No room for error or excuses now Lambert has cashed in on shuffled pack

New manager settling in with six window signings, terrace idol and top scorer sacrificed for £9m worth of rebuilding money an hour before the deadline… a quiet day expected at Ewood then.

But oh no, folks, this is the weird and wonderful world of Blackburn Rovers and weeks after satisfying most of the fans that we have the right man at the helm and wriggling out of the suffocating embargo, the bloke purportedly paid for  and charged with the day-to-day running of the club gets the chop!

I’ve no idea whether Derek was a workaholic or played on Minecraft all day so I have no strong opinions either way, unlike the army of (presumably) lawyered-up Twitterati who were straight on their phones posting potentially libellous stuff within minutes.

It’s incredible how many young adults and people who never get within three-quarters of a mile of Ewood are so comprehensively clued up on the club’s internal workings and machinations.

But who cares? It’s what goes on on the field between now and May which is my immediate concern.

Selling your best players and replacing them with not-quite-as-good-ones is not a policy which has historically benefited many clubs (and most decidedly not Rovers) in the past but many are confident that Lambert has a system of play in mind in which he thinks his acquisitions – Ward, Bennett, Jackson, Watt, Graham and Jordi Gomez – will sparkle in a team which has let King (no great loss for me), Cairney, Gestede, Olsson and Rhodes leave in the past few months.

Lawrence never quite flowered as much as I’d hoped either but I feel he could do well elsewhere. Perhaps he couldn’t adapt to the “high pressing game” which some have perceived and consider we have mastered after a bit of a cup day out. Certainly Lambert made no over-strenuous efforts to retain his services. 

You could argue that Gomez is more experienced than Cairney and he is certainly an able and creative footballer. He and Rhodes must have permitted themselves a wry smile apiece that they have passed like ships in the night.

The bloke who has been looking forlornly for a midfielder with a tin-opener left foot for three and a half years misses him by a week!

Gomez sees Mr Guaranteed Goals pass him on the A1 and is reunited with a bloke who largely drew blanks on the end of his supply!

A relegation-haunted Premier League side were of the opinion that neither Gomez or Graham had anything to offer them in their battle and those who were fondly imagining hatfuls of goals would do well to be mindful of the fact that the Gomez-Graham combination produced a single goal in 18 months for Sunderland, a mishit Gomez shot turned in by Graham at Goodison.

So presumably Watt, impressive against modest Oxford but with a history of paltry goal returns and a career littered with suggestions that his training-ground behaviour and dedication to maintaining fitness are not all that they might be, is key to the equation.

Although he was woeful for Charlton at Ewood early this season, reports of his spell at Cardiff suggest that he has improved and can knuckle down at least for short periods and certainly, his bustling goal against the Fourth Division side, winning the ball and driving hard at the defence and shooting decisively, was a rare sight in a blue-and-white halved shirt of late.

Some responsibility for goals has to come from elsewhere. Marshall and Conway ought to be ashamed of their league tally so far this campaign, full-backs have contributed none, central midfielders the usual pathetic haul and someone like Colin Hendry would have had half a dozen to his name presented with the opportunities Duffy has had. 

I have a sneaky feeling that Ward, reportedly outstanding at Oxford, will nudge ahead of Duffy. I can’t see a two-and-a-half year contract being handed to a bloke hauled out of Bournemouth stiffs unless Lambert intends playing him.

Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer from “ten-bob head” syndrome on the end of set-pieces, which Gomez will certainly assist in lifting the quality of.

The sad likelihood is however that Rhodes, suddenly maligned by his one-time worshippers as everything from “a weak, useless so and so,” “a player who’s been playing to avoid injury,” and even much worse by the even more disturbingly hard-of-thinking will still end the season as our top scorer with 11 goals.

“He didn’t fit into Lambert’s pattern of play,” chirped many, as if every other unit of the team had been functioning as smoothly as a well-oiled sewing machine. There’s a pattern of play?

I’m personally sorry to see him go despite being among those who feel his game never really took on any new dimension or improvements on top of his innate unarguable potency as a great Football League goalscorer (not as often a “scorer of great goals” as Shearer for example, but almost as clinical and consistent at this level until recently).

Though his performances dipped – whose haven’t this season? – he’d always have been my first pick on the team sheet as a likely match winner (or saver, as evidenced by his final two appearances).

As Lambert said, it would have probably made more sense to part with him in August when the fact that everyone started the season level might have widened the range of possible replacements.

I was disappointed to hear the manager make reference to a third previous window Rhodes had “wanted to go.” If he did, there was no public mention or fuss at the time (summer 2014 or January 2015 when Gestede was the story presumably) and if he did covet a move he knuckled down professionally and did his job. 

To make that public even if it is true was wholly unnecessary and undoubtedly a clumsy, crude and largely failed attempt to eat into Rhodes’ popularity and unblemished reputation as a model pro.

A lot of his goals came against the lesser opposition, true, but take off the points his goals have actually gained us in even this woebegone season and the table would be looking anything but nice and bonny.

Whatever the add-ons in the Rhodes fee though, it is our immediate job to attempt to deny Boro six of the points they need for promotion. Other than hoping he draws two forlorn blanks against us, it’s in our pecuniary interest that he does well, and I hope he particularly excels against the sides currently below us in the table.

Make no mistake, with the top two to play next and seven games against teams in the current top eight before mid-March, relying on sides below us not to pick up any points simply won’t do. I’d personally shake hands on two points from the next two – though I have a sneaky feeling we’ll win one – but even what would be two creditable draws will leave us closer to danger with a gruelling and demanding schedule ahead.

But look on the bright side… we play a side on Saturday who’ve lost their last two in the league, haven’t scored and have just signed a striker who’s only scored one open play goal and a penalty in three months!

Credit to Lambert for getting shut of timewasters Petshi and Koita. Next priority should be severing any ties with any silly bugger who had any part in bringing them here.

The cup win and a subsequent plum home draw will again prove an enjoyable diversion but we can certainly do without replays this time.

Lambert’s team in August, will, after more wheeling and dealing, barely resemble the one which began 2016. He will be looking at a promotion push.

The question every Rovers fan is haunted by is: from which division?


*Footnote – for goodness sake can we take a couple of youngsters on away trips for the experience? Six subs is just so village, isn’t it?

*Statisticians/historians  – a club debut AND a goal for Rovers in an FA Cup tie – I can’t find a post-war instance before Tony Watt, can you?


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18 Responses to No room for error or excuses now Lambert has cashed in on shuffled pack

  1. Jason says:

    Great article, quite funny and agree with so much of what you say. For me also, there are too many experts with strongly stated opinions on rovers forum’s……most of it is just pure noise nothing else! If you take time to think it through and evaluate where PL is going with this, it seems to me he felt that the game hinged around Rhodes for too long. Yes, he was class……. but not so much that you base your play around him. I think now we are moving towards a balanced approach, with a number of options up-front and a bit of movement behind the strikers! The big question still is….can the new guys contribute and as you say……..the Oxford game is not a benchmark.!

  2. Ian Bell says:

    I was born and bred in Blackburn, and live and work in Oxford. Had a great Saturday afternoon in the city and at the game, and will have the bragging rights, after all the b8llocks I’ve had since the draw, for quite a while. Just so gland to see us win for ages, I know its Div 4 opposition, but it helps breed confidence and makes me feel better.

    • blueyedboy says:

      Many thanks for reading and commenting Ian, great to have southern-based fans who turn up and swell the support.
      Really appreciate you reading and getting in touch

  3. I always enjoy reading your blog.

    I thought it was well reported that Rhodes wanted to go during the last transfer window but I was unaware of one before that. Is it possible that Lambert was exaggerating?

    As for the Ward/Duffy debate, Duffy has to be one of the least talented footballers to play in a Rovers team for a long time.He’s not too bad defensively but his distribution and heading in the opposition box are both atrocious. What’s more, he often barges better placed players out of the way to get his head to a cross that flies off into the stand. I haven’t seen Ward play but he was apparently good against Oxford.

    Living down south I don’t get to see the Rovers very often but have watched them play against MK Dons, Reading and most recently Charlton. Three terrible games with a single point to show for it. Maybe I should stop going!
    Best wishes,

    • blueyedboy says:

      Don’t do that Richard they need the support and it’s always great to see Rovers fans from the South turn up!
      Thanks for reading and taking the trouble to comment, really is appreciated!

  4. Peter G says:

    Tremendous as usual Jim, I must say my day out to Oxford was my favourite away trip so far this season. Pre match hops in the british legion followed by not only an impressive Rovers display(couldn’t believe how “cock sure their fans, Jim Rosenthal included were) but both Watt and Ward had excellent debuts, Watt even scoring one and making the penalty! Wonders never cease.

  5. Tom says:

    good read as ever Jim….

    Regarding the Rhodes sale, although it would seem logical to wait until the end of the season, I could easily see any plan to sell him in the “summer” backfiring due to the lack of suitors prepared to pay the desired asking price. Selling him at 10:59 on 31st August to Boro/Hull three weeks into the season for 8.01 million would not help at all and could kill off 16/17 before it even gets going, so maybe this is the only realistic way we can cash in. Of course if we go on to be relegated then it will be proven as bad idea but I am personally behind it.

  6. Will Mactavish says:

    Great read as always blue eyes . Tiz indeed a worry. Our new forwards simply MUST hit the ground running and our current players MUST start chipping in with goals . There are 50+ points to play for and we are only 5 ahead. I get the feeling we’ll be reyt……… just.

    • blueyedboy says:

      Many thanks for reading & getting in touch Will I really do appreciate it! Hopefully they will surprise us & finish well clear having claimed some notable local scalps along the way!!

  7. SteveChorley says:

    Great read BEB as per usual. A few thoughts of my own to help stir the pot. Firstly, I totally agree with you regarding Derek Shaw – some of the comments were outrageous, vitriolic and even libellous. Sadly, some of our commentariat seem to have lost touch with reality. I was shocked to note one ‘fan’ even went as far as to suggest Shaw had his hand in the till! Frankly, I would take legal advice in similar circumstances. Whatever our reservations, surely Derek Shaw deserves better than this; he may not be Mr. Charisma but, along with GB, he helped steer the good ship BRFC to calmer waters – quite an achievement dare one suggest! As for Jordan, it’s such a shame that his time at Rovers has come to such an unpleasant end. PL had clearly decided that JR could not fit into his idea of how to play winning football and seemed more than happy to get rid. Jordan is a fantastic finisher but that is it. He offers virtually nothing else in terms of assists, running the channels, pressurising defenders or executing fast counter attacking football. My better half (a season ticket holder) has chirped in my ear for years now that JR was getting a raw deal from successive managers because they refused to play to his strengths – he is definitely not a lone target man. Given that Rhodes has been asked to play in a way that doesn’t really suit him, virtually since his arrival, his goal tally is pretty remarkable. Equally remarkable, for me, is, is the way he has knuckled down and played this unnatural role without seeming complaint – well, at least not until this season!

    I think, and desperately hope, that PL knows what he is doing. One thing that strikes me is that he has suddenly got a much more robust and experienced spine to his team (Graham – Gomez – Ward). This must be a plus surely. Only time will tell, but I for one feel a little more confident that we now have the tools to be more competitive in the games to come. Fingers and toes crossed (that’s 20 when you include the wife!). Keep up the good work BEB, always enjoy you musings.

  8. Savio Mathias says:

    Excellent article BEB. Yeah I know I should be careful what I say on twitter however I do get within 3 quarters of a mile of Ewood I have a season ticket so I am there every match day illness permitting and have been to Deepdale and the Reebok this season one thing I will say about Derek his actions in the Henning Berg fiasco has never been in doubt & he should have been sacked back then imo. I do agree with you tho its what happens on the field between now and May. But I agree and noticed that last week although we have let go of our top scorer but agree Lambert is introducing a new way of playing & although we’ve lost a goal scorer we have beefed up that midfield with Gomez who was Wigans best player when we dropped from the EPL& is a great addition we now have a good mixture of strikers Jackson who has a lot of pace Graham who is physically strong and holds the ball up well. Watt who harries and never gives defenders a moments peace & knows where the back of the net is. so already up front is much more balanced hopefully in the summer if we can get rid of Delf & Brown and can get a striker on loan when the loan window opens in a while one who scores regular either Clough,Simpson or a PL striker would be good. With Bennett on the wing who I think has done well and shown us the pace he has gets to the byline & his crossing has been very good hopefully if we can get rid of Guthrie, Akpan,Willo & maybe bring in a Gibson & an Agbonlahor on loan if possible that I believe will represent good business With Ward who has done very well I don’t think the defence needs any more work. I only hope these new recruits do well in the championship. Although I think it is obvious the style of play Lambert is implementing with a few more recruits which should be ok hopefully as a championship team.

  9. Harry Berry says:

    As always the only comments on the Rovers worth reading. I think the last debutant scorer in a FA Cup tie was Jimmy Fraser in 1937 although you could advance the case for Cecil Wyles in 1945/46 because although the cup was played the other games were in the war time league.

    • blueyedboy says:

      Although Cecil played in the initial game, 0-0 Harry, and scored in the replay.
      Funny enough I sit with my old school pal Mark Fraser on Ewood & his dad Jim – now in his 80s but my former maths teacher at St Marys College. He was a Nelson fellow who played cricket for them & later East Lancs at 1st team level
      Many thanks for the wonderful compliment Harry, been rereading large tracts of a Century of Soccer having recently replaced a lost copy – truly essential for anyone who professed to have an interest in the club
      Best regards

    • blueyedboy says:

      Harry I have 3 of your series of books which began with “Safe Hands” that and nos 2 & 4. Are there any remaining of the ones I’m missing? With thanks
      Best regards

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