ON a day when we were celebrating staying in League Two, the reality is but for Luton's 30 point deduction we would have been resigning ourselves to relegation after Macclesfield won and we lost. Somehow we have cheated death: we have survived on a lower points total than any other club has ever done.
Many fans thinks their club are better and bigger than they actually are, yet for a club of our traditions in a catchment area of our size we should not expect to fight a relegation battle in League Two - especially when four clubs have received points deductions ranging from substantial to massive.
So where did we go wrong? Here's my brief summary of what I think we did well and what I think we did badly over the last twelve months. More importantly what lessons can we draw from it in the next few weeks before football starts again following the end of the season on Saturday.
What we did not do well
Releasing two of our best players (Toner and Fenton) during the summer was a bad move. It felt like the wrong decision at the time, and so it was to prove. Their replacements, who were not found until after the others were told they were not needed, looked no better on paper, and had never played for us before.
Failure to sign our better loan players. Sam Hird and Rob Atkinson did well for us last season, and yet we failed to sign either in the summer. That we've signed Atkinson a few months later shows we probably could have got him rather than untried rejects of clubs out of our own division. This season we know that Henderson, Conlon and Sweeney will fit perfectly with the manager's way of playing. Forbes, Widdowson and Elliot are also worth considering.
The fact that Martin Butler lived so far away was always going to be a problem. Without a firm commitment to live closer he should not have be signed or been given a long-term contract.
34 players have represented Grimsby this season. I doubt there's a person who could even name them all. Success in the past has always come with stability. We should aim for a squad large enough so that there are at least two players available in every position. The youth team seems to do well season after season but are we making the most of the local players that do become pros? Most of them seem to drift on the fringes of the first team and then get released after a couple of years.
The Compass FM radio commentary has improved over the season, but is still inferior to the BBC's product. It still seems crazy that we have fallen out with the largest media organisation in the area and one that have always given us lots of publicity and visibility.
What we did well
Getting rid of players he do not want to be here. Following the departure of Barnes, Newey and Montgomery things definitely picked up. How much of a factor this was we will never know, but it would seem significant. There's no point having people at the club who have an unsettling influence.
Sacking Alan Buckley early in the season gave plenty of time for a replacement to be found. Our pre-season was terrible and the warning signs were there before a ball was kicked. The squad which started the season was not strong enough, and worse than that which ended the previous season. Fortunately the board made the decision to make a managerial change rather then throw more money at Buckley's signings. A proper manager with a proven recent pedigree at this level was then appointed (for the first time since Lennie Lawrence), not a former player or coach elevated to fill the outgoing person's boots.
Lowering ticket prices at the end of the season proved a crucial factor, and just shows that a large reason why more people do not go is the cost. The board should seriously consider reducing both season tickets and match day tickets to try and get more people in the ground. There has to be a price structure which could attract more people to games, and the more people are in the ground the better the team are likely to do. A lower price for tickets does not necessarily mean less money coming in either.
Making Ryan Bennett captain was a brave decision but it was to prove to be the right one and he seems to have grown in to the role. Hopefully Ryan will stay with Grimsby for a few more seasons, and if he does eventually leave then we will get a decent fee for him.
Lastly the supporters have been brilliant for the last few weeks. We've had a miserable season in the main and there are dark times when you do question why you bother, but the last dozen games have given us a glimpse of what we could achieve with the support we have, and that many people in the town or from the town do care. Chester by contrast when we went there seemed a city in the shadow of the two Liverpool teams, without the passion, and desire to stay up at all costs, that Grimsby supporters showed in abundance.
Not everything is possible and it's critical that we operate within our budget. The extra tax payments we have been saddled with for years must be almost finished, and next season there's bound to be a few clubs who find themselves on negative points. Players will not expect the wages they have been able to command in the past either, especially in the present climate with so many clubs struggling, so hopefully we'll be able to at least compete with most of the teams in the division next year.
There's no reason why, with some of the lessons learnt, we can't start to improve and at very least finish in a comfortable mid-table position next season. The fact that four clubs go up, two go down, and several start on negative points means there is plenty of scope for a good season in League Two (even if that's what I said a year ago!).
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