The Michael Wood Column

Friday 11 October, 2002

Everybody's most wanted

Nicky Law arrived at Valley Parade as nobody's most wanted manager, now every sacking seems to make a Bantam heart skip a beat. One day someone is going to offer our boy a better deal and away he will be.

It is a remarkable turn around for the 41 year old manager. He arrived at the turn of last year to this and was dubbed a Geoffrey Richmond yes man. He saw off that and the chairman, the administrators kept him as a more valuable asset to the club than all of the players. This season of has had it's woes: Grimsby 0-0 was booed and capitulations at Leicester and Portsmouth flattered the home sides but these failures are put at the doors of the players. Rightly or wrongly Nicky Law has gone from The Man They Call "Who?" to The Bulletproof Boss.

Naturally he has started to be linked to jobs. Hull City's Adam Pearson is a confirmed fan. Stoke City are looking, Brighton it is said looked at Law.

Sheffield Wednesday might be looking for a new boss soon, Terry Yorath is on his last legs in South Yorkshire, and the word is that they are looking to steal another from the Bantam big chair. In my opinion Law would do well to heed the warnings of Paul Jewell's time at the Owls. Wednesday are an institutionally rotten club, best avoided.

However one could see the attraction for Law in a bigger club. He had hoped that City, fresh from the Premiership, would be able to fund his ambitions but one would question how much a manager like Law needs the cash in the pot. Chris Greenacre demanded 10,000 a week to play for City, Tom Kearney plays for that much every two months. Law shops in the gritty end of the market and the commitment of his current Bantams to prove their worth by playing for less seems a key part of what is going on at Valley Parade.

The City job works for Nicky Law. The clubs ambition over the next three years is to build for, not win promotion. Law gets good grace of three years to carry on learning the trade. He gets three years to build the team he wants and if he keeps digging up the likes of Kearney, Paul Evans and Michael Proctor then in 2005 that team maybe what we all hope it will be.

Should Law do that he would have something that most of the fashionable young managers do not have: Long term achievement. Steve Cotterill moved to Sunderland from Stoke with a decent record achieved with non-league Cheltenham but to stay in the Potteries for just four months is a serious question mark: How can Steve Cotterill preach loyalty to his players when he will walk away from a commitment at the drop of the hat? It would be as well received as a speech on family values from John Major.

Achievement comes from building something over time. Paul Jewell's time at City was glorious and wondrous but it was scrambled success that looked like it could go wrong at any minute (Had that free kick at Wolves panned out differently...)

Ferguson at Aberdeen and Manchester United, Arsene Wenger turning down France because he was in the middle of the job at Monaco. Achievement, true lasting impressive achievement, takes time.

Peter Taylor got the Hull job that Nicky Law was linked with. Taylor got Brighton promoted and jumped ship. He got Gillingham promotied and nicked off to Leicester City who go into administration today with board members pointing to the 22m he spent on players. Taylor, like Birmingham's Steve Bruce, is not afraid to move on for a "better opportunity" but one cannot help but think that should a Taylor or a Bruce mess up there is little for them to fall back on on the CV. Dario Gradi, Crewe's long serving boss, would be snapped up to head a youth operation at Anfield or Old Trafford should he ever leave the Railwaymen because the success he has had, success in bringing players through and keeping Crewe living above their "rightful" position, is married to longevity lending it a sense of permanence.

As a perfect illustration if you judged him on what he did at City Jim Jefferies would not get another job in football, but he was a wanted man in Scotland because of his years at Hearts.

Nicky Law may well get a "better offer" and be off and if he does it would not be the end of the world, we survived Roy McFarland, Jewell and Jefferies walking out, but aside from what it would do for City I do not feel it would be the best for the long term future of Nicky Law.

There are many good young managers around at the moment, Law needs something to make him stand out and that thing, that thing that seems to be missing from others like him, is the ability to stick to a job, to see it through to it's conclusion.

I've talked football with Law, picked his brain for ideas and I think that he thinks along those lines too.

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