Catch yourself on, one step at a time

First off, I must apologise for a statistical inaccuracy I proffered last week, an unforgiveable miscalculation which must have caused untold confusion.
I stated in this column seven days ago that if Rovers won the next two league games there would be an outbreak of inexplicably rash play-off talk after totting up the gap between our points tally and that of the sixth-placed side.
I now realise this was unforgivably based on an assumption of common sense and a grounding in reality brought about by 20-odd unspeakably average performances in the Championship season to date.
Little did I realise that not two, but simply one solitary league win against a bottom three outfit would engender a tidal wave of optimism not a lot different to that which precedes England’s bi-annual dead loss showing at an international tournament.
And I thought our Claret cousins were the first to get over-excited at a peek of daylight.

Don’t get me wrong, no-one is more delighted than I am that Rovers are looking an altogether handier unit under Michael Appleton than the sorry version which was hurtling towards oblivion at a rapid rate of knots under Henning Berg.
The good work begun by Gary Bowyer and his team ensured the unit was handed onto Appleton without the lasting psychological damage which seemed to have accrued under Berg and, mostly, his eternally-damned predecessor.
And Appleton has stamped his own identity and authority on the club without hesitation in bringing in his own staff, marginalising unwelcome influences and presences around the players and getting shut of a number of fitful performers who had been indulged for far too long in a vague, vain belief that they would one day come good.
His efforts to top the numerically-diminished squad up with a couple of potentially significant contributors of course fell victim to the administrative bungling that typifies the present-day stewardship of our once-august institution but hopefully Jerome Thomas and DJ Campbell – the latter on another eye-raisingly weighty pay-packet we are told – will be brought in on loan before weekend.
I know little about Thomas, who’s 30 in a few weeks but one of those who has seemed to be a promising youngster forever, but saw a bit of Campbell when I had the pleasure of reporting on many of Blackpool’s games on the road to promotion three years ago and he weighed in with 11 league and play-off goals from around this very point in the season.
Something about that Blackpool side clicked seamlessly into place around this very time of year but while a team often comes from well behind the pack I can find little recent evidence of a side as lowly-placed as we currently are at this juncture actually being promoted.
Of course if Campbell arrives and Leon Best gets fit we may prove more of a handful for opposition than we have thus far.
The pair of them will certainly owe us a goal or two on those wages. I wonder what length of contract persuades 31-year-old Campbell that his future lies here rather than with play-off odds-on Hull, or maybe it was pure romantic football reasons?
We are blessed indeed to have already an absolute goal machine at this level in Jordan Rhodes, whose feats with virtually no support in front of an often dysfunctional midfield are fast writing him into Ewood record books as well as his already-secured spot in the affections of supporters.
Notching seven times in six consecutive scoring league appearances puts him alongside the likes of Alan Shearer and Tommy Briggs in the history volumes and his second, clinching goal against Bristol City was characterised by the kind of physical strength and raw-boned determination those two had in abundance to augment the undoubted finishing brilliance the young Scotland international possesses in spades.
I’m beginning to pay more attention to Scotland games than England’s these days crossing fingers that he gets through them unharmed.
If Best or Campbell can operate productively alongside him in what looks increasingly and sensibly to be shapng up like an orthodox 4-4-2 configuration, then perhaps the options and movement in front of him will get the best out of the hitherto disappointing Murphy.
It seems the former Sheffield United midfield scuffler Lee Williamson may be the third experienced head to come on board. He scored 13 for the Blades last season so might have a bit of mobility left.
Meanwhile I’m not lamenting saying bye for now to the likes of Vukcevic, Formica, Rosado, Jorge and Rochina. It seems to me there’s a covert agreement among fans at Ewood that the more games you’re omitted for or sit on the bench during, the better player you magically become in the imagination of supporters who whistfully recall a great pass here, a shot there or a cross somewhere else.
I’m sorry, give me a squad of 18 battling for places and working towards a commonality of purpose ahead of 30 disparate souls wandering around Brockhall to no apparent purpose asking Shebby when they’ll get a turn.
I’m very hopeful Appleton will utilise his depleted resources – my, our bench looked threadbare last week – to get a positive result tomorrow.
But I’m equally cautious about translating that into a wholly-cured club sprung to mount a virtually unprecedented surge to promotion.
One day, one game at a time.
BLUE-EYED BOY

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