While another inevitable and dispiriting defeat cast Ewood into gloom for another fallow fortnight of interminable and tedious international tripe, I have at least one amusing anecdote with which to regale the disheartened Blue and hopefully lift your sagging spirits.
My intrepid and dear pal Woody from Preston, who I first met long ago on foreign Rovers pre-season travels, alighted from his early train at Birmingham New St at 9am on Saturday morning, fully six hours before kick-off at St Andrews.
It’s not uncommon for Woody to set off early in pursuit of a very full day’s Bacchanalian pleasures – one day in July I was about to board a London train and there he was at Preston station bound for our friendly at Bloomfield Rd. It was half past eight in the morning.
On this occasion however he met his erstwhile pal Jock for breakfast in the ‘Spoons as is de rigeur for your unreconstructed millennial new-men, none of your metrosexual manbag chic for these lads, and Spalding Jock, another exotic character many of you will have encountered on your sojourns, explained to his eager partner-in-crime for the day that his knowledge of a labyrinthine network of real ale havens en route to second-city football venues was second-to-none.
So it proved, as Jock’s encyclopedic recall of craft ale meccas led to our increasingly tipsy heroes negotiating their way for hours along a beery route only a veteran of many football days out in Brum could have plotted.
Emerging from what they planned to be the final hostelry of their relay at around ten to three, they narrowed their eyes in the sun as you do when emerging refreshed from licenced premises and, congratulating themselves on the thus-far perfect ale trail, headed for the unmistakeable husk of a stadium in the near-distance.
Alas, on approach they identified only too clearly the giveaway claret and blue paintwork and, on closer inspection, the unquestionable soubriquet “Aston Villa Football Club.” Jock had clearly memorised the hoppy passageway of pleasure from previous experience but unfortunately had gotten his actual grounds mixed up.
Not really full-on men of the internet age, and with Birmingham traffic at a grid-locked standstill they opted against fumbling with maps on their phones or a taxi and walked back to New Street to re-gather their bearings and begin their walk to St Andrews anew, finally arriving at 3.35pm.
It’s almost a perfect metaphor for Rovers season in some ways. Having been behind at some stage in practically every game, usually conceding in the first half, it could be said that the jolly pair of errant beer hunters still got in before the point when their team habitually gets going.
From most accounts however, Saturday was a little different in that we competed for the first 45 minutes then fell away after Gleeson’s goal around the hour mark.
As if to illustrate Coyle’s ineptitude, four days after Sheffield Wednesday gave us the perfect demonstration of marking the opposition danger man out of the game,Birmingham’s winner was set up by the lively Cotterill, whose performance had simply cried out to that point for an extra man to be deployed on him.
The manager’s lack of ability to fine-tune tactics during the course of a game has become such a constant theme among Ewood coaches that you wonder if it’s actually specified in the contract that you make no attempt to alter even a failing system during a game.
No-one can legislate for injuries which occur during a game but they are occurring with worrying regularity for Graham and Evans and Coyle’s lack of imagination or innovation when a goal is desperately needed was again highlighted by his reluctance to bring on Samuelsen, opting instead for the workmanlike Bennett.
Coyle went into the game having achieved the seemingly impossible task of coming off a fans’ consultation meeting (whatever one of them is) with the supporters complimenting him for speaking well and answering what he was asked (and sometimes what others who seemed strangely reluctant to answer were asked) straightforwardly and with honest enthusiasm.
Given that his fellow panellists included the previously-invisible but perennially abrasive and defensive Robert Coar, the flustered and floundering, largely irrelevant (certainly on the night) Mike Cheston with his unnecessary, risible middle-management power point projection and a couple of mute club flunkeys, Coyle’s fellow contenders weren’t designed to give him much of a run for his money, or indeed to actually say anything at all if the motormouth manager was prepared to leap in with his stream-of-consciousness manager-speak psychobabble and save them the bother.
When former chairman Coar did speak, it eventually made for an excruciating listen as BRAG members, not exactly covering themselves in glory on the night or with amateurish statements since, angry-mob pressured him about his role and whether he could be proud of his dealings since Jack Walker died.
I’ll state here and now that I’ve never found Bob particularly likeable as a public figure or warm or cordial towards rank and file fans even in the era we were top of the Premiership – there was certainly no more communication from him then than there is from anyone now either – but I have no idea whatsoever what he does or what his role is at the club and would dearly like to know. He could certainly have explained it better and let himself down by churlishly and boorishly playing the legal threat card but a braying bunch of accusers actually ruined a developing moment and missed a rare chance to question and press him on it by childishly flouncing out as the exchanges became distinctly unpleasant.
Almost sounding as daft was the bloke who congratulated Coyle on “performing miracles to get this squad together.” The only miracle Coyle, who laughably claimed to have always turned home grounds into a fortress at all his clubs, needs to perform is the one that gets us out of the bottom three where his team of all the talents currently lies having amassed eight points from 33. His home record in his last full season at Bolton, P19, W4, D 4, L11 suggests his idea of a fortress is different to mine. P9 W4 D3 L2 at Wigan, since you asked. Houston? I can’t even be bothered looking.
However with two home games immediately after the break he has a chance to start living up to his own hyperbole. That’s the start of a period which sees us play seven out of 11 at home and his current record of one home win in five clearly suggests that while the turrets may be manned, someone keeps leaving the drawbridge down and the front gate open.
As many have pointed out, Rovers’ immediate target is to find three clubs to finish above.
One candidate, Cardiff, might just have played their get out of jail card.
So much for those who claimed that no way would Neil Warnock join a seemingly doomed, dysfunctional club where a barmy owner had pulled the plug on spending.
They made the decision and made the phone call. As most of us know from painful experience, if you don’t ask the girl or guy to dance, someone else more than likely will.
*I don’t want to get further drawn into the “to protest or not to protest” debates on a weekly basis as some fairly unsavoury responses to this blog have probably by now bored many of you to tears. Nobody who puts forward an opinion will have everyone agree with it but one doesn’t want to provide a regular platform for vile, angry sociopaths.
I will, however, say that the idea, mooted this week, of hiring a painter to depict Jack Walker “strangling Venkys with one hand with a boxing glove in his other hand” on a wall close to Ewood is among the very worst suggestions I’ve heard.
I get on perfectly well with Glen, who threw the concept out (and added that it was only for discussion, not a definitive planned design). While we disagree on a hell of a lot, he’s sat in my house for a chat on non-protest related matters, we got on fine and we have exchanged pleasantries at the Reserves a few weeks ago.
I know everything he does is with the good of the club at heart even if his approach and methods sometimes make me raise an eyebrow – which he knows and knows I’d tell him next time he’s sat here without any need for recrimination, falling out or name-calling. He spoke very, very well at that meeting last week and brought up some great points.
But just two points on this.
Surely if Jack Walker is to be depicted publicly it would be minimum courtesy to approach his family for permission and approval – something I feel would be most unlikely to be forthcoming in the forms proposed!
And secondly do we really want children daily walking or being driven past an image depicting violence, however caricatured or cartoon? Some of the further suggestions were even more outlandish – a firing squad of chickens and Rovers fans lined up? I hope they are joking but suspect not.
I’m also at a loss to understand why Gandhi’s visit to Darwen was invoked. Completely irrelevant and disrespectful, no? “Uh, these are Indians, so let’s put a picture of a famous Indian up?”I just don’t get that.
It’s important that as a set of fans we retain dignity. As well as respecting each other’s opinions and rights, we need to avoid looking more foolish than the people being targetted.