Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
Jul/Aug 2000 Review
By: Rob Sedgwick
The first worrying sign about the council's intentions with regard to the modification required to the local plan, a pre-condition of any future planning application for the development of a new stadium at Great Coates, came with the news that a "Scrutiny Committee" were to meet North East Lincolnshire's director of planning Keith Archer.
The committee were to seek answers on why Mr Archer had decided to recommend changing the draft local plan in June. Councillors who were regular Grimsby supporters were also forced to declare an interest and not allowed to vote on the issue, due to a legal precedent in Liverpool.
In an extraordinary statement by Grimsby manager Alan Buckley (pictured), the Town boss revealed that he was not prepared to bring any Bosman players to the club. "There's not really any Bosmans that want to come to Grimsby or that we can afford." said Buckley at the time. How wrong this was to prove became clear later in the year.
If any further proof was needed that a new stadium was required to secure the long-term future of the club, it came early July when the club published their annual financial statement for the year ending 31st May 2000, and worrying reading it made for both fans and shareholders alike, with an operating loss of £1.6m, over 50% of the club's turnover!
There had been a fair amount of speculation throughout June that Buckley was looking for a new centre back to replace Mark Lever who had departed to Bristol City on a Bosman, after spending nearly 12 years at Blundell Park. Bolton's Greg Strong was widely tipped to be Lever's direct replacement, but Motherwell beat Grimsby to secure the 24 year old's signature.
Buckley finally found his man to replace Lever in the form of Paul Raven, from the Grimsby's manager former club West Brom. The fans were in the main singularly unimpressed at the sheer lack of imagination that the acquisition indicated on Buckley's part. Buckley defended his policy of signing West Brom players, saying at the time:
"With our resources we have to get the value for our money that we can.
"I think it's pointless going for those big name players who don't end up playing the game that you expect of them.
"That's why I go for players that I know and that I can trust."
On 14th July NELC made their now infamous vote , deciding against the proposal to modify the council's draft local plan. The unexpected decision caused instant uproar throughout the region, and received widespread condemnation in our petition which was launched the following day.
After a few day's of complete silence from the councillors, TEF came out with the following statement:
"The Fishy is calling for a second vote from the council to reconsider their decision. That the council's decision undoubtedly stands on dubious legal grounds is clear as it does not carry the support of local opinion."
The pre-season games started in late July to give Town fans something to think about other than NELC and the new stadium controversy. The highlights of the pre-season games were a 2-0 away victory over near neighbours Scunthorpe, as well as the return of former player and new Dundee manager Ivano Bonetti (pictured during the game) to Blundell Park in a 2-2 draw with the Scottish top flight club.
With the summer signings limited to just Paul Raven and Michael Jeffrey (who signed from Kilmarnock, just before the start of the season), and Lee Ashcroft and Mark Lever having departed, the season began with expectations not exactly high amongst Town fans, as can be seen in the results of our opening Question of the Week.
The season got off to the worst possible start with Town going down 2-1 at home to newly promoted Preston. After an improved away performance and the first point of the season in a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth, the board decided they had had enough and did what a significant proportion of Town fans thought they should have done a long time before, and sacked Alan Buckley on Tuesday 22nd August, with just two games of the new season gone.
A replacement for Alan Buckley was found within three days and the club held a press conference on the Friday to announce that the new manager would be the former Luton, Middlesboro and Charton boss Lennie Lawrence (pictured). Lawrence left caretaker John Cockerill in charge for his first game as new Grimsby manager, at home to Sheffield Wednesday. The magnitude of the task facing the new Grimsby boss, he witnessed before him that afternoon from the stands, as Town lost 1-0 to the Yorkshire side, playing very poorly on the day.
Lawrence's first game in charge was the following Tuesday in a league fixture away at Crewe, which Town lost again, this time 2-0. Town were fortunate that the next ten days were free of games, due to the following Saturday's fixture against Wimbledon having been postponed. Lawrence used the time in part to begin the search for new players, and vowed to scour the continent, and in particular Scandinavia in a quest for additional players to supplement the tiny squad he had inherited.
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