'Short Term Solution!' by Cuban Claret
WHEN Brian Laws was chosen by Barry Kilby and his Board of Directors as the man to replace Owen Coyle, it seemed to most onlookers an ill-fitting appointment.
It was a predicament the club`s hierarchy had not prepared for, so shocked were they by the awful timing of the Scot`s defection to Bolton.
I felt strongly at the time that a short-term remedy be sought as the overriding goal was Premier League survival. The outstanding candidate for me, was in a job, but expressed a desire for one more crack at Premier League management. That man was Neil Warnock, still at Crystal Palace at the time. This was a personality with proven powers of motivation and a man who would at least have made the players feel 10 feet tall, the minimum requirement after being dumped by Coyle. If he`d failed to keep us up then at least we would have had a man qualified to return us to the top flight at short notice.
With Laws we got neither the power of motivation needed for Premier League survival nor the expertise to be among the promotion mix this term. If Laws had more pedigree to fall back on, then he might have been granted more time. But his failings at this level exposed at Sheffield Wednesday are in danger of being repeated.
His inability to string two wins together in succession is in sync with his general managerial record at this level. Not good enough for a return to the Premier League.
A former colleague of mine who worked in the Sheffield media corps passed on some useful insight when reflecting on his Hillsborough tenure. In an email, he wrote: "The feeling towards the end was that Laws had run out of ideas and didn't himself know which way to turn or what to do to sort it out."
Less than a year on, history appears to be repeating itself in the career of Brian Laws. Some of his final actions as Burnley boss were indicative of a man in a muddle.
One competitive advantage he held due to his "strong hand" at the Burnley helm was a larger squad than that of his contemporaries. Laws failed to utilise this at a time when it was needed most, choosing to name the same XI who won at Barnsley just 48 hours earlier, despite having the energy of the likes of Chris Eagles and Dean Marney to fall back on. What followed was a performance as lethargic as a withered hand. A much sharper Scunthorpe side were unfortunate to win only 2-0.
It follows the ongoing failure of this Burnley team to capitalise on each conceivable "turning point" this season. The incredible last-gasp 4-3 win against Preston after being 3-1 down (followed by a 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough after being 1-0 up)!, the sensational display against Bolton in the Carling Cup (followed by a 0-0 home draw against struggling Bristol City), the impressive televised turnaround against Derby (followed by the humilation of again throwing away a two goal lead, against Leeds).
Another charge laid against Laws at Hillsborough was his "iffy" record in the transfer market, where he banked on the injury-prone Darren Purse as his marquee signing and the club`s biggest earner.
For Darren Purse, read Leon Cort. Whether in terms of wages or not, the offer of a long contract to the former Stoke defender was not a good use of club resources. At a Q & A with Laws organised by the Clarets Trust during his first few weeks at Burnley, it was alarming to hear Brian say "time will tell" whether Cort was a good enough player to help us stay in the Premier League. Surely he should have had more confidence in his key acquisition.
To be fair, "iffy" is about the right description for Laws`s transfer policy. Only one of his permanent outfield signings - the ineffective Ross Wallace - featured in Tuesday`s line-up against Scunthorpe. One was loaned out (Cort), two were substitutes (Marney and Iwelumo) or injured (Fox).
Goalkeeper Lee Grant looks like a promising acquisition but the manager`s handling of record appearance holder Brian Jensen does not look too clever.
On a brighter note, Jack Cork has been an unqualified success, as were the signatures of Chris Eagles and Martin Paterson. Jay Rodriguez`s run in the team is viewed by most as a positive but there have been times when the Burnley born youngster might have benefited from a rest.
On results alone, Laws can consider himself extremely unfortunate to lose his job at a club not known for sacking managers. A decent run of form in the second half of the season - like the one he had in his debut season at Wednesday, when his team narrowly missed a play-off place, might have been enough for Burnley to reach the top six.
However, there was no inkling of this kind of run on the horizon. And with the minds of the vast majority of supporters already made up, there was no daring to dream. The body language from the players has been markedly different to when the same players played under their previous manager.
So if Burnley are serious about returning to the Premier League while supported by the parachute payments in the next couple of seasons, then the change had to be made sooner rather then later, while some kind of platform is still intact.
Those of us who grew up with Burnley in the 1980`s perhaps have more realistic ambitions for our club because we know where we have come from, being a competitive force in the Championship is not all bad. Indeed about right for a club our size.
Modern football - with all its hype, media and supporter expectations - eschews different demands though. Kilby might need to consider this when he makes the next appointment.
Barry Kilby said a "fresh approach" was needed to regain Premier League status. If this is the case, then surely Phil Brown is too close to the Brian Laws style of appointment to be considered.
If we want the best man out there capable of making an immediate impact, Kilby should look no further than Sam Allardyce on a short-term contract with lucrative incentives for fulfilling the stated aim of the club.
Burnley is the only Lancashire club remaining where Allardyce is yet to make a positive impact. A proud man on a mission to prove a point to his former employers down the road and a manager with a history of getting the most out of his players. He`d set us up right, that`s for sure, and make us a lot harder to beat than under Laws. The football would be more direct for sure but results are more important if the Premier league return is the aim.
The longer term favourite appears to be the highly regarded Eddie Howe at Bournemouth. He would certainly come without baggage but is it fair to weigh such heavy expectation on such inexperienced shoulders. Surely he could not be expected to pull together a misfiring team into a promotion force overnight?
For those of us not fixated with Premier League football, then a younger charismatic choice has its appeal, but if Kilby is true to his aim, then he might as well go for the best man available without disrupting those efforts of a rival club.
And that man is surely Big Sam.