Mikey Season Review
Well, well, well. The day has come for the end of season Mikey Review which is always way off the mark but good fun (I have been told) as I combine the wit of Bom Bom with the tell it like it is ability of the Sasman.
Of course I am the optimistic one of the bunch but then if you want someone to try and cause mass suicide I suggest you should try buying a season ticket at St.James Park. Or go an hang around with my Dad, same difference (sorry John).
The summer saw the loss of David Bentley to Spurs (that went well) and the sad loss of an Ewood great to Villa in Brad Friedel.
However, new manager Paul Ince had made some in roads in the transfers market with the arrival of Vince Grella, Carlos Villanueva, Paul Robinson, Danny Simpson (that went well) and the much maligned signing of Keith Andrews from MK Dons.
The season started off very well with new manager Paul Ince in charge. Accusations of dresing room upheavel and general rubbish management looked miles off as Rovers started with a great win 3-2 at Everton but the sheer dominance of Rovers in the game looked like it would lead to a much better than expected campaign. The players looked like they backed Paul Ince and they really gave it a good go.
Good start? yes. Sign of things to come? sadly not. It proved to be a false dawn as Rovers stumbled against an enthusiastic but limited Hull side and got crushed 4-1 by bogey team West Ham - even if the referee, linesman and Paul Ince's gung ho attempts conspired to make the scoreline a lot worse than it actually was! It was becoming obvious that the rookie Rovers manager was out of his depth.
More Ince magic followed as he bought in Premiership legend Nigel Winterburn as a defensive coach... surely this would stop the goals conceded column from racking up anymore? In short.... Winterburn was borderline useless. He really didn't care and spent more time on Sky Sports than actually doing his job. He was making Ray 'Its still the 70's' Mathias and Archie 'No, no it's actually the 60's' Knox look like Bill Shankly by comparison.
A hopeless collapse to Arsenal further compounded the misery but there was light on the horizon!!!
A couple of quick fire wins rocked up as Rovers stumbled to a 1-0 win over Fulham via a late Matt Derbyshire goal (remember him) and a CLEAN SHEET. Rovers then beat Newcastle - which was more like shooting fish in a barrell at the time but we didn't care! However, this didnt last as a bad spiral of results followed with such Inceisms as playing Matt Derbyshire on right wing, Andre Ooijer at left back and Morten Gasmt Pedersen on right wing.... Jesus lord sweet mary.
The highlights of the autumn were Martin Olsson being made to look like a clueless under 12's girl against Aaron Lennon at White Hart Lane and Keith Andrews actually making himself look half decent as we went along. He even bagged himself a goal with a corker from distance against West Brom to rescue a point.
Rovers were slipping down the table however and the beginning of the end for Ince was the home game against Sunderland where they slipped under the dreaded line. Rovers started off brightly and Samba bagged a beauty with a trademark battering ram goal before half time but then Rovers did what they did best under Ince - imploded. Doing a cracking impression of the England team they turned in a shocking second half performance to gift Sunderland a 2-1 win - to make things worse Aaron Mokoena was deployed as an roaming attacking midfielder. Yes you just read that correctly.
The actual end came in the tame, awful 3-0 defeat to Wigan. John Williams, prior to the game spoke about the noises coming from Brockhall and how they were going to give us a 'big performance'. What we got instead was a child like performance that my sunday league team could have done with their eyes closed after 12 shots of blue aftershock.
Ince was gone and in his place came the big lumbering figure of Sam Allardyce. Rovers fans didn't want him in the summer but they wanted him now... he was the best appointment at the time and hindsight shows that is still the case.
Rovers were 5 points adrift of safety when Ince left.
Improvements were almost immediate as Stoke were wiped aside 3-0 at Ewood in Sam's first game in charge. Rovers actually bullied Stoke which was previously unseen.
During this christmas period Roque Santa Cruz slowly turned from nice Roque who is honest and plays for the club with pride into childish Roque who moans and whines whilst being injured all the time - which coincided with the return to prominence of the once awesome Benni McCarthy.
The defence tightened up no end under Big Sam and there was actually a run of 5 clean sheets at one point which bought heart attacks and unbridled joy to Lancashire's east side. Save of course for the 5 minute capitulation to hand Man City a point they didn't deserve over christmas.
That thankfully was a minor blip on an upturn in the future performances and results. The new year bought about a more cautious Rovers, but one that battled for everything like the good old days as players such as Stephen Warnock, who was awesome in midfield and Jason Roberts began to shine.
A couple of crazy early 2009 moments in particular saw Rovers draw 0-0 at the Riverside against Middlesboro despite having 4,861 attempts at goal whilst the defence was being awesome and Rovers gifting Bolton a 2-0 lead at Ewood and then storming back to draw 2-2 despite missing a penalty and Nelsen hitting the woodwork for what seemed like the umpteempth time.
Big Sam bought in the massively underrated Gael Givet and the huge ego'd yet suprisingly talented and influential El Hadji Diouf to help the club out during the January transfer window whilst letting Matt Derbyshire go out on loan. Roque 'prams, spit, dummy' Santa Cruz remained at the club despite several bids from mega rich Man City.
Rovers were slowly on the rise although steady performances against Man United at Old Trafford and Aston Villa at Ewood didn't bear the fruit they deserved but then the big games came thick and fast as some of the teams in similar trouble were coming thick and fast.
The first big one and a major turning point was the game against Hull City at the KC as Rovers turned a vital corner. A big game and a big following from the away fans roared Rovers on to a vital 3 points in a 2-1 victory. Stephen Warnock and Keith Andrews with the goals. The difference could not be underestimated as Rovers could of been eight points adrift of Hull if the result would of been adverse but they had reined them in to two points which was a massive mental barrier overcome as Rovers drew closer to teams above them.
Another priceless match was watching Tootenham Hotspur come to England and run rings around us but not actually create anything, we of course sneaked in two late goals from a very large Benni McCarthy and Super Andre to take victory as I perfected the "staying up" dance in the Blackburn end.
It was ultimately the ability of Rovers to win at home (something they were crap at under Ince) that ultimately kept them safe. So was the ability to beat teams in and around them that didn't hurt. The football (as always under Allardyce was not the best on the eye) but the results were what mattered.
Big, huge crucial wins at home to Pompey and Wigan (which included captain nelsen's first goal) were the key as away trips were proving less profitable. The Rovers fans themselves were even pitching in and making previously unheard noise at home matches!!! (Shock horror).
Safety was confirmed, as was typical of this crazy season when Rovers weren't even playing!!! Newcastle lost with 2 games to go and Rovers couldn't be caught, cue jubilant scenes on Nutall Street as John Williams danced a merry jig round Robert Coar's car in the car park.
Overall the season was not a good one and was hugely disappointing. On the other hand it was a turbulent season that bought the best out of Rovers fans if not the players.
Same again next year then?