The Fishy - Grimsby Town FC

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Is The Squad System fit for Purpose?

By: Andrew Hill
Date: 12/10/2023

IS the "squad system" fit for purpose? I don’t know, but here is something to think about: my father first took me to BP on Good Friday 1958, a home match against Middlesborough in the Second Division. The reserves played in the Midland League with a season of 46 games.

It's easy to see why the squad system didn't exist. No loaning out of players either (it wasn't permitted anyway) to give them match practice—it was all in-house so to speak. Furthermore, the reserves played at BP on the same day as the first team played away and vice-versa. This arrangement would not be possible today because most of the reserve team would be keeping the bench warm at the first-team fixture.

My father and I would go to BP to see the first team one Saturday and the reserves the next. The Midland League, being regional rather than national, didn't contain 24 league reserve teams: on the same day the reserves were away at Grantham Town who were one of 12 non-league teams along with 12 league team reserves. See the list below taken from the match programme for the Middlesborough game.

Non-League: Boston Utd, Scarborough, Wisbech Town, Worksop Town, Corby Town, Peterborough Utd*, Kings Lynn, Goole Town, Gainsborough Trinity, Denaby Utd, Frickley Colliery and Grantham Town.

League Reserve Teams: Grimsby Town, Bradford City, York City, Nottm Forrest, Lincoln City, Scunthorpe United, Mansfield Town, Hull City, Notts County, Bradford ** Rotherham Utd and Doncaster Rovers.

* Peterborough Utd were a non-league team at that time.
** Listed in the programme simply as Bradford but is probably Bradford Park Avenue who were a league team at the time.

Maybe I'm just a 74-year-old man who can't easily accept the modern world (it's not just football), but the so-called squad system doesn't work for me. Could the old way of doing things ever return? I doubt it, but football is worse because of it.

Just for the record (taken from Grimsby Town v Middlesbrough, 04 April 1958 - 11v11 match website report): We won 4-1. Brian Clough was playing for Middlesborough though their goal was scored by Bill Harris from the penalty spot. The attendance was, wait for it: 17,579.

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