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Time To Get Real

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 19/06/2002

WITH players and managers returning from holidays, the real business of football begins again in preparation for the new season. Unfortunately, due to the ITV Digital crisis, this period of preparation will be markedly different from those of the last few decades.

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The hurrying and scurrying to sign players and the almost mass signings of the past will not be witnessed this time round. Managers will have tight purse strings and careful consideration will be made before anyone is invited to sign along the dotted line.

Some well known faces will be seen in the dole queue as there will be fierce competition for places and this crisis will be more effective at ending the bungs and backhanders to players than the FA have ever been.

It has been estimated that approximately 900 players will be out of work by the time the season commences. Although these figures might be inflated by "media speculation" there can be no doubt that there will be many players seeking alternative employment.

One positive outcome of the current financial crisis may be the ending of the situation where British players priced themselves out of the market, resulting in the influx of foreign players to the English game.

In Grimsby Town's case, although the board were prudent enough not to gamble with money before they got it, the loss of the TV money was still a heavy financial blow to the club and any request for funds will be carefully scrutinised and that will affect player negotiations.

With Paul Groves returning to his desk this week, the negotiations with players who are currently out of contract will begin again. Most will have noticed for themselves the lack of action so far in the market place with the main activity over the last few weeks being the sackings rather than signings and that just might signal a warning to those players who have a higher estimate of their value than the club has.

Currently that includes Michael Boulding, Simon Ford and a certain Mr Danny Butterfield who, if one was to take media reports seriously, appears to be living in cloud cuckoo land. Mr Butterfield would be best advised to take any offer he might get and be grateful to stay in football.

Messrs Boulding and Ford, who manager Groves sees as two players he would want to keep and to whom he has made increased offers, may also need to take notice of current market trends. Playing the "wait and see" game could easily backfire and if, in the future, they find themselves knocking on doors in a lower division they may rue the day they dreamt of premiership status.

If, on the other hand, they are successful in achieving their ambition, good luck to them. The Mariners will sorely miss them, but it would not be the end of the world. Paul Groves has demonstrated his astuteness in the market place and one would expect that he would have a wide range of choices in seeking replacements.

Unfortunately, it may take a little time for some players to get the message that the gravy train crashed and burned and although they, like all of us, will want to get the best deal they can, they have to understand that now is the time for them to "get real."

The retained list which is expected to be published shortly will, no doubt, contain a few surprises and this would be an appropriate time to remind Mr Groves that when the club called for the support of the players in their hour of need, the response was a deafening silence and it was the full time staff who carried the burden and had their wages cut. This is no time to be handing out favours!

The Mariners will have a lean and hopefully mean squad this season. We are down to the bare bones without a reserve team with the young players taking up that role and we cannot afford non paying passengers. Mr Groves has to be ruthless in picking his squad and if a few "old favourites" fall by the wayside, so be it!

That's football! Grimsby style!


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