Romford 2 v 0 Grays
THIS isn’t working. Grays Ath are losing game after game after game. Tonight (Tuesday) in the drizzle up in Aveley, it wasn’t a team that lost to Romford 2-0, it was a collection of footballers who are staring at the wrong end of the league.
With over thirty players used it has also become clear that acquiring players is not the answer and it may not be their fault. The focus now has to fall on the management team.
Julian Dicks is not in a unique situation. In 1974 Bobby Charlton stood in the dug out as manager at Preston North End and thought: “There is more to this than I thought”. A few years later, Bobby Moore tried to educate Southend United players on the art of sublime skill and world class interceptions. It wasn’t happening and both legends never managed again.
Nobody thought any less of them. Nobody thinks any less of Julian Dicks the footballer.
The pre-seasons were solid, the early form was good. Indeed, when Grays lost 1-0 to Harlow on the opening day, there was a sense that it was the two teams that would contest the one automatic place. Both had similar “big” budgets (allegedly) and although nobody promised promotion, the intent seemed there.
Andy Swallow’s vision was clear. As he told The Times: “In five years, I see us with our own ground, our own identity and in the Conference South.”
The run of five victories underlined this and even in the way, Grays won “ugly” at Leyton illustrated how the team could fight their way out of the league.
But it appears that since the Waltham Forest game that Grays have hit the buffers. The form hasn’t dropped dramatically but ebbed away steadily. Enfield was a reality check (there was the traffic) but it was at Ware that the alarm bells rang. Redbridge gave the fans the horrible feeling that they were infact watching a relegation dogfight. Potters Bar and tonight at Romford underlined that Grays Athletic are in total freefall.
The players have become a collection of individuals. They only thing that makes them a team is the kit they are wearing. One hopes they appreciate that their careers are approaching crisis point. For many there were times in the West Ham Academy or League One or League Two. Their time at Grays was meant to be a period of re-adjustment followed by a bounce back up the league. Now they are traipsing off at the Mill Field realising that their careers are imploding in front of their eyes.
You have to feel for the fans. On Saturday, it was the odd stupid chant (One Craig Edwards?) however, the atmosphere felt different tonight. Maybe it was the site of the loyal fans taking down their banners and sloping off home before the final whistle.
What the club may have to consider is that some fans muttered as they left that they are saddled with Julian Dicks and Kenny Brown as they are part of some grand design.
It is always a difficult time and it is always a tricky one to judge in journalism. We will be wrong before and will be wrong again but asking fans to shell out cash in the teeth of a recession on cold nights in Great Wakering and Redbridge in November is a tough ask but someone has to ask the tough questions.
The trick is the right answer. Pride hurts but it seldom helps.