There’ll be an interesting contrast between the occupants of the two dug-outs when Alfreton make their first visit to The Racecourse.
While Billy Barr tends to maintain a certain upright dignity on the touchline, we can expect the Yale Paddock to enjoy a particularly feisty relationship with the visiting gaffer. Nicky Law is nothing if not fiery!
Our visit to Alfreton at the start of the season illustrated this pretty definitively. He prowled the side of the pitch, barking aggressively and constantly like an athletic Steve Evans, but unlike his Crawley counterpart he eschewed the option of a guard dog assistant manager and did his dirty work solo.
And dirty work it was. I was in the press box and saw home fans complaining about his language to stewards. Let’s just reflect on this for a moment: that’s home fans complaining about the manager who had got them promoted to the highest level in their history a couple of months earlier. I think that sums up neatly just how bad the language was! I asked a stewards about it afterwards; he said complaints from home fans was a common occurrence, but there was nothing he could do, really.
It wasn’t just his own fans he upset either. The official weren’t too crazy about his constant screaming, and plainly the antipathy is mutual. The local press informed me that Law has complained about the positioning of the dug-outs at the ground. They’re not together – each is located in a different half – but Law’s gripe is that the home dug-out is closer to the halfway line, where the fourth official is stationed, so he gets into more trouble than his opposite number.
Also, the level of invective he poured onto his own side was spectacular. There was one particular conflagration, with one of his strikers, Paul Clayton, which particularly stood out, as he admonished him for not tracking back and got an earful in return! The row continued for a while, and might well have led to Wrexham’s second goal as his players, cowering in the overly deep positions they were being ordered to fill, backed off and let Nat Knight-Percival stride forward unhindered to set up Jake Speight.
It was understandable that his side weren’t following his instructions because, as I outlined in a tactical report at the time, his approach was remarkably over-complicated and doomed to crash and burn. Going man-to-man was a sophisticated yet out-moded response to the fact that the opposition were better man-for-man, and surely too complex for a part time side to master considering their diminished opportunity to train together. With square pegs in round holes to boot (a young centre back was playing up front) it was small wonder his masterplan fell to pieces.
The bad news for Wrexham is that Law isn’t going to make the same mistake twice. One couldn’t help leaving the ground with the feeling that, despite his unprecedented recent success from the Alfreton dugout, an abrasive character like Law might be living on borrowed time. A few more performance like that and his argumentative personality might not be leavened by the results he was achieving. But he’s still in the role, and his side are safe after a superb run of form which has seen them show character and win six out of seven.
He’s achieved the turnabout with a huge reshuffle of his squad – only three of the side that lost to Wrexham started on Saturday – and no doubt with a big dollop of motivation. Perhaps by the start of the season he’d run into the dilemma some say Neil Warnock failed to negotiate at QPR this season: it’s said that when the Rangers players got used to his angry tirades, Warnock had nowhere to go. Clearly Law does have a cerebral side, even if he rather overthought matters against Wrexham last August. However, he might have dealt with his squad’s immunity to his outbursts in a more simple way: by getting rid of them and shipping in a new bunch to scare!
So if you’re in the Yale Paddock for the match, prepare yourselves. You might be about to meet the next best thing to Dave Bayliss!