Agents, Rovers and Cricket Loving Owners
Some of you may have already delved in ahead of time to purchase a copy of the book Agents, Rovers and Cricket Loving Owners from the Rovertaken website but ahead of it's full commercial release I spoke with the author of the book, Michael Blackburn, about the ins and outs of why, when and how the book came to be.
Sit back with a brew and take this one in boys and girls, well worth a read...
- First up, what influenced you to write Agents, Rovers and Crickets Loving Owners?
I am a proper Rovers fan, football fan and proud local man. Football used to be a laugh but in recent years I have become disillusioned with the game. After the Venky`s takeover I became frustrated with the way the club was heading and angry about how the story was being reported by career journalists who have little real passion for Rovers.
- How long have you been going to Rovers games for?
My first game was the Full Members Cup Final in 1987. Difficult to support anyone else after watching your team win a Wembley cup final at the age of 6. I started going to games regularly from the end of the 1980s and have been going ever since.
- What changes have you seen in the atmosphere since the Venkys took over?
A massive drop in attendances and a general mixture of disillusionment, helplessness and anger. It was grim at times under Allardyce but this is something totally different. I am glad that Rovers fans haven`t just sat back and let it happen though. I think one day it will be recognised how impressive Rovers fans have actually been in our efforts to ensure our club is run as it should be.
- What difficulties did you come up against whilst writing the book?
It is a story that is evolving all the time but I am happy that I have been able to end the book at a point that rounds off everything I have tried to say. I did plan to end the book with relegation but in a very short space of time shortly in to the close season there were a series of appointments and promotions, BRFC Action Group met with members of the Houses of Parliament, BRSIT packed out King George`s Hall for their open meeting and Richard Scudamore announced that the television deal for 2013 - 2016 would be worth in excess of a billion pounds a season.
- Who is your main target audience?
All proper football fans. The problems that we have seen at Rovers could have quite easily happened at any one of countless other clubs - some probably will in the future. The enemy in football is no longer the nearest club on the map it is the people who are helping themselves to the Premier League billions every year with little obvious regard for the game. Proper football fans shouldn`t just let it happen.
- In your book, you look a lot into different journalist's articles on Rovers since the Venkys takeover. Who do you feel has given the most inaccurate write up of the on-goings at Blackburn?
If I am naming names Alan Nixon of the Daily Mirror is probably the most frustrating. He gets a lot of things spot on and then he spoils it by being the first to reveal that we are interested in signing Luis Fabiano. You could argue don`t shoot the messenger but personally if this was the message I just wouldn`t print it. It was embarrassing being linked with players like Ronaldinho, Luis Fabiano and Raul when we actually went on to sign David Goodwillie. It makes you wonder who was feeding Nixon some of this stuff.
- Following on from the previous question, which journalists do you feel give the most honest account of the on-goings at Blackburn?
I like David Conn in The Guardian. Nick Harris of the Mail on Sunday has uncovered some good stuff. There are plenty of journalists out there who were sympathetic towards Rovers fans` plight (Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror, Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph) - it is just a shame they were often drownedout by the "experts" on television who make a living talking you through highlights of games they didn`t go to.
- Did you have any luck in contacting any past players or staff when researching for your book? And what have you made of their willingness to come forward with information?
It is difficult to engage people in the football world in meaningful two-way conversation. I didn`t just want to repeat the questions that have already been answered. I had my sources that helped point me in the right direction in terms of what information I should be focusing on. All the questions have been asked and they will continue to be asked until the fans are satisfied with the answers. I have no intention of writing a sequel (this book nearly finished me off!) but I am still keen to know more. Details of any follow-up stuff I do will be going straight on to the www.rovertaken.co.uk website. There are a couple of interesting Q&A`s going on there this week.
- Do you think the owners will benefit from reading the book?
Yes. If they go onto the website I am happy to ship them a copy to India or they can come round to my house and pick one up next time they are in Blackburn. Rovers` fans` anger and hunger to know more is totally justified and rational. Anyone who is still struggling to understand this would really benefit from reading the book and taking a good look at the facts that have come out over the last 2 years.
- Do you feel that the Venkys still have time to rebuild their relationship with the fans?
I can only speak for myself but I would rather just see them go. Ideally I would like to see them sell the club to a buyer who understands what BRFC means to the club`s supporters and the town. Realistically, I would be happy to see them sell the club to anyone who can do a better job than they have.
Why do you think Steve Kean still remains as manager today?
I can`t think of any football reasons. People seem impressed by his thick skin. Maybe it is that.
- What do you make of Agnew's appointment at the club, and how do you think he is able to fill such a position as Operations Director?
Paul Agnew told protesters during 2011/12 that they should be targeting the owners if anything - not Steve Kean. How aware Venky`s were of this when they promoted him to Operations Director I don`t know.
- What do you make of the appointment of Shebby Singh and his relationship with Kean?
I remain undecided about Shebby Singh. He was happy to talk about Ronnie Clayton but he won`t talk about the period between November 2010 and May 2012. At times I still see him as "Sideshow Shebby." It`s easy to talk big but will he be sat in the Riverside getting rained on if it doesn`t work out?
- Do you sense future problems for the club should Venkys continue to run the club in the manner that they have been?
Whether we are promoted, relegated or we stay in The Championship I don`t really see problems at the club ending.
- Finally, could you give me your season prediction....
Final League Position: No idea. We have got the best car in the race but still major question marks about the guy who is driving it and the team of staff around him.
Key Player: Paul Robinson - surprised he didn`t go in the summer but glad he stayed. He dropped a clanger at Leeds the other week but I think his experience and quality can only increase our promotion chances.
The book is available to buy now at www.rovertaken.co.uk at the discounted price of £7.99 and will also be available later in the month on Amazon and most high street book shops at the higher price of £12.99