Broken bonds

The only two players whose names I’d have considered getting printed on the back of my replica shirt have now left the club.

Thanks Diz. Thanks Shaun. Thanks for the memories.

They each gave six years to the Mariners. In that time, they came to understand what it was like to be part of the town. They both lived locally, and did work in the community. They were both honest and committed players, with the skill and graft to get us back in the Football League.

They were (and possibly still are) fans of the club.

I just watched the play-off final video again, with JT’s commentary, and while I still get incredibly emotional when Arnold rolls the ball home, the end scene – when the team lifts the trophy – now feels tainted.

There were so many happy faces on the Wembley balcony that day.

And now, a little over one year later, the only person who remains at the club is James McKeown – a player who nearly left us in January.

We won at Wembley to finally achieve what we’d come close to achieving on three previous occasions. What got us over the line that day wasn’t just skill, but also a special bond and team spirit that had grown in the squad over a number of years.

The likes of Disley and Pearson were at the heart of that bond.

Had we been able to keep that squad together, I’m certain we’d have achieved at least a 14th place finish in League 2 this season.

To be honest, I’d have accepted finishing 15th or 16th this season, if it was that promotion squad, because I’d fallen in love with it. They were playing for us.

There’s a lot to be said for continuity in football. Winning is a habit, as they say. Leicester and Chelsea have won the last two Premier League titles having made the fewest changes to their starting XIs.

As Bristol Rovers proved, from the season before, it was possible to go up again with virtually the same squad. I was desperate for us to keep the majority of our squad together, and it’s a crying shame that it wasn’t.

Fair enough, you’re not going to keep Tait from playing in the Scottish Premier League, or Nolan from plying his trade in League 1, if that’s what they wanted.

But letting Amond go to Hartlepool after scoring 37 goals for us in one season?

Personally speaking, I thought Robertson and Clay were worth another season after they’d worked so hard to get us over the line.

What happened – or what didn’t happen – with Arnold is possibly the most upsetting, yet typifying, moment of last summer. No player is bigger than the club but, come on, the guy was good enough for League 2.

Did we dick around with contracts? Whatever the real story is, from the outside it looked like we weren’t prepared to reward those promotion winners with the contracts they were looking for.

Although it’s only recent history, I feel like it’s history that has already written itself. Of this era, our future Wikipedia page will read:

“After spending years building a team the fans could be proud of, the club then ripped it apart the very summer they returned to the Football League. Further instability followed when new manager Marcus Bignot made a host of unnecessary signings.”

On the pitch, we’ve had an acceptable first season back in the Football League. Off it, we’ve been awful.

Three managers, poor recruitment and lop-sided formations were just a few of the main issues. We’ve slipped back into our old ways. Bridges built through campaigns like Operation Promotion feel like they’ve burnt away because we have a non-chairman who doesn’t know how to communicate in the 21st century.

And now two of our most loyal and esteemed players have been released. With them goes any remaining bond between the players and fans.

Slade built a competitive squad for 2005/6, but while they came close to delivering success I don’t think I felt as close to those players as I did with the class of 2015/16.

By releasing Disley and Pearson, I hope we’re not swapping loyal grafters for disinterested journeymen who won’t be with us in six, five or even two years’ time.

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Grimsby Town’s Player of the Season (according to Fantasy Football points) is…

Back in August I decided to borrow the Fantasy Premier League’s point-scoring system to measure the performances of Grimsby Town’s players for the entire 2014/15 season. Well, today I finally got round to updating the spreadsheet. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

And so the first ever All That and a Bag of Chips Fantasy Player of the Season award goes to… Lenell John-Lewis AND Shaun Pearson! That’s right – both were tied at the top. Here’s the full standings:

Table showing 20 high scoring Grimsby Town players

Pearson had a 4-point lead going into the play-off final, but John-Lewis’s goal, coupled with our failure to keep a clean sheet, meant that both players finished the season tied on a monumental 193 points.

You could perhaps argue that John-Lewis should’ve won it for having a better points-per-game average, but since he ran off to Newport on Friday I’m more inclined to go the other way.

So congratulations Shaun – the award is yours! I don’t actually have a budget for a trophy, unfortunately. Sorry.

The lead changed hands several times throughout the season. Scott Neilson led the way early on, but John-Lewis moved to the top from November. McKeown and Pearson were never far behind, and it was Pearson who got his nose in front with just the play-off games to go.

Timed his run to perfection – like a quality centre back at set pieces.

I also re-ordered the table to show the best performing players in terms of points-per-game:

Table showing top 20 Grimsby Town players by points-per-game

Some say league tables don’t lie – but they do. This one lies like a rug. Josh Gowling – as nice a bloke as he is – doesn’t deserve to be up there (simply for his goal and clean sheet at Alfreton). To make this table credible I think you can only consider players who have played more than 15 or 20 games.

What it does show, however, is that John-Lewis effectively won this form of the competition too, and it also demonstrates the impact Ollie Palmer had on the side. Arnold proved that when he plays, he tends to contribute.

In case any newcomers would like to know the exact scoring system I used, here it is:

Details of scoring rules

And if you’d really like to know more about how the competition unfolded, you can read all my previous GTFC fantasy football blogs.

Feel free to discuss the results on here, on Twitter (@AllThatAndABOC or @RichMariner) or over on The Fishy. And like the majority of the Town players who have re-signed in the last week, I’ll be back in August to do it all over again.

The infamous insiders and secret sources hit silly season as Town re-sign the spine of the team

Black and white seats of Blundell Park.When the summer arrives and the football disappears for a bit, it gives way to the annual willy-waving season in which one fan claims to know more about player contract negotiations than the next, citing spurious ‘sources’ and insiders that remain conveniently vague. In the absence of any action, it at least provides some entertainment.

John-Lewis was on his way to Wigan, apparently, before signing for Newport. Nobody saw that coming. It’s a shame to see the Shop go – after all, he was our top scorer last season. We waited two and a half years for him to reach his potential, and just as he reaches it he does one to Newport.

That he’s been able to earn a two year deal in the Football League is down to Paul Hurst – and the fact that he scored 20 goals last season, obviously. But Hurst worked with him over that time, made him into a better player and stuck by him when others began to doubt his ability.

A two year deal in League 2 must be tough to turn down. Good luck to the bloke.

Shaun Pearson agreeing a new contract with the club appeared to be the deal most in doubt. I think it’s fair to say that the majority of us were expecting him to leave, but the news that he signed a new two-year deal today is possibly the biggest bonus of them all so far.

It’s not just Shaun’s ability on the pitch; it’s his attitude off it that makes him a credit to the club. He’s always involved in the community and is a great ambassador for the Mariners. It’s a great show of loyalty when there were other clubs poking their noses in and sniffing around.

Arnold, Brown, Robertson and Clay have all signed new one-year deals and join Gowling, Mackreth, Disley and Pittman who all signed earlier this week. The mainstay of the squad from last season is good to go again – almost. Hopefully it’s enough to encourage the two remaining players, Nsiala and Magnay, to sign on the dotted line.

It’s rare that the fans get so excited about ‘existing’ players re-signing for the club. Normally we’re preoccupied with the prospect ‘new’ players joining; that someone’s been spotted at Millfields, or a League 2 journeyman who used to have good games against us was spotted filling his car up at the petrol station on the A180.

There will still be some of that, of course. The Fishy will provide a location for fans to jostle for the coveted position of I-know-more-than-you. But all in good time. For once the fans recognise that the group of players who got us so close to the Football League last season are, for the first time in almost a generation, worth the entrance fee – which is why we’ve been so desperate to see them sign up for another season.

A lot of credit has to go to Hurst. There have been rumours that our players were offered more to join other clubs in the Conference (Eastleigh, Forest Green and possibly Tranmere are the only likely teams to have the clout to do that) but they’ve chosen to stay at Grimsby.

If it’s not for the continuity, the fans or the camaraderie, then it’s almost certainly for the manager.

Former Grimsby Town manager answers fans’ questions after joining Twitter

Rob Scott as manager of Grimsby TownRob Scott’s existence on Twitter is no longer a parody – it’s become the real thing. The out-of-work boss joined the microblogging revolution last week and revealed in his first few tweets that he //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” target=”_blank”>applied for the Chester job – but he’s so far refused to be drawn on the circumstances surrounding his departure from Blundell Park in September. As you’d expect.

On the whole, the majority of Town fans have behaved themselves, thanking Shouty for his efforts during his time at the club and wishing him well for the future. Others, sadly, couldn’t refuse this fabulous opportunity to have a little dig. But he’s handled them (so far) in the right manner; admitting that the game is about opinions, and that not all decisions – whether in the transfer market or during matches – work out as you’d hope.

He has, though, been refreshingly candid. He appears to have taken the time to respond to most fans’ questions and comments, revealing that he hasn’t been in contact with current manager Paul Hurst since his departure, and that the departure itself has still not been fully or amicably resolved. So there may be interesting times ahead on that front.

Over the past couple of nights he’s told Town fans that his //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” target=”_blank”>top three signings were James McKeown, Shaun Pearson and Liam Hearn – adding that McKeown could play at Championship level, while Pearson has the potential to play in League 1. A similar level awaited Hearn, if only he wasn’t so unlucky with injuries.

He confirmed that he was never answerable to an FA charge following the home defeat to Nuneaton, while he also joked that the disastrous loan signing of Richard Brodie this time last year was Hurst’s decision (before quickly clarifying that all decisions were made jointly).

He considered the summer release of Bradley Wood to be a mistake, and felt that not securing Nathan Pond for the rest of last season cost us promotion.

Generally speaking, his online persona perhaps doesn’t quite match the vocal thug that a lot of Mariners fans had him down as. There appears to be an appreciation that he had a temper, but in the majority of cases he excuses this as simply a passion to succeed.

I’d like to think none of our fans will wind him up, but since our performances and league position have improved since his departure then it’s likely that a minority will. However, had we dropped down the league under Hurst then our attitude towards Scott today would probably be a whole lot different.

I can’t help but feel a little cautious about all of this. Town are doing well in the league and have progressed to the quarter finals of the FA Trophy, with another trip to Wembley becoming more of a serious consideration. It’s always difficult to judge from the outside, but the squad harmony appears to be good. What we don’t need now is a distraction, or any rumours of feuds between Scott and current players, coaches or staff on the basis of online comments whose sentiment can often be difficult to interpret correctly. If there’s a former manager out there who knows stuff that fans don’t, then the fans will probe; it’s their nature.

I just hope we don’t prod and probe too much, because we should really be pulling in the same direction by supporting a team that is doing rather well. In my view, nothing positive or beneficial to our club will come from conversing with a man who left in acrimonious circumstances.

I, like the majority of level headed Mariners fans, would like to wish Rob Scott all the best for the future, and hope he knows that we appreciate the work and effort he put into improving our fortunes.