SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Brian Laws recalls anger over bid to sue fans

Boss's complaint: Brian Laws demanded that his name be withdrawn from the club's legal action
Boss's complaint: Brian Laws demanded that his name be withdrawn from the club's legal action

BRIAN Laws tells in a new book of his fury over the Owls’ attempts to sue fans during his time as manager.

Laws also discloses a “huge fall-out” with former chief executive Kaven Walker after the squad were unable to stay overnight ahead of a game at Reading where they lost 6-0.

Sad exit: Steve MacLean

Sad exit: Steve MacLean

The ex-Wednesday boss also reveals that the exit of Steve MacLean - who was top scorer in the 2005 promotion side - was against his wishes.

Laws devotes a chapter of his autobiography, Laws of the Jungle, to his Hillsborough reign.

The move to sue fans over comments made online was a controversial episode when the old board were in charge.

Laws - who this week was appointed as football director at Shamrock Rovers - says in his book: “I have learned always to respect supporters. They pay their money and are entitled to their opinions, whether you agree with them or not.

“So you can imagine my annoyance when there was an apparent attempt to rope me into some unprecedented legal actions that Wednesday mounted against some of their own fans. I still wonder how I was almost dragged into that situation.

“I won’t disclose the nuts and bolts but when I found out that I might be party to the action over some postings on a website, I was furious. I demanded through the solicitors and Kaven Walker that my name be withrdawn. They didn’t like it, but my reputation was at stake. You can’t have a manager suing his club’s fans. It just doesn’t work.

“That said, I do believe the internet and fans’ forums have got out of hand. It’s a licence to publish anything whether it’s right or wrong. And yes, often it is libellous. Opinions are put out by people who remain anonymous and it seems they can say anything they like.”

The Owls crashed at Reading in September, 2008. “I make no excuses for that result and made none at the time,” he writes. “But there was an issue behind the scenes. As chief executive, Walker was very good at numbers and kept things very tight. But sometimes this was at the cost of results, in my opinion.

“We’d made a decent start before going to Reading.

“A night in a hotel doesn’t guarantee a good result but it does minimise the risk of a poor one. It would have cost us about £1,500 and Walker’s refusal to allow it showed how tight things had become. We travelled on the day and got stuck in traffic for hours. There was no proper meal; we stopped in haste at a service station and grabbed anything we could.

“I’m not saying the result was all down to this, far from it, but it certainly didn’t help. For me it was a significant turning point - there was a huge fall-out between Kaven Walker and myself.”

At the time, Wednesday were without a chairman, with Dave Allen having resigned in November, 2007, and Laws thought that the club were “rudderless” for a period.

The MacLean episode came earlier - with Laws told at a meeting with Allen and Walker that he could name three striker targets but would have to offload MacLean, whose contract was up.

“He (had) started to pick up injuries and that became a sticking point in my attempts to keep him. Kaven Walker thought he was a crock and that I had to release him if I wanted to bring in another forward.”

Laws targeted Southampton duo Grzegorz Raziak and Kenwyne Jones and Scunthorpe’s Billy Sharp, but wanted to keep MacLean as well. Allen relented and agreed he could be offered a deal. “That’s when things were taken out of my control,” says Laws as Walker was in charge of the negotiations.

“The offer made to MacLean was so lame it was obvious he wouldn’t accept it,” he writes. “Steve was gutted because he wanted to stay but my hands were tied and I lost him.”

Laws became unhappy when, with the club heavily in debt, Walker felt it would be too expensive to land any of his three targets. “I was summoned to Walker’s office to be asked if I could find another striker to add to the list....we were now in a mad scramble.”

It ended with Laws’s “gamble” of turning to Francis Jeffers, whose Hillsborough stay was ruined by an injury caused by a bad tackle by Ryan Shawcross at Stoke.

Laws writes: “In short, the signing was a disaster, considering the wages we paid. But I maintain Franny was very unlucky, as we were. It could all have been so diffferent.”

The ex-Owls boss wonders how Wednesday - then around £25m in debt - would have fared if they had not had to sell star players Madjid Bougherra, Chris Brunt and Glenn Whelan.

“Instead of the anticipated push for the play-offs, we ended up in a relegation scrap (in 2007-08).”

Axed by the then chairman Lee Strafford in 2009 when the team were struggling, Laws neverthless takes pride in having led Wednesday to their first derby double against United in 95 years and having been the longest-serving Owls manager since Trevor Francis.

The Star was unable to contact Kaven Walker but he was credited by Dave Allen with running the club in a businesslike fashion and helping to steer them through a difficult period. He left by mutual consent in December, 2008, 11 days after Strafford joined the board.

*Laws of the Jungle, by Brian Laws with Alan Biggs, is published by Vertical Editions, price £16.99.