Grimsby Town, a football club with a proud EFL history heading back to the National League again due to the poorly run state John Fenty and Ian Holloway have left them in.
Following the Mariners’ relegation to the National League, which was announced after a 3-2 away defeat at Exeter City, I spoke to their long serving matchgoing supporter Aaron Rattray who told me about the mismanagement of those in a high power at the club. It has been a campaign to remember, for all the wrong reasons. However, the future has every chance of being successful with a good change of ownership throughout the second reign of Paul Hurst at Blundell Park.
In 2010, Grimsby were relegated to the Conference (Now the ‘National League’) meaning they would be out of the Football League for the first time in 100 years. This was confirmed with a 3-0 defeat against Burton Albion. What do you think were the main reasons behind that particular campaign’s fate?
The dreadful 2009-10 season started off with Mike Newell as manager and he assembled a squad literally full of drunks and of course our board allowed it to happen, it is a well known fact that striker Barry Conlon at times actually reported for games drunk, and Paul Linwood who was a Grimsby player at the time recently said in a podcast which is available to find online that the players and management used to get drunk in pubs after training, he openly admitted that the players “tossed it off” Newell was sacked and was replaced by academy manager Neil Woods who tried to instil some professionalism and Paul Linwood in the podcast again openly said that the players did not like that as they only cared about getting drunk so they revolted and stopped playing for Woods, Woods did his best but was clearly let down by the most unprofessional bunch of players ever, these revelations are all admitted by Paul Linwood himself in a podcast which can be found online.
Former centre half Paul Linwood, he was at Blundell Park for season 2009/10 and he has recently revealed exactly what the squad he played alongside was like.
The Mariners would spend six years at that level, achieving promotion via the play-offs in 2016. Although no fan of a club with the stature of Grimsby’s should enjoy playing below the Football League. What were your experiences of supporting the club between those six years like? Were there any positives or games that stand out, other than the play off final, for great reasons and memories?
For much of the non league days we were always at the top end of the table which is to be expected so we certainly won a lot more games than lost, whilst it was good to be winning games regularly, it was also frustrating to struggle to break down part time teams who come and park the bus! many notable games but Braintree away in the play off semi final 2nd leg where we overcome a defeat in the first leg to make it to Wembley which subsequently led to our promotion was a highlight for obvious reasons, also as Marcus Marshall who had hardly played all season surprisingly come off the bench and totally changed the game for us! nobody knew he was capable of that!
In the summer of 2016, following a great season under the managerial leadership of Paul Hurst, Grimsby went to Wembley twice to play in the final of the National League play offs and the FA Trophy. Although the Mariners would lose the Trophy final against Halifax, what were your thoughts on that season and why do you think it was as successful as it was?
One of Paul Hurst’s greatest strength is that given time he can and does create a really close, tight knit squad which would run through brick walls for each other and squads like that will always create a good bond with the supporters, I think that underpinned and helped create good things on the pitch which obviously led to our promotion, hopefully he can do this again.
In terms of the greatest feelings you’ve experienced whilst supporting the club, just how special were the emotions that followed the final whistle of the victory against Forest Green?
Under Fenty it has all been a sh*tshow so it was finally a relief to have some success, I will talk about Fenty later.
‘It was finally a relief to have some success under the ownership of Fenty, as it has been an absolute sh*tshow with him in charge’
It has been five years since that emotional summer, what would your description of the past five years be? Would you have liked a lot to have been done differently and have the Mariners done anything that you are proud of during their time back in the EFL? How would you describe the past five years with what has happened on and off the pitch?
Everything since we have been back in the football league has been done on the cheap which is typical Fenty, and indeed it is a well known fact that Hurst left us last time because Fenty kept breaking promises and Hurst didn’t trust him, Hurst has always been very critical about the way the club has been run by him, Hurst has recently said that we are at least 15 years behind other clubs in terms of facilities and infrastructure, he has also said his 14 year old son trains on a better training ground than we have got! The new impending owners have a lot of work to do, Hurst has also said he has a massive long list that he thinks needs to change so a lot of work to be done!
‘Everything has been done on the cheap since we were promoted back to the Football League, which is typical of how the club has been running under the ownership of John Fenty’
What is the difference between being a Football League and National League club to you? You’re a loyal match going supporter and have been for many years.
For me the biggest difference is pride, pride always should be present but pride of being in the football league!
I first thought that the club was in some trouble when the Mariners came to Prenton Park and were defeated 5-0. It was an awful performance and Ian Holloway lay into the journalists in the post-match briefing. What are your thoughts on Ian Holloway’s reign and did you ever think that Grimsby may finish in the bottom two? I’ve also seen the largest shareholder, John Fenty, take some of the blame for the way this season has gone. Is that fair?
I will answer this in two parts,
Holloway assembled an absolutely horrendous squad, the club went down the quantity over quality route and Holloway was on the board so we can’t say the board let him down when he had a say over it all, we come back to pre season later than anybody else and we only had one pre season friendly so we was already playing catch up before the season even started! Holloway insisted on a Barcelona approach and every game goals were being conceded because we are league 2, we can not play like Barcelona, many many many points were lost because of this approach but Holloway insisted on it, I know it is good to pass the ball but this approach was to pass every team to death just like Barcelona so it was more than just passing football! Holloway’s interviews became more erratic, I remember after Harrogate at home he refused to answer any questions about the game as he wanted to give us all a 10 minute lecture on suicide awareness, of course suicide is a very emotive and important topic to talk about… but a post match interview is not really the time to be talking about it! his interviews soon turned aggressive and confrontational and at times he did bully the journalists purely because they are a journalist and indeed after the 5-0 defeat to Tranmere he made it quite clear that he blamed the journalist who was asking the questions, how a journalist can be blamed for a defeat i don’t know!
I just need to correct you on that point that John Fenty takes some blame, Fenty has taken no blame at all and he never will, he should do, but he never does! the fact remains in his 18 years in charge of the club he has taken us from the championship to non league not once but twice! and Fenty genuinely thinks that is a success and he always blames somebody else, mainly the fans but he has also blamed relegation this season on the soon to be new owners, how it is their fault when they don’t even own the club I have no idea! but that’s the nerve of Fenty for you.
I have attached here a thread on twitter which highlights perfectly what this season has been about and it certainly does show the incompetence of Fenty! it is 43 tweets in total and can be found here https://twitter.com/DN35GTFC/status/1387139076692840454
The Mariners thought that they had struck gold when they appointed a manager with Premier League experience in Ian Holloway. It didn’t pan out in a manner that anyone would’ve expected …
What are your thoughts on the Winter transfer window? Grimsby brought in players such as former Tranmere striker Stefan Payne who was soon caught and sent off for headbutting his team mate. What were your thoughts on that incident and are you happy with the players that came in and were shipped out?
Hurst in January decided the only option was a total rebuild, in January! and I don’t think he had much of an option, the signings in January were underwhelming in truth but you can’t blame Hurst for that as think about it, which good player wants to sign for a club in the relegation zone? We had a limited budget, even Exeter City manager has come out recently to say he struggled to recruit players in January and they were in the playoffs at the time so what chance did Hurst have at the bottom of the league with a tiny budget???? Hurst has since come out and said he still maintains he had to attempt a total rebuild in January and I do agree with him.
On Tuesday night, the club’s fate was sealed and they were doomed to another relegation to the National League with a 3-2 defeat on the road against Exeter City. What are your, rather raw, emotions on that? Can you see any positives about being a club in that league again or is your mind full of negativity whilst it comes to terms with the doomed news?
Relegation confirmed but a takeover is happening, and we need to remember Hurst has led us to promotion before out of the national league with Fenty hindering him so why can’t he do the same now he won’t have Fenty hindering him? Fresh starts on and off the pitch.
If you held a position of power at the club and was capable of making key decisions. What would you, realistically, like to be done this summer and are you positive about the club’s chances of promotion next season? After spending time at clubs such as Ipswich Town and Scunthorpe United, Paul Hurst came back to Blundell Park following Holloway’s dismissal. Is that appointment one which leaves you with high hopes of a promotion in the near future? If you could describe Hurst’s time back at the Mariners with one sentence, how would you describe it?
I have part answered this question in my answer above, if I had power at the club and could make decisions I would basically do what Paul Hurst wants, Hurst has said he has a long long list of things he wants to see happen on and off the pitch so let him get on with it and do whatever he wants which would give him the best chance of success!
Paul Hurst came back to the club halfway through a season of upset which resulted in relegation. However, it’s time for a new owner to give him everything he wants!
Thank you very much for reading,
All the very best,