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Town's PR has TB

By: Todd Bontoft
Date: 12/02/2001

I feel like calling for a public enquiry into the Trevor Benjamin affair. Let's establish once and for all who said what, when, where and how. What is for sure is that it is simply another example of the trials and tribulations of supporting a side such as the Mariners.

One minute you are on a high, with every indication he's coming, the next thing it's a non-starter! It is very disappointing, as I still believe that had he come to Blundell Park, he would have made a massive contribution. As to my forecast of signing him permanently at the end of the season, enough said! I will nurse my pride and put the crystal ball away for an undeserved rest.

Now the dust has settled it seems that it was no more than another of Lennie Lawrence's interests in a potential loan signing. There is nothing wrong in that, quite the opposite. Furthermore, his constant pursuit of quality players marks him out as someone with drive and enthusiasm, clearly looking for continual improvement in the squad. He seems determined not to give in to the perception that Grimsby Town cannot attract quality players at realistic prices and wage demands. And to be fair, it seems he has the support of the board of directors, with a wedge of readies already shoved in his palm for the players so far brought in.

Good Luck Lennie (you'll continue to need it) and I can live with the disappointment of doors being closed in our faces but not so easily with seemingly done deals becoming undone. Perhaps, I am overreacting but I am sure no-one would have minded at all if the message had been "we are really, really, really interested in him but we haven't discussed it with the player or his club. A loan deal is therefore some way off but if we can get him on loan and it is of benefit to all sides it will happen!" This may well have been the club's statement but it certainly did not reach many ears.

When a story is handled poorly, the whole affair is thrown wildly out of orbit, colliding with any passing contribution and sending it careering further into darkest space and away from Planet Truth. Meanwhile the story's originator at mission control is furiously pressing buttons in an often-failed attempt to wrestle back control. I will leave it to you as to any other examples that have mysteriously surrounded the club this season.

In Trevor Benjamin's case, the story developed its own momentum. This despite the player himself and Leicester City's Manager Peter Taylor seemingly blissfully ignorant about the whole caboodle until approached for their views. Then the old tried and trusted stock expression 'its news to us' came emanating from Filbert Street. Equally there is nothing wrong in Grimsby Town being honest about an interest in a particular player, there is often far too much secrecy around a football club. Despite, arguably, recent improvements in openness at Blundell Park there is still a long way to go. But what must be avoided at all costs is raising expectations beyond what is realistic and achievable.

We are all desperate for news, however trivial, about Grimsby Town but it all needs keeping in perspective. Grimsby Town need to make clear exactly what they are saying and what they are not. Everyone makes mistakes - those that don't aren't doing anything - but it's hard to believe that the local paper got its wires crossed in such a tangled way without some help from elsewhere i.e. the club. But without a lord chief Justice, several million pounds and a lorry load of paper, the story of Trevor Benjamin's loan signing that never took place - or in fact was never on the cards - will be consigned to the waste bin along with my ramblings.

Good public relations (PR) is not about talking a lot, it certainly isn't about telling people what they want to hear for its own sake. It's got everything to do with being honest and truthful. It's also about saying nothing sometimes, always-correcting inaccuracies and being positive but realistic. With PR perception is everything and like the boy that kept crying wolf, eventually, no one listened. It's also about not treating PR as an afterthought.

Todd Bontoft

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