Shipwrecked ghost vessel Rovers seeks shape or form

The barmy we do as a matter of course and the utterly perverse we will usually have a go at these days but fair play to Rovers.

While most clubs would conclude a drawn-out power struggle in the boardroom by replacing the manager, it seems we are currently attempting to fit the small and not-at-all painstaking matter of a partial takeover into the middle of what ought, even to us,  to be a fairly straightforward search for a new chief coach.

I genuinely feel sorry for whoever’s job it is to price and market the season tickets. “Prices slashed – get yours and see who the new mystery manager will be,” or “Prices up – possible new owners may need your backing”?

Someone even mentioned that a “pay what you think it’s worth” scheme had been mentioned. Gordon Bennett. Only in Blackburn, eh, no wonder it took about five years to get a row of bus shelters built.

No sooner had the increasingly unloved Paul Lambert made his unlamented exit from Ewood, news broke to encourage us all that long-time Rovers fan and business luminary Ian Battersby, along with partner Ian Currie, a boyhood Blackpool fan who was latterly on Bolton’s board, had approached Venkys with an offer to  buy just over half the shareholding in the club and pump some money in.

Currie’s last offer to finance a club ended with Phil Gartside refusing his offer to pump £5m into Wanderers and the late Reebok chairman promptly hoofed him off the board so we hope this approach will land on more favourable ears and the saga ends more favourably for all concerned although nobody’s counting any deep-fried batter-coated chickens to be honest.

We have all hoped for some time that owners Venkys are getting so little back to nourish them from their stewardship of Rovers, financially or spiritually, that they would be favourable to a merciful offloading and someone taking the whole shebang off their hands and it would seem unlikely that they would ever get a better, more transparent, potentially break-even and trustworthy offer to do so than this.

A local presence on the corridors of Ewood power would gladden the hearts of all and would relieve the hapless Indians of the residual hatred and resentment just about still smouldering after five years of catastrophic tenure.

But we are like shipwrecked survivors clinging onto what little wreckage of our club remains buoyant, and any light or formless apparition on the horizon is to be clutched at no matter how often it turns out to be a mirage. People have been plucked from the seas before and we can but hope.

Of course before this latest potential oasis appeared across the desert there were anti-Venkys chants, banners and catcalls on Saturday as the team completed its even-more-meaningless-than-usual annual sunshine pressure-off Ewood goal romp against an even more relaxed Reading but even the mild modicum of hostility pent up in the disparate angry few was assuaged by going two goals up in no time on a shirt-sleeve afternoon.

It’s a bit easier to vent your spleen if your team is collapsing in front of your eyes on a bitter winter evening as Steve Kean once discovered.

Like the game, the protests were weak and half-hearted and couldn’t match the take-up rate of the touching applause for the little girl who died.

One banner in the Darwen End bafflingly proclaimed “Football Without Fans Is Nothing,” the relevance of which rather escaped me on an afternoon there were said to be as many home fans present as there have allegedly been all season.

Perhaps the flag bearer was off to watch a Combination game and taunt the players and officials later in the afternoon.

The handful of patient supporters who can stomach the drippy tokenism of a pretty mediocre bunch of players walking round with their kids and applauding the fans (they should sit in the dug out and clap us while we walk round, said one chum) were treated to the utterly bizarre spectacle of Lambert displaying the bare-faced cheek to take the microphone and tell them all what a grand club it is.

A couple of days earlier Lambert had given a jaw-dropping interview in which he admitted to giving his notice weeks ago and saying that the club were derelicting their duties if they hadn’t begun the search for a new manager at that juncture, further emphasising the fact that from the point he expressed his desire not to continue, he should have been escorted through the door by security.

His valedictory soliloquy was a bit like that “its not you, it’s me” speech we all had once from a departing girlfriend who assures you there’s no-one else and you’ll make someone a lovely partner, she just needs a bit of space.

You can usually guarantee to catch her coming out of Weatherspoons on a rugby player’s arm and getting into a fancy sports car within a fortnight and so it will transpire with Lambert as he breezes into Celtic Park or Carrow Road or somewhere.

At least we can be sure of obtaining much more info on why he left if his inability to shut his trap about his “old flames” persists.

He’s thankfully out of our hair though, and the most damning condemnation of him is that he made many of us nostalgic for a man whose summer 2015 signings included Koita, Petshi, Guthrie, Akpan and Delfouneso.

Some of whom we are left with among a threadbare squad which, if the takeover miracle doesn’t happen soon, could also be cherry-picked of much of its remaining quality.

The likes of Hanley, Duffy and Marshall will have their suitors as well as ambitions hitherto unlikely to be realised here.

Danny Graham has put himself firmly in the prize bull section of the market place but waiting until we have an executive structure, a manager and finance in place could well be costly, he is hardly going to bide two potentially lucrative months of his career out to see what happens here is he?

It is inconceivable that the club can function even in the first weeks of the close season without someone at least appointed caretaker, takeover or no takeover impending. It’s like a ghost ship floating aimlessly with the crew mysteiously departed.

Still, we are told, we have “almost finalised drawing up a final shortlist for interview” which sounds very much like that thing the errant lad in the class would say at school about having actually done most of their homework and just forgetting to bring it in.

All we can hope for is that Venkys first respond at all, for which there is no precedent, to the “bid” (the “announcement” of which was not trumpeted grandly through a loyal local press but strangely proffered to a low-grade transfer tittle-tattle column in a disreputable red-top rag no self-respecting football fan, or arguably human being of any description, would buy and given about as much prominence as Raith’s bid to ward off approaches for their gaffer) and secondly, respond favourably, which really is wishful thinking.

There is talk of former Rovers director Richard Matthewman being involved with Seneca which would provide a glory years link with the Walker family but with a quoted £60m said to be the amount brought to the table, don’t forget that that precise amount equates almost to the penny to Rovers’ wage bill for the two seasons prior to the one just ended. You can chuck an awful lot of money at football and still not guarantee results.

If we did well and sold 15,000 season tickets at average £350 each and 6,000 home and/or away fans turned up every week paying an average of £25 a ticket, that brings £9m through the gate a season.

Now imagine, just imagine, you found a squad of 18 good hungry players who cost an average 12 grand a week apiece – modest these days by any standards. It would be a modern day miracle wouldn’t it? Off the top of your head, no calculators how much do you reckon that is that a year?

More than £11m.

It can be done on a sensible budget – we have had to watch painfully as our neighbours have shown us how and become, in the process, everything we are now not but would wish ourselves at this point in our history to be – but not even all of the best-laid five-year plans come off seamlessly  in five years.

If we have another go at chucking money at it and still fail, well it doesn’t bear thinking about does it…?

Any how, what will be will be and no amount of wishing or hoping on our part will have any real say in what transpires.

I wish all our fans a happy summer with cheery news to illuminate it, good luck to Stanley in the Play-Offs and if you’ll have me, see you all again in the Observer in August.

For those who follow these blogs on WordPress I’ll bob in from time to time when anything happens at Ewood and if you want my instantaneous, often expletive-peppered and sometime ill-judged Rovers reactions you can follow me on Twitter @jimwilkz although that might subject you to more mundane news about local club cricket, my family or opinions on obscure bands of the 1970’s than you care to digest.








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5 Responses to Shipwrecked ghost vessel Rovers seeks shape or form

  1. Vekateshwara says:

    God I fancy killing myself everytime I read your long-depressing-unneeded-pointless-dwindling negativity akin to a young lad sat in the doctors speaking of his dying day as he awaits a standard tetanus jab. Have a day off.

  2. Stephen Walsh says:

    An excellent and objective assessment of our current travails Jim . Thanks for another great read. I’m now looking forward to a glorious summer of cricket . Hopefully the sun will shine !

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