What next for the in demand Shrewsbury Town manager Paul Hurst?

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 14 April 2018, 10:39

If you asked Paul Hurst right now what his focus is, we expect he would truthfully and rightly say helping Shrewsbury Town attain promotion.

Although the top two has moved further away due to a combination of Thursday’s 0-0 draw at Bradford and the relentless consistency of Wigan and Blackburn, they have a good chance.

Salop will reach the play-off final if they play to their full capability in the semis and the daring among us would say their only obvious obstacle to the Championship is Rotherham; even the Millers are 13 points behind.

And yet, while Hurst’s stock as a manager is at an all-time high, it is vital for his future that he makes another good career move.

Grimsby Town fans, 18 months ago, had questioned his decision to move to Greenhous Meadow, a perceived sideways step. Ironically, Shrewsbury could be in the Championship next season while the Mariners are in a predicament that threatens their EFL status.

Hurst had endured a mixed relationship with Grimsby fans that saw moments of semi-confrontation - and he was perhaps fortunate to keep his job during four seasons without promotion from the National League.

He perhaps made the right decision, once results took a positive turn, to quit while he was ahead; his move to Shrewsbury might have had a little more to do with preserving his reputation than what his then-doomed-looking suitors could offer. This summer, Hurst’s dilemma will be different: we have a look at what his options might be.

1. Stay at Shrewsbury

Why he should:

Hurst is revered in Shropshire, he has the utmost trust of chairman Roland Wycherley and a group of players who love working for him including Aristote Nsiala and Jon Nolan, for whom he is the only manager they seem to perform.

Shrewsbury have brought Hurst the happiest period of his career and the security the job gives him is not to be taken lightly. If Salop go up, he could be the first manager to lead them into a second-tier campaign for three decades and if they don’t, he might feel a sense of unfinished business.

Why he shouldn’t:

Sustainability. There’s Shrewsbury fans who have said themselves they consider the lower reaches of the third-tier to be the natural level. That’s not a slight on the club - quite the opposite - but continued success requires greater effort than it would for wealthier competitors.

Uncertainty lingers over the future of Norwich loanees Carlton Morris and Ben Godfrey while Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson's confident displays could earn him a move further up the hierarchy. Furthermore, there are a lot of players in that squad who are into the second half of their careers having spent much of it in the lower leagues: does this success have a shelf-life?

2. Go to Ipswich

Why he should:

The setup at Ipswich Town appears suited to Hurst’s strengths. Chairman Marcus Evans allowed Mick McCarthy to run the rule over the club from top to bottom and that is reflected in the profile of player they’ve brought in. The Yorkshireman’s final match-day squad - which recorded a 1-0 win over his hometown club Barnsley - comprised solely of either academy graduates or players who had been at another English club before Ipswich.

Hurst’s methods are sufficiently similar to McCarthy to avoid the need for a complete overhaul, but he will encourage the proactive passing required to create more chances and re-enthuse supporters.

Why he shouldn’t:

Ipswich have had the third-fewest shots on target in the Championship this season (134), the third-fewest shots from the penalty area (219), the second-fewest key passes (314) and the second-fewest successful dribbles (275). At the other end, they have faced more shots per game (617) than any other team.

While the league table might tell us they are a top half team, on-field evidence tells us something very different; and that’s before loanees like Callum Connolly and Bersant Celina return to their parent clubs. Could Ipswich offer a good enough squad for Hurst to give up his life as a legend in Shrewsbury?

3. Go to Leeds (if Paul Heckingbottom leaves)

Why he should:

Leeds United have spent three-quarters of the last two seasons chasing a Championship play-off place. Building an attack around Samuel Saiz - a lively dribbler with bags of potential - and Pablo Hernandez - a fine technician who can produce a match-winning delivery at any moment - is an enticing prospect.

Right-back Luke Ayling can be a good player at this level when fit, as can Adam Forshaw, who might form a dynamic partnership with Ronaldo Vieira, while Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s recent form suggests he could be a solution to the post-Robert Green keeper conundrum. Leeds already have the basis of a top half squad on which Hurst could impose his principles.

Why he shouldn’t:

Off-field politics. Much of Hurst’s success at Shrewsbury is down to control over signings; he had previously worked with six of his 14 permanents additions there and another six had performed in non-league, meaning it was likely the boss had extensive prior knowledge of their strengths. The biggest mistake Leeds and Hurst could make, therefore, is striking a deal while the widely-criticized Victor Orta remains head of recruitment.

The Sack Race’s Verdict

Hurst shouldn’t give up his job in Shrewsbury lightly, whether or not they go up, but we reckon Ipswich might be a nice fit.


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