AFTER morning’s appointment of Russell Slade as new Grimsby Town manager and Paul Wilkinson as his assistant, we spoke to director John Fenty about the decision.
Mariners Player HD: Why have you chosen Russell at this time?
John Fenty: Vastly experienced – he’s done around 750 games. We’ve worked with him in the past, we worked for two years, and we nearly got out of this league into League One. Disappointing on the day that it didn’t work out, but I’ve remained friends with Russell ever since. We thought we might get him back around 2010 but unfortunately the board weren’t in favour of that, but this time the board were unanimous in wanting Russell back. And together with bringing Paul Wilkinson in, we think we’ve got a fantastic duo.
Mariners Player HD: You’ve had to make some difficult decisions over the last few days.
John Fenty: Yes – I’ve lost sleep, I’m sure I’ve got a few more grey hairs, and those decisions don’t make life easy. Nobody likes to appoint somebody and then, five months later, let them go, particularly when they’re such nice guys.
Mariners Player HD: Was it important that you got it done before the end of the season?
John Fenty: I think the timing is important. Interestingly, Russell only said this morning he thinks it was a shrewd decision because he’s available and probably 10 games into next season, he wouldn’t be available because he’s in demand. Halfway through the season if he was available, he’d still be in demand but right now clubs aren’t changing managers so it’s opportunistic in that sense and that’s one of the reasons it’s been possible to bring Russell, and on top of which he thinks it’s a good time in terms of being able to assess the players and the players to be able to show him that they deserve a contract going forward. So there’s an opportunity both ways there, and in the close season no doubt we can strengthen on what we’ve got and fingers crossed next season we can get the 50 points we need as quickly as possible and then build on from that.
Mariners Player HD: What kind of squad do you think he has inherited?
John Fenty: I think we’ve got a very good squad, and one of the reasons that has probably dogged the past management regime is that there are 31 players there, plus three young pros. That’s an awful lot of players to manage, and you’ll get cliques and unhappy bunches, and really we need to get back down to the requisite number which is 22 senior pros, and beyond of course you’ve got young pros. I think we need to settle the job down, look at what we’ve got – Russell thinks there’s a real opportunity to do that in the period he’s got left – and then during close season and the pre-season games, he believes that he can put something together that hopefully will take us to where we all want to get.
Mariners Player HD: Is there some room to bring players in if he needs to?
John Fenty: During my time, this board has never not supported a manager. If Russell has got some aims and objectives, we’ll look to support them.
Mariners Player HD: Describe Russell as a manager and how your relationship is with him.
John Fenty: I’ve kept in touch with him ever since he left – I attended his wedding, we’re good friends, I would’ve liked him back in 2010 but that wasn’t to be and I couldn’t be more delighted that he’s back here today. And particularly with Paul Wilkinson – I think it’ll be a cracking duo.
Mariners Player HD: What can they achieve?
John Fenty: I don’t put labels on achievement. I think it’s wrong to do that. From my point of view, the most important thing to do is to get 50 points as quick as possible, and make sure the football club is sustainable. Of course I’ve got aspirations to be at a higher level and in a new stadium but we have to be pragmatic about what we can achieve and sensible about not putting too much expectation on those desires. I want everything for the football club but we have to be able to pragmatic and sensible.
Mariners Player HD: Has Russell said what he wants from you?
John Fenty: Yes. We’ve spoken about sports science. We could’ve brought one in January. We clearly spent money and supported the past regime. What we do know is that the past regime was waiting until the new season before a particular person was available and would’ve come in. Of course we want to support sports science – we’ve done that in the past and we’ll do it again. We talked about that this morning and we know clearly what Russell wants. He’s going to talk to Dave Moore, work that out, and come back.
Mariners Player HD: They’ve got something to play for in these last few games now haven’t they?
John Fenty: We have. Clearly players will be looking for extensions and contracts. Who knows? If you could win the rest of the games, and dare anybody dream because dreams are built in football. There’s no doubt about it, dreams happen, but we’ve got to be pragmatic. It’s highly unlikely but let’s live the dream for now.
Mariners Player HD: Russell’s a great man manager isn’t he?
John Fenty: Yes. His man management will be a massive part of progressing the football club – making sure the players are aware what you want from them, why they’re not in the team, and why they are in the team. Russell knows how to go about that, I’ve seen it in action and I know what he can do. History tells you what he can do, he has got a good track record, and he’s itching to get a promotion. He has spoken about that this morning, and we all are so fingers crossed we can all do that together.
Mariners Player HD: Is Russell the perfect fit to get the best from this squad of players?
John Fenty: Yes. Within the 31 players, there’s a really good nucleus to build on and there’s no doubt that between Russell and Paul they can very quickly assess what they’ve got, make the right decisions, and then look to build on that.
Mariners Player HD: Do we need a bit of stability now?
John Fenty: The club always needs stability. You don’t set off with an idea that you’re going to employ a manager for five months and let him go. We didn’t want that but we’ve moved on, we’ve made those decisions, and I do believe we’re very stable going forward.
Town play their first game under new boss Slade this Friday at home to Cambridge United (3pm).
Watch the full interview on Mariners PlayerHD.