We Are Sleepwalking Into Oblivion - Notes for Blackburn
Friday, 14th Oct 2016 10:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Ewood Park by delving into their forums.
“Apathy, thy name is Rovers”, “We are a husk of a club”, “What’s the point of hoping for the odd win when the club is being run into the ground?”, “I’m frustrated that nobody seems to care, much less the owners”, “There is nothing to look forward to except further deterioration.”
“Well, that’s the upturn in form well and truly over.” Blackburn were dragged back into the bottom three with 1-0 losses at home to Sheffield Wednesday and at Birmingham before the latest international break. Fans’ hopes had previously been raised after consecutive wins at home to Rotherham and at Derby.
“There is very much an air of frustration at Ewood Park. Those left watching are doing just that with no songs, no chants, no real noise generated at all. It’s like that period before fans get restless and call for a manager’s head or just leave in droves before the end of a game, but on infinite repeat.”
With a string of quality players departing and not being replaced, the sense of decline has taken its toll on supporters. “We have no real plan on how to try to win games or grind out results. We go through the motions and it’s not looking good”, “Another game, another defeat, life sucks now.”
“Whether we stay up or not this season, relegation to League One will inevitably happen with the current model and structure”, “We are going to hell in a handcart”, “It’s all plaster on gangrene”, “Let’s be honest, whatever happens on the pitch is a sideshow until these charlatans leave.”
“If we are in League One and the ownership stays, then it really is the death knell for what is left of Rovers as we know it. It would be a very convenient reason for serious cost-cutting, selling off fixed assets, squad slashing and promoting the cheap youth team players through. Scam, scam, scam.”
“The one constant theme in our decline has been the Venkys.” Since the owners took over at Ewood Park in 2010, the club have dropped out of the Premier League and the deterioration has continued with a succession of ill-fated managerial choices and the regular sale of the squad’s best players.
“Actions speak louder than words. The Venkys have sold off everyone they can”, “After our appalling start to the season, they had a chance to release funds to strengthen us and haul us up the league. Instead they sold Shane Duffy to Brighton, pocketed the money and allowed two loans to come in.”
“They aren’t interested in Blackburn Rovers and never have been”, “These so-called owners have never cared”, “This lot couldn’t run Bamber Bridge FC, I’m absolutely certain. We are pub standard off the park and League One on it”, “We will never start on the road to recovery until they go.”
“The abuse Coyle receives is appalling but that seems to be the way things are right now. I’m starting to feel very sorry for the bloke”, “He knows where the door is if he can’t handle the job. He is lucky that most of the fans’ ire is towards the owners, allowing his incompetence to go under the radar.”
“For all his shortcomings as a tactician, he has done wonders assembling this squad”, “I don’t think there is a manager in the world who could save us at the moment.” Fans accept that the 50-year-old ex-Burnley boss has been given a difficult brief but he is not above blame for their current plight.
Coyle has been given credit for assembling a viable squad on limited funds but his tactics have been regularly criticised. “A poor tactician incapable of adapting his sides and making poor substitutions”, “Coyle truly has no idea, does he? His substitutions are always like-for-like or more conservative.”
“It all boils down to him being a terrible manager”, “There isn’t much difference in his approach to games from [former boss] Gary Bowyer’s. The squad has undergone a massive downgrade but has still stood off opponents and tried to play it safe, just hoping something comes off or falls our way.”
“Our main problem seems to be a lack of movement or urgency”, “We lack any urgency or zip in our play. Nobody looks to get past their man or be positive with the ball”, “It’s blatantly obvious that nobody other than the wingers have an ounce of creativity so we end up passing the ball aimlessly.”
“The tempo of the passing is too slow. Knocking it around the back four looks good for possession statistics but nothing else. I can understand if we were trying to build from the back, but the pattern seems to be to knock it slowly around at the back and then play long aimless diagonal balls forward.”
The starting XI at Birmingham (above) has been little altered recently. The only change from the side that had both lost to the Owls and won at Derby was midfielder Darragh Lenihan replacing Danny Guthrie. The lack of tempo and urgency in the side’s build-up play has been consistently highlighted.
“It all depends on how Coyle sets the team up, and there’s the rub”, “Our centre-backs gets stick for their distribution, but there are so many times when they bring the ball out and nobody is making a run. We end up passing it sideways or just smashing an optimistic ball 70 yards up the field.”
“We have no pace in that midfield or defence”, “We need players busting a gut to run past strikers, widemen overlapping or through balls to turn defenders. Instead we are completely immobile and spend most of the time playing the ball harmlessly side to side in front of the opposition defence.”
“Our midfield is poor but that is common knowledge.” Despite the side’s shortcomings, one reason for optimism lies in the calibre of a striking trio of Sam Gallagher, Danny Graham and Marvin Emnes. “We have three guys who pose a threat up front and each brings something different to the team.”
Birmingham 1 - 0 Blackburn
“What a difference a week makes. This time last week I was getting drunk in Derby and hoping for a bright future”, “The same pattern as in previous games. It looks like we are in the game but then we concede and create no chances in the last 30 minutes”, “Birmingham took their chance. We didn’t.”
“It was an even first half but we were completely outplayed in the second half. Birmingham fully deserved to win.” The hosts picked up a deserved three points courtesy of Stephen Gleeson’s well struck shot on 64 minutes. Most Rovers felt the game was decided one City had taken the lead.
“It was a pretty even game until we lost both our strikers and our best midfielder [Corry Evans] to injury within the space of 20 minutes”, “We have a shoestring budget, injured players and we are up to our limit with loans”, “Worrying times, the table doesn’t lie with a quarter of the season gone.”
Blackburn 0 - 1 Sheffield Wednesday
“Very disappointing, we will have to pay a lot better than that to get out of trouble”, “We did not make Wednesday work for their win”, “We never put them under any real pressure and they rarely had to move out of first gear after the break to contain us”, “Our ‘total football’ didn’t last long.”
The Owls came away with what home fans felt was a comfortable win when Steven Fletcher’s deflected shot beat keeper Jason Steele in the 22nd minute. “We made life very easy with our predictable football-by-numbers build-up play and offered very little by way of a goal threat.”
“An infuriating watch tonight. We did very little with the ball when we did have it”, “Sheffield simply snuffed out our danger-men. Craig Conway had two markers on him all game, as did Evans”, “The thing is, Wednesday aren’t a top side. Until now they have been distinctly average in the league.”
“The reason we lost was down to our poor fitness levels. The Owls were closing us down in midfield and their forwards continued to make runs up to the final whistle. We were much less able to press and harass their players”, “Our pressing was wasted because we didn’t press fully as a team.”
Derby 1 - 2 Blackburn
“What a ding, dang do! Every now and again it’s good to have a break from the gloom”, “Onwards and surprisingly upwards”, “There is life in the famous shirts yet”, “That’s an excellent result in these troubled times”, “Well well, another three points on the board”, “An absolutely stonking win today.”
“Looking at the table, can we end the season tonight please?” Rovers climbed briefly out of the bottom three with this win at the iPro Stadium. All three goals came in a four-minute spell, with Blackburn falling behind after Matej Vydra’s low strike had put the hosts ahead on 69 minutes.
Marvin Emnes struck back for the visitors a minute later after the Rams’ defenders stood off him and Danny Graham added a second three minutes later after good build-up play. Ben Marshall’s penalty miss had been the only incident of note in a quiet first half after Richard Keogh had caught Emnes.
“Our winning goal was a quality move”, “Gallagher, Graham and Emnes can be formidable with the right players around them, but most of the squad aren’t up to their standard and we are likely to struggle”, “All three look dangerous and pose a threat when we get near to the opposition’s goal.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“I thought Jason Steele could have done more for Derby’s goal but he then pulled off a great save”, “That’s Steele all over though, probably why he’s with us and not a decent team.” The 26-year-old former Boro keeper “has had a slight upturn in form, mixing excellent stops with some awful kicks”.
“The defence has no confidence in Steele”, “There is no defensive organisation when he is in goal”, “There is no communication between him and his defenders so that innocuous situations become dangerous”, “He punches routine shots and his some of his positioning can be Sunday League level.”
“Cheer up, Jason Lowe is banned for the Ipswich game.” Most Rovers greeted the right-back’s yellow card at Birmingham with relief. The 25-year-old youth product “doesn’t stay close enough to his man and is miserable when supporting our attacks”, “Another game lost because he backed off his man.”
With Lowe suspended, right-winger Ben Marshall is widely expected to drop back into the back four. The 25-year-old ex-Leicester man “is far and away our best right-back, both as a defender and going forward”, “He seems to prefer playing there and it gives the side far more balance and options.”
“Marshall can float in and out of games but seems quite motivated when he is involved. I have been impressed with his defensive work”, “He hasn’t been right playing as a winger for a while”, “He had a no-show unmotivated game against the Owls. These are getting more frequent with every match.”
“Derrick Williams is a very decent left-back for this level.” The 26-year-old summer addition from Bristol City who trained with the Town academy as a schoolboy “shows what a proper defender playing at full-back does for you. He seemed to block more attempted crosses in our game last month against Fulham than Lowe has done all season.”
“Williams is steady, cool and composed on the ball”, “He’s a six-out-of-ten every week, a Tommy Spurr Mark Two without the throw-ins. He shows for the ball and is tenacious, overlapping a few times when he is confident. I don’t think he will ever be a world beater but will do well at this level.”
“Tommie Hoban plays well and puts an effort in.” Rovers have had little to say about the 22-year-old August loan arrival from Watford. The centre-half “looks decent and is a fairly big lad, a like-for-like replacement for Shane Duffy in many ways”, “Quietly competent and looked good since coming.”
“Greer’s positional play is excellent but it is also clear that he’s in the twilight of his career. He can get caught by speedier forwards. If he stays healthy, he’s a really solid signing for one season”, “The one defender leading, organising and encouraging”, “He is basically our captain in all but name.”
The 35-year-old arrived from Brighton this summer as a defensive reinforcement. “He wasn’t meant to be a regular first-team player but more of a back-up signing”, “He understandably likes to operate deeper without the pace to cover, so nobody in the back four can move forward without him.”
“Jack Byrne looks neat and tidy.” The 20-year-old is on loan from Manchester City. “He’s technically gifted but we don’t have anyone who can shield a player like him. He tries hard on the defensive side but isn’t great largely due to his build”, “He has not done much and is far too lightweight.”
Jack Byrne v Leeds' Pablo Hernandez
“Darragh Lenihan is a better bet than Byrne when teams are launching the ball because of his size.” The 22-year-old youth product “doesn’t like to get forward so it’s like square-ball city without any penetration”, “He sits and breaks up play, adding defensive stability in front of the back four.”
“Lenihan does nothing positive”, “At least he never stops running or putting himself about when he plays”, “When you have Lenihan and Hope Akpan in the middle, who is the ball-playing midfielder?”, “He drifts too deep and make it easier for opponents. He tries but is League One standard at best.”
“Hope Akpan is often involved, but he has a really poor touch and never seems to win the ball off his opponents. He’s a good harasser and isn’t afraid to get forward and I can’t fault his effort.” The 25-year-old former Royal “does the unpleasant work well but we all know his limitations on the ball”.
Akpan is fouled by Toure for a penalty October 2015
“Akpan makes the usual misplaced passes but he plays pretty well and puts himself about a bit”, “He was like a ghost at Leeds last month, never showing for the ball and not tackling. Soon into the game his head went down, he was wandering around halfway whether we were attacking or defending.”
“From what I have seen of Danny Guthrie, he’s lightweight and doesn’t put a foot in.” The 29-year-old former Reading man “could dictate the tempo a little more”, “A decent player on the ball but powder-puff as an athlete”, “It’s no coincidence that we are defending so poorly when he plays.”
“Guthrie is a real Marmite player. I had high hopes when he joined but he has been a let-down. His major plus is that he is comfortable on the ball. However, despite the occasional great forward pass, these are too rare to make up for his poor fitness and desire to get back into defensive positions.”
“I’m not convinced about Evans protecting the back four. He doesn’t conduct the tempo or try to dominate the opposition and is pretty anonymous.” The 26-year-old one-time Hull City player “has been playing in what has been essentially a one-man midfield”, “A really tidy player who creates little.”
“Hadi Sacko went past Evans last month for one of Leeds’s goals and it was poor in the extreme. He was well and truly skinned”, “He can be anonymous, inventing little, not winning the ball, not making himself available for the back four and not supporting the front two when rare knockdowns come.”
“Having seen Martin Samuelsen play at Leeds, I’m not sure he is the answer to our problems. He’s rather lightweight and takes an awful lot of risks with the ball in his own half of the pitch.” The 19-year-old West Ham loanee “will need to adapt to the more physical world of the Championship”.
“Samuelsen looks like my sort of player, an entertainer.” The Norway international can play centrally or as a “skilful tricky winger”, “He’s two-footed, an amazing dribbler and he will probably overdo things, but he can bring something different when our tactics aren’t working”, “He looks promising.”
“We need a quick winger who can get around defences but sadly we only have Liam Feeney”, “Just for anyone who wasn’t at the Owls game, tonight was proof that a tin of Spam is a better footballer than Feeney”, “We have had some players stealing a living recently but Liam Feeney, take a bow.”
“Dreadful”, “A completely useless liability.” The 29-year-old new addition from Bolton and former Town loanee has been castigated by fans for his poor play. “Feeney is a joke and so poor it’s untrue”, “He has proved that all our fears about him are well-founded”, “He hasn’t got any pace to inject.”
“At least Feeney won’t feature at Birmingham. That’s good to know”, “He looks a spent force, a player whose career was built on speed and who arrived with his legs either going or gone”, “It’s seeing Feeney on the bench that fills me with complete horror. Surely we have better than him.”
“It wasn’t Conway’s best night against Sheffield Wednesday delivery-wise, so we created nothing.” The 31-year-old former Bluebird is one of the few to have impressed fans this season. “He’s a stand-out player to me. He works his socks off and shows good consistency in his play week-in, week-out.”
“We need more players with Conway’s attitude”, “Our only midfield threat”, “Often my favourite player on the pitch, he’s simply a catalyst when given the ball”, “He has also stepped up with some cracking goals to make things slightly less miserable”, “Our most talented central and wide player.”
“Sam Gallagher is sprightly and willing.” The 21-year-old is on a season-long loan from Southampton. “He runs his socks off and gives 110 per cent all game. His work rate and effort are superb”, “From what I have seen, he really presses defenders and tracks back although he can get caught offside.”
“Our best left winger is a striker. Gallagher is impressive out wide”, “As ungainly as Paolo Wanchope or Peter Crouch but let’s see if he can get goals”, “It has taken him a little while to find his feet but he and Emnes look a cut above our shower”, “The Gallagher and Emnes partnership is excellent.”
“What the hell is wrong with Danny Graham?” The 31-year-old ex-Sunderland man “looks unfit and ineffective. If he doesn’t improve quickly we will have even more problems as many are pinning their hopes on him as the match winner. He looks like a player just before they hand their boots up.”
“Graham was excellent last season, but looks uninterested and overweight now and he is barely getting any chances”, “His legs have gone, he’s too static and too easy to read”, “He gives up too easily when dispossessed, waving his arms about and complaining instead of getting after the ball.”
“A word of caution. Our best player, and the one around whom our recent form was revived, returns to his club in three months”, “Emnes pulls all the play together and hardly ever puts a pass wrong and has some pace. He makes it looks east and hardly breaks sweat with some of his link-up play.”
The 28-year-old striker is on loan from Swansea until January. “I would really like to see him come permanently. He was vital to the two Derby goals, scoring one and assisting the other”, “He looks a cut above with his intelligent runs and decision-making. He makes the team play to his standards.”
“Emnes is the fulcrum around which the team can revolve”, “He’s a proven scorer at this level”, “He looks really quick and sharp, getting on the end of forward passes he really shouldn’t reach through sheer determination”, “In Emnes, Rovers’ scattergun recruitment policy has unearthed a gem.”
Rovers’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Thank the good Lord for Saturday. It can’t some soon enough for me”, “This is Rovers. Ipswich are in poor form and a Coyle XI will be sent out with not a clue on anything apart from how to lose, 0-1”, “Under 2.5 goals is a cracking bet on this game.”
“A banker draw if ever there was one.” Rovers don’t run prediction competitions on their message boards, but most of their fans reckon the game will be a low-scoring stalemate. “I forgot Captain Marvel [Jason Lowe] is out. I’m suddenly feeling mildly optimistic: Rovers 1 Ipswich 1.”
“It's winnable this one but I suppose in reality it's got draw written all over it. It’s not often that a Big Mick team will go away and go for it, so they'll be looking for a shut-out and pinch something whilst we'll huff and puff as usual and concede a poor goal.”
Some worry about the returning striker curse: “Ipswich haven't scored a single goal in their last four games. Rovers haven't kept a clean sheet in 14 games this season. Ipswich have Luke Varney and Tom Lawrence in their squad...”, “Luke Varney scored for Ipswich at Derby! Yes, you read that right.”
Several Rovers were impressed by Town’s performance when we played a Norwich side who had comfortably beaten Blackburn. “Ipswich have a manager who knows what he is doing”, “They are similar to us in budget but miles ahead in every other aspect”, “Done a great job Mick there.”
“An early ‘goal’ for Ipswich was wrongly disallowed for offside, terrible decision and but for that unfancied Ipswich would have won. The point is that Ipswich were well set up to defend. Far from scoring three goals like they did against us, Norwich didn't have more than three clear chances.”
While most fans have had little to say about us, one Rovers’ supporter based in East Anglia offered this analysis of where we currently stand:
“Ipswich fans are really struggling to grasp the reality of their situation. A poor squad, an absent owner and little chance of anything changing in the future. Once Mick McCarthy goes they will realise he is actually doing a fantastic job under the circumstances.
“If there is one thing Evans has done right at Ipswich, it’s appointing a good manager and backroom staff and setting up a professional boardroom structure. We have a skeleton structure filled with clowns or people unqualified for the positions they are in.”
“Ipswich are very fortunate to have Mick, but the style of football is atrocious. He's doing the best with what he's got, but my God is it terrible to watch. Anybody who went to the Rovers-Ipswich game at Portman Road last season will be well aware of that.”
A second supporter added: “A bit like when Sam Allardyce was here, I think a section of Ipswich fans have had it in for Mick from the word go. He overachieved so they have kept a lid on it. Now they have the excuse to blow at him, but it’s just one of those cycles of football really.”
Photo: Action Images
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