Style, relationship with fans, and adapting to new challenges... the view from Shrewsbury and Grimsby on Hurst
- Credit: Archant
Shrewsbury and Grimsby fans have their say on the job new Ipswich boss Paul Hurst did while in charge of their clubs, prior to his move to Portman Road.
Glyn Price from the Blue and Amber Podcast on the job Hurst did at Salop, where he transformed a struggling side into one just a win shy of the Championship.
Doing it in style
When he came in we didn’t really know a lot about him but he had a good record at a lower level, so there were concerns about him stepping up, but within a month he had turned our home form around and had a bunch of players who had been spiritless and rudderless playing in an organised way.
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You could see something was in the offing and keeping us in League One the previous season was just as miraculous of everything that has happened in the last season to be honest.
It was a joy to watch at times.
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He adapted his style twice because when he came in and we were about to get relegated he played a very solid, structured, 4-4-2 that made us hard to beat. But when he had the chance to build his first team last summer he brought in the players he wanted so adapted to one up front with a three-man midfield with pacy, attacking wingers and a solid back four. That’s what our success was built on.
If you base it on this season he likes to play with a very structured defensive unit and then let his attacking players show a bit of flair. Mainly on the counter attack.
Maybe he will adapt again.
One thing you will get with Paul Hurst is a well-drilled back line and you will be hard to break down. There is an art in that. Some people don’t enjoy it but, for me personally, I found it a joy to watch how hard it was to score goals against us.
If you don’t let a goal in, you only need one to win.
He is very consistent. You could name the players week-in, week out unless there were injuries.
Galvanising a fan base
Results are the main thing in football of course but the group of players he sent out onto the pitch had so much passion and their drive and commitment was incredible. That brought everyone together.
We have had loan players come in from all over the country in the past and some of them just haven’t looked bothered, but Paul brought in players who were motivated and were loving the club – they engaged with the fans, too and that was great.
Everything he said in the press was a bit ‘us against them’ and the fans were included in that. We were the underdogs and he was building us up.
‘Paul Hurst Way’
We went on a club-record unbeaten run and a road side with ‘Paul Hurst Way’ on it just appeared quite soon after that. Nobody knows who put it there.
We had a new roundabout built near the stadium and it had a new path through the middle of it for pedestrians on the way to the game. It’s been known as the Paul Hurst Way since then and it’s still there now.
I don’t know what we will be doing with it. I think there is a bit of discussion about naming it after a longer-term legend but, in all honesty, regardless of everything that happened he is a legend himself.
Graham Turner took us up in the 1970s and in the 2000s, which is a gap pretty much unheard of, but then Paul is probably the second best manager we’ve had since the 1950s.
There is justification to look back on him as one of the best we’ve had.
Rich Mills from fan website Cod Almighty on Hurst’s work in Cleethorpes, which saw him win promotion to the Football League in 2016.
Team spirit and splitting the fans
He has a really good spirit within his squads and he does it by not having any stars and having a wage structure which is as flat as possible.
A lot of our players and ex-players are still in touch. The promotion squad still have their WhatsApp group and are still in touch. You see them on Twitter talking to each other.
I know we were a big side with big support in the Conference but we didn’t have the financial backing of many of the other sides. When things tailed off in the months before the play-offs, Hurst and the squad had a ‘them against the world’ mentality because the fans really got on the players’ and manager’s backs.
After the first leg of the play-off semi-finals (home loss to Braintree in 2016), some idiot strung a ‘Hurst out’ banner across the bridge coming into Grimsby. But they turned it round in the second leg and won us promotion at Wembley.
But there was always a section of the support who thought he was too cautious and played the margins, defensive when he needed to and with a system.
The squad loved him, but some of the fans didn’t appreciate what they had at the time. It’s a real shame.
There is also a section of support who think he got rid of too many players after we got promoted, but it was more likely due to the board not backing him and giving proper contracts to the players. We lost some good players like Padraig Amond – some blame the manager rather than the club.
Leaving on a high
He is quite a blunt bloke and will say things in public which some managers won’t. He will occasionally say things in interviews about fans not backing the team and come out with it. Also, he knocked heads with our board because he wanted a fitness coach because his backroom staff was very small – essentially him and Chris Doig – they were doing everything including the fitness side of things.
He dragged us up, I believe he wanted to stay, but he lost a lot of players he didn’t want to lose and had to do some last-minute shopping. But before he left it was all looking pretty good.
One of his last games was away at Luton and we were brilliant. We took them apart and it was wonderful. We were watching one-touch, passing football in triangles all round the park and we were playing through them.
It has always been his thing to spot rough diamonds or underachieving players – or those who were great in a bad squad.
If you look at what is left of his Shrewsbury squad now, it’s that kind of thing. It’s players who have never really achieved anything but, when brought in by Hurst, they are superstars. Jon Nolan is a really good example of that.