Match report: Grimsby Town 0 Bristol Rovers 1

IMG_6739Simply put, Town were beaten by the better side – a team first to every second ball, a team better organised with a more effective gameplan, a team that fought for each other, despite not having a standout player. Tom Lockyer’s second half strike was, on paper at least, the difference between the two teams, but in truth James McKeown stopped the result from being far more one-sided. Bristol Rovers missed a controversial penalty and striker Taylor forced Town’s keeper into two very good saves. On the other hand, it took Town 80 minutes to even have a shot – the BBC claim we managed six over the 90 minutes but I think that’s generous. Mildenhall didn’t have to do anything whatsoever, he wasn’t troubled at all. Town were inept going forward, flat-footed without any kind of attacking verve. There was no movement, no flashes of genius and no imagination. It was a match crying out for Scott Neilson.

In April last year, after a home defeat to Halifax, I wrote: “Teams are able to nullify all our attacking prowess and dominate us because we set up to match others, not because we try and beat them…it’s all too predictable, not enough forward runners and no-one’s ever playing off the shoulder of the centre halves.” The concern for me is that a year on, those words are still relevant today. Christian Jolley, on paper, is a great signing. But he’s not match fit at all and he’s totally devoid of confidence. We’ve seen what he’s capable of – we all remember the Newport Play Off games two years ago – but is he currently any better than what we already have? Is it too much of a risk to bring in a player who can’t hit the ground running? Ross Hannah’s been devoid of confidence for two years and has seen a procession of players brought in ahead of him. Lenell John-Lewis’s goals have dried up. Ollie Palmer and Jon-Paul Pittman are injured. Hamish Watson can’t get a meaningful sniff. All of the above have played alongside Lenny at some point, but none have really nailed down a starting berth (although Palmer probably will when he regains fitness). We’ve seen the same problems with so many different personnel in attacking positions that you have to start asking the question ‘is the problem really the dozens and dozens of players we’ve brought in the last three years, or the tactics we employ on the pitch?’ Jennings, Cook, Elding, Hearn, Tounkara, Brodie…the list goes on. The names change, the problems persist.

Town have been poor at home far too often this season. Macclesfield, Lincoln, Kidderminster, Southport, Torquay, Dover, Nuneaton…yes we’ve done well to beat Barnet and Woking, but Town’s inconsistent home form will ultimately cost them this season. I don’t believe season ticket holders have had value for money this year – too many poor performances, too many lost points. On paper we’ve got the best squad we’ve ever had in non-league, but I fear the same result as the last three seasons. We seem to be making the same mistakes and lessons aren’t being learned. Over the last two years I’ve gone into Play Off campaigns with the hope of getting promoted and it fucking hurts when we fail. This time round there’s almost an inevitability about what’s going to happen.

Bristol Rovers will probably catch Barnet and go up as Champions. They’re a proper team, one that has a strict gameplan with a manager who sets his team up effectively to win games. If that happens, history says Barnet won’t go up in the Play Offs. But unless we start winning our home games and becoming more effective in the final third, neither will we.

Guest blog – did FGR stewards use ‘excessive force’ on GTFC fan?

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For several reasons, I haven’t blogged about the disgraceful scenes at Forest Green last week where a Grimsby Town fan was dragged out of the ground by six stewards, allegedly in a headlock. But earlier this week I was contacted by a police offer who, anonymously, wanted to give his view on the alleged incident. I’ve verified the person is indeed a police officer and their words, below, are written in a personal capacity and not those of any specific police force. That said, after Forest Green effectively absolved themselves of any blame for the incident, I wanted to share the officer’s views on my blog. It makes for very interesting reading…

I’m an avid twitter user and occasional fishy poster but I’m writing this guest blog anonymously through the gracious and award winning (has he ever mentioned that??) TooGoodToGoDown as I don’t want my profession broadcasting on social media. Whisper it quietly but I’m a police officer and have been for over a decade. Now the argument about if I should be ashamed or proud of that can be saved for another time and for another blog.

But, I do feel that it qualifies me to speak a little about what happened with the fan and the steward at Forest Green. Please, bear in mind that these views and observations have been made without the knowledge of my employers and I certainly don’t speak on their behalf. I am aware that I am not in possession of all the facts and the only information I have is that taken from the various internet reports and of course that now infamous picture.

In my decades experience I have had regular officer safety training, that training of course includes the use of various restraint techniques. Never have I been taught a headlock as a restraint technique or as a technique to move someone. Now, I appreciate that my training and that of a steward (or indeed doorman as apparently FGR stewards are) differs, probably considerably and perhaps I’m being a little egotistical but I believe that my training is probably beyond what is offered for those roles.

In my training I have been taught that in a situation where you are getting “hands on” then often as long as you are able to justify your actions and you use the appropriate decision making processes then you can use whatever restraint you feel comfortable with using, often due to the very nature of these incidents a hold will go on wrong or you’ll instinctively grab for whatever is closest at hand. This is usually fine. However, the caveat being that any use of force must be proportionate and it must be the very minimum amount.

The use of restraint techniques and holds should not be used in areas where they are likely to cause long term damage or where serious injury can occur. With that in mind the picture doesn’t look great for the stewards does it? There is no large scale disorder, there appears to be no small scale disorder.

There is the fan with the inflatable football. There was an argument about its presence in the ground and its use. That much is fact and is accepted by both parties. What happened during that argument is currently being debated.

But, with six stewards stood around, surely whatever the Grimsby fan was saying or doing could have been handled better? Was that steward really under any threat with five colleagues in close proximity? Again I must stress that I am not in possession of any more information. But, there must have been a better way to deal with the fan. The use of a headlock is shocking, it appears that the fan is being dragged out, he’s certainly lower than the steward, he is at a positional disadvantage being pulled back, and off balance. Is there any need to be continuing to be moving away with the lock still held?

I am in no way advocating the use of a headlock but understand that occasionally you grab the wrong part of the body, but, if you do then it needs immediately rectifying. One of his colleagues should have been placing the fan under a more appropriate hold. They don’t appear to be doing so.

The use of a headlock has the potential for very serious injuries, even death, the throat is a fragile area of the body and restricting someone’s airway could, very easily lead to life changing injuries or death. Are those actions proportionate for someone with an inflatable football? Are they even proportionate for someone who is being abusive as alleged by the stewards?

The FGR statement doesn’t add up either, the phrase “chest hold” doesn’t sit right with me either, I’ve never heard of a chest hold and restricting someone’s chest has only a marginally lower risk of serious injury than a headlock does. Either hold appears under the circumstances to be use of excessive force.

The picture from outside the ground is just as shocking, the fan, prone on the ground with three stewards kneeling on him. The picture is dark and I haven’t been able to confirm but to me it looks as though at least one of the stewards is placing pressure on this persons back. People have certainly died from this, from positional asphyxia.  It is possible to suffocate someone purely under the weight of their own body. It is never advisable for someone to kneel on someone’s back, the consequences don’t bear thinking about. It really seems like the stewards are in the wrong. The initial enquiry from the club doesn’t seem to have gone into enough depth.

I hope that the fan involved is seeking to take this further, there should be a proper enquiry into this. At the very least some training issues need addressing with the stewards.

My advice would be to make the complaint. There certainly seems to be plenty of witnesses willing to provide evidence. The only way that this will be looked into further is with pressure placed upon the relevant people from the fan and those present.

Grimsby’s greatest goalkeepers #GreatGYXI

Danny Coyne 2001
If you’re a Grimsby Town fan, the likelihood is you will know that The Mariners Trust and Cod Almighty have joined forces to put together an anthology of fan writing covering the club from the early 70s to 2002. As part of the book the Trust is looking for supporters to put together their all-time favourite XI for the period. If you search Twitter using the hashtag #GreatGYXI you’ll find a wide range of suggestions – my personal favourite being an entire team made up of Tony Cranes – so as part of the process I thought I’d write about some of the Mariners’ best players in each of the respective positions.

Town have been blessed with great goalkeepers over the years. I only started watching Town in the late 80s, but can remember the likes of Nigel Batch, Steve Sherwood, Paul Crichton, Aidan Davison and Danny Coyne guarding the net. Dave Beasant, Wayne Henderson, Steve Mildenhall and, currently, James McKeown have also stood out in goal for the club. For the purposes of the anthology, McKeown can’t be included, so I’d have to go for either Davison or Coyne between the sticks. Davison will forever be remembered as the keeper who broke the club’s clean sheet record in the double Wembley year, while Coyne stood out when the club wasn’t doing quite so well – and it was no surprise he went on to have a career at a higher level after leaving the Mariners. His performance against Liverpool in the famous win at Anfield was one of the best individual showings I have ever seen in a Town shirt. It kept us in the game before we went on to win the game in extra time.

Want to take part? Visit Cod Almighty to find out how to vote for your best XI.

(Image courtesy Grimsby Town FC)

The story behind Grimsby Town’s ‘My Favourite Game’ book

Cover without SpineLast season I was asked to contribute my favourite Grimsby Town game for an article in the club’s programme. Many of the obvious games had gone, so I chose the Mariners FA Cup victory over West Ham in the mid-90s. Over the course of the season the matchday magazine featured a collection of great stories and they have since been put together in one anthology – 23 stories, all written by fans, featuring some of the greatest and most memorable matches in the club’s history.

“There are some fantastic matches,” explained Jack Johnson, the club’s commercial assistant who co-edited the My Favourite Game book. “We’ve got accounts of both games against Everton, Liverpool in 2001, the Auto Windscreens Shield Final, Spurs, the 6-5 game against Burnley, fixtures where we clinched promotion and others from as far back as 1935! The idea was to try and get as many stories from as many different eras as possible. There were some great games which didn’t make the book but we only had space for 23 pieces. The editing of the pieces, to make them relevant to today, took a lot of time so I asked Richard Lord to lend a hand. He played a big part in the project also.”

Younger Town supporters can use the book for a decent history lesson, with the oldest story Arthur Dawson’s memories of a 1-0 win against Arsenal in 1935. “From start to finish it has been a real labour of love,” added Jack. “It’s been fun reminiscing the games I attended but the best bit was reading personal accounts about matches and players I’ve only ever heard of. This book helps to bring them to life.”

If you didn’t get the book for Christmas, grab a copy from the club shop prior to today’s game or from http://www.gtfcstore.co.uk It’s priced just £4.99.

If 2014 was a football season, Grimsby Town would have missed out on the Play Offs

If 2014 was a football season, Grimsby Town would have missed out on the Play Offs. Luton fan Andrew Kingston posted this very interesting league table on Twitter, which shows how each team who has played Conference football in 2014 would have done if the calendar year was a season. Each team’s results has been calculated and then, on a points per game average, has been ranked in a league table.

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Unsurprisingly Luton are at the top of this imaginary league, netting more than 2 points and 2 goals per game. They also have the best goal difference. Bristol Rovers marginally edge out Barnet, the latter having a poor second half of last season which undoes their great start to this one. Eastleigh, Gateshead and Halifax all have better records than the Mariners in the Conference in 2014, which means we would have missed out on a Play Off place if the calendar year was a season. I blogged back in October about Town’s year to that point as they had only won 16 of 44 league games and I suggested it wasn’t good enough. Since that post Town went on a great run and certainly improved their standing, but as Andrew Kingston’s maths proved, it wasn’t good enough over a 50-game sample to net enough points per game for a Play Off spot.

I was accused of being too negative on Twitter after Sunday’s game but I only call it as I see it. I try and be constructive in any criticism and use facts where I can. The simple fact – and it is a fact as this league table shows – is that Town haven’t been good enough this year to go up. And if things continue as they are, that won’t change. I sincerely hope to be proven wrong, I really do, but 71 goals in 50 games and 1.64 points per game will not get us promoted. The transfer window opens in 24 hours time and I think there needs to be some kind of spark to get the fans back onside, and the goals flowing, once again.