What if... Russell Slade had never left?

Cod Almighty | Article

by Ron Counte

11 April 2017

Nothing if not quick off the mark, Ron looks at how Town's fortunes might have panned out if Russell Slade had stayed at Blundell Park in 2006

It was a penalty. There was simply no doubt about it. Given the cynical nature of the challenge and where it occurred it was also most likely a straight red for the defender.

It was just a few minutes before half-time in the 2006 play-off final against Cheltenham at the Millennium Stadium. To this point it had been a pretty lacklustre affair but, as we know, goals change matches. In this case going in at half-time 1-0 up against a team that Town had already beaten twice during the regular season, and who had been reduced to 10 men, it is hardly a stretch to imagine that they would have gone on to win.

It is my fervent hope that over time football will embrace the technology which helps ensure that games are determined by skill rather than the lottery of dodgy officialdom

There are those who maintained that these quirky decisions even out over a season. I have never believed this to be the case. There is no evidence for it. And why should we expect there to be some natural balancing out of chronically bad decisions? The truth is that many terrible decisions happen in crucial games like this one. In this day and age we have at our disposal the technology to eliminate the vast majority of mistaken decisions on the spot. It is my fervent hope that over time football will catch up with rugby, tennis, and cricket - hardly the most forward thinking of sports - and embrace the technology which helps ensure that games are determined by skill rather than the lottery of dodgy officialdom.

If we had won that day it is hard to see how, in the post-match euphoria of a play-off final victory, Fenty and Slade could have failed to resolve what was reportedly the minor financial difference which led to Slade departing for Yeovil. In the following season Slade's Yeovil Town reached the third flight play-off final. Had he remained at Blundell Park many of the squad which she assembled to do this, which included Steve Mildenhall, Terrell Forbes, and Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala, would have been playing in black and white rather than green and white. Thus we would have most likely ended up in 2007 at the top end of the third division rather than the lower half of the fourth.

Slade was not able to sustain Yeovil’s play-off achievement, but he kept them up for a further two years before leaving the club. In fact Russell Slade has never been relegated as a manager. His route one approach to football, though far from pretty, is effective. It follows therefore that with Slade remaining at the helm at Grimsby during this period there is every chance that we would have ended the 2009 season as a third flight club rather than a club accelerating down the slippery slope which would see us sliding into the open jaws of the abyss the following season. The horrors of the Newall and Woods eras might have been avoided altogether.

If we indulge ourselves a little further and speculate as to where the club may have gone beyond this it is hard not to conclude that it would certainly have led to a far more rosy outcome than actually transpired in the grim reality of six years in the Conference. Being an established third flight side is a far better springboard, both commercially and in terms of player, recruitment for progress. After 2006 the club's direction of travel was unmistakably downward. Under a different scenario the momentum might well have been in the opposite direction.

Of course we will never know. It's also true that we might have missed the penalty had it been awarded in 2006. After all, the club had displayed an incredible ability that year to grab disappointment from the jaws of promotion. But whatever your view, there is one thing that I will always be sure of. It was a penalty.

This is the first in an occasional series speculating on alternative histories for the Mariners. The series is intended to provoke argument. So go on, argue