Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
By: Stephen Bateman
Over the past few months, something has most definitely changed at Blundell Park. Exactly what, it is difficult to place a finger on, but a sense of fresh vitality and purpose has seeped into a club that has, in the opinion of many, been allowed to stagnate for far too long.
After parting company with the much-admired Alan Buckley just two games into the 2000/01 campaign, a disturbing, almost surreal sense of uncertainty and disbelief descended upon Cleethorpes. The Grimsby Town board had decided that although Buckley had achieved great things for the Mariners, he had taken the club as far as his abilities would allow. Initially, the appointment of former Luton Town manager Lennie Lawrence did little to appease the section of fans who felt that Buckley had been unfairly treated in his dismissal - neither did it serve to calm the rolling seas upon which the Mariners appeared to be sailing. However, three months later, in spite of still being planted in the nether regions of the First Division, hope springs eternal. The recent news that Grimsby have clinched the signing of Danish striker David Nielsen seems to have confirmed that those in charge of Blundell Park have every intention of ensuring that the good ship Mariner stays afloat for some time to come. The arrival of so many new faces over the past three months seems to have injected a sense of hope and belief that would have been difficult to imagine at the start of the season. David Nielsen has already attained a status of Messianic proprtions amongst supporters, whilst the greeting afforded by the Pontoon stand to new arrival Zhang Enhua simply had to be seen to be believed. The Chinese captain was accompanied in a stroll past the Pontoon faithful by club officials during the first half of the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. From nowhere, a neo-Mexican wave erupted as every occupant of the stand spontaneously rose to their feet and welcomed Zhang with a standing ovation that obviously impacted deeply upon the amazed Chinese defender. Later, the Mariners conceded their second goal of the match after what was, it must be said, a dreadful mistake by Peter Handyside - without doubt one of the Mariners star performers so far this season. Howls of derision would surely followâ€¦a schoolboy error that had undoubtedly cost Grimsby the match. No. As Handyside conducted his own private admonitions, a peculiar thing happened. Voices in the Pontoon began to offer the defender, obviously appalled by his own error, advice and encouragement. "Come on Pete, get yer head up, son!" "COME ON TOWN!" With five minutes to go, people still believed. They believed that all was not lost, in spite of the Messiah's absence through injury - in spite of Bradley Allen having left the pitch - in spite of the fact that Lawrence's squad had been decimated through injury and suspension and that he had been forced into playing a make-shift back four once again. People still believed. That is the measure of the change in outlook that has become evident around the ground recently. Town pulled one back and the faithful rejoiced. The Main Stand became animated - yes, animated! Every person with an ounce of black and white blood in their veins urged the Mariners on in search of the equaliser. It came. We believed and the players believed - and therein lies the difference between the Mariners of last season and this. Let us not get carried away just yet, though. A long, uphill road lies ahead both on and off the playing field. As we draw ever nearer to a decision by NELC upon the future of Grimsby Town Football Club, uncertainty still haunts us at every turn - the club may still go on to thrive and succeed in a magnificent new home, or it may be trampled forever, underneath the boots of people who simply do not understand what it is to be a Mariner. Throughout all of this turmoil and uncertainty, I would suggest that there is one truth to which each and every one of us must cling. For as long as we continue to wear the badge of Grimsby Town Football Club upon our chests with the sense of great pride that it has instilled in us all throughout the years, then one thing is certain: In spite of the best efforts of those who wish to see us strewn by the wayside, Grimsby Town, the club that we cherish will never die. Never.
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