The Grimsby View: Bignot should play wingers


Marcus Bignot –

The last time a League Two club poached a manager from the division below was in January 2011 – Aldershot took Dean Holdsworth from Newport. That underlines the audacity – or indeed foolishness depending on results – Grimsby Town have shown to hire Solihull Moors’ Marcus Bignot. The Football Lab discusses the appointment, along with Paul Hurst’s controversial exit and general performances at Blundell Park with Paul Maddison (@LouthBigDog)

Hurst got Grimsby Town back into the Football League, but with plenty of play-off heartache, it had taken him and his coaching staff half a decade to do so. Had the club been as good for Hurst as he had been for the club?

Getting the club back in the football league was Hurst’s objective and he achieved that, the amount of time it took divided the fans a bit, with many thinking it shouldn’t have taken that long with one of the biggest budgets in the league. His rapport with the fans was pretty poor in the main, he refused to attend a post match press conference before he left, leaving it to the assistant manager who said he knew nothing of an approach from Shrewsbury, two days before he was employed by them. There was no message of goodbye to the fans or thanks for the support he did receive, which had massively improved this season. Compare this to Marcus Bignot applauding the Solihull Moors fans after their 2-2 draw at Yeovil at the weekend and then even going onto the supporters coaches after the game to speak to them. Not to take away from Hurst too much though as he has been consistently linked with jobs at clubs in higher divisions over the last several months, so must be doing something right.

He made some bold changes in the summer, parting with some key first teamers such as Craig Clay. Have your results in League Two vindicated his ruthlessness?

Definitely, when players were being released and rejecting contracts, including several key players from last season, I was worried. Hurst managed to rebuild a good squad with a lot of talent and experience, but with a good mix of young players and sitting 8th in the league shows that it has paid off.

New manager Marcus Bignot did a good job at Solihull Moors. Do you think he will get the best out of Omar Bogle, with whom he worked there?

I believe he will get the best out of a lot of players. I know Omar is a big fan of Marcus and did really well while playing under him previously, so yeah hopefully he will help Omar push onto the next level.

Given the talent that can be found in non-league, are the board right to go for a manager who has a knowledge of that market?

Marcus did a great job at Solihull Moors on a very tight budget. He’s a young and ambitious manager and on his way up. We were linked with several managers with league experience, some would have been out of our price range, others out of work for a while, which says something. I don’t feel league experience is a huge advantage, Paul Hurst only has 3 months experience and that didn’t stop Shrewsbury going for him. There are some cracking players in non league who could easily step up to this league. I don’t believe there is a huge difference in class between League 2 and the Conference, a lot of newly promoted teams do very well in their first season in the Football League.

Rhys Browne and Tom Bolarinwa have both impressed this season, but not been given many starts. Assuming Bogle will play, do you think Bignot should sacrifice a second striker to accommodate attacking wingers?

To be fair I’d like to see attacking wingers and two up top. We’ve lacked width in the middle of park at times this season and it’s been a problem at times. Scott Vernon who had a slow start to the season has looked much better the last couple of games and he’d benefit massively from playing with more width.

You said in pre-season that goalkeeper James McKeown and centre-back Josh Gowling had been excellent in the promotion season. How have they looked this year?

After an opening day clean sheet we really struggled at the back for a while. Since then we’ve signed Dean Henderson from Man Utd as a back up Goalkeeper and the competition seems to have seen McKeown up his game. We also signed centre back Danny Collins the ex Welsh International with Premier League experience and you could see his class and ability to read the game instantly. We’ve now kept clean sheets in 5 of our last 7 league games.

Right-back Ben Davies picked up an injury a month ago, midfielder Sean McAllister looked good in August before his lay-off. Will the team be stronger when those players return?

Yeah, undoubtedly. Surprisingly I’d say we’ve missed McAllister more than Davies. Zak Mills who was signed from Boston at the beginning of the season has come in to replace Davies and has barely put a foot wrong. He’s looked very good and not out of place at this level at all.

Left-back Danny Andrew seems to divide opinion – some say he’s suspect defensively, others argue he isn’t getting the right protection. Your views?

I’ve no issue with Danny Andrews defensively, he has often had Dom Vose playing in front of him this season though who’s defensive work rate and tracking back could be questioned.

In League Two generally, you’d imagine the top five will stay the same, but it’s a complete free-for-all from there downwards. Are there any other teams you’ve been impressed with that could break into the top seven?

Anyone seems to be able to beat anyone in this league and it’s been incredibly hard to predict this season. 8 points separate 4th place Luton and 22nd place Cambridge. I’ve not seen any teams we should be worried about, although our fixture list does start to get a bit harder over the next couple of months. Any team putting 3 or 4 win in a row together can soon shoot up the league and put themselves in play off contention.

You suggested in pre-season that a play-off push was possible. Do you feel more optimistic about that now than you did in August?

If we can sort our home form out then I see no reason why we can’t be there or there abouts. I’m fairly confident of a top half finish and to be honest any more than that would be a welcome bonus.