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-

Slade: Sorry, Harry. Got to cut you off there. I’m trying to sign another striker to bolster our attacking options. [Answers phone] Hi, is that JJ?

JJ Hooper: Hi Russ. Yeah, just looking through my contract now. It says until 2019. You know we’re still only in 2017 yeah?

Slade: Just sign the papers, JJ. We need strikers before the start of the season.

Scott Vernon, Sam Jones and Akwasi Asante: Ahem, excuse me boss, but…

Slade: Not now, lads. Can’t you see I’m doing business? Jamille! Nice to hear from you. Boy, do we need a striker.

Jamille Matt: Yes, and I’m looking for some game time. Won’t get it at Blackpool. When can I join up with you guys?

Slade: Come over now! I’ll stick you straight into the squad. We could do with a striker. One second, Jamille-

Charles Vernam: Hi boss, apparently you want me to join on loan from Derby? That’d be awesome! I’m from the area, you see. Just a bit unsure about the competition for places as you seem to have a lot of strikers here already…

Slade: Them? Oh don’t worry about them. The thing about having loads of strikers is that you’ll never struggle for goals.

Vernam: But we’ve only scored two goals in the last seven games.

Slade: Shit! Have we? Jesus. Right, only one way to solve this. Hello Leeds? Can I speak to Mallik please.

Mallik Wilks: Hello? Who are you?

Slade: I’m the Defence Slayer, Russell Slade. We play boomball over in Grimsby. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Wanna join?

Wilks: Hmm, sounds like I could score a few there. How many other strikers have you got, Russ?

Slade: Five permanent and two loanees. But don’t let that put you off. I’ll play you. You have my word.

Wilks: Brilliant! I’ll be right over. What system do you like to pl-

Slade: Shut up, Mallik. Can’t you see I’m busy trying to sign a striker? Blimey. The youth of today. No respect. You’re on the bench. Yes, hello? Is that Simeon?

Simeon Jackson: Hi Russ, you bald headed bastard. Which club are you shafting these days?

Slade: Oi, cheeky! Grimsby. Wanna join? Got a good thing going here. You’ll get starts here, and when you turn out to be shit I’ll bench you, then drop you altogether because I can’t be arsed to coach anyone these days. It’s too hard. They don’t pay me enough.

Jackson. Hmm. Well, I’m not doing much here. Could be fun, for five minutes.

Slade: Great! Don’t get smart, though. I’m only signing you because I couldn’t get that barrel-chested bastard from Wycombe and that whale from York. Got that? Good. Right. Come in, Sam.

Sam Jones: Yes boss?

Slade: It’s just not working out for you here, is it? I mean, 12 goals in 28 appearances is just not good enough in a year when we’ve been bloody awful.

Jones: Well, it’s almost one in two. Keep me fit, play me up front every game and I’ll get you 20 goals a season.

Slade: Yes, but I’d have to make an effort. Anyway, I didn’t sign you. Who the fuck do you think you are, coming in here telling me how good you are at scoring?

Jones: But boss, you’ve barely bothered to make the effort-

Slade: Right, pack your bags. You’re off to Shrewsbury. I hear they play awful football these days and the manager is a dour Yorkshire twat.

Nigel Lowther: Hi Russell, Nigel here. Why have you signed loads of strikers and released your top scorer?

John Fenty: Let me handle this one, Russ. Yes, hello Nigel. You’re barred.

[Slade and Fenty high-five]

Matt Dean: Hi John. Hi Russ. I hear someone could be joining the coaching staff. Is this true?

Fenty: [adjusts turtle neck sweater] Well, some people should try conducting some due diligence before spreading nasty hateful rumours. Some people are so rude! How dare some local journalists investigate things and then ask questions.

Slade: You had me shitting my nylon boxers there. You lose trust, Matt. You lose trust.

Fenty (to Slade): We’re so good at running the football club, Russ.

Slade: Yes, I know. I’ve signed a load of cack, who I don’t play. And I’ll keep signing cack. And if anyone dares to be good, I’ll bench them. And if there’s anyone here with an ounce of talent that I didn’t sign, they can do one. I’ve brought boomball back, John. We’re really building something here. I think… I think I have an erection.

Fenty: Me too, Russ. Me too.



You only sing when you’re rowing. Match report: Grimsby 0-0 Cambridge

In isolation, that wasn’t a bad 0-0 to watch. In the context of three consecutive goalless draws at Blundell Park, during which time we’ve suddenly made scoring look about as difficult as the EFL co-ordinating a live broadcast of a simple cup draw, it’s naturally irked the supporters who pay hard-earned money in return for the promise of some goals.

Let’s be fair to the players, though. That wind today was an absolute bitch. While we could quite easily groan at the lumpy nature of their distribution, the defence did well. McKeown, who hasn’t always shone in aerial battles, had a very solid afternoon and made a couple of crucial saves. And he absolutely nailed the art of kicking the ball straight into the dugouts despite having plenty of time to work out which way the wind was blowing.

And Cambridge’s former international goalkeeper David Forde showed in the first half that at the tender age of 37 he was able to move much quicker than he could take goal kicks to tip Scott Vernon’s header wide of the post and kept the game locked at 0-0.

He could do nothing about Sam Jones’s early effort, though, which rebounded squarely off the foot of the far post.

The thing I didn’t get about Cambridge was their attitude. They showed in short spells that they had the capacity to win the game, but it appeared right from the first minute that they’d come for a point.

Their lack of ambition was probably what stopped them from winning the game today, and you could probably level the same accusation at us, too.

As our top scorer and only genuine goal threat, Sam Jones was taken off in the second half and replaced by JJ Hooper, who barely touched the ball for the remaining 15 minutes.

Our next best attacking threat and second top goalscorer, Siriki Dembele, was then withdrawn for the guy from Norwich whose name no one seems to know how to pronounce, and he too got fuck all service in the remaining minutes as our tactic appeared to go from ‘kick it right hard’ to ‘kick it right high’ and those substitutions absolutely killed any chance of us nicking all three points.

On a day when the wind was driving the ball towards the corner between the Osmond and main stands, it would’ve been interesting to watch us at least try and pass it along the ground to see if that would negate the conditions to some degree. But why bother trying when you’ve got central defenders who are so good at punting it into the channels, irrespective of whether our strikers are making those runs.

And that’s the problem the fans have with this team at the minute. We might be seven unbeaten; we might have only lost once in our last 10 games – but our approach to games and our tactics within them are so bloody obvious it almost makes me want to cry. You could hang a bloody neon arrow with the words ‘coming this way’ above the heads of Vernon and Jones for about two minutes before Nathan Clarke and Danny Collins actually lump it that way. Cambridge’s two centre backs won almost everything in the air all afternoon.

We became a far more interesting team when we had the ball on the ground in the final third. Luke Summerfield had another effective game in the engine room. He might lack finesse but he at least looks to keep the ball on the ground and retain possession by keeping it simple.

James Berrett also put in a tigerish performance, but he constantly looks like he’s on the brink of getting a yellow card. Martyn Woolford showed his experience down the left but there just seems to be a lack of a partnership with him and Paul Dixon that inhibits our progression down that wing.

Only Morecambe and Crawley have scored fewer goals at home this season than us. However, I’m a fair man and I accept the point Slade made in his post-match interview that had we won our recent away games at home and drawn those boring home games away we might be feeling a bit more positive about our progress this season.

Our defence will keep us away from danger but it’s our attack that will prevent us from getting a sniff of the play-offs. It may have occurred in the league below us, but after signing him in January last year, scoring two goals in his first two games for us and looking sharp in pre-season, Adi Yussuf today scored a hat-trick for Barrow in their win over Aldershot.

Playing with purpose. Match report: Grimsby 4-2 Yeovil

“They seem to know what they’re doing more than usual,” said my dad, barely three minutes into the game.

My dad’s last game was the 2-1 home defeat to Wycombe – as was mine – and the contrast was clear from kick-off. Who knew that 4-4-2 could work? We looked organised, the players played with confidence, and we were as creative and incisive as I’ve seen us all season.

Then we won a penalty, which Sam Jones tucked away with the only kind of aplomb you know, and Chris Clements soon doubled our lead with an effort that deserved to find the net based solely on the neat bit of teeing up he did for himself immediately before the strike.

Town, being Town, let the Glovers back in it way too early in the second half. Under Bignot we’d have turned to the person sat next to us and pulled a sort of constipated face in anticipation of a nervy last 40 minutes, in which we’d have scored a last-minute own goal, gave away a silly penalty or allowed the referee to take all our playing abilities out of the equation and intervened with an uncontrollably bad decision to make the very angry bloke at the back of the main stand completely lose his shit and put his fist through the corrugated steel behind him.

But this was a team that had already showed enough to suggest that we wouldn’t crumble.

Despite Scott Vernon either being unavailable or overlooked in the game against Cambridge, I always felt there would be a place for him in Slade’s team. The goal today helped, of course – even if it came off his back, a yard out, without him even knowing.

Vernon’s the experienced front man, with the strength and intelligence to make our manager weak at the knees. He’s our new Lump, and every Slade team needs a Lump. He combined really well with Sam Jones, and they worked tirelessly as a front pair.

“Jamey’s goal was Reddy-esque,” mumbled Dale from the back of the room in the post-match press conference. It was. Osborne ran onto a clearance from a Yeovil free kick and suddenly found himself in the clear before he’d even broken out of his own half. At the crucial moment, just outside the area, he stepped across and in front of the only Glover chasing him back before taking the ball on and caressing it into the far corner as if he’d been doing it all his career.

No more sweating for us.

Well, you say that, but I wasn’t completely convinced we’d see things out comfortably after Yeovil smashed in a second because my mate Pete said before the game that with the pressure off for both sides it’d would either be a tepid affair or end 4-4. For a moment that second prediction of his was about to be played out.

But despite scoring two goals, the visitors never really looked like they’d get anything from the game. In fact the two goals flattered them, while five or six wouldn’t have flattered us.

There was just enough time left for me to praise the referee – seconds before he ignored what I felt was a pretty nailed-on penalty when Vose was brought down in the area. I’d have liked to have seen us hit five to wipe out the memory of us conceding that many at Crewe in February.

So even when we play with two central midfielders as wingers in a 4-4-2 we’re good enough to see off average teams in League 2. Osborne showed craft and skill and was understandably named man of the match for his goal, assist and general marauding down the left, while forgotten man James Berrett has played himself back into contention for next season.

I haven’t mentioned Disley because that’s exactly what he does. He glided through the game, bringing calmness in the centre and setting the stage for others to perform. It was vintage Dis.

There was some good football played in the final third, too. And while we weren’t afraid to lump it from the back, the punts forward just had a lower trajectory and more of a purpose. They seemed to find Vernon and Jones more easily, and it would often stick. I dunno, it was almost like we had a plan or something.

It was a thoroughly dominant performance – although I’m not sure how much Yeovil, wearing a strip inspired by what you’d typically find in a doorway down a deserted back alley in Manchester at 3am on Sunday morning, contributed to our success because they were pretty awful considering they technically had something to play for – as did we, of course.

Even now, the play-offs aren’t mathematically out of the question with two games to play.