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Cod Almighty | Diary

Tungsten carbide drills! What the bloody hell's tungsten carbide drills?

12 January 2018

Wicklow Diary writes: It has the makings of a Python sketch. Bobby Roberts, Alan Buckley, Paul Hurst and Russell Slade in white dinner jackets sipping Mariners Ale on a sun drenched balcony in Skegness.

"When I arrived, I had no goalkeeper and only twelve players. And one of them was Scott McGarvey. We used to train in concrete 'ole in ground at the local school"

"You were lucky, me and Arthur lived in a Fitties caravan, had six senior pros and a defence consisting entirely of Steve Sherwood's moustache".

"Luxury. Our parachute money was used on mistakenly signing the wrong player on a three year deal and then paying him off. I had to work for two years with a Shouty lunatic without so much as a fitness and conditioning coach. And our fans used to get up twenty minutes before they want to bed to hang 'Hurst Out' banners on t'overpass days before I gave 'em the greatest moment of their lives."

"Right. I inherited a squad of 75 players who were so rubbish I had to get them in for training every Sunday morning. I signed 75 more and by end of season I still only had a five man squad with Sam Kelly, Harry Cardwell and Paul Dixon captained by JJ Hooper’s hair and wearing a kit that we knitted ourselves out of jam. And when we lost, local media would team up with the bullies and the warriors and beat us to death with well-directed criticism delivered with a caustic wit."

If you told the managers of today, they wouldn't believe you. All managers talk nonsense. It's not necessarily their fault. There is a 24-hour clickbait cycle and there are Twitter feeds to fill. Most oblige and Russell Slade is no different. Normally I can ignore it. Speaking yesterday to Radio Humberside (it was Gwilym Lloyd and not Matt Dean before you ask) his waffle went a trifle too far. I'm a builder, not a fixer claimed the man whose similarities to Tommy of the Town's Garry Gaffer are purely coincidental. 

Pull the other one, Slades. Including the youth graduates (and someone might as well, it's not as if Slade ever will) 21 players have been signed since April. Let me add vidiprinter emphasis to that: twenty-one. Now brace yourself for three big ifs. If Siriki Dembele doesn't get sold and if we don't mess up the option on his contract and if Sam Jones doesn't get his bus fare home on the ex-Marcus plan, we will have seven players in contract for next season.

The meagre squads they inherited are used to frame the hopeless task facing Roberts in 1987 and Buckley the following season. Ok, Hursty has little to add to that angle but I couldn't do a Yorkshireman skit without including him. Slades? He'll be inheriting his own mess. Put it another way: after a season and a half of Slade's planning and 'building' we will be in a worse state then when Mick Lyons destroyed the club. At least then we still had Super Don O'Riordan.

A board that provides more funds to chuck at a wall to see what sticks isn't backing the manager. It's negligent. Store that negligence away for a laugh the next time you hear a surly board member lecture us about his 'fiduciary duty' to vote in favour of B-teams in the Chicken-Tray Trophy. To follow the comedic theme, if Slade is a builder he's O'Reilly, the slapstick and slipshod stereotype of Fawlty Towers. Russ is busy this transfer window trying to patch over his own botch jobs. In June the roof falls in and the whole charade will begin again.

Unless that rumour about squad numbered bananas is true, Bignot was sacked for a lot less than this. As tempting as it is to get rid of Slade, we all know that would be rolling a loaded dice on which five sides are chaos ending in relegation with the other side chaos ending in more chaos. Still, I can empathise with those that want shot of him; different chaos might be more entertainment than this.

A builder, eh? At the moment we look incapable of building anything. A builder might have shaped his side around Jamey Osborne. Why have we allowed one of our best players to leave? Osborne joins the what the hell were the club thinking of? list with Podge, Arnold, Pearson and others. As bad as the club's PR is, they always manage to put some spiel out when a fan favourite leaves. It's just enough to grease the thoughts of the fans. You've all heard this classic: "If they don't want to be here, good riddance." I've news for you: few professional footballers dream of playing for GTFC. They just sort of end up here. It's the job of the board and manager to entice players here and then fight like hell to keep them if they're any cop.

Slade shouldn't be allowed to bring in anyone else. He should be out on the training ground all day and everyday trying to make Kelly look like a professional footballer. There has to be a player in there. Has to be. It's been said before but it's worth stressing: the players in our squad were the best at their school, the town and the county. They made it through trial after trial and a ruthless youth system. They are the wheat from the chaff, the cream at the top and other such synonyms that say they are in the miniscule percentage that make it in football. He hasn't shown it yet but Kelly is a footballer. Hooper is a footballer. Dixon is a footballer. I may not want to see Slade and Wilkinson sacked but I want to see them do what they're paid for. Get out there and coax the best out of these players so they can show us why you signed them.

Tomorrow, it's Newport County. No fan should ever want to lose to give their 'sack the manager' wish more clout. There is however a confusing emotion that resides in a dark corner of the soul. It surfaced last week against Morecambe. Normally, you feel quietly pleased when you are proven correct. This isn't the case when, as you suspected, your team is getting routinely stuffed. There's no pleasure, just a contradiction of incandescent rage crossed with utter and complete apathy. Know what I mean? I don't want to feel it but suspect I will when Podge kills the game off with the opener after ten minutes and rubs salt in the wounds by making it 2-0 just before half time.

Come on Slades, there's a team in there. We live for this and even though it's a job for you, you can't be enjoying it either. Forget instilling fear by talk of "not conceding the all-important first goal". Tell them to go and play. We're gonna score one more than they do. Reward the faith of the loyal hardcore that are going tomorrow even though logic says they should stay away. Up the bleedin' Mariners.