The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Does anyone have any confidence in anything?

12 April 2019

It’s often assumed that a good budget gets you a good side. It stands to reason that if you invest in good players then you'll get good results.

Budgets are important but they're not the be-all and end-all in lower league football. Why? Well, you could sign good players and not get the best out of them because the manager is a plum. Or, you could sign bang average players but get the very best out of them because the manager is a genius. Think Notts County this season and Accrington last season.

Our playing budget during our time in non-League was probably in the top four or five for that division. With it, Paul Hurst was able to build a side that eventually delivered promotion. In that squad we had one striker who scored 37 goals and another who later generated a reported £1m for the club by signing for a second division side.

Pádraig Amond has shown, in the last three seasons, that he can still find the back of the net with unerring regularity at this level. And I’m pretty sure Bogle could do the same. Even though Hurst pretty much tore up the promotion-winning side and started again from scratch, he still had us in and around the play-offs when he fled to Shrewsbury Town.

The Grimsby Town teams of 2014-15 and 2015-16 are, as a fan, the ones I'm most proud of. They were built on what would surely be a fairly meagre budget for the division we're now in, and yet I'm pretty confident that they'd be higher in the league than we are now. My point, to be debated, of course, is this: our non-League budget spent wisely is still enough to buy a competitive team at this level.

The likes of Amond and Bogle are out there. We just need a highly competent manager to find them, coach them and then motivate them to achieve their potential. It really doesn’t have to be expensive. Football was very different back in the late 1980s in many aspects but I'm also fairly sure the double promotion-winning squad Alan Buckley assembled did not come at a huge cost, given how many of them came from non-League.

Naturally, when any team goes eight games without winning, questions will be asked – from the tactical abilities of our manager to the season's budget set by the board in the summer. None of these questions were asked when Michael Jolley was Manager of the Month in December, which underlines the fickle nature of football. But that's nothing new. When times are good, roll with it. But when times are tough, lose patience and give up – unless the manager goes. That seems to be the modern fan's mentality.

I'll be the first to admit that our current run is not too far short of the barren spell that cost Russell Slade his job – games lost as soon as we go behind; no rousing responses in the second half; and pretty much no goal threat – but at least we have some local talent involved in the squad, and at least we're not standing on the relegation trapdoor. And while financial figures are for the most part privileged information, I'd like to wager that Slade had far more at his disposal than Jolley did last summer – unless anyone from the club would like to put me straight on that.

It's not just about talent, either. Hurst wanted good players – but, just as importantly, he wanted good people; those who could contribute to a positive team spirit and generate the sort of camaraderie that gets you through lean spells. Basically, not the sort of people who go out and break a woman's leg in an argument after downing 11 pints of shandy, or the sort who pack their bags and dream of being on the beach when there's still a quarter of the season to go.

This season hasn't been perfect. We've had a couple of excellent runs, which have effectively kept us free of relegation worries, and we had that stirring, backs-to-the-wall performance at Palace that made us all incredibly proud. They have been fleeting, but positive moments have been there. Jolley may need a little more in the way of budget next season so he can buy the players he really wants, and then we'll be able to form better judgments of his abilities. Right now I'm not sure Hurst or Buckley would be able to get much more from this current crop, given that our most creative midfielder is out for the season and our top scorer has played his last game for the club.

Due to injuries and departures we're left with a squad of peripherals. I doubt it's close to what Jolley had planned our starting XI to be when he began building his squad last summer, and now that both promotion and relegation are improbable (and have been for a month already) you can feel the apathy burrowing into your veins – and it's clearly not helped by the inertia that seeps down from the boardroom. But that topic has already been discussed on here this week, so I won't go there again. For now.

Kristian Dennis looks set to start up front tomorrow at Morecambe. In his pre-match press conference Jolley explains that he's the sort of striker who's not really going to create chances for himself, and yet with almost the same breath adds that he likes his work rate. If you consider our likely starting XI tomorrow - which won’t include Wes Thomas (12 goals), Jordan Cook (5) and Elliot Embleton (4) -  then we're looking to our next highest goalscorer for the season, Charles Vernam (4) for something to celebrate. Martyn Woolford, Harry Clifton and centre back Harry Davis are all on 3.

Those who travel to Lancashire tomorrow do so out of pure loyalty, and possibly habit. Because it's hard to see how they'd be making the effort if they really thought for one second that they'd witness a swashbuckling 4-3 win – or even a sneaky 1-0 win.

Stranger things have happened, I suppose. Town couldn't score for toffee in 2002-03 and then knocked in six (6) against Burnley. Football's a funny old game: on the odd occasion when it's not boring or just disappointing.

If you're paying good money to go, enjoy the match and UTM!