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Old Blackburnian's View - Pt 7 - Five Talking Points From The Season So Far

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A slightly longer version of this week's Accrington Observer column


Five Talking Points From The Season So Far

Writing a weekly column about your club brings certain challenges, not least of which, is during one of those pesky international breaks when they don't actually play. Faced with this dilemma, I have therefore decided to employ the tired and timeworn cliché of the “listicle”. #LazyJournalism indeed. Step aside Buzzfeed, there’s a new kid in town...


1.    Rovers Ladies Hit The Mainstream

In the early 70s, the nearest the club had at that time to a “marketing guru” was the commercial manager, one Keith Cafferty, who was credited with creating the slogan “Rally Round The Rovers” as part of a campaign to persuade more fans to come down to Ewood, fill the ground and swell the coffers (the more the things change, the more they stay the same as they say...). Car stickers, programme adverts and raffle tickets all bore the slogan. 

Recently, a fan-led Crowdfunding campaign to sponsor one of the Rovers Ladies team truly went viral and the net result was over 300 Rovers fans eventually contributing over £4k; which was enough to sponsor the whole team. Lindsay Lewis’s initiative has truly captured the imagination and the extent of the rallying round these particular Rovers really warmed the heart. For so many fans to feel sufficiently engaged to contribute to another arm of the club was tremendously uplifting.

Rovers Ladies of course finally were granted the promotion they so richly deserved at the end of last season and this weekend their Championship game against Aston Villa at Villa Park even featured as a live game on the new FA Player application. Sadly, the result was a 2-1 defeat (*see below) but Rovers Ladies are clearly now viewed as an integral part of the club, just like the academy and the youth teams.  

Some sharp marketing using the opportunity of an international break weekend saw record crowds at the Etihad for the ladies Manchester derby and another, albeit free ticket incentivized, at Stamford Bridge for the match against Spurs Ladies. A watershed moment in the development of the ladies game ?


2.    Goalkeepers & Goalkeeping

Rovers have enjoyed a long lineage of very capable goalkeepers, in my lifetime stretching back to Blacklaw, via the likes of Jones, Bradshaw, Arnold, Gennoe, Mimms, Filan, Friedel and Robinson. 

However, in recent years, the goalkeeping position has proven to be one of the most troublesome ones for various managers to resolve. David Raya has moved on of course and been replaced by the on-loan Christian Walton, who clearly has potential, but on current form, appears not yet to be the finished article. Walton’s physique lends itself to commanding high crosses but as yet his understanding with his defence is still very much embryonic and his play with the ball at his feet seems at best a marginal improvement on Raya. Is he the upgrade on Raya that Mowbray wanted, that the team needed ? The jury, I suspect, is still out on this one.


3.    Goals From Open Play 

Do they matter in modern football ? During the last World Cup much press chatter was based around England’s ability from set pieces and by way of contrast, their inability to create from open play. The same charge can be levelled at Rovers so far this season, but probably could also have been levelled at Allardyce-era Rovers. “So what?” I hear you cry. A goal is a goal however it is scored and that’s absolutely correct of course.

However, from my perspective, football is very much in the entertainment business and watching a tricky winger dribble past opponents or to see intricate passing movements unlock a defence gets me out of my seat and adds to the overall enjoyment of the match. Rovers so far seem to lack a creative, cutting edge, someone who can do something wholly unpredictable but effective. The prime maverick, Bradley Dack, has so far struggled to deliver consistently, presumably not helped by the rotating cast and various permutations of central and wide men being played around him.

A lot rests on the shoulders of the likes of Armstrong, Downing and perhaps even at some point, the long awaited Harry Chapman to get us all out of our seats. 


4.    Change Kits...or Away Kits 

*That* grey kit. I’ve tried to keep an open mind, but having seen it in the flesh at West Bromwich Albion...it’s awful. I’m sure the marketing team at Umbro will be devastated to hear of my verdict and resignations are being handed in right now.

Surely one of the fundamental requirements of a change kit is that it clashes less with your opponents than would the first choice ?

In the sunshine at the Hawthorns, when play was at the far end of the ground, it wasn’t easy to differentiate. Watching TV highlights later, it was even worse. Conveniently, from a commercial perspective at least, it also doesn’t differentiate with white kits and so naturally, a third kit is required...in another shade of blue. The club shop does a roaring trade and the bean counters are happy. Red & black halves. That is all.


5.    Matt Jansen

This week, the long-awaited autobiography from Matt Jansen was published and it is a terrific read. It provides insight into the life of a footballer rising through the ranks, having a major accolade snatched cruelly from his grasp at the eleventh hour, the physical and emotional fall out of a tragic accident and the road to some kind of redemption via coaching and management. If you need an excuse to trawl YouTube to remind yourself of his talent, reading this book is sufficient incentive. This project has taken something like four years from original idea through to publication, it’s well worth the wait.

There are some intriguing anecdotes regarding Michael Knighton and plenty of reasons to understand why the likes of Graeme Souness and Mark Hughes were so highly regarded at the time. 

I still choke up at the memory of Matt doing a lap of honour at Ewood in a Bolton shirt and being resoundingly cheered and applauded on all four sides of Ewood. Hopefully Matt’s career has another chapter or two left in whatever capacity he desires.


Finally, Saturday sees a return to League action at Ewood with the visit of Millwall. Since the ignominious FA Cup quarter final defeat in 2013, Rovers record against Millwall is pretty good with four wins and three draws. An extension of that record would be the perfect tonic after the Baggies setback.


*More on that Rovers Ladies match courtesy of Rovers fan Matt Moon :-

“From my perspective, I thought the new signings are helping. Stenson in goal was amazing, I feel a lot better about our defence with her in the side. Neither goal was her fault.
We brought Whitham in at the weekend and she played right wing & was busy & making a difference until I think she got concussed just before half time.
Lord-Mears played up front & looks like she will do well against most of the Championship (pacy, first game of the season, was suffering cramp towards the end). Put all of those together with Flint coming back from an ankle injury (probably out for a few more weeks as per the match commentary) then I think we'll be ok.

One other point of note, despite wearing a rare Blackburn shirt in amongst Villa fans. I didn't feel any threat at any time, no-one said anything & there were families sat around me but I felt like a few sat either side of me weren't used to dealing with having an opposition fan in their midst. I celebrated our goal by standing and clapping but nothing more, which I thought was about right.

If the NFL & women's football can have unsegregated fans, it makes men's football look very much like the exception. I prefer watching football without that edge although some will clearly disagree. I don't think that women's football should look to just copy the men's game, it should look to retain what makes it better in some ways than the men's game.”








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