A wake-up call

Cod Almighty | Article

by Pat Bell

22 October 2016

The uncertainty over Paul Hurst's future shows Grimsby Town have made progress. But also that we still have catching up to do

It's Saturday 22 October, and we might be about to watch Paul Hurst take charge of the Mariners for the last time.

For just the second time since Alan Buckley was given permission to talk to West Bromwich Albion 22 years ago, we have a manager who might be leaving not because we don't want him but because another club does. That club is Shrewsbury Town, at the bottom of the third flight. They need a manager because their last one preferred what was on offer at non-League Tranmere. That Hurst is seriously tempted by the prospect is a reality check.

Yes, we are a club with history. And after our first promotion this century, we could finally be a club with a future. We are back, somewhere like where we feel we belong. We have a passionate support. If its demands at Blundell Park may sometimes seem a burden, there are few clubs who wouldn't envy our away following for its spirit if not its numbers.

On the surface, that might make us appear an attractive proposition. But where the work of turning history and suppport into a winning football team is done, it seems we are lacking. At Grimsby, Hurst has three people he can turn to: Chris Doig, Andy Warrington and Dave Moore. Shrewsbury's new manager will have an assistant manager, a performance analyst, a recruitment analyst, a fitness coach and two physiotherapists.

If Buckley in his pomp had gone public with any concerns about the club set-up, it would have been par for the course, if anything a proof that all was right with the world; a club should be better known for its manager than its owner. If Brian Laws or Lennie Lawrence had done so, we would have known they were looking for excuses. It speaks volumes that Paul Hurst - a man who you suspect prizes loyalty high among the virtues - has stated publicly that he does not have the back-up team we need.

Town, it seems, have always been behind the times. Players like John Oster and Gary Croft have talked of the primitive training facilities. John McDermott and Paul Groves have said that, whatever we think of his signings and tactics, Lawrence injected some necessary new (to Grimsby) ideas about nutrition and fitness.

Blundell Park, with its unique character and its limitations, no doubt plays a part in this. The case for a new stadium could be made far more effectively if the discussion began with the concrete requirements that a football club needs for success, rather than so many airy phrases about revenue streams and a random number of 3G pitches. Let's hear the club's coaching staff talk about what they need and why, and then get down to the discussion about how we can achieve that.

When Neil Woods was promoted to first team manager in 2009, there was talk of it being the first step in a complete restructuring of the football side of the club. Whatever that meant, it never happened. Now he is returning to his natural home, in charge of our youth set-up, let's hope that restructuring can resume. And let's hope that Hurst is using the interest from Shrewsbury as a bargaining tool to make sure he gets what he needs to sustain the success he has begun to bring back to Blundell Park.

The last manager who left Blundell Park because he had a better offer was Russell Slade. On the eve of the play-off final against Cheltenham, he and Fenty treated the future of the club as a gambling chip in their negotiations. We lost. Let's hope that Fenty has learnt the lesson. While Hurst is here, he has proved he will work for our best long-term interests. If he feels he is being frustrated, we need to listen.

Thanks to Rich Mills for additional material

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