Ian Holloway: the reality beneath the myth

Cod Almighty | Article

by Tom Sargent

31 December 2020

The facts simply don't bear out the idea that Ian Holloway was on course to put Grimsby Town on the right track. His record illustrates the challenge facing his successor, Paul Hurst.

Grimsby Town made the national sports news again almost a year to the day since Ian Holloway's surprise appointment as our new manager in December 2019 when he resigned, a week after saying he was going nowhere. Holloway, true to his bombastic persona, went with a statement on his Twitter page, announced to his 55,000 plus followers, many of whom were no doubt revelling in the increasingly public demise of this once great football club.

For all the off-field shenanigans, Holloway had fallen just shy of a full 12 months in charge of the Mariners. This has, of course, been rudely interrupted by a pandemic. He has taken charge of 33 league games, 1 FA Cup match, a League Cup match and 3 other matches. His overall record reads as follows: played 38, won 11, drawn 8, and lost 19; an overall win percentage of 28.9 per cent. Abysmal. To compare, Paul Hurst's percentage was 47.4 per cent and Buckley in his third spell managed 34 per cent.

When "Ollie" first took charge there was the usual new manager bounce as Town won Anthony Limbrick's final game in charge at home to Salford 1-0 (Holloway had by then been appointed but took no part in preparing the team.) Then we beat Mansfield at Field Mill and things were seemingly picking up.

This progress had been steadily building under Limbrick though. Despite the Australian only presiding over one win in ten games in charge, there had been a significant improvement in performances and our playing style had returned to the deck.

Holloway built on the improvement Limbrick had made, added some stellar signings and his unique ability to inspire, and appeared to be steering the Mariners in the right direction. That is the memory, anyway. The reality is a little different

Holloway, to his credit, built on this by adding some stellar signings such as Billy Clark and Josh Benson - as well as his unique ability to inspire the general public - and he appeared to be steering the Mariners in the right direction. That is the memory, anyway.

The reality is a little different. When Holloway took over we were 15th; when the season ended we were 13th. Hardly the major improvement everyone remembers it to be. We won six, lost five and drew three as we limped towards the end of yet another average season at Blundell Park, albeit interrupted by the pandemic.

This season has not seen any progress whatsoever. Since the 2020-21 season started in September, the Mariners have committed the most fouls (279 after 18 games) and used more players (31) than everyone except Scunthorpe United. We have fouled the opposition nearly 100 times more than sixth-place Exeter City.

These are damning statistics that point to a lack of discipline, no clear playing plan and a haphazard approach to building a squad. We have lost double the amount of games we have won this season and we aren't even at the halfway point.

Only Stevenage and Southend have scored less than us, while only Oldham have conceded more. We only played one pre-season friendly and there were strong rumours that there hadn't been much communication from Holloway with his pre-existing squad during the first lockdown.

Holloway's departure has the look of abandoning a sinking ship. The club he left was in disarray both on and off the field, but this quick look at Holloway's record shows it's not just the Town who are a fading star.

The Bristolian can't take all the blame - the vision the club has expressed to improve our league position, develop top class training facilities and a community stadium should have been promoted and acted upon when we won promotion from the Conference (if not before). When we had a squad that was going places, a manager leading the way and a fan base united behind their potential.

It is somehow fitting that it is Paul Hurst who will have to pick up all the pieces dropped since 2016.

This aricle was originally written on the day of Holloway's resignation and has been partially updated by the Cod Almighty editors.

Send your thoughts on Ian Holloway's spell in charge and the challenge facing Paul Hurst