IAN ATKINS believes Marcus Bignot would be a ‘good fit’ for Chester with the club’s new manager set to be announced within the next 48 hours.
Former Solihull Moors boss Bignot is favourite to land the Blues vacancy and is one of eight managers to have been interviewed over the past two days for the role.
The 43-year-old spent five years with Solihull and led them to the National League North title in 2015/16, as well as a hugely successful spell in charge of Birmingham City Ladies, although his latest job at Grimsby Town ended abruptly when he was sacked by the League Two club in April.
Atkins had a six-month spell in charge of Chester City back in 2000, where he nearly pulled off the great escape from relegation, during the ill-fated Terry Smith era, but the Blues ultimately lost their Football League status.
“For me, Marcus would be a good fit for Chester but he needs to be given time, like any manager,” explained the 60-year-old, who is now chief European scout at Aston Villa.
“Marcus was an apprentice when I was at Birmingham and I helped out the previous owners at Solihull with some previous managers. Marcus was introduced to a club who were getting crowds of 100 per game, and he turned the place around.
“You’ve got to give him a chance to stamp his authority on the place but if he gets that opportunity he’ll do really well.
“He left Solihull as a National League club with over 50 youth teams. Those youth teams stretch right across Birmingham, into the inner city, his hard work has been felt by the whole region.
“He developed youngsters at Solihull who have gone on to join the likes of Leicester and Chesterfield. Plenty of youngsters from the Premier League acadamies get swallowed up by the system, but if there’s lads at Chester who are switched on, they’ll get their chance with a manager like Marcus.”
Asked about Bignot’s ill-fated period in charge of the Mariners last season, Atkins replied: “Marcus was harshly treated at Grimsby in my opinion, he kept them up which was his aim.
“You’re forced to sell your best striker Omar Bogle in January yet there’s no money to replace him, but the board still expect the same results.
“You can’t sell your best players and expect the same results without replacing them, just look at Everton this season.
“Grimsby didn’t have much money but expected better results, and like any manager these days he didn’t get time.”
Chester will always hold a place in the heart of Atkins, who was well-liked by the Blues faithful during his short time at the Deva, and he believes the play-offs should be a ‘realistic goal’ even on a tight budget for the club.
“Chester is a lovely club, it’s a great city with lovely people around,” said Atkins, who made over 300 appearances for Shrewsbury Town.
“It’s a great job for the right person. For me, you’ve got to have realistic goals at a club like Chester.
“With any club which is now fan-owned, money will always be tight. So you need someone who can work with a small budget and get the most out of it, and Marcus has the experience of doing that with Solihull.
“Realistic goals are key. If you aim too high or look too far ahead, you won’t hit your targets and the whole club can become shambolic. That results in relegation to National League North and nobody wants that for Chester.
“Survival has to be the target first and foremost but a club like Chester should be realistically looking at that play-off area and thinking that is a target for the new manager.”
Since his last job in management at Torquay United in 2006, Atkins has moved into the world of scouting and recently left Everton after a decade with the Toffees, scouring Europe for the best talent on the continent, in order to take up a similar role with hometown club Villa.
“It’s a very different challenge but it’s one I love doing,” he added.
“I’ve had a couple of chances to get back into management in recent years but I wouldn’t give up the scouting now.
“I just wish I was 40 again, going into management because travelling Europe broadens your mind so much. Any young manager now starting out, I’d recommend getting out to Europe for a couple of years, get involved in recruitment and coaching.
“I know Europe like the back of my hand now with Villa, and I’ve been fortunate to go to South America too.
“I had a great experience with Everton, but Villa is closer to home and it was too good an opportunity to turn down.”
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