Being economical with the truth

For the first time ever, I think, Grimsby Town’s transfer activity on deadline day stopped me from going to bed at a sensible hour. I actually went to sleep believing that Omar Bogle was still our player, but woke up this morning to find he is not.

No one knows how much Wigan paid for him, or what kind of deal we negotiated, or how¬†well Solihull did out of the whole thing. I’m sure this will all become clear once the Fishy has speculated to such a degree that it either drives one of the shareholders to put the issue to bed with a badly written¬†club statement, or Wigan relax and let us know from their end.

Anyway, good luck Omar – you did us proud. That winner you got at Braintree in the play-off semi final second leg was a moment I’ll never forget, and those two goals in the play-off final at Wembley still give me goosebumps, as well as a glimpse into what football heaven is really like.

I can live with his departure. We always knew he would go for a fee, and him going now means we probably got more money than we’d have got if we held onto him until the summer.

The cash will surely be used to cover the transfer fees and wages of our eight new additions – Adi Yussuf, Gavin Gunning, Jamey Osborne, Chris Clements, Akwasi Asante, Luke Maxwell, Sam Jones and Calum Dyson.

So, eight in, one out – although I expect more than just Bogle will be heading out of ‘the BP’ in the next week or two as the shunned squad players contemplate the prospect of not even warming the bench but sitting on a standard plastic seat in the stands like the rest of us. Or staying at home.

I fully supported the appointment of Marcus Bignot and I still believe things will come good. He hasn’t made¬†that bad a start as Mariners boss, on a points-per-game basis, although it is worrying to see the standard of our performances dropping when really they should’ve started badly and gradually improved as the players got to grips with his new style and system.

He’s made radical changes after initially saying everyone at the club would get a chance to prove themselves with a run in the team. I don’t think he’s delivered on that promise.

He also said Bogle wasn’t for sale, and sold him, and said he wants to keep Disley when he clearly doesn’t intend on using him. Bignot says Disley can leave on his terms, like he’s doing him a favour, and being respectful. Maybe¬†Disley just doesn’t want to go?

And then there’s been that disagreement between him and our loyal first choice keeper. McKeown said the boss made it very clear he wouldn’t play again this season, and Bignot says otherwise. I don’t know who to believe – the person who has been at the club for six years and been as honest as the day is long, or someone who’s been at the club two minutes and already lied about a number of things.

I say ‘lied’. I’m not sure it’s quite that bad. Let’s just say Bignot is economical with the truth, and knows what the fans want to hear. It’s strange, because our last manager had no idea what the fans wanted to hear, and he was often hammered for it.

The manager claims we don’t have any width in midfield. He didn’t include the only two players capable of offering width, Bolarinwa or Chambers, in his latest squad of 18, then tells Chambers he’s free to leave.

Then he signs four central midfielders when we already have six on our books, three strikers and a centre back – and no wingers.

It’s just odd. I don’t know what to make of it all.

This was meant to be a season of celebration and stability. We’d have all been happy to see the team that got us promoted stay together and continue battling for each other to finish 12th in League 2. I know I would’ve.

But Hurst broke it up more severely than I could’ve expected, and the team he left us with has been broken up severely again just a couple of months on. Those few players who survived the Hurst cull, and the ones we connected with the most – McKeown, Disley, Gowling – are no longer in the side. It seems a shame.

In fact, I just looked at the XI who beat Forest Green on that marvellous day in May and not one of them will start our next match at home to Luton:

McKeown – out of the side and looking to leave
Tait – left for Motherwell
Robertson – released and retired
Gowling – out of the side and told he can leave
Nsiala – left for Hartlepool
Arnold – released and joined Lincoln
Nolan – left for Chesterfield
Clay – released and joined Motherwell
Disley – out of the side and told he can leave
Bogle – sold to Wigan
Amond – left for Hartlepool

Today’s sole survivor is Shaun Pearson, who was only on the bench for the play-off final and came on as an injury time¬†sub:

Pearson – in the side
East – released and joined Guiseley
Marshall – released and joined Boston United
Pittman – released and joined Harrogate Town
Hoban – released and joined Mansfield

I’m not one for living in the past, as the last 15 years haven’t been particularly kind to us. Football moves on, and so should we, but the success of last season was the result of a manager who was given time to build a squad and create a style of play that gave us the best chance possible of winning promotion.

The same has to apply here. Things are messy now, but I’m sure that once everything settles down – and that still might not happen just yet, what with about eight players looking for new clubs – we’ll perhaps begin to see what Bignot is trying to build.

I’m sure he’s a good manager, but it’s difficult to believe anything¬†we’re told right now. If he builds an exciting and attacking squad that gets us scoring plenty of goals and pushing for the play-offs, then there won’t be many complaints.

Campbell: The Scottish Enigma

Leicester City team including Stuart Campbell celebrating on the pitchEarlier today I saw an image of the Leicester City team from the late 1990s and, within it, a fresh faced ex-Mariner. Proud of my knowledge (and sight – I need glasses now) I put it to Twitter to see who else was on my level. But to tell you the truth, you probably didn’t even have to look at the picture to take a guess at his identity, such is the dearth of talent we’ve acquired from what will soon be crowned England’s finest domestic team.

Ok, it could’ve been Ashley Chambers – we took him on loan from the Foxes. I’d forgotten about him (as had we all, until he returned to score against us for York).

Anyway, it was Stuart Campbell. Scottish by name, Scottish by nature (at least in the sense that his performances were of the underwhelming fashion that left fans shrugging shoulders and feeling a bit ‘meh’ about his inability to play to his potential). He didn’t wear a kilt or swig Irn Bru, to my knowledge – although he was fond of wearing an invisible cape.

Campbell was Mr Invisible. I’m not sure if it was Tony Butcher’s reports on Cod Almighty that first gave him that tag, or a description that all Town fans somehow reached unanimously, but it stuck. It was his ability to blend so effortlessly into nothingness, and disappear in matches that, oddly, made him stand out. While the rest of his teammates were being marked out of 10 by the fans, Campbell’s score wasn’t even a number – fans just marked the word ‘dunno’ next to his name.

We were never angry with his performances; just disappointed.

I felt a bit sorry for him, because when he originally joined on loan, in the 2000/01 season (making him a Lennie Lawrence signing), he showed promise. He’d earned international caps for the under-21s, and displayed some dynamism in a very cosmopolitan Town team that was knitted together in a hurry and battling for second division survival. Alongside Paul Groves in the centre of midfield, he initially looked the part, but then Lennie became obsessed with partnering him with Danny right-back-all-day-long Butterfield and the two of them looked a bit lost. I’m still not sure how that combination – with Ben Chapman on the left – ‘worked’ at Liverpool, you know.

I remember the 2002/3 season, sadly, when Campbell finished top scorer with eight goals. Those were the days. Podge scored eight before pre-season was over, and I’m not even joking. We might be non-league, but we’re nowhere near as shit as we were back then in relative terms.

To many, Campbell was an enigma. He was with us, he just did nothing for us. He stood out (bad turn of phrase) on the left wing to plug a gap in that relegation season, despite not having a left foot, or any pace, and having played most of his career up until that point in the centre.

I think that probably underlines how poor a squad we had that year. I still remember feeling excited about the signings of Steve Chettle and Darren Barnard, and not detecting any scent of the panicky nature those late-in-the-day moves actually represented. I got Campbell’s match shirt that summer in circumstances I cannot even recollect.

After leaving the Mariners following our relegation to the fourth division, Campbell moved to Bristol Rovers and captained them to promotion (before taking them back down as caretaker manager). Wikipedia describes him as ‘one of their most popular skippers’.

Everyone’s favourite research tool also tells me that he finished his playing career in the US with Tampa Bay Rowdies, and has since become their head coach – where, no doubt, he employs the managerial tactic favoured by Drop The Dead Donkey’s Gus Hedges (who for those who don’t know insisted that he remained invisible to the news team he was responsible for).

He made more than 150 appearances for the Mariners across four seasons, under four different managers – and he put in a wicked cross for Marlon Broomes to sweep home in that victory at Anfield.

Do you have a favourite Stuart Campbell memory? Bristol Rovers fans: what did you make of him?