Home > Football > Grimsby Town. Part 4. Out of favour so on my way.

Grimsby Town. Part 4. Out of favour so on my way.

The following season Brian Laws lost his job. Results were poor and a change was made. Assistant Kenny Swain took control. He brought in Andy King as his assistant. Because I felt quite aggrieved that I was sometimes the scapegoat under Brian Laws I was not too down hearted when he left.That is how I felt at the time. I thought that it couldn’t get any worse.  Well, it did. Kenny Swain wasn’t having me at all. He made this clear quite early on in his career there. There were many opportunities to play me but always decided to play somebody else instead. Reserve matches were more regular from then on and they were a real drag. As a rule if you are not in the first team 11 for the Saturday then you will play in the reserves in the following week even if you are on the bench. You might even play some part in the first team match from the bench but still play in the reserves. There might be certain circumstances to change this but normally this is how it works. Older pro’s sometimes get away without playing reserve games but I suppose it depends on each manager. As a young pro there was no way I was going to get out of any of those games. Reserve games are funny games really. They are normally made up of young players who are hungry and out to impress and older pro’s who really don’t want to be there and see it as a real chore. No player would ever admit this publicly but believe me it’s true. These games are played in front of one man and his dog and are normally played on a Wednesday (the day when all the first team players have their day off). I have played more than more than my fair share of reserve fixtures over the years. At Leeds there was one season where it was a big deal to me. They used to be played on the first team pitch which meant me playing at all of the big Premier League stadia. Nowadays they are played at smaller, non-league stadia, sometimes with an afternoon kick-off which really needs you to have a great deal of self motivation. Having said all of this I believe that reserve fixtures are vital to any club. They allow young players to play with and against more senior players. This experience can be vital to judge whether they are ready to go to the next level. Also, pro’s who are out of the first team need to keep a certain level of match fitness so that when they are called upon they are ready.

Andy King took the reserve team. He was a real bubbly character and was instantly likeable. His training sessions were always bright and enjoyable and I enjoyed working with him. During this time Brian Laws was appointed as the manager of Scunthorpe United. It was only 30 miles up the road and some of the senior pro’s were hoping that he might take them to Scunthorpe for one last contract. It didn’t cross my mind whatsoever that he would want me after the way he had been with me.

As deadline day approached that season Brian rang me to see if I would be interested in moving to Glanford Park. He was really keen on me. It was nice to feel wanted although at first it didn’t really appeal to me to drop into the basement of English football. It was only 18 months or so since I was at Leeds United in the Premier League.

So Brian rang me continually. I was assured that I would be playing every week which, although it really appealed to me, I took with a pinch of salt. Although I was only in my early 20’s I was savvy enough to know that when talks are taking place between player and manager there can be an awful lot of lies told to a player by the manager. I had learned quickly that what managers said and actually did could sometimes be two different things. I would say that as I moved into the ‘senior pro’ category this dwindled somewhat. As a youngster managers probably feel they can manipulate you if they wish but as you age managers know that you know how the system works and you command more respect because of that. It may sound like a bit of an old players cliché but you do have to learn quick in this game. If not then you are leaving yourself wide open. Not by everybody, but in my experiences if you appear to come across as even slightly naïve then you could get shafted. That is how it is so I was understandably cautious. Loads of players have been sucked into manager talk.

‘The Club have set a wage cap from this season’,

‘No, we aren’t giving appearance money in our contracts any more’,

‘We are definitely getting a new state of the art training ground at the start of next season’,

‘The Chairman isn’t handing out any contracts over 12 months any more’.

These are just some of the things I’ve heard over the years.

In hindsight, Brian turned out to be a man of his word though.  To be fair to him he showed a massive amount of belief in me. Money was tight and he pushed the boat out to get me. I remember him saying at the time that he would give me what I wanted and would sacrifice the wage of a younger, cheaper player instead. It really can be that tight when it comes to lower league budgets. In the end we were haggling over £20 and that was in an appearance bonus. Brian was that adamant that I would play in the team regularly. I felt wanted. Something that every player wants. With Grimsby paying the remainder of my contract up I was on my way.

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