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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bye Laws

Brian Laws should look probably look back on his time at Sheffield Wednesday with immense personal pride.

That's because, despite leaving Hillsborough on Sunday with the club struggling in the relegation zone, his tenure of just over three years brought badly needed stability to the Yorkshire outfit.

Since relegation from the Premier League in 2000, it's largely been a decade of despair for the Owls, reflected in the rapid turnover of managers in the Steel City.

Paul Jewell, Peter Shreeves, Terry Yorath, and Chris Turner all failed to turn around the club's fortunes, ultimately ending in relegation to League One in 2003.

Turner's replacement, Paul Sturrock, helped them bounce back at the second attempt. The Scot controversially paid the price for failing to progress away from fighting against the drop though, and Laws swapped the comfort of Scunthorpe for one of football's hottest hot seats.

Since then it's been a rollercoaster ride for Wednesday. Laws's impact was immediate and a strong second half saw them achieve a comfortable top half position.

However, a disastrous second season saw them fighting against relegation until securing their Championship status on the final day. Last season saw another top half finish, but their slide down the table after a promising start to this term has been worrying.

The reality is, now with ambitious new owner Lee Strafford at the helm, fighting against relegation is no longer acceptable for Wednesday. The up-and-down years of the past replaced with a drive for year-on-year progress. Ultimately, the aim is to regain their place in the Premier League.

After last season's progress and the strengthening of the side over the summer, a challenge for the play-offs looked realistic. Indeed, after 12 games of this season the side were nestled just outside the top six after a solid start.

However, the following run of nine matches without a win has seen them collect just two points and the weekend's 3-0 loss at Leicester saw them slide into the bottom three for the first time this season. Strafford felt he had to act.

It proves that all managers, even ones like Laws whose jobs appeared relatively safe and have been in post for a few years, are only a bad run of results away from getting their P45.

Laws had been in charge at Hillsborough since 2006

In all likelihood, a couple of wins in those nine games would probably have given him more time and a January transfer window to bring in any reinforcements. That luxury will now fall to a new manager.

And it is an appointment of much significance of Wednesday. After the stability under Laws they need their new manager to be somebody for the longer-term. Returning to the days of hiring and firing will do them no good.

At this stage of the season, they can probably afford to take a risk on one of the host of talented young managers, as Laws was, waiting for their chance at a higher level. The Owls still have the quality to avoid being involved in any relegation scrap.

Or will Strafford plump for a more experienced head, someone who will guide the team away from immediate trouble, but who may not be able to take them any further than the mid-table finishes Laws achieved?

The life-long fan and chairman must find someone who can help engineer his dreams for Wednesday, and ensure this nightmare run is merely a blip.

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