This is my final Newspaper Column for this season so hopefully you won’t have to be reading sloppy seconds from now on.
I was tempted in it to have a dig at the Clarets Fans who sent me their embittered texts after the Wolves game. Or the guy Calvin, was it, from the Mirror, who penned our obituary a few weeks ago in a nasty little piece he wrote.
But at the end of the day, I just don’t care what anyone who hasn’t got my passion for Rovers says, or writes. If the “Southern Based Media” don’t care for us, as the messageboard/forum paranoid conspiracy theorists have it, so what? I live in Preston, where Preston folk don’t care for us a whole lot. A lot of Blackburn people support other teams. Don’t even go in an Easterly direction from there.
It bothes me not a jot what praise or criticism or recognition or scorn we draw from the BBC, Sky or the papers.
I love my club and we finish where we finish regardless of what some tit on Jeff Stelling’s programme says or what Alan Nixon writes or how Mark Lawrenson tips us to do.
I’d love us if we were in League Two and never got a mention of any of ’em.
So, without the rancour and bile I could’ve spat out, here’s column number last of 2010-2011….
“So the end of the world didn’t come on Saturday – or Sunday.
In the final reckoning, Rovers survived by such a comfortable margin courtesy of a stunning first-half display at Molineux that not only were they never in a relegation spot all season, they failed to register on the hysterically-chronicled doomsday list even on the final day when everyone else had a turn in the trap door’s jaws.
The religious nuts have now recalibrated October 2012 for Armageddon. Hurrah, another full season in the Big Boys’ League!
Such decent form did Steve Kean’s men find by the end of the season that had the Premier League comprised of the once-traditional 42 matches, a top ten spot wouldn’t have been out of the question.
Everyone has to be congratulated for a breathtaking final day effort. The staff – whatever your thoughts about them, it cannot be said that any tactical ineptitude blighted the last, crucial four games which yielded the requisite points and the players were clearly playing with the appropriate pride and desire for them – the players themselves, many of whom I have regularly labelled wanting, and the fans, who have made practically every away game during the run-in a sell-out and were a wondrously visible and audible uplifting spectacle in themselves at Wolves.
Wolves were strangely dispassionate opposition for a team that might have ultimately needed points but Rovers hit them with three goals distinguished by vastly differing but similarly adept quality finishes before they could begin to calculate what was required to survive even such a blue and white blitzkrieg.
Oddly, the second and third goals, a brilliant strike from the born-again Emerton (Mr No End Product one foolish columnist dubbed him!) and another from Junior Hoilett’s fabulous collection of George Best style gems both came from long balls forward, proof if any were needed that a mixture of the prosaic with the beauteous is more of a reality than anyone’s vague concept of “football as it should be played” or “Sam’s functional hoofball.”
This being Rovers of course, nothing was ever going to be straightforward and there was an awful minute or two when the home side had reduced the margin to a single goal and both Wigan and Birmingham could still have won, when the spectre of a 4-3 collapse flashed across my psyche.
But for the second week running, as the Old Gold faithful worked out that a narrow defeat might suffice, we were treated to the surreal spectacle of a side settling for what they had and playing keep-ball quite to Rovers’ compliant satisfaction.
How ironic that some Rovers supporters jeered far less contrived retention of possession when the teams met for the first time this season.
The visiting Venkys picked a good week to make their long-overdue appearance as Molineux, not always the friendliest of venues, was transformed into 1967 Haight-Ashbury as peace and love broke out on all four sides of the stadium.
Many supporters seem content to wipe the slate clean and profer the owners, particularly if the promised investment materialises, and Steve Kean (with his newly-contracted assistant John Jensen) a clean slate, particularly in the light of the fabulous news that season tickets are to remain at absolute bargain prices. It seems Kean has survived the clamour for his departure for now. I’m not convinced but a lot of embittered feelings towards the guy have been soothed by survival and it looks like he’s ridden a considerable storm, at least some credit to him for that.
The team which completed the season and the style with which they ended this for so long ill-starred campaign certainly looks to have foundations in place with an excellent keeper, a potentially immense centre-back pairing, a midfield emerging as a coherent unit with width and goals finally emanating from unexpected quarters.
For various reasons we may have seen the last or the best of Dunn, Grella, Salgado, Givet, El Hadji Diouff Roberts, Kalinic, Santa Cruz and other assorted misfiring strikers. We need replacements, notably at right back and centre-forward.
But in Phil Jones, Hoilett, Olsson, N’Zonzi and Jermaine Jones (if available and affordable) we have a basis to work with. It may be a harder job to keep some of them than it was to find them and blend them together though.
Now we can truly relish seeing what Ruben Rochina and Diego Formica have to offer, without having to throw them in half way through a difficult patch. At least we will see their talents against the top sides rather than at Brighton or Doncaster.
A look at the final table tells you that take away the top six – we’ll just allow Liverpool the merest suggestion that they could still be a top four power again – the rest is a morass of ordinariness.
Everton sleepwalked into seventh place after a season even David Moyes wouldn’t dare describe as above average.
Fulham, eighth and wonderful-football-playing Bolton, 14th (above Rovers only by virtue of that final momentary lapse of concentration which ended Sam’s reign) virtually swapped positions over the final six weeks or so.
Both of them and, in between, your West Broms, Newcastles, Sunderlands, Stokes, Villas – virtually every one had a spell as both A) Pundits’ Team Of The Moment and B) Team On An Almightly Slump.
It was sad to see a derby lost as Blackpool went – how Ian Holloway must regret his “I’m cleverer than the PL” moment when he scandalously sent his Reserves to Villa – the first team would have won that game at that time.
I’m glad neighbours Wigan survived as an alternative to charmless Birmingham (Bye Bye, Barry Ferguson!).
The promoted sides look an uncharismatic bunch lacking even novelty value this time so hopefully there will be no reason ever to get near such a mess again.
For now, there is a little time to drink a toast to survival, forget the recriminations which have peppered debates through 2011 and to hope that those whose mistakes caused us to flirt with disaster have learned their lessons well and quickly.
Your average football fan has the memory and attention span of a goldfish and a Blackpool Prom Fortune-Teller’s ability to see a rhapsodic future via the most miniscule portent of good favour.
Let’s hope our optimism is justified at last. See you in August”