Monthly Archives: October 2012

Henning Berg’s Blue and White Army

Hot off the press, former Rovers star Henning Berg has been offered the hot seat at Ewood Park – but it appears the initial response, has been far from unanimously welcoming.

Football phone-ins across the country have been broadcasting the chimes of unhappy Blackburn fans once again, although this time, not directing their anger and disappointment towards the uber-villain Steve Kean, but towards new boss Berg, who probably hasn’t even made it to Ewood yet, with his unveiling due to take place tomorrow morning. One such ‘fan’ said it was a poor decision, and questioned why it had taken 5 weeks to arrive at Berg, and that he had probably only been appointed as he was a cheap choice and would be another ‘yes’ man for the Venky’s – adding that the demonstrations should begin again on Saturday.

The term minority tarnishing the majority springs to mind.

As a life-long Blackburn fan I am pretty happy with the appointment: a young up and coming manager, with experience, particularly of working with a young/modestly priced squad, and who has had some degree of success – added to the fact he was a Premier League winner with the Rovers (it does help his cause that he was my favourite player during his time at the club) and also lifted them back to the promised land the last time we were relegated. The man has worked under the likes of Dalgleish, Ferguson and Souness meaning he will have likely picked up their best attributes and allowed them to mold him in to something similar, a winner. As a player he won the Premier League no fewer than 3 times, the FA Cup and League cup both once, and to top it off also holds a Champions League winners medal. So why aren’t some fans happy?

What some ‘fans’ need to keep in perspective is that we are now a Championship club, run by owners who like to medal with the team and how the club is run, and who like to make false promises. Apply this to real world situations: would you accept a new job at a company where the owners (not professionals or experienced in your field) told you how to do things, promised you large budgets that you knew where never going to happen, and expected you to increase performance and profit? No of course you wouldn’t. In similarly situations – Blackburn Rovers is not a managerial job which it once was – gone are the appreciative board; the chance to do good even if this was not instant; a modest budget but the ability to negotiate. There is no way in this world that Harry Redknapp would work with the Venky’s, or even more likely, drop a league and move away from the south coast, probably for a significantly reduced wage than he was on at Spurs.

Was Alan Shearer/Billy McKinley/Tim Sherwood a better choice? No. Simple as this – they have next to no managerial experience, all have in someway left the club under a cloud (Shearer = end of summer with no time for replacement; McKinley = alleged feined injury; Sherwood = allegedly led dressing room revolts), and all would potentially lead to false expectations. Berg on the other hand, left the club the right way and even came back later in his career, and has a number of years of managing at clubs of similar relative size.

For those Rovers ‘fans’ who don’t agree with appointment and want to shout about it, continuing their tirade against the Venky’s, I ask this: what benefit will it give? How can it possibly influence the team in a positive way? Wouldn’t you be better staying at home and keep practicing your humbug role ready for Christmas (and booing Danny Murphy from the comfort of your own living room?)?

Let’s get behind the team and Berg and get the gates back up at Ewood and give it a good go – Berg, after-all, is as close to one of our own as we are going to get, and he will have the clubs best interests at heart.

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The Man Centre Stage

In history, the role of referee has been an essential role which required an individual who did not want for the limelight, the fame, the celebrity lifestyle afforded to the super star players – he often undertook the role merely to play some part in the beautiful game. If he went unnoticed, he had done well, if he did not, he had had a poor game. This all seems to have changed.

Gone are the days of the shy and timid referee – he has been replaced by a whistle-blowing attention seeking prima-dona strutting his stuff around the field of play, running, or more precisely, ruining, many a game – all while at the same time, bringing the focus and attention to himself. Sharp touts on the whistle, making the player approach him, exuberant brandishing of the cards, and most noticeably, the persistence for free-kicks to be pulled back only to be taken from the exact same place – causing nothing but sheer frustration with players, managers and fans alike.

This has come to head in the recent Chelsea Vs Manchester United game where it is claimed that protagonist Mark Clattenburg volleyed verbal abuses at Chelsea players and sent off two of their charges. In short, I can only imagine some of the torrid abuse he himself has had to put up with from players, but that doesn’t mean he should join in. He is the custodian of the game for 90 minutes and he must set a good example, and in doing so not stoop to the level of certain players. At the same time though, the players themselves must be made accountable for their verbal diareah and encouraged to cut it out. What players get away with at the top level, leads youngsters to think they can, and will, get away with it at lower levels – would you want to walk your children through a park on a Saturday or Sunday morning, met by the various expletives (f****** ref, that decision was effing s***, you’re a w***** ref)? No didn’t think not. Would Mr Rooney want his children subject to that? I bet if he heard what had come out of his mouth on the pitch he would be somewhere between embarrassed and ashamed.

The solution: why can’t referees record what is said and heard through their microphones? They use them to communicate with the other officials and as such must always be on. Why can’t the fourth (or maybe a fifth official sat in the stand somewhere) analyse the audio and pick out who has said what and then reflect the level of abuse/profanities/insults with a yellow or red card? This would soon clean up the game and allow referees to get back to doing what they do best, going unnoticed.

Back to the man in black at Stamford Bridge – was the Torres booking really worth a second yellow? Was it even a dive? How often do we see red cards being brandished immediately without second thought to the severity of the challenge being given? Is this not the referees way of making a name for themselves, bringing themselves in to the spotlight and causing everyone to look at them? This is not the way it should be.

 

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Daniel Sturridge – harbinger of doom

It’s a strange thought, but one which I believe carriers a lot of truth: Daniel Sturridge is the reason Owen Coyle lost his job.

Many will say that Coyle’s downfall started with their horrendous start to last season, and that he was never able to pick up the results and form needed to turn it around, and because their start has been relatively slow this season, they needed to act before it was too late. But I think the real reason and the base for the failure of Bolton Wanderers was the signing on loan of Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge.

At the time, Sturridge could not make the Chelsea team and was seen as a bright young thing with a big future in the game, but was being barred entry to the first team by the big hitters of Drogba and Torres. In light of this, he went on loan to Bolton and fired them to a relatively successful season ending in a mid-table finish and an FA Cup Semi Final journey to Wembley. The following season (last season) Coyle tried, and failed, to sign Sturridge on loan again – however, given his relatively success for the Wanderers, Chelsea decided to keep him for their own uses. Instead, Bolton had to settle for David N’Gog (I’m not putting the blame at his doorstep either), while Johan Elmander also left the lilywhites.

Coyle never replaced Sturridge, although he arguably never had him. More importantly, he never met the new expectations set by the free-scoring Sturridge during that season – mid-table bordering on Europa league places and a very decent cup run.

Before Sturridge, Bolton nearly always flirted with relegation each season – in his one season he raised expectations somewhat, expectations which could not be sustained. And following relegation, every newly relegated team is expected to fire out of the blocks and challenge for promotion from the off – something Bolton have definitely not done. Worryingly, had Steve Kean had the same start as Coyle, it is likely he would still have been nowhere near winning the sack race.

What Coyle’s sacking does do is blow the managerial market wide open – which will not be a good thing for Blackburn. Who is a manager more likely to sign for: a team with a good relationship with its fans, a good club structure, and history which is still kept in mind; or, a club where the fans have fallen out with the owners, the owners play the manager like a puppet, protests have been common, and expectations are high and a win is needed from day one? One thing the new Blackburn manager will have, if chosen correctly, is a massive support from day one – purely because they are not Steve Kean.

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The Hottest Hot Seat in Football

As I sit at my desk at work my personal phone rings, I answer and am greeted by a voice I have never heard before.

“Hello, this is Shebby Singh. We have seen the good work you did with the AC Milan side of the early naughties and the fantastic job you did with Dundee in the late nineties – winning the UEFA cup 4 years on the bounce, along with 3 scudettos and a Copa Italia, is no easy feet; similarly, getting the Dee to the semi-final of the Champions League back in 1999 is an achievement not to be mocked. The way you established a rapor with both the fans and the chairman from day one is a great management tool and one which no doubt laid the foundations for your successes. I’d like to talk to you about the vacant managers role at Ewood Park – your management history has identified you as our prime candidate to take the club back to the glory days”…….

Given my Championship Manager track record, this is I must say, is the way I imagine the phone-call would go should Mr Singh look at my track record – in reality, unfortunately, I don’t think I’d even make the long list (I haven’t even added my real-life credentials as assistance manager to no less than 4 7-a-side league titles). The scary thing about the reality of the situation at Blackburn is that they could appoint anyone to take the reins – it would not surprise me if the owners and their global advisor decided to make ‘their own’ decision when making the appointment – once again neglecting the opinion of the paying fans at the club. Have they not suffered enough? Worryingly, the more time goes on without an appointment, the more I think they may be steering towards offering Eric Black the job.

Don’t get me wrong, he seems to be a very good coach, and those in the business have only good words to say about him – but haven’t we been here before with Steve Kean? Was he not a brilliant coach who the players respected and learnt from on the touchline? Did Black not also take Sunderland under to the Championship, albeit only in a caretaker role, when the captain had already jumped ship?

Looking at the fore runners for the job, I honestly could not pick someone. The exotic names of Schuster, Trappatoni and Eriksson I think can be ruled out as pipe dreams, or nightmares whichever way you look at it. The fans favourites of Sherwood, Shearer, Flitcroft, Tugay and/or Jansen would be well advised to steer away from the disaster zone – they would undoubtedly get the bums back on seats but this could be a major stumbling block on the first steps towards management, not to mention they only have limited experience – on experience, you would have to give the job to Flitcroft and Jansen who have been at Chorley now for a while.

So what of the others: –

  • Roy Keane – on paper looks like a good prospect, but look at the bank balance he was responsible for when getting Sunderland promoted, and look at the less than average job he did at Ipswich when given the same goal. On the flip side, he would stand up to the owners and do it his own way.
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – has done well in the Norwegian league and turned the chance to join Villa in the summer. You have to wonder: why would he turn down the premiership to then join the Championship? Again, he is a bit of a gamble as he is an unknown quantity on these shores.
  • Karl Robinson – was number two to Ince at Ewood and was said to be a favourite with the owners early in the season when Kean’s ultimatum was set. Looking at the way Blackburn sacked Ince, and the good work he has done with MK Dons, would he take the risk of promotion when in reality he may be playing MK Dons next season anyway?

In my eyes I think Mick McCarthy would do a job and get us promoted or at least on the verge of promotion. He is a no-nonsense man and will tell the fans how it is – he is definitely not a yes man. However, you could say that these attributes make him boring and that his style of playing is hardly Barcelona – that said, last season he was the only man who could have got Wolves out of trouble.  His tactics and play can hardly be as dull and monotonous as Big Sam’s – but still I don’t think the fans would warm to him, and his appointment could, at least in the short-term, result in fans staying away.

What I suggest is a compromise. The old with the new. The rough with the smooth. What I would go for is a mixture of Mick McCarthy’s experience with the fresh approach of a fan favourite, such as Sherwood or Shearer. That way the club could get the best of both worlds and in the process start the development of a young talent – a development which, if successful, would be aligned with the rising of Blackburn Rovers from the ashes. The fan favourite would get the fans back in the stands and would also go some way to rebuilding the bond between fans and the club, although maybe not the owners, who are held responsible by many for the downfall of the former Premier League Champions.

Whoever it is they decide to appoint, they need to do it with relative swiftness. Since Kean left we have achieved only 2 points from a possible 9 which has seen the club plummet to 9th in the league. It could be said that by resigning unexpectedly, Kean is having the last laugh as his ‘successful’ Championship team falls from grace, making the push for promotion an uphill task.

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The last laugh

A month has now passed at Ewood Park since Steve Kean decided to call it a day – whether he was jumped or pushed still remains unknown.

It was expected that the departure of Kean would result in a mass pilgrimage back to Ewood Park to once again get behind the team. The first game, Wolves at home was witnessed by 17,034, which marked a significant increase on the 13,405 who witnessed the defeat by Middlesbrough two weeks earlier, but the outcome was the same – a defeat.

Since his decision to leave the club, Blackburn have played 4 games and picked up only 2 points, dropping 10. Looking at the team that start the season and went unbeaten, Blackburn are lucky to be only 2 points off the play-offs, and 5 points off automatic – but arguably all the games were winnable: an away trip to newly promoted Charlton, a mid-week trip to Nottingham Forrest, a home game to relegated Wolves, and an away game at struggling Derby – at least a minimum of 8 points would be what the fans would have been expecting. During this time, we have had an international break meaning now games were played for nearly two weeks, surely when looking to appoint a new manager this is the time – no players in the club, relatively little interference, and the majority of the press focussing attentions elsewhere – but not at Blackburn Rovers.

Thirty days have now passed since Kean’s resignation, that is a full month, and we are no closer to knowing who the next manager will be – and with neighbours Bolton and Burnley also looking for a new manager, the selection and appointment is arguably even more difficult. The only difference being that since parting with their managers, Bolton and Burnley have both picked up more points.

Who is having the last laugh? Had Kean been sacked, instead of resigning, it would have shown that the club had had enough of the poor football, the poor tactics, the poor signings and the ridiculous alleged (and confirmed) lies which Kean spouted – but he wasn’t sacked, he left of his own accord, and by taking this decision, had one last dig at the club, leaving it further in the mire.

Given that Kean had recently been to India and had been told his job was safe, and given that the Board knew nothing of his resignation or his intention to resign, it must have come as a shot out of the dark. For instance, why would a manager who had overseen a relegation, been accused of lies, fought a libel court case, caused a massive fan protest and drop in season ticket sales, take a home defeat against Middlesbrough as the sign to jump ship? The sucker-punch is that the club were definitely not expecting Kean’s decision and so had no plan in place, as usually happens when a manager leaves (for example, when Ince was sacked it was only a matter of days before Allardyce was brought in – it was nowhere near 30 days).

Secondly, look at the signings Kean brought in the summer, a wave of Portuguese players, many of them under 25 who probably don’t speak English – not a problem when Kean was at the helm, he had lived half his life out there and was a fluent speaker. I very much doubt that Eric Black can speak the lingo or Singh for that matter – which creates a language barrier which the players will likely have to solve themselves. Possibly the biggest impact of this will be seen through Fabio Nunes who has looked very good since his arrival, but rumour has it can’t speak English, meaning his impact and contribution to the team may be lost or misdirected some what.

Kean has now left Blackburn Rovers and the club and fans feel vindicated in their protests and actions, but given the situation the club is currently in, Kean may definitely be having the last laugh.

 

Time to Burnley away = 42 days = not very long!

 

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