Sunday 17 November 2019

Laws must salvage Euro spot for Hoops

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

HE IS Shamrock Rovers' first foreign boss and the only man ever to join a League of Ireland club having managed in the English Premier League.

However, Brian Laws won't have time to rest on any sense of history as he attempts to salvage something from the Hoops' season after being appointed as the club's director of football until the end of the season.

The former Nottingham Forest defender will meet the media today at an already scheduled press conference ahead of Saturday's EA Sports Cup final against Drogheda United and, although he can win a trophy in his first game, Laws will be judged on whether Rovers qualify for Europe next season.

He has six league games to manage that feat and, if he succeeds, the 50-year-old will be favourite to take over the reins on a permanent basis.

Having crashed out of the FAI Ford Cup last Friday night, Rovers' destiny is no longer in their own hands. The defeat to Shels cut out one of the three Europa League spots available to them, and they lie five points adrift of one of the two qualification places available through the league.

Even if Rovers manage to collect a maximum of 18 points under Laws, they will not be guaranteed European football. Yet, having arrived trumpeting his "significant football managerial experience", Laws will be expected to deliver where Stephen Kenny failed.

In a club statement, the man who was in charge of Burnley when they were relegated from the Premier League in 2010 said his strengths include "getting to know clubs from top to bottom" and spoke of a "new era" at Tallaght. Both seem lofty ambitions for a man who has been put in charge for 39 days.

His first challenge will be to unite a group of players who were brought together by two different managers, with a little help from the board, and have failed to gel this season.

Kenny could not get the same return out of the players he inherited from Michael O'Neill as his predecessor did, while a number of his own signings struggled to make an impact.

Most of the squad are out of contract at the end of the season and a number of the stalwarts who have backboned the team since the club's move to Tallaght in 2009 are set to leave, including Gary Twigg, who is close to a move to Portadown.

The striker lives in Northern Ireland and is believed to want to work closer to home after four hugely successful seasons at Rovers.

Stephen Glass will revert to the role of assistant manager under Laws after taking charge of the team last Friday night, when he reminded the players that they were playing for their futures.

Laws will be hoping his new employers weren't keeping an eye on Twitter yesterday when his former Burnley charge and ex-Cork City defender Kevin Long was less than complimentary, tweeting: "Brian laws gone to Shamrock Rovers for rest of the season! Haha #Bluffer".

Despite that comment, not many managers arrive into the League of Ireland having just published their autobiography, and Rovers fans rushing out to buy copies of 'Laws of the Jungle: Football's Monkey Business' will read tales of a man who played alongside Roy Keane and under Brian Clough at Forest during the early 1990s.

The Hoops faithful will be hopeful that their new boss will bring some of that Forest fire into a dressing-room that appeared lost to Kenny.

Otherwise, a year on from their historic Europa League adventure, they will be facing a season without European football and the prize-money and glamour that comes with it.

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Champions Cup preview, the World Cup hangover and Joe Schmidt's next team

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport