Town goalkeeper James McKeown has been granted a testimonial year – and it will kick off against League One Rotherham United.
The clash, on Saturday, 24th July, will be the only pre-season game at Blundell Park for the Mariners and the first at home under the club’s new owners.
Town’s number one is the first player to be granted a testimonial for 10 years’ service since 2006, when the honour was awarded to another ‘Macca’, John McDermott.
The Millers, like the Mariners, are preparing for life in a lower league after relegation from the Championship in May.
McKeown said: “I’d like to thank the new owners and the gaffer for granting me the testimonial year and Rotherham United for agreeing the match.
“It does not feel like 10 years ago that I came here.
“It is a massive thing for me and my family. The sports people I admire the most – the likes of Roger Federer, Gianluigi Buffon and AP McCoy – have all stayed at the top of their game for a long time.
“I have a deep sense of pride that I have been able to do likewise.”
There have been highs and lows since Paul Hurst made him one of his first signings in 2011.
“Promotion back to the Football League changed our life as a family,” he said.
“I remember walking down the steps after the game at Wembley and thinking this will allow us to buy a house.
“As a football club, we had strived towards it for so long.
“A year earlier, in the play-off final against Bristol Rovers, I felt I had let everybody down because I had failed to save a penalty in the shoot-out.
“I’d grown up wanting to save a penalty at Wembley and when I had my chance I failed.
“You hope it spurs you on.
“I will never forget that first game back in the Football League just over a year later walking out against Morecambe.
“There was a genuine sense of joy around the ground that the club was back where it belonged.”
There would be nothing better than promotion back to the Football League in his testimonial season.
“If we do it again, I think that will surpass the last time from a personal point of view because I was part of the team that took the club down.
“Regardless, I will never feel satisfied in life if we do not get back into the Football League, whether this season, the next or whenever.
“I want to stop playing for this football club only when it is in a better position than when I joined, and that’s not the case at the moment.”
He hopes the fans, who have voted him Player of the Year four times, will turn out in numbers against Rotherham.
The kick-off will be 1pm, with ticketing information released next month.
“It will be important I have a good game,” McKeown said.
“I want to be able to look back on the day with a great deal of pride and happy memories. That won’t be the case if we get beat.
“I know the testimonial is focused on me but I want it to be so much more than that.
“My wife Chloe and our children (Isobel, Summer and Ella) have sacrificed so much for me over the years. People don’t see that side.
“It will be nice for them to celebrate too, as it will my mum and dad, Marie and Karl. They gave up so much when I was young, travelling to games.
“I’m also hoping my Nanna will be there. She has not been well and I am looking forward to her seeing me play and visiting our home. I am proud of where we live in the town.
“The game will also be nice for other family and friends, including my testimonial committee, which is putting in a lot of hard work.”
As well as the match, his year will include a sportsperson’s evening, a comedy night, a question and answer with familiar faces from the promotion-winning team, and a dinner raising money for Grimsby homeless charity Harbour Place.
“We will be releasing more details during the course of the season,” McKeown said.
“My hope is that there will be something for everybody to enjoy. I don’t feel particularly comfortable that it is about me.
“I want us to put on events that fans will want to come to and that can bring people together.
“Harbour Place is important to us as a family. It is important to give something back in the right way at the right time.
“Ultimately, as a footballer, we are in a privileged position, to go out there and get paid to play.
“Football can bring genuine happiness to people, and I know how important the club is to this town.”
He thanked sponsors who have already come on board in numbers to support the various events over the testimonial year.
Businesses or individuals interested in sponsoring the testimonial season should email firstname.lastname@example.org