D3D4 Grimsby Town Correspondent Sam Barrick airs his frustrations at the never ending cycle of poor performances, individual errors and indiscipline that is costing his beloved team…
This was meant to have ended…
2010 was meant to be our lowest ebb, then we lost 5-0 at Braintree in August 2011 and fortunately that was as bad as it ever got (in the Conference at least.) We had plumbed the depths of despair and the depressing nature of non-league football had finally become real. We were fully aware of the world of non-league, being out bid for players by the footballing leviathans that are Forest Green Rovers and Crawley Town was still painful but merely demonstrated how badly wrong it had gone. Now I fear after the stability of the Hurst era and the stalwarts of Shaun Pearson, James McKeown and Craig Disley we are heading back to oblivion.
This time last year we had just one more point than we have at this stage this season but the manner in which we have dropped points this season and the way we deserved far more last season than this is deeply concerning. I reckon that we deserved to be on about 13 points this time last season. Poor refereeing decisions, individual errors and individual brilliance from the opposition often culminated in undeserved losses. This year the total opposite is true, we have 6 points and we have deserved nothing more, we no longer have the individual talent of Omar Bogle to dig us out of trouble, we no longer have a side that is built on a solid defence and we no longer have a manager who the vast majority of Town fans and more importantly players think has the right idea or can see a clear, methodical structure. We always looked like we were working for each other and that we believed in Paul Hurst’s pragmatic and measured approach. I have always maintained that the best managers get the best out of the players they have.
Our side wasn’t particularly technically gifted or athletic but it was very hard working and they all knew what they were doing. We all knew that if we could keep the opposition out there was a decent chance Omar Bogle would get us 3 points rather than 1. This season we have arguably a more promising player in Siriki Dembele and every time the ball goes to him something will happen, he has been the man who causes all sorts of problems for the opposition and has singlehandedly created 2 match winning goals. Sadly we aren’t organised enough to exploit his brilliance, we look incoherent and we defend set plays worse than Liverpool. We looked panicked whenever we have to defend, there is never any composure on the ball and our strikers can’t score for toffee. Consequently, Dembele is left to play teams by himself and being a 20 year old lad he is simply too raw and hasn’t developed a good enough final ball to consistently beat teams on his own. Likewise, if he was Luis Suarez he wouldn’t play for us in the first place. He is often isolated on the right flank and nobody else has the guile or bottle to get into the box to support him.
Our best back 4 has three players over 30 and the left back Paul Dixon and the centre half Nathan Clarke, who is to Slade what Jermain Defoe is to Harry Redknapp, look well past their sell by date. We are too slow in the mind and body to deal with anything the opposition throw at us, we are easy to get in behind. In simple terms we are too easy to score against and are nigh on incapable of scoring goals ourselves.
Our recruitment has been nothing short of dire. We have signed 10 players, not one rejected a new contract elsewhere to come to us and perhaps only 2 players (Mitch Rose and Siriki Dembele) have actually improved the side, although we haven’t seen enough of Jamille Matt or Dialling Jaiyasimi (DJ for short) to make a definitive judgement, 6 players have either weakened us or certainly not improved us. For all the nightmares that dominated the Marcus Bignot era poor recruitment was not one of them, he brought in 4 players which improved our side. Only Rose and Dembele of Slade’s 10 would get in the XI that Hurst assembled last season and we don’t have Omar Bogle, again another ingredient into our recipe for disaster.
The other issue is our discipline, it is well documented that we had 5 players sent off in our first 5 games but what is less well known is the manner of those dismissals. Zak Mills, Ben Davies, Danny Collins and James Berrett all received two yellows and Sam Jones a straight red for “violent conduct”. Of the 9 incidents that culminated in the 5 red cards there were only 2 tackles and only one cynical foul to stop a counter attack the others were for kicking the ball away, time wasting, standing in front of the ball at a free kick, a dodgy hand ball and some handbags on two occasions. I could understand it if we were getting sent off for fouls and being dirty or cynical as that’s a well-known tactic to beat better sides than your own but those are just plain and simple stupid dismissals. Totally petulant, careless and indefensible. Likewise, we concede far too many penalties as we needlessly dangle feet into the paths of opposing players or put our arms in unnatural places just tempting the ball to hit them. Again, absolutely stupid and completely unnecessary, we haven’t got a great footballing team as it is and we keep making our life harder than it already is.
Add all of those issues together, I admit it is almost everlasting, we can’t score, we concede too easily from open play and from set plays, we have one avenue to goal and teams are easily snuffing him out by doubling up on him, we therefore rarely score meaningful goals, our recruitment has been shocking, we give away too many penalties and have had far too many red cards. What that shows is we are basically doing everything that is humanly possible to avoid winning and, you know what they say, every relegation starts with a slippery slope!
words Sam Barrick, D3D4 Grimsby Town Correspondent