THERE’S a sinking feeling at Grimsby and Danny Collins knows only immediate action can haul the Mariners out of shark-infested relegation waters.
The grizzled defender has spent 15 years at the sharp end of football – but you only need to have been in the game for 15 minutes to recognise a club on the slide.
Since Boxing Day, Grimsby have claimed a paltry four wins from 30 games, three of which came in the final four matches of last season, securing an improbable survival.
But this month’s 4-0 defeat at Bury and 3-0 loss at home to Oldham opened up the wounds of last spring, auguring for another winter of discontent and season of bitter struggle.
Collins wants Grimsby to invoke the Dunkirk spirit of last season’s relegation escape – and do it quickly.
“It’s a difficult period at the moment – there’s no dressing it up,” said the 38-year-old.
“There’s no-one pulling in different directions but the frustration has got through to our fans, however loyal they are.
“We saw the spirit in the group and in the club in the last few games of last season. The gaffer (Michael Jolley) turned it round and got us over the line.
“We brought in ten players over the summer and changed our formation but just haven’t got it going yet.
“The fans turn up in their numbers. We had 900 of them away at Bury. We need to start giving them something.”
Collins earned two promotions to the Premier League at Sunderland, joined Stoke for a fee of £2.75 million and helped Rotherham surge to survival under Neil Warnock.
But even for a gnarled veteran, football never fails to surprise and working under a manager just three years his senior is a new one on the centre-back.
Gaffers don’t come much younger than Michael Jolley, 41, who Collins admits has leant on his experience since joining in March.
“Myself, John Welsh and Martyn Woolford; we’ve played a few games in our time, so it’s our job to help get the manager’s message across,” said Collins.
“I talk to the manager a lot and he’s sharing everyone’s frustration. We chat about what we can do to get the team to improve and develop.
“Particularly early on, he took me aside. We spoke about what we could change around the training ground and I suggested a couple of ideas around formations.
“Injuries haven’t helped and we haven’t been able to put those ideas into action, one way or another.”
Perhaps the club closest to Collins’ heart is Sunderland, where he spent five successful years under Mick McCarthy.
Sitting and watching the decline of the Black Cats has been an uncomfortable experience and Collins has been watching from close range, still living on Wearside.
“They were flirting with relegation for a few years and going down back-to-back is so disappointing,” said the former Welsh international. “It could be a blessing and with the way they’ve started – it looks like it might be.
“There’s been a clearout of players and at boardroom level. In a way, the cloud is still lifting over the club.
“It’s never easy. Look at the likes of Leeds, Forest and Southampton, who have been down there. They’re slowly turning it around.”
He wants Grimsby to do the same.