Tuesday, 13 January 2015


John Fenty (right) - seen with Cleethopes MP Martin Vickers (left) and the deputy leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, Mick Burnett

 ALTHOUGH he is a highly successful businessman and a member of North East Lincolnshire, John Fenty's profile is probably highest as shareholder-in-chief/ main board member  of Grimsby Town FC.

It is probably fair to say that his 13 years or so at the helm have been marked by more disappointment than joy, notably when the unthinkable happened and The Mariners tumbled out of the Football League, never to have returned - at least as yet.

But the darkest hour is just before dawn, and ultimately, possibly this season, the good times will return.

Footballing highlights for John - who endeavours to attend all matches, home and away - have included  thrilling cup wins against Liverpool and Spurs and visits both  to Wembley and Cardiff's Millenium Stadium.

At one time, when Town were still in the Football League, he was linked with what, for inexplicable reasons came affectionately to be dubbed by the media as the "South London Mafia "  - its other members being Karren Brady (then Birmingham chairman), Theo Paphitis (then Millwall chairman), Paul Scalley (Gillingham)  and the flamboyant Simon Jordan (then Crystal Palace chairman), the last of whom he decribes as "crackers but a great bloke and a lot of fun".

When the striker Steve Kabba surprisingly came on loan from Palace to Blundell Park in 2002, it was apparently because Jordan wanted to nettle the club's manager, Trevor Francis, with whom he had lost confidence.

Scoring six goals in 14 matches, Kabba was much more of a success in Grimsby than in his native South London, and he could have become part of a player-plus cash transfer arrangement in exchange for Town goalkeeper Danny Coyne, but the latter decided against the move, so the deal fell through.

One of the low points of John's spell in the hot seat was the  much publicised bust-up which resulted in the dismissal of manager Mike Newell following a match with Rochdale.

There was massive embarrassment to both parties with the  publication in the Grimsby Telegraph of  High Court documents which suggested that, following verbal fireworks,  the pair may even have come close to blows in the car park.

Newell sought £53,000, plus costs, for wrongful dismissal, but, in the end, he had to settle for just £5,000 - reflecting a technical breach of Employment law  by the club. His application for costs was rejected.  

Looking back, John reckons the post-Rochdale row came about because both men were simultaneously  so passionate that the club should do well and so disappointed that the results on the pitch remained steadfastly poor.

"I haven't seen Mike since he left,"says John. "We were good friends, and I certainly harbour no grudge.

"I don' think we could be faulted for appointing him - as a  manager, he had achieved success at both his previous clubs Hartlepool and Luton."

Was John himself any great shakes as  footballer? Up until about 10 years ago when he resumed playing at local league level, he had never pulled in a pair of boots since he was 12.

Since being elected to North East Lincolnshire Council as a Conservative representative for the Humberston and New Waltham ward, John has also been actively engaged across a broad spectrum of community life.

He had always been interested in politics and needed little encouragement when Keith Brookes, NELC's then  Conservative Group leader, encouraged him to throw his hat into the ring.

Much of his council work he has founded rewarding, though he admits to frequent frustrations at how slowly the wheels of local government  turn - for instance, when  it comes to economic renewal and regeneration.

He believes there needs to be much more drive, determination, imagination and tenacity - and much less procrastination - if  Grimsby is again to enjoy the prosperity of its fishing heyday.

Assuming he retains his appetite for politics, does he aspire to higher things - perhaps even a seat in parliament?

"It's not something I've thought of,"comes back the father-of-six’s coy response. "Since his election, Martin Vickers has been doing a good job for Cleethorpes."

But what if vacancy came up for a candidate in another seat? "Never say never," he replies.


Favourite food: Indian.

Favourite book: I have only read two in my life - one on tropical fish, the other on DIY. The bulk of my reading matter today consists of council agendas.

Favourite film: Spartacus.

Favourite pop singer: Debbie Harry, vocalist with the pop group, Blondie.

Family pets: Dogs, chinchillas, ornamental ducks, tortoises, koi carp and a blue-and-gold macaw called Molly. 

Person you would most like to meet over dinner: Margaret Thatcher in her prime.

NOTE: This feature is an adaptation of one that  originally appeared in the Cleethorpes Chronicle in Agust 2010

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