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Question of the Week

Should Russell Slade be sacked?

Yes immediately
Give him one more game


The Reality Game

By: Alan Readman
Date: 27/05/2002

MY first contribution so perhaps a biographical preamble is required. A third-generation Mariner. Almost literally as both my father and grandfather were in the fishing industry. First game was the Tommy Briggs return in 1958.

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We lost 3-1 to Sheffield United but it was still enough to hook me for life. Favourite player ? No contest. Ron Rafferty. A real-live Roy-of-the-Rovers, even looked like him. Now, in exile, for me a 'home' match involves a 550 mile round trip, so contact with BP is less direct than it once was. But the passion is still there.

There have been highs and lows. Financial problems were never far away. But today seems different. This is crisis with a capital 'C'. A real threat to the future of the club.

So how has it all gone so wrong ? Where does the responsibility lie ? And, more to the point, what can be done about it ?

Part of the reason seems to be that latterly football has lost its grip on reality. Ridiculous transfer fees. Even more ludicrous players' salaries. A game systematically distancing itself from its true fans. Not just in the Premiership but filtering down through the Nationwide too. Now, inevitably, the bubble is ready to burst.

At Grimsby, when in the past things were going adrift, it was invariably the Board of Directors which caught the flak. But surely that should not be the case this time ?

They have a heavy investment in the club - evidence enough of their personal commitment. They backed the new manager when it mattered at the tail-end of last season. It is hardly fair to say that they should have anticipated the demise of ITV Digital. Or that they were unwise to base their budget on what was supposed to be guaranteed TV income.

The players responded magnificently to the new management team and they do not deserve to face a wage-cutting plea in return for their efforts in preserving our much-prized First Division status. But restructuring contracts is an option which unhappily it seems must be considered seriously by all parties if the club is to survive and with it the players' livelihoods. The reality is that this crisis will affect professional football in general, not just Grimsby.

Many of us, in recent times, have faced similar unwanted situations in our working lives - redundancy, short-term contracts, mid-life career changes are facts of life. What is essential, though, is that the proposals are fair - cuts of up to 50%, as mentioned in the Press, are Draconian - because there must be a basis for agreement.

So in order to make-up the deficit caused by the withdrawal of the TV money there must be other options as well as restructuring contracts. To suggest cashing in on our goalkeeping genius would not be too popular. Sell our best players ? What sort of philosophy is that ! Well. it is a Grimsby philosophy. I first learned this in 1961 when we sold Jimmy Fell. In the absence of other sources of income it has always been, and always will be, a necessary expedient. Perhaps never more necessary than now.

Clearly we need to overcome the current crisis and look to the time when the new stadium will offer new possibilities. Action has to be taken quickly so that planning can resume for the new season.

There is nothing new in all of this. We can all hope the crisis goes away. Or that a Fairy Godmother comes along with millions to invest. Or that the ITV Digital situation is quickly sorted out (out of court). But what we need if clubs such as Grimsby are to survive on a healthy footing is an injection of much-needed realism on all sides.

...Fans must play their part...

Fans must play their part. There must be every effort to maintain the full-houses at BP. Income from the turnstiles and generally from the local community is likely to be more and more the lifeblood of clubs such as ours.

...Reality is one thing. Dreaming is another!...

Reality is one thing. Dreaming is another! Dreaming is the prerogative of every football fan. So keep the faith. We may have another season like 1998. We may even discover a new Matt Tees. Or even another Ron Rafferty ? .... oh, come on, even I am not that much of a dreamer!

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