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Can We Really Do It?

By: Christopher Laisher
Date: 25/07/2003

WITH the news of Terry Cooke's trial at Sheffield Wednesday, and the inability to play one of our "star" strikers in the first-team, I find it hard to believe that Grimsby Town can replicate the success they achieved in 1998.

Home > Features > 2003 Features > Can We Really Do It?

I was optimistic enough, at first, to see Town's position at the end of last season as being relatively similar to the predicament we faced back in 1997. There have certainly been many people on the boards pointing out that we lost Mendonca and Oster, two key members of our squad, and still bounced back with a Wembley double the following year. This time, the departing players of Danny Coyne and Georges Santos have left a similar hole, albeit in a different part of the team. And need we point out the impending return of Aidan?

But it is only thanks to a large slice of luck that Town have so far managed to recruit the players they have. With the departures of Clive Mendonca to Charlton, and Oster to Everton, came a massive financial boost to the club of over £2 million, and this gave then-manager Alan Buckley a comparitively huge amount of money to entice players to come to the East Coast - among them, star players Kevin Donovan and Lee Nogan. This season, our squad members are leaving on free transfers. I can't remember the last time Town got any serious money for a player.

As such, Groves is left in a different situation. We are fortunate enough to have had a release of shares during the football break, and we should be thankful, because without it, the likes of Cas would not be coming to Grimsby. But the lack of financial power under the command of the manager has been the point holding us back from preparing an assault on the Second Division this season. As Groves has shown, it is incredibly difficult to entice proven goalscorers to come to the club. We may have a relatively strong midfield on paper, but we lack the finish up front that a good striker can provide.

Boulding and Mansaram. That's essentially it. Other strikers, such as once-exciting-prospect Rowan, seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. Livingstone has moved on. The Phil Jevons situation is now pretty clear in regards to his availability. Thompson is sporadic at best, without bringing any unique quality to the club. As for bringing in new strikers, we are left scraping the bottom of the barrel. Perhaps it would be better to analyse the situation on discovering who the trialists are, but in the aftermath of the Platt negotiations, I'm not confident enough to believe that they were ever proven goalscorers.

Some people will point to our good record in the friendly matches, but games against mediocre Third Division opposition are hardly inspiring at the best of times, particularly when we only manage to scrape a 1-0 win. Again, there will be those jumping on the fact that we dominate these games in terms of possession and style, but the scorelines all reflect my view that without a proven goalscorer up front, we will stumble against our league opponents in the coming season. Indeed, the only friendly game which truly gave me a glimmer of hope was the 1-1 draw with Sunderland. Another couple of games against superior opposition (like those in the build-up to the 97/98 season, when we played the likes of Leeds rather than Boston) would be useful in preparing ourselves for the standard of play we can expect this year. At this rate, it seems that Groves is hoping that confidence alone can achieve results in the coming league matches.

I hope I'm wrong, but I see a positive start to the season that, in similar fashion to 01/02, wilts and dies. Perhaps not as dramatically as Lennie Lawrence's decline as manager, but similar nonetheless. If we don't get the much-needed prolific striker, Town will be sunk without trace. We don't have a man-in-the-hole player like Donovan. And even if we did, would Groves employ the system?

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