Grimsby Town reporter James Findlater discusses ‘The Mariners’
Hi James – so before we discuss the team tell us a bit about yourself and how long have you covered Grimsby?
I’m the Grimsby Town writer for Grimsby Live/Grimsby Telegraph. I joined the paper in 2015, and have been covering the club for around five years.
How do you think the club will do in their first season in the NL?
It’s a tough one to gauge. Town look to have done well on the transfer front and put together a good side, so you’d fancy them to fare quite well and be one of the sides pushing at the right end of the table. But it’s such a tight league, with just the one automatic spot and so many sides really gunning for it.
Paul Hurst has built a solid base, and already they look to be a side with plenty of character. They look like they could have it in them for a play-off push, it’s just a question of whether they can go that little bit further and challenge for the title.
What are fans expectations for the campaign?
Last year was especially rough for the fans – not being able to watch the games in person with all the chaos going on around their side was awful.
They’ll be desperate to get back into the Football League as soon as possible, especially after having to wait six years during the last stint in non-league.
They know just how hard it is though, and I don’t think there’ll be too many expecting a title challenge just yet, but at the same time with the wave of optimism that has come under the new ownership, I think a lot of them would be disappointed if they didn’t reach the play-offs.
How have the performances been in the first few games?
The first two games were very much what you’d expect from a Paul Hurst side. They kept things tight, didn’t give much up for their opponents, and came away with a 1-0 win and a goalless draw against Weymouth and Stockport respectively.
That all went out of the window somewhat against Barnet! They gave away some sloppy goals, but really fought hard to get back into the game and made the most of the visitors being reduced to 10 men to eventually win 4-3 in a game that had it all!
Which summer signings stand out for you?
John McAtee is already looking like a bit of a coup for the club. He was linked with Premier League clubs not so long ago, but he seems to reserve his best performances for Paul Hurst, a manager he clearly holds in a higher regard than almost anyone else.
He already has three goals this season – which should have been four but for one of the softest disallowed goals you’ll ever see at Stockport – and he’s just worked his socks off in every game so far.
Alex Hunt also looks like he could make a big impact. He’s on loan from Sheffield Wednesday until January, and he’s showing signs that he’s growing into the side now, and his stoppage time free-kick against Barnet on Saturday will give him massive confidence going forward.
Elsewhere, Erico Sousa looks to be an exciting prospect on the wing, while the return of fans’ favourite Shaun Pearson was perfect signing to start the summer with.
TT PLAYER PROFILE: John McAtee
Date of Birth: 23rd July 1999 – 22 years-old
Previous Clubs: Burnley, Shrewsbury, Halesowen, Telford, Ashton, Curzon Ashton, Scunthorpe
NL Stats 21-22: Played – 3, Goals – 3, Yellow Cards – 0, Red Cards – 0
Who are the key players and why?
As previously mentioned, John McAtee has already made a big impact since joining. Virtually everything good about Town going forward involves him in some manner.
Erico Sousa will also be a threat if he starts, which is a bit up in the air as Town may set up differently away from home.
Michee Efete has also started brightly at right-back, and has offered good support going forward, which is especially important with Ryan Taylor up front, who got himself off the mark on Saturday with a fine diving header.
Who’s the gaffer and how does he like to set the team up?
Paul Hurst returned to take charge at the turn of the year, but was unfortunately unable to keep the club in the Football League, although the damage had long been done before he arrived.
You always know you’re going to get a side that’s well-drilled and isn’t going to give anything up easily – ‘keep us shape’ as the Yorkshireman likes to say.
So far, he’s gone with three different formations in all three games – if all of his defenders were fit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go with a similar approach to Stockport where he played three at the back.
But with David Longe-King out, I suspect he might not want to risk losing anyone else, so a standard four at the back looks more likely.
What’s your predicted line up for Saturday?
I think he’ll stick with most of the side that started against Barnet but with perhaps one or two tweaks.
Things didn’t quite click in the first half, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hurst go back to three in midfield to try and help the link between defence and attack, and having been on the bench for the last couple of games, I’d like to see Ben Fox come into the side, but equally Harry Clifton could also stake a claim.
(4-3-3): McKeown; Efete, Waterfall, Pearson, Crookes; Coke, Hunt, Fox; Sousa, Taylor, McAtee.
Will many Grimsby supporters make the trip down?
Town always travel well. 1,200 made the journey to Stockport last Tuesday, and fans will have been buoyed by the performance against Barnet on Saturday.
It’s a fair old trek, but don’t be surprised to see them sell out their allocation.
Who are your tips for promotion this season?
It’s such a difficult one to call this season. Wrexham are the obvious ones to go for, but I suspect they won’t get things their own way this season. There’ll certainly be plenty of sides putting in that bit more effort to claim a scalp against them.
Therefore, I could easily see one of Notts County or Chesterfield making the most of their situation. Town played the latter in pre-season, and they look a very handy side, and they didn’t have Kabongo Tshimanga playing that day.
Stockport, despite their somewhat inauspicious start, do look a big threat though, and they really should have got themselves in front in the first half when Town went there last week, so I’ll tip them – it could be any one of about five or six though.
And finally what’s your prediction for Saturday?
I think after Saturday’s remarkable game, Paul Hurst will be looking for a much calmer afternoon.
I think you’ll see a performance more akin to the goalless draw at Stockport last week, although they should be pretty high on confidence after the weekend, so I’ll back them to nick a 1-0 win.