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Old Blackburnian’s View - Pt 10 - QPR Preview

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Old Blackburnian is on holiday this week - normal (?) service resumes next week but here is a preview of the upcoming QPR game written for the lovely people @LoftForWords 


Last season looked par for the course as a newly promoted team, what did you make of it?


Well initially we over-delivered, turning in some pretty good performances “early doors” as Big Ron would say and that inevitably raised expectations.

A period of looking at the league table “above the fold” meant that calculations of how many more wins were needed to reach the play offs reached their apotheosis after 10 minutes away at Brentford in early February when we had raced into a two-goal lead and frankly, besting the Championship at that precise point looked a mere formality. 

However, eighty-odd minutes later, Brentford’s five goals without reply had given both the team and the fans a chastening dose of harsh reality and forced an urgent reappraisal. Those cancellable bookings for the play-off final hotels looked a tad optimistic.

Our season then collapsed like the post-referendum pound and soon we were very much “below the fold” and wondering if the sting in the tale was to be a relegation, whence we came

A late-season recovery, aided and abetted by three points at Loftus Road (thanks once again...) ended with a fifteenth place finish, which I would have happily signed up to back in August 2018.

All in all, “Tony ultimately came through, but at times his concentration wandered and his performance dipped. B+, could do better”.



What business was done over the summer and was the squad stronger or weaker by the end?


We lost keeper David Raya to the aforementioned Brentford fairly early on in the window, defender Paul Downing had been effectively released in January, flat-track bully Jack Rodwell fell down a crack in the space/time continuum, from which he is yet to emerge, much-loved, stalwart winger and part-time barber Craig Conway was freed and Ben Gladwin...yes him...also departed Ewood; his most memorable contribution being missing a sitter at home to Plymouth in the promotion season and never being seen again.

Inbound moves saw Christian Walton come in on loan from Brighton to replace Raya, Stewart Downing came in to maintain the Rovers “Downing quota” at a solid one and ensure Mowbray was surrounded by a Teesside burr as often as possible. Bradley Johnson joined from Derby on a free to increase our “Bradley” quota to two, but the big money signing of the summer brought back Sam Gallagher; a previous loanee, to add options to our attack and reduce our dependency on the ageing or is that “ageless” Danny Graham.

Overall, you would have to say stronger but perhaps not in the areas most needed (the defence Tony...the bloody defence...) and not by a sufficient margin to really excite the fans.



How would you assess your start to the season, results are all over the map really?


Rovers are absolutely determined to be consistent in their inconsistency. We must be an archetypal Cup team as on our day, we are capable of beating anyone or being beaten by anyone. We are currently mid-table, I expect us to finish mid-table, but the route we choose to arrive at that destination will be circuitous I suspect and not without its moments of triumph and disaster, which will not be treated both the same.



Tony Mowbray presumably has credit in the bank from the promotion still, but how’s he doing?


In my eyes, yes. He’s a decent man doing a decent job with what he has available to him. I struggle to see him ever taking us back to the Premier League in all honesty, but equally, we are a lot more organised and competitive than under all of his predecessors back to Allardyce. Solid, unspectacular, faithful, generally likeable; much like a Teesside Labrador really.



Stand out players and weak links in the side?


It used to be all about Bradley Dack but he’s found it to be tougher going in recent months as opponents have latched onto his threat and largely nullified it. It used to be Danny Graham but having spent £5m on Gallagher, Mowbray has to try and find a niche for his new signing and Graham has often been sacrificed. 

The recent addition of Lewis Holtby is an intriguing one, he could just turn out to be a master stroke. Another Lewis, namely Travis of this parish is probably the next player to leave for a pastures new for a large fee. Liverpool let him go, they may just regret that. He oozes potential.

Weak links ? The defence, especially after a couple of clean sheets when they think they’ve cracked it.



Is Ben Brereton being written off despite the outlay? Precious little return so far…


He’s injured. When he’s not injured he’s played out of position. When he plays out of position he looks lost. Frankly, when he plays in a Rovers shirt at all he looks lost. I feel sorry for the kid, the fee isn’t his fault but the sooner we all recognise that it’s £7m that simply needs to be written off “for tax purposes”, the better we will all feel about it and as such, we can then all move on.

He seems highly unlikely to ever be a regular first teamer at Rovers let alone goal scorer and Mowbray’s use of the cheque book with Brereton and Gallagher especially may well ultimately define his reign. These two signings are presently under-performing luxuries we simply cannot afford.

The ghosts of Kevin Davies and Ciccio Grabbi appear to  haunt Ewood to this very day.



Another big money signing this summer in Sam Gallagher, who you’ve had before of course, how’s that gone?


Well as per Brereton above, when Mowbray has been given the password for the club internet banking account, it doesn’t seem to end well. 

Gallagher did a job for us originally, when on loan, albeit without ever ripping up any trees and frankly, doesn’t seem to have progressed all that much since we last had him. We can’t afford to splash the cash very often these days and on the two recent occasions where we have, we appear to have been scammed by the Championship equivalents of those “Nigerian princes” offering untold wealth for “a small administration fee” and access to your current account.

Mowbray henceforth should only be allowed to sign players costing £750k or less based on the Dack precedent! 



What are the ambitions for this season and have they changed since the summer?


The more realistic/pragmatic/pessimistic* delete as appropriate,  Rovers supporter would say consolidate, improve a few places on last season, have a cup run perhaps...all good.

The more ardent Rovers supporter, of which we have a few, proclaimed the signings of Gallagher, Downing and Johnson to be the combination to unlock promotion...not really feasible IMHO.

Progress is the watchword. Finishing at least say, three places higher than last season would be a solid (if unspectacular) season. Anything more than that would be a handy bonus. Finishing lower than last season would be hugely disappointing. 

This squad has potential but no matter how many we sign, we always seem to be two short. Was it ever thus ?

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I think the £750k cap on TM's spending power is a genius idea!  There are plenty of excellent up and coming players at lower levels who would run through walls to play for a club of the quality and prestige as BRFC, so forcing the focus on that end of the market would be a positive development and avoid us having our shorts pulled down in public as has perhaps been the case recently.

Thanks for your thoughts and entertaining narrative.

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