Blackburn Rovers: Club in Transition or Decline?
I greeted the Sunday football transfer rumours with as much vigour as Mr. Hiddink would relish an early morning press conference, as the first utterances of a player exodus from Ewood Park surfaced.
The inevitable speculation that will no doubt surround Stephen Warnock and Chris Samba - two of our star players from the disappointing season - through out much of the summer has begun in earnest but a certain South African has also been linked with a move away.
This speculation, doubled with the departures of experienced first-team squad members Andre Ooijer and Aaron Mokoena as well as loanees Danny Simpson and Carlos Villanueva, not forgetting the loss of our maestro who - like Brad Friedel - saved us on so many occasions, suggests we could be re-building from a thread-bare foundation.
I now feel the club are a million miles from the one that consecutively punched above their weight to battle for Europe and persuade some big names to move to the modest Lancashire surroundings.
However, scrolling through the touching gallery dedicated to Tugay`s eight years at Blackburn Rovers on the club`s official website reminded me of the different era`s since promotion in 2001, which posed the question; are we about to embark on our next period of Premiership success or, in the current economic and football climate, are we at the start of the decline?
Graeme Souness enjoyed a rollercoaster time in charge of Blackburn, returning the club to the Premiership, lifting the League Cup in 2002 and qualifying for Europe with a sixth placed finish in 2004. Mark Hughes built a terrific squad after Souness`s capitulation that combined a solid foundation with attacking flair and skill but reached its peak when falling one point short of Europe in 2008 and since then things have slowly been crumbling, starting with Paul Ince`s ill-fated tenure as manager and a season long battle against relegation only saved by Sam Allardyce.
Alas, the encouraging signs here would point to the wheels falling off of the Souness era before Hughes` wisdom and craft guided us back to the Premiership top ten on a regular basis, showing us it can be achieved. The negatives though are starker than Manchester United`s failure to turn up for the Champions League final.
With so many of our established and better players linked with potential exits there could be considerable upheaval and how will we possibly replace their talents when we will surely be perceived as a selling club that cannot keep its better players.
Additionally we will be relying on finding bargains and turning them into stars for which there is a lengthy list under Hughes. Although Allardyce has a successful history of doing this it remains a gamble. Plus we can`t take for granted that there will be a healthy budget for player purchases with much made of our maligned wage bill.
What worries me the most is a possibility - a very real one I might add - that we start rebuilding our attack around Jason Roberts, a player who has just finished his most prolific season at Blackburn with the grand total of seven goals!
I don`t think people appreciate the size of the task to re-structure our midfield with only a single player good enough in my opinion - Vince Grella. Granted we have talent in abundance, or more to the point, did have in Steven Reid, David Dunn and Brett Emerton. They are long-term injury concerns and question marks must remain about their impact over a prolonged period, with the possible exception of Emerton.
Alongside that we have El-Hadji Diouf, who runs around a lot but does very little in the way of creating things and then there is the perennial underachiever, Morten Gamst Pedersen, who has the talent but has left it in 2007 (despite eight Premiership assists last season).
The defence is the only strong point, added to with the acquisition of successful loanee, Gael Givet. Alas, if this is allowed to be decimated as the turgid transfer rumour mill would have us believe, I fear for our future.
I just wonder what the consensus is amongst the good people on Vital Blackburn; is it the beginning of another era of top flight football or is the decline in motion?
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