The Long and Winding Road

Last updated : 12 August 2011 By James Hart
Brian Laws - his appointment has put is where we are now

All, it seems, has not been well at Burnley Football Club recently. In the 2009-20010 under the custodianship of Owen Coyle Burnley became the smallest town team to ever grace the Premier League and after a promising start and without huge amounts of money being spent, the future looked bright for the Clarets under a promising manager and a team who seemed ready to die playing for each other. However in January 2010 Coyle left and seemingly ripped the heart of the club and in my eyes, and many others, this is the point from which Burnley are still yet to recover, despite the board’s best attempts to convince us otherwise.

Now not for one second do I dispute the fact that the board did all it could to keep Coyle and his actions were that of “Judas” his now rightly deserved nickname.  But the appointment of Brian Laws as manager is the decision that has perhaps put us in the position we are in now. This might sound like a hasty judgement and a knee jerk reaction to the sales of key players like Danny Fox, Tyrone Mears and Chris Eagles but let’s explore the knock on effect this has had throughout the club. The appointment at the time created bafflement amongst not only the fans but I’m sure the players as well. Only the board seemed to agree on Brian Laws being the man to take us forward and keep us in the Premier League internally. Externally the appointment was also met with bemusement and probably amusement at the hiring of a manager who had never managed in the Premier League and had actually never finished much higher than mid-table in the Championship.

Brian Laws appointment sent out, again in my opinion at the time and now, a clear message that Burnley Fc’s board were not really looking to stay in the Premier League and that instead we were looking to become a yo-yo club of sorts and make a concerted effort for the season after. However I still held hope that Laws would prove me wrong and we might do the impossible and stay up. Some of the games we were treated to at home and away were a series of shambles; Blackburn at home being the key game. In a game you’d have thought the players would have been up for more than any other, we were instead given an inept and pathetic excuse of a performance. Similar games against Wolves and Portsmouth cemented a very strong anti-Laws segment of the crowd that grew with every game. A good crowd still turned up for the final day of the season against Spurs and the 4-2 victory gave us some hope that maybe Laws could get his act together and the team might get back up the next year.

However this hope soon disappeared and a run of inconsistency and poor performances eventually led to the dismissal of Laws in December 2009. This was clearly an appointment that had not worked out and had instead strained the relationship between the board and the fans. This was due to a mixture of raised levels of expectancy but more down to the board’s seemingly unwavering confidence and backing in Laws who became a figure of ridicule and took the brunt of the fans anger. In truth though it was never his fault he was appointed manager. He couldn’t do anything to hide his excellent performance in the board’s Deloitte and Touche investigation into manager’s results and the budgets they worked on. Other fans have pointed to some of Laws signings in that transfer window such as Cort and then Iwelumo in the Championship season as poor signings on high wages.

The then seemingly endless search for a manager came with a string of names and a very public attempt to entice Paul Lambert of Norwich. No-one will ever know exactly what happened on that one but after we were again very publically knocked down by both Lambert and Norwich I was embarrassed by our boards seeming naivety to publicise this approach. It then in turn soured my delight at Eddie Howe’s appointment with the club announcing “Eddie was always the number one choice” and many other clichés.

Eddie tried his best to achieve the play offs that season, but we all knew the damage had already been done that season and that this was the year we should judge Eddie on. Never in my worst nightmares would I predict that on the 11th August 2011 on the eve of the second game of the season would I feel compelled to write this article. An expression I have seen on many Clarets message boards is that “Eddie has had the rug pulled from his feet” and this seems to summarise his summer perfectly. This summer has been frustrating for all connected with the club. Key players have been sold and not replaced adequately, not just in my opinion but in many fans. Look at the discontent.

It’s too early to see if this has been the decision of the manager or of the board to sink the nail in the already gloomy coffin of the last few weeks by selling Fox, but time will tell. However I don’t think I’m alone in saying that this is not what Eddie had planned or the fans. The board though… that’s a different story.