Justified Optimism or Blind Faith? A 2015-16 preview by Chris Parker (the one in the suit below!)
Pre-season is the time when all football fans are allowed to dream, in fact it is a pre-requisite.
Whatever went on last season, good or bad, followers up and down the country will all be thinking, perhaps this season? Whether it is a new manager, new signings, just a hunch or the thought that things will get better sooner or later, even the most dour of fans will find a little time to dream. Whether those dreams are justified or not remains to be seen but now isn’t the time for those dreams to be shattered, there will be plenty of time for that once the season starts!
I think it is fair to say Grimsby Town fans are often pessimistic; certainly many of those who have been round the block a few (dozen) times tend to be so, but this season it seems a little different.
When I walked out of Wembley Stadium on May 17th I had never felt as bad over a football game in my life. I was dumbstruck. It was made worse by the fact that I had convinced myself it was our time to return to the Football League, we had served our sentence after all. During the ensuing days I avoided social media, web sites etc mainly because I expected a vitriolic level of abuse directed at the manager, players and the club in general. Eventually I ventured on to social media, fans forums etc and was taken aback by the positivity. We had eventually lost at Wembley (or more accurately, didn’t win) but I was totally shocked at the positivity. I just didn’t expect it. Was I on my own with this?
So, within a few days #OperationPromotion was launched with the initial attempt at ‘Boost the Budget’. I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams could have expected the sum raise to exceed £110,000.
The overwhelming success of the project was down to superb planning, organisation and sheer hard work by many of the Mariners Trust board. Congratulations and a huge well done! I am sure Paul Hurst will be extremely grateful for the boost to his spending but of equal, if not greater, importance in my view is the positivity it has created. The dramatically increased bonding between the fans and the team/club. I see this of such huge importance, so big it cannot realistically be measured!
During the pre-season games the players have looked physically fit but the movement off the ball seems to be at a different level than we have seen for years. Yes, I accept pre-season form/results cannot always be seen as a certain indicator of form once the season starts but I would much rather see 9 wins than a string of defeats. Confidence appears high amongst the fans and the players, but everyone knows that confidence has to be turned into results.
Hopefully McKeown will be back full time in readiness for the opener at Kidderminster and I am sure he will benefit from having a full time goalkeeping coach in Andy Warrington. Is this something that has become affordable as a result of the funds raised by the fans?
Tait looks a steady experienced full back to replace last season’s cult hero and I have to say I like the look of Danny East (you mean as a player Chris? 😉 ). He has experienced some injury problems in recent seasons but if he keeps fit he could be a very useful addition to the squad. Our three senior centre backs look very good at this level and it will be hard to leave any out if Paul Hurst decides to go with a flat back four. Personally I am a big admirer of Nsiala, his pace and strength gets us out of occasional difficulties. He is still a youngster really and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him play much higher up the footballing pyramid in the future. Hopefully with Town!
The wide positions seem well covered with Mackreth, Marshall, Arnold and Monkhouse competing for two berths. One of my favourites is our hairdressing wide man. I love his pace & control. If he can add a few more goals then he could become a fixture in the starting eleven.
In central midfield we have the experienced figure of Disley but he offers much more than that. I am sure he would be a first choice in every other side in our division and if everyone is fit who partners him? Scott Brown looked great at the start of last season but missing large parts of pre-season may see him playing catch up. Once back and fit he will be a valuable member of the squad. Craig Clay has come on leaps and bounds and has the presence to dominate this season. This is a big season for him. I would like to see the young pro’s challenging for a place at some stage during the season. Both Clifton & Venney have done well in pre-season and as a bare minimum I hope they play in our FA Trophy side from the start.
Strikers? Amond has looked great so far, movement, nous and goal scoring. If he stays fit he really could be the missing link. A fit and firing Pittman is an excellent player at this level. Let us hope his hamstring problems do not plague him again. I suggest we may have to be patient with Omar Bogle. He is stepping up from part-time football, he is still inexperienced but he has a 3 year deal which gives both parties time for him to adjust and settle in to his new surroundings. Over time I am sure he will be a great signing but the fans need to be patient with him.
Marshall and Arnold have also looked extremely comfortable, and indeed threatening, playing up front, so options are there. However, I hope there is another addition in the coming weeks in the shape of a bigger target man type. This is not to say I want us to play direct football, nothing could be further from the truth, but having a different option is always useful. At times keepers and defenders have to play the ball out aerially and having someone who can get on the end of this is an option we need to cover. Equally I am a great believer in a big centre forward doing a job defensively in our own box from corners, free kicks etc. Livvo and Lump from days gone by spring to mind.
Reading the above I conclude it isn’t blind faith and that the optimism is justified. What we need is a good start because it is clear the fans are willing and able to get behind the team in huge numbers. If we have momentum from the start then the juggernaut that is Grimsby Town will not be stopped. Gates will boom, travelling support will grow and grow, and the passion will lift and carry the players. There can be no guarantees, football isn’t like that but maybe, just maybe!!