediocrity it may be, but it’s definitely worth delving into the passion for football that North East Lincolnshire has to offer.

Cleethorpes Town at Wembley, Real Betis just down the road!

(Author – Russ Pearce of www.anythingbutpaella.com and co-ordinator of Seagulls Over Spain. Born in Sussex in 1970, he grew up in Cleethorpes before escaping at the tender age of 16 and eventually ending up living full time in Spain. His first ever Brighton game was a 5-0 defeat for the Seagulls at Blundell Park (see above) so the 5-0 win in the FA Cup last season made for some nice symmetry!!)

Russ with the Seagulls Over Spain scarf in his right hand.

I HOPE you are all enjoying the tour of the UK and I that you will consider a donation however small to support FC Deportivo Galicia and/or Prostate Cancer UK If everybody chipped in £1 I would easily hit my target of £10,000 and life would be easier in West London whilst the charity continued their great work.

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