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Why Fans Will Never Embrace Town Legend!

By: Dave Laister
Date: 23/08/2001

A CROWD bigger than the average league gate turned out to see Alan Buckley's Lincoln side do battle with his former employers Grimsby Town.

A year since he was sacked by the club, Grimsby Telegraph deputy news editor and sports writer, David Laister explains why Buckley will never be remembered fondly by him, despite what he did for his beloved team.

Love him or loathe him - and it would be fair to say the 5,902 who watched the Worthington Cup first round match between Grimsby Town and Lincoln City would be an even split - no-one can take away the fact that he is and probably always will be the club's most successful manager.

Four promotions, double Wembley glory and a stabilised position in Division One before his ill-fated departure to West Brom speak volumes for Buckley, who has commanded respect from virtually every peer in the game.

But it is his attitude to those outside his clear, yet narrowly defined circle, that let the man down.

His failure to acknowledge the fans - and sometimes even stand and argue with them from the sidelines - made this apparent in his time at Blundell Park.

Had it not been for the club's desperate daily need for cash, you'd think he'd be happy to play behind closed doors.

He received applause from the Main Stand fans on Tuesday night, where the more mature and wiser supporters gather, yet never even batted an eyelid to show he noticed, let alone cared.

Buckley could argue he was too focused on the game - but Lawrence, his successor, managed to spur on the fans who chanted his name.

As did Lawrie McMenemy, fondly remembered as a Town great, despite having his achievements eclipsed by Buckley.

And here lies the difference. Management qualities aside - and on current form we don't doubt Lawrence's - Lennie can rally the troops, including the black and white army, be it via a wave from the dug-out or through our very own pages.

Buckley appeared to snub a handshake with Town manager Lennie Lawrence at the end of the game, and while Lawrence was gentleman enough to not confirm or deny whether he was ignored by the man who still lives in Waltham, it was an act seen and sure to be remembered by many.

If a negative result was suffered under Buckley's regime, we would be lucky to carry a few paragraphs of analysis from the man responsible for the club's performance, and the club wondered why support dwindled, both in numbers and voice.

Thirty-nine words was once all he uttered after Crystal Palace gave us a beating at Selhurst Park.

And last night, when I approached him - after waiting half-an-hour for him to appear from the away dressing room - I was greeted with the look of a man who had a bad taste in his mouth.

"Speak to you Grimsby lot, you must be joking," he said, walking towards the team coach, ignoring other media representatives on his way.

"Only a request," I replied.

"Only an answer," he smarted.

I'm sure somewhere in his thoughts would have been one of pleasure at having the last word, rather like when I made an early journalistic error of asking for a quick word as the team's 1998 Wembley preparations began.

"Velocity," he replied, "there's a quick word."

Thanks for everything Alan. Now goodbye, and please don't rush back.

Article, printed in August 23 edition of Grimsby Telegraph, and reproduced with kind permission of the newspaper.

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