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Who'd Be a Manager

By: Todd Bontoft
Date: 22/01/2001

Shortly after Grimsby Town's victory away to Crystal Palace in late October things were pretty desperate at Selhurst Park, as their form plunged to new depths they languished around the bottom of the First Division. Alan Smith gave his players a much-publicised rebuke.

Several Crystal Palace players went straight onto the transfer list as a result. Several months later, the situation is somewhat different, with a Worthington Cup' semi-final against Liverpool, after the first leg, their chances are still very much alive and more importantly a respectable position in the league has been achieved. The Crystal Palace' manager must be highly delighted with the swift turnaround of the club's fortunes, and despite the backing of a wealthy chairman committed to investing a reported £15M in new players for a promotion push next season, few will argue that Alan Smith is doing a good job. The First Division is the most competitive ever, with the pressures for success ever increasing and, it seems, it's the end of the world for those unfortunate to end in the bottom three by the end of the season.

Professionally, Alan Smith may be feeling satisfied, but the reported performance of the Crystal Palace fans towards the club's manager during their club's 'darker moments' of this season's campaign will have left him with a bitter sweet taste. No one deserves to be verbally abused or suffer the indignity of walking down the tunnel with their overcoat covered in phlegm. Not that I am singularly pointing the proverbial finger at the Eagles' fans, quite the contrary, all clubs at all levels have their fair share of fickle, ignoramuses that channel their anger and frustration in completely the wrong direction and in a manner that is nothing but counterproductive. Fortunately for the average true Crystal Palace fan, that stuck with the club and supported the team and its officials, these morons have since been made to swallow their regurgitation.

The First Division has become a parallel universe of the Premier League, with a number of teams fighting for promotion, a clutch wrestling for the play-offs and the largest number - including our own Mariners - doggedly battling for a place away from the relegation death zone and hoping for 'mid-table obscurity'. A curious phrase is 'mid-table obscurity' and is one place that many a fan, whose team is battling at the bottom, would gladly see them occupying and it would be re-titled 'mid-table respectability'. I would certainly give a great deal to see town in 'mid-table respectability' by May!

Success and failure in football can often be a very fine line. Many of today's games are defined by: an official's decision; playing the opposition just as they hit form; an heroic save (thanks Mr Coyne for the many!); a defensive mistake; the exceptional shot that nine times out of a hundred would finish in orbit and not the back of the net; and the list goes on. Even the way the season's fixture list unfolds can have a major bearing on how a team performs. Some say you make your own luck, some say it balances out over the course of a season, I wear my luck pants. But whether or not it's a battle for survival or promotion, it's crucial that officials, players and fans all pull together.

Despite the recent dismal form of the Mariners, it has been noticeable that this has been an overriding factor. Many of us have our own views and opinions of tactics, players etc. but the fans that turn up still get behind the team. What is far more worrisome is the glaring disinterest of the public of Grimsby and Cleethorpes. I know its painful seeing your side lose and none feel it more than the loyal 5,000 or so that religiously turn up week in week out! But when the club is in a spot - as Grimsby Town currently is - that is the time when the club needs support the most!

The article continues in Part Two

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