Date:Monday November 13 2006
Vital Sheffield Wednesday contributor Jeff Gold makes a welcome return to have his say on Brain Laws' appointment at the helm of the madhouse that is Sheffield Wednesday Football Club...
Welcome To The Madhouse, Mr Laws...
Summer came and went with little change. Hillsborough was becalmed. After years of turmoil, perhaps a period of quiet achievement lay ahead. A spell in mid-table, a rest, would suffice. The chairman, Dave Allen, agreed.
Wednesday started badly; a carnival of crocks staged a festival of failure. Still, there was time to recover and no reason why they wouldn`t. The chairman, Dave Allen, disagreed. He sacked Paul Sturrock, and Wednesday once more became a joke.
But the joke is tired. In the ocean of the national consciousness, the announcement barely made a ripple. The media greeted it with a wry smile and a collective shrug of the shoulders, for the sacking of a Wednesday manager is no longer especially newsworthy, even when he is only five weeks into a four-year contract.
The supporters were more affected. They considered the decision unjust, and they complained loudly. Fortunately, Allen is a master of diplomacy. He explained, in his gentle, tolerant way, that protest was futile and, because it required the employment of additional security, it worsened Wednesday`s already precarious financial position. "Demonstrations have no effect, other than to unnecessarily increase the club`s expenditure at a time when all available resources should be directed towards the team."
The implication was two-fold. First, that compensating the old management team, then conducting an expensive and embarrassing search for a new one, was quite the most splendid use of resources imaginable. Second, that dissent was effectively a form of self-harm. This led one member of my family to indulge in his own form of self-harm, eyeing with malice the radio transmitting the chairman`s voice, then booting it around the room as if it was Allen himself.
The identity of Sturrock`s successor also caused consternation. Allen said it would be somebody who had experience of gaining promotion from the Championship and "who`s going to play attractive, attacking football". Jose Mourinho was distraught, for he was excluded on both counts. Indeed, only a handful of managers meet those criteria and none of them was about to take on one of the most unattractive and insecure jobs in football. As my radio-kicker said, "Anybody with any ability will have the sense not to come and we`ll be left with the usual desperate pile of sh*t that nobody else wants."
So a long list of candidates emerged, each new addition slightly more scary than the last. The theme of self-harm continued, as another relative threatened to "slit my own throat if Bryan Robson gets the job". It was an uncharacteristic outburst from a gentle sixty-five year old woman. I don`t know how she reacted to the name of Graham Taylor but I felt the need to send a neighbour round just to ensure the milk had been taken in.
The Mirror, an exception to the general media apathy, took to loudly and confidently proclaiming the name of the new man on a daily basis. Every day it was different. Radio-kicker lost interest. "I couldn`t care less who it is," he said unconvincingly. "In fact, I hope they all tell Allen to p*ss off and he can do the job himself seeing as he knows so much about football."
Allen passed up that opportunity, finally appointing Brian Laws. The closest Laws has come to gaining promotion from the Championship is tenth place with Grimsby, eleven years ago. His record in the lower leagues, however, is impressive, as is his longevity. Apart from a three-week hiatus in 2004, he managed Scunthorpe for nine years, but things are different at Wednesday. Nobody has lasted that long since the 1950s. In fact, none of the last nine men has survived for the two and a half seasons that Laws has been given to guide his new, poverty-stricken club to the Premiership.
He admits it is a "huge challenge", and would better appreciate how huge by attending the club`s Annual General Meeting on Monday. It`s a traditionally tempestuous affair and this time should be no different, despite the sudden and marked improvement in results since Sturrock`s departure. In a plea for calm and acquiescence, thinly disguised as intrigue, Allen said there might be money for new players, and "how much will depend on how the AGM goes".
Laws, meanwhile, appealed for unity. "We have to be in the same boat, grab an oar and start pulling as hard as we can." There are likely to be stormy seas ahead.
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Date:Monday November 13 2006
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