Why the FA Trophy matters

Cod Almighty | Article

by Rich Mills

14 January 2016

Some Town fans think we should be concentrating on the league and bailing out of the FA Trophy. Rich Mills disagrees.

York City and Newport County line up for the 2012 FA Trophy final in front of a banner reading "Respect"

One of the most positive things about supporting Grimsby over the last year or so is the groundswell of support and a sense of togetherness. The role of the Mariners Trust; Operation Promotion; the club embracing social media and really engaging with the supporters; the board backing the manager and allowing things to build. It's as though we've accepted where we are, acknowledging our past achievements without getting bogged down by them.

We are a full-time club in a town with a long history of having a professional football club. But right now, what we are not is a 'big club'. Coming to terms with this is the most positive and refreshing thing to come out of the last year. We're having a blast. We're winning games. We have a fantastic squad and our support, home and away, is far bigger than most of our peers'. But still we are a non-League team.

Obviously that fact passed some of us by. Week on week, on social media and the terraces too, we see and hear many of our supporters referring to whichever competition we are competing in as "mickey mouse" or "tinpot". We refer to a team as "shit", a team we "should be beating", because they happen to be part time. Well, it's time for a reality check. While our opposition on a Saturday might only muster 800 fans on a good day, or have a striker who doubles up as a plumber, they are playing at the same level as us on merit.

I care about the FA Trophy because we are still in it and can win it. It's the same reason why I care about the Conference. I cared about the FA Cup too, when we were still in the competition – but now we're not I can take it or leave it. More than anything I'd like to see an underdog like Eastleigh put one over a bigger club; to succeed where we fell short against Shrewsbury.While our opposition might only muster 800 fans and have a striker who doubles up as a plumber, they are playing at the same level as us on merit

I do not really give a toss about the Premier League and its sponsor driven-showboating. I'll maybe watch the highlights on Match of the Day but what I see on the TV doesn't bear much resemblance to what I see at a Town game.

I don't mean that in a bad way either; a football match is a football match, whatever the level or whoever the opposition and we can and should enjoy it for what it is. I don't care about the Premier League because Grimsby Town are not competing in it and are unlikely to be doing so any time soon. I don't feel any attachment to a team where I wasn't born or where I haven't lived. Give those teams a sackful of money and some shiny sponsorship and it just leaves me cold. I give even less of a toss about the Champions League, so don't get me started on that gravy train.

But because Town are still in the Trophy – a competition for non-League teams, like us – I want them to win every game. I want them to compete and I want them to display their undoubted class in this competition, not just the league.

Yes, it's an opportunity for Paul Hurst and Chris Doig to use some fringe players; players who can't break into the starting XI right now because they are all in fantastic form. But that's not to say we shouldn't take it seriously. Our squad is deep and we could possibly put out a second XI to compete in this league.

During the magnificent 1997-98 season Alan Buckley's squad competed in four competitions: the league, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Football League Trophy (then the Auto Windscreens Shield). As far as I remember, that went pretty well: promotion via the play-offs; reaching the fourth round in two cups and winning the Trophy. That was with a squad of a similar size to the current set-up. Alan Buckley said in his autobiography Pass and Move that momentum was gained from good performances in all competitions. We played 68 games that season, so I refuse to subscribe to the opinion held by some Town fans that we will lose our focus by being in the Trophy.

For us to concede or to consider fielding a weak team because the competition is below us or we're "concentrating on the league" is a thought that turns my stomach. Premier League clubs and their shareholders might think it acceptable to disrespect a competition, their fans, their history and their opponents, but I sincerely hope that my club never becomes like that.

If all of this dignity, humility and respect is still a little difficult to get our heads around then consider this. How stupid will we look when, after all of our gloating, we get beaten by a 'smaller' club? 

Let's win it.

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Photo: Jack Tanner CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, cropped from original