SHREWS SHOCK!

For­mer boss Hurst could yet re­turn to old stomp­ing ground

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Dunlavy

PAUL Hurst is NOT rul­ing out a sur­prise re­turn to Shrewsbury – de­spite a scathing at­tack from CEO Brian Cald­well.

Hurst, 44, led the un­fan­cied Shrews to the League One play­off fi­nal and the Check­a­trade Tro­phy fi­nal last sea­son be­fore leav­ing to join Ip­swich in June.

Cald­well said trust had been lost be­cause Hurst – who was sacked by Ip­swich last month – had ‘cleared his of­fice the day be­fore the play-off fi­nal’ and it was ‘too soon’ for him to come back.

But Hurst’s agent con­firmed that ‘con­tact’ had been made with Shrewsbury – and said the for­mer Rother­ham man is also in the frame for the va­cant jobs at AFC Wim­ble­don and Notts County.

“I’ve had ini­tial con­ver­sa­tions with all three clubs,” said Lee Philpott. “And there has been in­ter­est from all three. Noth­ing has moved for­ward yet, but I’d ex­pect things to ramp up next week.”

Wrex­ham man­ager Sam Rick­etts and New­port boss Mike Flynn are favourites for the Shrews post. Rick­etts has said he is ‘very happy’ at Na­tional League Wrex­ham, while Flynn has said it is ‘flat­ter­ing’ to be linked with the post.

PAUL Hurst is NOT rul­ing out a re­turn to Shrewsbury Town – de­spite a scathing at­tack from CEO Brian Cald­well.

Hurst, 44, led the Shrews to the League One play-off fi­nal and the Check­a­trade Tro­phy fi­nal last sea­son be­fore leav­ing to join Ip­swich in June.

He was re­placed at Mont­gomery Wa­ters Meadow by Macclesfield man­ager John Askey, but both moves swiftly turned sour.

Hurst was sacked af­ter one win in 15 games, while Askey lasted just six more be­fore be­ing dis­missed at the start of the week.

An ini­tial clam­our for Hurst’s re­turn, how­ever, swiftly with­ered when Shrews’ chief ex­ec­u­tive Brian Cald­well painted a damn­ing pic­ture of his exit.

“Paul cleared his of­fice the day be­fore the play-off fi­nal,” he said. “He then jumped in his car, which was full with his things. There’s no doubt in­ter­views had taken place.

“You have lost that trust with some­one do­ing some­thing be­hind your back for such a length of time, es­pe­cially at such an im­por­tant mo­ment for the club. It’s too soon for Paul to come back.”

How­ever, a poll saw 66 per cent of sup­port­ers vote for Hurst’s re­turn, whilst a source close to the club said that “the ma­jor­ity” of staff and play­ers are also keen.

“Ev­ery­one – even the chair­man him­self – wanted Paul back at the club,” they said. “The play­ers would all be right be­hind it too. But Brian is ab­so­lutely adamant that there is no chance of Paul com­ing back.”

Adamant

Hurst’s agent, mean­while, con­firmed that “con­tact” had been made with Shrewsbury – and said the for­mer Rother­ham man is also in the frame for the va­cant jobs at AFC Wim­ble­don and Notts County.

“I’ve had ini­tial con­ver­sa­tions with all three clubs,” said Lee Philpott. “And there has been in­ter­est from all three clubs. Noth­ing has moved for­ward yet, but I’d ex­pect things to ramp up next week.”

Hurst re­mains a 9/4 third favourite with the book­ies, be­hind Wrex­ham man­ager Sam Rick­etts and New­port boss Mike Flynn.

Flynn, 38, saved the Ex­iles from rel­e­ga­tion to the Na­tional League in 2016-17, led them on a gi­ant-killing FA Cup run last term and is cur­rently chal­leng­ing for pro­mo­tion to League One.

“It is flat­ter­ing if you’re linked with a job at a higher level,” said Flynn on Fri­day. “It just goes to show how well we’re do­ing – my­self, my staff and the play­ers. But it’s some­thing that as far as I know is just spec­u­la­tion. No­body has ap­proached me.”

Flynn, though, has spo­ken be­fore of his am­bi­tion to man­age at a higher level and it is un­der­stood that the Welsh­man would be open to an ap­proach.

For Askey, too, there seems lit­tle chance of a re­turn to Macclesfield, de­spite lead­ing them to the Na­tional League ti­tle last term.

Linked to the job last month whilst still in post at Shrewsbury, the 54-year-old said Moss Rose was the “last place” he wanted to be.

“I’ve got no thoughts about go­ing back to Macclesfield at all,” said Askey, who never saw eye-to-eye with chair­man Mike Blower. “That would prob­a­bly be the last place I’d want to go at the mo­ment – it is ridicu­lous.”

Askey’s dis­missal - af­ter an FA Cup draw with Non-League Sal­ford – came dur­ing a crazy spell that saw FOUR EFL man­agers lose their jobs within 24 hours.

Phil Brown was the first to go. The for­mer Derby, Hull and Pre­ston man­ager was sacked by Swindon just eight months af­ter tak­ing charge – and swiftly re­placed by for­mer Leicester mid­fielder Richie Wel­lens. The 38-year-old was at the helm as Old­ham were rel­e­gated from League One last sea­son and is the Robins’ fifth per­ma­nent man­ager in as many years. “I will be la­belled as the man­ager who took Old­ham down, but I think that’s a bit harsh,” said Wel­lens. “I took over a sit­u­a­tion where we were rooted to the bot­tom of the ta­ble. A group of play­ers who’d won one and lost nine of their last 11 games. “I gave them con­fi­dence, gave them be­lief. My aim was to get 50 points, and we did that. Sadly, it wasn’t enough. But I think I showed po­ten­tial and that’s what got me the op­por­tu­nity here.

“There are six weeks be­tween now and Jan­uary. I’ll give ev­ery­one a chance. If they play well, great. If they show that they’re get­ting there, good. But if they can’t take on board what we’re af­ter then we might have to make a few changes.”

Changes

At AFC Wim­ble­don, Neal Ard­ley’s six-year reign came to a sad end, de­spite an FA Cup vic­tory over Haringey Bor­ough that halted a seven-game win­less run.

“Neal is a clear thinker, a su­perb man-man­ager and a fine coach,” said Dons chief ex­ec­u­tive Erik Sa­muel­son. “I’ve en­joyed work­ing with him and am ab­so­lutely cer­tain that he will achieve even greater suc­cess in his next roles.”

Lee Clark, the for­mer Huddersfield, Birm­ing­ham and Black­pool man­ager, is favourite for the role and is be­lieved to have spo­ken to Sa­muel­son, a fel­low ge­ordie.

Notts County chair­man Alan Hardy, mean­while, made the “ex­traor­di­nar­ily tough” de­ci­sion to sack Harry Kewell - just ten weeks af­ter he re­placed Kevin Nolan.

“There was cer­tainly no lack of ef­fort on Harry’s part, but it just wasn’t work­ing out,” said Hardy, who had pre­vi­ously hailed the Aussie leg­end as the club’s ‘long-term’ so­lu­tion.

“Given our po­si­tion in the ta­ble there was no point car­ry­ing on when we could not see the land­scape chang­ing.”

Hardy – who is seek­ing the club’s sixth man­ager in the space of three years – has al­ready in­ter­viewed four ‘qual­ity’ can­di­dates, with Ard­ley and, sur­pris­ingly, Nolan amongst those in the frame.

Michael Appleton, who led Ox­ford to pro­mo­tion from League Two in 2016 and re­cently re­signed as as­sis­tant man­ager at Leicester, met Hardy for in­for­mal talks on Tues­day.

The 42-year-old sub­se­quently ruled him­self out of the run­ning to fo­cus on se­cur­ing a Cham­pi­onship job, but Hardy re­mains hope­ful he can be con­vinced.

PIC­TURE: PA Im­ages

GONE: From left, John Askey (Shrewsbury), Neal Ard­ley (AFC Wim­ble­don), Phil Brown (Swindon) and Harry Kewell (Notts County) all left their posts

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