I’ve had a soft spot for Brian Laws dating back to 1989 when John Aldridge patted him on the head in thanks for an own goal in an FA Cup Semi Final that Nottingham Forest were almost morally disallowed from winning, coming as it did in the wake of Hillsborough. Liverpool achieved partial solace by going on to win the Cup but Laws retained my strong sympathy for this maltreatment.
His ascension to the Premier League is a heartening reversal of fortune. I am currently reading Stuart Sutherland’s psychology classic Irrationality and although that book advises paying no attention at all to the result of job interviews, the Burnley board have shown remarkable fair-mindedness in giving Laws a chance – his hands were forever tied in Sheffield and they have chosen to concentrate on the still obvious attributes of one of the game’s keenest students. A loyal spell at Glanford Park was rewarded with dual promotions over a six year span, banishing the memory of stuttering spells at Grimsby and Darlington, and the highlight of his subsequent Hillsborough years were back to back victories against the cross town enemy, as well as the development of youngsters such as Tommy Spurr and Mark Beevers. For a huge club, Wednesday were nonetheless undergoing a protracted spell of penury: Laws’ sacking at the fag end of 2009 wasn’t perhaps the most contentious of that autumn’s spate of firings, but it was debatable for all that.
With such a dire away record, there is an argument that Laws can only enact improvement, but he’ll find it damned tricky to match the achievements of that cross Lancashire defector Owen Coyle. I am delighted for Doncaster Rovers that they have avoided the rumoured loss of Sean O’Driscoll to fill this vacancy, but he might have been the better choice at the moment, unblemished as his record is. As Paul Fletcher says of Burnley on his BBC blog, “is this the behaviour of a club going all-out to survive in the top flight?”