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Old Blackburnian’s View - Pt 38 - Live And (Occasionally) Dangerous

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Live And (Occasionally) Dangerous

In the midst of a run of form such as that exhibited by Rovers since the Bristol City false dawn, one wonders as to whether the presence of noisy, vocal fans in the ground would have elicited a more bloodthirsty response of late from the team, than that which was observed on screens of varying shapes and sizes on Saturday afternoon. Imagine Glasto without the crowd, performed just for TV audiences? Would bands experiment with line-up changes, play different instruments, perhaps try out new material in a safe environment?

The 2020 “Rovers Unplugged” tour had started brightly against Bristol City, but they have since relied heavily on their “Greatest Hits” catalogue; a well-rehearsed, oft-performed series of tame acoustic numbers lacking any real passion and belief. Instead of exploring and embracing the nuances and possibilities of the no-crowd constraint, Rovers have repeatedly failed to adapt their clunky, pedestrian rock and roll to match the mood.

Saturday’s gig opened with a newly penned song, “Concede Early Goal”, with Lewis Travis on lead and unusually he struggled to deliver his routine, swaggering, accompanying vocal, finding himself unable to match the Klich track beat for beat. Sam Gallagher rolled out an old crowd favourite “Steered A Good Chance Wide”, naturally enough from a position of wide stage right and then he handed over lead vocals to Lewis Holtby who belted out “Rebound Off The Post”, a recently penned new song, but unlikely to be as popular as the perennially crowd-pleasing “Slots It Home”. 

The first half ended with the soulful ballad “Nothing I Can Do about That”, a paean to direct free kick taking as seen through the eyes of a helpless goalkeeper. After the interval, in a neat but unorthodox twist, the second half opened with the same song that closed the first; a reprise of “Nothing I Can Do About That”, but this time sung with gusto by the support act from West Yorkshire.

But just as the show seemed to be gaining some momentum, the mood was curiously slowed down with a version of an old country & western favourite “My Keeper Just Let In A Soft One”, once more the Klich track caused some problems and Rovers seemed out of sync with each other. Walton’s subsequent solo, the Bruce Grobbelaar-penned classic “Clumsily Bringing You Down” ended unexpectedly with Walton remaining in the spotlight instead of leaving the stage at the close of the number as has been the norm.

The UK tour continued to South Wales on Tuesday and once more Rovers proceeded to confound the odds and their critics. A line-up bereft of Dack, Gallagher, Brereton and Holtby would instead look to Graham, Samuel and Armstrong for goals and each of them delivered on cue and as a result left the manager with several awkward/interesting questions to ponder, depending upon your perspective.

Nobody yet knows what budget Rovers will be granted by Venky’s, Tony Mowbray confirmed as much in a pre-match interview on Radio Lancashire, saying no talks had yet taken place, nor even, any plans for talks made. Mowbray therefore has time to ponder on the wisdom of offering new deals for several players; Downing & Graham amongst them. Each of them demonstrated the value that they bring to the team, Graham adds a focal point to the attack and Downing has a passing range that is beyond the vast majority of his colleagues. Rumours abound that each of them will depart Ewood shortly, if that proves to be the case, they are big (and potentially expensive) boots to fill.

On Tuesday night, the surprise win served only to frustrate the Rovers faithful with what might have been. The insipid performances of the last couple of weeks can be forgotten after a performance like this, but forgiving is a little harder. Opportunities to sneak into the play-offs cannot be spurned so readily or tamely. You don't win the raffle if you haven’t bought a ticket and whilst Rovers are clearly an outside bet; as they have shown, against the likes of Brentford and Cardiff, they can produce a performance from time to time.

What made the difference on Tuesday night? A combination of factors seemed to be at play. Graham as a focal point in attack, energy and strength in abundance from Travis, a couple of wily old heads alongside him in Johnson and Downing and mobility and energy from Armstrong and Samuel in front. There were still some defensive frailties, Walton’s positioning for the first and Adarabioyo’s for the second Cardiff goal were each questionable.

One other element very much on display came from Armstrong, who seems determined to make the point that no “Goal of the Season” competition should be voted upon, when there are still five games remaining; “Goal of 84% of the Season” doesn't really make any sense. Rovers it seems now have their very own Che Adamarmstrong!

In all probability, it was too little too late for a play-off push, but it ended a wretched run of form and results, setting up nicely, Saturday’s encounter with West Bromwich Albion. Will Rovers play an acoustic set or are we due some more “heavy-metal football” as Herr Klopp would have it? Tune in to find out pop pickers.

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