Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game
Trawlermen and tourists built Grimsby and Cleethorpes, the adjoining Humberside port and resort back on the Football League map for six years until relegation in 2021.
Representing the fishing community since 1878, based at Blundell Park by the seafront at Cleethorpes since 1899, Grimsby Town had swept back to League Two after a play-off win at Wembley in 2016.
Marketed with its smarter neighbour as Greater Grimsby, mocked in Sasha Baron Cohen’s movie of the same name in 2016, Grimsby has not featured in football’s hierarchy since the 1930s. The Mariners made two FA Cup semi-finals in the immediate pre-war period, one attracting a record attendance at Old Trafford that stands to this day. They haven’t graced the top flight since 1948.
Cut off by water on one side and miles of marshes and farmland on the other, Grimsby has proved a hardy if modest footballing outpost. The divide between Grimsby and Cleethorpes is barely visible – between them, Park Street is also parallel to Peaks Parkway, where a new stadium has long been proposed – whereas the might Humber estuary not only separates the Mariners from nearest rivals Hull City but sedate Lincolnshire from sports-mad East Yorkshire.
While rugby league, cricket and football are followed with passion north of the Humber, Lincolnshire is where you might find stock-car racing, roller derby and, back in the day, bandy on the Fens.
As a busy port, however, Grimsby embraced football early on. When, in 1878, members of Worsley Cricket Club wanted to form a football club for winter sport and call it Grimsby Pelham, they found there were two others with the same name. Both Pelham and Worsley are linked with the Earl of Yarlborough, whose 28,000-acre Brocklesby estate is just outside Grimsby near today’s Humberside Airport.
After a first application to join the Football League, this new club became Grimsby Town.
The pub where they met, the Wellington Arms on Freeman Street, reopened in 2014. The club’s first ground, Clee Park, also lay on the borderline between Grimsby and Cleethorpes, close to today’s Blundell Park.
After Clee Park, it was at Abbey Park that the Mariners started out in the Football League in 1892, close to today’s Peaks Parkway.
As and when the new stadium is built, Blundell Park, Findus Stand, Pontoon Stand, biting North Sea wind and all, will bid farewell to well over a century of action, in all divisions, including the recent six-year stint in the Football League.
Further down the pyramid, in the Northern Counties East League, Grimsby Borough play at the Bradley Football Development Centre, an excellent 20-pitch community resource in Bradley, south-west of Grimsby. Buses 3 and 7 run from Grimsby Town Hall/Osborne Street to Laceby Road, and the roundabout where the Bradley Inn serves Goose Island IPA, Peroni and quality pub food, amid screens showing match action. The pitches are 300 metres down Bradley Road.
One rung above in the Northern Premier League Division One East, former groundmates Cleethorpes Town now play at the Linden Club on Clee Road, a 15min walk from Cleethorpes Pier/station or 5min on bus 250. The bar at the club is no longer members only, shows TV sport and puts on live music on Saturdays.
Arriving in town, local transport and timings
Underused Humberside Airport is 20km (12.5 miles) west of Grimsby. It has no public transport links – for Grimsby, take a taxi (£15, journey time 8-10mins) to nearby Habrough then a frequent train (£5, journey time 15mins) to Grimsby Town train station. Taxi Cabs Grimsby (01472 343 434) should charge around £35-£40 to take you all the way into Grimsby.
Busier Doncaster Sheffield Airport is 90km (56 miles) away. First Bus 57c runs to Doncaster Interchange (£3, South Yorkshire day pass £5 on board, Mon-Sat every 30mins, Sun every hr, journey time 25mins), a 5min walk to Doncaster station. From there, an hourly train (£11) to Grimsby Town takes 1hr.
Trains to Grimsby and Cleethorpes (10mins away) from London Kings Cross require a change at Doncaster (cheapest advance single £30, total journey time 3hrs). There’s a direct hourly service from Manchester Piccadilly (£26, 2hrs 20mins). Adding a Cleethorpes and Grimsby PlusBus (£3.50) to your ticket allows you to use local Stagecoach bus services for the rest of the day.
Grimsby Town station lies inland from the docks, surrounded by shops. Between there and Cleethorpes, the smaller stations of Grimsby Docks and New Clee, nearest to Blundell Park, are on the infrequent Barton Line, operated by northern. New Clee is only a request stop with trains every 2hrs – Cleethorpes is the more practical option for the stadium.
The Stagecoach bus network covers Grimsby and Cleethorpes. A single ticket is £1.80, a Grimsby DayRider pass £3.60, pay on board. Buses set off from Riverhead Exchange, close to Grimsby Town train station.
Where to Drink
The best pubs and bars for football fans
Beer and seaside resorts go hand in hand. Cleethorpes is full of pubs – those at the station are particularly convenient as pre-match options.
The High Street is a good place to start, close to beach and station. The Coliseum Picture Theatre is a busy Wetherspoons set in what was an Art Deco cinema in the 1920s. Close by, the Scratching Post has large screens for match action – somehow squeezing them into the intimate, friendly space. On the corner of Grant Street, The Swashbuckle, in the same building as the BarRacuda, puts the focus on TV football, drinks deals and live music.
You’ll find more options on High Cliff Road, just behind Central Promenade. Popular Willys has TV, sea views and its own in-house brewery, while nearby and equally revered, The Smugglers is Cleethorpes’ only cellar bar. Hand-pull ales (Marston’s Pedigree, Jennings Cumberland), TV football and recommendable fish and cajun-spiced chips provide ample reason to visit.
On Sea View Street by Central Promenade, Nottingham House is a popular spot for TV football and occasional live music.
Pubs and bars in Grimsby hark back to its maritime heritage, with a more workaday feel. The Barge is just that, a superb, cosy ale bar moored on an inlet right in the centre of Grimsby, just big enough for punters to tuck into hearty mains such as Sunday roasts.
The Hope & Anchor on Victoria Street, currently undergoing a major refit, is a tidy boozer with a pool table, dartboard and TV football. Further down Victoria Street, the Old Lloyds Arms embodies pub tradition and shows TV sport. Nearer Grimsby Town station, Walters is a typical city-centre pub with a range of ales and programme of karaoke and tribute acts.
On the stadium side of town, the roomy, traditional Duke of Wellington attracts regulars with its TV football, pub grub and pub games. It’s also a 20min walk to Blundell Park.
Where to stay
The best hotels for the ground and around town
By the ground, the Blundell Park Hotel has now reopened after its long-term owner retired. Its 19 rooms are affordable and its bar remains a popular spot for a pre-match drink.
You’ll find a string of hotels and guesthouses set in from the Cleethorpes seafront, a mile or so from the ground, and, in the other direction, a smaller cluster near Grimsby Town train station.
On Kingsway itself, overlooking the beach, the Kingsway is a notch-above three-star with comfortable, refurbished rooms and a decent restaurant. At No.20-21, the Kings Royal Hotel is known more for its Irish pub, Mucky Muldoon’s, and regular live-music agenda.
At the southern edge of Cleethorpes seafront, surrounded by theme parks and family-friendly entertainment, you’ll also find a Premier Inn at windswept Meridian Point.
All these properties are served by buses 9 and 10 that run to Blundell Park.
Another hub of lodgings lines Isaac’s Hill, close to the roundabout of the same name near Cleethorpes station. Standing out with its colourful garden, the award-winning, 27-room Adelaide has been run by the same couple for three decades. A full breakfast is included in the room rate. The affordable Claydens stands nearby.
Buses 3, 5, 9 and 10 run from Isaac’s Hill Roundabout to Blundell Park.
The most recommendable accommodation near Grimsby Town station is the three-star, 125-room St James Hotel in the Corus group, looking somewhat spiffier than its façade suggests thanks to a refurb. Its in-house restaurant and function room are usually busy at weekends.