During the season I’ve regularly been privileged to have a couple of excellent bloggers deputise for me.
I’ll need at least till my usual midweek slot to gather my thoughts and feelings but one of my friends and comrades felt the need to unload instantly and I think we are lucky to be able to host his musings….
Déjà vu all over again…
As a small boy I didn’t fully have a grasp on relegation; what it was, the impact and the implications. In that respect I seem to have much in common with the current owners of Blackburn Rovers F.C. I’d not long been initiated into the joys of supporting a football team but in my first full season relegation was a distinct possibility. I’d heard people around me worry about it; I copied the stock reply that I heard delivered many times;
“No, I think we’ll be OK, Charlton will go down not us…”.
I didn’t understand what I was saying; it was simply a default, reflex response.
The following season we were in Division 3. I didn’t really care. As long as I could keep going, watching my team, having a cheeky pie every now & then, it was not an issue. In my defence, I was only 7 years old.
It happened again in 1979. This time though it did hurt. I knew what the failure meant. I felt the pain and anguish. I despised the taunts from the “friends” who supported other teams…but mainly the ones from a little further east of Blackburn.
Then the problems really started. We became quite good, positively dashing at times. Blossoming into a fine second division team and wait for it; threatening to gate-crash the big boys’ party in Division One, only to fail gallantly in the play-offs time and again.The Walker years are well documented. Still can’t believe what I saw in just 5 years. Still can’t reconcile how that legacy has been squandered so completely.
The 1999 vintage was a litany of errors in managerial appointments and player recruitment. Ring any bells ? It felt like the alarm clock going off before you have had time to finish the dream. The princess was still trapped, I hadn’t saved her, but I’m awake now..! How do we get out of this one ?
The answer was a canny managerial appointment and some very shrewd signings. A blue print that saw some fine talent grace Ewood over the next few years; under a series of capable managers…oh and Paul Ince of course.
Then along come Venky’s; who in short order, have delivered two of the things they (allegedly) thought could never happen and 46 years on, my team is right back where they were in 1971, in my first full season as a fan.
This one hurts the most without a doubt. Back to Division Three, learning nothing from the experience of the Premier League exit. It’s been like watching a close relative squander a hard-earned family inheritance due to a series of crass decisions; only to find themselves back on skid row, due entirely to their own profligacy and rank stupidity.
The tale of Blackburn Rovers since 2009 has been nothing but self-inflicted wounds repeated ad nauseam. The biggest concern now is; “Is this as bad as it gets ?”
I’m not entirely confident it is and there’s the rub.
But what to do about it ? Last summer, my interest was waning largely due to the apathetic ownership and their serial incompetence. The appointment of the “outstanding candidate” (sic) was the final nudge I needed. The season ticket renewal form was binned and I decided it was mainly away games, with perhaps an occasional cherry-picked home fixture.
A catalogue of player sales, a manager clearly out of his depth, boardroom re-shuffles, injuries, poor refereeing decisions, late goals…oh who am I kidding, we have got exactly what “We” deserve; if by “We”, you mean the owners/executives.
The supporters, whether the “not a penny more” brigade, the “it’s my club, I’ll go whatever” and all shades in between, deserve better. Modern football is now a commodity. Clubs are bought & sold like cars. Fun to play with, the novelty wears off, the value quickly depreciates and they require a lot of TLC and routine maintenance. Once off the road they then need special dedication, knowledge, enthusiasm; (and no little cash) to restore them to former glories.
And I guess that brings us up to date. Sunday’s events were no shock, not even a surprise let’s be honest. We’ve flirted so fervently with relegation all season it seemed that all that was missing was a full page advertisement in the Times announcing our impending nuptials.
Yet still nothing from the absentee landlords. No idea as to understanding what value or pleasure can possibly gleaned from continuing ownership of a foreign plaything. A vintage sports car that’s no fun any more, that sits slowly rusting in a garage thousands of miles away.
It’s not easy to take the positives from this “opportunity”; some fresh away grounds, some academy youngsters being given a chance, maybe actually winning some football matches ?
I fear it is a long way back. Few of the necessary components of a fully functioning, fit for purpose football club exist at Blackburn Rovers currently.
Concerns over budgets and the epic scale of the continuing trading losses threaten the Walker legacy of the stadium, the training ground, the academy and the very identity of the club.
Yet we are not alone in our predicament; Blackpool, Charlton, Coventry, Leyton Orient, Nottingham Forest to name but a few…all have suffered the vicissitudes brought upon them by their owners. It used to be a sport. It’s now a crying shame (unless you are a Burnley fan of course).