As I stood in the windswept Check-a-Trade (seriously) Stadium yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been here before. Then I remembered I had. Not only had I seen the mighty Grimsby humbled by Crawley Town last season, but I actually lived in Crawley for three years.

I wondered why it all looked so eerily familiar.

Crawley, so the local legend goes, was built to accommodate the bombed-out masses of the East End of London. Thus its population grew rapidly in the 50s and 60s mostly attracted by cheap housing and thousands of jobs at the burgeoning Gatwick Airport. Because of that, and a snotting great industrial estate, it has always had relatively full employment, high income and a great deal more money than sense. This being amply demonstrated by the fact that if they’d stayed in the rubble of their bombed houses they’d be worth millions today.

When I lived there in the 1980s there was very little for the Crawley population to spend its bulging wage-packets on. No shopping malls, no nightclubs and little in the way of bordellos or bagnios. Hence the population spent its money on shiny cars and even shinier suits. I read somewhere that there was so little to do that it had become the wife-swapping capital of the UK, although that might have been wishful thinking on my part. I didn’t have a wife at the time and I was ejected fairly early on from the one such party I went to when there were no takers for a £10 WH Smith voucher.

If the population wasn’t exchanging their spouses for a go at the next-door neighbour’s, then it tended to be knocking ten bells out of each other. It has 13 rival housing estates and punch-ups between the pubs on each estate were a regular Saturday evening fixture. The first time I went in a Broadfield pub the landlord rang a bell and the locals pulled out baseball bats and iron bars from under their chairs and rushed outside for a pagga* with the Bewbush mob.

“Nice place”, I thought. Still, at least it was organised paggering** as there was a league table behind the bar.

Things have changed there now. It has money-frittering opportunities galore, including a huge shopping mall, a nightclub and several out-of-town retail parks. One of these is built on Town Mead, the old home of Crawley Town. I used to go watch Crawley Town when they were in a league so low that Atlantis Athletic were on top of the table. Back in those days they used to play teams like Windsor & Eton and Slough Town, and here they are these days stuffing my beloved Grimsby 3-0.

A disgruntled Grimsby fan begins a campaign of civil disobedience.

So Crawley’s latter-day aspirations even include a half-decent football team. Having said that, Grimsby’s recent plummet down the Football League means they can be easily stuffed by a quarter-decent team, or even a quarter-indecent team (one that swears a lot and waggles their penises at the opposition). Such is the dire state of play that certain sections of the Grimsby faithful are calling for the public execution of the Chairman.

I take a more relaxed view on this. I actually met the Chairman a few months ago and he seemed like a nice chap. Thus I think execution is a tad extreme, maybe waterboarding as a sensible half-way house?

And so I waved goodbye to Crawley once more. It seems like a fairly pleasant place these days. There’s plenty to do and sky-high mortgages have calmed the natives down a bit. It’s not how I remember it though.

I have to say, as dull as Crawley was in the 1980s, we did make the best of it…mostly by pissing off down to Brighton for our entertainment

*Pagga – A mass street brawl involving whatever weapons one can lay one’s hands on, best conducted within limping distance of the local A&E Department.

**Paggering – I made that up.

NEWS UPDATE…Possibly as a result of this post Grimsby have parted company with their manager this very same day. There was a ‘statement of support’ from the Chairman and Board last week…a sure sign in the football world that a ‘departing’ is on the cards.

More vaguely sport-related nonsense from Johnny by clicking here