Gone in 67 days



As Albert Einstein famously declared, the true sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – if this is so, somebody call the asylum because we have mad people at Ewood. Yet the Venkys and their puppets at Ewood have taken this to the extreme – Steve Kean, a man who took the club down, lied, sold the teams best players, caused protests and alienated the fans was given all the time in the world to do what he wanted, until he eventually decided this wasn’t for him after two years in the job, accompanied by a relegation; yet two managers who have had the support of the fans, not been booed to the extent that Kean was, are handed their P45 after 57 and 67 days? I for one have not been happy with the style of football under Appleton, and likewise was not with Berg, but these people need to be given time, the asset Steve Kean had in abundance – Henning Berg didn’t even get a transfer window, Appleton had just got his backroom staff sorted (which is also more than Berg managed in its entirety!). To put this in perspective, in one season Blackburn Rovers have had more managers than Manchester United have had since 1977.

The last week hadn’t been the best for Blackburn Rovers following a dismal showing in an FA Cup quarter final which could have seen them meet Wigan at Wembley, and the performance against Burnley was nowhere near what is expected in a local derby, and we should have been beaten – but we weren’t. That last minute goal by David Dunn made the point feel like 3, it kept the record going, and it also got the fans moving in the same direction again – all which points to the potential for momentum to build – but it wasn’t to be. No sooner had the dust settled on the damaged toilets, had Appleton been handed his marching orders by a revitalised Shebby Singh, fresh from a legal briefing. The club find themselves 4 points outside the relegation zone, with no manager, a massive injury list and the inability to sign players – at 10/1 relegation looks like a good investment. What the club needs at this moment in time is stability and a manager who is not afraid to challenge what has gone before and put his stamp on the football club – exactly what Appleton was doing. Maybe this was his downfall. Maybe he had done too much; maybe he had challenged the golden boy; maybe he had played players he wasn’t supposed to. I don’t think it a coincidence that in the days and week before his sacking he had talked of the club being built and run on quicksand, and David Dunn claiming that he had been fit to play during the season but not played due to non-footballing reasons – we can all see that this is the problem with the club, Appleton only voiced these concerns. It would not surprise me if Dunn picked up another injury during the international break, ruling him out until the end of the season when he can be released from his contract. Paul Robinson has today been ruled out for the season due to him needing a back operation, probably from the amount of time he has spent sat at home recently, or maybe this is the warning to Gary Bowyer: “follow Appleton’s tactics and you’ll be gone too”.

Cast your memories back to the period between Christmas and New Year and the victory at Barnsley and that “you know” interview – how much have we heard from Mr Singh in the interim? Ask yourself another question: how many of the players he was key to bringing in have now left the club either permanently or on loan, or who have been left out of the squad completely? Murphy, Etuhu and the Portuguese youth club to start with. As soon as Agnew and Shaw made their decision he was gone, nowhere to be seen. Adding to this, were have The Sports PR Company been this week at a time when they should be busiest – all the fans get is a 5 line statement on the website – to be honest, I’m surprised its even written in English. During his hiatus, Singh is said to have been gathering legal advice to challenge even the appointment of Appleton, claiming that as they didn’t have his backing, the appointment wasn’t lawful. Secondly, he has looked at the contracts for his players which have been dispersed from the club, rumoured to be because he wants them back. the point Singh is missing is that maybe he is the problem. He is too much of a Venkys man and he has been given too much power. The structure of any football club is usually owners, chairman (if different), directors, manager, coaching staff, players – yet at Blackburn Rovers the owners are invisible, we then have the Chuckle Brothers Derek Shaw and Paul Agnew as Managing and Operations Director, and now no manager. If you consult the rovers website, and direct yourself to the “who’s who” section, there is not even a mention of Shebby Singh, the man who, lets face it, is back to running the club. It seems that Agnew and Shaw, the Venkys, and Shebby Singh have each had a go at picking the manager, all picking a candidate against the others wishes, and all of them screwing it up – to the point that the man who has to steady the ship is someone who has been there all along – just like the fans.

This is going to be controversial, but I’m going to put a question out there – should we have kept Steve Kean? The statistics over his time at Ewood and the impact he had give a resounding NO, but looking at how he did in the Championship, we weren’t doing too bad and we definitely weren’t close to relegation, and knowing Kean, he would’ve had got us promoted just to spite us (and then probably taken us back down!). The turmoil which has ensured has been nothing short of a joke, a circus, and a shambles. Let’s not forget though, Kean wasn’t sacked, he walked, and ultimately left us in this mess, and he has probably laughed his way to the bank ever since. It’s easy for outsiders to say we should’ve kept Kean, and it’s easy to reminisce and look at the league table, but the football wasn’t good (apart from 20 minutes at Leeds) and we were winning games we shouldn’t have to the extent the kit bag was coming out the changing rooms with ‘SWAG’ emblazoned on it – the league table was Kean’s ally in the same way it has been Berg’s and Appleton’s worst enemy.

What should have happened at Ewood over the last 12 months, was that Kean should have been given the boot last May, or walked knowing he had failed the club and its fans. An experienced manager should’ve been brought in to first steady the ship, sort the wage structure out and set his scouts about. That manager should’ve been back to a comfortable extent (not the £40k a week wages we are now being told about for experienced/passed it players to sit on the bench) and left to go about his business, no targets set and no deadlines or ultimatums. I’m not saying I know who that manager should have been, but I do not it wasn’t Steve Kean and it certainly wouldn’t have involved hiring a Global Advisor. Hopefully the Venkys will get another chance at this and Gary Bowyer will steer the club clear of relegation and then an experienced manager can come in get to work. Better still, the Venkys might give the chance to someone else who has the clubs best interest at heart. In the last two weeks Blackburn Rovers have played in two FA Cup Quarter Finals with the chance to get to Wembley and played their fiercest local rivals, and at not one of these games was a member of the Rao family been present, or even the clubs Global Advisor Shebby Singh (the FA Cup is global – should he not have been there advising?). Compare this to Wigan Athletic down the road and Dave Whelan is there week in and week out, even giving interviews to voice his opinion and support of the manager – at Ewood Park, this concept is as foreign as those in ownership of the club.

If I was to predict the team for next Friday’s crucial match against Blackpool (not pick it, predict it) I would have to say that Danny Murphy will be back in there, Nuno Gomes will be back in there (which I DO agree with), Dunn will not be there and neither will Campbell, Stewart or possibly Jones. If this turns out to be the case, get yourself to the bookies and take that 10/1 bet.

If I could have ten minutes with the Venkys, I would ask the following: –

  • Who is running Blackburn Rovers Football Club on a day-to-day basis, and making the decisions on directions, signings and overseeing operations?
  • What is Shebby Singh’s role and do you think he has fulfilled it?
  • Why do we never see you at games?
  • Why do we never get anything in the form of communication?
  • Are you really interested in the performance of the club?
  • Why did you buy Blackburn Rovers?
  • Do you regret buying Blackburn Rovers?
  • If you could do things differently, would you and how?
  • How long do you intend to stay owners of Blackburn Rovers football club?
  • If we are relegated again, will you sell the club?

whos who






When Plan B becomes the A-Plan

As a Blackburn Rovers fan, Wednesday was hard to take, in many ways it was more frustrating than the relegation suffered last year – at least we could see relegation coming and there was little optimism, losing at home in an FA Cup Semi-Final, to a team with as poor a run of form as our own, which would have seen the clubs first return to Wembley since 1995 was very difficult to take. Perhaps more so given the style of the performance. From the first minute it seemed our tactic was to play long ball and try and get the ball in early to Rhodes and Best to get a shot off, but it never worked. Shittu won every header all game (until the 87th minute when Scott Dann ventured forward). It never worked on Sunday at the New Den. Danny Shittu won every header in that game as we were limited to zero shots on goal – ironically, on Sunday, Shittu arguably offered Millwall’s best attacking threat during the game, and eventually scored the deciding goal. To play to the same tactics, despite the fact that they didn’t work, and allowed no chances on goal, and that fact it was only 72 hours earlier is almost criminal, and hints at a manager who is tactically inept (haven’t we been here before?!).

I have in the past said that I am a fan of two people up front, particularly in the Championship, where the number of goals you score will ultimately decide whether you are battling for promotion or fighting relegation. Let me make it clear now, this was not me advocating hoof ball, kick and rush football, the type we have seen in both ties of the quarter final. The 4-4-2 formation I was referring two consisted of a midfield capable of getting the ball wide to attacking wingers who like to get chalk on their boots and get crosses in to the front men, a 4-4-2 with creativity but also the dedication to put a tackle in when needed. The football we have witnessed over the last 7 days has been a stark reminder of the style Allardyce played, and ultimately got him the sack – so why have we reverted back to this ploy? Do we not have the players to play the ball on the ground?

Appleton’s arguement for team selection and a relatively make-shift midfield is that the treatment room is currently busier than Holby City (and thats without Vince Grella’s residence in there!) as between the senior and reserve/youth team, we have some 21 players unavailable. However, this problem is all Appleton’s own doing. The problem area at Blackburn has in recent years always been the midfield, yet Appleton has allowed Rochina, Formica, Edinho, Rosado and Jorge all out on loan and sold Vuckevic for nothing. His second resoponse would be that he has bolstered the squad with Stewart, Jones, Bentley and Campbell – out of which three are cup-tied rendering them useless for one of the most important games of the season. My second point is – would any of these four have changed a game and created a spark, negating the need for the long ball? Bentley in his first spell at Ewood was immense, but this is a different team now and his fancy flicks have yet to find their intended target; Jones is a battler, yes, but a creative spark, I would argue not; Campbell has been relatively ineffective and at times disappears during games – he played the 2nd man up-front role at Bolton, where we again reverted to their previous managers favourite tactic and he was impotent as an attacking threat; and Stewart, is relatively inexperienced, but would arguably offer the best spark/attacking threat. What the game needed on Wednesday was a number 10, an attacking midfielder to link the midfield and attack – Dunn fulfilled this role to a degree but he is short of match practice, fitness, and can’t do it all on his own. The result was the midfield was bypassed as defence shot straight for the opposition box and the head of Danny Shittu, and the two central midfielders where left defending, or trying to defend, for large periods of the game. The switch of Best to left-wing was the final nail in coffin as he had been our best chance with the long ball, to move him away from the target was like an acceptance that this hadn’t worked, but without ultimately changing the game plan enough to try something different. With a Rochina or Formica style player we may have stood a better chance of playing the ball on the ground and probing that way.

One decision which I do agree with Appleton on is the removal of Danny Murphy from the starting line-up. During the first quarter final tie, the media highlighted that with him, we may have had more of the ball and pressed better – however, what they fail to notice (most likely due to them looking nowhere south of the Premier League before forming an opinion) is that he does not tackle; he does not get stuck in; and he has taken on Keith Andrew’s mantle of professional pointer. At the New Den, against Millwall, it is always going to be a battle in midfield, and I feel he would have disappeared and potential been more of a hazardous than an asset. That said, at a time when we are short of midfielders, to not even name him on the bench, does not do much to aid your cause. On the Murphy issue, I think there is something between them, perhaps a rival to power/authority, and the only resolution I can see is one being shown the door – at the minute this looks like Murphy, but with only 2 wins in 12 games, and only 2 goals in 7, given the Venky’s new-found reputation to hire and fire at will, he cannot have long.

Two wins in twelve games is relegation form. It is a worse record than both Henning Berg AND Steve Kean. And a relegation battle is where we find ourselves once again, only 3 points outside the drop-zone on the eve of one of the most important local derby’s in recent years. As a side note, it does seem strange that when greeted with a relegation fight and poor form, the Venky’s do nothing, but when in the top six or still within a whisper of the Play-Offs they call for the managers head – surely it should be the other way round? That said, how many bold (and I mean that in two senses of the word) managers out there who would take the job at Ewood should it become available?

Appleton has his loan signings back for the derby game against Burnley and hopefully they can provide a lift, a battle and the quality to overcome the neighbours and keep the 34 year run going – if not, the fans will turn hostile and the ugly scenes from last season (and at times on Wednesday) will re-surface. A 3 points is a must in terms of the fight against relegation, but given the precarious nature of the 34 year record, I’m going to put my kneck on the line and say I would take a draw, and build from there. That said, the players need to know the importance of the game, particularly those new to the club and those on loan, and the best way to do this is for the fans to get behind the team from long before the first whistle and until long after the final whistle. On Wednesday night, there were people in the stands booing and heckling the players as they stood there, heartbroken that they hadn’t done enough to fulfill their dreams of playing at Wembley. The players had given it their all, it wasn’t their fault the manager had got his tactics wrong, and ultimately cost us all our chance of a day at Wembley, and the potental to get to an FA Cup final and a place in the Europa League. What they do not need is those ‘fans’ who have started returning to the club in recent weeks and re-igniting their vendetta against the club – at the beginning of the season there were fewer bums on seats but there was optimism and a will to get behind the team, regardless of results (as a true fan should); but in recent weeks those with alternate agendas have returned – and to heap misery on fragile players before a big derby is sheer stupidity. In my opinion, I would rather have fewer people at the game, but know that those few were behind the team and committed to supporting the club through thick and thin, not just there to moan when goings aren’t as smooth as we like – if that’s the sort of experience your after, I suggest you hop on the M61 to Old Trafford at eat your prawn sandwiches.