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Herbie6590

Old Blackburnian's View - Pt 41 - Is That All There Is ?

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Is That All There Is?

Nobody could have guessed at 3pm on 3rd August 2019, that the season about to kick-off would not conclude until almost a full year later; just before 10pm, on Wednesday 22nd July. When the finale did eventually arrive, it was not a moment too soon, as the mighty blues somehow contrived to leave us with a performance that many would describe as “peak Rovers”; namely losing to a side in the relegation zone at kick-off, thanks largely to gifting the opposition a couple of own goals and a penalty. Luton Town therefore took the three points having registered just a single shot on target, truly an epic achievement.

Rovers took an early lead and seemed set fair to stroll to a comfortable victory, confirming the integrity of the league as Tony Mowbray had posited in one of his pre-match press conferences. Instead, the season finished with a veritable clown car of a performance, bits falling off at regular intervals, lacking just the buckets of torn newspaper, red noses and custard pies. The comedic impact would doubtless have appealed to one of Luton Town FC’s former directors, as Luton’s escape act would surely have brought him sunshine. Less said about the game the better, so instead let’s consider the last 12 months and try to assess where Rovers are now and more pertinently, what happens next?

At the end of 2018/19, Rovers finished fifteenth, recording 60 points in what was generally accepted as a season of consolidation. Three points more, four places higher this time round suggests that the consolidation process has continued. At the outset of the season, I predicted a tenth-placed finish, but in the event my natural levels of caution (I mean pessimism of course) proved optimistic. 

Rovers’ form has ebbed and flowed throughout and in fairness to Tony Mowbray, the squad lost Greg Cunningham early on and before Christmas, his talisman, Bradley Dack, was ruled out with a long-term cruciate ligament injury. In the circumstances, still being in the hunt for a play-off spot post-lockdown was a reasonable achievement, but the limp surrender in the games against Wigan, Barnsley and Millwall especially was deflating and dispiriting. The loss to a vibrant Leeds Utd can be forgiven. The loss to Luton Town had more in common with a Brian Rix farce - #OneForTheTeenagers there. Only Tony Mowbray with his trousers round his ankles as the vicar arrives for afternoon tea could have been more of an archetype of the form. 

What next for Rovers? The impact of COVID upon the nation’s economy will be felt for many years to come and football is not immune from those impacts of course. Below the Premier League, gate money, sponsorship and transfer receipts are the main contributors to turnover – TV revenue is higher than in League One of course, but is merely loose change when compared to the riches paid to Premier League clubs. 

For Rovers, the prospects of further behind closed doors games is a major issue. Season tickets, perhaps not altogether surprisingly, are not yet on sale. Even if they were, many supporters may well be cautious about returning to Ewood whilst health concerns remain. It’s not just about the risks whilst in the ground, transport to and from, refreshments, toilets and so on mean that individual risk assessments based on personal circumstances will inevitably impact on potential attendances. The fear of a second spike as winter returns looms as a spectre. 

Clubs are also battling with the demographic time-bomb of supporter bases growing older without adequate replenishment from younger fans e.g. the average age of a Man Utd supporter on the Stretford End was seventeen in 1968, forty years later it had risen to forty (source: “And The Sun Shines Now”, Adrian Tempany). In 2017, 85% of a sample of a thousand 18-24 year olds surveyed said the cost of attending football was an obstacle (source: Price Of Football). Many of Rovers older season-ticket holders may well be cautious about renewing, but many of the younger ones might not be able to afford it right now or be prepared to take the risk given economic uncertainty.

If income streams are threatened, cost bases have to be trimmed to reflect the reality. Last week saw the release of Danny Graham, Dominic Samuel, Richie Smallwood amongst others and whilst talks with Stewart Downing continue, unless Downing is prepared to be flexible, it seems likely that he too will depart. 

Each season at this time Rovers are reminded of their place in the pecking order of their owners by the “No Budget Yet Agreed” ritual. For a sophisticated, multi-million, global operation, Venky’s do seem to run Blackburn Rovers totally reactively as an after-thought. With uncertainty about how the EFL will apply FFP rules, Venky’s seem unwilling to provide any succour or reassurance to the Ewood staff and planning for next season is moot.

For a sustained promotion push next season, Rovers need first of all to find two goalkeepers, two defenders, a striker and hopefully a winger, just to stand still. If costs have to be contained, do not be surprised that any incomings are loans and/or Bosman signings but equally, don’t be surprised if unwelcome approaches for the likes of Armstrong, Travis and Lenihan prove hard to rebuff.

It’s going to be the most vital summer break of Tony Mowbray’s reign, arguably, even more than the one after relegation. After what has happened to Bury and Wigan Athletic, just having a fully-functioning club in the Championship by next June would be something of an achievement; based on the post-lockdown mini-season, promotion seems a distant pipe-dream.

 

Finally, thanks to everyone who has given this column a read during the season and especially those who kindly shared some complimentary feedback. Thanks also to those who provided less complimentary feedback - at least you took the trouble to read it.😎

I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture some coherent thoughts with a twist; sometimes it has flowed easily and on other occasions, it's been quite tough...which probably comes across in fairness !

Thanks to a combination of current personal challenges for my time combined with the uncertainty surrounding post-COVID football and when I can safely return to Ewood, "Old Blackburnian" will be stepping down for the foreseeable future.

If someone out there fancies writing a weekly or even a monthly piece for BRFCS I would urge you to give it a go. Just let us know & you can have use BRFCS as your conduit to communicate with the masses.

In the meantime, enjoy the break and above all, stay safe.

COYB

@ianherbert (Old Blackburnian)

 

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Screenshot_2020-07-22_at_21_34_50pm.png

Screenshot_2020-07-22_at_21_34_53pm.png

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11 hours ago, Herbie6590 said:

Is That All There Is?

Nobody could have guessed at 3pm on 3rd August 2019, that the season about to kick-off would not conclude until almost a full year later; just before 10pm, on Wednesday 22nd July. When the finale did eventually arrive, it was not a moment too soon, as the mighty blues somehow contrived to leave us with a performance that many would describe as “peak Rovers”; namely losing to a side in the relegation zone at kick-off, thanks largely to gifting the opposition a couple of own goals and a penalty. Luton Town therefore took the three points having registered just a single shot on target, truly an epic achievement.

Rovers took an early lead and seemed set fair to stroll to a comfortable victory, confirming the integrity of the league as Tony Mowbray had posited in one of his pre-match press conferences. Instead, the season finished with a veritable clown car of a performance, bits falling off at regular intervals, lacking just the buckets of torn newspaper, red noses and custard pies. The comedic impact would doubtless have appealed to one of Luton Town FC’s former directors, as Luton’s escape act would surely have brought him sunshine. Less said about the game the better, so instead let’s consider the last 12 months and try to assess where Rovers are now and more pertinently, what happens next?

At the end of 2018/19, Rovers finished fifteenth, recording 60 points in what was generally accepted as a season of consolidation. Three points more, four places higher this time round suggests that the consolidation process has continued. At the outset of the season, I predicted a tenth-placed finish, but in the event my natural levels of caution (I mean pessimism of course) proved optimistic. 

Rovers’ form has ebbed and flowed throughout and in fairness to Tony Mowbray, the squad lost Greg Cunningham early on and before Christmas, his talisman, Bradley Dack, was ruled out with a long-term cruciate ligament injury. In the circumstances, still being in the hunt for a play-off spot post-lockdown was a reasonable achievement, but the limp surrender in the games against Wigan, Barnsley and Millwall especially was deflating and dispiriting. The loss to a vibrant Leeds Utd can be forgiven. The loss to Luton Town had more in common with a Brian Rix farce - #OneForTheTeenagers there. Only Tony Mowbray with his trousers round his ankles as the vicar arrives for afternoon tea could have been more of an archetype of the form. 

What next for Rovers? The impact of COVID upon the nation’s economy will be felt for many years to come and football is not immune from those impacts of course. Below the Premier League, gate money, sponsorship and transfer receipts are the main contributors to turnover – TV revenue is higher than in League One of course, but is merely loose change when compared to the riches paid to Premier League clubs. 

For Rovers, the prospects of further behind closed doors games is a major issue. Season tickets, perhaps not altogether surprisingly, are not yet on sale. Even if they were, many supporters may well be cautious about returning to Ewood whilst health concerns remain. It’s not just about the risks whilst in the ground, transport to and from, refreshments, toilets and so on mean that individual risk assessments based on personal circumstances will inevitably impact on potential attendances. The fear of a second spike as winter returns looms as a spectre. 

Clubs are also battling with the demographic time-bomb of supporter bases growing older without adequate replenishment from younger fans e.g. the average age of a Man Utd supporter on the Stretford End was seventeen in 1968, forty years later it had risen to forty (source: “And The Sun Shines Now”, Adrian Tempany). In 2017, 85% of a sample of a thousand 18-24 year olds surveyed said the cost of attending football was an obstacle (source: Price Of Football). Many of Rovers older season-ticket holders may well be cautious about renewing, but many of the younger ones might not be able to afford it right now or be prepared to take the risk given economic uncertainty.

If income streams are threatened, cost bases have to be trimmed to reflect the reality. Last week saw the release of Danny Graham, Dominic Samuel, Richie Smallwood amongst others and whilst talks with Stewart Downing continue, unless Downing is prepared to be flexible, it seems likely that he too will depart. 

Each season at this time Rovers are reminded of their place in the pecking order of their owners by the “No Budget Yet Agreed” ritual. For a sophisticated, multi-million, global operation, Venky’s do seem to run Blackburn Rovers totally reactively as an after-thought. With uncertainty about how the EFL will apply FFP rules, Venky’s seem unwilling to provide any succour or reassurance to the Ewood staff and planning for next season is moot.

For a sustained promotion push next season, Rovers need first of all to find two goalkeepers, two defenders, a striker and hopefully a winger, just to stand still. If costs have to be contained, do not be surprised that any incomings are loans and/or Bosman signings but equally, don’t be surprised if unwelcome approaches for the likes of Armstrong, Travis and Lenihan prove hard to rebuff.

It’s going to be the most vital summer break of Tony Mowbray’s reign, arguably, even more than the one after relegation. After what has happened to Bury and Wigan Athletic, just having a fully-functioning club in the Championship by next June would be something of an achievement; based on the post-lockdown mini-season, promotion seems a distant pipe-dream.

 

Finally, thanks to everyone who has given this column a read during the season and especially those who kindly shared some complimentary feedback. Thanks also to those who provided less complimentary feedback - at least you took the trouble to read it.😎

I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture some coherent thoughts with a twist; sometimes it has flowed easily and on other occasions, it's been quite tough...which probably comes across in fairness !

Thanks to a combination of current personal challenges for my time combined with the uncertainty surrounding post-COVID football and when I can safely return to Ewood, "Old Blackburnian" will be stepping down for the foreseeable future.

If someone out there fancies writing a weekly or even a monthly piece for BRFCS I would urge you to give it a go. Just let us know & you can have use BRFCS as your conduit to communicate with the masses.

In the meantime, enjoy the break and above all, stay safe.

COYB

@ianherbert (Old Blackburnian)

 

IMG_1156.jpeg

Screenshot_2020-07-22_at_19_40_15pm.png

Screenshot_2020-07-22_at_21_34_50pm.png

Screenshot_2020-07-22_at_21_34_53pm.png

Excellent. Thank you.

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading your excellent pieces Ian, thanks.

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Likewise. Thoroughly enjoy reading these each week. Many thanks Ian.

Enjoy the few weeks off & I look forward to reading more (& listening on the podcasts) next season. 👏

Sir, I salute you! 

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