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The King is Dead….Long Live the King!

By: Richard Lord
Date: 28/12/2001

TODAY'S departure of Lennie Lawrence sees the end of a 16-month reign that included both highs and lows. Despite Grimsby's current league position of 23rd and four points off the safety margin, fans should never forget what Lawrence did for the club.

Home > Features > The King is Dead...Long Live the King!

Lennie had the ability to recognise weaknesses at the club and although he may never had had the financial backing to rectify the problems, there can be no question that he gave the job the 100% effort it deserved.

After Alan Buckley's departure the club was left without a youth policy and very few up-and-coming players with potential. This problem was addressed and most of last season saw a host of trialists and youth players come to Blundell Park for assessment and now the club has ten or more exciting prospects emerging, all managed by a former Mariner Paul Wilkinson.

Also, let's not forget all the contract negotiations Lawrence carried out during the summer. Handyside and Donovan may have had more lucrative offers from elsewhere but McDermott, Groves and Livingstone, a trio of experienced campaigners, were tempted to stay at the club. Coyne and Pouton had also been attended to and both are tied on long contracts so neither can leave the club for free.

His tactics may have differed somewhat from the Buckley style but with the right players in their right positions and no injuries, there can be no doubt that Town could stave off relegation. How fortunes turned against the former manager, and injuries single-handedly forced him to field fringe players in unfamiliar positions.

David Nielsen, Zhang Enhua, Marlon Broomes, Luke Cornwall and Stuart Campbell - who is now a permanent addition to the squad - have all given the small crowd some entertainment over the past year. Lawrence's contacts stretched far and wide and they yielded some class players to join the club, albeit on loan, but it gave the Town something to talk about.

Boardroom squabbling was ignored as the manager and players continued to battle right until the end, choosing to disregard the unrest and retain Division One status, which they did so valiantly against Fulham when the team won 1-0 on the last day of last season.

The scorer of that goal, Paul Groves, takes over at the helm now that Lawrence has departed. He introduced fresh blood into the reserves, tied players down on valuable contracts and brought life back into Grimsby. The team may not be any better off from when he took over but he leaves having given us many memories.

The 2-1 victory at Liverpool in the Cup, topping the Division after securing a fourth win in the first six games of this season, bringing a national hero to play for the club in Zhang Enhua and every game, up until recently, had been full of action and incidents.

So where did it all go wrong? The team hit their peak at the beginning of September this year when they beat Barnsley to go top of the table. The following week they beat Coventry at Highfield Road, a result that saw the end to Gordon Strachan's five-year association with the Sky Blues and Lawrence rewarded with the Manager of the Month award.

No one could argue that this was just a one-off and we would soon find our level, so the downturn of fortunes was expected and the 5-0 drubbing at Palace began this. Soon the defence became a shambles but we were still scoring. Then the goals ran dry.

Injuries caught up with the squad, first Livingstone, Coldicott, then McDermott, - both to long-term injuries - and then Campbell, Allen, Rowan and ultimately Pouton. Without these players the others just weren't up to the job, and especially to the system that Lawrence had employed.

Everyone has their own views, opinions, explanations and theories and some fans may question whether Lawrence lost the plot by continually playing players out of position and drafting in loan players that weren't up to the job, but there wasn't much he, or anyone else could do. Some may wonder if the players had lost faith in the manager and he had lost the ability to motivate the team.

So the appointment of Paul Groves as manager may come as a surprise to most supporters. Quiet on the pitch, quiet off it but with it very knowledgeable. The board realise that time is not on GTFC's side and they needed to install a man who already new the club and squad.

Groves regularly attends the reserve matches and was once forced to manage the side in Wilkinson's absence (a game in which the Mariners won 2-1 against Shrewsbury) but now it's crunch time. Groves may be the silent, unspoken type but he must have bags of confidence to take this formidable task on.

Lennie Lawrence may not have been the right manager for us, but he entertained the fans. We wish him all the best for the future.

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