Date:Sunday June 14 2009
They often say that hindsight is a wonderful thing and personally for me this hasn't been anymore evident than it was for the 2008-2009 season for Blackburn Rovers.
This is my 2008-2009 Rovers season review, which is a review with a difference as I'm not really looking at the on the field actions as I personally feel (with that benefit of hindsight, and I'll use this A LOT throughout) what happened off the field caused so many of the on field actions to occur!!!
Things got off to the worst imaginable start with the news that Mark Hughes had decided that he'd taken Rovers as far as he could and he'd be leaving Ewood Park to then take over from Sven Goran Eriksson at Manchester City. Personally I don't feel that Hughes had taken us as far as he could, however, Sparky knew that key performers for Rovers would most likely be sold in the summer of 2008 without that much money being made available to him, a scenario that wouldn't pan out that way at all with the billions available to him at Man City and this was the former Welsh national managers chance to shine?!?!
Losing Sparky was a body blow, but players and manager are always going to come and go regardless as to this fact the fans remain the one constant that you can count on in football, so how you deal with these changes is the real test of character and that is where we made the first mistake, which with that benefit of hindsight becomes evident.
There wasn't really any shortage of interest in the Ewood hot seat the problem was this was eventually whittled down to basically a decision that most probably came down to money. Alan Shearer was mentioned but he turned us down again to continue his work in the BBC studios, Michael Laudrup was a hot favourite and would've made a superb appointment, however, the problem that I could foresee with the appointment of the former Danish International (in fact two main problems) were the fact that he'd be looking to spend a fair amount of money in the transfer market (which wouldn't have been available to him) and the chances of him staying at Ewood for that long were highly unlikely. Personally I feel that Laudrup would've had the intention of using us as nothing more than a stepping stone or a springboard back to what he thought would've been bigger and better things so before that long I'd have thought we'd be looking for another new manager???
We needed someone with ambition but also someone that wouldn't be expecting massive amounts of money to be made available to them, we also needed someone that we felt would be looking to stay with us for at least three-five-years (minimum) so Paul Ince eventually did fit this profile. Ince had done a very good job with the Milton Keynes Dons (as he had Macclesfield Town before that), however, the former West Ham United, Manchester United, Inter Milan, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and England International hadn't exactly shown that much loyalty. This lack of loyalty was first shown during his playing days with West Ham when he jumped ship to sign for Man United and he didn't take that long to decide to leave Macclesfield for MK Dons (some would argue he didn't take that long to decide to leave the Dons for Rovers either.) Incey finally had that shot at Premier League management at Ewood but to say the reaction was split would be an understatement I think!!!
Incey came in and talked a good talk but it didn't really take that long to realise that he was out of his depth did it. Personally (however, maybe not my first choice at the time, at first anyway) I backed the manager fully it might've been because I really wanted him to do well so much like his former Old Trafford team-mate had) but using the benefit of hindsight again this wasn't a good call. He came in and tried to change too much too soon and his methods were not right, to have a you do it my way or you don't do it at all attitude isn't going to work and if your way is either too out of date or just not right was always going to be wrong. I'm convinced that Brad Friedel would've stayed with Rovers until he retired but previous indifferences with Incey from their Liverpool days resurfaced and this hastened his Ewood exit, not that I am putting down Paul Robinson's season as the England International did OKAY but he wasn't ever going to be able to follow on from Friedel as no one could really could they?!?! Bradders was (and still is) a near impossible act to follow.
The season started with the superb win over Everton at Goodison Park but in realty even that win was possibly luckier than it should've been and things (apart from a few bright patches) rapidly descended after that and Incey had to eventually go or the only outcome for out season would've been relegation to League One.
Once again Shearer (despite a call from John Williams to come in and take the job) decided to decline the offer as he again stressed that he wanted to remain in the comfort of the BBC studios. We all know that Newcastle United eventually lured him away from this and being his hometown club in dire need of his help you can't really begrudge him that can you, however, we offered him some of the best years of his career and we needed help but he wouldn't give this to us but again in hindsight this was a good thing really. Again though with the foresight of hindsight I think we'd have appointed Sam Allardyce last summer before we had Incey if we'd known things would've gone the way they did, however, I think that it's not wrong to say that the vast majority of Rovers fans weren't that struck on the idea of Allardyce in the summer of 2008 nor were the Rovers hierarchy as the entourage that Big Sam was understood to want to bring with him was beyond our means too, so a compromise must've been reached in the end as we knew we had to get the appointment right this time!!!
In came Big Sam and the improvement was instant, the training routine was changed and the club run by a professional with a wealth of experience returned as did the smiles on the players' faces (and the training ground stories of discontent filtering out stopped) and on the whole ours as well. Big Sam's way of football isn't always pleasing on the eye but it got the job done (and really it's not entirely as it's painted is it really) and more than ensured another season of Premier League football and now he's got to show the kind of magic that he did in the transfer market with Bolton Wanderers to transform us back into the middle to Europa Cup challenging places side that we're capable of being and given this time I'm sure he will.
Never before have the thoughts "a season of two halves" been as evident as it was for the 2008-2009 season. Most of the opening part of it was lacklustre and disappointing with only one outcome likely, relegation!!! The latter part of it saw form that was good enough for a Europa Cup challenge, but the first half had left us in desperate relegation trouble. Had Big Sam been in charge for the whole campaign who knows what might've happened (again though that's hindsight for you), the 2008-2009 season was certainly an eventful one for Rovers anyway but still leaves enough evidence to point us to the conclusion that Big Sam will lead us to a much much better one in 2009-2010.
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Date:Sunday June 14 2009
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