Pound for pound, and class for class, the worst Grimsby team I have seen since I was born

If wallpaper could speak it’d say ‘Hi, my name is Grimsby Town’.

We are in one hell of a rut.

At the start of December we were outside the League 2 play-offs on goal difference only, and today, seven games on, we’re sat 17th, having picked up just two points from a possible 21 while playing some of the most gut-grindingly boring, hoof-and-hope, chew-on-cotton-wool-and-scratch-your-nails-down-a-blackboard type of football seen at Blundell Park since… well, since manager Russell Slade was last here.

No one wanted Russell Slade back, except for one man. A man who thinks he knows best; a man who thinks throwing money at something will solve everything; a man who has overseen our most consistent, under-performing, lowest ebb-reaching spell in the club’s entire history.

Slade is a deeply unloved manager and so it was always going to be an uphill task for him to win over the fans when Fenty believed he should return to Cleethorpes last April.

‘Thanks for your efforts, Marcus, but you’ve fucked the squad up, unsettled our longest-serving players and none of us can really see what you’re trying to do tactically,’ Fenty might have said.

Scarily, he could easily say that to Slade today.

He then went on to not say: ‘We know you had a long-term plan, Marcus, but fuck that – I’ve heard my mate is available. I don’t care if you’ve just led us to victory at Blackpool.’

So Slade was swooped in. He’s had nine months at the helm now, and in that time he’s managed to turn us into a worse side than the one he inherited.

Firstly, by releasing some of our most loyal and creative players and buying very average replacements (and I’m putting that politely) and, secondly, by getting us to play some truly appalling football.

The football has been so terrible that I publicly declared on Twitter last weekend that I wasn’t going to pay to watch us again this season unless something changes.

Since May 2016 we’ve gone from a club that had won promotion back to the Football League with a young, up-and-coming manager and real momentum – backed by the kind of amazing support that can raise £110,000, just because it could – to this unrecognisable squad of complete misfits.

We’ve won nine league games this season and the general consensus among the fans is that only a couple of them have been enjoyable – our opening day win at Chesterfield, and a Tuesday night game at home to Swindon.

We might not be in the relegation zone but if you judged us solely on creativity, goal threat, entertainment and value for money then we’re well adrift at the bottom of the league.

And when Slade is on speaking terms with the local radio, he’s telling them after our most recent defeat that we need to go ‘back to basics’.

He’s been here for nine months, for Christ’s sake, and has signed no fewer than 15 players:

Jake Kean, Ben Killip, Nathan Clarke, Paul Dixon, Reece Hall-Johnson, Karleigh Osborne, Mitch Rose, Siriki Dembele, Diallang Jaiyesimi, Sam Kelly, Martyn Woolford, Harry Cardwell, JJ Hooper, Jamille Matt and Charles Vernam have all entered the building and, broadly speaking, done nothing.

He also offered new contracts to youth players Jack Keeble, Tom Sawyer, Harry Clifton and Max Wright who have (on account of never being picked) also done nothing,

This is without doubt Russell Slade’s squad. He built it, he got it to the verge of the play-offs, and so if he’s now suggesting that it isn’t good enough and needs to buy reinforcements after just sending our most gifted midfielder back to part-time football and benching our top scorer after ruining his confidence then, if I were the majority shareholder, I’d tell him to swivel.

We are at a crossroads here and you can bet your mortgage that we’ll choose the wrong direction.

We could stop giving Slade money and ask him, politely, to pull himself together and be a fucking manager.

Or, we could continue giving Slade money to buy more players, use more money to pay off the players he no longer wants – even if he signed them – and piss more money up the wall to increase those benign loans.

The reason Fenty has put so much of his own personal fortune into the club is to cover for the colossal amount of mistakes he and the board have made over the last 17 years.

We, the fans, didn’t make those decisions. We didn’t put us in financial hardship.

What put us there is a succession of poor managerial appointments, a succession of war chests for them to waste on poor signings, and absolutely no sign of a long term plan or philosophy that would help us achieve financial stability and self-sufficiency.

Backing Russell Slade with more finances, which the club publicly declared in a press release (I thought they did all their PR on the pitch?), will ultimately create more debt. Later this year Fenty will once again have to put his hand into his pocket and dig deep to keep the club afloat.

This vicious circle needs to be broken. Only the sale of Omar Bogle saved us from going further into Fenty’s debt last year, so unless we can keep on discovering his like, we’ll simply continue to be run by an individual who needs to accept that he’ll never get his benign loans back and should instead work on finding someone else who can plug the holes in this rapidly sinking ship.



Gutless. Match report: Grimsby 0-1 Carlisle

The only thing worse than Grimsby Town’s current predicament is that supermarkets are already playing Christmas songs. That’s not on.

Forget today’s 1-0 defeat to Carlisle at Blundell Park. It’s been a shambolic week off the field as Honest John did that thing that all self-respecting professionals do when times get tough and splurged a big steaming pile of childish passive-aggressive bullshit on a messageboard forum because some fans dared to make the outlandish claim that his time in charge of our football club has been anything less than rosy.

Of course, nothing is as rosy as those heavily-tinted specs Fenty’s wearing these days. You know the ones – they make you look at Paul Hurst and think, ‘Wow, he’s a bit dour and Yorkshire and all that. I don’t care if he runs the club sensibly and has a long-term vision for the club that requires a few adjustments here and there – he never invited me to his wedding. What do you mean he didn’t know me when he got married?’

They’re also the specs that make you look at Russell Slade and not see a massive bald-headed football dinosaur looking straight back at you.

Russ shuffled his pack today but it made no difference – we still can’t score. At several points it seemed Carlisle let us walk right through them but Scott Vernon is having such a crisis of confidence right now that he’s not even sure he exists. Funnily enough it’s a crisis of confidence that has trundled on since the day he signed his two-year deal with us.

I refuse to boo any player that represents the Mariners but I won’t dress this up on here. He may as well have not played today, such was his contribution to the match.

We’re so bad right now that we’ve started dragging the talented Siriki Dembele down to our level.

On first half chances alone, Town deserved to be in front. On general play, 0-0 was a fair scoreline. We worked their keeper a bit, but we didn’t take what chances fell our way. Then, with 20 minutes to go, the only player in the division older than our back line headed home a simple cross and from then on we went to pieces.

Rumours that Slade has put in a call to see if he can sign Clint Hill are unsubstantiated, but that shouldn’t stop Fenty from publishing an overly-aggressive and badly-worded press statement on the Grimsby Town website to refute the rumour, and then blame Radio Humberside’s Matt Dean for it.

I won’t bother going into any details about the match because there really isn’t any point. We lost at home to a run-of-the-mill mid-table side without scoring. What else do you really need to know?

We look entirely pedestrian. We can’t expect to win games if we can’t score, but what troubles me more is the lack of fight and passion. However, those concerns pale into insignificance against the backdrop of John Fenty – the non-chairman of our proud football club who uses pseudonyms rather than his real name to patrol social media and challenge fans who don’t agree with him.

No one is perfect, but his pure pig-headedness and refusal to look facts in the face is startling. Rather than own up to just some of the many horrible decisions he’s made, he’d prefer to challenge fans to ’10 rounds’.

He gift-wrapped the best manager this club’s had in the last 20 years and delivered him to Shrewsbury. He didn’t come out in support of the fans who were unfairly treated at Stevenage. He voted for the Checkatrade Trophy format that none of us wanted. He employs staff who accuse our fans of being bullies. He allegedly told some of them to fuck off at Accrington. He won’t tell us how long Slade’s contract is for.

And, despite all this – and more (believe me, there’s so much more) – he really does believe he’s open and honest.

John Fenty claiming he’s open and honest is like Shane MacGowan claiming he’s always enoyed a full set of pearly white teeth.

I’m not a fan of Russell Slade, but I don’t think sacking him will do any good because the man responsible for finding his replacement is the most untrustworthy thing at this football club. His track record in managerial appointments is abysmal.

Grimsby Town have gone from having a young, up-and-coming manager at the helm, who signed up-and-coming players who wanted to prove they had a career in the Football League, to having an older manager who signs older players who have nothing to prove to anyone. They’ve enjoyed a Football League career and they’re ready to bow out with a nice, juicy contract from the suckers at Blundell Park. What do they care if we fall back into the abyss? Their futures aren’t on the line.

If today’s defeat to Carlisle showed anything, it’s that we’re repeating the same mistakes that got us into non-league in the first place. The squad that got us promoted into League 2 just 18 months ago would wipe the floor with this lot.

For the good of the club, John Fenty, you have to step aside and let someone else steer the ship. You are all at sea.

You only sing when you’re rowing. Match report: Grimsby 0-0 Cambridge

In isolation, that wasn’t a bad 0-0 to watch. In the context of three consecutive goalless draws at Blundell Park, during which time we’ve suddenly made scoring look about as difficult as the EFL co-ordinating a live broadcast of a simple cup draw, it’s naturally irked the supporters who pay hard-earned money in return for the promise of some goals.

Let’s be fair to the players, though. That wind today was an absolute bitch. While we could quite easily groan at the lumpy nature of their distribution, the defence did well. McKeown, who hasn’t always shone in aerial battles, had a very solid afternoon and made a couple of crucial saves. And he absolutely nailed the art of kicking the ball straight into the dugouts despite having plenty of time to work out which way the wind was blowing.

And Cambridge’s former international goalkeeper David Forde showed in the first half that at the tender age of 37 he was able to move much quicker than he could take goal kicks to tip Scott Vernon’s header wide of the post and kept the game locked at 0-0.

He could do nothing about Sam Jones’s early effort, though, which rebounded squarely off the foot of the far post.

The thing I didn’t get about Cambridge was their attitude. They showed in short spells that they had the capacity to win the game, but it appeared right from the first minute that they’d come for a point.

Their lack of ambition was probably what stopped them from winning the game today, and you could probably level the same accusation at us, too.

As our top scorer and only genuine goal threat, Sam Jones was taken off in the second half and replaced by JJ Hooper, who barely touched the ball for the remaining 15 minutes.

Our next best attacking threat and second top goalscorer, Siriki Dembele, was then withdrawn for the guy from Norwich whose name no one seems to know how to pronounce, and he too got fuck all service in the remaining minutes as our tactic appeared to go from ‘kick it right hard’ to ‘kick it right high’ and those substitutions absolutely killed any chance of us nicking all three points.

On a day when the wind was driving the ball towards the corner between the Osmond and main stands, it would’ve been interesting to watch us at least try and pass it along the ground to see if that would negate the conditions to some degree. But why bother trying when you’ve got central defenders who are so good at punting it into the channels, irrespective of whether our strikers are making those runs.

And that’s the problem the fans have with this team at the minute. We might be seven unbeaten; we might have only lost once in our last 10 games – but our approach to games and our tactics within them are so bloody obvious it almost makes me want to cry. You could hang a bloody neon arrow with the words ‘coming this way’ above the heads of Vernon and Jones for about two minutes before Nathan Clarke and Danny Collins actually lump it that way. Cambridge’s two centre backs won almost everything in the air all afternoon.

We became a far more interesting team when we had the ball on the ground in the final third. Luke Summerfield had another effective game in the engine room. He might lack finesse but he at least looks to keep the ball on the ground and retain possession by keeping it simple.

James Berrett also put in a tigerish performance, but he constantly looks like he’s on the brink of getting a yellow card. Martyn Woolford showed his experience down the left but there just seems to be a lack of a partnership with him and Paul Dixon that inhibits our progression down that wing.

Only Morecambe and Crawley have scored fewer goals at home this season than us. However, I’m a fair man and I accept the point Slade made in his post-match interview that had we won our recent away games at home and drawn those boring home games away we might be feeling a bit more positive about our progress this season.

Our defence will keep us away from danger but it’s our attack that will prevent us from getting a sniff of the play-offs. It may have occurred in the league below us, but after signing him in January last year, scoring two goals in his first two games for us and looking sharp in pre-season, Adi Yussuf today scored a hat-trick for Barrow in their win over Aldershot.

It’s Groundhog Day

When the majority shareholder of your beloved football club chooses the cringeworthy username ‘getyourfactsright’ to sporadically spurt messages out on an independent forum (that, yes, is often teaming with cyniscim, flaky facts and unsubstantiated rumours) then you know all is not well in the Grimsby Town boardroom.

Rumours only exist when all of the facts are not there to work with. The topic that Mr Fenty chose to clarify on the Fishy Forum on this occasion was around the transfer of a number of shares that happened many years ago.

Ok, it’s a free country. If he wants to start a debate, or add fuel to an existing one, on an independent message board, then that’s his choice.

Personally speaking, I find it embarrassing.

There are fans who appreciate his honesty, and the effort he makes to reach out to us on the Fishy. After all, he doesn’t have to do it.

Well, yes he does. Because he makes such cock-ups of the original situations that he feels the need to clean up his mess, often years later.

You see, we need to ‘get our facts right’ because we got them wrong. And why did we get them wrong? Well, because he didn’t give us all the facts in the first place.

A little honesty up front goes a long, long way.

The departure of Paul Hurst rankles with me massively. Without any clarification from Fenty, we’re simply left to wonder why the man who sounded so committed to our future after our victory at Wembley then left for Shrewsbury just a few months later.

I’m not entirely sure why Marcus Bignot was sacked, either. The reasons I’ve heard are woolly to say the least. And if it was to do with signing all those midfielders, and it creating discontent within the squad, who sanctioned those signings?

I don’t think I heard the honest truth about the way Russell Slade was approached and appointed, either – particularly around what happened when.

Yesterday I tweeted this:

When all seemed lost in April 2010 (and it was, at half time at Accrington, when we were 2-0 down and staring into the abyss) we somehow rallied and recovered to win 3-2, and keep our slender hopes of survival alive.

We all know how that story ended, but the point is this – as bad as we were (and we were pretty bad) I was willing to fork out a fair few quid every week and travel wherever I needed to give my football club the backing it needed to have a chance of staying in the Football League.

After spending six years in the National League, travelling to all sorts of places I’d never been before, and giving Hurst my absolute backing (no matter how much abuse it brought me on the Fishy) I thought the reward would be more than this.

Three managers in one season. Reviving WD40’s company by relentlessly greasing the hinges on Blundell Park’s revolving door as players come and go.

The sale of Bogle. The departure of Disley. The criminal release of Pearson.

The squad is full of unfamiliar players. We’ve abandoned everything we did right in non-league – signing young, up-and-coming players, backing an up-and-coming manager who is now more than proving his worth in the league above.

Where we once showed patience with Hurst, we showed none to Bignot.

The football is dull. The discipline is questionable. The recruitment looks untidy and worryingly bang average. I’m not sure what we have within our squad that gives me any excitement for the future – apart from the likes of Jamey Osborne and Sam Jones, who were both recruited by Bignot.

Harry Clifton will continue to be ignored. Max Wright will probably be at Boston by the end of the season.

I didn’t go to Newport yesterday. Why would I? All those miles to travel, all that money it would’ve cost me. And for what?

Huge respect for the fans that went. They deserved far more than what they got. Plenty will continue to spend their money and stand by the team, even when it’s playing dull football going nowhere fast.

Fenty is a fan of the club. He’s a successful businessman. But that’s about as far as it goes. Just when I thought we’d learned lessons from being in non-league, we return to find that we’ve actually learnt none.

If we continue to make the same mistakes, and be led by the same person who’ll continue to make those mistakes then, well, you know as well as I do where that’ll see us end up.

And I don’t want to go there again.

For the first time in my life I feel like I don’t want to go to another Grimsby match all season. We’ve been worse, but it’s not just about the quality of football.

It’s about waking up every Saturday morning and it feeling like Groundhog Day.

Pain and agony. Match report: Grimsby 0-2 Coventry

I’m not sure what was more brutal – The Revenant, which I watched on Friday night, or the physiotherapy I endured on Saturday morning. I’d never had physio before and I must admit, I’d grossly underestimated the whole experience. By the end of it I kind of knew how Di Caprio felt after being thrown around by that bear.

So in complete agony I drove back to Blundell Park where more pain was inflicted upon me as I had the misfortune to watch the Mariners put in a nothing performance and lose 2-0 against Coventry in front of a decent crowd (6,767).

I’ll openly admit that I hadn’t followed Town’s ins and outs very closely over the summer, so when the players kicked off it took me a little time to work out who was who and where they were meant to be playing. By the final whistle I’d just about worked out who was who but I was none the wiser as to where they were meant to be playing. We were all over the shop. The players looked like they’d skipped any sort of pre-season, where you’d normally expect them to work on things like shape, discipline and communication, and basically played 90 minutes of a clippy-hoof-no-plan-B brand of football that you’d expect if the worst parts of Hurst and Bignot had morphed into one being and became our manager for the day.

There were two players too good for League 2 on the pitch: Jodi Jay Felice Jones of Coventry City and Siriki Dembele of Grimsby Town. Everyone else either chose to play like League 2 cloggers because that’s exactly what they are, or they couldn’t be arsed.

In truth, the first half was an awful game of football. It was the sort of game that made you wonder why you spend all summer looking forward to football returning, because it was shit. Dembele got a few fans out of their seats with a stirring run before playing in Jones, but he dragged his shot wide. In the second half, Jones would blast two efforts over the bar – one of which he really should’ve got on target – and that was it from us in attack. It’s unlikely that their keeper will have an easier day.

Cardwell, up top on his own? It was painful to watch.

Dembele drifted and occasionally darted, but for all the skill that he showed he didn’t ever hurt the Coventry defence. And while Jones was the only Town player to take a shot at goal all afternoon, I’m not convinced his best role is in attacking midfield. He did enough last season to prove he’s got what it takes to be a striker in this division. We should play him there, with Vernon if possible. They looked like they struck up an understanding when paired together against Yeovil last season but they’ve barely been partnered together since.

As for Berrett, I only noticed him twice all afternoon and they were for the two yellow cards he picked up.

Coventry’s opener wasn’t controversial; it simply shouldn’t have stood. The referee had been quite fussy all game about taking free kicks from the correct position, so when Clark knocked the ball back for McKeown to take our free kick from the correct position, the ref suddenly didn’t care about us being 10 yards further up the pitch – or that McNulty, who went on to walk the ball into an empty net, was stood just two yards away when the kick was taken.

But there can be absolutely no doubt that Coventry deserved the win. They finished the first half stronger and were in complete control once they’d taken that lead. They forced McKeown into two good saves – one in each half – and they perhaps had one of the clearest penalties I’ve ever seen at Blundell Park not given when the deadlock was yet to be broken.

However, Town were so inept that it’s difficult to tell how good Coventry are, or what they’re likely to achieve this season. If they go on to win the title, or get promoted, then there’s no shame in losing 2-0 at home to them, but I suspect we’ve got a lot more to show in the games to come.

Broken bonds

The only two players whose names I’d have considered getting printed on the back of my replica shirt have now left the club.

Thanks Diz. Thanks Shaun. Thanks for the memories.

They each gave six years to the Mariners. In that time, they came to understand what it was like to be part of the town. They both lived locally, and did work in the community. They were both honest and committed players, with the skill and graft to get us back in the Football League.

They were (and possibly still are) fans of the club.

I just watched the play-off final video again, with JT’s commentary, and while I still get incredibly emotional when Arnold rolls the ball home, the end scene – when the team lifts the trophy – now feels tainted.

There were so many happy faces on the Wembley balcony that day.

And now, a little over one year later, the only person who remains at the club is James McKeown – a player who nearly left us in January.

We won at Wembley to finally achieve what we’d come close to achieving on three previous occasions. What got us over the line that day wasn’t just skill, but also a special bond and team spirit that had grown in the squad over a number of years.

The likes of Disley and Pearson were at the heart of that bond.

Had we been able to keep that squad together, I’m certain we’d have achieved at least a 14th place finish in League 2 this season.

To be honest, I’d have accepted finishing 15th or 16th this season, if it was that promotion squad, because I’d fallen in love with it. They were playing for us.

There’s a lot to be said for continuity in football. Winning is a habit, as they say. Leicester and Chelsea have won the last two Premier League titles having made the fewest changes to their starting XIs.

As Bristol Rovers proved, from the season before, it was possible to go up again with virtually the same squad. I was desperate for us to keep the majority of our squad together, and it’s a crying shame that it wasn’t.

Fair enough, you’re not going to keep Tait from playing in the Scottish Premier League, or Nolan from plying his trade in League 1, if that’s what they wanted.

But letting Amond go to Hartlepool after scoring 37 goals for us in one season?

Personally speaking, I thought Robertson and Clay were worth another season after they’d worked so hard to get us over the line.

What happened – or what didn’t happen – with Arnold is possibly the most upsetting, yet typifying, moment of last summer. No player is bigger than the club but, come on, the guy was good enough for League 2.

Did we dick around with contracts? Whatever the real story is, from the outside it looked like we weren’t prepared to reward those promotion winners with the contracts they were looking for.

Although it’s only recent history, I feel like it’s history that has already written itself. Of this era, our future Wikipedia page will read:

“After spending years building a team the fans could be proud of, the club then ripped it apart the very summer they returned to the Football League. Further instability followed when new manager Marcus Bignot made a host of unnecessary signings.”

On the pitch, we’ve had an acceptable first season back in the Football League. Off it, we’ve been awful.

Three managers, poor recruitment and lop-sided formations were just a few of the main issues. We’ve slipped back into our old ways. Bridges built through campaigns like Operation Promotion feel like they’ve burnt away because we have a non-chairman who doesn’t know how to communicate in the 21st century.

And now two of our most loyal and esteemed players have been released. With them goes any remaining bond between the players and fans.

Slade built a competitive squad for 2005/6, but while they came close to delivering success I don’t think I felt as close to those players as I did with the class of 2015/16.

By releasing Disley and Pearson, I hope we’re not swapping loyal grafters for disinterested journeymen who won’t be with us in six, five or even two years’ time.

“Look at the scenes behind the goal! The agony is finally over!”

We all know what happened on Sunday 15th May 2016.

Grimsby Town beat Forest Green Rovers 3-1 in the National League play-off final to win promotion back to the Football League after a six-year absence.

We’ve seen the goals a million times. We’ve replayed them again and again in our minds, and on YouTube.

I think it’s fair and accurate to say, I could never get fed up of watching Nathan Arnold slot away our third goal in injury time.

But as I was at the match – and not listening from a hotel in Seattle (as I was in 2015) – I always wondered what it would be like to watch the TV footage but with John Tondeur’s commentary.

So, ladies and gentlemen. After a few hours of trying to work out how the hell you put something like this together, here you have it.

Grimsby Town’s play-off victory as you’ve (possibly) never seen it before. Enjoy.

Take it away, JT!