The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Yesterday Once More

12 February 2024

Miss Guest Diary writes: Another Saturday, another miserable afternoon at Blundell Park; the misery only partly caused by the action on the pitch. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to bear the negative atmosphere in the Pontoon, and I'm definitely avoiding the after-match negativity in the ether.

I was very impressed with our new left-back, Denver Hume, the only bright spot in the afternoon. I did try to convince myself Town's performance improved in the second half but I think we all know that we only looked better because Stockport took their foot off the gas. Had we managed to scrape a second goal the Hatters would undoubtedly have upped their game again in response.

All this was made doubly poignant by the minute's applause before the game to mark the way too premature death of Peter Handyside at the age of 49. Only becoming a Town supporter in 1990, for me Handyside represents the golden era of being a Town fan. All but one of his seasons as a Mariner were spent playing in the second division, and the season spent in the third tier culminated in the wonderful Wembley double in 1998.

He was an elegant player who never looked flustered. In the We Are Town book Tony Butcher reflects on Handyside's debut against Birmingham City back in August 1992, describing him as "a man with time to chill" and predicting that he would be the next Alan Hansen. Sadly he lingered a little too long at Town and did not fulfil that potential but, as Tony said, the Premiership's loss was Town's gain.

Of course, Handyside played most of his football at Town under Alan Buckley which got me looking back at Buckley's time as manager and wondering how well he did when assembling the teams with which he achieved promotion. Recently Rich Lord looked at the first ten games of various managers in the context of "new manager bounce" and calculated their points per game score. I looked solely at the results of Buckley's first ten league games in his two spells and they went as follows:

1988/89 Won 2 Drew 3 Lost 5
1997/98 Won 3 Drew 4 Lost 3

So even the great Alan Buckley took some time to get going, and it wasn't until four months into his second spell with the club that Buckley began to put together a good run of results, winning five and drawing three games (in all competitions) during December 1997.

The results from David Artell's first ten league games are not too dissimilar to Buckley's: W2, D4, L4. The major difference is that Buckley had the whole season to get things right, whereas our current manager came in with only half the season left to play and with the team languishing in 21st place – a much tougher job. Those now calling for Artell's head might do well to ponder what might have happened had Alan Buckley been sacked after three months due to his indifferent start to the 97/98 season.

According to her programme notes, Saturday marked the last home game with Debbie Cook as Town's CEO and I was pleased to see that she has got a season ticket so that she can continue to support the Mariners. There is reference to the toxicity which she faced on social media last year and we can only speculate how much of a factor that was in her decision to leave. I would just like to say thank you to Debbie for being part of our club and wish her well in her new role with the EFL.