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Rovers Season Preview for Loft For Words

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Each season the excellent Loft For Words site contacts fans of Championship clubs for their views on what is about to unfold and I’ve written mine about Rovers for 3 or 4 seasons now.

My words are below but it’s definitely worth reading the whole section on LFW for some terrific insight…


Local Knowledge — Ian Herbert @Ian Herbert brfcs.com “Much like my A Level studies, the ultimately, surprisingly good outcome belied the difficulties, lack of beauty and inspiration en-route. 

“JDT entered Ewood with the first team squad looking somewhat sparse following departures of key players on free transfers and prospects looked bleak. Somehow he fashioned a team that accumulated enough points to consistently threaten to break into the play-offs but in a nod to his predecessor, failure was once again snatched from the jaws of victory in the run-in, leaving Rovers fans to rue what was possibly the best chance since relegation to return to the top table. Being objective for a second, Rovers finishing seventh, missing out on the play-offs purely on goal difference was a demonstration of footballing alchemy. JDT clearly has a style of play that he wishes to deploy; a passing game, tidy, lots of movement - but for large parts of last season it seemed like shooting had been ruled out as a legitimate way to score. It’s possibly telling that our goal difference at season’s end was -2 (minus two..!). 

“After 46 games, Rovers netted just 52 goals - only Preston (satisfyingly for us) scored fewer in the top half. The biggest win of the season was 3-0. We scored four just once and that on the last day of the season, but in mitigation, we also conceded three in that game. The points were accumulated haphazardly, in odd runs of form, but without ever truly convincing the discerning spectator (i.e. me) that this team was the real thing. The most enjoyable football came in the cup competitions. Spirited away wins at West Ham (albeit on penalties) in the Carabao and a quite fabulous victory over Leicester (live on a BBC sub-channel) in the FA version, were possibly the best performances of the season. Two deep cup runs were a pleasant and welcome surprise after the frequent capitulations under Mowbray in the cups.

“In order to support Blackburn Rovers these days, the informed follower must be proficient in Indian tax law, psychology and body language. All of these skills have been necessary in order to interpret just what on earth is going on right now. In a nutshell, it appears that the (somewhat sparse) budget that was agreed at the end of last season has been further reduced to accommodate new Indian tax laws aimed at disincentivising external investments. The scenario seems to be that Venky’s aren’t keen on paying the additional tax to send the same amount of money to Ewood and so the ripple effect is that JDT apparently threatened to walk, as he felt he had been misled; asked as he was to repeat last season’s alchemy, but with even fewer resources than last season. From his perspective, it’s understandable that he feels betrayed and equally, it’s his reputation that’s on the line. If (as seems inevitable) Rovers struggle to match last season’s efforts, his prospects of using Rovers as a springboard to a bigger job will be impacted…adversely. The verdict after 12 months is that he has done well with what he had, but the reward for that is to be asked to more with less…which coincidentally is spookily similar to my annual performance reviews…

“The director of football, Gregg Broughton, promised “three in before the end of June” and in fairness delivered three new signings on time. Ennis from Plymouth Argyle on a free, Tronstad from Vitesse Arnhem on a free and Sigurdsson on loan from CSKA Moscow (using the Ukraine invasion rule). The problem is, Ennis has been criticised publicly by Tomasson for his apparent lack of fitness, Sigurdsson is now out with injury for at least a couple of months and the Indian government has decided to increase its domestic tax take. The strategy now seems to be to hope that someone bids a silly amount for one of our expendable players (Kaminski & Travis are the leading candidates), someone bids a silly amount for David Raya at Brentford (Rovers have a sell-on clause) or that all the players agree to a 98% pay cut. The expectation is that a couple of last-minute loans will be brought in before the window “slams shut” but all the Championship clubs without parachutes will be trying to pull off the same trick. This is high-stakes poker, as Ayala, Dack and Diaz have departed, Morton went back to Liverpool and so the challenge facing JDT is to replace that talent pool with no fees being paid. Tough gig.

“I too am something of a pessimist when it comes to Rovers predictions. I think of it as a coping mechanism…if I predict 24th, any finishing spot higher than that is therefore a plus. Last season I was deeply concerned and it all turned out to be fine. This year I am once again deeply concerned but with more justification I feel. We struggled to score last season and the guy who contributed 14 precious goals is now developing his Spanish language skills and teaching locals “Sweet Caroline” in downtown Villarreal. Does any aspirant Championship side really want to go into the new season with a reliance on Sam Gallagher to have to score 22 to plug the Diaz gap ? Hopes were high for Sigurdsson but his injury track record is now increasingly becoming public domain with troubling consequences. As for Ennis, it now appears he was signed injured and is only now starting to train seriously. If we sell Kaminski that places a heavy burden on Pears, who has blown hot and cold in his time at Ewood. 

“It’s not a stretch to see Rovers conceivably conceding more and scoring fewer than last season - well, not for me anyhow. In that event, remaining in the top half may well be a challenge too far. If JDT walks, that turmoil could tip us into surprise relegation candidates. I’ll go JDT to stay long enough to see us finish 15th.”

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