Getting clean: The detox begins.

Well, that’s that, then. Grimsby Town are non-league. Again.

There’s a lot to process after last night’s 3-2 defeat at Exeter, which made the Greatest of Great Escapes mathematically impossible.

There was the manner of defeat to deal with — and then there was the manner of Radio Humberside’s coverage, which had to conduct emotionally-charged (and even tearful) interviews over a phone because they refused to send a reporter to the game.

But possibly the most galling thing about last night is this:

The team that got relegated at Exeter is not the team that deserved to get relegated.

Sadly, many of those who are responsible, including former ‘manager’ and professional prat Ian Holloway, are no longer at the club.

Obviously there’s one key player who remains. But hopefully not for long.

Of course, there can be no arguments that we deserve to go down. It’s been a lousy season. A truly horrible, forgettable one.

In terms of points-per-game, there may be little to separate Hurst from Holloway — but that is to overlook the work he has done to build a team that has restored some pride in what has been a largely hopeless campaign.

He is not immune from criticism and has, for sure, made a few mistakes along the way. But that’s gonna happen when you’re forced to basically re-build a squad, mid-season.

“Player A, meet Player B. Now play like you’ve always played together. And hurry up, we haven’t got much time. Players C, D and E, I hope you were listening.”

The likes of Giles Coke and Lenell John-Lewis have brought a committed and workmanlike attitude that was so desperately missing.

Elliott Hewitt and Harry Clifton found another gear. Rollin Menayese and Jay Matete have been excellent loans.

No more darts tournaments. No more misshapen balls. No more weird post-match comments about mud being on the mud.

The temptation is to think of today as a low point. But the low point was months ago.

We’re already on the up. Okay, we’ve got to drop down to a shambolic league whose governance has been seriously called into question first, but hey — you can’t make an omelette without breaking the morale of the fans, as they say.

But the takeover edges closer. We know who our manager will be next season. We know we’ll get a hard-working team of pros.

We’ll be allowed to actually go to games.

No one wants relegation. But if it’s a consequence of the detox we’ve so desperately needed to rid ourselves of an addiction forced upon us by a power-rich tyrant, then so be it.

Delaying the inevitable. Match report: Oldham 1-2 Grimsby

I was mentally prepared to accept relegation yesterday, and we couldn’t even do that. In victory, Grimsby Town still manage to disappoint me.

Our victory at Oldham — one of the dozens of sides to have established themselves as a Grimsby bogie team during the John Fenty era — is surely only delaying the inevitable.

But it did mean social media was a happier place in the evening, rather than the depressing post mortem that would’ve surely seen hundreds of us dissect the season and all come to the same logical conclusion:

John Fenty and Ian Holloway are a pair of little shits.

It’s the Grimsby version of Godwin’s law. Instead of protracted online conversations ending with some reference to Hitler, ours end with Fenty.

I was one of the few thousand that made the effort to be at Burton in 2010 when our football club, and its fans, stooped to new lows. I felt a lot of things that day, but a general sense of ‘meh’ wasn’t one of them.

Yet that’s how I felt yesterday ahead of kick-off. It’s odd, because you’d think I’d be fucking livid. After all, getting relegated to non-league once is painful; twice would be unbearable.

But the writing had been on the wall for a long time — since pre-season in fact. Pre-season; what’s one of those? Exactly.

In attempting to keep our best player at the club, the board, in all its wisdom, offered him less money than he was already on.

Clearly, due to the lack of any sort of planning, the board felt the season wouldn’t conclude. Just when you thought no one else couldn’t be any more short-sighted than our ramshackle collection of suited gits, Ian Holloway asks us to hold his beer.

That man should not be a football manager.

We start losing lots, Fenty courts a convicted property fraudster, the takeover is back on, then it’s off, then Holloway says he’s not leaving, then he leaves, then the takeover’s back on again, then it’s off again…

Paul Hurst returns to the club, we still can’t win, then we finally win one, then we lose more, then we just seem to draw every game we play.

One of our players headbutts another of our players — that old chestnut.

The truth is, I didn’t want to pay £10 to watch iFollow and witness our relegation confirmed. There, I said it.

I’m glad those who did bother to pay £10 and risk witnessing the worst got some sort of reward.

I’ve called this article a match report, which is ambitious if you think about the fact that I neither watched nor listened to a second of the action.

“I didn’t go today Burnsy but…”

All I know is from what I saw on Twitter. Town started slowly, went behind in the first half, equalised early in the second through the much-maligned Matt Green and won it at the end with an outstanding strike from Jay Matete.

There’s your match report.

Looking at the League 2 table tonight, a defeat would have pretty much sent us down, barring an outrageous goal difference swing. We live to fight another day.

I recently watched the 10-part HBO series The Terror. It’s an excellent watch, if you like your TV programmes to be as bleak as your football team’s season, and I couldn’t help thinking about its narrative, and the parallels it shares with Town’s 2020/21 campaign.

This next bit contains spoilers — although, if you know anything about Sir John Franklin’s expedition to discover the North West Passage in the mid-19th century, you’ll be aware that it doesn’t end well.

You have the apply named Sir John — the dangerously arrogant leader of the expedition — captaining two ships into an ice pack, which traps them there for longer than the crew can bear.

You know this story doesn’t end well, yet you can’t help but watch. You’re sort of paralysed into witnessing some fairly horrific events play out.

You feel empathy for many of the crew members, but not John, who gets his leg bitten off by some kind of polar bear monster and then dumped down a fire hole while still semi-conscious.

Apparently, the writers drafted an alternative ending where John survives and gets £2.5m for wrecking the ships, and the final scene was him perched on the edge of his snooker table, warming his feet in front of the fire place looking smug.

But that would have been silly.

Barely conscious. Match report: Scunthorpe 3-0 Grimsby

This match was billed as one of Grimsby Town’s most important of recent times and we played like it was a kick-about at Sidney Park.

The players looked like they’d spent a day idling around at school and were just looking to mess about for a bit at home time until their parents called them in for their tea.

James McKeown asked whose ball it was, and then we played in the submissive way that people do when they seek parity but know they’re chronically inferior.

And it’s not as if Scunny are any good. At all.

Just under 11 months ago we went down the M180 and beat them with goals from a couple of their former players. They had a man sent off and Kevin van Veen was baited every time he touched the ball.

You actually felt sorry for them. They looked abysmal and offered nothing. Ian Holloway came onto the pitch at full time to applaud the fans, and we all went home happy with the result and felt positive about our future.

Of course, we weren’t to know that a global pandemic would finish the season — just like we weren’t to know that we’d release some of our best players and replace them with non-league punts because our board wasn’t willing to contribute a single penny of its combined wealth during a crisis that threatened our existence.

And yet, they insisted Shutes & Co prove they had the funds to get us through any potential hardship. Brazen. 

Scunny are no better now than they were on 7 March 2020. Our victory on that date proved to be another false dawn — a bit like the one we were given when JJ Hooper scored a hat-trick at the tree huggers and we could dream of not being in the bottom half of the fourth division.

Then, as now, we went backwards. Austerity (which is not his real name) tightened his purse strings, and his grip around the neck of the club, to leave us barely conscious. 

And that’s what we got on Saturday; a set of barely-conscious footballers going through the motions, ambling about as if there’s nothing left in their lives to inspire or motivate them. Not even a beer-fuelled darts tournament at a raucous Ally Pall could wake this lot up.

I’ve not really said anything about the players this season as the issues have clearly been at the top (three relegations, and a very possible fourth, tells you everything you need to know about the Fenty era).

Town’s penchant for giving away soft or needless free kicks, and being offside, remained a strong feature of our play — as did defending like donkeys.

Granted, the free kick that led to the opening goal wasn’t a free kick — and Eisa’s strike was special — but everyone knows there are always moments in football you can’t legislate for and yet we responded to this setback by reverting to type.

Heads dropped. A quick glance at each other. A shrug of the shoulders. No words. No galvanising. No leadership.

At one insane point, Matt Green got the wrong side of his marker to bear down on goal, albeit at an angle, but he delayed his strike and gave the defender enough time to get a block in.

We can’t do anything in the final third but as soon as we invite the opposition into our area it’s absolute chaos.

I’m not even sure how Scunthorpe’s second went in — I thought it was an own goal from our debutant loanee Rollin Menayese. But forget soft, it was positively soggy.

No one took charge and no one belted the ball clear when they had half a sniff.

We hoped we might have got a bit of new manager bounce under Hurst, but that didn’t happen. At the very least we thought we could keep us shape? No such football fortune.

This isn’t a dig at Hurst. His half-time triple substitution sort of made a difference, but then how could it not, given the bar had been set lower than Gavin Gunning.

The Iron’s third was probably — marginally — offside, but it says something about Town’s fans when, in a crucial local derby, none of us are even bothering to debate it given its futility. Scunny could’ve scored just once and they’d have been comfortable winners.

I watched the full 90 minutes on iFollow and the match report could be as succinct as this: Scunthorpe, without being at their best — and, let’s be honest, their best ain’t great — scored three goals.

Grimsby, on the other hand? Foul. Offside. Foul. Offside. Oh ffs. Foul. Offside. Come on, ref.

Given the situation, and given what was on the line, it was probably the poorest showing from a Town team in a long while. Well, since that tripe at Tranmere.

And yet Hurst’s post-match interview was probably one of the best. I found myself standing up and applauding him from my dining table at home when he tore into the players and questioned their desire.

When your whole career exists in such a competitive environment, your desire should be the last thing that gets questioned.

The league table doesn’t quite look as disastrous as it could have done, had Southend not lost in the week and then again on Saturday.

Stevenage lost also. And by virtue of not playing, Barrow improved their situation too. Scunthorpe have put distance between themselves and us on a day when we could have gone above them. I don’t believe Bradford are in any genuine danger of going down.

The next two games — away at Barrow and home to Stevenage — have quickly become must-win when a must-not-lose scenario had previously been the minimum requirement.

In terms of quality, this is one of the worst fourth divisions I’ve seen since we began playing in it in 2004. And we’re one of the worst teams in it.

Getting us back into the Football League was hard work. If Hurst keeps us in it from this position, it’ll rank as an even better achievement.

The Holloway Year: a tale of chaos, calamities and dishonesty

Ah, do you remember the time we were managed by that great footballing philosopher, Ian Holloway? When the path was the path and mud went on the mud?

Well, the mud got chucked at the wall, in the hope that some of it stuck. Very little of it did. And then we found out it wasn’t mud, but shit.

It all still seems like a very bad dream, except it actually happened. The almost total absence of pre-season; the covid-clause; a complete absence of an assistant manager; signing 74 attacking players who, between them, couldn’t score at a Bags’ Ball.

I mean, we’re just scratching the surface here. Playing Harry Clifton at left back; releasing two centre backs when we were playing three in the first team; signing seven players on season-long loans when we could only name a maximum of five in a match day squad. The Bilel Mohsni scooter thing.

I watched the film Compliance recently. It’s based on a true story — a caller posed as a police officer and got some restaurant staff to do some unimaginable things to each other because all the workers accepted the caller’s authority without question.

When you think about it, Holloway did a whole load of stuff to us that was weird at best, and damaging at worst. And we just sleepwalked through it.

I suppose we went along with it because, you know, it was Ian Holloway; the football manager for the Mighty Boosh generation.

We knew he was quirky; it was part of the deal. Not everything he said made sense, but that was fine because he’s kooky and eccentric. And he got Blackpool into the Premier League that time (just as Town were being relegated from the Football League).

Mad as a box of frogs. Daft, but in a harmless way. At least that was the theory.

Plymouth fans warned us that he might ditch us the moment he gets a better offer. Millwall fans warned us that he might be shit.

But he’d become more than a manager here, investing £100,000 into the club and joining the board of directors. It later turned out that he never made that investment.

That, even if it felt generous, was a little unusual. But, you know, it’s Ian Holloway. It was a sign of his commitment, and certainly not for a more-than-dubious investment opportunity that we were only going to find out about 11 months down the line.

But there was one bigger alarm bell ringing from day one — and while many of us probably heard it, none of us really worried about it, such was the state of our paralysis. It was his rather over-friendly and uncomfortable allegiance to John Fenty.

In retrospect, it had all the hallmarks of a relationship that spoke more about business than it did football.

We never really stopped to question Holloway’s football intelligence based on the level he’d previously managed at. We were just grateful that he could see us from his media-hyped tower, never mind join us.

But if Holloway had any emotional intelligence, or any sense of judgment, he’d have known not to side with Fenty — or at least not be so openly friendly with him.

While many (including me) praised Fenty’s ability to bring a manager of Holloway’s supposed calibre to Cleethorpes, the fact remained that our major shareholder was still deeply unpopular with many of our fans. The relationship had long passed the point of no return.

Media-savvy Ollie thought he could be best mates with Fenty and the fans. And for a while, that was the case, as we saw out what remained of the 2019/20 season in both good form and good spirits.

But then things unravelled quite spectacularly over the summer.

When he initially joined the Mariners, jolly Ollie spoke at length (typically unprompted) about standards and regrets — particularly about the way he left Plymouth — only to flee Grimsby like a rat from a sinking ship at the first moment of trouble.

But that’s putting it kindly. There were many signs of trouble on the pitch, long before the 2020/21 season started, but his cute media persona allowed him to escape any sort of backlash from the fans.

The summer was an absolute shambles. While most League 2 clubs were assembling squads and playing friendlies, Town couldn’t find it within themselves to retain our better players, then bizarrely chose not to arrange any friendlies bar one against neighbouring Cleethorpes Town.

Signings came late and were so wild that it was difficult to understand what the recruitment strategy was.

After returning to training later than every other club in the division, the whole squad then had to self-isolate just a few games into the new season following one player’s positive covid test.

That gave Holloway enough ammunition to complain about fixture pile-up; personal safety, injuries, and being forced to sign players who couldn’t play 90 minutes.

Although it created a positive story, he chucked on 15-year-old Louis Boyd in our Mickey Mouse cup draw with Harrogate, who promptly scored, breaking two club records in the process. A tremendous feat, for sure, but Holloway made it seem like he had no other choice, despite having 30 full-time pros on his books.

He insisted on asking fourth division footballers to play out from the back when clearly none of them were capable.

He dropped our first choice keeper in favour of the goalkeeping coach, who subsequently dropped a clanger at Southend — to Greg Halford, a player who had been training with us for weeks but chose to sign for Southend the day before the game.

I mean, if you were an ambitious writer who liked to push boundaries, you wouldn’t dare write the script that Holloway was leading. It was a dark comedy to most, but pretty bleak for us living it.

Then the whole Alex May affair came to light. It’s not worth me repeating it here, but it raised serious questions of our major shareholder and his duties as a local councillor, plus the integrity of our entire board — which, of course, included a certain Mr Holloway.

Actively pursuing a £1m investment from a convicted property fraudster was not the sort of future Grimsby fans wanted.

Holloway was on the board of directors. It’s fair to assume he knew the details of the investment. In fact, it’s fair to assume he knew the details up front, back in December 2019, when John Fenty persuaded him to join the Mariners.

But when the news broke, Holloway thought he’d found a way to side with the fans. He made no comment of the investment, neither confirming or denying his knowledge of it, as Fenty bore the brunt of the backlash.

Instead, he made his own statement, via Twitter, to say the fans were different class; he was here for the football and he was going nowhere unless told to.

Six days later, he walked.

In his resignation tweets, Holloway said he felt unsettled after he was contacted by far more credible and entirely more ethical people regarding a separate takeover. He believed a fresh start for everyone was best.

In the club’s official statement on the same matter, it suggested Holloway was only interested in working with the current board — you know, the one that likes to invite criminals to invest.

It’s doubtful that Holloway enjoyed much of the football management side here at Grimsby. His recruitment was abysmal; his tactics were haphazard or incomprehensible; and then there was that time he claimed Tranmere played a different system to what we were expecting when they trounced us 5-0, even though ex-Mariner Paul Bolland on radio commentary duty that day said Tranmere had, in fact, played the exact same system in the previous two matches.

Holloway brought absolute chaos to our once proud club. He was snippy with the local media, defensive about poor results on the pitch and absolutely silent about his conduct off it.

In the end, Holloway was exposed for being nothing more than a soundbite with a deceptive and duplicitous core; someone who was in cahoots with Fenty — a man with morals so low you’d need a special ROV to scrape them off the base of the Mariana Trench.

The final kick in the balls, though, was when Holloway went and hit top bins on Soccer AM to take the plaudits of the armchair football fans across the country. Meanwhile, none of the players he signed for Grimsby can hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.

Holloway has already intimated that he may not manage a football club again, thus making it his decision when, for any reasonably informed football club owners out there, he should never be a credible option anyway.

Meanwhile, his assertion that the Grimsby owners were ‘hounded out’ (by the fans, or the prospective new owners, or both) highlights his tunnel vision further. It’s a conscious effort to ignore the tale of the past two decades, in which Town fans have stories aplenty of how Fenty brought austerity to GTFC while board members pocketed any profits.

I’ll wrap up with a quote from the Hollow Man himself:

I was given some decent values from my mum and dad in our council house, and one of them was honesty and trust and loyalty. And I forgot to do all that at Plymouth. I left them, and I made the biggest mistake of my life.

It appears he also forgot to do all that at Grimsby, although I somehow doubt he regards leaving us as a mistake.

However, we are not an isolated case. Holloway’s history is catching up with him, which may explain why it seems likely he’ll pursue his media interests over football management in the future.

Here in Grimsby, he’ll be remembered as Mr Runaway; the man who talked the talk but chose to walk when he put our Football League existence on the precipice.

Beware the man who speaks about trust; he’s often the one you can trust the least.

This is 2009/10 happening all over again – and here’s the proof

In 2009/10 the Mariners set a new club record of 25 league games without a win.

The first five matches of that run came under the guidance – if you want to call it that – of Mike ‘it’s tokenism’ Newell, who was a big hit with our female fans (and local bars). Continue reading

Conversations that definitely did not happen at Grimsby Town: Part I

Russell Slade: Hi Harry. Thanks for signing this two-year contract. Welcome to Grimsby Town Football Club.

Harry Cardwell: Thanks boss, delighted to be here. Looking forward to getting some games under my b- Continue reading