The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

We have problems but above all we need a catalyst

11 January 2018

More on the board statement (the only news in town)? Just two points, if you can bear it. No sensible fan would think that Slade's record justifies his dismissal after just nine months in charge, so no fan can seriously quibble with its main conclusion.

Middle-Aged Diary's quibble is with an assumption made by the statement which seems to be shared by most fans nowadays: that a manager must be expected to clear out the squad they inherit and cannot be judged until a new squad has been assembled. Aren't managers expected to coach at all nowadays, to work with what they find and improve the players they inherit? It was not always like this. If John Newman had cleared out Joe Waters, Bob Cumming, Kevin Drinkell, Tony Ford and Kevin Moore from the squad he inherited from Tommy Casey, we might not have a team to support at all today.

But given that this is how the game is now, calling for a change of manager (with the subsequent churn of players that would follow) makes even less sense. We might not have started from here, but here we are.

And besides. It is less than two months since Russell Slade's Grimsby played some thrilling football to beat Swindon. That performance seemed to come out of the blue after the sterile dross of the previous matches, but it was only a month after a fine win at Cheltenham. This team is capable of surprising us, in a good way.

Sometimes teams just click. Alan Buckley was a far more fliexible manager than his detractors – hell, even than he himself – give him credit for. In February 2007 he took a team in the relegation zone, a team that had lost seven games on the bounce, scoring only one goal along the way, made a tactical tweak and came away with a 6-0 win at Boston. It initiated a run of seven wins in eight games. I should know – the only game in that run I saw was the defeat.

Sometimes, it is more of a process of steps forward and back. It is a process easier to be patient with, it's true, in a young team like the one Buckley assembled in his first spell than the generally experienced squad Slade is assembling.

Sometimes, it is personal perception. To my mind, the team of 1997-98 took flight with a win at Bournemouth in which we finally translated our cup form into the league. Memories are hazy. The only action I distinctly remember is Paul Groves finishing a fine move late on with a shot against the post. Apparently he had scored the winning goal. What I do remember is the sense of complete authority with which we bossed the game. For me, it was the moment I started looking forward in hope, not in fear. But other fans will pick other matches as the defining ones of that season mirabilis.

And sometimes it is an odd chemistry, a collective perception that makes itself a material force. In February 2015, Town fans up in arms at the treatment of a fan who had been ejected from Forest Green for playing with a plastic ball turned up with all the inflatables they could find for a game at Barnet. We won 3-1, the players joined in the fun, and suddenly a team became our team. The win transformed not just that season. Ultimately, it transformed us into a Football League club.