Enough is enough

Posted on December 29, 2010

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As Brian Laws trudged down the Turf Moor tunnel after Burnley’s humiliating 0-2 defeat to Championship strugglers Scunthorpe, he had the look of a broken man. Failing to acknowledge the snarling supporters who jeered him and his team off the pitch, and with rumours already circulating that a board meeting had been called for that evening, his unsuccessful reign as Burnley manager seemed to be coming to a bitter end less than a year after it had begun.

The day after, however, and Laws somehow remains in his post, preparing his squad for upcoming matches against Sheffield United and Reading. The refusal to recognise that Laws’ tenure at Turf Moor has been an unmitigated diaster means disillusion with the manager has extended to anger at the inactive board.

Yesterday’s performance was a diaster in every respect. It was only two days earlier that Laws had seemingly given himself a lifeline by masterminding the club’s first away win of the season at Barnsley. Yet a season in which it was anticipated Burnley would be fighting hard to return automatically to the Premiership hit a new low with a terrible performance against a poor Scunthorpe side, who could have scored far more than the two they managed. With supporters totally against the manager, the side unable to string together consecutive wins and the previous invincibility at Turf Moor destroyed by consecutive home defeats, the inertia in the boardroom is mind-blowing.

In fairness to Laws, he had a tough task in front of him when he succeeded the popular, though now-despised, Owen Coyle in January. He was nobody’s first choice for the job, and his appointment gave the impresion that the board had gone for the cheap option over a more imaginative appointment that would have taken the edge off the departure of Coyle. In the mind of some fans, Laws was doomed from the start.

Having said that, nothing can excuse what Burnley’s fans have had to endure since. Relegation from the Premiership was always a distinct possibility, but we expected more than limp surrenders at home to Portsmouth and Wolves. He has squandered the club’s money in the transfer market, most notably in the case of Leon Cort, a £1.5m buy from Stoke who proved himself incapable of cementing a place in the side and has now been shipped out to Preston at a sizeable loss. This summer’s acquisition of tall frontman Chris Iwelumo indicated that Laws was prepared to scrap the flowing football of the successful Coyle years in favour of a more direct game, and that has proved the case. More often than not, natural wingers such as Chris Eagles and Ross Wallace have been left on the bench in favour of the likes of Jay Rodriguez, a promising youngster but one who looks lost playing the role on the flank Laws asks him to. Last year’s treatment of Andre Bikey has never been fully explained, and many will never forgive him for not trying harder to keep club legend Robbie Blake at the club this summer.

On the face of it, Burnley aren’t badly positioned to challenge for the play-offs this year. They sit 9th with games in hand on those above them. Yet it is fair to say that this is in spite of Laws rather than because of him. And moreover, having come down from the Premier League with their strongest squad in years and a strong financial situation, there are no excuses for Burnley not having the points tally of the likes of QPR, Leeds and Cardiff.

I hold out no great hope that a Laws departure is imminent. Over the last year, a terrible one in the history of Burnley Football Club, they have shown themselves to be conservative and thrifty, both in the appointment of the former Sheffield Wednesday boss and in their refusal to dismiss him. But for the good of the club, and while a swift return to the Premiership is still within reach, the club must act to remove the unpopular manager. I have no doubt he has tried his best, but the fact remains that his failings threaten to undo all the positive progres made in the last couple of years and turn supporters away from the Turf on a matchday.

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Posted in: Sport