Paul Hurst, the man responsible for ending Grimsby Town’s six-year absence from the EFL, has returned to the League Two strugglers, with a financial takeover soon to be completed at the club.
Following a run of poor results and boardroom battles, Ian Holloway made a shock departure from the Lincolnshire outfit, leaving the door open for the unemployed Hurst to make a sensational return.
It has been a turbulent year for Grimsby, and it’s also been a turbulent time for Hurst since he departed the club back in 2016, so how did we get to this point?
Soaring with The Shrews
Hurst had guided Grimsby to eighth in the League Two, outside the play-offs on goal difference, when he was head-hunted by League One’s basement club Shrewsbury Town.
Selected over a field of over 100 candidates and appointed in October 2016, Hurst was tasked with steering the club away from relegation, who had won just twice in the league and were six points adrift of 20th place upon his arrival.
The ex-Grimsby man was successful in his task that season as Salop ended the campaign in 18th, two points clear of Port Vale who occupied the final relegation spot.
In his only full season in charge, Hurst powered Shrewsbury to third in League One, their highest finish in the football pyramid for almost 40 years back when they were crowned Third Division champions in 1979.
The club reached Wembley twice that year; however, Hurst could not stop The Blues’ rut at the home of English football as they lost both the EFL Trophy and play-off finals that year to Lincoln City and Rotherham United respectively.
Shrewsbury record: P 97 W 47 D 23 L27 Win % 48.5
A forgettable foray with Ipswich
The 2017/18 season ended in more Wembley heartbreak for Hurst, who won just once in five trips with Grimsby and Shrewsbury. However, that did not stop Championship outfit Ipswich Town signing him and long-term assistant Chris Doig to three-year deals that summer.
However, what followed was nothing short of a disaster for the new manager, who lasted just 15 games in the hot seat at Portman Road, with Ipswich winning just once during his tenure, which included a defeat to League Two side Exeter City in the EFL Cup.
It was shortest managerial reign in the club’s history and turned out to be a near-destabilising blip in Hurst’s career, which was certainly on an upward trajectory when he first arrived at Ipswich.
Ipswich record: P 15 W1 D 7 L 7 Win % 6.7
Stumbling at Scunthorpe
With Hurst’s appointment as Iron boss in 2019 being the club’s eighth different appointment in just six years, it was also going to be a tough ask to perform at a club that were desperate for some form of stability.
Moreover, just like he did in his previous job, Hurst made a terrible start as Scunthorpe United went without a win in their first seven league games and sat rock bottom of the League Two standings.
Chairman Peter Swann stuck with his new manager, however, and things started to turn around with The Iron losing just once in the league in October and November combined and with more strong performances in December including a 1-0 win over his former employers Grimsby in the derby.
United were comfortably in mid-table by the middle of January when the shock resignation of Hurst was announced over what was revealed to be a budgeting disagreement between himself and the club’s chairman Swann.
Scunthorpe record: P 38 W 12 D 10 L 16 Win % 31.6
That brings us back to present-day with Hurst returning to the club where he enjoyed his longest and arguable his most successful spell as a manager.
With Grimsby just three points off Stevenage in the relegation zone, who have two games in hand, the situation is dire on the pitch even if it seems to be on the mend off it with terms for a takeover agreed.
This upcoming transfer window is certainly the most important in the club’s recent history. The threat of a return to non-league football looms large over a squad seemingly low in quality and confidence.
Hurst has pulled The Mariners out of the darkness once before and will duly receive plenty of praise if he manages to do it again and push the club forward in what is the beginning of a new era.