Date:Wednesday May 16 2007
MikeyGamst shares his views on the Blackburn Rovers Season that has just ended. Enjoy…
Welcome to the MikeyGamst Season Review. Here we take a look at the highs and lows of the 2006/7 season. On the whole we will look back at this campaign as another step forward and the progress made on the whole has been strong. While our league position is lower this year the progress in the cups has been excellent and whilst hindering our league form slightly the amount Sparky and the gang will have learned from this season will only benefit us next year.
The pre season had seen us acquire some new faces. Benni McCarthy arrived from Porto for £2.5 million and hopes were high for him and the hulking Jason Roberts (signed from Wigan for the same figure) who had all the attributes to succeed at the highest level. Other signings included the previously useless Francis Jeffers, the previously excellent Shabani Nonda and goalkeeper Jason Brown, who looks like he was a cuboid in a previous life on a free from the footballing powerhouse that is Gillingham.
A squad number was also given to a thin little man called Matthew Derbyshire... nope hadn't heard of him much.
The start of the campaign took us to Portsmouth for the opening day at Fratton Park, where all Rovers were in high spirits and expected at least a point to get us underway. How wrong we were, 2 sendings off for the world's happiest man Andy Todd (incorrectly) and the world's biggest ego and worst captain (Lucas Neill), 3 goals conceded and barely threatening in the right parts of the field left us with egos bruised and the worst possible start, we had got a bit big for our boots and it showed. To quote a shapshifters song, it was time to go 'back to basics'.
Our first home game was at home to a solid Everton side. The crowd expected a much better performance. Thankfully we got one. A one all draw to be precise which on reflection was a bit harsh on Rovers given they were the better side on the night. But there were many plus points.... Benni scored his first goal for the club, Dave Bentley looked the business on the right flank, Jason Roberts was a proper target man and the formerly naff right winger Emerton looked actually handy at right back, who would of thought.
Next was Chelsea at home and a debut for Holland captain Andre Oooooooooooooijer. Holland captain eh???? Must be good.... oh no wait. He had an absolute shocker at centre back, conceding a penalty, getting out muscled by Drogba and looking about as comfortable on the ball as OJ Simpson at a re-trial. The team as a whole actually played quite well... the best player on the pitch was genuinely Brett Emerton. Is this a parallel universe???
We finished August in 20th position. Could be worse, errrrr....
Next up was Sheffield United away. After a gruelling trip (personally) of getting the tram down the road to Bramall Lane I sat in the away end to observe one of the worst 70 mins of football... ever. The game was only memorable for the final 20 minutes and 3 penalties. 1 for Rovers and 2 for United. All 3 awarded for fairly lame reasons, especially the last one for Lucas chesting the ball back to Friedel. Lucas' penalty was badly taken, Unsworth's was worse (how much do United wish he'd taken a penalty that badly on Sunday???). Rob Hulse's was taken really well except he was taking it against the Premier Leagues' best goalkeeper.
Our two legged qualifier against Red Bull Salzburg was handled expertly, the 2-0 win at home in particular as we saw a Benni special and a wonder goal from Bentley. Group stages and Europe here we come.
Man City at home was to prove a turning point as after being thoroughly outplayed by City for 45 mins we found ourselves 2-2 at half time, how it wasn't 16-2 to City I'll never know. The half also included a delightful O.G from the then comedy Ooijer (come on Ryan we need you). Second half we were much better and goals from Boom Boom Benni and the criminally under used Paul Gallagher helped us to a somewhat fortuitous 4-2 victory. Still we were up and running and better was to come...
Middlesbrough away saw a first goal from the promising looking Shabani Nonda which lit up an otherwise terrible game and spawned the early runner for best chant of the season 'what's that coming over the hill... is it a Nonda? is it a Nonda?'
Ewood Park next played host to Wigan at home, with no half price pies there wasn't quite as bigger crowd this time round and a goal within 3 minutes from England's finest Emile Heskey (who always scores against Rovers but no-one else) didn't help matters. Just before half time things improved though as Bentley collected an intelligent pass from Jeffers (yes you read that correctly) to score a peach of an effort past Kirkland. Rovers wrapped things up in the second half with a tap in from on-fire Benni and a triple save from replacement goalkeeper Jason 'cuboid' Brown including a penalty.. not a bad start.
One of the season's best trips was in the offing next as a trip to Anfield was on the cards. A good game which was controlled by Liverpool without them threatening too much ended 1-1 after a first half strike from Boom Boom (6 goals at this point) and inevitable equaliser from old boy Craig Bellamy who showed respect for his old club by wildly over celebrating. Still a point away at a big 4 club was not something to moan about.
The infamous trip to Krakow lay in wake as the group stages of the UEFA cup came next. Racist abuse aside the game was dominated by Blackburn and the only surprise was it took so long to win the bleeding thing. Goals from Robbie Savage and the superb David Bentley gave us a late 2-1 win. This European things a bit easy aint it???!!!!
Then came a bad patch in our league form as 3 consecutive October defeats to Bolton (who we absolutely murdered and somehow missed 2 penalties), Chelsea in the League cup and the criminally bad (at this point) West Ham meant we were heading in the wrong direction.
November started with our first European game at home to FC Basle on a weekday night... cold weekday nights mean only one thing when the game is on TV... a small crowd. A few of us braved it, I was still sat there freezing in just my home shirt (yes mum I should of worn a coat) but in the end it was worth it, after Brad had kept us in the game in the first half, a beauty of a goal from man of the match Tugay, a penalty from 31st choice penalty taker Francis Jeffers and a late Benni special saw us run out somewhat comfortable 3-0 victors.
Villa away was only memorable for being one of our worst performances of the season and Rovers conceding yet ANOTHER penalty. We deserved nothing, we got nothing.. lets move on.
Man United at home was played in terrible conditions and somewhat stifled Man United impressive passing game and it took a somewhat silly Louis Saha goal to see us off 1-0, Man U looked like title winners and we had failed to score again, come on... where's Corrado Grabbi when you need him???
We finally managed to break our League scoring duck in the next game against Spurs at home. Mind you was a fairly mediocre effort when it arrived, Tugay's weak piledriver from 30 yards on the volley bobbled past Robinson into the corner;) Then we had to bear witness to the latest instalment of The Handbook of inept refereeing as Howard Webb sent off Tugay for a 'foul' in the penalty area. He later sent off the useless Ghaly for nothing just to make up for the fact he got the Tugay decision wrong.
There was minimal coverage of the Feyenoord game in Europe but from what I gather, we played well enough for a point and would of took that at the start so job done.
The start of December was a bit of a mixed bag as we played well enough to beat Fulham 48-0 (actual result 2-0) and then played well enough to lose to Bromsgrove Rovers against Charlton and lost 1-0. Then we managed to keep our challenge for the Fair Play League alive by getting Henchoz sent off against Newcastle and lost 3-1 after a stirling comeback that included a great goal from the rapidly improving Morten Gamst Pedersen.
The final game of the UEFA Cup group stage was at home to Nancy and a largely uneventful game was notable for 2 things... 1) The first start in a Rovers shirt for youngster Matt Derbyshire and 2) Lucre Neill's late late winner. We finished top if our group after that and we were onwards ad upwards, Nou Camp here we come.
The proverbial game of two halves was up next as we were away at League surprise package Reading. They killed us in the first half and were 1-0 up a half time thanks to some slack defending but things got better in the second half as the REAL Blackburn turned up to completely overrun them. Benni '3 offside goals' McCarthy actually managed to stay onside for once to score a great header before Bentley topped that with a storming drive from distance to cap a well received 2-1 win.
Our first trip to the Emirates was always gonna be tough but to be fair we gave it a good shot, at 3-2 down we were genuinely in the game and playing some terrific stuff, unfortunately we went for broke and got smashed in the last 10 mins. Final score, a totally undeserved 6-2 loss.
Need a response to that? Nice Easy Game maybe? Yeah right... Boxing Day and Liverpool at home and the return of last year's glory boy, Craig Bellamy. Liverpool were rampant for long periods and we needed our keeper more than ever, so what does Brad do??? He turns in the performance of a lifetime to keep all and sundry at bay. Bellamy, Crouch, Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Gonzalez etc.. no chance. We needed on opening and it came from Tugay, he turned England's premier midfielder inside out, through ball to Gamst and Benni slides it home, GET IN! 1-0 and the perfect response.
Keeping up the momentum for a change we were worth victors over Middlesboro in more torrential conditions as Benni bagged another alongside the erratic Nonda.
New Years Day was Wigan away and with a new year should come a new hero.... a local hero. 1-0 up through a Heskey (who always scores against Rovers ha ha ha ha ha) O.G and up steps the young lad who a lot has been said to slot home his first Rovers goal, Matt Derbyshire take a bow, in a few years time just remember... it started here. Simple goal, he didn't care. A Benni special to add on top and we were worthy 3-0 winners.
Our FA Cup campaign started a Everton, a very tricky looking game and probably a game we could do without so lets play a few young fringe players. Derbyshire check, Gallagher check, Sergio Peter check. Rovers fans must of thought this was just an inconvenience for Hughes, what we didn't know was that the young players he had picked wanted a killing. A 4-1 KILLING!
A return to the thug days was on the cards as Arsenal visited Ewood in the League, the less said the better, it reminded me of the old days, we lost 2-0 including a very special goal from Thierry Henry.
Man City away was next as we tried to rebuild after the Arsenal debacle. we got another perfect response from our beloved unpredictable Rovers. This was the game Gamst reminded us what a special player he can be. He showed off his underrated heading skills in the first half and his much rated free kick skills in the second half to give us a 2-0 lead before super sup Derbyshire came on to muscle his way to a super third goal. 3-0 away... have seen worse. The only downside was the season ending injury to right back Andre Ooijer, despite his horrible start he had turned into a match winning defender by this point and he was to be missed sorely as Stevie Reid had been for the whole season.
Watford was another chance to show the whole world our supreme ability to lose to teams we really shouldn't as we succumbed to a 2-1 defeat, shouldn't of happened. And everybody knew it. Even worse, Robbie Savage got his leg broke in a disgusting tackle from Al Bangura that didn't even get a yellow card. Robbie was out for the season and as we have learnt from before, our midfield is never as good without the controversial Welshman there.
Luton Town away in the Cup was our most comfortable game of the season as the awesome Matt Derbyshire scored 2, Benni supplied his special (the tap in) and Gamst supplied his special (the volley) to secure an easy 4-0 win. The game was also notable for the return of God at centre back, we had leaked far too many goals up to this point and his return couldn't come too soon. We knew it, Hughes knew it, and maybe even Ryan himself knew it, the messiah was back.
A slightly more low profile character had unearthed himself about an hour into the game... a rather sluggish, tall and muscular defender called Christopher Samba was bought on as sub to ease himself into the game. Little did we know then the man Scott Sellars referred to the day after the game as 'a useless sack of shite' would turn out to be the bargain of the season. Stephen Warnock also made his debut after his £1.5 million move from Liverpool, great left back and man of the match on his debut.
The final day of January saw us play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Rovers played some good football but Chelsea showed Rovers how to be clinical. 0-3 final score.
The short month started with the visit of Sheff United, a big grudge match where I am from, I needed the bragging rights or I would get killed (not literally but you get the point). A very even game was poised at one all going into injury time until returning local boy David Dunn won a free kick 25 yards from goal The now mercurial Gamst stepped up to drill home a blinding free kick. 2-1 and cue all sorts of over the top smug taunting from Mikey on Monday morning... Morten Gamst Pedersen, tra la la la la la.
Everton away was a pretty non descript game, not much incident, an early Andy Johnson goal condemned us to a 1-0 defeat, although the God/Wall defensive partnership put in an inspired effort.
The two legged UEFA Cup tie v Bayer 04 Leverkusen was to spell the end of our European dream, it was an underserved exit. But how we didn't score in the return leg that ended 0-0 I will never, ever, EVER know. 3-2 we bowed out on aggregate, but Brad could of put a hammock up in that second leg.
After a defensive draw away at the Emirates in the FA Cup 5th round which was made famous for the incredible double save by Big Bad Brad near the end we continued our League duties with a return of Portsmouth to Ewood. The team that had drubbed us 3-0 on the opening day of the season was about to get a taste of it's own medicine. 2 goals from SUPER erratic striker Shabani Nonda (who also missed a penalty) and a first Rovers goal for excellent left back Stephen Warnock wrapped up revenge... tastes sweet doesntit.
Next was FA Cup replay time against Arsenal and this game provided us with one of the most memorable images of recent times. A pretty uneventful 85 mins which were only characterised by Arsenal's pathetic attempts to win a penalty sprung into life when a great ball down the right by Dunn was collected by Benni McCarthy who rounded Senderos and drilled an outstanding drive past Almunia... cue pandemonium and everyone going mental.... EXCEPT WENGER. The sight of him stood there looking annoyed and helpless will long live fond in the memory. You deserved that Wenger.
March took us to the Reebok Stadium and a chance to overturn the memory of our painful defeat at Ewood to the Trotters. More importantly 2 penalties from Boom Boom helped us erase the memory of 2 penalty misses earlier in the season facing the same side and goalkeeper. A thoroughly deserved 2-1 win was just the right tonic prior to the FA Cup quarter final against man city.
A poor game in truth at Ewood in front a huge crowd. But the large audience witnessed a miracle.... AARON MOKOENA SCORED!!!! Add to that a first home goal from the tireless Matty Derbyshire and we've got a trip to Old Trafford on our hands.
The West Ham at home game deserves little of my time, how we are supposed to win a game when it's 13- v 11 is beyond me. You didn't deserve Lucas, don't act like you did.
The Man United game bore another Derbyshire goal and another truly superb Brad performance. But in honesty, we lost fair and square, 4-1 could of been a lot higher as well!!!!
With one eye on the FA Cup semi we got outplayed and deservedly lost to Aston Villa despite another Boom Boom penalty. But next was the big one....
Old Trafford played host to the FA Cup semi between Chelsea and Rovers. In the first half we looked nervous and went in deservedly 1-0 down but in the second half and extra time everyone involved was tremendous, absolutely tremendous. Especially the returning Jason Roberts who blew the East Stand roof off with his equaliser. In the end it wasn't meant to be and Ballack's effort sent us out of the Cup, but there was only one team who were heroes and it wasn't Chelsea. They knew who the real winners were... the ghost of the Arsenal Millennium Stadium Semi has been put to rest. Good Riddance.
Our form after the Semi was terrific as we managed to stay undefeated all the way to the end of the season, a 3-1 victory over Watford was followed by a heavily one sided 1-1 draw against Fulham, how Samba didn't score that close range effort no-one knows.
Then we put Charlton to bed at the end of April with a highly charged, spirited effort. More goals from the superb Jason Roberts, a Herman Heraidesson (spelling?) and a late beauty from the great Matt Derbyshire sent the 'Operation Ewood' crew home unhappy... oh well, no skin off my back.
Another ghost was laid to rest as we managed to prevent the Barcodes doing the double over us with 2 goals from what will hopefully be next season's starting striking partnership. Roberts and McCarty both got a goal each and out played Newcastle to take home maximum points.
Tottenham away ended our European hopes despite a cracking Benni Header and the final game against Reading was a cracking game but played in a nothing to lose spirit. It was however a very entertaining game which again will be remembered by Rovers fans for a Derbyshire goal.
ALL IN ALL A MARATHON SEASON BUT THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT. I HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED THE READ AS MUCH AS I HAVE ENJOYED WRITING IT. LETS GET BEHIND THE TEAM AGAIN NEXT SEASON AND MAKE IT ANOTHER ONE TO REMEMBER.
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY MIKEYGAMST.
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Date:Wednesday May 16 2007
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