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A Message To Our Supporters: Moving Forward Together Stronger

6 May 2018

Lee Blease

To our supporters,

The exhilarating end to this season summed up perfectly why we’re ‘All Town’ – the ups, downs and drama reminded us why we love this Football Club so much. Michael, the staff, and the entire squad deserve immense credit for showing the resilience and determination to turn around the predicament we found ourselves. Following the relief of survival, I wanted to take time to reflect, connect with our supporters, and address our objective for moving forward.

Reflections

Overall – we cannot deny that this season has been a disappointment. Frankly, no one at the Club expected to be in the position of battling for survival. The objective, as always is to come back stronger next season.

Following a relatively solid start which saw us in a play-off spot but for goal difference on the 9th of December, we fell away quite dramatically. Rightly or wrongly, the board backed Russell Slade’s wishes in January to release certain players, making way for strong replacements in the window. This was working towards the intention of providing a ‘clean slate’ to rebuild in the summer.

Had we acceded and wielded the axe as some had wished in January and even before and then been in the same position, for sure we would have been accused of being trigger happy, particularly as we had recently been play-off contenders. As a Board, you have to give backing to the manager right up until the difficult decision in the hope of not having to letting go.

Some may have forgotten that going into January - we lost James McKeown and Luke Summerfield at a key part in the season and in addition, there were sizeable investments in the want-away / injured players Jamey Osborne, Sam Jones, Chris Clements and Akwasi Asante.

Unfortunately, a number of their replacements, Charles Vernam, Simeon Jackson and Mallik Wilks joined a list of long-term injuries. Other key players – like Jamille Matt, Ben Davies and Siriki Dembele – picked up niggles that also impacted form.
These unfortunate circumstances are a key part of the mitigation for not making a change sooner.

The league is unforgiving. For every Lincoln City or Bristol Rovers, you have three recently promoted teams (Barnet, Forest Green Rovers and ourselves) battling to survive despite everyone’s best efforts. That being said, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger and we move into next year having survived “second season syndrome”, knowing a lot more about the division.

The players took responsibility for this decline in form and have stepped up under the influence of Michael Jolley, not losing a game at Blundell Park since his appointment.

There can be no coincidence that the upturn in form culminated with outstanding supporters backing, particularly when the chips were down. The players grew in confidence and we have ended the season well. Michael and the team deserve a huge amount of credit (as do our supporters).

Building for The Future

Naturally, I share the fans disappointment at this season. The Board as a whole are as disappointed as anyone and as the custodians of our Football Club, we will strive to improve.

In response to this season, we have worked with Michael to agree upon a strategy going forward.

We will focus efforts off the pitch on bringing the Club closer to the supporters through improved fan relations and the Mariners Trust in a series of ongoing community initiatives.

On it – Michael will speak with the players in the coming days, hold a number of discussions and communicate his plans (where and when appropriate) throughout the summer.

Connecting with Supporters

Following the conclusion of yesterday’s game, I was filmed having a frank conversation with a group of our supporters. This followed my passing on of an important message to Michael about a development in contract negotiations with a key player. I purposely waited for him to get beyond the fans before making this engagement.

As I started to walk away and there were unsavoury comments being hurled at me from a small section of fans and as I continued to walk away, I was then called over to speak to a group of supporters. Had I walked away, I can hear it now, “Fenty has turned his back on the fans, he thinks he’s above us.” It’s a lose-lose situation as is often the case.

This exchange culminated in a supporter questioning my integrity, after effectively calling me a liar several times, which caused me to respond in an uncharacteristic way. I am always open to dialogue with our supporters and will always seek to incorporate as many views as possible to inform our decision-making. Call me daft, call me naïve, but I am proud and roll with the punches. Rightly or wrongly, I have taken a hell of a lot of flack in recent years.

I am only human and the verbal beating and misrepresentations from some sections do take their toll. Regardless, in any event, I will remain open, honest, and approachable to our fans, which is something that I have always prided myself on. I am grown-up enough to take the good and the bad, but I will never shy away from defending nor apologise for what I believe is right for the Football Club.

For over twenty minutes thereafter, I got into a great range of conversations with a number of other supporters and those that called me over, during which I picked up on some really good ideas expressed by two exiles supporters regarding an initiative of building an exile season membership scheme which I think may well have legs. I will present their idea to the board later this week at our board meeting.

I have always prided myself on being open and honest with our supporters; I will not shy or shirk from defending/explaining the basis for our decisions, of which when made are always in the best interests and intentions of the Football Club.

Longer Term Regime Change

In spite of a vocal section who demand the Board and I relinquish our involvement, I argue it would be a negligent to just walk away without a new regime in place that has the wherewithal to run and finance a football club.

As previously communicated, the Board remain open to a serious proposition of fan ownership, outside investment, or wealthy benefactors to take the Club forward.
While previous attempts to attract outside investment have been completely unsuccessful, the Board of Directors actively encourage those with any interest to contact Stephen Marley.

However, it is the responsibility of the Board of Directors and I to ensure the Football Club is ran sustainably, with an aim to leave the club in a more financially stable position than when we found it. We are custodians, not owners. The Board and I will not walk away and leave the Club in financial or operational limbo.

The cautionary tales of Hartlepool United, York City, Rushden & Diamonds, Darlington, Stockport County, Chester City and many others whom we have battled with over the years, illustrate the dangers of Board members not taking the role of custodian seriously enough.

We will not allow the same thing to happen to Grimsby Town and we make no apologies for this.

Conclusion

Michael Jolley and our strong end to the season has brought back a flicker of the unity, good times and goodwill back to the Football Club. We firmly believe that under his guidance next season, the Football Club will come back stronger. He deserves huge credit for how he has connected with the Football Club, the players and our local community. We firmly believe we have found a gem, who will lead us to a much more enjoyable season next year and beyond.

The Directors and I, along with our supporters will all be present at a series of community events during the summer to speak and discuss the best way forward with anyone present.

Enjoy your summer; speak soon and as always - Up The Mariners.

Kind Regards

John Fenty


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