Apathy is probably the worst feeling you can experience in the world of football. Whereas gut-wrenching disappointment or unbridled adulation requires a supernova of passion, apathy is just the empty black hole. It is the feeling of nothingness.
Much is the feeling around Blundell Park at the moment. With the end of yet another disastrous season approaching, Grimsby fans have been left wondering where it will all go from here.
In ten years, the Mariners have dropped from the top of the old first division to non-league football. The constant decline has made supporters angry, impatient and in many cases, disillusioned.
Manager Neil Woods, who oversaw the club’s relegation into the Blue Square Premier, was sacked in February with the club sitting ninth in the table. Woods had been given a competitive budget to provide an immediate response – much to the fans’ anger, it never came.
After a month without a gaffer in sight, Mariners chairman John Fenty then appointed two in Rob Scott and Paul Hurst. Not boss and assistant, but joint managers. Cue more disillusionment.
The new duo has been at the helm for just over a fortnight now. They have already been dubbed as comical double acts, such as ‘The Chuckle Brothers’ and ‘Itchy and Scratchy’ due to a winless four games in charge. This is unfathomable and quite clearly unfair.
The mentality of these fans is bemusing. In fairness, Hurst and Scott didn’t endear themselves to the Blundell Park faithful by substituting current pin-up and top goal-scorer Alan Connell in their first game. But to blame a management team, and subsequently call for their heads, after only four games in charge is bordering on ridiculous.
In the space of these four games, they have highlighted problems that have plagued this club for many years. They share the concern that the fans have felt over the squad and what direction the club is heading.
Whereas previous managers have wavered with excuses over lacklustre performances, Scott and Hurst have been blunt with their assessments. More often than not they have suggested that the players haven’t been good enough and that the team “has massive problems”.
The duo have also hit back at sections of the supporters, stating that sometimes “they shout some nonsense”. Both sentiments have needed to be said and are highly justified.
The team has got massive problems – it is plain to see. Three times in a week the Mariners have surrendered a lead at home, only to draw. Mental problems amongst the players seem to be harrowing their ability to finish a game off. There is no killer instinct; simply, they are not a team of winners.
This is something that the fans have been talking about all season; which certain sections of the support are forgetting, opting to blame Scott and Hurst instead.
The pair hasn’t had the opportunity to bring in fresh faces or players that would suit the tactics they want to employ. With the team safely positioned in mid-table, they are simply using the last few games to determine who will stay and who will be told they can leave.
Something which Scott and Hurst have been quick to implement, having told both Serge Makofo (who was signed on a three year deal in January) and Charles Ademeno that they have no future at the club. Ademeno has struggled with fitness and has featured in just 12 games this season. Although he has looked promising whenever he has played, with the parachute payments stopping this summer the club simply cannot afford to pay a player who will be bit-part at most.
There is no doubt that the club want to finish the season on a victorious high. Players should be playing for contracts, or at least putting themselves in the shop window. Unfortunately, looking at recent results and performances, it would appear that this is not the case.
This, for many fans and perhaps the management, could be a blessing in disguise. Should a bunch of players, who have underperformed for the majority of a season, be rewarded with a new contract just because they’ve pulled their finger out for a couple of games?
The answer is no. Both Rob Atkinson and Peter Bore have been offered new contracts, and both have rejected them. Hurst and Scott have said no more than that. They appear to be identifying targets of their own and not wasting time on players who quite obviously don’t want to be here.
This is something that the supporters have said for a long time. They want to see players with effort and determination, not sitting back on a long expensive contract. It is also what Hurst and Scott are quite clearly trying to get across.
They were highly regarded at both Ilkeston and Boston United. The fans need to give them time to prove that their reputation is justifiable – starting this summer.
By Robert Bartlett – Grimsby Town fan