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Rovers casting nervous glances after hitting winter wall - Interview
Wednesday, 31st Jan 2024 19:48 by Clive Whittingham

With one win in ten Championship games Blackburn have suddenly crashed down the table and potentially into the relegation battle - if only any of the teams below them could put a result or two together to catch them. Ian Herbert is our regular Rovers man.

How's the season been for Blackburn so far?

One assumes Abraham Lincoln was having a lovely old time at the Ford’s Theatre until, y’know…*that* happened… Well, Rovers were swimming along beautifully until December. The month started with a shocking defeat at Hillsborough - especially painful for a resident of the Steel City - that, as it turns out, was the thin end of a sizeable wedge, as Rovers descended into a series of increasingly inept displays as the month unfolded.

A hammering at Southampton is perhaps excusable, though going down to ten and conceding two goals in stoppage time speaks to fragile physicality and mentality. A home defeat to Watford…late goal. A grisly, grim, grey Boxing Day performance at Huddersfield gave Darren Moore a temporary respite as Rovers shipped three unanswered goals. Then Rovers went two down at Hull inside 20 minutes, fought back to equalise just before half time, only to gift-wrap a sloppy winner…oh yeah…and go down to ten again.

At time of writing, Rovers have had more wins in the FA Cup this season than league victories since the end of November…those cup wins have come against League One & League Two opposition and in between those, we managed to give Darren Moore another point though, so perhaps we shouldn’t rest on our laurels…

Blackburn in the league so far…
Blackburn 2-1 West Brom Markanday 20, Leonard 22 – Phillips 50
Rotherham 2-2 Blackburn Odofin 23, Onyedinma 48 – Szmodics 75, 78
Blackburn 1-2 Hull Gallagher 74 – Connolly 81, 88
Watford 0-1 Blackburn Hedges 72
Plymouth 3-0 Blackburn Aazaz 27, Hardie 77, Cundle 80
Blackburn 2-1 Middlesbrough Szmodics 31, 49 – Crooks 55
Blackburn 1-3 Sunderland Leonard 35 – Clarke pen 28, 78, Neill 45
Ipswich 4-3 Blackburn Clarke 8, Broadhead 18, Hirst 25, Luongo 79 – Sigurdsson 9, Clarke og 52, Szmodics 65
Blackburn 1-4 Leicester Szmodics 9 – Faes 4, Cardy 28, Iheanacho pen 82, Dewsbury-Hall 82
Coventry 1-0 Blackburn Wright 85
QPR 0-4 Blackburn Dolan 19, Sigurdsson 23, 59, Szmodics 66
Blackburn 1-0 Cardiff Rankin-Costello 53
Millwall 1-2 Blackburn Harding 3 – Rankin-Costello 22, Brittain 51
Blackburn 0-1 Swansea Cullen 28
Norwich 1-3 Blackburn Sara 90 - Dolan 8, Szmodics 15, 49
Blackburn 1-2 Preston Szmodics 49 – Browne 35, Lindsay 90
Stoke 0-3 Blackburn Wharton 4, Moran 86, Szmodics 90
Blackburn 4-2 Birmingham Szmodics 47, 52, Hill 59, Leonard 90 – Dembele 63, 78
Sheff Wed 3-1 Blackburn Cadamarteri 5, Johnson 78, Windass 90 – Szmodics 65
Blackburn 0-2 Leeds James 27, Summerville 75
Blackburn 2-1 Bristol City Sigurdsson 35, Wharton 52 – Sykes 60
Southampton 4-0 Blackburn Edozie 44, S Armstrong 64, Mara 90, Alcaraz 90
Blackburn 1-2 Watford Wharton 3 – Rajovic 83, Healey 88
Huddersfield 3-0 Blackburn Headley 28, Thomas 55, Burgzorg 68
Hull 3-2 Blackburn Delap 11, Connolly 18, Jones 63 – Szmodics 33, Pickering 45
Blackburn 2-2 Rotherham Sigurdsson 8, Szmodics 46 – Morrison 40, Eaves 82
West Brom 4-1 Blackburn Fellows 11, Thomas-Asante 30, 63, Hyam og 33 – Garrett 60
Blackburn 1-1 Huddersfield Wharton 7 – Helik 23

It feels like your whole situation is like ours, handcuffed by incompetent, absent, foreign ownership and FFP from bad decisions... am I wrong?

Spot on. It remains one of the eternal mysteries on the 21st century as to why the ownership continues to hold onto their “investment”… albeit I use the term “investment” quite loosely.

The younger generations point to the funding that they provide and ask “where would we be without them?”. The older generations like me recall the 70’s & 80’s when lightbulbs were unscrewed to save electricity, tea bags were dried out & re-used but the fanbase knew everyone at the club, in whatever role, was busting a gut to do their very best to finish in the promotion places. These days, our CEO openly & proudly professes that “staying in the division and developing players” is the extent of our ambition. As a strapline for selling season tickets in the summer, it probably needs some wordsmithing. The club feels like it’s in managed decline but what Venky’s get out of it, nobody knows. Unless they have family in Burnley.

JDT, working within that, totally blameless? Or are we 'give it Warnock till end of season’?

As always across a fanbase there is a normal distribution of opinion - the silent majority in the middle, a few vocal extremists at either end. The squeezed middle recognises the amazing job JDT did last season and the credit he has in the bank as a result. JDT also openly and explicitly talks in a way that is energising, inspiring and visionary…unlike our owners and our CEO.

Many Rovers fans wonder what a coach with his style and energy could have achieved with the transfer market support once given to Tony Mowbray. That said, a more pragmatic approach to certain fixtures and at certain points in games would not necessarily be a bad thing…like say, using a fire extinguisher whilst you await the arrival of the fire brigade.

I watched the BBC Pep documentary earlier this week and his stubborn refusal to compromise on style ultimately delivered City a treble. We don’t have Kevin De Bruyne in our squad though. Or oil wells behind the Riverside.

Tell us about your January transfer window? And please bear in mind we've tossed everything loose overboard, and done a series of spurious sponsorship deals on what was tied down, to be able to afford one 30-year-old with his own name tattooed across his chest...

1. JDT openly asked for experienced players to come in to bolster his squad.

2. Bournemouth immediately recalled James Hill who had featured in 18 games for Rovers.

3. We then loaned out our captain Lewis Travis (200 appearances for Rovers) to Ipswich.

4. We loaned in two PL youngsters - Ben Chrisene from Aston Villa (1 appearance in EFL for Exeter) & Yasin Ayari from Brighton, via Coventry (13 EFL appearances).

5. We signed a 20-year-old CB from Crewe (52 EFL appearances).

6. JDT rolls his eyes…phones his agent…re-reads his contract notice period…sighs

Summer Ins >>> Leopold Wahlstedt, 24, GK, Odd, £900k >>> Semir Telalovic, 23, CM, Borussia Monchengladbach, Undisclosed >>> Sondre Tronstad, 27, CM, Vitesse, Free >>> Niall Ennis, 24, CF, Plymouth, Free >>> Arnor Sigurdsson, 24, AM, CSKA Moscow, Loan >>> James Hill, 21, CB, Bournemouth, Loan >>> Andy Moran, 19, AM, Brighton, Loan

Summer Outs >>> Thomas Kaminski, 30, GK, Luton, £2.5m >>> Ashley Phillips, 18, CB, Spurs, £2m >>> Ben Brereton-Diaz, 24, CF, Villarreal, Free >>> Bradley Dack, 29, AM, Sunderland, Free >>> Daniel Butterworth, 23, CF, Carlisle, Free >>> Tayo Edun, 25, LB, Charlton, Undisclosed >>> James Brown, 25, RB, Ross County, Undisclosed >>> Daniel Ayala, 32, CB, Released >>> John Buckley, 23, CM, Sheff Wed, Loan >>> Jack Vale, 22, CF, Lincoln, Loan

Winter Ins >>> Connor O’Riordan, 20, CB, Crewe, £500k >>> Kyle McFadzean, 36, CB, Coventry, Undisclosed >>> Arnor Sigurdsson, 24, AM, CSKA Moscow, Free >>> Yasin Ayari, 20, AM, Brighton, Loan >>> Ben Chrisene, 19, LB, Villa, Loan

Winter Outs >>> Lewis Travis, 26, DM, Ipswich, Loan

Stand out players in the team?

The bright, young thing is Adam Wharton. He is a terrific prospect, although by the time I hit send on this piece, he may well be a Crystal Palace/Chelsea/Newcastle Utd player - delete as applicable. Many Rovers fans are tipping him to play for England one day. I once said the same of David Dunn, who in fairness made that prediction come true…once. But Adam has vision and passing range beyond his tender years. If he stays injury-free, one imagines that he will eclipse at least David Dunn’s England career.

The key engine room in midfield relies heavily on Sondre Tronstad, an excellent acquisition in the summer. Goals come from Sammie Szmodics, stop him and you stop Rovers.

Weak links?

The goalkeeping department.

During my decades of Rovers support I’ve seen us with Bobby Mimms, Tim Flowers, John Filan, Brad Friedel, Paul Robinson and most recently, Thomas Kaminski. I think it’s fair to say that our current keeper roster are pale imitations.

The defence.

We get caught out at set pieces far too easily. The keeper situation doesn’t help but none of them seem to trust each other or can agree on where responsibilities begin & end. If they shared a house, the washing up would be put in the Hotpoint on a spin cycle & laundry would be put in the dishwasher.

The attack.

We don’t have a goalscoring forward worthy of the name. The fact that Sam Gallagher’s return (roughly a goal every five/six games) has improved us immeasurably speaks volumes.

Let’s talk about Adam Wharton again… “On his way to Croydon? What…now? Oh bugger…”

Yes, for £20m+ or so the story goes. Is he worth that? What difference will that chunk of change make?

Wharton is a great prospect. Not the finished article by any means but has all the attributes and didn’t look out of place against Chelsea earlier this season. Many factors can influence a young player’s trajectory to the top but he is one that really excited all Rovers fans on his debut when he absolutely bossed the midfield away at Blackpool.

Is he worth the fee? For the potential, he’s worth more in all honesty. I hope we have a sell on clause let’s put it that way. How will we use the money? It will plug the gap of the missing working capital that has stopped coming from India. How depressing is that?

The Wharton shaped hole will probably be filled by Jake Garrett, another prospect from the academy with a left foot bias but they are very different stylistically and with all due respect to Jake, he is more workhorse than thoroughbred.

It’s Simon Barker all over again - what can you do when these massive London clubs come and plunder your talent?

Do you play golf? We could do something else together. Doesn't have to be golf.

I own some clubs. I occasionally venture out onto a driving range. If my average golf scores and cricket batting average could be swapped, we’d be in business. What about art appreciation or perhaps a book club ?

Revised expectations for the season? Bet your glad we're fucking crap…

Let’s have a look at the foot of the table shall we? Rotherham have taken two draws off us. Sheffield Wednesday hammered us at Hillsborough. Huddersfield have taken four points off us. QPR are very much the outlier here in failing to plunder points from us…so far.

We are in 18th presently, who above us will we overtake? Not sure… Who below us might catch us ? Birmingham under Mowbray seems nailed on after what he did to us with Sunderland on the final day last season the chocolate-eating, avuncular old bugger. Nineteenth then. But, if we lose to QPR, it’s possibly time to reacquaint ourselves with Google Directions searches for Stockport County, Crewe Alexandra and, God forbid, Wrexham.

Links >>> Rovers official website >>> Official website >>> Lancashire Telegraph — Local Paper >>> BRFCS message board and podcast >>> Rovers Chat — Blog

The Twitter @ianherbert, @loftforwords

Pictures — Action Images

Ian Randall Photography

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

TacticalR added 20:46 - Jan 31
Thanks to Ian.

Astonishingly Blackburn are below us in the form table (I didn't think that was possible). I am surprised Blackburn have had problems scoring recently as they scored against us at will at Loftus Road, and have had a couple of big away wins at Norwich and Stoke. At least Blackburn have a reliable manager for now, whatever the Venkys get up to.

Burnleyhoop added 21:00 - Jan 31
Blackburn, like us, tank alarmingly when unable to field their best eleven. 4 from their injury list, including Szmodics, returned against Wrexham.

Not what we needed going to Ewood on Saturday. The hoodoo is unlikely to be broken this weekend me thinks.

Northernr added 21:35 - Jan 31
Burnley - very good point.

francisbowles added 09:52 - Feb 3
Welcome back Ian, it's good to see you still have a sense of humour. Same as Clive and the gang on here😬😁

francisbowles added 10:03 - Feb 3
Welcome back Ian, it's good to see you still have a sense of humour. Same as Clive and the gang on here😬😁

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