Deputy Doig is the perfect foil for new Ipswich boss Hurst... the duo have every base covered
PUBLISHED: 14:04 07 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:04 07 June 2018
New Ipswich Town manager Paul Hurst will once again be assisted by Chris Doig, at Portman Road. ANDY WARREN looks at how the two work together.
It may be Paul Hurst’s name above the door at Ipswich Town, but in assistant Chris Doig he has a sounding board, a confidant and a football brain which has played a major part in their rise up the leagues.
Hurst and Doig arrive as a pair after previously working together at Grimsby and Shrewsbury, winning promotion to the Football League with the Mariners having been serial play-off contenders for many years, before taking the Shrews to the cusp of the Championship, only to fall just short at Wembley.
That partnership will now take on a new challenge at Portman Road, as they test themselves at Championship level for the first time.
Doig is no stranger to the second tier, though, having come through the Nottingham Forest youth system to make nearly 100 appearances at the City Ground. He then turned out alongside Ipswich captain Luke Chambers at Northampton and spent time in both Australia and Indonesia as a player, before beginning to earn himself a good reputation within the coaching ranks.
The two came together at Grimsby in 2013, when Hurst signed the well-travelled Doig as a player, before he combined on-pitch duties with the Mariners’ assistant role from the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
Hurst battled to appoint Doig, pushing the club’s board at a time when they wanted to go in a different direction with the role, with the decision vindicated as they began a partnership which would soon lead them into the Football League and subsequently propel the duo to the Championship with Ipswich.
The pair complement each other superbly and can both be found prowling the touchline during games, equally vocal. It was Doig who led the Shrews out into the Wembley sun ahead of the League One Play-Off Final, showing exactly his standing within the dressing room.
Doig has the respect of his players, in part due to his excellent communication skills, while his standing as a former Championship player with Nottingham Forest means he is able to speak with authority.
He, along with Hurst, has been credited with aiding former Grimsby striker Omar Bogle’s development into the player who scored 32 goals in 18 months at the club, by helping a young man who had a tendency to become frustrated when things didn’t go his way to focus on his strengths.
Hurst and Doig have regularly shared duties on the training ground, as well as with the media, each leading sessions alone and combining to work with their players as a pair, while their squads are known to enjoy the variety, freshness and detail put into each and every morning spent out on the grass.
But while the pair are popular with their players, they are not afraid to make unpopular decisions. Nothing will be sugarcoated. It’s often Doig who has been described as the firmer of the two, getting his point across clearly and with authority.
Doig is an ambitious man, thought to one day fancy a top job of his own, but is excited for the challenge of the Championship.
The pair combine well when it comes to recruitment, too, with both holding a track record of identifying players who have not reached their full potential or have dropped down the leagues to play below their true ability.
A good example of this is Jon Nolan – a midfielder whose career was stalling in non-league before a loan to Grimsby in 2015-16 and a subsequent move to Shrewsbury, where he pulled the strings for a side in the thick of the promotion race from start to finish.
Goalkeeper James McKeown played with Doig at Grimsby before he made the transition to assistant boss, where he insists he is far from simply being a ‘yes man’ to Hurst.
“Doigy was a player here so I’ve seen that transition into that side of things,” McKeown said.
“He stepped into the coaching side and their relationship grew. They are very different characters but complement each other well.
“Doigy will say what he thinks and he’s certainly not a yes man to the manager. The manager wouldn’t want that, either.
“He gets high standards out of people.”
There are other holes to fill in the Ipswich Town coaching, too.
Malcolm Webster’s retirement after a long and impressive career as a highly-respected goalkeeping coach leaves a vacancy to work alongside the likes of Bartosz Bialkowski and Dean Gerken.
That role at Shrewsbury was held by former Welsh international Danny Coyne, who acted as caretaker at New Meadow following the departure of Micky Mellen and prior to Hurst’s appointment in 2016.
Coyne, who was linked with a move to Portman Road as a player in the early 2000s, having impressed for Tranmere and Grimsby, was highlighted by Shrewsbury chief executive Brian Caldwell as a staff member to have been taken by surprise when Hurst’s departure to Ipswich was confirmed. It is not impossible he could ultimately follow his former boss, though, while Hurst’s goalkeeping coach at Grimsby, Andy Warrington, is another the new Blues boss has worked with in the past.
Mike Pollitt, who enjoyed a memorable one-game loan at Ipswich in which he helped beat rivals Norwich, is currently coaching at Rotherham where he played alongside Hurst for many years.
Ipswich’s former fitness coach, Andy Liddell, worked alongside Paul Jewell and Mick McCarthy before departing for a new challenge earlier this summer, leaving another hole to fill.
Hurst will also have the coaching knowledge of Chris Hogg and Gerard Nash to call upon at Portman Road, with the duo proving popular with the Ipswich squad when they stepped up alongside caretaker Bryan Klug at the end of last season.