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Come Relegation, Come!

By: Stephen Bateman
Date: 07/04/2001

GRIMSBY TOWN are, by their very nature, a small fish struggling to survive in a big pond. Whilst First Division 'local rivals' Nottingham Forest are able to spend £3 million on a striker, the powers that be at Blundell Park are unable to negotiate a mealy-mouthed deal for a Second Division has-been.

I am speaking, of course, about 32-year-old Kyle Lightbourne and the deadline-day transfer fiasco that was on and off with more frequency than Casanova's Y-fronts.

There has been much supposition as to the reasons for Grimsby's current financial plight - be it that the much-maligned board should be financing player purchases or that the fans are to blame for not supporting the club through the turnstiles.

When the points are counted up at the end of the season, all of this will matter little. Either Blundell Park will be hosting First Division football next season or, in all likelihood, the Black and White travelling army will be making trips to footballing hot-beds such as Northampton, Colchester and Cambridge.

I would suggest that the fact is this: Grimsby Town's current squad is far too good for the Second Division, yet, as tradition dictates, we simply don't have the resources to be a 'successful' First Division side as things currently stand.

Tradition also dictates that the fickle Grimsby public would much rather see winning Second Division football against the likes of Wrexham than it would a team battling to survive in a division that brings clashes with sides such as Blackburn, Fulham, Bolton, Birmingham etc.

Would it not therefore be in the interests of the club to be relegated this season? It's a strategy that I think should be explored further.

Let's suppose that the club imposes a two-year plan - relegation this year, promotion the next. I have no doubts that we would be good enough to bounce back up at the first time of asking.

It would be fortunate that a number of players are out of contract at the end of the relegation season. This would provide the opportunity to employ a cost-cutting exercise whereby players are told that they must take a cut in wages, otherwise find another club during the summer.

Players reaching the end of their careers, let's say for argument's sake Steve Livingstone, John McDermott and Paul Groves, would be willing to accept this whereas others would not.

These three are all players who would thrive in the Second Division and I am sure that Lennie Lawrence would relish the opportunity to build a foreign legion around this nucleus - after all, no manager likes to be stuck with an inherited squad for too long.

Okay, TV money would have to be written off for a season but the cash injection from the much-vaunted NTL deal would soften the blow considerably and, let us remember, a solution to the 'shares issue' is, we are constantly assured, right around the corner.

In this dream The Mariners then ride back into the First Division on the crest of an average home gate of around 7,000, with a re-vamped squad, fresh hope, fresh belief and - lo and behold - a new stadium to move into!

Therefore I say this: Get down to Blundell Park for the remainder of our home games and get right behind the lads!

No, not our lads, their lads.

To misquote Morrissey's words in Everyday Is Like Sunday - the jaunty little ditty that may as well have been dedicated to a winter in Cleethorpes - COME RELEGATION, COME!

You never know - it may even work!

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