Ian Holloway: ‘Managing Grimsby makes me feel like Mary Poppins’ | Football


“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Come on, that’s what life is about,” says Ian Holloway, halfway through explaining how he feels akin to Mary Poppins after being parachuted in at Grimsby Town, returning to management after 18 months away and with the classic movie still fresh in his mind having watched it over Christmas with his grandchildren.

“The old one with Julie Andrews up on the chimneys, not the new one – the new one is crap,” he hastily clarifies. “She blew in when needed and I feel like I’ve blown in when Grimsby need me. Hopefully it will be a great situation. When they have a cup of tea with the old man [Uncle Albert], who laughs so much they all end up on the ceiling – that’s my favourite bit. I want to enjoy my life so that I’m up on the ceiling.”

The 56-year-old has signed an initial two-year contract as manager but has also become a director at the League Two club after investing £100,000 in shares, which he believes underlines his commitment to what he views as an exciting long-term project.

“I’m not mad, I am investing in the people of Grimsby because they lost their livelihoods a few years ago and I want to give them pride in their football club,” says Holloway. “I’ll decide whether I stay or go; I’ll be part of that decision. I want to make this place a better place and I want the fans to trust me because I want to move the club forward. If I do and when we get a new ground, my investment will be very shrewd. If I don’t, at least I will have had long enough to try and make a change and have a positive effect. A lot of managers don’t get that and it’s getting ridiculous. How can [Pep] Guardiola be questioned now? The man’s a genius. It doesn’t make sense. What are we living in? But in this world of football madness, I am totally sane.”

In some ways Holloway’s arrival was a long time in the making given he held talks with Grimsby before taking charge of Blackpool in 2009. But this time the interview process culminated in a four-hour conversation with the majority shareholder John Fenty in a fish and chip restaurant on Cleethorpes pier. On Monday Holloway left his home near Chippenham before 5am to get to training on time (allowing for repairs to a slow puncture en route), but he has since found a house in Lincolnshire for him, his wife, Kim, and their dogs, Dougal, Ted, Milo and Ernie, to move into at the end of the month.

That afternoon Holloway also made his first signing, and later that night he fell asleep watching Arsenal against Leeds. Holloway has managed almost 1,000 games and was interviewed for the Swansea job last summer but, despite his uncurbed enthusiasm for the game, he admits he considered calling it a day. “I’m far too young to retire, but I was thinking about it,” he says. “I know there will be a day where I’ll be past my sell-by date but it ain’t now, because I want to do it too much. To stand on that line and hear what some people say, you’d think we [managers] are mad sometimes. It doesn’t matter the ship I’m on or how big the waves are, I’m on another journey and it’s fantastic.”

Stocked with an infectious personality, Holloway has already struck up a rapport with supporters, buying some gloves and calendars in the club shop hours before Grimsby edged out Salford City on New Year’s Day – their first win for more than three months. Since he was appointed manager, Grimsby, who travel to Leyton Orient on Saturday, have garnered maximum points after beating Mansfield last time out, despite playing more than 80 minutes with 10 men. After that win Holloway apologised for over-celebrating, acknowledging a cocktail of pent-up energy and frustration had got the better of him. But Holloway, who describes the former Grimsby managers Bill Shankly and Lawrie McMenemy as inspirations, need not apologise for restoring a feelgood factor around Blundell Park in double-quick time.

“I’ve been gobsmacked by the response from everybody at the club,” he says. “I’m a Bristol Rovers fan and we’ve had some terrible times but you never change the kit that’s around your heart. Ever. But unfortunately, as a football manager, I’ve had to. Bristol Rovers sacked me years ago so I’ve had to change colours and these colours have never fit so well on me in my life.

“Every club should be a fit for the manager, a marriage between the manager and the owner. At the moment there’s too many layers above the manager now, so you cannot get a close relationship with the chairman. You have got chief executives, directors of football, all sorts of things … but this is old fashioned and I absolutely love it. This is me all over.”

Talking points

Several clubs have raided non-league in search of goalscoring rough diamonds since the transfer window reopened. Josh March has joined Forest Green Rovers from Leamington Town after scoring 24 goals in 27 games, becoming the second striker to swap the National League North for the Football League in six months after Colby Bishop joined Accrington in July. Meanwhile, Muhammadu Faal has signed for Bolton from the Isthmian Premier League side Enfield Town, for whom he has scored 27 goals in 30 games this season. Also, 21-year-old Reeco Hackett-Fairchild has joined Portsmouth from Bromley.

Birmingham could face a second points deduction in two seasons after being charged with breaching financial rules by the EFL. The Championship club said the charge relates to a breach of a business plan imposed by the league last March, when they were deducted nine points for breaking profitability and sustainability rules. “The club denies the charge and we await the outcome of ongoing disciplinary proceedings,” read a Birmingham statement. Meanwhile, the decision to suspend Bolton’s five-point deduction regarding unfulfilled fixtures has been upheld by an arbitration panel following a failed appeal by the EFL, who said they are “disappointed with the verdict”.

Ben Garner has made his second signing since being appointed Bristol Rovers manager, with the 21-year-old midfielder Josh Barrett arriving from Reading after the Derby winger Jayden Mitchell-Lawson joined on loan on Monday. Garner, who worked as a first-team coach at Crystal Palace and West Brom and was most recently assistant to Steve Coppell at the Indian Super League club ATK, has not won any of his opening four matches. Rovers, who are eighth in League One, host Doncaster on Saturday.

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