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.

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

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.