The Monday Profile: Ashley Grimes
Back in October last year, a piece for the Guardian Football League blog by David Bevan of the Seventy Two diagnosed a chronic lack of goals as the reason for Lincoln’s limp start to the season. Three months after the arrival at Sincil Bank of perennial Millwall reserve Ashley Grimes, an update is required. Some 17 goals in 25 league appearances since January – including a couple of TV-friendly efforts – have propelled City upward into mid-table obscurity, and left the supporters of Grimes’ ultimate employer wondering if another young talent has been kicked out the Den prematurely.
The 24-year-old (apparently no relation to the Manchester United and Ireland player of the same name) took up residence in south-east London in 2008, the name alone conjuring images of Fred Elliott and marking him down as a Citizen of Manchester. Unfortunately for Grimes, he unpacked his bags at the beginning of an upswing in the Lions’ fortunes: the discovery by Gary Alexander of the shooting boots he had mislaid the year before and the resurrection of Neil Harris leading to the first of two consecutive Wembley play-off finals. To his credit, though, Grimes worked hard in the 2nd string throughout the campaign, scoring regularly in those midweek, one-man-and-his-dog games, and made an impression with two goals in a handful of first XI cameos. With promotion in sight for Kenny Jackett’s men, though, the chances for blooding a still callow striker were few, especially since Steve Morison had usurped Alexander as the focal point of the Millwall attack. Grimes inevitably bumped further down the queue for a starting place and seemed to be marking time at the club.
If League 1 was judged beyond him by Jackett (who had seen him at close quarters at two separate clubs), then opportunity was never going to knock in the Championship. Yet more forwards were added to the Millwall team photo in the summer of 2010 and, although Grimes continued to notch in the ad hoc kickabouts organized for the reserves, his defenestration in January was no surprise. The 24-year-old’s goalscoring – at least to Millwall fans, who’d only seen a striker lacking in physical strength and control – was, however, an unexpected plot turn. And there has been plenty of it to ponder. The predominant view expressed on Lincoln forums is of a goal poacher, which may bewilder those who know Grimes from his long-range net-bothering clips on The Football League Show. Despite comparisons with previous loanee Davide Somma, Grimes appears to lack the well-rounded game that the South African international Somma is now displaying for parent club Leeds.
A regular goalscorer at any level will attract attention, though, and one whose contract is soon to expire even more so. Imps chairman Bob Dorrian has this month claimed that City will ‘break the bank’ to sign Grimes. But with bigger, flashier suitors rumoured to be considering a punt, a prolonged stay in Lincolnshire is by no means guaranteed. Despite a vacancy opening up alongside Morison in SE16, a rise to favour at the Den seems unlikely. At the risk of sounding like Steve Claridge, it may just be that Grimes has found a level of competition that suits his abilities.