Ask the Chairman/Owner and they will probably opt for the former and take the money, and act blissfully ignorant to the moans and groans of the supporters who they will believe should be happy they are in the top division, and put up with poor quality as a result.
Ask the supporters, and I think their opinion may be split – some fans will be happy to maintain Premier League status and all the trimmings which come with that, at the cost of actual quality football – they may feel that ingredient is provided by the opposition, their team there to provide the fodder which the opposition must use quality and flair to breakdown. Other fans, those who love not the status but the actual playing of the game will probably take the latter. MK Dons are a good example, they know it is unlikely that they could compete at the top level, but that doesn’t stop them getting the ball down and playing football – something which will continue to lead to the develop of young players, who, unlike the club, will progress up the leagues (MK Dons is only an example here, they may well follow their players to the top). It also doesn’t stop their supporters paying their money to watch them play this football, when Premiership FC just down the road are in the top flight but not playing the best of the beautiful game.
To an extent, a shift in style seems to be in progress at Ewood Park – after a poor start to the season, Gary Bowyer seems to have got the new signings playing an attacking free flowing style of football which is resulting in numerous goal scoring opportunities each week, nine of which have been taken in the last two weeks. Judgement was reserved for the first five against 10-man Barnsley, but a comprehensive victory over potential promotion pushers Bolton confirmed that style looks to be on the return to Ewood.
Rewind 5 years to the term of Allardyce and all started brightly, but soon, as results dictated, the style was switched to a more familiar kick and rush – evidenced no better than the missiles launched in to the box from once mercurial Pedersen, making better use of his arms than his undoubtedly talented left foot. At the end of the missile, the centre backs, constantly trudging forward at every opportunity to volley a ball in to the box – at the end of 90 minutes they must have been exhausted; not only that, but by sending them forward, on a number of times left gaps and breaks on for the opposition – counterproductive? Nearly three years on from the sacking of Allardyce, Blackburn fans are still split on whether he was good or bad for the club – in my mind, a question which is aligned well to the question of poor top level football or exciting second tier football. Don’t get me wrong, without Allardyce to steer the ship clear of relegation following Paul Ince’s substitute lottery tenure at the helm, we would have been condemned to the second tier 3 years earlier – but at the same time, would we have had to suffer 3 years of Saturday sore neck day? West Ham United fans may argue that Big Sam is playing football at Upton Park, but I offer them this: just wait until the chips are down and a win becomes hard to gain – he will revert to what he knows best to get the points on the board, and changing back does not come quickly.
Last week missile produce Morten Gamst Pedersen left the club for Turkish side Karabukspor, after nine years at the club – during which time he has excited and frustrated fans in equal measures (one week he would score a world class freekick or a brace at Manchester United – the next he would miss a header at point blank range in the last minute of an FA Cup semi-final, or hit a one-man wall whilst trying to deliver a freekick from 40 yards out). However, one thing cannot be argued about Pedersen, he has always given 100%, no matter where the managers have played, how much the crowd have got on his back, or whether the global advisor has sent him for his pension; and after game he has played in a Blackburn Rovers shirt, he has always clapped the crowd off the pitch. He leaves the club one of us, a supporter, and he leaves us with many great memories (without him the season review and goal of the season compilations between 2004-13 would have been a much tougher challenge to watch again). It is criminal that he has been forced to leave the club one year away from meeting his testimonial anniversary, but it is a measure of the man and the player that even though he hasn’t been involved this season, he has still trained and asked to play in the youth development squad just to get some game-time, and the fact he has moved for football rather than clinging on to a wage at Ewood perhaps highlights he still has something to offer, and that his support of the club extends beyond his back pocket.
Another player to leave the club this week was Gael Givet – another player who has been bruised and battered whilst donning the blue and white shirt, and another player who you could never question the commitment of. Again it is sad to see him go as with his and Pedersen’s departures, the last remaining memories of the relative glory days of Graeme Souness and Mark Hughes, and the stability of Allardyce are gone (Dunn remains, but his is a different circumstance altogether – a local lad scoring an equaliser to maintain a 34 year long unbeaten run against your rivals, and you can hang around for as long as you want!) – but change isn’t always a bad thing.
There departures mark the end of the Souness/Hughes/Allardyce, but they also, to an extent, mark the end of the Steve Kean era. Of the squad at Ewood now, only Robinson, Dann and Rochina remain of Kean’s main signings, if you can call them ‘his’ signings, and these are probably the best of those he brought in. What this change in personnel does symbolise is almost an acceptance of the need for change to return to the Premier League. During Kean’s leadership the club was negative in every way, the football was poor, and there was an acceptance of failure before a ball was even kicked. What Bowyer has done by bringing new young blood in to the team is change the atmosphere around the club, arguably along with expectations. No longer is the club expected to challenging for the Championship title, most supporters would be over the moon with the play-offs. Blackburn Fans accept that times and tides are shifting and that with the young squad we have, there is the potential to develop a team to play football the proper way, and also do it in a financially sound way. Combine this with a group of players who seemingly know no fear and want to get forward at every opportunity, and you have every chance of making the top 6. In the last two games, Blackburn have played attacking football with wingers and full backs overlapping – growing in confidence with every attack.
Now that the confidence has grown, Rhodes has stayed through the window, it is a shame that there is a two week break before the Burnley game. Ideally, given the form of the team, Blackburn would’ve liked the game last Sunday after the Bolton game – but they will have to wait and let the nerves stew. The one worry for Blackburn is the same thing that is making them optimistic about the future – youth. There a number of players in the team now under 23 (the average age of the squad) who will never have played in a local derby, and if they have, perhaps not one as fierce as this; and there are a number of these players maybe not familiar with the rivalry and what it means to the local area – it is the job of the likes of Dunn, Dann, Lowe and Kean (Jake, not Steve) to help Bowyer get the importance across to the others. Two men I would want in that changing room come the 14th September, playing or not playing, would be Pedersen and Givet. But times have changed, and the young pretenders will learn themselves soon enough.