The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

A rotten borough

1 February 2018

One of these days, someone really must take John Fenty aside and tell him about the parliamentary reforms of the 19th century. The board statement banged out this morning was clearly written by someone harking back to the good old days before 1833 – when only the rich and landed were entitled to a vote, and so an opinion.

There is no subtext, no subtlety, no empathy to the statement. In huge letters, it says: Come up here if you think you are rich enough. Otherwise be seen but not heard; you may pay your gate money and cheer from the sidelines, but otherwise stay silent, you bleeding proles. There is no longer any vestige of a sense that the board regards itself as the 'custodians' of a community asset.

There are, of course, some omissions in the statement. The board takes credit for standing by Paul Hurst – who, despite never being a truly popular figure among fans never presided over a run so poor as the current one, nor aroused the levels of contempt that Russell Slade now endures. It forgets Marcus Bignot, sacked after five months with a record that compares favourably to Slade's.

It isn't all about results, of course. With Hurst there was always the sense of a plan. Bignot, who brought some promising players to the club, was so fixed on a far horizon that he sometimes tripped over his own feet. From 'builder' Slade we get only short-term fixes. And after Tuesday night, the future has been reduced to scraping enough points to keep our heads above Barnet and Forest Green.

Jones's transfer is for an undisclosed fee, joining the growing list of things about the club that are undisclosed, like the length of Russell Slade's contract. We aren't rich enough, important enough, to be allowed to know such things

Gone is all talk of a leaner, hungrier squad. The board boasts of the club's loan acquisitions: the strikers Charles Vernam and Mallik Wilks and now Simeon Jackson; goalkeeper Jake Kean; and, late last night, defender Easah Suliman. It forgets the two outgoings. The two outgoings so far, at least: to be fair, there is potential for further squad pruning with the possibility of loaning players to Conference sides. Anyone going out to Solihull or Woking could think of themselves as a kind of advance party, out on a scouting mission. Just in case.

The club has sanctioned the loan of Chris Clements to a relegation rival. He can't play for Forest Green against us on the last day, but if he has helped them overtake us in the meantime, that will be no comfort at all. It has also sold top scorer Sam Jones to Shrewsbury. Jones has taken the trouble to say goodbye but there is a note of Boots of Spanish Leather about his farewell: his thoughts are not with us but with the country to where he's going.

Jones's transfer is, by the way, for an undisclosed fee, joining the growing list of things about the club that are undisclosed, like the length of Russell Slade's contract. We aren't rich enough, important enough, to be allowed to know such things.

Jackson joins our roster of nine strikers. The 30-year-old Canada international was prolific earlier in his career for Rushden & Diamonds, Gillingham and Norwich. Reports from his parent club Walsall suggest that although the goals have dried up since, he never stops trying. Suliman joins us from Aston Villa, for whom he has never appeared. He has played through the age bands for England though, and was part of the under-19 team which won the European Championship last July.

We wish both Jackson and Suliman very well indeed. The board hints that the toxic atmosphere at Blundell Park is to blame for our poor form, and Middle-Aged Diary does not deny that a negative atmosphere hinders good football. But this season it is notable that fans have been directing their negativity at the dug-out and the directors' box rather than towards the pitch. No doubt the board are more self-critical in private. No doubt.