While many feared that Owen Coyle was here for the duration, “unsackable” at least for the remainder of this particular season, I confidently predicted some weeks ago that the fissures in the always-uneasy relationship between a Director of Football and a manager who has one foisted upon him unrequested would lead to a “him or me” stand-off sooner rather than later.
As soon as Paul Senior opened his mouth in that flesh-creepingly awful first series of interviews and especially when Coyle went public about the players he had attempted to bring in during a desperately cocked-up final few days of the January window, there was always going to be one winner and the smart money wasn’t on the hapless Coyle however much he might have had a point that the bean-counters had dawdled fatally over player recruitment.
When the Raos and Madam sacked Allardyce in 2010 I wrote here that it was the wrong decision by the wrong people at the wrong time.
This time it’s one out of three right. It unfortunately didn’t come soon enough.
Coyle could and should justifiably have been potted any time from three games into the campaign when the paucity of his organisational and tactical ideas and nous was starkly and boldly made strikingly manifest and before he was given the chance to grasp at the perennial flimsy straw of the failing coach, the “got-to-win-one-sometime-on-law-of-averages” odd win and decent performance which convinces only the most blindly hard of thinking that better times are just around the corner.
No team goes down having lost all 46 of their games (although Rotherham looked to be having a fair stab at it at one point) and it was inevitable that sporadic triumphs both deserved, scraped and even wholly jammy (the two Newcastle matches) would punctuate the pervading cloak of gloom and misery to create the occasional sun-stroked delusion that things were maybe going to get better.
But I wrote in December that after the Barnsley defeat and the attendant way in which a section of the club’s most loyal, hard-travelling support turned on him that afternoon that the point of no return had been reached and that ought to have been that.
You simply can’t have a fanbase already as distressingly riven by disagreement, recrimination, incivility, vitriol and in-fighting as ours further imploding on itself on matchdays in hostile territory as soon as a setback on the field triggers ugly scenes. What would the opposition most want to see?
While latter performances haven’t been as shocking as the horrors of August – the defeats to Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Man United were all richly undeserved in different ways after incrementally creditable displays – there was still no sign or collective belief among supporters being constantly fed the contrary that there was any genuine prospect of a sixth season out of the top two divisions in our 142-year year history being avoided.
From all accounts we played very well at Hillsborough and might or might not have been denied one, or two goals .
We certainly played outstandingly well in the FA Cup tie, not a full house but played in an atmosphere against opposition we might not see again at our stadium for a considerable period.
After a sorry Saturday tea-time home hammering by United in May 1966 before a paltry 14,000 post-1960 Cup Final Blues stalwarts who had already accepted relegation weeks earlier, we met the Reds just once in 26 years, the 1985 FA Cup Ewood Basil-on-the-Ball farrago.
So the players (and to some extent Coyle) fully deserved the heartfelt and generous applause of the home crowd after the narrowest and scarcely-merited United victory.
Graham’s goal, making a fool of Smalling after the kind of brilliant work from Emnes which characterised his contribution (and doubtless enhanced his shop-window placing) was worth the price of admission alone.
If you wanted to pick holes – and plenty did – you could home in on the defensive lapses on both goals conceded (note to PL gaffers – if Rashford and Martial lurk on your half way line when you have a set piece maybe leave your younger, quicker defenders back in attendance) but we’ve conceded enough goals to United over the years when we had good managers and great defenders so I’m not going to complain too much about that.
Mahoney’s cameo, and to a lesser extent Tomlinson’s on debut, was simply exhilarating . From the puny, tentative pubescent who came on against City a few years ago he looks excitingly ready to unleash in the man’s game.
His nimble-footed teasing jink around a bemused Paul Pogba just gladdened the heart of everyone present apart from the Darwen End.
What a travesty if he is allowed to leave or chooses to leave to further his career at a higher level than we are able to offer or in pastures more lucrative.
Hopefully whoever is put in charge for the final 15 ominous fixtures this season will have the courage to utilise him. What more have we got to lose in craven surrender?
Coyle’s increasingly vacuous apologia or lamentations having been consigned to history, neither any of Senior’s risible proclamations nor any financial noises emanating either side of the deadline offered any solace.
Senior’s “bring players in who are ready to hit the ground running” pledge looks sillier every day that Efe Ambrose’s work permit saga (due to be ruled upon as I type) edges nearer to the time it took an unwelcomed John Lennon to get a US Green Card with the CIA on his “Deport-the Commie” case.
Lenny Bruce obtained a UK work permit with less difficulty despite a string of obscenity busts at a time the ”F” word hadn’t been uttered on our tellys in jest nor anger.
If Senior’s suitability for bringing in a fresh manager/coach matches that to recruit players perhaps we needn’t get hopes too high about Coyle’s long-overdue replacement.
On the day we should have been reading about the search we were presented with extensive quotes from Micky The Spreadsheet Cheston about further likely cost-cutting measures. His comments almost precisely mirrored those of Bolton owner Ken Anderson the other week, the difference being that Bolton might be coming up and reducing the wage bill while we swap places amid the spectre of being unable to hang onto outstanding young talents like Mahoney and Tomlinson as the axe falls on Ewood employees in all departments.
Nobody is on the Gold Standard forever. Sunderland with 40,000 on every week, mostly season-ticket holders announced swingeing job losses this week. Newcastle have been relegated twice in eight years.
Nor does spending guarantee anything. If you had been told at the start of the season that your season ticket had risen 100 per cent in price but Rovers would be managed by Steve Bruce, spend £77m and sign the like of Kodija, McCormack, Lansbury, Chester, Elphick, Hogan, and a dozen others I don’t know about you but I’d have been signing up confident of getting a Premier League cheapie on the “Promotion Pledge”!
But I also fully understand that if you continue each month to bring in less money than you are committed to paying out then eventually you will reach a point whereupon no wages or bills at all can be paid.
However with a modicum of attention to detail – ie a glance at Coyle’s woebegone CV – this austerity future should not have been being planned, as Senior disturbingly hinted, with the dreaded un-named but hard-to-miscomprehend Option B looking more of a banker than Option A.
Whoever comes in now isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea – a steady hand such as Nigel Adkins will engender a similarly-split mix of champions and detractors as an old hero with an unimpressive resume such as Tim Sherwood.
I honestly would rather they put Charlie Mulgrew in charge for the rest of the season than go for an unqualified old terrace favourite.
It wasn’t a shock that a man of the calibre of Gary Rowett declared himself uninterested in the job. I might just as well bemoan the fact that Springsteen has declared himself unable to take up my offer of playing at my 60th do.
A good number besides will fall into the “not-with-a-thirty-foot-bargepole-thanks” category.
But with a gargantuan six-pointer at Burton on Friday followed by three home games in eight days starting with faltering Derby on Tuesday, surely whoever is in the dug-out needs unconditional backing from the stands until our fate is decided. (Notwithstanding the club’s idiotic decision to nominate the potential relegation decider at home to Wigan as an overpriced Category A game with an Ewood fixture either side).
“Let’s see…. how do we make sure as few home fans as possible turn out?”
You couldn’t make it up they say. At Ewood you don’t need to.