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.

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The state of play at Grimsby Town: what now for Hurst, Fenty and the fans?

Paul Hurst looking pensive

Image courtesy of the Grimsby Telegraph.

It’s been a weird week in the world of Grimsby Town. Two underwhelming draws against teams expected to battle against the drop and fans remain disgruntled with the lack of bite up front, calling for a change in management. On Thursday major shareholder John Fenty said sacking Paul Hurst wouldn’t be an ‘appropriate or sensible action‘. So what now for Hurst, Fenty and the fans?

John Fenty and his comments

I’m not entirely sure what value we can attach to Fenty’s comments. Was it a vote of confidence for Hurst, who’s feeling the pressure more so now than of any other time in sole charge of the club? If it wasn’t a vote of confidence, then what exactly was it?

Whether Fenty says something or nothing, we’re still left guessing as to what he’ll actually do.

This sense of insecurity and unpredictability comes from years of him making poorly timed and ill-judged statements. And we all know our last two managers were sacked just days after he declared that sacking them wouldn’t benefit the club. He was right, but it didn’t stop him from doing it.

Sadly, the formation of his character can’t be undone or quickly forgotten. Fans struggle to trust that what he says is genuine or sincere.

So for me, his comments offer no clarity on the situation whatsoever. Defeats at Wrexham and Torquay, and the threat of dwindling home attendances on the immediate horizon, will almost certainly force Fenty’s hand.

And when I say Fenty, I of course mean him and the board of directors.

Paul Hurst and his strikers

I have long been an advocate of Hurst and was one of those fans happy to see him stay over the summer. His record between the Rob Scott saga and Christmas last season was impressive; sadly that form didn’t continue into 2014, although he did enough to steer the side into the play-offs.

Our lack of fire power cost us in the home leg against Gateshead, and unfortunately that theme – despite the recruitment of some decent players – has continued into this season. I like Hurst because he offered some stability during a fractious time at the club. He’s spoken sensibly and honestly in the media and clearly forges strong relationships with the majority of the players he works with.

But I’m not blind to his faults, either – and here’s my argument as to why we’ll never score a bagful of goals with Hurst at the helm: he just can’t get strikers scoring.

Attacking approach

I admire his loyalty to Lenell John-Lewis and I appreciate the shifts he puts in. I understand that Hurst uses him in a way that means he’ll never score 20 goals a season, and I believe him when he says he’s the type of player all strikers want alongside them. I get all that; I just don’t think this is the only way to use strikers in the Conference.

Alan Connell and Liam Hearn managed to score plenty of goals without a John-Lewis-type striker alongside them (although you could argue that Anthony Elding had some similar qualities). Our team doesn’t have to have John-Lewis in it.

But I really do believe that Hurst has no other ideas when it comes to forming his striking tactics. His hand is slightly forced by the lack of personnel he has at his disposal right now, and while he’s been unlucky with the injury to Jon-Paul Pittman, who has impressed when he’s played, there really isn’t anyone else to blame but himself.

Track records and loss of form

This time two years ago Andy Cook and Ross Hannah were on fire. Fed by Scott Neilson drifting in from the left, the trio were central to our rise to the top of the league. Sadly that Cook/Hannah partnership was rarely played again. It was dismantled by the arrival of Richard Brodie and an apparent lack of application from Cook the following pre-season was the beginning of the end of his time at the club, despite being our top scorer in 2012/13 and earning the Conference’s Young Player of the Year award.

Last season Hurst couldn’t get the best out of Cook. January reinforcements never worked out; Connor Jennings – who had proved himself a goalscorer at Macclesfield in the first half of the season – looked anything but a goalscorer in a black and white shirt, while Oumare Tounkara added very little. Hannah completely lost his way, and I’m in very little doubt that it was the constant tinkering and rotating of the strikers that meant none of them found any form when we needed them most.

Hurst’s track record in working with strikers isn’t great. Although plagued by injuries, Hearn was played out wide in the 4-3-3 formation when he was fit. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was so intent on joining Mansfield in the summer, rather than entertaining any realistic thought about giving it another go at Town.

We have had good strikers at the club. We have a couple now, but they’re either injured or out of form. When fit, they’ll only be rotated. When they start, they know they’ll be subbed after 70-75 minutes. We’re completely one dimensional and rely heavily on a player who works hard for the team but whose instinct to put the ball in the net just doesn’t come naturally.

And what about the fans?

As we are reminded often, football is an entertainment business. Fans want to be entertained, and goalless draws at home to Altrincham don’t cut the mustard. As happened with Neil Woods, Hurst could become a victim of his own success following two huge back-to-back wins, which raised expectations around Blundell Park and promised a season of goals.

There are two reasons why they’ll return to Blundell Park in November: the Mariners either pick up points at the Racecourse Ground and Plainmoor (and score a few goals along the way too) or Hurst is replaced.

Who we’d replace him with is another discussion entirely. But we should be careful what we wish for – the qualities we look for in potential managers might already be covered by what’s already on Hurst’s CV.

Personally I hope he can turn it around and find a way to solve our attacking impotency. I appreciate a lot of what he’s done as manager but he’s now facing his biggest challenge yet – this is the time to prove his worth and show his versatility in thought and approach.