Monthly Archives: August 2012

The road to promotion or prolonging the inevitable?

Three games in and 7 points on the board. At the beginning of the season, I’m pretty sure most Rovers fans would have bitten your hands off – unbeaten after games against Ipswich, and then promotion contenders Hull and favourites, Leicester. Seven points, and one clean-sheet – fantastic.

Have a look beneath the surface and watch any of the three matches and even the most biased of the Ewood faithful would admit, we have been lucky to get points on more than one occasion.  The performances have been poor, at times we have been outplayed, but somehow have come out on top – a sign of a good team you may say? Or maybe, a sign of the inexperience, poor skill of the opposition?

This league is a tough league which makes all the more unbelievable that we remain unbeaten. The secret? First of all, luck. Goals allowed and goals disallowed on the back of seemingly incorrect linesman’s decisions. Second of all, the ability to keep the ball and absorb pressure when necessary. What Blackburn have had this year, which was lacked last year, is someone composed on the ball. Someone who can make a simple pass and defence splitting pass at the right times, when needed. Combine this with the inexperience of some of the opposition, and the opportunities which have been presented to the blue and white halves have been taken.

So, are Rovers just lucky, or is it good management and tactics? At this point in time, I have to air on the side of luck. The tactics from Steve Kean have again been questionable – playing a central midfielder at left back, switching the left side of midfield, and as always, sitting deep and trying to protect a 1-0 lead. Perhaps the most obvious of the tactical misdemeaners, or maybe the most confusing, is the introduction more than twelve months after signing, of Bruno Ribeiro – or as many know him – “Dennis Irwin”. Signed from Brazilian side Gremio in the summer of 2011, Ribeiro did not feature once in Blackburn’s ill-fated relegation campaign, and did not even feature on the bench. Yet three games in, he is now a cult figure with the fans. Knowing the Dennis Irwin hype surrounding him, and the fact that he has never before featured – both his appearances this season have been greeted with a sort of half-mocking, half-distraught, fanfare – at least for the first game against Hull – but then his first full start, against Leicester, the Brazilian played more than capably at right back, before moving forward and proving just as effective at right-wing – a performance that earnt him man of the match. If you’d have predicted that, even as recently as the Ipswich game, you would have been ridiculed. So why has Kean now decided to play him? At times last season we struggled in defence, often playing young central midfielders out of position, or throwing youth team players in at the deep end. At 29, and having played all his career in Brazil, Ribeiro would hardly have been inexperienced, and would have played against many an effective attacking player.

The game on Saturday against Leicester again showed Kean’s inability to make a decision – for the entire second half, the Blackburn End shouted for Ruben Rochina. At first Kean ignored the shouts, but as they got louder, it seemed the more Kean considered the option, until he finally brought him on. At this level, Rochina has the ability to rip teams to shreds and create the chances and score the goals himself – he would be more than competent in the Premier League – but by keeping him on the sidelines, I fear Kean has alienated him to an extent that he would jump at a second chance in the top league, most likely, playing every week.

As the transfer deadline approaches, I fully expect players to leave – mainly Olsson, N’Zonzi, Vuckevic and maybe even Robinson and Rochina – but Scott Dann’s mistake on Saturday could leave him stranded at Ewood until at least January. Coming in, I’m not too sure. I think we need a right-winger and at least one other striker and potentially another centre half. However, if you were a footballer, would you choose Blackburn Rovers, a Championship club in turmoil, the fans still against the manager and owners, over a Premier League Club? The rumours of Rickie Lambert being the next target are almost laughable – it questions just exactly what does Shebby Singh advise on? Other than transfer gossip, rumours about sackings and slandering the players?

Back to the orginal question: road to promotion or prolonging the inevitable? As a true Rovers fan I hope it’s the promotion option, but I can’t help feel that when that first defeat comes, it may be the first of many, which, in turn, will lead to the crowd (those who bother to attend) to turn again on Kean and the owners – lets just hope that this defeat comes long in to the season and doesn’t lead to a crash back down to earth (or further) as I think it might.

One final note – chuffed to bits for Pedersen – proving that he has the quality to succeed and contribute at this level – no other player in blue and white could have scored that goal!

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Pre-Season Blues

With less than 48 hours to go until the new football season, this is usually time of excitement, optimism and hope – but this year, these feelings have been replaced by some of an acceptance of reality, apathy and frustration.

Prior to the start of new season most football fans get in the mood, they pick a fantasy league team and place a few bets, and most of all look at the new signings and how they have done over the summer and in pre-season. But for some reason, I cannot get excited about the new season on Saturday 18th August. I don’t know whether it is the excitement of the olympics still burning out, or more likely, the continued on-goings at Ewood Park.

In summers gone by we Rovers fans have been promised achievements such as Europe, Champions League and survival to get us in the mood for the big kick off – in comparison, a promise of promotion should rank up there. However, at the minute, with the same set-up as last season – which showed us related – and the addition of another meddling ‘know-it-all’, I can’t see it.

We have lost some of our best players over the last 12 months, and others who have either fallen out with Steve Kean or are transfer targets for Premiership clubs, unlikely to remain at the club much longer. The players we have brought in are probably good ‘Championship-players’, which is what we need, admittedly, but it just doesn’t get the excitement mounting.

Our first home game is next Wednesday against Hull, which will be a dramatic realisation that we are in fact in the Championship, and no longer the Champions League – but with many fans planning on boycotting the game and standing outside in protest, this could be more of a damp squib affair which could play in to the hands of new boss Steve Bruce – Hull incidentally, are a team I think will have a good season, so at this early stage, the points could be very important.

Another reason I less than excited is the lack of any clout in the transfer market – yes we have bought Leon Best and brought in the entire staff of Nando’s, but there is no-one has come in who I thought “yes – he will be decent, he will get the fans cheering”. The only player so far who has offered any sort of such excitement is Jordan Rhodes, and it looks unlikely now that he will be making the trip down the M62. So who does that leave us with? Marouane Chamakh a man who I believe only scored against Blackburn last year, and who uses more hair product than John Travolta in Grease – he hasn’t been able to cut it at Premiership level, and to be honest, I don’t think he has shown signs that he can do it a step further down the ladder – but then, I wasn’t too impressed by the signing of Yakubu!

I hope I’m wrong, and I do honestly expect to get that buzz back come three o’ clock on Saturday – but the next question is, do I want a good start? Singh has said if Kean loses the first three games he is gone – do we look at the bigger picture and hope for defeat? No – I am Blackburn fan and it is against my nature to want us to get beat. If Kean is still in charge next May, hopefully it is because he has proved us all wrong – personally, I cannot see it happening.

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Singh when you’re winning

With less than a week to go until the start of a new football season, claims have been made by the Blackburn Rovers Director of Football Shebby Singh, that if the start is a poor one, and three of the first three games are lost, then Kean will be sacked. It is a welcome sound to the ears of Blackburn fans who have long campaigned for the thick-skinned Scotsman to be relieved of his duties – but one must ask the question – “why should he be given another three games? Was relegation itself not a feet that should be congratulated with a P45?”

Kean has continued to frustrate fans over the summer with the better players of the relegated squad being either allowed to leave for a fee, or placed on the transfer list like scrap thrown on the heap. He has spend money on wages and brought the experience of Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu and Nuno Gomes, and with them a handful of Portuguese youngsters, along with a pricey Leon Best. The signings have been encouraging, and the amount spent on wages both optimistic and worrying at the same time, but it has to be said, why now, and why not 8 months ago when the money was needed? Kean has often spoken this Summer of the experience that was missed last season, and that this lack of experience played a huge role in the clubs relegation, but lets remember, Kean sold/allowed to leave: Emerton, Samba, Diouf, Salgado, Roberts, Jones and Andrews – surely he has to hold his hands up and admit at least part of the blame.

To be fair to Kean he has been dealt a cruel blow with his big summer signing, Leon Best, the man charged with firing the club back to the Premiership, being ruled out for at least 6 months. He has partly replaced Best with Colin Kazim-Richards, once of Turkish giants Fenerbahce and Galatasary, but even after Best’s arrival Blackburn were short of striking options, meaning that the club cannot stop at just Kazim-Richards. To bolster the line, Kean looked to a strange thing, a marqee signing, almost, from a club lower down the leagues (well the same league this year), and Jordan Rhodes from Huddersfield. The striker has excited in the past couple of seasons and his goals have undoubtedly got Huddersfield back to the Championship, and a host of Premier League clubs following his every move with interest. This makes it hard to believe that Blackburn would have the audacity to bid £2m for a 22-year-old international, who has scored 71 goals in 122 appearances for Huddersfield – and is yet to reach his prime. It is almost an offensive amount of money for a team who will be playing in the same division this year. However, to play Devil’s advocate: has he proven himself at international level? Has he ever scored outside of League 1? Can he adapt to the pace and physique of the Premier League? This unanswered questions are why Blackburn may believe a lower offer could do the trick – in fairness, to many, they would also Blackburn as having more chance of promotion than Huddersfield. Jordan Rhodes could be to Steve Kean, what Jon Stead was to Greame Sounness – a goal scoring saviour.

And back to Mr Shebby Singh – after issuing Kean what appears to be a last three chances, he went on to criticise some of the current crop of players at the club, most notably, the longest reigning member of the squad, Morten Gamst Pedersen, stating that he has not reinvented himself as a central midfielder meaning he is of no use, and that he has ‘lost his legs’. First of all, for a paid member of BRFC staff, this is unethical, secondly, as someone who has been at the club for two minutes, this is unacceptable. Over the past few seasons, Pedersen has not been at his best (he hit a one man wall 30 yards out last season), but he gives his all everyone game, no matter how much the crowd get on his back. He is not a central midfielder, but he has played there, got stuck in and never shied away from the facts, or the fans. And most importantly, without fault, come the final whistle, if he is still on the pitch he will come over to the fans – not many players outside of Pedersen and Robinson can admit to this – and for this reason, I think Singh may have gone too far. Pedersen is a long time servant of the club, and relegation will have hurt him a lot more than some of the others. He has played in the big games – the semi finals, the european nights, and he knows what a brilliant club Blackburn Rovers can be. And I personally believe although he may no longer cut it at the top-level, his quality will/would undoubtedly be an asset in the Championship, and his set-pieces would generate much-needed points. It has to be asked – why slate Pedersen for his loss of legs, but then offer David Dunn a new deal, a man who struggled to adapt/keep up with the game at times last season? There could be something to say here by way of getting the fans on side – if the Pedersen comments had been made about Dunn, there would have been an outcry; but make them about an ageing player who hasn’t had the best of seasons over the last couple of years, who fans have from time to time criticised, and it shows an intent that only the best will do and that Singh only has promotion in his eyes, no space for sentiment.

Only time will tell whether Singh indeed sticks to his word, and whether Pedersen is past his best and his legs are too behind him – but a trademark free-kick from Pedersen today sealed a final friendly victory. Maybe Singh has done enough to put the fire back in the Norwegian’s belly?

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