Grimsby Town fans jetting in from around the world to watch Mariners at Wembley
MARINERS fans from around the world are supporting their club on the road to Wembley. Peter Craig reports ...
FOOTBALL-mad fans are flying thousands of miles to watch Grimsby Town at Wembley.
Grimsby will be going global as supporters flock from New York and Bermuda to support their high-flying team.
And fans Down Under will be glued to the Grimsby Telegraph's website for updates on the team's performance at Wembley on Sunday.
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Former Grimsby man Joel Wheatley, 38, will land at Heathrow Airport after a 3,200-mile flight lasting six-and-a-half hours on Sunday just hours before kick-off.
And after the game, he will prepare to fly straight back to New York early the next day.
The former Whitgift pupil, who works at finance sector recruitment firm Prince Houston in the heart of New York, wants to share in the celebration of watching his team walk out onto the Wembley pitch.
He regularly logs on to the Grimsby Telegraph's website, www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk, to keep up-to-date on the progress of the team.
Joel, who has lived in Brooklyn since 2001, said: "People here raise their eyebrows when you tell them you are a Grimsby Town fan. Few have heard of the club and tend to follow the big Premier League clubs.
"But I have met another Grimsby Town fan in New York. It was all by chance and now we meet up regularly to catch up on news from home.
"I think it is fantastic that the club has made it to Wembley again. It is great for the club and for Grimsby. I just want to see a good game and hope they play to their abilities.
"It is handy when they are playing so many evening games at the moment, because I can log on to www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk when I am at work."
The avid fan said he hoped the team were getting all their bad games out of the way before their Wembley appearance.
He said: "It is going to be a long plane ride home if they lose!"
His time schedule will not allow him to return home to see his parents, John and Hazel, or sister Kellie Haynes and grandfather Ernie Fox, 93.
But Joel's daughter Imogene, 5, is being encouraged to support the Mariners.
Former Grimsby Telegraph sports writer Jon Kent, pictured below, will also be making a 3,500 mile-flight to see his team at Wembley.
Jon, 45, is now the acting deputy editor of The Royal Gazette in Bermuda.
He said: "I am not going to miss this game for the world.
"I couldn't have forgiven myself if I had been sunning myself on the beach while this game was on at Wembley."
Mr Kent worked at the Telegraph for four years. He spent two years as a news reporter and two years as the football correspondent, covering the fortunes of Grimsby Town during the Brian Laws era.
He continued: "The thing is, this will be the fourth time Town have played at Wembley in 135 years. These moments don't come round very often and you have to make the most of them when they do.
"Grimsby Town is a constant thread that has run through most of my life. Girlfriends and jobs have come and gone, but The Mariners have always been there and hopefully always will be. I followed them all over the country from being a teenager and I went on to cover Town for the Telegraph for a few years during the Laws and Bonetti era.
"Every day the first thing I read is the Grimsby Telegraph on my iPad to see what's going on at Blundell Park. I follow the games on the Telegraph website.
"It's not easy being a long-distance fan but when you piece together what you hear and read, you get an idea of what the players are like.
"There's a big interest in English football in Bermuda, but everyone 'supports' Man United, Arsenal or Chelsea.
"Strangely enough though, there have been quite a few Grimsby fans over here. In fact, at the newspaper where I work, there were three of us on staff at one point a few years ago, when ex-Telegraphers Matt Westcott and Tim Greenfield were here.
"I also heard that a former Solicitor General was a Town fan. A couple of years ago, I had a real double-take moment when I saw a bloke in the supermarket wearing a Town shirt.
"My wife Heather is Bermudian and she doesn't really understand, but she's happy to go along with it.
"Her friends think she deserves a medal for putting up with it. But she loves London, so at least the rest of our trip will be fun for her.
"I think Town will win a tight game 2-1. After four defeats in a row, by the law of averages we're due a win.
"After the rollicking they should have had all week from Rob Scott following the debacle at Nuneaton, I've got a feeling we'll bounce back strongly."
Grimsby girl Kirsty Donovan arrived in Sydney just five weeks ago and bumped into a host of people from Grimsby.
They will be getting together on Sunday to follow the team on www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk
Kirsty's dad, Terry, and grandad Don both played for Grimsby Town.
She said: "We were surprised to find through Facebook that there were many more people from Grimsby travelling here; it is such a small world.
"In advance of the match against Wrexham on Sunday, just a few of us got together as we wanted to send our support home to The Mariners."