(TESTING TIMES: Marcus Bignot at Chester. PICTURE: Action Images)
By David Richardson
Whatever happens this season, it’s unlikely to match the turmoil Marcus Bignot was put through during his final months at Chester.
The 43-year-old is back in Step 2 with Guiseley, two years since he guided Solihull Moors to the National League North title, and will come up against Chester in September after failing to keep the club in Non-League’s top-flight amid a host of off-field issues.
The Blues raised £50,000 earlier this year to stave off the threat of liquidation just eight years since the club was reformed.
Cost-cutting led to changes on and off the field while Bignot was told his contract wouldn’t be renewed at the end of the season.
The former Grimsby boss soldiered on, only to be sacked in the club’s car park once relegation had been confirmed with three games of the season remaining.
“I’ve just completed my diploma in football management with the League Managers Association,” the former Grimsby boss tells The NLP. “You share your experiences with other managers, coaches, managers who have been there and done it, managers who are trying to get on the ladder.
“Is there a model that prepares you for three chairmen and four directors resigning, a whole management staff leaving and nine contracted players out the door, and you’re left with a financial burden where the club’s close to shutting its doors?
“Chester was a great time for me in terms of taking positives from it, in very difficult circumstances not even on the course.
“It certainly made me a better person and manager for those experiences, and I think what shone through was my integrity and professionalism which I’m looking to take into Guiseley.
“We’re going to be working within the parameters of a budget and it’s not going to be dictated what we’re trying to achieve on the pitch off it.
“I’m really glad to see we (Chester) came through that difficult financial situation and the club is now in the position to get back on its feet and build again. “It’s pretty similar to what we have to do at Guiseley. For both clubs, to be honest, the North is an opportunity to move forward.”
Guiseley had plenty of their own problems last season. Right from when they were hammered 6-0 at Aldershot in early August, the writing was very much on the wall.
Manager Adam Lockwood was soon dismissed and the highly experienced Paul Cox appointed along with a full-time model put in place.
Despite an initial upturn in results, including a dramatic victory on penalties at Accrington in the FA Cup first round, Cox left in February with the club ten points adrift of safety.
Senior player Sean St Ledger took over the reins until the end of the season but, predictably, was unable to prevent relegation.
“The owner and the football club did everything in their power to avoid relegation last year and through no fault of their own, it wasn’t to be,” said Bignot. “Obviously, there’s consequences to that which we’re fully aware of.
“We’re working in a tight financial boundary which is needed for the football club in terms of getting it back on its feet and having a strong foundation. For us it’s very much addressing the financial situation and aligning that back to where we’re able to build and grow.
“They reached in the 40s last season in terms of their player registrations. There’s been a lot of players let go and a lot of difficult conversations, and there still will be.
“We’ve got a lot of liability carrying over from last season which still needs to be addressed.
“With the budget we’ve got this year we had to turn back to semi-professional. We couldn’t support a full-time model.
“There’s pro and cons for both but certainly in the North you can still be successful with the semi-professional model and, ultimately, achieve your goals.
“It’s a different type of player you’re getting but having been involved in that as a player and as a manager, you can see by the recruitment we’re doing, we’ve been really astute in terms of the characters and personalities we’re bringing in as well as very good footballers who are proven at this level.
“Any management team going into a job would like to recruit and have a pre-season and we’ve got that. They’re both key and we’re delighted with both at this moment in time.”
Bignot is joint-manager alongside the former long-standing Alfreton boss Russ O’Neill, who he has known through his dealings with Solihull.
“You look at forming partnerships on the football pitch and off it, the partnership we’ve got, our skill sets, our strengths and our weaknesses, complement each other,” added Bignot.
“When Alfreton were in the National League we’d organise pre-season friendlies and we’d always have that communication on a football level.
“Now we’re forming a friendship on top of that which is nice.
“We’ve got to consolidate on and off the pitch. That’s really important after suffering a relegation but certainly with what we’ve brought in, we’re definitely going to be competitive – and want to be competitive – at the right end of the table. It’s suggesting it’s going to be that.
“During my time in the North, certainly Guiseley were one of those teams always there or thereabouts.
“That’s ultimately our goal. If we can do it this season then great but we’ve got to make sure we consolidate and address the financial situation to allow us to start again and grow.”
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday
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