The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

I don't pay to watch the manager

13 April 2017

Middle-Aged Diary really doesn't want to write an anti-Fenty rant, today of all days, the day after the second coming of the Russ himself. We should be stocking up on eggs, for eating, not throwing.

Credit where its due then. Our major shareholder has acknowledged blame for appointing a manager in whom he lost confidence after five months. "Sorry" is not a word that comes easily to anyone, and comes particularly hard to Fenty. It must be said he's quick to share collective responsibility with the board on appointing Marcus Bignot, while still making clear he was against appointing Neil Woods in 2009; some decisons are more collective than others, it seems.

Let's also credit Fenty with tact. He denies rumours that players were refusing to negotiate new contracts under Bignot. Yet that is a far more credible explanation for sacking him, and sacking him now, than the size of the squad. The club will be able to cut the squad next month in any case, when 13 players' contracts expire. Until then, Russell Slade can do no more about it than Bignot could have done; less in fact, as he is now paying lip service to giving every player a chance to prove their worth.

Fenty tells BBC Humberside he began to worry about the way things were going in January, before the transfer window had shut, and indeed before he boasted that, by signing so many players in January, we'd be giving ourselves a head-start for 2017-18. Tactful, as I say. Let me just suggest that if Fenty is really keen to show firing Bignot was a decision made in the best interests of the club, he'd be wise to stop banging on about how he was at Slade's wedding, and move on.

Slade himself in blameless in this, and starts with a clean slate. My memories of his first stint are not especially fond. Ron Counte (in an article he wrote when Slade's return was unimaginable) says that Slade's approach to football "though far from pretty, is effective." To my mind, route one tactics tend, in the end, never to be quite effective enough; get a team well-drilled defensively and minimising the risk of errors and you'll win most fourth flight games, but then fall short against the better teams.

Slade has had a fire-fighting kind of managerial career, with spells at Orient, Cardiff, Charlton and Coventry, not to mention taking over at Town after successive relegations. In those circumstances, its a considerable credit that he's never had a team relegated on his watch. He is, as he says, a far more experienced manager now than he was in 2006; let's hope he can experience a first-ever promotion. The 2004 Slade would be a 180-degree turn from the decision we took to appoint Bignot, but lets not pre-judge the 2017 Slade.

In the end, football is about players and fans, not board members or even managers - no one pays to watch them (although a Fenty-cam could entice a few more MarinersPlayer subscribers.) I feel no particular sense of bereavement at the departure of Bignot. But I do want to watch the story he started unfolding: to see if Jamey Osborne can wriggle his way through defences that bit more often when he has a pre-season behind him; to see how the tidily effective Chris Clements blossoms in a settled side; even to see if the visionary arrogance of Gavin Gunning can be turned into anything that belongs in a fourth division football team.

For that reason, and others, I'll still be there. So will you. Grimsby Town. It's for life.