Shamrock Rovers new Director of Football Brian Laws meets Drogheda United manager Mick Cooke in Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday. ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Airtricity League

Laws focused on bringing spark back to Rovers

Brian Laws won’t have time to reinvent Shamrock Rovers, but the Hoops’ new director of football knows that consistency is key if they are to finish the season on a high.

THERE’S NO MANAGERIAL baptism of fire quite like a trip to face Manchester United in the cauldron that is Old Trafford. First days in a job are never easy, but when Brian Laws took over as Burnley manager in January 2010, he got a raw deal.

In comparison, Saturday’s EA Sports Cup final against Drogheda United and the chance to win some badly-needed silverware in his first game must feel like an autumn breeze for the man appointed this week as Shamrock Rovers’ new director of football.

On this side of the Irish Sea, Laws’s managerial credentials are probably best remembered for his five-month Premier League stint with Burnley, a period which started with a 3-0 defeat in Manchester and ended with just three wins from 17 league games and relegation back to the Championship.

Laws stayed on to spearhead the Clarets’ attempts to bounce straight back but a run of defeats cost him and, days before the turn of the year, he was sacked. It was a chance for him to stand back and take stock; he did just that and the result was a self-imposed hiatus from football.

That came to an end last week when his friend Simon Elliott, managing director of Volkswagen Group Ireland, phoned. Rovers had sacked Stephen Kenny after less than nine dismal months in the job and were looking for a man to steady the ship and salvage what was left of the season. Elliott, linked to the Hoops through club sponsors SEAT, was calling with a proposition.

It was, as Laws describes it, “a great opportunity to get back on the horse.” Though the time between Kenny’s departure and his appointment may seem quite short, it was an offer which he gave due consideration to before saying yes.

“Sometimes you jump in straight away. I didn’t,” Laws, 50, told in Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. ”I think there was a lot of deliberation.

We spoke on quite a few occasions, to-ing and fro-ing with conversations. I don’t think it was quick. Sometimes you can make a decision within 10 minutes but that wasn’t the case at all.

Once he decided that the challenge and the timing was right, he bit. A Geordie by birth, Laws is upping sticks and relocating to Ireland to work at Rovers, a domestic disruption which won’t bother his young family at all, he jokes.

“I think they want to get rid of me anyway so they’re quite happy with the fact that I’m away for a little while,” he laughs, adding that “they’ll come over as well so hopefully we’ll enjoy it here.”

A true journeyman of England’s lower leagues during his playing days, Laws boasts no fewer than seven clubs on his career CV, notching up over a century of league appearances for three: Burnley, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest.

Trips to Old Trafford aside, his managerial record shows similar experience of football’s less glamorous side with terms at Grimsby Town, Scunthorpe United and Sheffield Wednesday as well as Turf Moor.

To those who know him only from his Premier League days with Burnley or see his quick recruitment into Irish football as something of a leftfield move — both for him and for Rovers — he’s quick to counter any reservations.

“I know that some of the grounds aren’t quite Manchester United. Of course I understand that but don’t forget, I’ve been there myself.

People might wonder, I’ve had the luxuries of being in the Premiership and to come to this would be a shock to the system. How can it be a shock to the system when I’ve been there and I know what it’s about?

That doesn’t worry me at all. At the end of the day, football is football and it doesn’t matter what arena you play it in.

Announcing Laws’s appointment on Monday, Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche said that he hoped the move would give the club “breathing space” in their search for a permanent successor for Kenny. Laws appealed, he said, because he is a man in touch with the game in Ireland.

Frequent trips to Airtricity League grounds to scout potential talent will help him to settle quickly, Laws says, as will his experience of working with Irish players who have made the move cross-channel.

“The one thing you get from Irish players is honesty and endeavour. They’re great in the dressing rooms, they give their all in every aspect and that’s something that attracts managers. I’ve been doing that for years, coming over and watching games. You certainly don’t forget.”

With the only remaining silverware of the season on the line on Saturday and every league point precious in the race for European spots, Laws knows that he won’t have the opportunity to reinvent Rovers in seven games.

“Hopefully I can help them get the spark back. Maybe they’ve lost that of late and if I reignite the spark for them and get some consistency, hey, you never know. The one thing we have at this moment in time is something to play for.

He adds: “To implement huge changes in a footballing aspect is impossible. In fact, it would probably hinder rather than help.”

I want them to play football but I also want them to be organised and be prepared for what sort of task they have ahead of them. I’m always very strong on organisation and making sure they exactly know their jobs and roles and responsibilities. Other than that, I won’t be changing a hell of a lot because we don’t have that timescale.

They’ve got good players, they can play good football. I’ve seen that. I just want to get that consistency in there somehow.

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