One of the most surprising events in the EFL this season came last Friday when Michael Jolley left his position as manager of League Two outfit Grimsby Town.
On the face of it, any boss who’d endured a seven-game winless streak would probably expect at the very least a difficult conversation with the board, but it has since transpired that a sweary tirade in which he made allusions to a restrictive budget to a BBC Radio Humberside after the 4-0 defeat to Leyton Orient a month ‘contributed to his exit’, in the words of de facto chairman John Fenty.
The men in white and black are down in 18th place, six points off the bottom but with three games in hand, chiefly because of postponements due to international call-ups.
Whether shocked Mariners fans have much truck with Fenty’s take on Jolley’s exit pales into insignificance when you take into consideration the need to get the next appointment right, even with there being only one relegation space this season.
At the time of writing, the current favourite on the market is Kevin Nolan, the former Leyton Orient and Notts County manager.
Purely looking at his win ratios at the helm of those teams makes for encouraging reading - 46.7% and 41.7% respectively across all competitions.
How did he get on at Leyton Orient?
At Brisbane Road, he was still playing during his three-month tenure, leading the London outfit to within two points of the fourth tier play-offs a month from the end of the season.
However, the board removed him as manager and replaced him with Andy Hessenthaler so that he could ‘make a bigger impact without the distraction of managerial duties’, a statement that three-and-a-half-years on seems as ridiculous now as it must have done at the time.
Nolan left the club in the summer, biding his time until the next suitable vacancy came up...
How about Notts County?
In January 2017, he made the move to Notts County, filling in John Sheridan’s shoes.
He was tasked by new owner Alan Hardy with steering the Magpies away from relegation danger, which he went on to achieve by a large margin by finishing the campaign seven places and 10 points above Hartlepool United. The next season, he kept them in the hunt for promotion throughout the term, only to lose out in the play-off semi-finals to Coventry City.
He was afforded very little time in 2018/2019 to arrest the alarming start the pre-season title favourites, gaining just a single point from the opening five matches.
Accusations of wasting the big budget for recruitment on the attacking end of the pitch seemed to ring true, and he had the ignominy of being dismissed in August.
Famously, Notts would turn to Harry Kewell and Neal Ardley in quick succession, but the rot had set in, ultimately resulting in their demotion and loss of their status as the oldest professional football league club in the world.
READ: Harry Kewell opens up about Notts County tenure
'We've landed 30, 40, 50 applications. Within 5 minutes [of Michael Jolley leaving] I'd had calls so there's a lot of interest - we're a good prospect.'— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) November 18, 2019
John Fenty on the Grimsby Town vacancy... 🐟
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Could he get the Grimsby job?
He’s actively seeking a return to the coalface, and if he was appointed at Grimsby, he’d be inheriting a good squad with no shortage of talented individuals.
In goal, James McKeown remains one of the stand-out goalkeepers plying their trade in League Two; with a bit of reorganisation, the defensive unit could be solid once more; Jake Hessenthaler is probably the best in his role at screening the back four in the entire division; Moses Ogbu’s versatility could be utilised further up the pitch; James Hanson needs to rekindle the explosive goalscoring form he enjoyed in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Jolley had mainly set up his side in a 4-3-3, with an obvious emphasis firmly placed on crossing from both sides in close support of Hanson.
Nolan is more of a 4-4-2 traditionalist, which would still make the squad at his disposal a good fit, especially if the full-backs are given licence to overlap.
Hanson would then have someone alongside him more often to make the most of any knock-downs or space created by the experienced target man.
He has the passion and experience for Grimsby, but is he the most progressive of choices?
I’m not so sure.
More favoured names include Paul Tisdale, but it’s difficult to envisage him being persuaded to relocate and take on a team at the wrong end of the league, having successfully guided Milton Keynes Dons to promotion out of it at the first attempt with them.
Nolan would probably be a better bet to return to Leyton Orient under much more stable ownership three years on from his last spell.
Either way, Fenty needs to make a reasonably quick appointment in order for the new boss to have sufficient time to assess the current squad and make decisions with the winter transfer window in mind.