EIGHT months ago, Nigel Law was coaching Gary Hamilton in the Glentoran Reserve team with the striker demoted after his public row with then first-team boss Scott Young.
Fast-forward and the pair are now, along with Packie McAllister, masterminding Glenavon’s attempt for survival in the Carling Premiership.
Hamilton was, of course, appointed Glenavon gaffer in December and his first action was to bring along his former coach, who didn’t take long to settle into his new surroundings.
“I’ve been made to feel really welcome by the fans, the board, the playing staff and by everybody at the club,” Law told the ‘MAIL.’
“I’ve had the best three and a half months of my career so far. It’s a cliché you hear around Lurgan but, as anybody who has played there will tell you, as a club Glenavon is as good as there is in the league.
“The club as a whole is fantastic,” he continued.
“The set-up and the way we’re looked after at matches and on training nights is great. The fans and everything at the club is positive. Everybody behind the club has it primed for success and as a playing staff we know that.
“We recognise that we have a responsibility as a management and a playing staff to achieve. The players do feel a sense of responsibility because of how well they’re looked after.
“For example, Matty Burrows, who has come down from Glentoran, would say that the level of treatment he gets at Glenavon is miles ahead of what he received at Glentoran so I think that says it all.
“The feeling internally is that we have such a good club behind us and it’s important that we try and reflect that on the pitch.”
In order to achieve that success, Law says the new background team have tried to extend the club’s professional approach to the pitch through preparing the players as fully as possible ahead of games.
“What we’re trying to do is to try and make things as professional as we can. The one thing we feel is important is to condition the players as well as we can in terms of their physical preparation,” he said.
“Coming in, in December, it’s difficult to do that as they’ve already played 20 games and you don’t want to be over-physical in terms of the demands you put on the players.
“We are doing a lot of homework on other teams as well. I watched Lisburn Distillery’s Reserves play last Tuesday because they had a lot of first-teamers playing. Packie (McAllister) and myself have put together a dossier and have given that to the players ahead of Saturday’s game.
“In the Irish League, if you have a group of players who are well conditioned and who have the ability that the Glenavon squad do and if you can keep them motivated and educated on the opposition, then you’ll never be far away.”
Law also used Oran Kearney’s Coleraine as a marker post for where Glenavon should be and says consistency is the key to climbing up the league table.
“We want to achieve that level of consistency that will take us towards being a good, solid mid-table club. A good example to look at is Coleraine because in terms of the resources and background that we have, Glenavon can be a much bigger and a more successful club than Coleraine.
“Definitely, that’s an aim. For us, we want to get a foundation right that goes from the first-team right through the club and the community as well. I know Glenavon fans have heard it all before but with a bit of consistency then I think that we can push on to being a top six club. With where the club has been recently, that would be great progress.
“We’re realistic as well and we realise that we have to achieve consistency first. Consistency is the key word that we talk about. Since we’ve come in, we’ve had some great results but we need to follow those up with a good result the next week.”
Law is confident that this consistency can be found under boss Gary Hamilton, and was full of praise for the player/manager’s ideas, which, he says, will start to be seen if the club can secure their Carling Premiership survival in the coming weeks.
“Gary’s fantastic. The one thing that comes across with him is his passion for the club and how much he cares for Glenavon. Gary has a lot of very unique and creative ideas that he has picked up during his time at Blackburn and throughout his career.
“Again when you come in half way through a season to try and save a club from relegation, you are very much limited in what you can do. Certainly if we can achieve survival then as we build towards our long-term aim, Gary will implement a lot of those ideas.
“Gary is very forward thinking in terms of match analysis, statistics and doing work on opposition and I think that is important when you have all that along with his absolute will to win.
“He’s very much about ideas and taking things on board such as any input from Packie, myself or Reggie (Hillen) the goalkeeping coach. He’s in a positive position at the minute so long may it continue.”
However, the club’s Premiership survival must first be secured and Law knows how important the upcoming games are for Glenavon’s future.
“I would probably have liked to maintained our Premiership status already but a few poor performances have cost us in terms of the Distillery and Ballymena games,” he said.
“Those are matches that we feel we should be taking maximum points from, particularly at home, but you counter those with the attitude we showed against Glentoran and the way we got ourselves spot on against Dungannon.
“Everybody’s on a high at the minute and all the players responded really well to seeing the Glenavon crowd applaud them off an away ground. Everybody was really lifted by that and if we were to go and get another positive result at Distillery, having struggled away from home this season, I think that would be another good step for us as a club towards that goal of being a consistent squad.”
It is situations like the 3-2 result against Cliftonville in which Law wants his players to take confidence and admits it is this “intangible” quality that is the ingredient which, as a coach, he finds hardest to ingrain in his players.
“We couldn’t buy confidence there for a while. There are only so many ways in training that you can recreate situations to encourage confidence in players. Confidence is one of those intangible qualities that if somebody lacks it, then it’s very hard to give it to them.
“If they have a technical element that’s not working then it’s easy to identify and the coach can correct that but with a psychological problem it’s a lot harder and more frustrating to cure.”
However, the appointment of Hamilton and Law could well work wonders for the confidence of the club’s younger players, with Reserve players regularly making the step up to feature in match squads since the pair came to the club. Law says it is a priority of the new regime to bring through some of the promising youngsters at Mourneview Park.
Law himself was denied such a chance to follow an Irish League playing career, as he had to retire at the end of his teens when he was forced to have reconstructive surgery on his left knee. However, determined to remain involved in football, he quickly set about obtaining his coaching badges.
Having already attained his A License, Law is still just 26 and says he is aware that some fans may have their suspicions on the club appointing such a young first-team coach. However, he also says it is his approach, rather than his age, that will determine how well he performs in his role.
“I’m fully aware of people raising eyebrows about my age but I’m a great believer that you don’t automatically gain respect from players even if you’ve played for 20 years in the Irish League,” he said.
“You get respect from players through communicating with them, how you communicate with them and through the quality of the information you give them.
“Communication is key. If we feel players are under-performing then we have to tell them about it but likewise, we open it up to the players and if they feel our approach or technique isn’t right and we need to look at something then we have a look at it.
“Getting that communication pathway for me is key and I think we’ve got that and it’s going to stand us in good stead.
“I never have any fears that my age will hold me back because I genuinely believe that if you communicate well with people and you treat them well and give them good information, they respond to you.”
Of course, Law is working alongside assistant boss Packie McAllister and the coach was full of praise for the former Donegal Celtic manager.
“Packie has been a God-send for us. From speaking to the players, they felt that Packie’s arrival had seen a big upturn in the quality of the coaching they were receiving and hopefully Gary and myself have added to that as well.
“Packie’s brilliant because he’s been there and done it and it’s nice to pick things up from him and likewise hopefully there are things that he can pick up from myself as well.”
It has certainly been a whirlwind few months for the young coach and if Glenavon’s turbulent recent history is anything to go by, Law’s entertainment is just beginning.