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Girls strike out for goal with inspired boss; His achievements have not gone unnoticed - Marcus was crowned Birmingham County FA Coach of the Year at the end of the season. Yet he isn't paid a penny - Marcus is just passionate about the game.

MARCUS Bignot is a highly paid professional footballer.

But the 24-year-old defender, born and bred in Birmingham, isn't committed to flaunting his good looks and designer clothes off the field in trendy hotels, bars and clubs.

Marcus, who plays for First Division Crewe, devotes every spare moment to a non-league football club for girls. He is the Birmingham City Ladies manager.

So when his footballing comrades were celebrating the start of the close season and jetting off for lazy days in the sun, Marcus headed straight back to Birmingham.

The former Blues, Telford and Kidderminster player has to prepare the senior team for top-flight football in September.

Marcus has transformed the club, setting up several teams and a youth development structure.

He insists it will take five years for the new-look club to reap rewards.

But after just one season, Marcus has steered them to the Midland Combination league championship and into the Women's Premier League.

The footballer, backed by two other former professionals, ex-Blues player Mark Harrison and former Derby and Swansea man Michael Moore, has turned the club around.

He took over last summer and during the six-week break he recruited and formed an under-12s team, an under-14s squad and a reserve team.

Marcus said: "As soon as I accepted the post I explained that changes had to be made. The club needed roots and there was nothing. The whole youth policy was a shambles.

"I have started a project based on an academy. As the girls get older they move up. Because it was only formed last summer it is going to take a few years to really see the effects.

"Each squad needs about 15 players but last May I discovered we had 28 under-12s players and most of them were moving to the older age group. That left us with three under-12s. I couldn't believe it.

"Michael and I spent weeks travelling around the region trying to attract new young players. Then we had to reduce the under-14s squad from 30 to 15.

"We spent the summer monitoring each girl's progress. There were a lot who didn't meet our standards so we had to let them go."

Not only did he lead the club to championship success, his newly formed under-12s finished runners-up in their league and the under-14s reached a cup final.

And his achievements have not gone unnoticed - Marcus was crowned Birmingham County FA Coach of the Year at the end of the season.

He is as committed to the Blues girls as he is to his playing career at Crewe.

Yet he isn't paid a penny - Marcus is just passionate about the game.

Marcus insists every player has a training kit and a ball so they can practise, despite money being tight and officials are desperately looking for sponsorship.

And the young girls get transport to and from training sessions and matches.

Marcus, once capped for England, has learned a lot from his former managers and is currently trying to forge closer links with Birmingham City FC.

He looks back fondly at his days with Kidderminster and the professional way manager Graham Allner ran the Nationwide Football Conference club.

"It is one of the best run clubs I have ever known. I learned a lot and it's probably rubbing off at Blues."

What do you think of ladies' football? Will they ever be able to compete on a level with the lads? Write to Talk About, Sunday Mercury, 28 Colmore Circus, Birmingham B4 6AZ.
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Author:Barklam, Helen
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 30, 1999
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