Steady progress: Hurst's lesson for Town fans

Cod Almighty | Article

by Ian Jackson

16 March 2018

He was quiet, he was no crowd pleaser, but Paul Hurst should teach us what is important in a new manager.

We have a new manager, the third down the line from Paul Hurst.

It has been such a short time from the summer of 2016, and such a short time in the life of my 8-year-old. I took him to Wembley aged 6 for Bristol Rovers, which didn't put him off, and took him a year later for Forest Green which was brilliant. We started going regularly during that period. He even sat through the Bognor Regis home tie of the cup thing (what was that all about?)

Since then? Hurst left. My boy's hero Omar left. The ginger Pirlo left... I could go on. But he is still keen to go when we can, and it is the legacy of the Hurst era that he will remember as an adult. That fact alone makes me appreciate the Hurst era with perhaps more fondness than some.

I was less of an attendee when Hurst arrived. My boy was still a baby and domestic life meant no time to myself. Our progress in the Conference was monitored from afar: getting used to scrolling to the fifth tier on teletext; getting used to many more mid-week games compared to the Football League; and looking out for results on international weekends off when the Conference was still playing.

Some near misses to the play-offs didn't bother me. Then making the play-off semi-final but missing out against a more experienced Gateshead team. Never mind I thought.

What I think I'm describing is 'progress'. Same manager, same set-up; experience starting to gel and bear fruit.

But then things started to happen a bit. Maybe it was luck. Maybe it was our turn. Maybe, perhaps maybe, it was the manager who had worked something out. Forget the stats that might prove I'm wrong, but I remember the results started to show some resilience. Winning by the odd goal in high scoring games. Winning by the odd goal in low scoring games, but winning either way you look at it. Then the crunch games where we held our own.

For a short 2-3 year spell, I could even recognise the same team names for more than one season, something I'd struggled with for ages, even as far back as Buckley's 1990's teams. What I think I'm describing is 'progress'. Same manager, same set-up; experience starting to gel and bear fruit.

Of course, it culminated in Wembley versus Forest Green. Although I had been confident a year earlier, that game had been cagey. 2016 wasn't so bad. Two quick chances taken: thank you very much. It was a quieter second half with an opportunity taken by Forest Green, but I think I was calm; it felt 'right'. Arnold's winner was a formality.

2016 play-off final

Some bumps on the way, but you know what - even though the Braintree game was a bit heart stopping - 2015-16 was a season that summed up Hurst's tenure: progress, and a job done.

He left us. We didn't see him off with the sack. He has so far proved at Shrewsbury that he knows what he is doing, and I think I feel quite chuffed for him that it has worked out. It takes bottle to move jobs when the going is good; the grass isn't always greener. With that in mind, the in-between years since he left just don't sit well with anybody, but I don't blame Paul Hurst. I don't think many do.

But there might be a lesson to learn. Keep your shape. Do the basics right. Make the changes you need to make, stick with it as a plan, and keep everyone on-board. Gruff-demeanoured men from Yorkshire might be gruff for a reason: they want to be left alone to do the job?

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