The Non-League Football Paper

Sam Elliott: Non-League bosses deserve an equal chance in the Football League

Pic: James Baylis

MARCUS BIGNOT’S sacking at Grimsby Town last week was awful news for Non-League football.

There’s a serious imbalance when it comes to Football League clubs giving opportunities to managers outside of their comfort zone.

Grimsby were the recent exception to the rule, but the four months they afforded Bignot at Blundell Park after buying into his transformation of Solihull Moors is already over.

There’s a running joke between managers that if they want to manage a Football League club, then they’ve got to take a club there. Problem is nobody’s laughing.

You could understand if a real stigma attached to Non-League football existed. But the fact that three of our players have signed for Premier League clubs inside the last month dispels that theory. It’s been a season like no other for top-end clubs giving chances to up-and-comers.

Last week, Middlesbrough, who signed Shildon’s free scoring midfielder Lewis Wing last month, made a move for Luke Armstrong, having just won the Evo-Stik NPL Premier with Blyth Spartans under the management of dad Alun.


Premier League champions Leicester City have taken Stafford Rangers’ Josh Gordon. Three in the space of four weeks. That’s some going. It’s mainly down to one man of course. So famous that he has a condition name after him.

The ‘Jamie Vardy Effect’ means stones are no longer left unturned. Cheap, no hassle and critically, hungry. The lower-level players are a risk-free punt worth taking.

Our managers must look on and wonder. What’s good for the players doesn’t seem good for the coaches.

Bignot’s sacking would have been felt throughout the game. He achieved what many are also doing in building a club up and taking them forward, getting his hands dirty and learning his trade. When the Moors’ man was selected by Grimsby, it was a nod to all the others looking to make it.

Half of my frustration with how Football League chairmen go about their business is that they see employing a manager who has just been sacked as a better choice than making a move for one who has a great recent record and an impressive CV to support an application.

Grimsby, for example, have just replaced Bignot with Russell Slade. A good man with a Non-League past but the fact of the matter is that he’s been sacked by Cardiff City, Charlton and Coventry City inside the last nine months.

Is this the way it should work? Absolutely not. Time to do your homework on the managers in Non-League as well as the players. You don’t have to look hard to find them.

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One thought on “Sam Elliott: Non-League bosses deserve an equal chance in the Football League

  1. ChloeW

    And now league managers are coming down into the National League it will make it even harder. I can understand Micky Mellon to Tranmere; he has connections there and they are a league club in all but current status but Martin Allen or Ronnie Moore to Eastleigh? Mark Cooper, despite past links, to Forest Green? As the semi professional game becomes ever more professional more ex league players and managers will ply their trade ever further down the pyramid.


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