There are not many managers whose first game in charge of a football club is a cup final.
That is the fate which befalls new Shamrock Rovers boss Brian Laws this Saturday at Tallaght Stadium (kick-off 5:45pm) however.
Although his official job title is ”director of football”, if the former Burnley boss can guide the Hoops to a cup triumph and salvage a disappointing season for the Dublin outfit by leading them to a European finish in the Premier Division league table, then the 50 year-old will very likely be called “Gaffer” by Hoops’ players at the start of the 2013 season.
While a disappointing season has been labelled a “crisis” by Rovers’ fans, Laws knows the true meaning of the word “crisis.”
As a Nottingham Forest player on the Hillsborough pitch on that tragic day back in April 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in a crush at the Leppings Lane end of the ground, Laws knows only too well what a real life crisis looks like first hand. He has expressed this week his happiness at the revelations of the Hillsborough Report which has vindicated Liverpool fans of any blame for the tragedy and he awaits future findings of the day with interest.
Laws is in fact the first former Premier League manager (of Burnley back in 2010) to go on to manage a League of Ireland club and much of the media/photographer’s attention will certainly be on the Wallsend native come Saturday afternoon.
The former defender is vastly experienced having managed over 800 league games across all four divisions of the professional game in England.
With fourth placed Rovers seven points adrift of second placed Drogheda and 13 points adrift of table topping Sligo Rovers, the league cup is now the Hoops’ only possibility of winning national silverware this season, though they did win the Leinster Senior Cup recently.
Although Drogheda have been a much stronger team this season than in previous years, they still don’t boast a good record against Rovers. The Hoops have beaten the Drogs the last nine times the clubs have faced each other and are unbeaten in twenty meetings. Drogheda’s last win against Rovers came en-route to their 2007 League of Ireland Premier Division title win.
Home advantage might not be as big advantage for the Dubliners as one might think as the Hoops have only won three of their last 10 home games. Conversely, Drogs have lost only two of their last 10 fixtures.
Rovers have not been in good form and confidence has not appeared to be high in recent weeks of a topsy-turvy season at Tallaght. The recent managerial changes (Stephen Glass briefly took the reigns as a caretaker replacement of the sacked Stephen Kenny) make this fixture a difficult one to predict, though Laws’ arrival will serve as a fillip in the dressing room.
This coupled with the fact that Drogs have struggled against Rovers over recent seasons (including most relevantly, this season), makes the home side narrow favorites to win this one.
If Drogheda contain Hoops’ early on however and should the visitors take the lead, then the home support may get on their team’s back, as they have done at times this season, and it could be a long opening 90 minutes in charge for the new Rovers’ boss.
In Team News; Ken Oman and Pat Sullivan are suspended for the home side while Drogheda are expected to be at full strength. Each team is expected to be named shortly before kick-off.
PREDICTION: Shamrock Rovers 2-1 Drogheda United