We’re not just repeating mistakes from 2009/10 – we’re repeating mistakes from last year

Today’s Cod Almighty diary notes that this Saturday’s match squad for our trip to in-form Crawley will include precisely no one who played for us this time last year in a 5-0 defeat at Crewe.

I was at Gresy Road that day and witnessed the calamity. It was obvious that the starting XI were complete strangers – and if the weird formation Marcus Bignot imposed wasn’t confusing enough for a team that was still trying to learn each other’s names, they then had to play with Gavin Gunning.

Although it wasn’t nice to watch, I was just about willing to accept that these things happen because, you know, football is played by human beings with emotions and feelings and a whole host of issues that could affect their mental preparations to the point where it impacts negatively on their physical ability.

Remember the context – we had a (relatively) new manager who got over-excited and splurged a load of cash on new players, and then he threw them into a team that was trying to gel again after Paul Hurst found an escape route to Shrewsbury.

And we’d just lost our talisman, Omar Bogle. Is it any wonder we played badly?

The squad upheaval, combined with a change in tactics, training and culture, most definitely contributed to our downfall that day (and other days besides).

Therefore, I find it incredible that within 12 months we find ourselves in exactly the same situation. Not one survivor from a squad of SIXTEEN in that short time? Madness.

Once again, we’ve let a manager act like a child given keys to the sweet shop.

We’ve literally let Russell Slade repeat the same mistakes Bignot made – only Slade has generally signed poorer players, got the team playing uglier football and has now delivered our worst run of league results in eight years.

Slade has also begun replacing players that he signed on two-year contracts only six months ago.

John Fenty recently made it clear to a couple of fans in a car that Bignot wasn’t sacked based on results (which was a shame for our PR department because, as we all know, our PR is done on the pitch).

By drawing on all my investigative instincts I can deduce, therefore, that Bignot was sacked for what he did off the pitch – namely signing a shit load of players, just because he could.

And for being a ‘fruit loop’, whatever that means.

It’s a shame none of our esteemed directors had the foresight or balls in January 2017 to say: ‘Marcus, I know you’re excited that you have all this money to spend, but we really think 12 central midfielders is enough for a team in the fourth division. You don’t need a 13th.’

Similarly, none of our directors felt able to say: ‘Russ, I know you don’t like half the players you signed in the summer but it’s December and we’re in the top half, just a few points outside the play-offs. They’re not that bad. You don’t need to sign another entire squad on loan.’

Every accusation levelled at Bignot can be levelled at Slade, and then some. If Bignot was a fruit loop then how would you describe someone who loans players from other clubs to replace permanent members of the squad because he played them for five minutes and decided they were crap?

When Grimsby Town’s starting XI walks out onto the pitch at Crawley, we’ll be once again watching a bunch of strangers still trying to learn each other’s names while dealing with new tactics, training and culture. The football will be dull and difficult to watch. The players won’t be easily identifiable or that well known to us.

It won’t be a team of Grimsby players, but players who just happen to be playing for Grimsby.

When Russell Slade says he’s a builder not a fixer, he’s lying. The smoke emanating from his fiery pants is clouding his sight and the inhalation is clearly affecting his judgment.

We aren’t just repeating mistakes from 2009/10 when we got relegated to non-league; we’re repeating mistakes that we made only last year.

We continue to learn nothing.

 

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Wilted spinach. Match report: Crewe 5-0 Grimsby

Every time I go to watch Grimsby Town play a match of association football, we’re shit. Totally shit. Absolutely hopeless.

Now, I know this isn’t a very fair reflection of where we are right now. We’re not shit, totally shit or absolutely hopeless, generally. We’re actually just six points outside the League 2 play-offs.

We’re only shit, totally shit and absolutely hopeless, it seems, when I’m in the stands.

The trip to Gresty Road was my eighth match of the season – I’ve seen us win one (at home to Morecambe on the opening day), draw one (at home to Barnet in Marcus Bignot’s first game in charge) and lose the other six.

And all those six have been to nil. And totally shit, of course.

The home defeat to Cheltenham was bleak. The home defeat to Portsmouth was painful. Let’s not forget I paid over £80 to go to Stevenage a fortnight ago, where I was treated to a load of shit on a concrete canvas.

Oh, and I saw the home defeat to Crewe, too.

Last season – a season in which we were quite good and won promotion – I only made four away games, and we lost three of those. And I thought that defeat at Halifax was shit.

All this makes following the Mariners more difficult than it needs to be.

The thing about Gresty Road is that it’s one of the least intimidating grounds to play at. It has one huge and sparsely populated stand with no one making any noise, and Town’s contingent tucked away in a concrete replica of Blundell Park’s wooden Main Stand, making all the noise.

More than half our squad live just a few miles down the M6. I mean, for Christ’s sake, an away game at Crewe couldn’t have felt any more like a home game for our lot.

Added to this, Crewe couldn’t win for shit. And their manager, David Artell – who’s one Sainsbury’s carrier bag short of being Angelos Epithemou – even did our team talk for us, saying that Alex have got better players than us.

That comment clearly didn’t ignite the fire in any of our players’ bellies because we went there and flopped over pathetically like a slop of wilted spinach on a dieter’s dinner plate .

I’m not one for being unnecessarily critical to the point where you ruin someone’s self-confidence or career, but I should also point out that I’m very fond of the cruel-to-be-kind scenario. Which works out well for match reports like these.

The first half, other than telling me that Crewe were better at scoring than we were – to the tune of four – it also taught me that:

Yussuf couldn’t hold up a post office queue of old grannies with a sawed off shotgun, let alone our mixture of panicked clearances and aimless punts.

I’m not sure I can even call it ‘long ball’ tactics because long ball, by its very nature, implies some sort of method – usually hoofing the ball in the general direction of a player, ideally big enough and strong enough to hold it up.

Dyson looks like he might be a bit taller and stronger than Yussuf. Unfortunately he also looks a clumsier and less mobile version of Andy Cook. I didn’t see us win one aerial dual all half.

We were carved open down the wings. Davies and Andrew weren’t full backs, or wingers, or wing backs. They can’t have been – because if they were, Crewe wouldn’t have put 214 crosses into our box in 45 minutes.

Pearson seemed to play more like a right back, Collins a left back, and Gunning completely exposed in the middle.

And if someone could’ve told me which one of Clements, Comley and Osborne was meant to be in this very modern ‘holding position’, then they’d have been lying because no one occupied that space at all.

We just let Crewe’s roaming forward line run at us, and run at us, and drive into huge, sweeping spaces between the centre circle and the edge of our box.

As for conceding from direct free kicks, it’s getting silly now. Portsmouth, Donny, Stevenage and now Crewe. It’s happening too frequently for it to just be ‘bad luck’. Clearly we’re doing something fundamentally wrong.

The fourth goal was probably offside, but we’d just wasted a load of money and a load of breath supporting a team that couldn’t defend against the fourth worst side in the entire Football League, so we weren’t about to waste more valuable oxygen on the officials too.

If it wasn’t for McKeown, it could’ve been six or seven by half time. I’m sure he made an incredible save low down at some point, but what with all those goals flying in it’s difficult to remember at what stage he made it.

He also made an outstanding save in the second half, but almost got caught out from a spectacular lob from way out (which he managed to push over the bar), before having a rush goalie moment and getting away with it.

Ah yes, the second half. After making all three subs at the break, Bignot shuffled his pack into a more familiar 4-4-2 formation and we immediately looked more comfortable.

Or Crewe took their foot off the gas quite considerably. It was one or the other – but most probably a classic mix of both.

Davies and Collins were full backs, with Pearson and Gunning as centre backs. Bolarinwa was on the right wing, Osborne was definitely central, while Comley and Clements appeared to take it in shifts on the left. Sam Jones and Asante were our new strike pair.

It’s difficult to know how to feel about that second half because the game had gone and the whole thing felt like a training match. We weren’t as much as a shambles – in fact we controlled large periods – but we still managed to lose the half 1-0 and blaze the only genuine clear-cut chance we created all game high and wide from six yards.

Their fifth. Yeah. Converted by a totally unmarked and unseen Crewe player running in on the edge of our box.

There was just enough time for Gunning to absolutely poleaxe one of Crewe’s tricky midfielders, who was weaving and sliding his way through the spine of our team like an Olympic bobsleigher until Gunning decided to give up on any thought of playing football and shoulder-barge the flash bastard to the ground.

He was kind of lucky not to be sent off for that, given that we know this ref sends players off for less.

At the full time whistle, only Pearson truly applauded the fans (before Bignot instructed the rest of the team to do the same after their huddled de-brief on the pitch).

It was a strange post-match situation, and not one I’ve experienced before. The majority of the fans wanted to let the players know that the performance was not acceptable, so they booed – but they weren’t really into the booing because, after all, this is a relatively new squad, with young players, and most of us are still on speaking terms with Bignot.

So it was ‘boo Town, you’re rubbish, boooo’ but then also clap, clap, clap, fair enough, you’ve not gone running down the tunnel. But still. ‘Boo, rubbish, sort it Bignots’. Then more clapping.

Then Bignot came over and spoke with the fans. There was some sort of apology. There was also something said that he took personally, but I didn’t find out what that was.

Bignot has built his side now. The January transfer window closed, and the squad is locked in. We’ve made our bed, and now we’ve got to lie in it.

But yesterday we defecated all over the sheets.