Grimsby Town is a club steeped in history. Founded in 1878, they once held a place in England's top flight and have reached the FA Cup semi-finals on two occasions.Since those golden days, the Mariners have enjoyed promotions but, more significantly, a number of relegations, which came to a head when they dropped into non-league in 2010.
Read more: Grimsby Town – the Mariners are back with Bogle and Ben
Two mid-table finishes were followed by three heart-breaking Play-Off failures, and things perhaps seemed bleak. But 2015/16 was Grimsby's season and in May they beat Forest Green Rovers at the national stadium to end their exile and secure a return to the 72.
“Returning to the EFL was the aim since I got the opportunity at Grimsby Town,” said manager Paul Hurst, the former Rotherham United defender who has achieved promotion with all three teams he has taken charge of – Ilkeston Town, Boston United and, of course, the Mariners.
“I joined a club which I felt had a great chance of getting back into the EFL. We went close on numerous occasions and you start to wonder whether it's meant to be. But, thankfully, last season we managed that and this year the next challenge is to compete. I don't want to be in League Two and fighting a relegation battle. It's all new and fresh but we're certainly going into it optimistic.
“As much as I am proud to be the manager of a football club with a great history – and rightly so that that's remembered – life is often about the here and now. It would be great to try and create some more of our own memories.
“I think we've done that in a small way by getting back into the EFL, and some of the younger fans who haven't experienced success with Grimsby, have now. But it doesn't stop there, we want to try and carry that on and create more memories from being in the EFL.”
They may be stepping into the unknown somewhat after six long years away, but there's every reason for Hurst, his team and their loyal followers to be upbeat ahead of their home opener against Morecambe on Saturday.
Grimsby were beaten by Bristol Rovers at Wembley in the 2015 Conference Play-Off Final, and the Gas wasted no time in sealing a second successive rise last time around, in a season full of fairy tales.
Then you have Hurst himself. He's the EFL's third-longest serving manager – appointed in March 2011 – and is well-versed with the rigours of the league having made nearly 500 appearances for Rotherham during his playing days.
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Then you come to the playing squad. It's a new-look team from the one that won promotion back to the EFL in May, but one Hurst is excited about.
Incomings include the likes of Ben Davies, Scott Vernon, Ashley Chambers and Luke Summerfield – players with a wealth of EFL experience – mixed with a flavour of prospects out of non-league, such as Zak Mills from Boston, Tom Bolorinwa from Sutton United and Rhys Browne from Aldershot Town.
Not to mention midfield stalwart Craig Disley, ever-reliable goalkeeper James McKeown and goal scoring front man Omar Bogle – the players who battled from Braintree to Boreham Wood to get Grimsby back in the EFL.
“This will be my sixth season and a lot of managers have lost their jobs in between, so I'm fortunate,” Hurst reflected.
“The fact we’re now in the EFL provides a great challenge for us. We have a new group of players to manage and get to know over time, and get them to know how I work, and that makes it an even more exciting challenge.
“Rhys Browne and Tom Bolarinwa are two exciting wingers, who I think can have good careers. First and foremost, though, it's about getting consistency out of them. It’s a step-up for them – but they can certainly add some flair to us.
“We've also got more experienced lads – we needed that mix. We would have been very naive to go into this season without any knowledge of League Two.
“We've got Omar Bogle up front, too. He had a couple of years at Solihull Moors then we took him last summer.
“He started very well before having a down period in the middle of the season but came back and scored a lot of the important goals at the end of the campaign. He's keen to challenge himself and that was his reason for joining Grimsby, to get into the EFL and push on, and that's what we want to do as a club.”
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