No close shaves for Lambs
Tamworth may not be one of the division’s big hitters but they have experience of punching above their weight and can do so again under 36-year-old boss Marcus Law…
Cowering beneath the Snow Dome, the town’s giant artificial ski slope, Tamworth have been subject to going-downhill metaphors more than once. But no more; the Lambs continue to punch above their weight thanks a prudent off-field approach and a positive young manager.
It was their recipe for success under Gary Mills, now in charge at York, who guided the club to the Conference North title in 2009. And current chief Marcus Law is following a similar pattern as he bids to oversee more progress in Staffordshire.
Law’s first season in charge was not without its difficult moments but the Lambs were never really in the thick of a relegation battle, eventually finishing seven points clear of the drop zone.
While they may be one of the division’s less glamorous entities – which is nothing like a criticism – the club have managed to hold on to a number of last season’s better performers, including forwards Kyle Patterson and Jean-Paul Marna. Scott Barrow and Richard Tait have also signed on, although promising stopper Jonathan Hedge was lured away to Cambridge.
Losing players to their divisional rivals has not always been a significant concern for the Lambs, who have tended to base their success on the collective rather than the individual. Tamworth live within their means; they are rarely found in bed with financial peril or boardroom strife, a method of operating which has underpinned their on-pitch success.
Law’s career has been one of measured progress. He took his first management job at Coventry Sphinx aged just 24 and has enjoyed significant success in the lower reaches of non-league in the 12 years since. Ambitious and headstrong but more unassuming than Mills, his rise has seen him fall onto the radar of Football League clubs: Northampton were believed to have been interested last autumn.
Although Law’s playing career was short – ended prematurely by injury - that many of his players have followed a similar route through non-league allows him to empathise with their motivations and ambitions. Paul Merson washed up at the Lamb Ground in 2006 but it is no longer a haven for has-beens.
However, while 2011/12 was a satisfactory first season in charge for the 36-year-old, an 18th-placed finish is not enough to dine out on. If Law is to be truly considered as one of non-league’s rising stars, he must build on the positives from last term.
Law took his time in making the early-summer transfer business public but after lifting the lid on the arrivals last week, they elicited a broadly positive response from the fanbase. Striker Adam Cunnington has arrived from Dagenham and goalkeeper Tony Breeden from Kidderminster, while Marcus Kelly has rejoined Law, having played under the boss at Kettering.
Given their relatively small budget, Tamworth are in the market for rough diamonds but there is sufficient confidence in Law to ensure unproven acquisitions are handed the benefit of the doubt.
Supporters are unlikely to get carried away – survival must still be the priority – but a quiet confidence is bubbling, that Law’s young squad have the ambition to confound expectations.
Law has laid the foundations for a squad which, on paper, can go on to develop into an enterprising non-league side but while the emphasis is on the collective, the threat remains that vultures will circle. The likes of Tait, Barrow and full-back Connor Gudger may all be courted by clubs higher up the ladder, following in the footsteps of Hedge.
This forces the Lambs to continue to develop from within, as well as scouring the local scene, to ensure there is a production line of talent to replace those who do depart.
The manager, too, is not immune to the prying eyes of other sides but for the time being he can build for future success. He still has plenty to prove in the Blue Square Bet Premier but has an ideal platform from which to do it.
The Lambs are a best price 13/8 with BetVictor to finish in the relegation places – 6/4 with Blue Square and 5/4 with SkyBet – but we wonder whether that’s a touch on the short side. This is a big second season for Law but we fancy he has enough about him to mastermind another campaign of stability, keeping the drop zone at arm’s length.
For more on the Blue Square Bet Premier, read our profiles of the other 23 sides during the coming days: Alfreton, Barrow, Braintree, Cambridge, Dartford, Ebbsfleet, Forest Green, Gateshead, Grimsby, Hereford, Hyde, Kidderminster, Lincoln, Luton, Macclesfield, Mansfield, Newport, Nuneaton, Southport, Stockport, Telford, Woking, Wrexham
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