The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Needed, two managers

13 February 2018

Asked to defend his record on managerial appointments, John Fenty might say: I'm picking all the right managers, but not necessarily in the right order.

Graham Rodger, his permanent appointment drowned in boos in 2006, was just the man in 2004, picking up the pieces after Paul Groves's reign had disintegrated and bringing cohesion to the team. Surely even the biggest Fenty admirer would have to concede that Nicky Law was a bum note.

Nevertheless, Law we got and back in the fourth flight after consecutive relegations, we needed, to coin a phrase, a builder not a fixer. And Slade is no builder. Even praising him at the start of his second coming, Middle-Aged Diary could not ignore the vacuum he left behind when he upped sticks to Yeovil. That might have been the time to give a third spin of the dice to Alan Buckley. (That is not to cede the ground that Buckley's actual third spell was a disaster, by the way. Just now, I'd take steering the club out of danger with the bonus of a Wembley appearance.)

Slade, whatever he might think, was the man for a quick fix. This second spell was at its best when he was working with the squad he inherited from Paul Hurst and Marcus Bignot, which then deteriorated as he brought in his own players. Perhaps he would have been the man to secure Football League safety in 2009. As Fenty has breached the sanctity of the boardroom so far as to reveal he voted for Slade over Neil Woods, we'll give him that one.

Woods, we have almost forgotten, presided over a promising crop of young players, a generation it was never right to test against the rigours of that fight for safety. Could we have risked them when we had the cushion against relegation of the points sanctions against Luton and Bournemouth and the financial disintegration of Chester City? Would it have been so much worse than Mike Newell, whose reign, allegedly, drowned in booze?

In his interview on the offical site [audio link, and subscription content – see the Telegraph for a summary], Fenty is invited to praise the quality of applications that the club has received. He refuses. That is a reality check for all of us. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, those people who most want to manage Grimsby are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it... anyone who is capable of getting themselves made Town manager should on no account be allowed to do the job. 

Woods, it's true, never looked like he wanted to be in charge and that did not end well. But Hurst, the one undoubted success over all this time, was appointed almost by accident, coming to the club as a second among equals in partnership with Rob Scott, then staying to see us though.

It feels like the speculation on our next manager is cooler this time around. There is instead a widespread realisation just how much at the club needs fixing. We do, it is true, need a short-term fix, someone to nick the four or five wins we need to secure our League status. The performances of the reserves this season are enough to suggest that Paul Wilkinson deserves to be given the chance to achieve them.

But while Wilkinson, we hope, is buying us time, the club, the Mariners Trust, all of us, need to be looking further into the future, beyond the range of a six-month rolling contract to put in place the decison-making process to get the best person possible, and the infrastructure to make the manager's job one that you would not have to be desperate to aspire to. Long-term, we need more than just a manager to bring success back to Blundell Park.