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.