The Grimsby Town FC


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Question of the Week

What should happen to the EFL Trophy next season?

As per this season
Just for L1/L2 sides
Invite Conference sides


Why? And Where To Now?

By: The Fishy Regulars
Date: 10/05/2004

THE first question may be easier to answer than the second. We publish here the views of people who have deep emotional ties with the Mariners who share their thoughts with us.

Home > Features > 2004 Features > Why? And Where To Now?

David Wilkinson, who is a Fishy regular, looks at the situation, its causes and his hopes for the future:-

Travelling back from Tranmere I couldn't help thinking how completely we contributed to our own relegation. On almost every other occasion in recent times when character was needed - the team responded in style. The victory over Exeter City to get promotion - coming back to beat Bournemouth in the Shield final, beating Fulham over two legs to get into the play off final and then the victory over Northampton to win promotion - the victory on the last day of the season against Fulham to stay up.

But yesterday we deserved everything that happened to us. The team showed a lot of spirit but simply didn't look like a football team and didn't look like winners. We have risen to much bigger challenges than having to win against 10 men but we couldn't - and, apart from an encouraging start, never looked likely to.

The radio 5 reporter summed up our desperate position when he said Grimsby couldn't beat a "classy looking Tranmere side".

".…We have gone from success and recognition!…."

Isn't that how they used to describe Grimsby? Wasn't passing and movement the hallmark of our game? We might get knocked around a lot by teams of big bruisers but when it came to points for artistic merit didn't we usually get 10 points out of 10?

This is the measure of our demise. We have gone from success and recognition through talented under achievers to clueless strangers who barely seem to be on nodding terms in a few short seasons.

It is impossible not to compare the football and footballers who graced Blundell Park in the Buckley years (of not so long ago) with the shambolic losers we have now. Perhaps the half-witted fans that derided Buckley for his inability to get us into the Premier League (remember the much used phrase "the first division is his limit"!!!) are part of the vicious circle of defeat that Billo describes. Oh to be able to return to the "failure" of hanging on to our place in the first division.

".… Nicky Law is not the answer!…."

What happened then was a squad was assembled that became identified with Grimsby and the club. A system that everyone played to - which may have been "predictable" but was consistent and meant that everyone knew what was expected of them. The club pulled together on and off the field and the management team got a grip on the organisation and it worked. It had its failings - Buckley was a stubborn man who was resented by many and his PR failings were well known. But it worked.

The club now need a similar sort of character - in his own way, Lawrie McMenemy did much of the same (with better PR) in the early 70's. Nicky Law is not the answer and he should go. Peter Furneaux should be thanked for all his hard work and given life membership of the club but asked not to talk to the press so much and the day to day presentation of club affairs be given to someone with professional expertise. Furneaux is a nice chap but his frail appearance, stumbling inarticulate manner on TV and radio and complete misunderstanding of the news media creates a terrible image problem for the club.

A new manager should be appointed immediately. Personally, I would take a chance on Graham Rodger as I was enormously impressed by his stint as caretaker. Failing that we need a manager with a track record in the lower leagues/conference. We must avoid anyone with a big name or premiership background. Not a player manager and not another con-man of the Lennie Lawrence ilk. I don't know the guy who has got Chester out of the Conference but that would be the pedigree I would be looking for.

The indulgent Tony Crane mentality summed up our season - pointless bookings and sending offs for someone who appears to be rather intellectually challenged on the concept of appropriate behaviour meant he was unavailable for the crunch game - the big game which was what we pay him for. This catalogue of failure needs to be addressed. We have a decent board, good sponsorship backing, we now need a leader to pull it together. My honest fear is that the board may not have the vision to see one - and be taken in by another quick talking, here today - gone tomorrow chancer of a type we have become familiar with.

Alan Readman appears to have travelled the same roads as David and this is how he sees it:-

I suppose I should be neither surprised nor depressed. A lifelong addiction to the fortunes of Grimsby Town FC should by now have rendered me immune to such emotions. But it hasn't and if anyone else tells me 'it's only a game'…….

I listened on the car radio to the Fulham-Arsenal match on Sunday afternoon. It took me back to the play-off semi-final. The electric atmosphere at Blundell Park and the unforgettable moment of Donovan's winner. How things can change in a few years! The losers now established in the Premiership, the victors seemingly in free-fall. What a cruel game this can be.

But, I suppose that is the point. To those of us whose lot it is to be a supporter, at least a Grimsby Town supporter, it is more than just a game. I share the emotions that have been expressed on the Message Board. I know I shouldn't. I'm old enough to remember Rafferty and Portwood, let alone Tees and Green. I should have left all this behind years ago. But I haven't and I guess I never shall. Just like it was with my father, and his father, it is within me and won't go away. It is a cross I have to bear. As Private Fraser would say in Dad's Army, I'm 'doomed'.

'Fans' of other clubs may tap their heads in ridicule. And who knows, maybe they are right. Perhaps insanity is the word for it. But those who went to Tranmere and those who then put their hearts into those messages on the Board will know what I'm talking about.

".…these are indeed the worst of times!…."

Put in simple terms we share an allegiance to a football club. But it goes far deeper than mere interest in a game or even loyalty to a team. It's part of us, rooted in our minds, engrained in our lives. We might try, but we can't lose it. Nor can we explain it. Beyond the fact that we were born and bred in Grimsby, of course. And no matter what, no matter where you go, that is something you can never escape. Believe me!

So, right now these are indeed the worst of times. Someone has said we expected the drop from the First Division but not the Second. Given the squad that was assembled in August, I think that is probably true. I suppose we should have known better. After all, double relegations are in the blood at Grimsby and indeed who now would bet against a record-breaking third, heaven forbid.

The fact that we've been down in the mire before and come out of it rather supports the re-assuring tone of those on the Message Board who say that things go in cycles and therefore we will inevitably rise from the dead again. To some extent I go along with that line. I remember how Laurie McMenemy totally transformed the place in a single close-season in 1971, starting with a squad of twelve and finishing with gates of 23,000, and more recently of course Alan Buckley performed a similar miracle in his first coming.

But there is the nagging worry that this time things are that much more precarious. The dreaded spectre of administration, with the added 'bonus' this time round of docked points, is too close for comfort. So too is the feeling that the fan base is dwindling beyond redemption and that the new generation in Grimsby is less likely to follow in our devoted, unquestioning and probably misguided footsteps.

My sentence is for life but I need hope to get me through this. No, I can't switch allegiance to one of the 'glitterazi' of the Premiership. There is one down the road from where I now live, but I have not the slightest interest in them. Nor do I wish to take up hang-gliding or budgerigar-breeding as an alternative. I simply need reason to believe that the road back for Grimsby Town Football Club will start promptly next season or, better still, tomorrow.

Perhaps I am being naïve but is it too much to ask that the lessons of this season and last will have been learned? After all they are glaring enough. In my humble opinion high on the list are the following.

Firstly, the fans care and therefore they matter. In fact right now they might possibly be considered the most important asset the club has got left. So surely the club must put improved PR on the agenda. Can the Trust help here?

".…We want to see players who care as we care!…."

Secondly, sadly we seem to have proved that experience is essential in a management team, so too recognised coaching and motivational qualities, and also personality to inspire the fans. A tall order, perhaps, but it is around. Remember Laurie McMenemy transformed the town as much as the team and he had just been sacked by Doncaster Rovers!

Thirdly, with one or two notable exceptions, loans and short-term contracts don't seem to work, or at least don't appear to provide the level of commitment that is the minimum the fans deserve to expect. We want to see players who care as we care. Who want to play for us. Let's hope Stacy Coldicott is still here next year.

Fourthly, give youth a chance. Experienced players arguably must form the backbone of the team but experienced players have now got us relegated twice. Was Graham Hockless really not worth more of an opportunity?

No doubt there are others to add to the list. Everyone will have their opinions. That's one of the beauties of it all. I don't think football is what it once was. Nor do I think supporting GTFC is what it once was. Today in our despair we may say 'no more' but tomorrow we'll be back. They probably don't deserve us, but we'll be back.

I expect.

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