Mariners have been steadily improving
1 March ~ For a long time Grimsby Town stuck with the traditional arrangement of one manager and one chairman. Eventually we realised it was no good. Since switching to two managers and no chairman, we've never looked back. The Mariners' relegation from the Football League in 2010 was effectively sealed when chairman John Fenty entrusted the first team to youth coach Neil Woods. He'd already had an inauspicious spell as caretaker (highlight: home defeat in the FA Cup by Bath City of the Conference South) and oversaw a club record 25-match winless streak.
It may have taken until the final day for our exit from the 92 to be confirmed but it seemed the inevitable product of the way the club had been run for years.
The rookie manager was granted a few months more, during Town's first season in the Conference. "If we didn't believe in what Neil Woods was doing, we would make a change but that's not the case," Fenty said, a day before sacking him. The vacancy ought to have been an attractive one. Fenty – a Tory councillor and fish factory millionaire – was always willing to loan the club more money for players. But a sequence of managerial targets, including Justin Edinburgh and Steve Burr, opted to stay put. Less than a decade after holding our own in the second flight alongside Stoke, Wolves and Forest, we were a less attractive proposition than Rushden & Diamonds and Kidderminster.
Eventually Fenty tempted Rob Scott and Paul Hurst up the Lincolnshire coast from Boston United (and would later lose a court case for compensation over an improper approach). Boasting a tremendous record with the Pilgrims and their first club Ilkeston Town, the duo were palpably frustrated by their slow start at Blundell Park. "If you don't like it, don't facking come!" an exasperated Scott told one hectoring supporter in a post-match rant. In September 2011 the chairman resigned. No one really understood why. Neither of the other two directors replaced him as chairman and Fenty seemingly continued in charge, albeit with a lower profile, fewer impenetrable "club statements" and no more mortifying, Alan Partridgesque interviews with BBC Radio Humberside.
And so the upturn finally came. A winter run of 14 wins in 18 games carried Town to the cusp of the play-offs. The surge petered out but this season the side has developed genuine resilience, occupying the top three since mid-November. At the heart of it all have been Shaun Pearson's centre-half partnerships with Nathan Pond and then Ian Miller, with insurance from ex-Chesterfield midfielder Derek Niven and mercurial keeper James McKeown. The Mariners sit three points behind leaders Wrexham – who we also face in an FA Trophy final at Wembley in three weeks' time – with a game in hand.
But promotion remains a long way off. Performances in 2013 have not lived up to the standards set before Christmas, as the luminous forward partnership of Andy Cook and Ross Hannah has been sidelined by stuttering new acquisitions Richard Brodie and Lenell John-Lewis. Fenty has promised to maintain current levels of funding only until the end of this season. Whether his managers would be prepared to stay and try again with a diminished budget is moot but on the forums and Twitter this sort of "negative" thinking is strictly taboo.
This evening Town face Macclesfield under the Premier Sports TV cameras (no, me neither). Win and we're back on top of the league. Lose and we could be out of the play-off places by tomorrow night. Since the start of last season our chairmanless club and its two first-team managers have come a long way. Whatever the long-term prognosis, the fans are at least enjoying one good season right now. Pete Green
Pete is a writer and editor for the Grimsby Town fanzine Cod Almighty