Despite being just 3 points outside the play-off places D3D4 Grimsby Town Correspondent Sam Barrick is not convinced by the football his Mariners are playing…
Some people have said that “we’ve only got 2 fewer points than we had under Hurst last year” or “it’s League 2 football what do you expect.” There are 2 questions I have for the people who ask questions such as these. Firstly, yes we have almost identical points but at what cost? We are dire to watch, there is absolutely no passion, drive, desire, skill, quality, patience, composure, intricacy of decent football at all! Secondly, we may be a 4th division side but Hurst managed to make us more attractive, we played some genuine football and he recruited some skilful players. Even Bignot (who hadn’t got a clue) played more inspired and freer flowing football than this. It’s a myth that teams at this level all play direct and pragmatic football. It’s truth that Slade only plays that way.
We played Crawley on Saturday in an incredibly tedious and terrible game. Sam Jones missed the target from the penalty spot miserably and we never looked like creating anything through anything other than a calamitous defensive error or some individual brilliance from Siriki Dembele.
Pre match there was some genuine, if admittedly fragile, optimism at how we might do going forward. We were all hopelessly wrong. It’s not like the depressing and one dimensional nature of style was a one off on Saturday, it’s been like that all season. Saturday may have epitomised our style and excitement factor but it wasn’t a surprise to me that we played awfully and nor should it be to anyone else. The only reason we weren’t torn to pieces and taken to the cleaners was because Crawley were equally as bad.
The penalty miss was a microcosm of the afternoon. A last gasp challenge that resulted in a penalty followed by me and several around me showing no signs of confidence in the taker Sam Jones. Despite scoring twice from 12 yards this season both were poor and should have been saved. This was worse but I wasn’t surprised. The consensus around me was that Ben Davies (who fired in a magnificent penalty at Chesterfield) should always take them. I hope this is the case from now on. The penalty never even threatened to go in. It was hopeless and just perfectly condensed 94 minutes of drivel in 2 seconds. The other 93 minutes and 58 seconds produced about as much quality as those 2 seconds.
Our style of play is about as predictable as Theresa May’s election campaign (and just as effective). We kick the ball up to strikers with monotonous regulatory and it is overly apparent to any half intelligent being that despite being tall and reasonably strong none of Sam Jones, Scott Vernon or Jamille Matt are going to win everything in the air. All of them look far better when the ball is played into their feet and they have their back to goal and they have runners from wide and midfield to support them. Sadly, aimlessly whacking the ball up to a loan striker is a futile exercise. The ball invariably finds its way back to our centre halves and we start the process all over again.
This isn’t a particular criticism of our players. I know that Ben Davies, Danny Collins, James Berrett, Siriki Dembele, Sam Jones and Scott Vernon are all good footballers, the operative word being “footballers”. Slade wasn’t especially popular here last time because of the ugly and uninspiring style of play we employed and I have seen plenty of people who have said they weren’t that bothered when he left even after a very near miss in the play offs.
The issue is last time we had a genuinely high quality target man in Gary Jones and brilliant partner who was actually unbelievably quick and direct called Michael Reddy. They worked brilliantly as a pair and made the “style” forgivable because of the results we got and the points we accumulated. Now we are less attractive to watch and have virtually no flair players who consistently occupy defenders. It’s like that after two disastrous spells at Charlton and Coventry respectively last season have sapped Slade’s confidence and made him an ultra-defensive manager.
We seem to have a genuine fear of playing football and being picked off on the counter attack. Even when we defend corners in the first few minutes every single one of our players is in our penalty area, which means that when we clear the ball it comes straight back because there’s nobody up front to exploit the counter attack possibility and cause problems. We are constantly back under pressure and making last gasp challenges. Slade also seems very reluctant to play either Dialling Jaiyasimi or Tom Bolarinwa as well. Both of them are wingers who liable to cause panic in the opposition’s final third and penalty area. With pace on both wings and Vernon and Jones up front with the ball played into their feet I’m absolutely convinced that we’d be more threatening and at the very least immeasurably more entertaining. But no, football managers are by nature very obstinate, otherwise they’d spend their time questioning their own judgement and ability, but it is clear to everyone that this pragmatic method, I use the term loosely, is not entertaining and isn’t effective enough to make it justifiable.
I now speak directly to you Mr. John Fenty and Mr. Russell Slade, what exactly are we trying to achieve and is it possible to reach that target by using a more exciting method? The soul is being sucked out of our club. Gates are over 1000 down on last season and the general mood isn’t one of optimism. This time last year we had just won our last game under Paul Hurst at Cambridge where we had out-played them and been deserved winners because of the skill of Dom Vose and Omar Bogle but this season I detect absolutely no sign of any genuine optimism. The side is athletic, organised, solid and fit but there is chasm the size of the Grand Canyon that should be occupied by decent football and entertainment.