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Donovan Says Goodbye - Will Groves Stay?

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 02/07/2001

TODAY is a big day for Grimsby Town. With pre-season training beginning on Wednesday, manager Lennie Lawrence still does not know exactly how many of last season's players will be turning up.

Kevin Donovan finally said goodbye to Blundell Park today after signing for Barnsley as a Bosman free transfer.

Speaking to Radio Humberside after signing a staggering FIVE year deal with the Tykes, the 30-year-old wide player revealed "I thought I'd have a reasonable chance of promotion and that's why I've come here".

"..I think it's in his best interests to stay with us a year..."

Central defender Peter Handyside is also reportedly likely to depart this week, although Lennie Lawrence still hasn't entirely conceded defeat in his bid to keep the 26-year-old Scot, who recently has been linked with Stoke City, at Blundell Park.

The Grimsby manager told Humberside: "Peter can have either have a two year deal, or if wants he can have a one year, which has been on offer to most of the other senior pros. If he puts in a good year then he could command the sort of salary Kevin [Donovan] has got at Barnsley.

"I think it's in his best interests to stay with us a year and I'll be telling him the same. He may have found somebody. I hear rumours but I don't hear facts" concluded a frustrated Lawrence.

The biggest worry of them all is that Paul Groves may also depart after being offered a position with Alan Buckley at Lincoln. Groves is expected to make his decision today. Although signing a two-year contract before the summer break he has a get out clause in his contract if he is offered a managerial post including a coaching position.

The Grimsby Telegraph reports: This week's dilemma for Groves has arisen after Buckley is thought to have persuaded the Lincoln City board to break the bank and invest in the future of their club by hijacking Groves from his Mariners commitments.

A record-breaking package to take him to Sincil Bank as player-coach has presented Groves with a difficult choice to make with the countdown to the new campaign underway. Whichever way Groves decides to go, it will have been the most difficult decision in his career.

Last season he was quite simply outstanding at the heart of Town's defence and there is little doubt that he could maintain his standards in the increasing quality of the first division.

The Town skipper will want to play at the highest level just as long as he can but is under pressure to sacrifice at least another top-flight season to join Buckley.

"..The loss of Groves would add to manager Lawrence's personnel headaches ..."

Ever since the Grimsby Town board fired Buckley last August there has been speculation about Groves' future, which quite clearly lies in the management field. With his coaching badges in the bag, he has been preparing for life after his playing career.

It was thought that Town number two John Cockerill could be tempted to rejoin Buckley at Sincil Bank but when he committed himself to another two years at Blundell Park, the link between the former Town boss and Groves became irresistible.

Fans will know the outcome this week and if Groves decides to return to the club at which he played eight games on loan as a Leicester City rookie, it will be a body blow for everyone.

The loss of Groves would add to manager Lawrence's personnel headaches. With Kevin Donovan already gone, and expected to appear at pre-season training with Barnsley, and Peter Handyside and Wayne Burnett now also thought to be looking elsewhere for contracts, it leaves the Town boss with a great deal of work to do in a very short time to stabilise his first team squad.

The immediate upshot would be that he would need to bring in at least two quality central defenders. Groves and Handyside would have been his first choice central defensive pairing but if they leave, and with Richard Smith released and Matthew Bloomer now at Hull City, it leaves only Paul Raven as a senior player in that position.

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