COLUMN: Howell-ing for a Football League chance

Jamie Howell with right-hand man Danny Bloor at Eastbourne Boro
Jamie Howell with right-hand man Danny Bloor at Eastbourne Boro

I’ve just spent the past hour trying to work out when was the last time a football league club appointed a non-league manager? (writes Dean Adams)

Grimsby is one – last year they appointed Marcus Bignot at Blundell Park after noting his transformation of Solihull Moors. But Bignot lasted just 5 months.

He was replaced by former managerial journeyman Russell Slade, who had been sacked by 3 clubs in a recent 12 month spell (Cardiff, Charlton & Coventry).

Bignot’s sacking is awful news for Non-League football. There’s a serious imbalance when it comes to Football League clubs giving opportunities to managers outside of their comfort zone.

Sadly, there seems to be a stigma attached to Non-League football with appointing managers from non-league. It’s often said in non-league circles that the only way to get a top job in football is to take a team there yourself from the lower levels.

It’s a different ball game for the players, as more and more seem to be getting the opportunities in the football league, England and Leicester star Jamie Vardy being the biggest example. Our managers must look on and wonder. What’s good for the players doesn’t seem good for the coaches.

Bignot’s sacking would have been felt throughout the game. He achieved what many are also doing in building a club up and taking them forward, getting his hands dirty and learning his trade. When the Moors’ man was selected by Grimsby, it was a nod to all the others looking to make it.

Former Bognor boss Jamie Howell, now in charge of Monday's visitors to Nyewood Lane, Eastbourne Borough, was 32 when he became number one at Nyewood Lane. He left eight years later with the Rocks just one season away from potentially playing away at Leyton Orient or Tranmere Rovers for a league game.

I once compared Howell as the non-league equivalent to the boss of German side Hoffenheim. They unveiled Julian Nagelsmann as the Bundesliga’s youngest full-time boss a couple of years ago which was dubbed a ‘crackpot idea’ by the media - they said he was too young and inexperienced.

Nagelsmann was just 28 and had never coached at senior level, while Hoffenheim were deep in relegation trouble, seven points from safety with 14 games remaining. Not only did Nagelsmann secure the club’s Bundesliga place, but he also put his side in the division’s top 3 the following season.

In Howell’s years at Nyewood Lane he took the club to the FA Trophy semi-finals and left the green army in the National League South, while he was also considered 40/1 to fill the vacant managerial vacancy along the coast at Pompey back in 2014. But would the likes of Howell ever get a chance in the football league?

Half of my frustration with how Football League chairmen go about their business is that they see employing a manager who has just been sacked as a better choice than making a move for one who has a great recent record and an impressive CV to support an application.

Is this the way it should work? Absolutely not. Time to do your homework on the managers in Non-League as well as the players. You don’t have to look hard to find them.

Dean Adams is reporter for Sky Sports and can be followed on @deanoadams on twitter.