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Chester FC causing a stir

Anyone can create a ripple on the internet

Chester FC causing a stir

Anyone can create a ripple on the internet

The fact that almost all of us have tools like search engines and social media at our fingertips means that we all have the power to make a serious impression on the world without even getting off our backsides – a situation that could be argued to be fantastic, frightening or a bit of both.

What’s really brought this home to me over the last week has been events at Chester FC, which is the football club I happen to support. Last week, manager Jon McCarthy was removed from his duties after a prolonged run of poor form, opening up a new job to applicants hoping to land a role at a supporter-owned club playing in the fifth tier of English football.

Some likely names were immediately linked to the role, such as former Grimsby Town and Solihull Moors manager Marcus Bignot, and Gary Brabin, who managed Tranmere Rovers at the start of last season and played for Chester in 2002. However, one name linked with the job took Blues fans completely by surprise.

Last Thursday, a brand new member of one of Chester’s unofficial Deva Chat forums (the club has two fans’ forums both called ‘Deva Chat’ for reasons too long and convoluted to go into here) started a glowing thread about a Matt Higgins, a coach originally from Chester and now working in the USA, who had apparently made an audacious application for the job.

On the same day, an article titled ‘Hometown lad Matt Higgins in serious contention for Chester job’ appeared on an obscure blog called CJDFootballTalk. It contains many gushing references to Higgins and some quotes from the man himself. The blog only has one other entry – an article about Everton signing Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson in mid-August.

All this may seem very insignificant, except for the fact that by Thursday night, bookmaker SkyBet had installed Higgins, an unheard of 32-year-old ex-goalkeeper with seemingly no coaching experience outside of US college soccer, as 8/11 odds-on favourite to become new Chester FC manager.

Some Blues fans, once they had got over the shock, took advantage of the now drifting odds against the likes of Bignot and Brabin, which saw Higgins’ odds fall, but the chancer still found himself 2/1 second favourite on Saturday morning.


Since then, however, SkyBet has oddly ceased taking bets on the new Chester FC manager.

Meanwhile, Higgins himself has remained vocal on Twitter about his chances of landing the job.

So, let’s look again at all the pieces of this peculiar jigsaw:

– A post glorifying Higgins appears on Deva Chat, and was a new member’s very first post on the forum
– A newly activated blog runs a glowing piece on Higgins on the same day
– Higgins himself makes some noise on social media (do the aeroplane emojis imply he’s heading over to the UK for an interview?)
– A major bookmaker temporarily makes Higgins odds-on favourite for the job, either because they had some sort of insider information, or because someone had been tempted to have a large bet on the man. I did email SkyBet myself to see if they could shed any light on their reasons for Higgins’ surprisingly small odds, but all I got was a standard response about how odds can fluctuate.

Higgins landing the job would not be the strangest thing that’s ever happened at Chester (take your pick from just about anything at the end of the 2000/01 season), but the Chester Chronicle doesn’t appear to be taking his application very seriously, and it’s difficult to see how he fits too many of the criteria listed on the club’s job advertisement.

What I’m left wondering is whether this is a genuine application from Higgins or just a PR stunt. It’s highly unlikely he’ll get the job, but what has he lost if he doesn’t? This episode has helped big his name up, and he can claim to have once been the bookies’ favourite to be appointed Chester FC manager, thus raising his stock significantly. All this just by making a bit of noise on the internet.

As a Chester fan, I don’t know whether to be angry with Higgins for using my club as a tool to boost his coaching CV, or to say fair play to the guy!

John Murray
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