There are few positives following a relegation to League 1, but if you are to search for some small consolation, then the prospect of an away day in this attractive Shropshire market town is perhaps one of them. Albeit, the old town centre Gay Meadow ground is now a stylish, modern housing estate, replaced some 10 years ago, by another of those purpose-built out of town, next to a retail park, 10,000 seat stadiums.
The last time Rovers visited Shrewsbury, was 1993, in what turned out to be an epic League Cup tie, eventually culminating in a 4-3 extra-time win for Kenny Dalglish’s embryonic Premier League side, the winner coming from a fine goal from a recently signed centre back, who took the field in a shirt with neither a name nor number, one Ian Pearce.
This version of Rovers found themselves cast as underdogs. Shrewsbury were riding high at kick off, on the back of 7 (SEVEN) wins and a draw. Older Rovers fans will recognise the SEVEN reference, (thanks largely to Town legend Alf Wood !). This start to a season is exactly what many Rovers fans expected their team to deliver, but the reality has proved somewhat different. A decent run of four wins on the bounce was rudely interrupted by last week’s shock home defeat by AFC Wimbledon and this game presented a chance to restore confidence, both in the team and on the terraces.
Here was a chance to right a wrong, to make a statement to the rest of the division that last week was merely a blip and that Blackburn Rovers were ready to impose themselves.
The team sheet revealed returns to the starting line-up for Bradley Dack and Danny Graham at the expense of the injured Craig Conway and dropped Marcus Antonsson. There was some trepidation in the crowd as to the “strength and stability” (thanks Theresa) of the back four but equally, some anticipation of creativity and guile up front.
Shrewsbury have a simple game plan, one that should resonate with Rovers fans of a certain vintage; namely, play on the floor where possible, attack directly, lay the ball off to the flanks as quickly as possible and create chances in the opposition penalty area for a strong centre forward. Their most impressive performer being Shaun Whalley, a pacy right winger who had a loan, then permanent spell at Accrington Stanley in 2007-8.
It’s a game plan they executed very efficiently. Rovers so often passing sideways and backwards; slowly, deliberately, patiently but unthreateningly; would lose possession only to see their opponents with three swift, incisive passes create a dangerous shooting opportunity.
Rovers rode their luck a little in the first half. An early Samuel header apart, there was not a great deal to get excited about. The Rovers back four still looks fragile. Ward & Raya seem now to compete almost on a weekly basis for their own “Mishap of the Month” competition. Here they combined on one memorable occasion to create a threatening free kick for Shrewsbury on the edge of the area out of a situation that had barely homeopathic levels of danger. The warning signs were there and the inevitable happened after 57 minutes, a Raya flap at a cross leading to a scrambled close range effort.
Disconcertingly, for almost 15 minutes, it seemed that Mowbray had no idea how to react. The Plan A had failed for over an hour but no substitutes were even warming up. The frustration reached the fans who chanted for Mowbray to “Sort it out”, the very least that should be expected.
A triple substitution, the sort made usually only when playing “Championship Manager” (or if you are Birmingham City era Barry Fry), transformed the Rovers’ approach. Harry Chapman introduced himself to his full back by racing past him twice in short order. Dack restored to a central role, now seemed keen to influence proceedings. He had looked nothing like as effective wide left.
Dack is something of an enigma. He clearly has talent & technique but allied to a fondness for over-elaboration and a reluctance to do defensive chores. When he doesn’t create or score, he naturally looks like a luxury we can ill afford. Here though, he eventually came good, following another rapid thrust from Chapman. The cross was attacked and defended with vigour with Dack eventually stabbing it home for an equaliser.
Rovers had therefore given themselves only 5 minutes to win the game and many observers around me expressed delight at parity, but also frustration that for the preceding 80 odd minutes, Rovers had seemed one-paced, pedestrian and lacking any guile or imagination.
Listening undercover to Shrewsbury fans on my walk back to the car park, they seemed genuinely concerned that they were going to lose in that last period, but they too were frustrated that when on top, they couldn’t find what would surely have been a killer second goal.
A fair result ? Perhaps not if you are Salopian but at least Rovers came back at the unbeaten league leaders on their own patch and rescued something. Consecutive defeats whilst not terminal, would surely have raised the stakes. This at least bought some breathing space.
If Rovers are the “Ikea team” that I have previously suggested – all the parts but no assembly instructions – the evidence of this encounter suggests that a vital nut & bolt or dowel might actually be missing. That or we need to learn how to use the Allen key properly to tighten things up.
Raya, whilst an excellent shot-stopper with fine reflexes repeatedly seems prone to a costly error and is vulnerable to crosses. The defence lacks pace on its flanks and with Elliott Ward in the middle makes the heart flutter at least once or twice a game.
The balance of the midfield remains elusive for Mowbray. Smallwood probably the one real success doesn’t seem to bring out the best in Evans, who frankly should be bossing games at this level. The lack of “proper” wingers when Conway is out and a lack of genuine pace (Chapman excepted) means opposition defenders can push forward with little concern from a ball over the top.
Mowbray seems uncertain as to the best combination of forwards. He has choice in abundance but as one seems to find form, a change in partner or an absence of a partner undermines the promise. This is the sort of dilemma that ought to have been resolved with pre-season friendlies against tough opponents. Tell me again what we learned in stuffing York City ?
The bright spot is that when the three subs were thrown on, we seized the initiative and could conceivably have stolen the 3 points. Chapman is a real prospect. He is so effective coming off the bench against tiring full backs. Can he keep that up as a starter ? Can he be trusted to treat possession with respect when we are under the cosh ? Will he do his share of helping the full back ? Well, I guess there’s a really good way to find out…
With two upcoming home games that are eminently winnable, this is a crucial week in Mowbray’s tenure. By next Saturday at 5pm, we will have played 10 league games – P8 W4 D1 L3 could become P10 W6 D1 L3 in other words, only just shy of the “2 point a game” average that would surely see automatic promotion (extrapolated over the season of course).
At time of writing, Rotherham are above us in the league table, a victory would overhaul them. Gillingham now shorn of the services of Bradley Dack are in the relegation spots. This is a crucial week. It’s an opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the division. Much like today’s game was. “Carpe diem” Rovers.
In this episode, the panel of Linz Lewis, Michael Taylor, Scott Sumner & host, Ian Herbert dissect the fortunes of their favourite football team, celebrate the return of a Rovers' institution "4000 Holes" and wonder whether modern football is really made for 50-somethings...(it is, don't panic).
They also have to reflect on another game that was played recently but they really didn't want to, trust me:
In this final part, Jim Wilkinson brings the story of Howard Kendall's second season at Ewood to its painful conclusion. A side that exceeded all expectations tried gainfully to pull one last effort out of the fire but financial constraints left the team just too light on creativity at the crucial point.
Eventually, both HK & Rovers would of course taste glory, Rovers having to wait 10 years longer than Howard, but without his intervention in 1979-81; would the Rovers' fairytale of 1995 have been possible?
Burnley preview by MikeE:
I was thinking of waiting until after the Bradford game to post this, but it seems that ‘3 days isn’t enough’ for a preview no matter how well written it was by riverholmes. So here is your Rovers vs Dingles preview, you ungrateful turds
Going into this season, we had the highs of running a Europa League team (Sparta Prague) close to a draw and an 8-0 battering of 6th tier York City. This has been followed by the worst beginning to a season we could’ve hoped for, with pre-season ending in 3-1 defeat to League 2 Carlisle United, followed by two resounding defeats in the League (2-1 to Southend away, and 3-1 to Doncaster at home – repeat, AT HOME).
In amongst all this crap, we beat Coventry 3-1 in the first round of the Carabao (wtf?) Cup. Apparently, this is the new name of the League Cup, rather than the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy equivalent (which is the Checkatrade Trophy). Could they not just insert ‘League’ in the name, just to distinguish which competition is which? Anyway, as this is the only competition so far in which we’ve earned a positive result (despite sounding like it’s named after Bullwinkle’s Mexican cousin), I’ll try to approach it with a sense of optimism. Remember that Sheffield Utd didn’t win a game last August and ended up winning League 1! Let’s hope esteemed Grandad Tony Mowbray can do the same.
I don’t need to explain how important these matches are to both sets of fans (though I may need to use pictures for that lot). Rovers vs Burnley is one of the oldest rivalries in world football, without getting nearly as much hype from the media as other ‘rivalries’ such as Blackpool vs Fleetwood or Bolton vs…erm…
Souness described out rivalry as one of the most intense he’d known (even after Galatasaray vs Fenerbahce, Rangers vs Celtic, or Liverpool vs Everton) as did Mark Hughes (even after Utd vs City, Real vs Barca, or Liverpool vs Everton). Our rivalry MATTERS.
For 35 years, we held a proud record of never being beaten by this lot until a couple of years ago; just one in a long line of records destroyed by our Chicken Overlords. The decline of our record started long before that, however, as it is now 7 years since we last beat the Dingles (1-0 when Martin Olsson took his famous dive, and Dunny smashed it in from the penalty spot). Since then we’ve had a succession of lucky draws (‘David Dunn was miles offside, he hates Burnley!’ and Rhodes shinning it in of the defender’s clearance), followed by 3 losses on the bounce – two of which came at Ewood *sigh*, including the fateful record-ending 1-0 loss *double sigh*.
Make no mistake, we are now the underdogs of this fixture with Burnley being promoted to the Premier League at JUST the right time, after we were relegated from it at JUST the wrong time. It couldn’t have been written, even by the most optimistic of b*****ds, but it happened. But it strikes me now that we have always thrived as the underdogs; Premier League win competing against the likes of Utd, Newcastle, Liverpool and Leeds, Worthington Cup win vs Spurs (Mark Hughes, anyone?), and going from near-relegated to Europa League in a single season (Mark Hughes, anyone?)
Let us take on the spirit of Bob Crompton, Mr. Blackburn Rovers, once regarded as the greatest player (and moustache) in the world and he came from Blackburn. He captained Rovers to two First Division Championships, captained England 22 times (out of 41 caps) with esteem, heart, and skill, later going on to manage our (and his) beloved club to our last FA Cup win in 1928. The Rovers board thought they could do better, so they removed him as manager, leading us to plummet until Crompton was rehired. He then led us from the relative doldrums (above our current position) to be Second Division champions! His wonderful record with us culminated in both the saddest and happiest way a Rovers fan such as he would wish to pass away. He sadly died the evening after he led Rovers to a sound 3-2 victory over the b*****ds. I feel like more needs to be made of this brilliant man with his remarkable record (sod your Matthews or your Finney or your…erm, who have Burnley got? McIlroy?).
As for this game, we are underdogs and under no pressure to win (unless you count our sickening start to life in League One, or the pressure of the match itself, or pressure from the Police to make the match as unenjoyable as possible for either set of fans). I think we need to abandon the ‘expansive football’ approach, especially with Sean Dyche being in the Allardyce mould of ‘percentages, lump it’ football. Play a rigid back 4, with a midfielder sitting back when needed, and give 5 of our attacking players freedom to attack rather than pass, pass, pass. I felt we played this way fantastically when we battered this lot in the April Fool’s Day massacre and we need to take inspiration from games like that. Just hope one of our lot squares up to a few of them - remember our galactico midget Salgado? THAT’s the attitude we need!
I’m going for a 4-3 Rovers win (hoping the scum used up all their luck vs Chelsea), with Dunny lacing up his boots for our 95th minute penalty winner.
Links between the clubs:
Jim Appleby, Eric Binns, Adam Blacklaw, Marshall Burke, Andy Cole, Paul Comstive, John Connelly, Gordan Cowans, Nathan Delfouneso, Peter Devine, Shane Duffy, David Hamilton, Kevin Hird, Lenny Johnrose, David Jones, Walter Joyce, Michael Keane, Alan Mahon, Andy Marriott, David May, Jay McEveley, Keith Newton, Bradley Orr, Johnny Price, Steven Reid, Paul Robinson, Cameron Stewart, Andy Todd, Keith Treacey.
Obligatory fan interview:
My girlfriend’s father is, unfortunately, a Dingle. On the bright side, it provides me the perfect opportunity to ask questions to someone from the USA (Uther Side of Accy):
Before we kick off, how do you feel about our Chicken Overlords?
It is a mess. As they are a private company, there is not a lot you can do about it although I think the ACVs on Ewood and Brockhall are excellent ideas. Questions do need to be asked of the quality/ suitability the due diligence carried out by the FA, the Premier League (at the time), the Football League (now), especially around the involvement of agents. Left a really rotten smell. Maybe questions should also be asked of the Walker family of the due diligence they carried out when they sold.
Despite enjoying your demise, I hope it eventually levels out. Without rivalries, football would be a bloody dull sport.
So, we’ve held a proud record of 35 years unbeaten over you and you’re now 7 years into your own run. Reckon you can match it?
Pointless record especially when teams don’t play each for long periods. Absolutely meaningless.
Of the list of players who played for both clubs, who is your favourite (FYI, mine is Andy Todd)?
Despite being past his best with us, I would go with David May. His class shone through when we needed it to.
What do you make of your start to the season and ours, and do you think either will matter come the big game?
Clarets start couldn’t have been better, however a poor result on Saturday will take the shine off. Rovers start is not good; pretty dreadful to be honest. But while our lofty status above you and our respective starts make us favourites, that’s irrelevant come matchday. It’ll be a tighter game than either set of fans think, imo… but, we’ll still come out on top!
Will Dyche remain at Burnley much longer? He’s well past the average tenure of a manager in either the Premier League or Championship.
Sean Dyche will stay at Burnley for a while yet, I reckon. I think he would have gone by now if money was a big motivator. Let’s see at the end of this season.
What is your likely starting eleven, who is your dangerman, and who is your weak link?
Difficult one, that. I can see Dyche resting a lot of first team players -- Heaton, Defour, Cork, Brady, Lowton, S Ward etc. Burnley don’t really have an outstanding player, we play as a unit. The most skilful player is Defour but doubt he will play. Fringe players and players returning from injury will most likely start. Our weak link is a lack of quality goal scorer. Here is my line up for what it is worth.
Rubbish game, but 2 - 1 to us. Not really bothered about the result as long as there are no needless injuries or suspensions.
FYI, my girlfriend then wanted to add her thoughts on the game, which pretty much amount to this:
BRFCS forum member riverholmes as kindly done written a preview for the upcoming match against Bradford City.
Bradford City vs. Blackburn Rovers
The season that Rovers were promoted to the Premier League from Division One, managed by Graeme Souness in 2000-01, was the season that Bradford City finished rock bottom in the Premier League, earning just five League wins all campaign. Rovers’ wilderness years in the second tier were behind and Bradford’s decline just beginning.
As the clubs swapped places, Rovers had the bright new stars in Duff, Dunn and Jansen, to be joined by the likes of Tugay, David Thompson and Brett Emerton, Bradford contemplated how to offload Beni Carbone, Ashley Ward and Robbie Blake.
That relegation season, Bradford waved goodbye to a remarkable run in the Intertoto Cup, reaching the semi-finals, only to be knocked out by Zenit St Petersburg. Rovers, of course, were on the cusp of their own European adventures. 16 years later and a couple of league cup final appearances a piece (Bradford reached the final in 2013) and the two clubs meet in the Third Tier.
Rovers’ recent transfer activity has troubled me somewhat, reminding me of some of the more inauspicious moments in the Roy Hodgson/Brian Kidd/Souness era of transfer dealing marked by targetting so-called solid players (such as Christian Dailly) and players that the manager had previously worked with at some earlier point in their careers.
The scale now is very, very different but some of Mowbray’s major signings for the new season have been players he previously worked with or was connected to: Dominic Samuel (Coventry); Richie Smallwood (Middlesbrough); Harry Chapman (Middlesbrough). Bradley Dack’s best season was for Gillingham in this same division when Mowbray was managing Coventry and trying to sign Gladwin.
Dipping into the old boys’ network was a favourite policy of Graeme Souness. Sometimes it worked, such as in Bjornebye, Tugay and Friedel but it worries me when it becomes a trend, as it suggests that the manager is not examining all the options open to him and is, perhaps, acting hurriedly. Not knowing the market inside out can sometimes mean not know the players stepping out against your team.
I expect Dominic Samuel to do well at this level and Dack is a young, technically gifted player with pedigree at this level – and in the right team, will do well. To my mind Mowbray has overlooked some important areas of the pitch and has gone for too many average players.
In the close season, Mowbray needed to get in a fast, skilful wing-back/midfielder. Our promotion winning side under Souness was abound with attacking pace in Duff, Gillespie and Bent – combined with the skill that Duff possessed, allied with Dunn, Jansen and later in the season, Mahon, Hignett and Eyal Berkovic. The combination of pace and skill Rovers had meant that the lack of pace at the back in Craig Short, Berg and Tiny Taylor wasn’t so much of an issue. The defenders could drop deep, knowing that the attack would have the opposition pinned back. Not that we’re shopping for the calibre of those heady days any more.
At the back, this season, Rovers needed a decent, fast central defender, if the youngsters were not deemed ready. A quick defender would ease the pressure on Nyambe and cover Mulgrew. Lenihan could finally be pushed into defensive midfield which is his preferred position and the one in which, I think, he will eventually assume and go on to have a fine career in.
The letting go of players like Connor Mahoney (Bournemouth), Josh Morris (Scunthorpe) and, arguably, Jack O’Connell, seems short-sighted now – albeit, efforts were made a little too late to keep Mahoney. He could’ve been the outlet we so sorely lack – or could’ve earned us a tidy sum, if he’d been tied down to a longer contract back in the day when he was playing for the U21s alongside £1 million Jordan Slew.
Bradford are in decent form, barring a defeat to Doncaster in the Carabao Cup. Last season they got to the play-off final, only to lose to Millwall. In the summer, they lost some key players in that team in Mark Marshall (Charlton), Josh Cullen (Bolton), Roy McCardle (Scunthorpe) and James Meredith (Millwall).
However, they did sign a midfielder from AFC Wimbledon called Jake Reeves, who they are very hopeful about as a creator in their team. They also have experienced and technically decent players in Nicky Law (ex-Rangers), Tony McMahon (ex-Boro right back), and Romain Vincelot. Upfront, they have pace and power in Dominic Poleon (ex-Leeds) and Charlie Wyke, if he is fit, is a regular goalscorer for them.
Their manager Stuart McCall wasn’t ecstatic about the performance in beating Gillingham 1-0 but two league wins is a solid start and they have their French captain, Vincelot to come back into the team. If Rovers are to win, they’ll likely do so by exposing the dodgy form of keeper Colin Doyle and the defensive frailties in the side. Two familiar names in their squad are Matt Kilgallon, at centre back or left back and Paul Taylor, who’ll likely start on the bench.
I expect Bradford to nick a win. They’re not, I think, as strong as last year and their early wins mask a bit of an unsettled side. However, I think Rovers’ players, positionally, don’t really know what they’re doing – and I wonder about complacency with some. Bradley Dack, clearly, is the key attacking player. If Mowbray can find him a settled position in the side, he will lead the side – he can be our David Dunn of season 2000-01.
Welcome to Episode 82b of the BRFCS podcast. This is an unscheduled edition, rushed out due to ...er...popular (?) demand; well at least 4 of you asked.
Hosted by Ian Herbert, the panel has Josh Boswell, Linz Lewis making a return appearance and of course, our very own Kamy.
One fool thinks that the Burnley game is going to be OK, the rest are less sanguine, there is widespread confusion regarding formation & tactics and some discussion of great & some not so great starts to previous seasons...
We hope you enjoy it...!
Rovers have confirmed that Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson has signed from Leeds United on a season long loan deal.
The Swedish international moved to Leeds last summer for a reported £2 million fee.
Antonsson has signed in time to be available for the game against Doncaster Rovers tomorrow and Rovers have been given permission by Leeds to play in all the cup competitions that the club participates in this season.
There is also speculation that Rovers will sign Celtic midfielder Liam Henderson on a season long loan deal later today.
Rovers are back in Division 2 & Howard soon has the team believing that greater glories are possible. In this podcast, we learn how the first half of the 1980/81 season unfolds and sets the scene for the pursuit to come later that season:
Rovers have announced that they signed highly rated youngster Harry Chapman on a season long loan from Middlesbrough and he becomes the club's eight signing of the summer. Chapman was part of the England under 20''s squad during the summer which won the world cup in South Korea.
Howard Kendall turns Rovers into a winning machine and promotion becomes a reality THAT night at Gigg Lane. Written by Jim Wilkinson and. narrated by Ian Herbert