Holloway: The world according to Baz

Cod Almighty | Article

by Barry Whittleton

6 January 2021

In resigning as manager, Ian Holloway bottled it. In the first of his regular columns for Cod Almighty, Baz argues that if he'd stayed, he could have turned the team around

The world according to Baz: Holloway

The King is dead. Long live the King. At least for now.

The departure of Ian Holloway met with as much vitriol as the departure of his successor, Paul Hurst, when he left for Shrewsbury. Those prepared to defend Holloway are undoubtedly small in number, but I am prepared to take a nuanced view.

Let's start with what we agree on. Holloway has left us in the shit with a squad unlikely to secure our League position. He likes Fenty, but let's give him credit for speaking as he found, and he knew different facets of the man to the ones we know. He had a lot to say on the running of our club when he had not been here long enough to form an opinion, and the one he did form was wrong.

From here we may diverge. I am of the firm belief that Holloway would have sorted it out. With no Covid clauses; knowing that his gambles on Hanson, Williams, Wright and Scannell staying fit had backfired; that Windsor, Taylor, Jackson Junior, Spokes, Edwards, Morton and Gomis are not consistently good enough for division four: he would have shipped out and brought in better. It may well be that over time the players he brought in will prove themselves. I hope so, wherever they go.

Possibly the unluckiest manager in my time watching Town was Tom Casey. He was the one who gave contracts to the local backbone of the 1979-80 championship side. He was the one who gave them their debuts in a side bound for relegation. It was he who spotted the potential of Joe Waters and Micky Brolly. Sadly for Casey, they blossomed as a team two seasons too late. Holloway was equally unlucky.

In his appearance on TV at the weekend, interviewed by that other media darling Jimmy Bullard, he was allowed to put the case according to Ian Holloway, unchallenged. It was of course self-serving bollocks. He claimed in two minutes that he lost ten, eight and six of the team which beat Scunthorpe: it was actually five and a sub, but it's a valid point. He claimed Covid disrupted his ability to engineer suitable replacements: again perfectly true; of 92 Football League clubs Grimsby Town were the only club to insert a Covid-19 clause. Grimsby Town came back to training later than other clubs, presumably to leave players and staff on furlough. They played only one pre-season game against a side well below them in the football pyramid, again presumably to save money.

Only Holloway and the board know how culpable he was in the decisions made at the start of this season. But hey should not divert us from the job he had done before

All true, but only Ian Holloway and the board know how culpable in these decisions he was. In March 2019, and at all points up until his resignation, Holloway enjoyed the support of the majority of fans. When those decisions were being taken he was unsackable. Not even Fenty would have dared to sack him had he insisted the clauses were removed and proper friendlies arranged. So while his jovial, cheeky cockney mates may not question him on this, it's important the points are made.

They should not however divert us from the job Holloway did before. From 28 September to 31 December 2019, Grimsby Town secured four points and failed to win a game of football. They were one of only two clubs to lose to Stevenage. In the Boxing Day clash against Macclesfield, in disarray at the time, we scraped a draw with a lateish goal from substitute Charles Vernam, a player recalled from loan at Chorley.

That Holloway turned this side, with relatively few additions, into the side which won so convincingly at Glanford Park in March should be acknowledged. That he turned the previously discarded Vernam into the sought-after scorer of wonder goals deserves recognition. That he lost the majority of the side - some for cash, some because we were always simply a stepping stone, and others to injury - cannot be ignored. There can be little doubt given his record that had the season continued his side would have finished significantly higher than two places above the one he inherited. It is this which gives me belief that in January he would have turned it round.

That does not mean I have left any respect for him: he bottled it and ran. Maybe in the fullness of time we will find out why. Perhaps he had been sold a dream of investment in the club, of a share in the riches to be had when the club, housed in our new stadium, were returned to the second flight by his talent and sold to the highest bidder. When this disappeared - as Fenty embattled in his political career and under pressure for his links with an unrepentant fraudster was "hounded out" - then Holloway's much-stated devotion to all things Grimsby Town and its fans evaporated with it. Given his track record on abrupt departures, it is hard to swallow his claims of moral indignation.

Holloway has gone, probably forever, to be spoken of in the same toxic tones as Lyons, Laws and Newell. Just another in a long line of badge kissers. That he deserves it is without argument - not from me anyway. Whether it could have been different we'll never know. It's nuanced.

Does Holloway's record as a manager deserve respect, whatever we think of the way he left? Send us your feedback