"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Monday, 18 June 2012

Welcome to the Championship (1/6): Blackburn Rovers

To coincide with the release of the fixtures today, The Exiled Robin begins a series of posts introducing the six new members of the Championship.  With three relegated clubs from the M6 corridor joining three ambitious promoted clubs, including recent Premier League residents Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday, mean an already tight and difficult league just got a whole lot tougher.

Here is the first in a series of six posts to be released over the next couple of weeks, introducing you to the Championship’s new clubs, hopefully informing you along the way.  We kick off with troubled Lancastrians Blackburn Rovers, a club with a proud history but with well-publicised issues surrounding the ownership and management of the club.  Will all of this distract from on-the-pitch events and prevent Rovers from having an attempt at going straight back up?
About……Blackburn Rovers
Nickname: ‘Rovers’         Manager: Steve Kean
Play at: Ewood Park, 198 miles from Ashton Gate
Capacity: 31,154; Last Season Avg Attendance: 22,551
Interesting Facts:  Blackburn’s record transfer fee paid was £8m to take former City striker Andrew Cole from Manchester United >>> Blackburn are one of only three teams to be founding members of both the Football League and the Premier League >>> Tommy Briggs once scored seven in one match – a record for Rovers – against our friends the Gas >>> Harry Dennison is the youngest player ever to appear for Rovers – 111 years ago against then top side Bristol City
Notable match vs City: Bristol City 4 Blackburn 2 – Opening day 1990/91 season
2012-13 Fixtures: 15th Sep (H), 2nd Feb (A)

These fantastic and detailed responses have come via @St_Jimmy_77, a clearly passionate and loyal supporter desperate for the good times to return to Ewood Park.

How are you now feeling about playing in the Championship, a few weeks following your relegation?
Relegation was always on the cards with Steve Kean as manager and with Venkys being owners. Rovers survived the season before on the very last day and that should've been a warning sign to Venkys that Steve Kean wasn't the man for the job. But still they persist with him which shows they have no knowledge of what they have entered into.
Even with relegation being expected, it still upsets me and many other Rovers fans that we've gone down. But I'm looking forward to visiting new grounds and the East Lancs derby will be coming around again so that's something to look forward to.

What does your club bring to a tight, competitive and entertaining division?
Well; under "normal circumstances" I would say a well-run family orientated club. But what we will bring is an unstable club with fans discontent at an all-time high. These are unsettling times for many people associated with the club and it’s a far cry from just a few years ago.
Hopefully our players will play to their potential and we can get promotion back into the Premier League but with the club on its knees, even that is a big uncertainty at the present moment in time.

What style of football/formation do you play?
No fan can really be sure what formation we play. On a regular occurrence we play 4-4-1-1 with Hoilett just behind Yakubu.  However Hoilett is out of contract in the Summer so he will be off. Yakubu has a relegation clause of £1m and is interesting West Ham so looks like he will be off too.
As for the style of football, again no one really knows from one game to the next. Steve Kean's lack of tactical knowledge and his subs were mind boggling at times. He would change the entire system from one game to the next, much to the bemusement of many Rovers fans.

Who are the star players we should all look out for and do you anticipate a big exodus prior to September 1st?
If they stay, I would say Martin Olsson and Rochina. Olsson is a young Swedish international and is very pacy. However Kean plays him at left back when his better position is on left wing. Rochina was signed from Barcelona and the minute he gets hold of the ball he oozes confidence and class. He rarely gives the ball away and you can tell he's had a good footballing education at Barcelona. Another player worth a mention is Simon Vukcevic the Montenegro international. He barely played last year for whatever reason but those who watched Montenegro's game against England a while back will agree he is a class act.
I don't expect there to be a mass exodus, however I do expect players to leave. That's the case with any team that has been relegated. There has been one player who has publically said he will stay and that is Morten Gamst Pedersen. Pedersen is a pretty handy player for us when he is on form but he's never quite hit the heights of the 2004/2005 season in which he scored a brace against Man Utd at Old Trafford. But what you cannot question is his loyalty and commitment to Rovers.

And is there an up-and-coming future star in your midst?
With Hoilett's contract expiring soon, nobody really sticks out apart from Rochina as mentioned previously. One player who came on leaps and bounds last season is Grant Hanley. Initially he struggled when called upon but since his winning goal at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve, his confidence rose and subsequently showed his potential. We have been quite lucky at Rovers with young players with the Academy at Brockhall churning out players such as Damien Duff, David Dunn, Phil Jones, Martin Olsson amongst others. I just hope that continues for many years to come thus preserving the late Jack Walker's legacy at the club.

Dare I ask for your views of your manager....?
Where do I start with Steve Kean. Well to begin with, I didn't know who he was but when Sam was sacked and Steve was appointed as caretaker, I was more than willing to give him a chance. His first result was a great 3-1 away win at West Brom and we played very well. Then he was given the job until the end of the season - my initial thoughts: let’s just give the guy a chance. Our 3-1 home win against Liverpool further gave me reason to want to give him a chance.
However things on and off the pitch were sliding down a very slippery path and we were flirting with relegation. That coupled with the announcement that Kean had signed a two year deal started to make fans wonder what was going on at the club.
His first full season in charge saw him charged and prosecuted for drink driving. Many Rovers fans thought he would be dismissed for this but the silence from the owners was deafening. Protests, sit-ins, marches to the stadium and static protests have all been made, both against Steve and the Venkys, and the season eventually culminated in our relegation from the Premier League, 11 years after coming back up.
A few weeks ago a video was released in which Steve Kean is shown referring to Sam Allardyce as a "f*cking crook" This made a lot of fans (myself included) very angry. He has been subject to a petition on which more than 5,000 fans have their names on for his immediate removal as manager. This was sent to our owners the day before he was due to arrive over in India for talks. All this has seemingly been ignored and he still remains as manager. The silence from our owners and Kean is causing a lot of rumours and that's no good for fans and anyone else associated with the club. My opinion on Steve Kean is that he doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near Blackburn Rovers. His lies, his arrogance and just him makes my skin crawl as I'm sure many fans would agree.

….and of your owner/board/Chairman?
Owners: Plain and simple, they are clueless in how to run a football club. They are very naive and seemingly don't want to invest any time or money into the club. It is hurting a lot of people associated with the club because we were so astutely run before they came along. They promised to continue in the same vein, but what has happened since has been so far removed from what I perceive as the "good old days".
Board: The only person I know on the board is our "General Manager" Paul Agnew. He has recently been promoted into this role. Nobody knows what his official duties but local press have likened it to a Chief Executive role. Paul Agnew before promotion was Rovers' PR person and you only have to look at the "PR" from the last 20-22 months to see he's not at all capable of fulfilling the role he has been promoted into effectively. The other two I know of, but don't know anything about, are Simon Hunt (Sporting Director) and Karen Silk (Finance Director). They are rumoured to be leaving the club soon, which will further plunge the club into meltdown.
Chairman: Well we don't have a chairman per se, we have a chairlady - Mrs Desai, or as she likes to be called Madame Desai. She doesn't have a clue about football and is Steve Kean's biggest fan. I think that in itself gives you my and MANY others opinion on her.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
My expectations for the upcoming season? Well under normal circumstances it would be automatic promotion with winning the league a bonus. However these aren't normal circumstances so the best I can really hope for at this moment is to stay in the league because the instability off the pitch will only emanate onto match days and the players and staff will inevitably suffer as a result. To put it into a bit of perspective, Bolton have sold 11,000+ season tickets. That's more than at this stage last season. We have sold 5000+ on an early bird deal and they are currently off sale. At the time of writing it is two days before the fixtures are released. It is nothing more than a sham that fans cannot purchase their season tickets ready for the new season. What is even more alarming is that the staff who work at the ticket office don't know when they'll be on sale. So as you can imagine we aren't exactly prepared to go into battle come August when the season starts.

You touched upon the renewal of the East Lancs derby earlier, are you at least looking forward to renewing rivalries with Burnley, and do you have any other big rivals in this division?
I am absolutely looking forward to renewing rivalries with Burnley. It has been 33 years since they last beat us and just extending that would be great. The atmosphere at the game is electric and the games always are feisty affairs. It has an extra bite to it with Rovers player David Dunn being a lifelong Rovers fan and him having mates that are Burnley fans. There should be a great set of matches on offer which hopefully will pass without much trouble.
We do have a bit of a rivalry with Bolton but nowhere near on the scale as Burnley. I actually live in Bolton and there are a few Rovers fans over this way which is pleasantly surprising. Other than that, no we don't have any rivalries. Though I am looking forward to visiting a few grounds and hopefully meet up with people off Twitter I regularly chat to.

And finally, Bradley Orr is a bit of a legend at Ashton Gate but caused mini-controversy at the end of last season with his interview after the final home match. Has that feeling settled down, how has he generally performed for you and does he have a future at the club do you think?
Bradley Orr has given us more stability on the right side of defence. Initially I wondered why we were signing someone who couldn’t even get into a relegation rivals team. Over the course of time, he proved me wrong and would like to think he will be a key player for us this coming season. His comments regarding Kean, though very stupid, seemed rehearsed. And with him being a Kean signing, naturally you would expect him to back the man who has given him the chance to play more first team football.
Fans are still angry at his comments but the abuse he's been getting has been intolerable at times. I personally think he should let his football do the talking next season and maybe the people who are abusing him will think differently. The fans are rightly angry and frustrated at what is happening to the club but I feel they are directing their anger at the wrong person in Orr.
Many thanks again to @St_Jimmy_77 for these answers, you can follow him on Twitter here:

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