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Stand By Your Man
By: Stephen Bateman
BRYAN HUXFORD issued a statement on Monday morning that will doubtless continue to reverberate around the confused minds of Grimsby Town fans throughout the world: "The future is bright so let nobody turn off the light."
At one fell swoop, that bright future has been cast into the gravest of uncertainty.
The news that Grimsby Town chairman Doug Everitt had vacated his position along with Mr Huxford, who resigned as vice-chairman, sent shockwaves pounding throughout North East Lincolnshire.
Just 24 hours earlier, the future had looked brighter than ever, with the possibility of international investors being invited to pour their vast fortunes into a club that has suffered more than its fair share of financial hardship.
The motives behind the resignation of the duo, who were joined in their departure by director Richard Lake, may never be fully known. Conspiracy theorists will inevitably emerge from the shadows and claim that the knives had long since been drawn, others will ponder the implications in terms of the perceived power-struggle within the Grimsby Town boardroom.
Although both may hold relevent points of view, it would seem churlish to disregard the achievements of the club over the preceding 10 months. A season that, for many, began with the certainty of relegation ended in the unbridled joy of registering an unlikely victory against the cash-laden runaway Division One champions, thereby guaranteeing The Mariners' safety in England's second most prestigious league competition for at least one more season.
Let us not forget how the season began. The first home fixture ended in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of newly-promoted Preston North End, followed by a point at Portsmouth and the enduringly controversial dismissal of erstwhile manager Alan Buckley.
Few people warmed to the appointment of former Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic manager Lennie Lawrence as the man who would drag us from the depths of a season long struggle against relegation. Yet within the space of less than two months, any prejudices against Lawrence had been all but forgotten in the midst of four victories in five games, including an inspired performance that saw The Mariners over-run West Bromwich Albion in front of the live Sky TV cameras.
Whilst all in the Grimsby garden appeared rosy, however, cracks in the club's make-up rapidly began to emerge. David Nielsen - 'The Messiah' - ultimately warped into Judas as he held the club to ransom, prompting criticisms of both the board and the manager from all quarters.
Although it would seem fair to level criticism at the manner in which negotiations were handled, there remained one golden thread hanging through the entire, unfortunate episode. Lennie Lawrence was unflinching in the brutal honesty that he demonstrated in his dealings with both Nielsen and the Blundell Park faithful.
It became clear that times had changed - here was somebody who was not prepared to see his ambitions compromised by the outlandish pay demands of one individual. In spite of his attempts to embarrass the board, the manager and the club in general, the 'Great Dane' was told, in no uncertain terms, that he must be prepared to commit himself to the cause, or find another stage on which to perform.
Nielsen's pedigree remains open to question, but the entire, unfortunate episode served to illustrate one stark truth. While others sought to bask in short-term glory, Lawrence was here for the long-run and he intended to conduct business in his own style.
It's all too easy to reflect on the 2000/01 campaign and suggest that money was frittered away on temporary solutions. The final league table has proved that they were little more than matters of expediency - making the best of a bad hand in order to fulfill one simple ambition: Survival.
Our new 'gaffer' has since gone on to state his further ambitions for Grimsby Town FC: persuading the tireless Stuart Campbell to commit his future to the club's thankless cause. Attempting to talk Fulham protÃ©gÃ© Luke Cornwall into contributing his goal-scoring exploits on a permanent basis. Striving to re-build a depleted Youth Team squad.
In spite of the boardroom wranglings, it would seem that there is one unifying reason for optimism. The fragile stability that graces the club must be maintained, and the figurehead behind that hope is not Bryan Huxford. It's not Doug Everitt and neither is it Dudley Ramsden - it's the man who laid the foundations for a small South London club's ascent into the Premier League.
It would be nothing less than ridiculous, little more than naive to expect the board of Grimsby Town Football Club to place their faith in Lennie Lawrence if the club's fan-base strive to undermine his attempts to build a future of which we can all be proud.
Although the future may look uncertain, foundations have been laid, and the building has begun.
Our greatest fear is that our architect may down tools in the midst of re-landscaping an apparent wasteland and move to a more attractive site.
This site is by the fans, for the fans, and we will consider articles on any subject relating to the Mariners whether it be related to current news, a nostalgic look back in the past, a story about a player, a game or games in the past, something about Blundell Park or football in general. Click here to submit your article!
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