Cod Almighty | Article
by Pat Bell
6 November 2006
Some of us will never know; the rest knew all along. For most, it was written in stone before a ball was kicked, while a few will now and again wonder if the Town side that intermittently resembled a Town side, against Walsall, Lincoln and Peterborough, would one day have become something more substantial. Perhaps not, in the face of so much certainty, for very many people seem to have made up their mind about Graham Rodger a very long time ago.
As a player, he was respected. He recovered from one poor season to be named player of the year in the relegation season of 1996-97 - the one player in a defence no longer marshalled by Paul Futcher who maintained a semblance of discipline in front of Jason Pearcey. Nevertheless, in the pecking order of our affections, he was behind Futcher, Mark Lever and Peter Handyside.
A very brief spell at Hull may have harmed his reputation, but he was soon back, behind the scenes of what used to be a stable, well-run club. At Christmas 2001, that changed as the club underwent the second in an increasingly frequent series of convulsions. Lennie Lawrence, who had arrived boasting of his contacts - and, indeed, did the inestimable services of introducing us to Knut Anders Fostervold and securing the signature of Menno Willems - was sacked, having blown the only share of the ITV Digital money we were ever going to get. John Cockerill went with him and their places were taken by Paul Groves, as player-manager, and Rodger, as assistant manager. Perhaps Rodger was perceived as the man who ousted the popular Cockerill.
For a while, it didn't matter. Groves organised another successful flight from relegation and the murmurings were muted when, in 2002, we finally went down. However, such mutterings as were heard were directed not at Groves - an immensely authoritative player - but at Rodger. The argument went around that Town never made the right substitutions, and that was the responsibility of Rodger. The tsar was wise and good, said the people, but his advisors were wicked.
The first side that Groves can truly be said to have constructed imploded in less than a season and, faced with a second successive relegation, Groves was sacked. Messageboard nesbits had been baying for his dismissal for weeks. They were now aghast at the entirely inevitable decision to put Rodger in temporary charge. One "true fan" of the Mariners with a high online profile went so far as to post a message saying he was in a dilemma, because if Rodger averted relegation he would be proved wrong, so maybe relegation wouldn't be so bad.
Rodger, it was now argued among other things, "lacked contacts". And what the club obviously needed in the last two months of a relegation fight was to try and assemble a new side out of players available only (presumably because they had been found wanting elsewhere) on short-term contracts to ensure their enduring commitment to the cause. So Rodger had to step aside, even when he had shown signs of getting our existing players into some kind of order - enough to thrash Barnsley.
Nick Law came and, mercifully, went, and Russell Slade took his place. Opinion divides on Slade but now one thing had been established that apparently everyone agreed on: it was all the assistant manager's fault.
What chance did he ever have when he was made manager?