League One summer transfers. 

League one signings
AFC Wimbledon (Neal Ardley)

 Kwesi Appiah.CF. Crystal Palace. Free

Demi Oshilaja. DF. Cardiff. Free

Cody McDonald. CF. Gillingham. Free

George Long. Gk. Sheff Utd. Season Loan

Jimmy Abdou. MF. Millwall. Loan

Liam Trotter. MF. Bolton. Free
  
Blackburn Rovers (Tony Mowbray)

Peter Whittingham. MF. Cardiff. Free

Richie Smallwood. MF. Rotherham. Free

Bradley Dack. MF. Gillingham. £750,000 

Ben Gladwin. MF. QPR. Und

Dominic Samuel. CF. Reading. Und

Paul Caddis. RB. Birmingham. Free

Joe Nuttall. CF. Aberdeen. Freei

Blackpool ( Gary Bowyer)

Curtis Tilt. DF. Wrexham. Free

Peter Hartley. DF. Bristol Rovers. Free

Olly Turton. FB. Crewe. Free

Max Clayton. Forward. Bolton. Free

Nick Anderton FB. Barrow. Und

Jimmy Ryan. MF. Fleetwood. Free

Ryan Allsop. GK. Bournemouth. Loan

Callum Cooke. MF. Middlesbrough. Loan. 

Christopher Mafoumbi. GK. Free State Stars South Africa). Free

Sean Longstaff. MF. Newcastle. Loan. 

Bradford City (Stuart McCall)

Adam Chicksen. FB. Charlton. Free

Paul Taylor. Forward. Peterborough. Free

Dominic Poleon. Forward. AFC WImbledon. Und

Shay McCartan. Forward. Acc Stanley. Und

Jake Reeves. MF. Wimbledon. Und

Alex Gillead. Winger. Newcastle. Loan 

Bristol Rovers (Darrell Clarke)

Liam Sercombe. MF.Oxford. Und

Sam Slocombe. GK. Blackpool. Free

Adam Smith. GK. Northampton. Free. 

Marc Bola. LB. Arsenal. Loan 

Tom Nichols. CF. Peterborough. Undisclosed. 

Tom Broadbent. DF. Unattached. 

Bury (Lee Clarke)

Jermaine Beckford. Cf. PNE. Free

Phil Edwards. RB. Burton. Free

Stephen Dawson. MF. Scunthorpe. Free 

Callum Reilly.MF. Burton. Free.

Adam Thompson. CB. Southend.Free

Joe Skarz. DF. Oxford.Free

Eoghan O’Connell. DF. Celtic. Free

Jay O’Shea. MF. Chesterfield. Free

Chris Humphrey. Winger. Hibs. Free

Tom Aldred. FB. Blackpool. Free

Tom Heardman. CF. Newcastle. Loan

Nicky Ajose. CF  Charlton. Loan

Chris Maguire. MF. Oxford. 


Charlton Athletic (Karl Robinson) 

Billy Clarke. CF. Bradford. Und

Mark Marshall. Winger. Bradford. Free

Tarique Fosu. MF. Reading. Free

Jay Dasilva. FB. Chelsea. Loan.  

Doncaster Rovers ( Darren Ferguson) 

Niall Mason. Mid. A Villa. Und.

Danny Andrew FB. Grimsby. Free

Alex Kiwomya. Forward. Chelsea. Free

Ben Whiteman. MF. Sheff Utd. Free

Fleetwood Town (Uwe Rosler)

Kyle Dempsey. MF. Huddersfield. Free. 

Harvey Rodgers. DF. Hull. Free

Conor McAleny. Striker. Everton. Free

Lewie Coyle. RB. Leeds. Season loan  

Gillingham (Ady Pennock)

Alex Lacey. CB. Yeovil. Free. 

Luke O’Neill. DF. Southend. Free

Gabriel Kakuani. CD Northampton. Free

Tom Eaves. CF. Yeovil. Free

Conor Wilkinson. CF. Bolton. Und.

Conor Ogilvie. DF. Tottenham. Loan. 

Billy Bingham. MF. Crewe. Free

Liam Nash. CF. Maldon & Tiptree. Free


MK Dons (Robbie Neilson)

Conor McGrandles. MF. Norwich. Free

Ousseynou Cisse. MF. Tours. Und

Ethan Ebanks-Landell. CB. Wolves. Loan 

Gboly Ariyibi. Winger. Notts Forest. Loan. 

Ryan Seager. CF. Southampton. Loan. 

Northampton Town (Justin Edinburgh) 

George Smith. LB. Gateshead. Und. 

Sam Foley. MF. Port Vale. Free. 

Leon Barnett.Df.Bury.Free

Billy Waters. CF. Cheltenham. Und

Dean Bowditch. Forward. MK Dons. Free

Yasser Kareem. MF. Swindon.free.

Regan Poole DF. Man United. Loan.  

Matt Crooks. MF. Rangers. Und

Aaron Pierre. CB. Wycombe. Free

Oldham Athletic (John Sheridan) 

Dan Gardner. MF.Chesterfield. Free

Craig Davies CF. Scunthorpe. Free

Rob Hunt. DF. Brighton. Und

Courtney Duffus. CF. Everton. Und

Oxford United (Pep Clotet)

Scott Shearer. GK. Mansfield. Free 

Charlie Raglan. DF. Chesterfield. Free

Fiacre Kelleher. DF. Celtic. Free

Jonathan Obika. CF. Swindon. Free

James Henry. MF. Wolves. Free

 Xemi. MF. Barcelona. Free

Peterborough United (Grant McCann)

Jordan Tibbetts. GK. Birmingham. Free

Jonathan Bond. GK. Reading. Six month loan 

Jack Marriott. CF. Luton. Und

Michael Doughty. MF. QPR. Und

Alex Penny. DF. Nuneaton. Und 

Plymouth Argyle ( Derek Adams) 

Lionel Ainsworth. Winger. Motherwell.Free

Ruben Lameiras. MF. Coventry. Free

Ryan Edwards. DF. Morecambe. Und 

Jamie Ness. MF. Plymouth. Free

Robert te Loeke. GK. Achilles 29(Holland). Free

Gregg Wylde. Winger. Millwall. Free

Aaron Taylor. -Sinclair. LB. Doncaster. Free 

Portsmouth (Kenny Jackett)

Nathan Thompson. DF. Swindon. Free

Luke McGhee. GK. Spurs. Free

Brett Pitman. CF. Ipswich. Free

Rochdale (Keith Hill) 

Reece Brown.CD. Bury. Free

Jordan Williams. MF. Barrow. £100,000

Brendan Moore. GK. Torquay. Free

Brad Inman. MF. Peterborough. Season loan 



Rotherham United (Paul Warne) 

MIchael Ihiekwe. CD. Tranmere. Free

Darren Potter. MF. MK Dons. Free

Ryan Williams. MF. Barnsley. Free

David Ball. Forward. Fleetwood. Free

Jamie Proctor MF. Bolton. Und

Kieffer Moore. CF. Ipswich. Loan 

Josh Emmanuel. Df.  Rotherham. loan


Scunthorpe United (Graham Alexander) 

Cameron Burgess. Fulham. CD Und

Matt Gilks. GK. Wigan. Free

Rory McArdle. CB. Bradford. Free

Funso Ojo. MF. Willem II. Free

Shrewsbury Town (Paul Hurst)

Craig McGilvray .GK. Walsall. Loan 

Arthur Gnahoua. CF. Kidderminster. Free

Lenell John-Lewis. CF. Newport. Free

Jon Nolan. MF. Chesterfield. Und

Zak Jules. DF. Reading. Free

Ebou Adams. DF Norwich. Loan till Jan. 

Daniel James. Winger. Swansea. Season loan. 

Dean Henderson. GK. Man Utd. Loan.

Carlton Morris. Striker. Norwich. Loan 

James Bolton. RB. Gateshead. Und 

Southend United (Phil Brown) 

Stephen Hendrie. LB. West Ham. Free

Michael Turner. DF. Norwich. Free

Michael Kightly. MF. Burnley. Free

Walsall (Jon Whitney) 

Luke Leahy. LB. Falkirk. Free

Jon Guthrie. DF. Crewe. Free

Mark Gillespie. GK. Carlisle. Free

Nicky Devlin. RB. Ayr Utd. Free

James Wilson. DF. Sheff Utd. Loan

Wigan Athletic (Paul Cook)

Cheyenne Dunkley. DF. Oxford. Free

Terell Thomas. DF. Charlton. Free

Gavin Massey. CF. Orient. Free

Christian Walton. GK. Brighton. Loan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Velvet underwhelmed but our music beats your fanaticism

Around 18 years ago, I think it was the night after my 40th birthday, my friend Damian and I emerged from the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall having watched John Cale in concert, the solo “Fragments Of A Rainy Season” show he toured for years showcasing the best of his redoubtable solo catatalogue.
Damian, who from the late 70s onwards began to resemble Cale’s one-time bandmate Lou Reed so much that it was almost as if he had willed his own features to assume the look of our hero, turned to me with a wry, curl-lipped smile.
“We’ve been following the wrong Velvet for all these decades,” he grinned.
Although it wasn’t quite accurate in either of our cases, I knew what he meant.
We had been among a small but dedicated bunch who had slavishly followed both. Jeez, I even bought Mo Tucker solo albums. 
The Welsh iconoclast had put out a series of largely acclaimed albums which begun and remained steadfastly ignored by all but a tiny minority of the record-buying public – Velvets completists such as Damian and I basically – and his live performance work was almost always exemplary.
This had not always been the case with Reed, whose post-Berlin (1973) output was almost uniformly patchy and inconsistent save for the odd moments of focus (ie Side One of Coney Island Baby plus the closing track, the New York album) and buying a ticket to see Lou during certain periods was an act of faith you hoped was rewarded by an odd on-it night rather than a Springsteenesque guarantee of a high-level act at the top of his game
Following Lou was hard work at times even before realising in adulthood that he was pretty much an unpleasant person, particularly if a British journalist had been hired by a PR – and believe me, no act ever paid more PRs to put him in more rooms with more journalists – to sit across the room and attempt to strike up a rapport with him. 
The fact that their one genuine post-VU collaboration – I’m discounting the reunion tour of the original four including Mo Tucker and now-departed Sterling Morrison as more of an exercise in nostalgia than quality – “Songs For Drella” commemorating their one-time mentor and “producer” Andy Warhol was such a success and an artistic triumph only heightened the frustration that boys-in-bands rivalries forced Cale out of the Velvet Underground after two albums which I still regard as deserving a lofty place in any top 50 of the most influential rock/pop records of all time.
(A little biased, I believe their third and fourth albums do too, but that’s possibly overkill in most folks’ opinions.)
Tonight I’m off to Liverpool not knowing quite what to expect as Cale, now in his 70’s and the bearer of the torch following Lou’s passing, presents his 2017 50th anniversary “re-imagining,” as the hipsters say, of what was possibly the third or fourth LP I ever bought.
I don’t know if my original vinyl copy of “The Velvet Underground and Nico” had lain unpurchased in the racks at Reidy’s in Blackburn for the five years since its release or whether it was a reissue in the early months of 1972 in the wake of Bowie’s ascension to Beatlemania-like worship.
Bowie had dropped Lou and The Velvets by name into every interview I’d devoured and I’m almost certain that after Ziggy became the second album I bought with my own cash*– with money raised selling pen-pal ad replies from a Disco 45 Songwords magazine ad I’d placed to my school pals (2p each, 5p if a pic include) – for precisely £2.18, the iconic (I use the word reluctantly and with disdain for those who abuse it, but fuck it, it’s right in this case) banana-sleeved, blue and gold MGM labelled, Warhol-imprimateur-endorsed very, very heavy vinyl long player was my third.
I’ve no idea what to expect tonight, but possibly slightly more idea than I had when I placed the needle on my screwed-in legs Dansette mono turntable back in our dining room in Cherry Tree after the time-honoured excitable bus ride home studying every minute sleeve detail.
And boy, was there detail on the marvellous fold-out thing.
Various reviews written in fledgling 60’s rock-writerese which I could barely comprehend.
There were phrases that might have even struck terror into me about what I was about to hear. “The flowers of evil are in full bloom….” one of the quoted reviews said “when The Velvet Underground are playing”
Of course they weren’t despite the band’s association with the seamier side of the Lower East Side and the more salacious aspects of life at Warhol’s Silver Factory, any more than they were when Christians were condemning Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” quip or when folks were conjecturing that the Stones’ dalliances with his Satanic Majesty had precipitated the Altamont slaying of Meredith Hunter 
The flowers of evil were of course in full bloom on Monday night at a pop concert attended largely by little girls and pre-pubescent secondary school pupils, many of them taken along by their parents.
My daughter and her friend were in the building when the bomb exploded but purely by virtue of the fact that we always park at the opposite end of the Arena to the main entrance foyer and that they followed, as teenage girls sometimes fail to do, our specific instructions to use an exit on the far side from the foyer in which the bomber committed his atrocity, they emerged into the night to be reunited with us before it had even registered for certain that the inordinately loud noise we had heard from outside on the street wasn’t simply a pyrotechnic finale to their night out
Others of course weren’t as lucky and we doubt that we will ever let our kid enter an arena such as that without us again until she’s old enough to decide for herself whether she does or doesn’t
I couldn’t bear for her to be hurt or in darkness and terror without her mum or dad or both of us to hold her hand or just be close to her and comfort her if such a murderous act happened again and we survived  
I thought about giving it a miss tonight. One of Lou, John (and Nico’s) First post Velvets réunions was at The Bataclan in Paris in 1972, the place where terrorism’s attack on rock’n’roll began
When the Bataclan was attacked it shook me to the core. It was a place and name I associate with music history as much as any venue I’m familiar with or have stood/sat in myself.  
Last night with some trepidation I went to a small gig at the Cavern, a similarly claustrophobic space where there would be barely any prospect of escape from disaster 
My initial thought in the aftermath of Monday, with a teenage daughter quite traumatised by the nearness of her brush with horror, was not to go
An underground rock club can often be sweaty and unpleasant at the best of times and this is clearly not the best of times. A fire or pipe burst would be enough of a catastrophe without human beings charged with hatred wanting to inflict harm on others 
But in another of the world’s defiantly fuck-you musical cities we’ve decided that as natural causes gradually will claim all of our 60s and 70s heroes soon enough, we will pay homage to the album that more than even Ziggy or Born To Run or any of them shaped my musical path 
Yes I was one of those who bought the banana album and formed a band. They were crap and we managed one gig. 
I did cop off with a girl in the audience who helped me carry my guitar and amp home and dated her for a couple of years but she talked me out of going to see The Sex Pistols at The Lodestar a few months later so even my one taste of groupie adoration ended up an entertaining high-scoring draw at best
Having lost Lou, Leonard and Bowie last year I’ll pay homage to the 75/year old Cale who helped fashion two classic albums I could happily listen to every day 
I’m too long in the tooth for Isis or anyone else to make me wait for all tomorrow’s parties
*First album bought for me (in BlackburnRecord Exchange when it was behind Richmond Terrace) at Christmas 1970 I think – and it’s a great album – was ABC by the Jackson 5. 
Postscript


The Cale gig was a disappointment. The venue was well below average, the facilities completely overrun, the set bore no relation to the sequence of the album, Cale was very late on, the set shorter than advertised (perhaps a mercy) besides an initial greeting he had nothing to say to the audience and his vocals, so stentorian and strong on his own compositions, wasn’t up to the standards set by Reed and Nico on these songs


The guests, largely unknown to me other than a bloke out of Super Furry Animsls, sounded unrehearsed and in some cases incapable of carrying a tune
The very worst moments seemed like audience members had been asked up to do a Velvets karaoke and read off an autocue 
They largely went in-introduced. Even a caption. On the screens would have helped if nobody was prepared to do us the courtesy of telling us who they were 
I got to see Cale play viola for the first time live, a thrilling sight in itself, but even Venus In Furs and The Black Angel’s Death Song failed to ignite as a driving opening salvo of “Waiting For The Man: White Light White Heat” had briefly threatened to before all momentum was strangely lost 


Thousands poured out before the end as the muddy, swirly sound bounced around on the louder numbers while subtleties of quieter ones were just lost in the dusk 
But as a defiant gathering of music fans it was a moving and healing coming-together. 
Ushered in with the disturbing (but unfailingly friendly) sight of armed police on the street to a run-down former dock space Everton hope to make their home, a minute’s silence (Cale in my view disappointingly declined even to call for it and left it to a guest) was impeccably observed – unlike at the previous night’s From The Jam Cavern gig I’m afraid – and entirely appropriate on an evening our daughter and friend felt drawn to return to Manchester and lay flowers to pay their own respects to the Arena victims.  
This morning in Liverpool – and even last night walking back to our hotel – was one of those life-affirming experiences you get in any major European city – and this is a positively cosmopolitan, multicultural, inviting European city these days. 
Teeming with athletes preparing for tomorrow’s full and half marathons, some trotting round this morning’s less punishing 5k curtain-raiser, Velvets fans recovering from the long walk, Take That fans and bustling locals, it felt warm, inclusive, generous, good-humoured and inspiring as the sun sparkled off the Mersey and buildings old and new were spectacularly silhouetted against cobalt blue skies
A runner from Spain exchanged pleasantries with two more from Skegness as we guiltily got stuck into the breakfast buffet among the slim creatures measuring out their carbs ahead of their taxing efforts on the roads of the city
We went to a wonderful exhibition, The British Music Experience at the Cunard Building that hosted the Jam’s stunning About The Young Idea extravaganza a couple of months ago 
It rather made up for any lingering crestfallen emotions over the gig
Not only are the interactive stuff and the exhibits wonderful, you can actually pick up any number of Gibson guitars, acoustic and electric, and listen to yourself in headphones. Roland synths too, and you can record your own voice in a studio booth and listen to it back.
A young lad shouted the chords of Yellow Submarine for me out as we played together 
It’s a steal at £16


So despite the slight emptiness about the Cale performance the overnight break was a success
It was important to shake off the bemusement and incredulity we felt after Monday’s misery and the healing and redemptive powers of the rock’n’roll music some see as a Western evil played a huge part in that. 
Home for hugs with our girls, younger one as deeply moved by the outpouring of compassion in Manchester last night as she was rocked by the terror of Monday and Ariana 
In the end the love you take….and all that, in the city that gifted the world that Music’ finest exponents
Fear is a man’s best friend, sang Cale in one of his better known solo songs and in these dangerous times one sees his point. But sometimes we find it hard to believe the beauty we are 
If the Cale adaptations weren’t perfect, thank you Liverpool for showing us the best of ourselves. 


Jim Wilkinson 

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Velvet on the Mersey 

Around 18 years ago, I think it was the night after my 40th birthday, my friend Damian and I emerged from the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall having watched John Cale in concert, the solo “Fragments Of A Rainy Season” show he toured for years showcasing the best of his redoubtable solo catatalogue.

Damian, who from the late 70s onwards began to resemble Cale’s one-time bandmate Lou Reed so much that it was almost as if he had willed his own features to assume the look of our hero, turned to me with a wry, curl-lipped smile.

“We’ve been following the wrong Velvet for all these decades,” he grinned.

Although it wasn’t quite accurate in either of our cases, I knew what he meant.

We had been among a small but dedicated bunch who had slavishly followed both. Jeez, I even bought Mo Tucker solo albums. 

The Welsh iconoclast had put out a series of largely acclaimed albums which begun and remained steadfastly ignored by all but a tiny minority of the record-buying public – Velvets completists such as Damian and I basically – and his live performance work was almost always exemplary.

This had not always been the case with Reed, whose post-Berlin (1973) output was almost uniformly patchy and inconsistent save for the odd moments of focus (ie Side One of Coney Island Baby plus the closing track, the New York album) and buying a ticket to see Lou during certain periods was an act of faith you hoped was rewarded by an odd on-it night rather than a Springsteenesque guarantee of a high-level act at the top of his game

Following Lou was hard work at times even before realising in adulthood that he was pretty much an unpleasant person, particularly if a British journalist had been hired by a PR – and believe me, no act ever paid more PRs to put him in more rooms with more journalists – to sit across the room and attempt to strike up a rapport with him. 

The fact that their one genuine post-VU collaboration – I’m discounting the reunion tour of the original four including Mo Tucker and now-departed Sterling Morrison as more of an exercise in nostalgia than quality – “Songs For Drella” commemorating their one-time mentor and “producer” Andy Warhol was such a success and an artistic triumph only heightened the frustration that boys-in-bands rivalries forced Cale out of the Velvet Underground after two albums which I still regard as deserving a lofty place in any top 50 of the most influential rock/pop records of all time.

(A little biased, I believe their third and fourth albums do too, but that’s possibly overkill in most folks’ opinions.)

Tonight I’m off to Liverpool not knowing quite what to expect as Cale, now in his 70’s and the bearer of the torch following Lou’s passing, presents his 2017 50th anniversary “re-imagining,” as the hipsters say, of what was possibly the third or fourth LP I ever bought.

I don’t know if my original vinyl copy of “The Velvet Underground and Nico” had lain unpurchased in the racks at Reidy’s in Blackburn for the five years since its release or whether it was a reissue in the early months of 1972 in the wake of Bowie’s ascension to Beatlemania-like worship.

Bowie had dropped Lou and The Velvets by name into every interview I’d devoured and I’m almost certain that after Ziggy became the second album I bought with my own cash*– with money raised selling pen-pal ad replies from a Disco 45 Songwords magazine ad I’d placed to my school pals (2p each, 5p if a pic include) – for precisely £2.18, the iconic (I use the word reluctantly and with disdain for those who abuse it, but fuck it, it’s right in this case) banana-sleeved, blue and gold MGM labelled, Warhol-imprimateur-endorsed very, very heavy vinyl long player was my third.

I’ve no idea what to expect tonight, but possibly slightly more idea than I had when I placed the needle on my screwed-in legs Dansette mono turntable back in our dining room in Cherry Tree after the time-honoured excitable bus ride home studying every minute sleeve detail.

And boy, was there detail on the marvellous fold-out thing.

Various reviews written in fledgling 60’s rock-writerese which I could barely comprehend.

There were phrases that might have even struck terror into me about what I was about to hear. “The flowers of evil are in full bloom….” one of the quoted reviews said “when The Velvet Underground are playing”

Of course they weren’t despite the band’s association with the seamier side of the Lower East Side and the more salacious aspects of life at Warhol’s Silver Factory, any more than they were when Christians were condemning Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” quip or when folks were conjecturing that the Stones’ dalliances with his Satanic Majesty had precipitated the Altamont slaying of Meredith Hunter 

The flowers of evil were of course in full bloom on Monday night at a pop concert attended largely by little girls and pre-pubescent secondary school pupils, many of them taken along by their parents.

My daughter and her friend were in the building when the bomb exploded but purely by virtue of the fact that we always park at the opposite end of the Arena to the main entrance foyer and that they followed, as teenage girls sometimes fail to do, our specific instructions to use an exit on the far side from the foyer in which the bomber committed his atrocity, they emerged into the night to be reunited with us before it had even registered for certain that the inordinately loud noise we had heard from outside on the street wasn’t simply a pyrotechnic finale to their night out

Others of course weren’t as lucky and we doubt that we will ever let our kid enter an arena such as that without us again until she’s old enough to decide for herself whether she does or doesn’t

I couldn’t bear for her to be hurt or in darkness and terror without her mum or dad or both of us  to hold her hand or just be close to her and comfort her if such a murderous act happened again and we survived  

I thought about giving it a miss tonight. One of Lou, John (and Nico’s) First post Velvets réunions  was at The Bataclan in Paris in 1972, the place where terrorism’s attack on rock’n’roll began

When the Bataclan was attacked it shook me to the core. It was a place and name I associate with music history as much as any venue I’m familiar with or have stood/sat in myself.  

Last night with some trepidation I went to a small gig at the Cavern, a similarly claustrophobic space where there would be barely any prospect of escape from disaster 

My initial thought in the aftermath of Monday, with a teenage daughter quite traumatised by the nearness of her brush with horror, was not to go

An underground rock club can often be sweaty and unpleasant at the best of times and this is clearly not the best of times. A fire or pipe burst would be enough of a catastrophe without human beings charged with hatred wanting to inflict harm on others 

But in another of the world’s defiantly fuck-you musical cities we’ve decided that as natural causes gradually will claim all of our 60s and 70s heroes soon enough, we will pay homage to the album that more than even Ziggy or Born To Run or any of them shaped my musical path 

Yes I was one of those who bought the banana album and formed a band. They were crap and we managed one gig. 

I did cop off with a girl in the audience who helped me carry my guitar and amp home and dated her for a couple of years but she talked me out of going to see The Sex Pistols at The Lodestar a few months later so even my one taste of groupie adoration ended up an entertaining high-scoring draw at best

Having lost Lou, Leonard and Bowie last year I’ll pay homage to the 75/year old Cale who helped fashion two classic albums I could happily listen to every day 

I’m too long in the tooth for Isis or anyone else to make me wait for all tomorrow’s parties

*First album bought for me (in BlackburnRecord Exchange when it was behind Richmond Terrace) at Christmas 1970 I think – and it’s a great album – was ABC by the Jackson 5. 

Postscript

The Cale gig was a disappointment. The venue was well below average, the facilities completely overrun, the set bore no relation to the sequence of the album, Cale was very late on, the set shorter than advertised (perhaps a mercy) besides an initial greeting he had nothing to say to the audience and his vocals, so stentorian and strong on his own compositions, wasn’t up to the standards set by Reed and Nico on these songs

The guests, largely unknown to me other than a bloke out of Super Furry Animsls, sounded unrehearsed and in some cases incapable of carrying a tune

The very worst moments seemed like audience members had been asked up to do a Velvets karaoke and read off an autocue 

They largely went in-introduced. Even a caption. On the screens would have helped if nobody was prepared to do us the courtesy of telling us who they were 

I got to see Cale play viola for the first time live, a thrilling sight in itself, but even Venus In Furs and The Black Angel’s Death Song failed to ignite as a driving opening salvo of “Waiting For The Man: White Light White Heat” had briefly threatened to before all momentum was strangely lost 

Thousands poured out before the end as the muddy, swirly sound bounced around on the louder numbers while subtleties of quieter ones were just lost in the dusk 

But as a defiant gathering of music fans it was a moving and healing coming-together. 

Ushered in with the disturbing (but unfailingly friendly) sight of armed police on the street to a run-down former dock space Everton hope to make their home, a minute’s silence (Cale in my view disappointingly declined even to call for it and left it to a guest) was impeccably observed – unlike at the previous night’s From The Jam Cavern gig I’m afraid – and entirely appropriate on an evening our daughter and friend felt drawn to return to Manchester and lay flowers to pay their own respects to the Arena victims.  

This morning in Liverpool – and even last night walking back to our hotel – was one of those life-affirming experiences you get in any major European city – and this is a positively cosmopolitan, multicultural, inviting European city these days. 

Teeming with athletes preparing for tomorrow’s full and half marathons, some trotting round this morning’s less punishing 5k curtain-raiser, Velvets fans recovering from the long walk, Take That fans and bustling locals, it felt warm, inclusive, generous, good-humoured and inspiring as the sun sparkled off the Mersey and buildings old and new were spectacularly silhouetted against cobalt blue skies

A runner from Spain exchanged pleasantries with two more from Skegness as we guiltily got stuck into the breakfast buffet among the slim creatures measuring out their carbs ahead of their taxing efforts on the roads of the city

We went to a wonderful exhibition, The British Music Experience at the Cunard Building that hosted the Jam’s stunning About The Young Idea extravaganza a couple of months ago 

It rather made up for any lingering crestfallen emotions over the gig

Not only are the interactive stuff and the exhibits wonderful, you can actually pick up any number of Gibson guitars, acoustic and electric, and listen to yourself in headphones. Roland synths too, and you can record your own voice in a studio booth and listen to it back.

A young lad shouted the chords of Yellow Submarine for me out as we played together 

It’s a steal at £16

So despite the slight emptiness about the Cale performance the overnight break was a success

It was important to shake off the bemusement and incredulity we felt after Monday’s misery and the healing and redemptive powers of the rock’n’roll music some see as a Western evil played a huge part in that. 

Home for hugs with our girls, younger one as deeply moved by the outpouring of compassion in Manchester last night as she was rocked by the terror of Monday and Ariana 

In the end the love you take….and all that, in the city that gifted the world that Music’ finest exponents

Fear is a man’s best friend, sang Cale in one of his better known solo songs and in these dangerous times one sees his point. But sometimes we find it hard to believe the beauty we are 

If the Cale adaptations weren’t perfect, thank you Liverpool for showing us the best of ourselves. 

Jim Wilkinson 

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Saturday’s kids still livin’ the blues but relegation is the bitterest pill

“I said: “I’m so happy, I could die,”

“She said: “Drop dead,” then left with another guy.

(Elvis Costello, “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” 1977)

 

 

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Relegation, when it comes, is almost never unseen, unexpected, unconsidered.

It’s been on your mind for days, weeks, months, like that crushingly inevitable moment when you get the phone call or face-to-face harsh truth from a lover (text message or tweet these days maybe, I guess) confirming that a relationship you cherished and desperately wanted to remain in is over.

You’ve known things have been on the skids a little while, aren’t the way they once were but cling to the few scraps, the few bright moments when it all seems like the best of the old times knowing in your heart of hearts deep down you’re soon to be dumped and consigned  to history.

There’ve been too many bad days, sneaking suspicions, awkward situations, poor decisions to go back to where it was good. Past the point of no return.

Gee, I even went to Mass on Sunday morning, exactly the kind of thing you do in a dire situation looking for help when you know you’re beyond being able to sort things out yourself.

Sometimes, miraculously, the old passions and feelings seem to be momentarily rekindled, just like when Rovers went two up in exactly the kind of dream start you’d want to an idyllic sunny afternoon on which you’ve set your hopes of sorting everything out.

But after the good stuff, the dark clouds and doubts and mistrust gather again. The realisation hits home that there’s someone else whose prospects are a little more attractive than yours and you suddenly feel small and diminished again.

Damn, newly-flash and showy Forest could even afford to squander a penalty and broaden the goal difference factor; Birmingham predictably found Bristol City less intense about commitment than you’d expect and all that’s left is to drag the last date out as long as you can…

My dad, unlike me a man of few words but all of them wise, only ever gave me one sentence of advice about affairs of the heart.

“If somebody’s let you down, hurt you and made a fool of you once, don’t go running back and let them do it all over again,” he counselled sagely.

This was my sixth relegation! We never learn and we can’t stop ourselves going back for more pain.

With Venky’s the tragic-comic added factor, we even got the cursory Dear John letter a colleague at work clearly made up for them the day after and we can look forward to months of pleas to hear us out and phone calls going ignored and unanswered.

If it hurries along their departure, all well and good, but even in this abyss it seems a long shot; knights on silver chargers carrying £130m of spare cash to clear the debt are hard to imagine and they seem perversely willing to brazen it out knowing what hurt they are causing but able to ignore it like a depressed debtor pretending everything’s normal and refusing to pick the mail off the mat and see the damage.

We’ve flirted and skirted with disaster in truth from the very first season down in 2012-13 when only Jordan Rhodes’ goals kept us from successive relegations despite eye-watering transfer expenditure and wages that first failed-manager-strewn year.

Although in both of Gary Bowyer’s full seasons we were never in the bottom half after the turn of the year.

Perhaps Bowyer’s tenure will be one day re-evaluated as a comparative golden era in the way that Bob Saxton’s belatedly and genuinely and deservedly has. Better the devil you know and all that..

Your gran might have wisely counselled: “You’d have been better off sticking with that nice quiet one..”

I don’t personally subscribe to the theory that Bowyer’s squad was 24-carat promotion potential material which another coach would have done that much better with.

We finished pretty much where we deserved both times in my opinion and the sale of Cairney heralded that the “going-for-it” years were summarily and abruptly terminated.

Since then the policy has been clear. Sell anything of value and try to make a do on the cheap. It can actually be done if the kids and the bargains are good enough and expertly coached and managed but that’s unlikely with a succession of oafs running the show up above.

The subsequent Bowyer/Lambert campaign gave all the indications that relationships were on the rocks and long periods of awkward, grumpy not-speaking-to-each-other silences were the order of the day.

And you can’t keep getting away with it. Coyle’s appointment was an affront to the fans, not because of his Burnley connections – if Mowbray quit who wouldn’t welcome say, Steve Cotterill? – but because his record since a fairly flukey play-off success with the Clarets was dire beyond mitigation.

Not every one of his acquisitions was an abject failure (Gallagher, Williams  and Mulgrew almost unqualified plusses) but by January – and he shouldn’t have made it to anywhere near Christmas – there was every reason for new Director of Football Paul Senior not to be convinced that his targets would improve matters.

Trouble was, for all his talk of signing 150 great players for Wednesday and Charlton, the impasse between Senior and Coyle engendered only inertia when major surgery was needed.

And here we are with it all crumbled around us, wreckage.

In football though, there aren’t “plenty more fish in the sea.”

We’re not allowed to contemplate divorce and transferring our affections elsewhere.

All that’s left are the “where did it all go wrong?” post-mortems.

Looking back on the season I will admit I owe a couple of message board posters a (kind of) apology.

I never want Rovers to lose and habitually abhor supporters taking to social media to wish defeat on us even if it’s genuinely hoped that it will hasten the departure of a detested manager.

But if you were to ask me the worst thing that happened all season to seal our fate I’d have to take you back to New Year’s Day. The “I hope we get stuffed today” lot might have had a point.

I was sat in a Budapest “Scottish-themed” pub (disappointingly there wasn’t an unintelligible sweary bloke sat on his own at the end of the bar cursing unspecifically) with two Geordie couples in their late 60’s watching us play Newcastle.

I didn’t go mad or taunt the superannuated Mags as Charlie Mulgrew’s added-time winner hit the net as surely as I knew that free-kick at Brentford was finding the target as soon as I saw him spot it and weigh the top corner up, cold-eyed and calculating like Nicklaus in his pomp.

I was delighted of course, seeing us turn 3% possession or whatever we had into three precious points but as I reflected with my urbane, multi-lingual pal Peterjon, a footballing travel writer of continents far and wide who was polite enough to enquire what I made of the outcome of a game he had no particular interest in but had indulged me by watching with me, for an hour or so after, the realisation hit me that the result had undoubtedly bought Owen Coyle an undeserved further few weeks we could ill afford him to be granted.

A 4 -0 home defeat that day and we may have had a new manager in with the chance to reshape the squad in the window.

A meaningless, cosmetic cup win followed and only one narrow defeat in the rest of January ensued as Senior – appointed days after the Newcastle win – allowed the man whose relationship with fans had become fractured in a squalid and unseemly denouement to a Christmas defeat at Barnsley  to stay in the job but simultaneously undermined any residual slither of authority Coyle clung onto by vetoing his attempts to bolster the squad,  allowing him to persist in squawking his inane but baseless optimistic gobbledegook and presenting him only with all-too-infrequently energised boulevardiers Marvin Emnes and Lucas Joao.

Ironically, the team that Tony Mowbray, appointed too late to truly assemble and shape his own squad, settled on by the end of the season, the one which beat admittedly dismal Villa and shell-shocked Brentford as they looked to add a carnival flourish to a good season, was pretty much available to Coyle all the time from the end of August, injuries notwithstanding.

There can’t only have been me on Sunday who watched that performance and thought that if that XI had been established as the week-in-week-out side – and I still firmly believe any club should have an unmistakeable first-choice XI identified however much they rotate – or was starting the season again now we would survive with some comfort.

The three central defenders, two mobile full-backs pushing on and an industriously honest trio in midfield seemed far more structured than our wasteful months attempting 4-4-2 and whatever other doomed confections.

Elliott Bennett, possibly fourth choice winger with the execrable like of Feeney ahead of him at times, has found a new lease of life as a snapper and harrier in midfield while Guthrie probed and Lowe gamely, if seldom constructively, toiled and while Gallagher and Graham have never had the supply from wide they would dream of, the organisation and discipline of the side in the 46th game was a distant galaxy from the shambolic rabble which began the campaign in jaw-droppingly incompetent disarray hosting Norwich.

Not that it could save us of course. Mowbray deserves enormous credit for restoring some pride, going so close to salvation and for statistically obtaining a points per game ratio which would do nicely over a season if mid-table was the aim.

I’m not as carried away as some and totally sold on him – the horror shows at home to Barnsley and Bristol City and away at Wolves, the points squandered late on in games and the repeated tendency to concede the first goal of the game in the first half were all faults for which his predecessor would have been crucified.

That “he got 1.5 points per game” stuff is just that, a reasonably interesting stat, to me. I never yet saw a final league table in Rothmans with anybody’s standing averaged out on the performance of a manager over the first or last 15 matches.

But he carried himself with sufficient dignity, common sense and likeability to stand out like a beacon as the very best that Blackburn Rovers 2017 could expect or deserve.

There are any number of unfathomables and wild cards  to manifest themselves before Mowbray agrees to continue – and the pervading sense of chaos and insanity was merely compounded by the departure of the oddly unlovable Senior this week.

Captured on camera looking bilious as the whistle sounded at Brentford, he resembled a jewel-encrusted rival moonshiner in Boardwalk Empire who’s just been rumbled and is staring down the barrel of the shotgun held by Nookie Thompson’s half-masked assassin.

We are so used to feeding on scraps that even with no apparent chain of command above or below, if the upshot was Mowbray’s retention it would provide a major and heartening boost at a time when the job looks as attractive as the Sheriff’s gig in Blazing Saddles.

Entirely predictably, the media big-hitters looking for the story-of-the-day, Thursdays chip paper, have seized on our demise to garner a few likes, retweets and  “Well said Henry/Olivers” and such for basically saying: “Rubbish football owners are horrible and nasty and they should come out on the stage and say sorry.”

Thanks, lads, you’ve really put our dilemma in the global spotlight there. I imagine Balaji has summoned a camera crew for his wholly humble heart “mea culpa” apologia pro vita sua now you lot are onto him for ten minutes.

A couple even seemed to spectacularly miss the glaringly obvious fact that the “Message From The Owners” presented on Rovers’ website was clearly the work of the club’s beleaguered press department, who earlier ludicrously fancified a Senior “on the record” statement which was anything but and contained not a single direct quote, making a mockery of the definition as far as I or any other trained journalist would understand it.

Even a few 2011-12 pieces were resurrected.

What that tells you is there’s nothing new. No new interviews. No new clips. No new soundbites. No new allowing Granada or BBC NW to come and film the splendour of their surroundings and extol their magnaminity to the local poor.

In short, they’ve finished with us. They’ve found something new. Dumped us. Chucked us.

All that remains is they bring the solicitors in, formalise it and put a restraining order on us going near them.

Let’s hope someone like Ian Battersby, who always sounds eminently sensible, common-sense and practical, gets the chance to pick up whatever pieces can be glued together with whoever can be persuaded to inherit this car crash.

I’ve no idea if he or his associates possess the wealth to take it on – and the picture painted on Radio Lancs’ Battersby/Alan Nixon special was gruesome indeed – or if there are consortia out there who would be reckless/foolish/daft/ambitious  (delete the three you consider least appropriate) to finance such an undertaking but Battersby, with his metaphor of “understanding the club and town’s DNA” hits home with locals as no fly-by-night mercenary has done under Venkys’ tenure.

Rovers fans of course won’t jump at the first new suitor who flashes a square of thigh and will insist on a lengthy period of due diligence and fit-and-proper research won’t they?

Of course they won’t. Just as when Venkys were initially welcomed as cash-chucking Bollywood billionaires, anyone with a sharp suit and a line in sweet talk will be jumped into bed with!

We’d all be exhorting the FA and Football League to get the deal done a quarter of an hour after anyone registered the merest interest.

In the meantime, Division Three as we used to call it. A league below PNE for the first time since 1980, two divisions below Burnley for the first time in 42 years.

At our house we’ll renew our tickets and join the 6,000 or whatever decide to stick it out. Not out of any feeling of virtue or superiority. We just don’t think we’d enjoy not going more. Even when it’s crap.

“Funding Venkys”? Sorry, mates, you won’t make me feel any guiltier on that basis than suggesting subscribing to Sky is supporting evil. It’s as natural as renewing my cricket club subs.

I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t – I know how this works going down two divisions in five years and I know the gates dwindle accordingly – but at my time of life not going ain’t an option. I’m chuffed our girls have said they’re going again next season too.

If I decided to boycott, protest or whatever then they won three out of the first five or whatever early doors I’d be back anyway so what’s the point pretending you don’t fancy them!

I recall the first season we spent outside the top two divisions. Although I’d only briefly seen us play in the top flight at a very young age, we’d done what we’ve done now – first tier to third in five years.

Believe me, Plainmoor, The Shay and Spotland were even more of a culture shock for older fans then than Fleetwood and Gigg Lane will be next season.

Allowed to travel away on the coach with my mates for the first time we’d arrive at grounds – the description “stadia” would have been heartily guffawed at, I can say without fear of contradiction – two hours before kick-off, and, pre pub age like the big lads, we’d pay and go on as the first turnstile opened.

Largely unsegregated, we’d wander around three or all four sides of scruffy, tumbleweed and crumbling terraced grounds largely untroubled as time passed slowly, before the partisan and hostile home contingent steadily grew. Nervous moments followed. Where the hell are our lot? When will they leave the pub and get here?

What a relief as the first beery Rovers chants were blown in on the breeze and you knew our tanked-up travelling army were on their way!

Then when they trapped up, noisy and full of ale-fuelled bravado, we’d discreetly join them and stand in the middle of the big lads chanting and waving our hitherto hidden scarves like we owned the place, as if nothing had intimidated us all along.

But it was a muddled, complicated road back to the Second Tier. Imagine if we’d all jacked it in after a few setbacks. Three wins in the first 15 games we had.

Proudly, there was never a Division Three gate in the four patchy years under Furphy and Lee  it took to get back up less than the disaffected and disillusioned 3,971 who had watched what, for all anyone knew, could have been our last ever Division Two game against Bristol City in May 1971.

I’m trying to imagine Gordon Lee’s likely welcome to a “Director of Football” suggesting transfer targets. He got it sorted and we all loved the ride.

Roll forward to ’79 and I’m on the cusp of manhood, just passed my driving test and started work about a month before as we plummet down into Division Three. I’ll be honest, there haven’t been many seasons that live longer in the memory than the one that saw us promoted back immediately.

Another dreadful start for Howard Kendall. He certainly wouldn’t have survived today.after three wins in 14 games we stood 21st, bottom four. We were still 20th into November.

Imagine the barrage on social media and messageboards for a rookie gaffer with those stats.

I turned 21 on a day we won 3-0 at home to Wimbledon, then went straight down town and up the New Inns.

We’d begun that mid-January day in 14th place and little did I know that it was the second win in a run of 14 out of 15 games (the other was a draw) which took us back up.

I met my wife for the first time on a bus to Exeter in the middle of that run, and generally loved every minute of the very special camaraderie we had on the away match coaches as Kendall’s teams held sway.

A sing-song that went on for hours in a sun-kissed beer garden opposite Oxford’s Manor Ground is one of my fondest Rovers memories, it was very heaven to be there that day. I would have to wait 20-odd years to marry the red-head in a red shirt and blue pants I was desperately hoping to impress all that day.

Great days, knowing nothing of what was to come in the rest of the 1980’s or the incredible decade that followed, caring only nominally for what had been before, living only for the weekend and the game.

Thick as thieves, us. Just kids. Enough money for a few pints and in love with our team.

It’s difficult to imagine the world, or at least our world, being so simple again isn’t it? At least the grounds will be fit for human habitation these days.

Fleetwood will be a novelty alright, Rochdale, Oldham, Bury, Wigan, maybe even Carlisle or Blackpool, Bradford possibly more familiar Northern opponents of the not-that-distant past .

I doubt you’ll interest my wife in a trip to Wimbledon after seven hours broke down opposite Wormwood Scrubs on an Aspens Coach on the occasion of her last visit in 1979.

Glamorous it will not be. I went on a Fleetwood v Great Harwood game in January 2001, merely to rack up mileage and night assignment cash expenses, and a more desolate, godforsaken evening you cannot imagine. It was impossible to conceive that we would one day start on the same divisional fixture list. Mercifully, their Highbury stadium is an altogether different beast to the creaky, crumbling, rainswept relic I and 37 others braved the elements in to watch the game that night.

I’ll bet not many Rovers fans have been on a ground with a Workingman’s Club backing onto half of one side!

But that’s football .

A lot of what has happened and will happen soon will be hard to swallow.

Even as I write this managers, directors, players may be plotting their departure from Blackburn Rovers and rendering my musings hopelessly outdated.

For a certain generation though who lived through the bleak years of the past, love and fidelity are unconditional however badly we’re treated.

I used to cover Golden Weddings in my early days at the Accy Observer.

Old couples who’d stayed together for 50 years – exactly how long I’ve been an Ewood regular now – would time and again give the same replies to the same question about what the secret of their loyalty and togetherness was.

“You’ve got to give and take, have a laugh and never go to bed on an argument,” they’d always say.

Supporting a football team is mostly giving, giving, giving year in year out with not a lot of taking anything back, currently very few laughs and you more often than not go to bed  with a totally frustrated and unsatisfied heart.

But as the old couples would often say “No point swapping now ….it’s too late to train another bugger.”

BLUE EYED BOY

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L to R Bloggers Blue Eyed Boy, Old Blackburnian, Riversider23 and MarpleLeaf

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Dig my mood – Brentford triple gave some succour

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(Picture courtesy Andy Currie)

My great friend of 47 tears, boy and man since day one at Secondary School Riversider 23 has occasionally taken the reins on this column this season. Here are his thoughts having journeyed to Brentford. Follow him on Twitter too @MarkMark37m

As strange as it may seem – since the outcome was relegation – last Sunday at Brentford was the most I’ve enjoyed a Rovers game for a long time.

Lovely weather, cosy ground, friendly stewards, buzzing atmosphere, flying start, and an eventual victory against the odds through sheer effort and guts against a good side who played some brilliant flowing football at times.

Add to that the barely-hoped-for drama of actually reaching and holding onto a “staying-up” position, and then the changes in the scorelines at Forest and Bristol City filtering through an increasingly anxious and despondent crowd, Conway head-to-head with Harlee Dean, Graham’s glaring miss, Dean’s-sending off and Conway’s penalty conversion to seal the victory, then hoping and praying for that Tammy Abrahams equaliser that must surely come (but never did), and it was an altogether unforgettable experience.

It was also a fitting end to a season that started, for me, at Spotland watching the pre-season friendly and wondering where on earth we could look for any hope at all.

Lowe and Feeney down the right. Was that the best we could do? Surely not.

How good were Byrne, Stokes and Hendrie? Not very as it turned out.

Still, Coyle would surely sort things out., realise where the gaps and weaknesses are. Bring people in. Nah.

Forward a short while to Norwich at home, and witness the most despairing start to a season that you’ll ever see.

The arrival of Greer and Williams tightened things up a bit, Mahoney and Joao and Emnes eventually added some much-needed flair, and Lowe and Guthrie were lately recognised as the best central midfield pairing available.

On the other hand, none of the wingers were reliable or consistently selected and none could deliver the quality of crosses needed, and there was never any sense of the managers being clear about who the best front two were. Chopped and changed all the time.

On the main ifs and buts – and ignoring gifted goals and missed chances and late equalisers – the replacement of Coyle with Mowbray came much too late, the replacement of Steele with Raya came even later, and, probably most significantly in the end, the worst spell under Mowbray came with the losses against Reading and Barnsley and the lame home draw in what was the real must-win game against Bristol City.

That poor period (punctuated by a win out of the blue at Forest) was a direct result of the injuries to Mulgrew and Lenihan in the first 46 minutes of the match at Reading.

With Hoban and Brown as the only centre-back options left to him, Mowbray had my sympathy.

It was an unenviable task to try and put a solid team together then.

Steele was nervier, and I think Mowbray made a significant misjudgement in using Akpan to (in theory, at least) protect a dodgy and off-the pace central defence while Guthrie was left on the bench for long periods.

So, we’re back where we were last August. Looking forward (perversely) to a new season, without much of a clue what players we might be watching, or who will be managing them – never mind discussing where the strengths and weaknesses are and what the best formation would be.

In my experience, the hope and enjoyment never really dies, although there have often been very miserable periods of frustration and a hint of despair.

My first season watching the Rovers was a relegation season – my first game a 4-1 win at Turf Moor, followed by months around the drop-zone.

Like this season, a surprising away win at Forest rekindled some hope, but in the end down we went. And then down again to the Third Division.

Even when we were in the top division, there were times when the over-riding impact of a game was the feeling that we’d never get anywhere till we could replace Emerton and Pedersen – just as an example.

Alongside that, over the years there’s been the joy of watching Metcalfe and Fazackerley, Hird and Bailey, Wagstaffe, Field, Price, Brotherston, McKenzie, Barker, Moran, Berg, Hendry, Shearer, Duff, Dunn, Jansen, Tugay, Bentley and Santa Cruz – to name just a few.

And now I still can’t stop myself thinking “if we can keep Raya, Lenihan, Mulgrew, Guthrie, and then if Tomlinson, Hardcastle and a couple of other youngsters come through, and Mowbray brings in some nuggets from elsewhere, and moulds them into the kind of team we saw at Brentford in spite of their individual limitations…”  and that’s the life of a football fan.

When I’ve been to watch the Rovers at Old Trafford when Ferguson was the manager, I’ve been struck by how boring their expectation of guaranteed victory every game must be. I wouldn’t want that.

I also have no time for any of the “We want our Rovers back”, “We want Venkys out”, “There’s only one Jack Walker” attitude.

Relegation was quickly followed by a flood of articles in the national press about the ins and outs of the Venkys, Jerome Anderson, SEM/Kentaro, the FA, “fit and proper person” etc.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s business – and my pleasure is in watching football.

Part of my enjoyment on Sunday was the performance of Romaine Sawyers – apparently not that appreciated at Brentford, but the best player I’ve seen all season. Didn’t put a foot wrong and just kept them flowing. Coolness personified.

And while it would be great to feel part of a homely, unified, fan-and-family-and-community-oriented club again – like Brentford – in the meantime, I’ll be happy enough watching players perform as a team and grow together and work for each other with drive and spirit to compete and win. Whatever they’re getting paid or how long’s left on their contract.

The Rovers delivered that on Sunday, but who knows what’s to come?

RIVERSIDER 23

 

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Grotesque – the frightening and not so wonderful world of Rovers’ fall

During the season I’ve regularly been privileged to have a couple of excellent bloggers deputise for me. 

I’ll need at least till my usual midweek slot to gather my thoughts and feelings but one of my friends and comrades felt the need to unload instantly and I think we are lucky to be able to host his musings….

Déjà vu all over again


(When it all looked so promising ..,, pic used by courtesy of Andy Currie) 

As a small boy I didn’t fully have a grasp on relegation; what it was, the impact and the implications. In that respect I seem to have much in common with the current owners of Blackburn Rovers F.C. I’d not long been initiated into the joys of supporting a football team but in my first full season relegation was a distinct possibility. I’d heard people around me worry about it; I copied the stock reply that I heard delivered many times;

“No, I think we’ll be OK, Charlton will go down not us…”. 
I didn’t understand what I was saying; it was simply a default, reflex response.
The following season we were in Division 3. I didn’t really care. As long as I could keep going, watching my team, having a cheeky pie every now & then, it was not an issue. In my defence, I was only 7 years old. 
It happened again in 1979. This time though it did hurt. I knew what the failure meant. I felt the pain and anguish. I despised the taunts from the “friends” who supported other teams…but mainly the ones from a little further east of Blackburn. 
Then the problems really started. We became quite good, positively dashing at times. Blossoming into a fine second division team and wait for it; threatening to gate-crash the big boys’ party in Division One, only to fail gallantly in the play-offs time and again.The Walker years are well documented. Still can’t believe what I saw in just 5 years. Still can’t reconcile how that legacy has been squandered so completely. 
The 1999 vintage was a litany of errors in managerial appointments and player recruitment. Ring any bells ? It felt like the alarm clock going off before you have had time to finish the dream. The princess was still trapped, I hadn’t saved her, but I’m awake now..! How do we get out of this one ? 
The answer was a canny managerial appointment and some very shrewd signings. A blue print that saw some fine talent grace Ewood over the next few years; under a series of capable managers…oh and Paul Ince of course. 
Then along come Venky’s; who in short order, have delivered two of the things they (allegedly) thought could never happen and 46 years on, my team is right back where they were in 1971, in my first full season as a fan. 
This one hurts the most without a doubt. Back to Division Three, learning nothing from the experience of the Premier League exit. It’s been like watching a close relative squander a hard-earned family inheritance due to a series of crass decisions; only to find themselves back on skid row, due entirely to their own profligacy and rank stupidity. 
The tale of Blackburn Rovers since 2009 has been nothing but self-inflicted wounds repeated ad nauseam. The biggest concern now is; “Is this as bad as it gets ?” 
I’m not entirely confident it is and there’s the rub. 
But what to do about it ? Last summer, my interest was waning largely due to the apathetic ownership and their serial incompetence. The appointment of the “outstanding candidate” (sic) was the final nudge I needed. The season ticket renewal form was binned and I decided it was mainly away games, with perhaps an occasional cherry-picked home fixture. 
A catalogue of player sales, a manager clearly out of his depth, boardroom re-shuffles, injuries, poor refereeing decisions, late goals…oh who am I kidding, we have got exactly what “We” deserve; if by “We”, you mean the owners/executives. 
The supporters, whether the “not a penny more” brigade, the “it’s my club, I’ll go whatever” and all shades in between, deserve better. Modern football is now a commodity. Clubs are bought & sold like cars. Fun to play with, the novelty wears off, the value quickly depreciates and they require a lot of TLC and routine maintenance. Once off the road they then need special dedication, knowledge, enthusiasm; (and no little cash) to restore them to former glories. 
And I guess that brings us up to date. Sunday’s events were no shock, not even a surprise let’s be honest. We’ve flirted so fervently with relegation all season it seemed that all that was missing was a full page advertisement in the Times announcing our impending nuptials. 
Yet still nothing from the absentee landlords. No idea as to understanding what value or pleasure can possibly gleaned from continuing ownership of a foreign plaything. A vintage sports car that’s no fun any more, that sits slowly rusting in a garage thousands of miles away. 
It’s not easy to take the positives from this “opportunity”; some fresh away grounds, some academy youngsters being given a chance, maybe actually winning some football matches ? 
I fear it is a long way back. Few of the necessary components of a fully functioning, fit for purpose football club exist at Blackburn Rovers currently.
Concerns over budgets and the epic scale of the continuing trading losses threaten the Walker legacy of the stadium, the training ground, the academy and the very identity of the club. 
Yet we are not alone in our predicament; Blackpool, Charlton, Coventry, Leyton Orient, Nottingham Forest to name but a few…all have suffered the vicissitudes brought upon them by their owners. It used to be a sport. It’s now a crying shame (unless you are a Burnley fan of course).

Old Blackburnian

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Rovers earn a slim shot at Salvation Sunday redemption

IMG_3882[1]I told you this would go to the wire, didn’t I?

Another week of counting the days and hours down, working out permutations, dreaming up scenarios….you just knew it wasn’t going to resolve itself last Saturday and give us all a day off.

Rovers have occasionally sorted their destiny out with a game or two to spare – Matt Jansen’s tumultuous winner  at Deepdale in 2001 followed by an unburdened awayday at Gillingham to enjoy, the Third Division triumph in 1975 sealed at Vale Park with a celebratory Monday night at home to Wrexham for Gordon Lee’s heroes to stroll through hungover and that wonderful night at Gigg Lane as Howard Kendall’s side confirmed their return to Full Members of the Football League status was followed on the Saturday after by an almost-erased-from-memory Ewood defeat to the self-same Shakers which was forgiven by all in the pervading euphoria  despite starting the day with an outside chance of sneaking the title.

Relegations – and I’ve fully experienced the misery of just four of those, not having really realised at age seven what would become the long-term significance of dropping out of the top flight in the World Cup summer of ’66  – have generally been confirmed with a game or two, if not weeks, to absorb the glum repercussions.

Last-day all-or-nothing finishes have been relatively rare with a couple of exceptions, most notably of course the time-stood-still moments which saw fleeting seconds of incalculable shock and misery almost instantly morph into unfettered ecstasy at Anfield in 1995.

In the pre-internet, pre-mobile era many of you will remember hearing the cheers ring around Eastville in 1981 when some fool decided to spread the rumour that Preston were ahead against Swansea. By full time most of us had realised that blokes with transistor radios pressed to their ears had the correct information that Swansea were winning at a canter and Kevin Stonehouse’s winner for us would only provide the questionable consolation of finishing level on points with John Toshack’s side but missing out on promotion to the top flight on goal difference.

We would have to wait another 11 years…

And Selhurst Park 1989….well, we just don’t even want to go there, do we?

Even in the joy of winning promotion in 1992, matchwinner Mike Newell denied us three or four minutes of cigars-out relaxation in the Wembley caldera by missing his second penalty!

The play-off spots of 1988, 1989,1990 and 1992 (although the final table shows you that even a defeat in that Speedie hat-trick game at Plymouth wouldn’t have mattered) were all clinched pretty late although never did we have the luxury Huddersfield Town were afforded last weekend of being able to field a virtual reserve XI for the second-last game – a questionable if understandable decision which was always going to raise an eyebrow or two as we hoped The Terriers would present Birmingham with rather more formidable opposition.

Personally, I think it would have been just as easy – and possibly just as unethical if wholly unprovable  – for David Wagner to send his usual team out with instructions to go meekly through the motions and avoid bookings, injuries and even 50-50 challenges and such.

I do think that a Rugby League style incentive for finishing high would be a welcome innovation….maybe Third plays sixth in a one-off semi-final at Thirds’s stadium, or third goes straight to the final with the others playing off for the right to meet them.

Brighton certainly suffered in their Play-Off campaign last season by going hell for leather to the final seconds of their 46th league game and starting over in the knock-out lottery absolutely crushed with disappointment.

Those with long memories could argue that in ’88 we got the benefit of playing a Millwall side who had clearly been on the pop all week.

Certainly on Saturday last we got the benefit of playing a Villa side who could not possibly have been any less competitive or ‘at it.’

Rovers did the job they had to do well but they could not have wished to be provided with a more weak, submissive foe on a day a win was imperative.

I foolishly backed Villa to go up at the start of the season and even more foolishly did so again at much longer odds after they splashed out in the January window.

They were living proof that a wealthy owner picking a proven manager and giving him zillions to spend is not necessarily guaranteed to bring success.

For the second time this season I’d have sent a steward to ask Henri Lansbury for £29 when he came off substituted for being a spectator.

But credit to Rovers for at least showing the doggedness and determination not to let Villa’s conceited mercenaries stroll about as they plainly seem to consider they have a God-given right to do.

The keeper (who hasn’t given us one moment of apprehension since claiming the spot that I can think of) and back five were, I thought magnificent, the midfield unfailingly industrious and Gallagher led the line gamely if gauchely at times.

I realise that Jason Lowe can do no right for some but I thought he was in credit with his display, particularly after supplying the pass for the goal when yet another moment of Villa insouciance offered the opportunity to capitalise.

He would be in even more credit with me if he can arrange to score the first goal on Sunday as I weekly back him at 28/1.

“One goal and one assist in his Rovers career,” grumbled one curmudgeon coming off, possibly with some degree of accuracy but with a level of cynicism even I would consider churlish.

The tenner tickets generated a large enough and otherwise cheery home following to match the travelling Claret and Blue Army and it all made for mostly a happy, positive afternoon of togetherness  in the sunshine.

The convivial atmosphere throughout and at the end was how you’d want to send the team off into a crucial decider. I thought the players’ and manager’s understated but appreciative gestures to the Ewood crowd at the end were pitched just right. It wasn’t a day or circumstance for parading round on a “lap of honour” however much the kids enjoy that kind of thing.

That may well be – and I desperately hope I’m wrong – the last game with such a “big match” feel at Ewood for some time as you couldn’t imagine Wigan, Oldham, Bury or Rochdale actually filling the Darwen End if we came down and Bolton have booked the kind of swift return we all hope for but somehow doubt we’re capable of engineering if the worst happens.

But for all we’ve been through and experienced down the decades, this Sunday could be the strangest and weirdest day of all.

Who could ever envisage that there could be an afternoon of football when a win might not be good enough but a defeat theoretically could be in the right circumstances?

If us, Birmingham and Forest all win and there is no difference in the margin of Forest’s and our victories, we’re down. If we lose 1-0 and Forest (unlikely I know but stranger things happen) lose 3-0 at home to Ipswich, we’ll be dancing in the streets of NW London, or in my case, Penwortham.

The happiest outcome for me – and lots of others I suspect – would be for both Rovers and Forest to win and Birmingham to lose at Bristol City perhaps undeservedly clearing Huddersfield of any responsibility for anyone’s plight.

Although much as I enjoy revisiting Nottingham it would make for an altogether less stressful afternoon if both Midlands sides can arrange to be three down after 20 minutes and conceivably a draw would do us.

It’s such a likelihood that there will be twists and turns from first minute to last though that Sky have seized upon the games at the bottom for live coverage rather than the somewhat academic matters of which play-off side finishes in which spot and plays who (and who avoids who as I suspect may be behind Huddersfield’s disinterest).

Television will be my family’s medium to follow proceedings but I sincerely hope those lucky enough to have secured sold-out tickets for Brentford’s away seats and terraces – yes, wonderfully there are still terraces at Griffin Park – enjoy the day, see a Rovers’ performance they can be satisfied with and most importantly spend the return leg of the journey celebrating.

The reasons, ramifications, repercussions and reflections if we fail are not subjects for discussion this week, I’ll be analysing them at length next week if need be. I sincerely hope I’m doing no such thing.

For now, all that need be said is to wish the manager, staff, players and travelling fans all the very best for a monumentally important day.

It’s not wholly in our hands but let’s do our bit on the day.

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BLUE-EYED BOY

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