Picture: Lee Blease
The early years (1878–1916)
Grimsby Town F.C. was formed in 1878 after a meeting held at the Wellington Arms public house in Freeman Street, Grimsby. Several attendees included members of the local Worsley Cricket Club who wanted to form a football club to occupy the empty winter evenings after the cricket season had finished.
The club was originally called Grimsby Pelham, this being the family name of the Earl of Yarborough, a significant landowner in the area. In 1880 the club purchased land at Clee Park which was to become their ground until 1889 when they relocated to Abbey Park, before moving again in 1899 to their present home, Blundell Park. The original colours were blue and white hoops, which were changed to chocolate and blue quartered shirts in 1884.
In 1888 the club first played league football, joining the newly formed ‘Combination’. The league soon collapsed and the following year the club applied to join the Football League, an application that was refused. Instead the club joined the Football Alliance. In 1890 the club became a limited company and in 1892 finally entered the Football League, when it was expanded to two divisions. The first game was a 2–1 victory over Northwich Victoria.
The 1901–02 season saw promotion to the first division, having finished as champions; two seasons later they were relegated and within a decade they would be a non-league side again, failing re-election in 1910 and falling to the Midland League. However they won that at the first attempt and at the subsequent re-election vote, replaced local rivals Lincoln City in the Football League.
Grimsby Town and Hull City were the only two professional teams which had official permission to play league football on Christmas Day because of the demands of the fish trade. That tradition has now disappeared following the dramatic reduction of their trawler fleets in recent years.
The Inter-War years (1916–1945)
This was the most successful period in the club’s history. The first full season after the First World War the club were relegated to the new Third Division; in the initial 1920–21 season they played against the former members of the Southern League who had been invited to form the new division, but after a year an equivalent Third Division North was created and Grimsby moved across to that. By 1929 they were back in Division One, where they stayed (with a brief break from 1932 to 1934) until 1939, obtaining their highest-ever league position, 5th in Division One, in the 1934–35 season. In 1925 they adopted the black and white stripes as their colours.
On 20 February 1937, the club’s record home attendance of 31,651 was recorded when the club met Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup.
Grimsby reached the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1936, the game was played at Huddersfield Town’s Leeds Road, but lost 1–0 to Arsenal, with the goal coming from Cliff Bastin five minutes before half time.
Grimsby also reached the semi-final of the FA Cup on 25 March 1939, Wolverhampton Wanderers played Grimsby, in a FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford. The attendance of 76,962 remains Old Trafford’s largest ever attendance. The Mariners lost the game 5–0 after goalkeeper George Moulson was injured early in the match. With the rules forbidding substitutes for injuries, Grimsby had to play with 10 men and an outfield player in goal.
Postwar decline (1946–1970)
With the resumption of the Football League for the 1946–47 season after the Second World War the club were relegated at the end of the 1947–48 season and have never returned to this level. Much of the 1950s and 1960s were spent alternating between the Second Division and the Third Division North, later the Third Division. From July 1951 to January 1953 they were managed by Bill Shankly. His main problems were that Grimsby had been relegated twice in recent seasons, dropping from the First to the Third Division, and some good players had been transferred before he arrived. Shankly believed he still had good players to work with and was able to buy some additional players on the transfer market for low fees.
Grimsby made a strong challenge for promotion in 1951–52 but finished second, three points behind Lincoln City (only one team was promoted from Division Three North, with one from Division Three South).
“Pound for pound, and class for class, the best football team I have seen in England since the war. In the league they were in they played football nobody else could play. Everything was measured, planned and perfected and you could not wish to see more entertaining football”.— Bill Shankly, in his autobiography in 1976.
Grimsby’s ageing team made a bright start in 1952–53 with five straight wins but eventually slipped and finished in fifth place. In 1953–54, Shankly became disillusioned when the board could not give him money to buy new players. He was reluctant to promote some promising reserves because of loyalty to the older players (a fault that was to resurface at Liverpool years later) and he finally resigned in January 1954, citing the board’s lack of ambition as his main reason. Shankly’s record in league football at Grimsby was 62 wins and 35 defeats from 118 matches. Shankly went on to win the Football League, FA Cup and UEFA Cup with Liverpool.
Allenby Chilton became Grimsby’s first player-manager, he joined Town late in the 1954–55 season from Manchester United and was unable to stop them having to apply for re-election, but the following season under his management they were champions of Division Three North – the only club ever to go from re-election to promotion in one season. Chilton continued as manager at Grimsby Town until April 1959 when he joined Wigan Athletic as manager for one season during 1960–61.
In 1968 Grimsby slipped into the Fourth Division for the first time. The following season the club had to apply for re-election to the league having finished second from bottom. It was in this season that the lowest-ever attendance for a Football League match at Blundell Park was ever recorded; 1,833 saw a 2–0 defeat to Brentford. Arthur Drewry, a local businessman, married the daughter of Grimsby Town’s chairman, and subsequently served as a director of the club before his own chairmanship. Drewry became President of the Football League and Chairman of The Football Association after Grimsby, before he was elected as the 5th President of FIFA.
Revival of the seventies (1970–1980)
Grimsby broke their transfer record in 1972 with a fee of £20,000 for the signing of Phil Hubbard. In the same year 22,489 people witnessed a home victory against Exeter City that saw the club promoted as Division Four Champions. This turnaround was credited to the appointment of Lawrie McMenemy as manager.
The club stayed in Division Three until relegation in 1977 but were promoted again in 1979. A year later they finished as Third Division Champions under the stewardship of George Kerr and returned to the second tier of the English game, a level they had not been at for 16 years.
In 1976 the club saw what could be said to be its most prestigious visitor when the local Member of Parliament and then Foreign Secretary Anthony Crosland invited the then American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to watch the Mariners play Gillingham.
Back in the Second Division (1980–1987)
The first season back (1980–81) saw the club finish 7th. Work started that year on a new £1m stand, originally called the Findus Stand (now the Youngs Stand) after the former Barrett’s Stand had been declared unsafe, the stand opened for the first time on 29 August 1982, as the Mariners play hosts to Leeds United. In the 1983–84 season the club finished fifth in the Second Division after spending most of the latter part of the campaign in the top three promotion places. This was their highest league finish since the 1947–48 season. Grimsby’s stay in the Second Division ended in 1987. They actually spent much of the 1986–87 season in the top half of the table, but a run of 8 losses and 2 draws in the final 10 games saw them fall from 8th to 21st.
Another decline and another revival (1987–1997)
1987–88 saw Grimsby suffer a second consecutive relegation, placing them in the Fourth Division. The club’s financial situation was also dismal, and as the 1988–89 season began, the task at Grimsby was to avoid relegation to the Football Conference, avoid expulsion from the F.A. and avoid going out of business completely. This was achieved, finishing 9th. Following the resignation of Dave Booth in 1986 (to pursue outside business interests) the club had two managers in two years (Mick Lyons and Bobby Roberts). Alan Buckley was appointed after the 1988 relegation and by 1991 had led the club to two successive promotions with the chairman at that time being Peter Furneaux. Grimsby were to remain in football’s second flight for six years. Buckley’s crop of players consisting of some of the most popular and biggest cult heroes in the club’s history. Players such as Shaun Cunnington, Keith Alexander, Mark Lever, Dave Gilbert, Steve Livingstone, Paul Futcher, Paul Groves and Clive Mendonca made the club a solid second-tier side (the Second Division became Division One in 1992 upon the creation of the Premier League from the old First Division). In 1992–93, Grimsby finished ninth in the new Division One, and until well into April they were in the hunt for a play-off place that would have given them the chance of a third promotion in four years. They dipped to 16th place a year later, though they were never in any real danger of relegation.
The Mariners began to produce home grown talent from the club’s youth academy, including Jack Lester, John Oster, Gary Croft and Peter Handyside. Buckley departed Grimsby in October 1994 to join West Bromwich Albionand he was replaced by defender Brian Laws. Laws steered Grimsby to a 10th-place finish in his first season as manager. During his tenure, Laws became famous for a changing-room altercation after a defeat at Luton with Italian striker Ivano Bonetti, which left the latter with a broken cheekbone, and caused the popular player to leave the club at the end of the season. Grimsby finished 17th and were in the battle to avoid relegation right up to the penultimate game of the season. In the 1996–97 season the Mariners were relegated from Division One. Despite flowing goals from Clive Mendonca, notably good performances from John Oster and newcomer Kingsley Black, Grimsby failed to save themselves. The club had suffered from the losses of Gary Croft, who made a £1.5 million move to Blackburn Rovers and ever present goalkeeper Paul Crichton.
Double Wembley season (1997–1998)
The 1997–98 season saw the return of Alan Buckley as manager, after an unsuccessful period at West Bromwich Albion, for Grimsby’s most successful post-war season. In the summer of 1997, Buckley succeeded in bringing in players to the club who were to be instrumental in the club’s upcoming season. Former skipper Paul Groves was re-signed from West Bromwich Albion, and Kevin Donovan and David Smith also joined the club from Albion. The mid-season capture of Huddersfield Town midfielder Wayne Burnett proved to be a great bit of business for Buckley. After a seemingly poor start to the League campaign, performances improved, which propelled the club into a promotion battle with Watford, Bristol City and an expensively assembled Fulham (at the time the only club at this level to have spent seven-figure sums on players).
A good run in the League Cup saw The Mariners knock holders Leicester City and fellow Premier League side Sheffield Wednesday out of the competition before finally losing out to Liverpool. A decent run of form had ignited the careers of such younger players as Daryl Clare, Danny Butterfield and Jack Lester who were becoming an integral part of the Blundell Park set-up. The Mariners went on to dump Burnley out of the Football League Trophy Northern section area final, which would see the club book its first trip to Wembley Stadium. The club were drawn against Southern section champions AFC Bournemouth and in a tight game, an equaliser from substitute Kingsley Black took the game into extra time, and in the 112th minute Grimsby secured the game courtesy of a golden goal from Wayne Burnett. This was the first major trophy awarded to the club following its first appearance at Wembley. It took only four weeks for Grimsby to return to the stadium though, this time to face Northampton Town in the Division Two Play Off Final. Town won the game 1–0 thanks to a first half Kevin Donovan goal which gave the club a historic Wembley double and The Mariners promotion back to Division One.
Back in the second tier (1998–2003)
The 1998–99 season saw Grimsby finish in 11th place, but the 1999–2000 season saw Grimsby struggle and finish 20th, avoiding relegation at the expense of Buckley’s old club Walsall. The2000–01 season saw a boardroom change with Doug Everitt taking over from Bill Carr. Everitt dismissed manager Alan Buckley just two games into the season, replacing him with Lennie Lawrence, who earlier in his managerial career had guided both Charlton Athletic and Middlesbrough into the top flight. The new manager chop and changed the playing squad around and brought in some expensive loan signings from abroad such as Zhang Enhua, Menno Willems signing from Vitesse Arnhem for 160K, David Nielsen and Knut Anders Fostervold. Despite this, the club struggled to avoid relegation, only securing their place in Division One on the last day of the season with a win over promoted Fulham.
The Mariners started the 2001–02 season strongly, topping the league table after five games and staying there for most of the next few weeks. The club knocked local rivals Lincoln City andSheffield United out of the League Cup to meet holders Liverpool at Anfield. In one of the club most famous victories, Grimsby held the Premier League team to a 0–0 draw after 90 minutes taking the game into extra time. Despite Gary McAllister scoring a penalty following a David Beharall handball to put the Reds 1–0 up, loan signing Marlon Broomes equalised before ex-Everton youth player Phil Jevons hit a 35-yard strike into the top corner of Chris Kirkland’s goal to give the club a historic victory. Grimsby’s push for promotion faltered and the team’s form declined rapidly, with Lawrence being dismissed halfway into the season. Paul Groves, the skipper, was chosen to replace him. Grimsby finished 19th in the final table, enough to avoid relegation, but a disappointing end to a season which had begun so promisingly. The season was overshadowed by loanee Martin Pringle’s footballing career being ended after a leg-breaking tackle by Stockport County defender Dave Challinor, as well as the collapse of ITV Digital putting enormous strain on finances.
The 2002–03 season, was a disaster for Grimsby Town. Mariners boss Paul Groves attempted to bolster his side as well as he could, veteran footballers Darren Barnard and Steve Chettle amongst others were brought to the club, and such players as Steve Kabba, Richard Hughes and returning hero John Oster all played some part in the season, but the club couldn’t avoid relegation and Grimsby finished bottom of Division One and were relegated after five successive seasons at this level. Indeed, only one of their previous 12 seasons had been spent outside it and have never returned to this level.
Financial crisis and relegation (2003–2005)
The sudden collapse of ITV Digital had left the club with debts of over £2m, £700,000 of which was owed to the Inland Revenue and a further substantial amount to their bankers, Lloyds TSB. The collapse had seen a lot of the smaller clubs playing in the second tier of English football struggle to make ends meet. Coupled with this, it meant first team players such as Danny Coyne and Georges Santos moved on to other clubs. For the new season, the club also had to supply its own kits following the closure of long serving kit suppliers Avec Sportswear. Grimsby played the season using the brand “Grimsby Town Sports” before a lucrative three-year deal with Nike was signed in April 2004. Groves dabbled in the transfer market and brought in a batch of new signings, notably Jason Crowe and Des Hamilton, Aidan Davison and Tony Crane. His dealings saw the Mariners boast a large squad for the 2003–2004 campaign but despite this, Groves soon found his men sliding down the league, finding themselves involved in a relegation scrap with Sheffield Wednesday as in the previous season.
Groves was sacked in 2004 following a 6–0 drubbing by Oldham Athletic and was replaced by Nicky Law. Law struggled from the start after he lost keeper Aidan Davison to injury, as well as players like Marcel Cas, Alan Pouton and Michael Boulding departing the club for various reasons which meant Law was forced to sign replacement players such as veterans Paul Warhurst, Alan Fettis and Jamie Lawrence, journeyman Mickael Antoine-Curier and injury prone John Thorrington. With little time left for the new team to gel, Grimsby dropped into the relegation zone and went down again on the last day of the season. With Nicky Law failing to keep Grimsby in the Second Division, chairman Peter Furneaux wielded the axe and ended his short stay as first team manager. The club moved to appoint Scarborough manager Russell Slade as his replacement.
In 2005, director John Fenty became the controlling shareholder in the club after a search for outside investors failed, and a sale of shares to the local public was poorly received. He now owns 51% of the club and has made significant loans to the club to ensure its continued operation. Former Leicester City chairman John Elsom also joined the board of directors. However, with cash flow problems, corners had to be cut and the squad was paper thin, numbers were mainly made up by inexperienced youth team players, and loan signings of questionable purpose. Like many other teams who suffer a relegation in the previous season, Grimsby got off to a mediocre start and a lower mid-table finish was as good as it would get for Slade’s men.
An upturn in fortune (2005–2006)
Russell Slade began the 2005–06 season by adding several players to the side who would go on to improve the fortunes of the club during the season. DR Congolese midfielder Jean Paul Kamudimba Kalala, former left back and home grown talent Gary Croft and Steve Mildenhall but to name a few were signed in the summer of 2005. A good start to the season and much improved results and performances had seen Grimsby rise to the top ofFootball League Two. A good run in the League Cup saw Town win beat Derby County away at Pride Park in round one, and defeat Premier League Tottenham Hotspur at home in the second round, with Kalala hitting an 87th-minute winner. The Mariners eventually suffered elimination by Alan Shearer’s Newcastle United in the third round, losing 1–0 at home.
By the end of the season despite remaining in the automatic promotion places for the majority of the season, the Grimsby had seen Carlisle United, Northampton Town and Leyton Orient pass them which would see The Mariners go into the final day of the season in 4th place with a chance of beating Orient to 3rd spot and an initial automatic promotion place well within reach. The club were one minute away from automatic promotion, but a late Lee Steele goal giving Orient victory at Oxford United condemned Grimsby to the play-offs. The Mariners faced local rivals Lincoln City in the play-offs semi-finals, going on to win 3–1 on aggregate. In the final they would face Cheltenham Town at The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff but, perhaps surprisingly as the bookmakers made them favourites and despite beating Cheltenham in both league fixtures during the season, they lost 1–0. On 31 May, manager Russell Slade left the club after failing to agree terms on a new contract. The club also lost important players such as Steve Mildenhall, Curtis Woodhouse and Jean Paul Kamudimba Kalala. Player of the season Rob Jones was also sold for £250,000 to Hibernian.
Alan Buckley part 3 (2006–2008)
In 2006 the club announced an arrangement with the HM Revenue & Customs which allowed the club to repay its tax liabilities in instalments. In the report for the year ending 31 May 2006 it was revealed that the club made a profit after tax of over £400,000, due mainly to cup exploits and the play-off final. Assistant Manager Graham Rodger was promoted to Manager. Isaiah Rankin who had a short stay with the club in 2004, was re-signed from Brentford and other signings such as veteran Peter Beagrie and Sheffield United goalkeeper Phil Barnes were brought in. Former Mansfield Town manager Stuart Watkiss was appointed as the club’s Assistant Manager. The Mariners got off to a slow start and the club’s main strike partnership of Rankin and Michael Reddy never got going due to injury woes and Reddy harbouring the desire to play at a higher level. Grimsby found themselves near the foot of the table, and by November the poor start had basically destroyed any chances of promotion. On 6 November 2006 John Fenty sacked Graham Rodger. The club released a statement, saying “He has been a loyal servant to the club, but has become a victim of circumstances … Graham has qualities this club needs – the shame of it is that this man deserved better.”
Stuart Watkiss took temporary charge until 9 November 2006 when Alan Buckley returned for his third stint at managing the club in the previous twenty years. He in turn brought in Peter Till from Birmingham City, Martin Paterson and Anthony Pulis on loan to bolster the squad. Buckley soon found himself watching his club slied down to 22nd before earning a convincing 6–0 victory away against Boston United.
The 2007–08 season the club enjoyed a good run in the Football League Trophy and on 4 March 2008 Grimsby booked their place at the new Wembley Stadium after beating Morecambe in a nervy two-legged Northern Final. APaul Bolland goal in the away first leg was enough to see Town through. They went on to play MK Dons in the Final on 30 March, losing 2–0 after Danny Boshell missed an early penalty. The season ended with eight straight defeats.
Demise and further relegation (2008–2010)
Grimsby Town entered the 2008–09 season with unsettled Martin Butler, injured Danny North and the inexperienced youngsters Andy Taylor and Nathan Jarman as their only striking options. The team started poorly and dropped to near the foot of the table. After a 13–game winless streak in the league stretching from 22 March 2008, on 15 September 2008 Alan Buckley was sacked as manager for a second time.
Assistant manager Stuart Watkiss was given the role of caretaker manager. In October 2008, Grimsby appointed Mike Newell as manager, a year and a half after his dismissal by Luton Town.
Newell’s first transfer dealings were to sign two former Grimsby players on loan, Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala and Rob Atkinson. The winless streak was finally ended after 23 games on 15 November 2008 with a 2–0 win over Bury at Gigg Lane. Newell continued to dip into the transfer market and in December 2008 the club offered former Liverpool and England striker Robbie Fowler the chance of becoming a player/coach. Despite positive signs for the deal to come off, Fowler decided to join North Queensland Fury when his contract expired at Blackburn Rovers the following month. Back on the pitch, after a further run of 10 games without a win, Grimsby dropped into the relegation zone for the first time this season, but moved back up to 22nd place after clinching a vital victory against local rivals Lincoln City. Despite their previous form, the Mariners ran out comfortable winners with a full-time scoreline of 5–1. After dropping back into the relegation zone for a second time, the team recovered once again after a 3–0 victory at home against promotion chasing Gillingham. After an extensive campaign in the local newspaper and with tickets reduced to £5, this match achieved the biggest attendance of the season, with 6406 spectators. This was broken with the next home game against Aldershot Town; the same £5 deal saw 7065 watch a 1–0 win for the Mariners. The Mariners went on to secure victories over Notts County and Port Vale going into the final 2 weeks of the 2008–09 season, Town’s previous run of form was heralded by manager Newell down to the fact that new loan signing Barry Conlon had improved morale in the dressing room, not to mention clinching 5 goals in his first 6 appearances in a Grimsby shirt. The Mariners were all but mathematically safe from relegation, despite a 2–1 away defeat against relegation rivals A.F.C. Bournemouth – which saw the Cherries confirm safety. Fortunately Chester City could only manage a 2–2 draw with Aldershot Town which left City 3 points behind Grimsby with one game remaining, but with a vastly inferior goal difference. Chester lost their final game anyway, meaning that Grimsby were safe; however, they would have been relegated if Newell’s previous club, Luton Town, hadn’t received a massive 30-point deduction.
Newell started his summer spending by quickly securing Barry Conlon and Joe Widdowson on a permanent basis. Paul Linwood was brought in from Chester City, should hugely targeted Ryan Bennett be on his way, but after rejecting 2 offers from Peterborough United, the club tied the young skipper on an improved 4-year contract. Newell also managed to bring in former loan stars Adrian Forbes and Peter Sweeney, as well as Nick Colgan, Michael Leary and Chris Jones to finish his squad refurbishing. The Mariners had a mixed pre-season, consisting of a 12–1 thrashing of Winterton Rangers, a creditable 1–1 draw with Leeds United, as well as losses to Stockport and Doncaster. Season Ticket sales for the 2009/10 campaign had smashed through the previous season’s sales, adding up to around 2,500 tickets, a creditable total considering the economic climate.
Following a slow start to the season, and despite previous backings from the Grimsby Town board, on 18 October 2009 the club’s official website declared they had sacked Mike Newell due to “irretrievable breakdown”.
Following the dismissal of Mike Newell, Youth Team Coach and former player Neil Woods was given the role of Caretaker Manager, chosen ahead of Assistant Manager Brian Stein. After six games in charge (including a defeat at home to Bath City in the FA Cup), none of which were won, Neil Woods was controversially made permanent manager on 23 November 2009. The other main candidate for the job was former boss Russell Slade, but the board decided upon Woods ahead of Slade. Almost immediately Woods was dealt a blow when the club decided to do a u-turn and sell captain Ryan Bennett to Peterborough United for £500,000 despite rejecting this offer in the summer and the player only recently signing a new four-year deal. Next to leave was Brian Stein, who was brought to the club by previous manager Newell. His replacement as Assistant Manager would be former Bury manager Chris Casper. Grimsby continued to show no signs of improvement under Woods and Casper and Town would find themselves being dragged into a second successive relegation battle. By the end of 2009, Grimsby had won 3, drawn 8 and lost 12 in the league.
In 2010 top scorer Barry Conlon was loaned out to Chesterfield before signing permanently shortly afterwards. Puzzled supporters questioned Woods and chairman John Fenty over the decision which was later revealed to be because the player was considered to be a disruptive influence and wasn’t turning up for training. Woods began to clear out the ranks, with Danny Boshell, Danny North, Jamie Clarke, Barry Conlon and Grant Normington all being released. Whilst Chris Jones was loaned out only months after being signed. Woods began to make some fresh signings, notably Lee Peacock, Tommy Wright and former loanee Dean Sinclair joined the club. Woods would also heavily use the loan system in a bid to change the club’s fortunes. On 6 March 2010 Grimsby ended a club record 25 game winless streak by beating promotion chasing Shrewsbury Town at Blundell Park, 3–0. The 25 game streak had last seen Grimsby win in the league with a 2–0 away victory at Torquay United on 19 September 2009. During this time the Mariners had drawn 15 games and lost 10. The game would also come as the first career victory for Neil Woods. The Mariners went on to win four and draw one of their last six games to give them a chance of league survival going into the last game of the season. However, they were defeated 3–0 by Burton Albion, and thus were relegated from the Football League for the first time in nearly 100 years.
Non league (2010–2016)
Manager Neil Woods signed a new contract and was kept on for the following season. He prepared for life in the Conference by signing almost an entirely new team: goalkeeper Kenny Arthur; defenders Darran Kempson,Steven Watt, Dwayne Samuels, Scott Garner and Lee Ridley; midfielders Lewis Gobern, Robert Eagle and Micky Cummins; and strikers Charles Ademeno and Alan Connell. Only thirteen squad members were retained from the previous season, this was reduced to eleven when Adrian Forbes and Nick Hegarty were released.
Town began their Conference campaign with a 1–0 win at big-spending promotion favourites Crawley Town. Inconsistency followed, with the club managing to perform and get results against some of the league’s top sides but struggling to beat the teams at the lower end of the table. After a long winter break due to postponements, Grimsby started the new year scoring 13 goals in 2 games, beating Mansfield Town 7–2 at home and Histon 6–1 at Bridge Road. After this, yet another inconsistent period followed that saw only 2 wins in 9 games and saw the club’s play-off aspirations take a severe hit. As a result of this, Neil Woods was relieved of his duties on 24 February 2011 after 15 months in charge. He left the club in 9th position in the Conference National.
On 23 March 2011, former Boston United managerial duo of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst were announced as the new joint managers. They finished the 2010–11 season in 11th on 62 points.
The duo started the 2011–12 season by rebuilding the squad, with many players leaving, and bringing in players including Liam Hearn, Craig Disley and James McKeown. The season began poorly with one win in six in August, including a 5–0 loss at Braintree Town. Form then began to improve and Grimsby went on a 15-game unbeaten run in the league which began on 5 November 2011, and ended on 3 March 2012. The run included a 7–0 thrashing at home against Stockport County. Despite this run of form the poor early season form had cost them and they were unable to break into the play-off places, and an end of season run of 1 win in 8 games saw them fade away and once again finish in 11th place, this time on 70 points.
On 19 September 2011, John Fenty resigned as chairman of Grimsby Town with immediate effect, a position he had held for 7 years, although he continues to act as a director of the club.
The 2012–13 season saw a more stable squad than had been seen by Grimsby Town in recent years, with a total of 12 players from the previous season’s squad remaining. The previous season’s top scorer Liam Hearn suffered an Achilles tendon injury in pre-season, and although he appeared to be on the road to recovery when he came on as a substitute against Stockport County, just three days later he injured his leg in training, and tests showed it was an Achilles tendon rupture and he would be out for several months. However, despite the loss of such an important player, and despite not winning 5 games into the season, Grimsby were top of the table by Christmas, with two crucial loan players Ross Hannah and Scott Neilson breathing new life into the Grimsby team. The turn of the year, however, appeared to be a turning point for Grimsby, with Nathan Pond returning from loan to Fleetwood Town and Scott Neilson signing for league rivals Luton Town. The team appeared to lack the quality they had shown towards the end of the previous year, and despite not losing until mid-February, a run of 4 consecutive losses in March saw them give up the top spot and ultimately fall away from the title race. Despite this, they reached the F.A. Trophy final, where they played Wrexham at Wembley Stadium on 24 March 2013. Grimsby went ahead in the second half with 20 minutes left to go, through an Andy Cook strike. However, they conceded a penalty with 9 minutes left and Wrexham equalised. This took the game to extra time, and then penalties, where Grimsby lost the shoot-out 4–1. Grimsby finished the season in good form, with a 9 match unbeaten run, finishing the season with a 3–0 win against Newport County. This led them to finish in 4th place with 83 points. They faced Newport County again straight away in the play-off semi-finals, where they were knocked out by a 1–0 loss in both legs. The managerial duo was broken up on 6 September 2013 due to Rob Scott being suspended and Paul Hurst was placed in sole charge of the team.
Grimsby came third in the Conference Premier 2014–15 season, and secured a play-off spot. Grimsby reached the 2015 Conference Premier play-off final against Bristol Rovers in front of a Conference record 47,029 crowd at Wembley Stadium. The game was forced to penalties where Pittman missed the penultimate penalty in their 5–3 shootout.
Grimsby’s highest attendance was in the 2–0 victory over local rivals Lincoln City, a gate of 7,650 which also was the highest attendance of all the clubs in the 2015–16 season.
At the end of the 2015–16 season Grimsby Town beat Forest Green Rovers 3–1 in the 2016 National League play-off Final at Wembley, with two goals from Omar Bogle and a last minute stunner from Nathan Arnold seeing Grimsby promoted to League Two after an six-year absence from the Football League. Grimsby lost a week later in the FA Trophy against Halifax Town. The final result was 1–0.
Return to the League (2016–)
The story continues …