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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

Time for Hurst to show he’s learnt from past mistakes

Christian Jolley celebrating

Christian Jolley celebrates his play-off final goal against Wrexham at Wembley in 2013.

The news that Grimsby Town have signed Christian Jolley and Gregor Robertson is definitely welcome, and the additions should strengthen what’s already a very decent squad for a push at the Conference title.

But forgive me if I don’t get too excited just yet. While this is more good work by Paul Hurst in the transfer market, only time will tell if they have the desired effect. We’ve been here before – twice, in fact – and on both those occasions we’ve come up short.

While Robertson will no doubt slot into the left back position in the continued absence of Aswad Thomas, Jolley’s role seems less clear. Is he a winger or a striker? Well both, according to his Mariners Player interview. You can see why his credentials appealed to Hurst, who favours a tricky, pacy wide player with an ability to play up top.

If used as a winger, or inside forward, what does this mean for Mackreth, Pittman, Arnold and Neilson? If used as a striker, where does Palmer fit in? Will Hannah drop one more down the pecking order? And will Watson get another game?

I’m delighted with the quality of these signings. Hurst doesn’t sign many duds – and even the ones we knew nothing of (Magnay) or doubted (Clay) have turned out to be better than we imagined.

But my true judgment will be reserved until May, when we’ll know if we’re back in the Football League or remain a Conference club.

The two previous January transfer windows have promised much and delivered very little. Hurst arms himself with so many attacking options that no one player feels like they can command a starting spot every week, and I think they find that unsettling. A lack of consistency usually delivers a lack of form.

His tendency to rotate his attacking players has not worked. We failed to get the best out of Jennings last season, we saw very little from a promising signing in Tounkara, and as a creature of habit, Cook never suited Hurst’s rotation policy. Neither did Hannah.

Hurst has a squad that many other managers at this level would envy – and that’s credit to him – so the important thing now is being able to get the very best out of it.

As one of Hurst’s big advocates, if there’s one area of his management that I doubt it’s this. Get the best out of the strikers he’s got, between now and the end of the season, and he’ll write himself into the Grimsby Town history books.

Let’s hope that’s the case. In the meantime, here’s hoping he gets (and keeps) all our players fresh, focused and firing.

Will Connell make a sensational return to Grimsby Town?

Alan Connell celebrates a goal for Grimsby Town.

Alan Connell in the black and white stripes. Image courtesy of the Grimsby Telegraph.

There’s not a lot that gets Grimsby Town fans reminiscing about good times in the Conference – hell, we’ve only been here three and a half years. But the name Alan Connell is one that brings a smile to our faces. When a stuttering side struggled to make any impression on the league table in what was an eye-opening induction in non league football, Connell enjoyed the most profitable season of his career to date.

In 48 appearances he registered 29 times, but unfortunately the Mariners could only finish 11th in the league. A managerial change in February didn’t stop the flow of goals, but it became clear from March onwards that Rob Scott and Paul Hurst were looking to cash in on a player that had attracted a lot of attention from Football League clubs. Connell himself had publicly expressed his desire to play in the Football League, so when Swindon Town came calling in the summer with a six-figure fee the striker headed to Wiltshire.

In truth, Connell was too good for the Conference. He had a level of intelligence to his play that reminded the Mariners fans of Clive Mendonca. Both were never blessed with any pace or great aerial ability; instead they relied on their movement, poise and strength with their back to goal. They were team players but never afraid to shoot on sight, with finishes oozing class and confidence.

But let’s leave those comparisons there. After all, in football everything is relative. I’m not too sure Connell is so potent in the higher leagues – especially if his career history is anything to go by. But we know from first hand experience that he’s potent in the Conference, and that’s where we are right now.

Will he move to Blundell Park? We know Connell wants to play in the Football League – it was his desire in 2011 and it’ll probably remain his first choice in 2014. If the rumoured interest from Plymouth Argyle is true, then that could be a difficult hurdle to overcome. But then maybe Connell would rather play in a side that is near the top of their league, creating chances for him to tuck away. And that could put him in the shop window this summer.

Dropping down into the Conference is something he’s done before in order to go back up. Maybe he sees the same opportunity again – and who knows… maybe he can enjoy playing for Grimsby in the Football League next season? There’s no doubt that if Hurst is able to bring him to Cleethorpes this month it’ll represent an excellent piece of business.

How to solve a problem like Grimsby Town’s striker issue

Andy Cook runs away with his right arm aloft to celebrate scoring a goal for Grimsby at Tamworth.

Andy Cook scoring a winning goal at Tamworth last season. Image courtesy of the Grimsby Telegraph.

 

Strikers, strikers, strikers – they’re all Grimsby Town fans are talking about these days. It doesn’t seem too long ago that I was thinking we had too many strikers. I also remember, this time last year, signing Lenell John-Lewis on an 18-month deal – just after we had added Richard Brodie to the squad – and wondering exactly why the management felt the need to have eight strikers on our books. Fat load of good that approach did us back then.

Sadly the Mariners haven’t often had strikers who were capable of scoring over 20 goals in a season. Alan Connell was the first since Kevin Donovan in 1998 to achieve that feat, scoring 29 goals in the 2010/11 season. We finished 11th.

That summer we bought Liam Hearn from Alfreton. He went on to score 29 goals too – even though it took him about 10 games to score his first. He really ought to have scored over 30, but he, like the team, ran out of steam towards the end of April. And again, the Mariners fell short of the play-offs.

So, um, yeah – you can see where this is going.

When we did finally make the play-offs, last season, we did it without one player scoring over 20 goals. Andy Cook managed around 16, while Ross Hannah chipped in with 10 (nine during his loan spell and one after signing permanently in January).

Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a striker that scores 20-30 goals – after all, when you have a Ronaldo or a Messi in your team, you’re going to win things. Personally I feel uneasy when we start to depend on one particular player to score all the goals. Some of the best Buckley teams had goals distributed throughout the team – which was a clear reflection of the way the Great One got his teams to play.

Maybe that’s not the only way, and so perhaps not always the right way. But just recently there seems to be this opinion that if we don’t get another striker we’re going to lose our play-off spot. Perhaps.

Time for Cook to step up to the plate?

But I do think it’s time to give Cook an extended run in the first team – his performance against Huddersfield reminded us all of his talent. I seem to remember it took him time to score his first goal last season, but once he got going he was a regular scorer. It may be that we already have the answer to our striking conundrum without having to participate in Sky Sports’ overly-hyped time-limited period of transfer activity.

I’m a big fan of Cook and I’d like to see him given a chance alongside Hannah up front, with Neilson and one of Colbeck and Rodman dishing up some tasty service from the wings. With Craig Disley and Scott Kerr in the centre, that to me seems a fairly strong side capable of scoring goals.

But I understand that Hurst is looking for a Hearn-type player to push Hannah for a starting place. Whether it’s Gillingham’s Adam Birchall or someone else, I don’t think they necessarily need to replace Hannah upon signing. He’s got 10 goals so far this season and roughly a 1-in-2 strike ratio, so it wouldn’t seem fair to drop a player currently on course to make that magical 20-mark.