Tag Archives: Owen Coyle

Mid-Term Review – Blackburn Rovers

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The Christmas period can often define a football teams season – propelling them in to the promotion or title challenge, sinking them towards the dreaded drop zone, or sentencing them to a season of mid-season obscurity. Blackburn Rovers went in to the busy Christmas schedule sat in the League 1 promotion places and handily placed to make a push on the automatic promotion spots on the back of an unbeaten league run stretching back to the 14th October (10 games) – a positive Christmas could well have seen Rovers enter the New Year in the second automatic place.

What followed over the festive period was a frustrating 1-1 draw away at Northampton which saw Marcus Antonsson miss a penalty late on to win the game; a good, although not comfortable, 2-0 win at home to Rochdale; another frustrating draw, this time 2-2 with Scunthorpe at home in a game which Rovers twice led but conceded soft goals and despite pushing could not get a winner; and then a disappointing 1-1 draw away at Rotherham, again conceding late on. This has left Rovers where they started, in third place, but now some 5 points behind second placed Shrewsbury and 7 points behind league leaders Wigan; perhaps more importantly though, we remain 9 points above Rotherham in 7th place, with a game in hand, and the unbeaten run stretched to 14 games in the league.

To have not picked up more points during the festive period, especially considering the number of times we led in games, is disappointing – 2 extra points would make the league table better reading, placing us 3 points behind Shrewsbury who are the next visitors to Ewood, and who Rovers have a superior goal difference against – but to be in 3rd place, in touching distance of the teams above us at just past the half-way stage should be seen as a good thing. You would be hard pushed to find anyone leaving the first home game against Doncaster realistically saying that they would be disappointed with this. Consider this, if we had stuck with Coyle, we would be at the opposite end of the table without doubt. We find ourselves in a good position with games on hand on the teams directly below, and with 21 games to mount a challenge, catch and hopefully surpass the teams above us, well, at least one of them.

With the January transfer window looming and the good form of some of our players – Dack and Mulgrew in particular – there is always a worry that this good unbeaten run could be disturbed by departures, but the initial word from Mowbray is that the aim this season is promotion and we won’t be selling anybody who has the ability to help us achieve this goal, which can only be seen as a positive, combined with the rumours of additional reinforcements coming in with Adam Armstrong, Amari’I Bell, and the much maligned at Ewood Jason Lowe (on a free transfer I can think of worse players to bring in, and his time spent away from Ewood coupled with the performances of those who replaced him should give him a much needed reality check and kick up the backside).

So if Rovers are to push on for automatic promotion, what’s needed? For a start, thankfully Mowbray didn’t take my advice and give up on the Bradley Dack experiment as he has been magnificent since bonfire night!

1 – David Raya Martin – the best passer of a ball we have at the club possibly with the exception of Dack and Mulgrew; has been fantastic between the sticks and has probably got us 6-7 points in the process. Should’ve been in the team ahead of Steele last season well before he was.

13 – Jason Leutwiler – not seen enough of him to pass fair judgement, but thought his indecisiveness from a corner helped Hull get the winner yesterday. That said, he hasn’t had much game time.

2 – Ryan Nyambe – much preferred at right back to Caddis. Has pace and strength and looks like he enjoys getting forward. One of the first names on the team-sheet for me. Also played well at centre-half against Hull which gives us options if needed.

3 – Derrick Williams – I don’t think he’s having a great season this year and it’s frustrating to see him push forward and stop most times rather than taking a man on. I do think he has suffered having to do a lot of Antonsson defensive work for him though which has left him exposed at times.

15 – Elliot Ward – hasn’t played much but has looked vulnerable when he has.

16 – Paul Caddis – steady enough but lacks any real quality to set him apart from a standard run-of-the-mill full-back you might see up at Pleasington on a Sunday morning. He doesn’t really have the pace to get forward or to counter pacey wingers which leaves us exposed at times – much prefer Nyambe in the position.

25 – Paul Downing – perhaps the biggest mystery of the season is why MK Dons let this man go on loan to a club in the same division. He has been a revelation at centre half partnering Mulgrew. No nonsense defender who would be the first piece of business for me in this transfer window signing him up to a permanent deal.

34 – Scott Wharton – I haven’t seen enough of him this season to pass comment but I would have expected to see him get game time in the cup competitions which would suggest Mowbray doesn’t fancy him (yet). Looked assured when he played in the Championship last season and had a good eye for a cross-field ball. On the bench is probably right for him at the minute but I would expect/hope he would see game time ahead of Ward and Nyambe at centre-half if injuries or suspensions dictated a change.

6 – Richie Smallwood – I wasn’t sure about him when we signed him and worried he’d be another Hope Akpan who was there but never really contributed much – luckily I was wrong. Very similar to Jason Lowe in many ways but he isn’t afraid to put a tackle in and gets the crowd going; he’s also not afraid to get forward. One of Mowbray’s best acquisitions and another who’s name is one of the first on the team-sheet.

11 – Peter Whittingham – disappointing. I hoped when he signed he would be somewhat of a play-maker in midfield to orchestrate attacks and chip in with a few goals, but he’s yet to get going (probably the reason he’s dropped down a level). At the beginning of the season I thought we’d signed a player who’s legs had gone but I think he is coming to terms with the fact he isn’t the player he once was and is being asked to play in a slightly different role. A good squad player, but others get in before him.

22 – Ben Gladwin – I can’t believe we actually signed him permanently and can’t send him back.

23 – Bradley Dack – I wasn’t too sure about him and where he fit in the side earlier in the season, and wondered whether trying different formations to fit him in was a wise choice but he has made me eat my words and more. We look a far better team with him on the pitch and he offers us a threat every time we go forward. Rightly deserved his nomination for League 1 Player of the Month in October, and will be key to pushing for the automatic spots. To lose him in the window would be a killer.

29 – Corry Evans – he’s struggled with injuries again this season and has been somewhat disappointing when he has played. I’m still not sure what he is – a combatant midfielder to break attacks up, or a creative midfielder. If we received an offer for him in January I’d probably take it as I imagine he’s one of the bigger earners and we have managed without him so far this season. Doesn’t replicate what he does in a Northern Ireland shirt for Rovers.

31 – Elliot Bennett – doesn’t always provide the quality, but his effort and ambition is 100% every week. He would get a starting place for me every week for that alone. He can chip in with the odd goal (usually a belter) but I’m not one hundred percent sure where his best position is – I don’t think he’s a winger, but I also don’t think he’s a central midfielder, somewhere in-between. A good player at this level who will cause team problems and get amongst it.

32 – Craig Conway – see above. Another like Bennett who always gives one hundred percent. He’s struggled to hold down a place in the side so far but when he has played he has provided much needed width and pace, whilst providing defensive cover for Nyambe. Another good player to have in this division.

28 – Willem Tomlinson – there are a few at Ewood who don’t rate him, but I think it is harsh to pass judgement at this stage. In most instances he has been asked to come of the bench and shore up the midfield, not provide that defence splitting pass, and he has done what has been asked. I saw more from him in the FA Cup game against Hull which he started, to suggest that he is capable of more, and is a good squad player.

35 – Lewis Travis – I’ve only seen him once, off the bench against Hull, but he was man of the match for me. Showed lots of enthusiasm and passion and wasn’t afraid to get stuck in, but also was happy asking for the ball and passed well. On that substitute appearance alone he did more for me than Evans, and definitely warrants a place on the bench, if not the starting eleven.

8 – Harry Chapman – showed much promise earlier in the season as a pacey and tricky winger who has unfortunately been lost to injury for the last couple of months. He was a good weapon to have off the bench late on and if we can see him again during the run in he could play a massive part.

9 – Dominic Samuel – started the season with much promise with a run of goals but these have dried up over recent weeks. He puts the effort in but can go overboard at times which has seen him miss games through suspensions. Decent at this level and a good option to have up front.

10 – Danny Graham – I worried about Graham at the start of the season and whether he would accept being a League 1 player, or sulk around for the season, but he can definitely not be accused of that. He has thrown himself in to the promotion fight and although he doesn’t have the little pace he once had, he is a handful up front and always looks likely to score when through on goal. His experience and passion could be key in the run and hopefully he can teach some of the younger players a thing or two (if Nuttall put himself about like Graham he probably wouldn’t be in League 1).

20 – Marcus Antonsson – he hasn’t really played as a striker this season and has been asked to play out-wide which he doesn’t look one hundred percent comfortable with, especially when concerning defensive duties, but you can’t argue with his goalscoring record (7 goals in 19 starts). He offers us some aerial presence and when you start to question whether he should be in the team he usually pops up with a goal. Another who looks good at this level, but I do worry about how the neglect of his defensive duties may impact us in the long run.

 38 – Joe Nuttall – I was so excited when this lad got his chance in the first team and took it, but since then he has definitely gone off the boil. I don’t know if it’s disappointment at being dropped, or because he isn’t happy coming off the bench, but since that early flurry of goals he hasn’t looked interested. We need options in attack and he could play a pivotal part in taking the weight off Graham and Samuel for goals, but he needs to start showing effort to the fans – could learn a thing or two from Graham.

There is room for improvement and additions in January are always welcome, so long as they don’t disrupt what looks to be a harmonious squad. I think another attacker/striker would give us more options and I think Armstrong from Newcastle would be a good addition at this level. We are somewhat light at full-back and I don’t think Hart has proved he is good enough even as a deputy, so someone who can play at both right and left full-back would be a good addition. A decent winger to cover until Chapman is back would give us options and if we could get someone from the higher divisions on loan until the end of the season that would give us options. Not forgetting, Darragh Lenihan is still to come back and he provides options at centre half and central midfield.

 All in all I’m content with the team and optimistic about the rest of the season. The ultimate goal has to be automatic promotion, but it would be somewhat unthinkable to not even make the play-offs given the run we have been on, and we should have the quality to overcome any of the sides which may come up in the play-offs – but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!

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Seven Down Eight To Go

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I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t overly enamoured at the appointment of Tony Mowbray 3 weeks ago but as I said in my last post, he may be the best we could hope for and maybe a sensible choice given our predicament. Seven unbeaten games later and we have a fighting chance.

I had previously said that if we didn’t win at Burton in Mowbray’s first game we would almost definitely go down. However, the way we played in the first half of that game was enough to give me hope we had a chance, and having seen Burton hit the inside of both posts and the ball fall in to Steele’s hands in the last minute, I thought “you know what, we might have half a chance”. We absolutely battered Burton in that first half, keeping and passing the ball well, and unlikely to go in only one in front at half time. I wasn’t sure whether we had been really good, or they had been really bad. The second half was less of a walkover and in the end, a point was probably a fair result for both teams.

What was telling that night at the Pirelli was not only the performance of the eleven men on the pitch, but also the reaction of the crowd to the change in manager. From well before the game started, the Rovers at the Pirelli Stadium were in full voice, behind the team and the manager – something that has not been seen often this season with Owen Coyle at the helm. From the day of his appointment it would be very difficult to argue that Coyle had the full backing of the Rovers supporters given his previous connections with Burnley and Wigan and his recent track record. It was seen as yet another a stupid Venkys decision. Whenever the team went behind or conceded late on, the fans would turn on Coyle. Given Rovers predicament at the bottom of the table and the lack of anything to suggest Coyle could turn things around, things were only going to get more negative from the crowd which would not have a positive impact upon the players, their performances and the results on the pitch. A telling moment was that all through the warm up and the first half the singing and chanting had been positive about the team, players and manager; then, just before the half time whistle, one fan tried to start a chorus of “Venkys Out” – it was met with moans and groans from the rest of the crowd and never got off the ground, and has not been heard since. I don’t think it is coincidence that since the negative “Venkys Out” chants disappeared and were replaced with positivity the results have picked up and the team have either held on to wins or draws late on, or managed to get a goal to equalise late on. Yes, it is not just down to that fact, but the knock on effects of removing one negative from the club (Coyle) and replacing him with someone in no-way related to the Venkys or previous villains at the club, has had a massive positive difference. The fans realise now is not the time to moan about the owners and voice opinions and protests at them, what is more important is that the club avoids relegation and the doom which comes with it. What should be said though, is that whoever made the call on sacking Coyle may just potentially have saved the club.

Looking back, the timing of the sacking of Coyle may have been pivotal. I had previously said that he should have been kept on to try and use the positivity of the performance against Manchester United to try and get the 3 points against Burton; however, in hindsight, the timing may have been perfect: we had previously lost to Sheffield Wednesday and drawn to almost relegated Rotherham; the game against United was a freebie, it would have been stupid to appoint Mowbray to lose his first game, an almost impossible task against United, whereas, sacking Coyle after the United game and giving Mowbray a clean slate against Burton, Derby and Wigan for starters gives him a chance to have immediate impact – something he has done and continues to do.

Mowbray’s appointment has been followed with 7 games unbeaten (2 wins and 5 draws) resulting in ten more points on the board – at the time of writing Rovers sit in the final relegation place (22nd) just one point off safety with the three teams above on just 41 points. We are well in truly in the think of it now with a fighting chance. It’s a fair assumption to make that under Coyle we would not have beaten the likes of Derby and even Wigan, and picked up late points against Cardiff and Fulham.

The game against Preston at the weekend saw an attendance of 18,435 (albeit 6000 PNE fans) and although it was for the most local derby of the season, it was also one of the first times Rovers supporters came to Ewood with a sense of  realistic optimism that we might just win and secure another 3 points.

On the face of it, a draw against a local rival flying high in the upper echelons of the league and on a good run should be seen as a positive results; especially for a team in the relegation zone. However, I can’t help but wonder whether the two points dropped may come back to haunt us come May. We started the game poorly and probably deserved to be a goal down, but the team rallied (something they would not have done under Coyle) and managed to get an equaliser before half time, and then take the lead just after half time – and few could argue that it was deserved. As has been the problem on so many occasions this year, a one goal lead is not enough to guarantee all three points (or even a point in some scenarios). Throughout the second half we were the better team and should have doubled our lead on numerous occasions; Preston where offering nothing in response. But the third goal never came, and that gives the opposition hope that if they can get one opportunity and take it, they can get something out of the game. The frustrating this is that we gifted them the opportunity. In classic Matt Derbyshire style, as the clocked ticked down past the 90 minute mark and towards the magical 95 allocated for injuries, substitutions and goals etc, Gallagher took the ball to the corner of the Blackburn End and Walkers Steel stand, and with the occupants of the home end screaming to keep it in the corner, he crossed it. A low and hard speculative drive towards the penalty spot; the only problem was, the rest of the Rovers team were behind him ready to support keeping the ball in the corner. Football is a cruel game – Preston took the ball almost immediately down the other end and equalised. Gallagher knew what he had done, but that doesn’t make it any easier to digest. The decision to cross the ball was without doubt the worst one he could’ve made. Had he played for a corner or a throw, if we had won it, we could run the clock down some more; if we had lost it we could have got back in to shape and position and re-organised. He could even have kicked it out for a goal kick and it would have been a better option, at least then it would waste some time whilst the ball was retrieved and give us chance to get back in to position. Young Sam Gallagher will most definitely learn from his mistake, but it may be to the detriment of the survival of Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

Rovers away form this season has been dreadful – picking up just 12 points all season, meaning that if we stay up it will almost certainly be down to our form at Ewood Park, which although hasn’t been all too impressive, we have picked up an additional 28 points on home turf. Looking ahead to upcoming fixtures, it is again evident that we can’t rely on picking up points away from home – our next two away games: Brighton and Reading. Those two points dropped are looking massive already.

After the March international break (during which Charlie Mulgrew will no doubt pick up a knock whilst playing for Scotland) Rovers fixtures read as follows: Brighton (A); Reading (A); Barnsley (H); Nottingham Forest (A); Bristol City (H); Wolves (A); Aston Villa (H) and Brentford (A). Picking up not just points, but wins, at home is going to be crucial; with any points picked up away from Ewood a bonus.

Our fate is in our own hands though. Bristol City, Wolves and Nottingham Forest are all in this relegation battle and these are key games where a win is massive. If we can somehow muster wins in these 3 games, it is almost like getting 6 points for the victory as it stops them pulling away and brings us closer to them. A point from the games against Brighton and Reading would be a great return, and I like to think that we would have enough to beat Barnsley on our own patch, and if it came to it, enough to beat Brentford away on the last day of the season. Villa are a bit of a bogey side for us at home, so I’ve written off us getting anything from that game.

Usually, a points tally of mid-40s would be enough to see you home and dry in the Championship (last season Rotherham stayed up with 49 points, but Charlton who occupied the last relegation spot, where relegated with 40; the year before 42 points would have meant safety), but with only one team (Rotherham) being cut adrift this season, and the sides currently in positions 22nd to 15th only being covered by 5 points, arguably you could hit the 50 point mark and still get relegated. So those three home wins between now and the end of the season look even more important, and the 2 dropped against Preston even more costly.

If we were still under the leadership of Coyle, we would not have the points we have and the fighting chance we have – we would be more like Wigan who are being cut-a-drift in 23rd on 34 points. At least Mowbray has come in and got us fighting for points and given us a chance. We may have dropped 2 points in the last minute last weekend, but we were probably due it considering the late goals we have scored. We have 7 cup finals between now and the end of the season – let’s give it a go and get behind the team.

Tony Mowbray’s Blue and White Army!!!!!

 

 

 

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3 Days is a Long Time in Football

article-1192782-02cc1a0800000578-56_468x286There is a saying that a week is a long time in football. Whoever coined that phrase has obviously never been involved with Blackburn Rovers at any time in the last 5 years. Just seven days ago, Blackburn lost 2-1 at Hillsborough in a game were Rovers were controversially denied a point by the officials on no fewer than two instances. Following that, the Championship strugglers took on Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United juggernaut in the FA Cup at Ewood Park, narrowly losing 2-1 despite putting in arguably the best performance of the season. Fast-forward less than 48 hours and Owen Coyle and his backroom staff had left the club. Fast-forward less than another 24 hours and Tony Mowbray has been appointed on an 18 month contract. There may not be much to write about on transfer deadline day, but when it comes to the running of the club when changes are a-foot there isn’t time for the ink to dry on the last article when the next breaking news is hitting the headlines. This post was supposed to be a review of the defeat to Manchester United and the frustrations of the performances so often being below the level seen on Sunday. Then it was going to be about Owen Coyle’s departure and the poor timing given the game at Burton this coming Friday. Now it is about all three and what the future holds under Tony Mowbray.

 Leaving Ewood Park on Sunday I had a sense of surprise optimism, that maybe that game would have given the players a kick up the backside or at least the confidence to go in to the final 15 games of the season and get the results needed to stay in the division. In the first half we looked like the Rovers of old – good attacking football by a team battling above its weight; there was an atmosphere at Ewood and there was banter between the Rovers and United fans – it was like a step back in time to 20 years ago. It was good to see the ground with over 20,000 inside – maybe if the support like that had been there all season, we may be higher up the table. Ultimately, efforts where in vain and United won the tie, but it was somewhat gratifying to know that Mourinho had to turn to superstars Pogba and Ibrahimovic to get the win (against a team second to bottom in the division below) (I’m also not going to lie, seeing Ibrahimovic live is one thing ticked off the bucket list!).

 What was frustrating about the game was the effort and intensity of the Rovers team – where has that been all season? Yes, as a Championship team you don’t get to play against the likes of Manchester United every week and against the likes of Zlatan, Pogba, Martial and Mkhitaryan – but surely that any supporter can expect is that the players give 100% every week to try and achieve the clubs goals; whether they be to beat Manchester United in the cup, push for promotion, or battle against relegation. What the defeat on Sunday did show is that the ability, grit and determination, and want to win is there, somewhere. If Mowbray can get Emnes dictating play like that behind Graham for the rest of the season we will score goals. Coupled with that, Mahoney needs to be given more starts – when he came on in the second half, United didn’t know what to do, beating Darmian and even drawing a cynical foul out of Pogba. Mahoney could provide that unknown quantity and spark that not only gets us goals and points, but also gets the crowd behind the team. What is evident is that we can’t defend; we haven’t been able to all season – so maybe the answer is all out attack. Another shining light was the cameo from Tomlinson when he came on – he gives us another option in the middle and deserves more game time.

 So this post was going to be about how we can take so many positives from the United defeat and use them to push us on for the remainder of the season, starting with Burton – then the news broke on Tuesday afternoon that Coyle and his backroom staff had left the club by “mutual agreement”, stating that the decision had been made to “give the club the best possible chance of climbing to a position of safety in the Championship” – starting with Burton away on Friday.

 Now don’t get me wrong, Coyle was never the right man for the job and was never going to get fans on side given his previous connections with Burnley and Wigan and with SEM, and performances on the pitch had done nothing to change that opinion. However, following arguably the best performance of the season, praise from pundits across the nation, and ahead of the arguably the biggest game in the last 30 years, surely the sensible option would be to ride the crest of that wave and let Coyle at least attempt to get a similar performance out of the players to try and beat Burton? Coyle and his staff left the club on Tuesday – you would expect without taking training – so who took training on Tuesday? If no-body did, even if someone did, surely that is a massive dent in the preparations for Friday crunch game? All the while, Burton where gaining another important point against Derby County. Coyle was never the “outstanding candidate” in any Rovers fans eyes, and his points return has been shocking – to an extent which should have seen him out of a job weeks ago; yes we have lost a lot of games by the odd goal, and haven’t been thumped by anyone, but consistently losing a game by the odd goal in 5 highlights there is a problem somewhere. Coyle should have gone – after the Sheffield Wednesday game, not just before the most important game of the season. If Rovers don’t win the game on Friday, the blame has to lie solely at the door of Paul Senior and his employers.

 So, Tony Mowbray. He probably wouldn’t have been my first choice, and to be honest I’d forgotten he was even around. A quick Google-search shows he was last at Coventry City in 2016, a role which he resigned from after 18 months in charge, after spells at Middlesbrough, Celtic and his most successful and well known spell as a manager at West Bromwich Albion in 2006-2009. He has a win percentage of 41.98% (and a loss rate of 35.3%).

 When the market was first available the usual names where mentioned: Sherwood and Dunn; in addition to recent job seekers Warburton and Rowett. My own thought’s were “god knows who we’ll get” and I had expected the option of Dunn as caretaker until the end of the season, and then the position to be reviewed depending what division we were in. If I’m being totally honest, I would have loved Rowett or Warburton. When the appointment was announced around lunch today, I was disappointed, maybe even annoyed. We had yet again gone for the cheap option – someone with a CV which had no recent success, but did have a shining light in the past that we could point to (think Coyle with Burnley; Lambert with Norwich; Berg with, oh wait…). I turned the notifications off on my phone as I awaited the onslaught of fellow football fan friend taking the mick.

 By the time I looked back at my phone and on-line I had come to my senses a little. Is it really a bad appointment? Mowbray has something to prove and this is his way back in to a division which he knows; as a minimum he may bring tighten up the defence and stop us leaking goals – that would be a start. Blackburn announced the current debt as being £106m today – and having almost halved their wage bill, there is evidently no money available for a big name, or to attract someone on a short term basis for big money, with the lure of further investment should they keep the club afloat. Looking back at those other choices: David Dunn is a club legend I have no doubt that if he keeps learning at the club he will one day be in the hot-seat, but the time is not now, now we need experience and know-how; Gary Rowett has proved he can work on a shoestring at Burton and Birmingham but he has always been looking for something bigger and better and with that in mind, is his heart set on a relegation? Mark Warburton is for me the more suitable candidate having worked a moneyball method at Brentford with success – I have said on this blog before that given our financial situation, moneyball may be the answer – but at Brentford he had owners and a board who were also invested in that theory and willing to let Warburton play it out (in the end he was too successful for his own good); at Ewood, if we get relegated I fear he would have been the first out of the door, either by sacking or by jumping at another offer. The only other candidate I could put in the frame was Mike Phelan – but even he has no experience of getting a side out of a relegation battle and the, optimistically, promoted.  

 So, the more I think about it, the more Mowbray looks like he good be a good fit. The proof will be in the pudding, and that pudding is due to be served Friday night at the Pirelli Stadium – if we lose that game, that could spell the end of Blackburn’s reign in the top two flights of English football for the first time since 1980 – if we go down this year I fear it will not be as short-lived as back then.

 On a slightly separate note, the release of the current financial situation at Blackburn today do not make for good reading. A pre-tax loss of £1.5m (a reduction of £15.8m on the previous year) but still with a net liability of over £106m show just how in the mire the club is. The wage bill has been almost halved since relegation from the top flight in 2012 when it stood at around £50m/year – it now stands at just over £25m/year. The sales of Gestede, Rhodes and Hanley have no doubt helped reduce the losses off the field, but their absences have been evident in the losses on the pitch. The team which was relegated in 2012 had some established stars on presumably big wages, such as Formica, Petrovic, N’Zonzi, Dann, Rochina, Yakubu, Vukcevic and Samba. In comparison, the current squad has been assembled with loans and free transfers and bolstered with youth team players – I would expect this to be less than 50% of that squad which was relegated. The reason for the current dire straits lies at the door of bad decisions made when we were relegated – the signings we made were not bad signings, the problem was the man picking the team. I stand by my point, that had Kean been sacked in that summer before the season started, and a more experienced manager brought in, we would have bounced right back. The announcement again shows that the Venkys have put Blackburn Rovers in a Catch 22 situation: without them, we go bust and probably drop out of existence; with them, we drop down the divisions due to their poor management and understanding of the club and game of football. The Venky’s won’t leave until they have seen a return on their investment (including the loans etc they have pumped in to the club) and the only way that will happen is if the club gets back to the Premiership and manages to survive for a few seasons – in the current light, this is a long way off happening, so don’t expect the Venkys to be leaving anytime soon.

 For now, let’s get behind Mowbray and the players, lets give them a fresh start to deliver results for the next 15 games……

https://youtu.be/PtVZkimfxso

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How do the Venky’s keep getting it so wrong?

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Currently lying 22nd in the Championship, it is a miracle Blackburn Rovers are only 2 points from safety. With a record this season of just 20 points from 23 games (won 5, drawn 5, lost 13 and with 27 goals for and 39 goals against) arguably we should be a greater distance from safety. After the latest defeat to Barnsley Owen Coyle said that the strikers have to take their chances – that is correct but it is a bit naïve of the ex-Bolton manager considering that the previous 3 games had all seen 3-2 defeats; had the defence done their jobs, we should have at least got points out of each of the games – Sheffield Wednesday have scored 27 goals thus far and find themselves in a play-off spot in 6th place, but have only conceded 23 goals.

Going in to the game at Newcastle United at the end of November you would have said that this was a home banker, but somehow Blackburn managed to get a one nil win with a resolute defensive performance – this was the last time we had one. The Rovers have now gone 5 games without a win, following an unbeaten run of three – if it was not for this run, we would likely be firmly rooted to the bottom of the division.

So what is going wrong? Firstly, the owners, the Venky’s, are so out of touch with the club, the supporters and the sport in general, they don’t see how they are hurting the supporters and how the decisions they make are so frustrating and poor. For example, take the hiring of Owen Coyle:

His only real success in football management has been the one season in which he got Burnley promoted in 2009 – the following season he left for Bolton and saw them relegated in 2012. He was then sacked from Bolton in October 2012, and joined recently relegated Wigan in June 2013 – his tenure at the DW lasted just short of 6 months as he was sacked again in December 2013. Coyle then joined MLS side Houston Dynamo in December 2014 where he lasted until May 2016 when Coyle said he was keen to move back to the UK to be with his family, whilst the Dynamo’s were not satisfied with the results on the pitch. And that brings us to the following month, June 2016 when he was appointed as the new Manager of Blackburn Rovers as he was “the outstanding candidate” during interviews.

A look back at his CV shows that he was relatively successful in Scotland and at Burnley, but that’s where his success stops – 2009, 8 years ago. Added to his poor performances as a manager over the last few years, Coyle has managed at Burnley, Bolton and Wigan – all local rivals of Blackburn Rovers. Even if he had only managed Burnley, and been relatively successful, he should never have even been considered for the Rovers job. This is yet another thing that the Venky’s have got wrong. The worrying this is, I highly doubt that they even know that they have got it wrong, or what they have gotten wrong.

A festive period record of 4 defeats in 4 games does not bode well, and for any other club in the relegation zone at this stage and with this record, this would more than likely spell the end for the manager – but not at Ewood Park. When the fans talk of Coyle being given the boot, frustrations are met  by the same question: “But who is actually going to sack him?”.

The Venky’s haven’t been seen at Ewood for a game since January 2013 when Blackburn were defeated by Charlton. A look at the “Who’s Who” page on the clubs website provides little insight in to who actually runs the club day to day and who would be responsible for pulling the trigger:

Directors: Robert Coar and Gandhi Babu

Finance Director: Mike Cheston

Club President: KC Lee

A little Google research doesn’t bring up very much information on any of these people but the silence that is deafening is that none of these people have the knowledge, experience or background to make them the right person to hire and fire a manager – there is next to no footballing experiencing amongst them, other than managing (or mismanaging the books of football clubs). This leaves me to believe that it is these people who put us in the position we are now by hiring the wrong man, based on a whim that he may be able to repeat one successful season. That, and given that Coyle’s reputation is so low, his salary would probably match.

At the time of the managerial search in May 2016, there were allegedly 4 candidates: Alex McLeish, Neil Warnock, Warren Joyce and David Dunn.

The romantic amongst us would have loved Dunny to have taken the job but realistically it would be a baptism of fire that would have likely only gone badly. For a man with as great a reputation in Blackburn, the sensible thing would be for him to get more experience elsewhere or work his way up inside the club.

So that leaves, McLeish, Warnock and Joyce – the latter is/was very much an unknown quantity but you don’t work at Manchester United for 8 years, the majority of which under Alex Ferguson without knowing a thing or two about the game – in comparison to Coyle, he was a risk worth taking; not to mention his contacts within the game and at Manchester United which could’ve proved vital with regards to loan signings given the limited budget at Ewood.

Warnock would have been the sensible option. It is a sign of how bad things have become that I would have liked Warnock to manage the club I support. In my eyes he is a bit of a dinosaur but when it comes to the Championship he knows what he is doing, and given a summer with the squad and being allowed to bring in his own players, we would be mid-table at worst in the league. Yes, he is struggling at Cardiff at the minute but I fully expect him to guide them to safety and have a challenge for promotion next season – the January window will see a transformation in their fortunes.

So that leaves McLeish – a man currently managing Egypt following a stint in Belgium with Genk, and following relative success at Birmingham, Rangers and Scotland. Sure this man had more experience of getting teams out of the Championship, and had a far better track record.

Yet, given the viable alternatives, Venky’s plumped for Coyle, a man who’s reputation was in tatters; a man who had managed Burnley; a man who had been relegated with Bolton and had struggled to make an impact with a largely talented Wigan side, and failed with MLS side Houston Dynamos – and here we find ourselves at the turn of the year, mid-way through the season on 20 points from 23 games, sat 3rd from bottom.

If whoever it is that makes the hiring and firing decisions doesn’t take action soon, it will be too late, and once we drop to the 3rd tier, the road back is even longer and harder, with the threat of administration beginning to loom overhead.

So what actions need to be taken?:

  1. Sack Coyle – he is evidently out of his depth, and his appearance on Sky Sports News knocking the confidence out of one of our strikers shows that he doesn’t appreciated the enormity of the situation – either that, or he just doesn’t care.
  2. Appoint Gary Rowett – the best man available at the minute. Rowett is a young manager who has shown he can be successful with little money (Burton) and can manage at clubs in crisis (Birmingham).
  3. Get rid of the dead-wood – there are players who seem to be the first name on the team sheet at Ewood who are seemingly not giving there all and would rather be somewhere else (I won’t name names but all Rovers fans know who they are). We shouldn’t be paying their wages if they aren’t interested in getting us out of trouble so it would be best to get rid.
  4. Blood in the youngsters – the likes of Connor Mahoney, Scott Wharton and Ryan Nyambe have all done well when given the chance, but as always they then disappear and are never seen again. At times this season we have played with one recognised defender in the back four whilst the youngsters haven’t been given a chance.
  5. Decide what you want to do with the club – when they took over at Ewood the Venky’s said they wanted success and wanted Rovers to be in the Champions League; we have never been further away from achieving this than we are now since they took over the club. If their intentions are still honest, they need to communicate with the supporters and establish a worthwhile and workable management structure at the club; and ideally go in to partnership with someone who supports the club or has a history with the club so that they can do the day to day running of the club. The Venky’s don’t want to lose all the money they have put in to the club, but the only way for this to happen is to provide the finances and allow someone who knows the club and knows football to run the club; and they must be left to get on with it. This won’t be a 6 months fix, more like a 6 year fix, but they need to be left to get on with it.

 

 

 

 

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This just in… Another Loan Signing

It was no surprise not to see any major signings coming through the doors at Ewood Park last week as the Summer Transfer Window slammed shut. In fact, I was surprised to see we actually paid a fee for one player. Whilst Grant Hanley and Shane Duffy left the club for fees as expected, they were replaced by the usual harem of free transfers and loan signings, many of whom, if previous seasons are anything to go by, will make minimal appearances and disappear back to where they came from or be absorbed by the club and spat out at the end of their contract.

deadline day

I understand that as a club we are haemorrhaging money on a daily basis as attendances fall and the parachute payments grow thinner and thinner, not to mention the massive debt that the club now has to contend with. I understand that we are now in a position were every player has a price and should that valuation be met, we will need to sell to help balance the books. However, we are running short of saleable ‘assets’ now that the likes of Rhodes, Gestede, Duffy, Hanley, Cairney etc have all been sold. Of the remaining squad I would expect to see Evans, Conway and Marshall leave in the next window. I understand that this is necessary to prolong the existence of the club. What I don’t accept is the calibre of players we are looking to replace them with.

I have nothing against the players we brought in during the Summer: Derrick Williams for a fee; the likes of Gordon Greer, Danny Graham, Anthony Stokes and Charlie Mulgrew on free transfers; or Stephen Hendrie, Martin Samuelson or Marvin Emnes on loan – in fact, looking at the names on paper, the free transfers don’t look too bad, and would have generated some excitement in years gone by. The issue is with the players we didn’t bring in, or even look at bringing in.

As always, there was nothing to get excited about on deadline day at Blackburn – no impending big transfers, and no curious last minute loan signings. Yes we brought in Emnes at the eleventh hour – but he is hardly the Ronaldinho or Beckham we were promised, or the Jordan Rhodes of yester-year. And this was on a day when the Transfer Window did somewhat live up to its hype.

Whilst we were happy with the work we had done over the summer, the following players were snapped up on either free transfers or loan deals: Chris Martin; Steven Fletcher; Glenn Murray; Matt Miazga; Rickie Lambert; Ikechi Anya; Lucas Piazon; Aiden McGeady – to name but a few. I’m not saying they would have all been suitable, affordable or even interested, but what would be nice would be to see some intent from the club. At least some rumour of exciting players potentially heading to Ewood rather than the usual radio silence and loan lottery. Yes there is a chance that the loan signings may be a success and we may buy them on the back of that success, but on the face of it, none of those who have come through the door look like they are going to be the next Rudy Gestede. Take Liam Feeney – we had him before and he did very little yet we have got him back again (and he is doing very little).

If you asked most Rovers fans who they either fancied on loan or who they thought we would end up with on loan, 99% would be nowhere near the list of those that were brought in. A further 40% probably can’t name all our dealings as there’s been that many of them.

What this all seems to point to is one thing: the lack of any sort of plan. From the start of the window most Rovers fans knew that Hanley and Duffy would likely leave, yet it took until almost September to bring in reinforcements. Looking at the number of loan signings that have been brought in – they will plug a gap but are they really a long term solution? One or two loan signings can be a good thing if they bring in either experience or promise, but to bring in six and only be able to name five in a squad smells of “we’ll take what we can get and see if it works”. I’m not saying break the bank to bring players in, but do the loan signings really offer anything that players in the Development Squad don’t? I for one would rather see the likes of Wharton and Mahoney given a go – if all else fails and we do get relegated, it will be the likes of them who have the task of trying to get us back up or steady the ship; at least give them the chance to save the ship in the first place.

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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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