Michael Jolley isn’t a name many will be familiar with, even now he’s manager of Grimsby Town few people west of the M18 will be familiar with his name.
He’s the man who found himself tasked with saving Grimsby Town after a calamitous season saw Russell Slade take them towards the National League.
Only a decent start prevented them from slipping out of the division, with a twenty game winless run finally ended by an 88th Mitch Rose penalty against Chesterfield.
Had that game gone the other way, Grimsby’s two-season stay in the Football League could have come to an end. Instead, with the momentum of a last-gasp win against an eventually-relegated team behind them, they remained unbeaten to the end of the season, winning three and drawing one.
Behind the revival, a softly spoken coach who had previously managed AFC Eskilstuna in Sweden and Burnley U23s.
This summer he’s conducted the sort of business that has Mariners fans convinced there will be no relegation battle once more. They’ve poached Lincoln City’s Wembley hero Elliott Whitehouse, just two months after scoring the Imps winning goal in their first ever cup final he switched to the feared rivals.
When the new coach gets one over the red half of Lincolnshire, he’s going to win a few fans.
He also shifted Sirki Dembele on, the inconsistent star clearly unsettled and unsettling at Blundell Park. The new manager has no qualms about reshaping the squad, whether the players are talented or not. In signing Whitehouse he’s laid down a marker, that attitude and application will come before flair and skill.
Fans will still be haunted by lasts season’s collapse, but not only because of events on the field. The embarrassing fan’s forum in November laid bare the problems at the club, with chairman John Fenty launching a scathing attack on a local journalist hosting the event. Another board member told a fan to shut up in scenes completely at odds with the sensible ownership of a football club.
Those issues are still festering away underneath the surface, the prickly Fenty is still in charge and despite the optimism brought by the new manager, there’s still and undercurrent pulling the club apart. Demonstrations in February only underlined the ill-feeling that has built ever since the Mariners emerged from their six years of National League darkness.
Their success, or failure, depends on Michael Jolley’s ability to unify the players and the fans, prompting a truce or change at board room level.
No club has been successful with such deep-rooted ownership issues, but the likeable coach with the humble background will do everything he can to try to restore this once-proud football club back to its former glory.
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