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Ex-Chester favourite Chris Lightfoot on old pal Marcus Bignot and life under the legendary Harry McNally

The former Blues midfielder takes us on a trip down Memory Lane

Chris Lightfoot played with Marcus Bignot (left) and played under Harry McNally

It may be 23 years since Chris Lightfoot left Chester but his love for the club remains.

How could it not?

In his own words he departed the Blues 'under a cloud' after the promotion-winning 1993-94 season, but it was the club where he came through the ranks to make his debut as a 17-year-old, and the club where he made his name.

In more than 10 years at Chester City, Lightfoot saw it all. Sealand Road, the exile in Macclesfield, the return to the city at the Deva Stadium, relegation, promotion... and life under the legendary Harry McNally.

His job as a taxi driver for Kingkabs in Chester means he cannot often get back to the club for whom he made 328 appearances and scored 38 goals.

Chris Lightfoot at a Chester City FC legends night at Divas Showbar in 2009

But it also allows him to keep his finger on the pulse and, to that end, he can understand why the fans lost patience with Jon McCarthy.

McCarthy's sacking has led to the appointment of Marcus Bignot, who will lead Chester FC, the club formed out of the ashes of Chester City, for the first time tomorrow (Saturday) when Maidenhead United visit the Swansway Chester Stadium.

Lightfoot knows the new Blues boss. They played together for three years at Crewe Alexandra and the former stayed with Bignot while he was on trial at QPR later on in their respective careers.

"Bigsy is a really nice fella and he was a decent player as well," said Lightfoot who, after hanging up his boots, had a spell in charge of Runcorn alongside his old Chester midfield partner Eddie Bishop.

"Back then (at Crewe) he was running the Birmingham City Ladies side. He would have been 24 or 25, so he's been involved in coaching for nearly 20 years now, and fair play to him, he has progressed.

Marcus Bignot in action for Crewe Alexandra during his playing days

"He started off doing women's football, moved into non-league and then got a half-decent League job at Grimsby. I thought he was very unlucky there. Grimsby hardly gave him any time. He kept them up and I remember his last game in charge he actually won 3-1. You usually get sacked after a bad result, not a good result. He wasn't treated well.

"He's coming to a good, well-run club. It's owned by the fans, and run by the fans, and they have the club at heart. I hope he can turn it around.

"I went to a couple of games last season and since they started up again the club gets the ex-players involved a lot more than when they were in the League. They do seem to have some decent players. But, with Jon McCarthy, I don't know whether it was his tactics, or whether he was playing people out of position, but it just didn't work out in the end.

"I work for Kingkabs in Chester, I've been with them for about 10 years now, and I get a lot of punters in my car. Some recognise me, some haven't got a clue, but I do talk a lot to them about football, and it was clear a lot of the supporters were unhappy with Jon McCarthy.

"It's a difficult one, I don't like slagging anyone off, but you'd listen to him on the radio and it seemed to be excuse after excuse. I just think sometimes you've got to hold your hands up and say it wasn't good enough.

"Hopefully Bigsy will come in and do well. He'll have a pattern of play, a set-up of how he wants the team to play, and he'll have them working to his philosophy."

Bignot, like most managers who are handed the opportunity to take charge of Chester, will have to do something special to live up to McNally.

Arguably the club's greatest ever boss gave Lightfoot his professional debut in September 1987 and a lifetime of memories.

"I signed for the club as a schoolboy in 1984 and I left in 1994," said Warrington-born Lightfoot, now 47 and living in Runcorn with his family.

"I left under a bit of a cloud. I followed Graham Barrow to Wigan. I'd just got married and bought a house and the money Wigan were offering I would have been stupid to turn it down. I remember saying to Kevin Ratcliffe, 'if you can match what Wigan are offering I'll stay', and he said, 'we can't get anywhere near that', so I had to go. It didn't work out, but not to worry.

The late, great Harry McNally

"I had a great time at Chester. I played at the old Sealand Road, the two years at Macc, and I played under Harry. Some of the stuff that went on in those years you could write a book about! In fact, you could a write a book about Harry himself!

"I never had a manager like him. He really was a one-off. He was 5ft 4in, 8 stone wet through, but you had grown men scared of him. I was absolutely terrified of the man.

"His knowledge of players, especially in the lower leagues, was incredible. Some of the players he brought in no-one had ever heard of but they came in and did a great job for Chester.

"And the thing with Harry, the thing we always had at Chester when I was there, was the team spirit was quality. Years ago it was different. You finish the game now and you have a warm down, a bottle of water, and something to eat. With Harry, it was like, 'right, we're all out now'. We'd end up in Chester, falling out of Blimpers at 4 o'clock in the morning.

"That was how it was with Harry but we got results and we had a great set of lads."

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