Date:Wednesday September 27 2006
Mike Newell, who knows a thing or two about European football, having in played in Europe with Blackburn Rovers, thinks that Mark Hughes should concentrate on the UEFA Cup, even if this means League form suffering.
Being a record holder for the fastest Champions League hat trick, one of the few plus point in an otherwise disappointing Rovers European history, in an Interview, exclusive to Eurosport.com the former Rovers striker said:
"Supporters want to be in Europe, particularly those of clubs like Blackburn who haven't had a lot of European football. Fans of any club would love to see their team progress.
"With the number of games teams play nowadays, of course then there's going to be a distraction, but you have to set your priorities. I think some clubs set their priorities quite wrong."
European football doesn't always bring success domestically, and can sometimes even be detrimental to the performances on the home front, as many a team have found out to their costs. European sides have been affected, with English clubs like Ipswich Town, relegated after qualifying for Europe, and Leeds United, who spent MASSIVELY as a result, would also eventually be relegated.
Rovers fans are realistic enough to know that they won't win the Premiership, this, or as sad as it may sound (you may even view this as negative?) anytime soon if we a brutally honest. So Cup competitions like the domestic League and FA Cup's, both of which have been won by Rovers, the FA Cup on several occasions, and the UEFA Cup, which would be fantastic to win, provide ideal opportunities for realistic success:
"Surely any fan would rather have the UEFA Cup on the sideboard than a respectable league position. They qualify for Europe - so why wouldn't they try and win it?," Newell would add.
Rovers have an appalling European track record, only ever progressing past a first round once, in the 2002-2003 season before being knocked out in the second round to eventual UEFA Cup runners up Celtic.
Newell, who played for Rovers between November 1991 and July 1996 after be signed for £1.1 million from Everton by Kenny Dalglish, familiar with Newell from Newell's spell with Liverpool as a youngster in the early 1980's whilst the legendary former Liverpool player and manager would be with the club, had two seasons in Europe with Rovers, both of which would end in early elimination and disappointment.
Having qualified for the UEFA Cup during the 1993-1994 season they would be eliminated in the first round of the 1994-1995 competition by Trelleborg, at the time a team of Swedish part-timers, although Rovers would win the Premiership later that season!
This gained them entry into the 1995-1996 Champions League as a result, but despite Newell's nine minute hat trick against Norwegian's Rosenborg they'd finish bottom of their group and face instant elimination, also seeing Graeme Le Saux and David Batty come to blows on the field in one match. Newell also said:
"We were disappointed that we didn't get as far as we could have done in the Champions League or in the UEFA Cup.
"First we got knocked out by Trelleborg of Sweden, who were an amateur team at the time. And then of course we never got past the first stage of the Champions League the season after we won the Premiership."
Following the 2-2 draw in Austria two weeks ago Newell feels Rovers are in pole position and sees qualification merely a formality now, we hope he is right:
"I reckon Blackburn, with the way they are set up - very well organised and hard to beat - they might have a chance of progressing a long way in the competition.
"Whatever level you're at, whatever game you are starting, the first thing you aim to do is not get beat. I don't think they'll be overcautious, if they get a chance they'll go for it.
"I happen to think they've done the hardest part in this round by going and getting two away goals. I think it will be a fairly routine exercise for them to get through now."
If and when they advance to the group stages, should they come through the group stages, which you would very much expect them to, as although you don't get too many easy games you can come up against some sides, that with all due respect should be dealt with by a team of Rovers' quality.
If they make it through to the group stages, which Newell feels they can, despite the fact that teams who had been eliminated from the Champions League then enter the UEFA Cup, thus making it a tougher challenge still, he thinks Rovers will get better as they go on:
"So I think that Blackburn will be one of the stronger teams and it will come down to who they face from the Champions League in the later rounds."
Mike Newell is never a man afraid to back away from what he believes, and should you wish to hear more from the man who in 167 games for Rovers scored 48 goals (should you not be able to make the game itself) you can do so by watching Eurosport's live and exclusive coverage where he will be a match summariser.
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Date:Wednesday September 27 2006
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