Blackburn Soapbox: a wild day as Rovers repulsed at the end

Despite his highly upbeat thoughts in Martin’s Musing, our new manager will not allow himself to get carried away by a late, narrow win over relegation zone companions. With Spurs and QPR – both away – looming, Pete Sixsmith takes a measured view …

Had you seen me slumped in my seat at 4.40pm on Sunday, you would have noticed my demeanour was considerably more gloomy than that exhibited last week on various TV channels. A goal down, time slipping away and the prospect of being one rung above a hapless Bolton Wanderers, all contributed to a face and mood that made the lugubrious Jack Dee look like the ever smiling Bruce Forsyth.

Then, David Vaughan lashed home a shot that almost ended up in Seaburn and Blackburn wilted. In the second minute of added time, Formica gave away a free kick and Larsson stepped up to take it. Rovers built a wall and the excellent Paul Robinson steadied himself. The crowd were more hopeful than expectant.

Larsson duly curled the ball round the wall, off the post and into the net and Martin O’Neill’s dream start was reality. If last Sunday we had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, this week the order was reversed. Huge celebrations around the Stadium and we left to a rarely heard rendition of Paint Your Wagon.

In truth, we did not play particularly well and O’Neill and his coach Steve Walford saw all the failings and weaknesses that had led to the dismissal of the previous management team. There for all to see was the litany of our season so far: hesitant defending, a lack of pace down the flanks, few incisive passes in the centre of midfield and an attack that rarely looks like scoring.

He also saw a degree of resilience that we had seen too little of in the closing weeks of the Bruce/Black period. Heads did not go down. Players kept plugging away. The crowd did not groan and seethe as it had against Wigan.

The fact that the new manager made a telling substitution did not go amiss. The arrival of James McClean for the willing but pedestrian Jack Colback changed the game in our favour.

With his first touch, he controlled the ball, beat his full back and crossed it on the run. Unlike others, he did not stop, cut back and then give it to the full back. In the 20 minutes that he was on the field he caused havoc in a Blackburn defence that had looked settled and determined. He broke that determination.

The gamble came off. I have seen him four times at reserve level and he has looked better at each viewing. He looked as effective as Johnson and Summerbee did all those years ago and it is to be hoped that he can maintain this level and not end up like Andy Welsh (Remember him? Thought not).

For much of the game we huffed and puffed without ever threatening to blow down the Blackburn chicken shed. Vaughan got the nod above Meyler (Gardner was mysteriously absent) and beavered away without having a lot to hit. Too many balls in the first half were knocked long to Wickham and were relatively easy pickings for the man mountain known as Samba and his trusty sidekick, Scott Dann.

We had given a goal away in the 17th minute. Larsson committed an unnecessary foul, the ball was swung across as Brown missed his footing and although Westwood made an excellent save, Simon Vukcevic headed in the rebound.

We should have been level a few minutes later when Sessegnon tricked his way through and passed to Richardson, unmarked in front of an open goal. The Reverend Kieran must have spent too long thanking his Lord Jesus because he allowed Robinson to smother his shot. A fine save and an even finer one came in the second half, when the Bishop’s deflected shot was palmed away.

Grumbling and a smattering of boos at half time and it looked as if MON’s record of never having lost his opening game at a club had gone the same way as Manchester’s Champions League campaign. Then Vaughan and Larsson edged us over the line to the great relief of all but the 350 Blackburn fans who had bothered to make the trip.

When he comes down from the skies, MON will have a clearer picture of what our team is all about. He fiddled with the back four, bringing Bramble back, moving O’Shea to right back and Bardsley to the left. Titus did well against a one man Rovers attack, but neither full back was at his best.

O’Shea gave the ball away far too much and looked to blame anyone but himself, while Bardsley looked as nervous as a schoolboy out on his first date and rushed everything as he attempted to create a good impression.

The midfield was adequate until the arrival of McClean. That allowed Richardson to move into the centre and gave Vaughan more room to come from deep. The Welshman’s goal was a beauty, a shot of Joe Bolton proportions and it lifted players and crowd.

Up front, Sessegnon was as clever as ever, but it must be a poser for the new manager as to where to play him. He has so much ability but how effective is he? Once again, the final ball was lacking. Connor Wickham did as well as you would expect someone to do after a four week lay off. Ji worked hard when he replaced him.

It could be argued that Blackburn handed this game to us by sitting too deep. Westwood barely touched the ball in the second half, which resembled a game of attack and defence as played in Shildon Rec circa 1964 – only without the King Willy Lads coming down and pinching the ball.

They had looked neat and tidy in the first half, but I suppose their game plan was altered when they had to substitute the substitute who had replaced Givet who was having heart palpitations. Should he be playing if he is a walking advert for Casualty?

Their awful away support (only 150 more than neighbours Accrington Stanley took on a 236-mile trek to AFC Wimbledon the previous day) shows that they have lost faith and belief in the manager and the owners. A shame as it is a good away trip, a pleasant stadium and a proper football club. I worry for their future under Venky’s.

Tottenham away next week and another week for the MON influence to seep into the player’s bloodstream. After their loss at Stoke, we can expect a backlash.

21 thoughts on “Blackburn Soapbox: a wild day as Rovers repulsed at the end”

  1. I don’t have contempt for that green jersey and those trackie bottoms. They are indeed iconic and definitive in many ways. However as a female football supporter occasionally I yearn for a little glamour on and off the field and Sunderland has been a bit short on this over the years. I realise that many stalwarts of Salut! will see this as merely confirming their suspicions about female fans. However I do understand the off side rule and other intricacies of the game, whilst still admiring a bit of Paul Smith tailoring. I like O’Neill’s business like attire but occasionally I would like a bit of stylishness on the touchline.

    • Completely agree.

      My new favourite part of Champion’s League football on ITV is the half-time bit, and watching Keano fox-ing it up in his suit.


  2. Hilary: Are you seriously suggesting that the green sweat shirt and tracy bottoms are not part of our cultural and sporting heritage?

    They are nothing less than iconic. The embodiment of football managers attire for a generation. Their historic role can not be ignored even if we chose to deny their inalienable place in contemporay history. Contempt can not deny its significance.

  3. We will agree to differ, Jeremy. Green jumper and trackie bottoms are fine, but a bit of continental elegance now and again would brighten my Saturdays. However in another life I write about fashion history, so my position on this might be rather particular.

  4. It’s strange that you mention Pulis Hilary, because I get the constant impression that Pulis dresses for the match and that the persona displayed on the touchline is very much at odds with Pulis the manager for the rest of the week.

    I always thought Mancini looked completely ridiculous when he was (and maybe will again now that winter is here), wearing a sharp suit with a scarf which looked as if it had been produced on a 70s knitting machine. Not sure what that was all about.

    I’ve never understood why managers wear suits on the touchline. Cloughie never did, and that’s the benchmark for me. Green jumper and some tracky bottoms should be the mandatory uniform.

  5. McClean and Milner. That’s a really good comparison Davey. I kept watching over and over wondering who it was that he was similar to and you are quite right. Strong and very direct. Similar stature and attitude too by the look of things. I hope that JM gets a run out at least as a sub against the Spuds. I don’t think they’ll like him running at them.

  6. It’s difficult to understand why Bruce had not given MaClean a chance , especially after his excellent 15 minutes on Sunday . He reminds me very much of Milner , same build and a similar style , let’s hope he lives up to the promise . Bramble too was excellent , he really gave the in form Yakubu very little all match

    It’s all down to player confidence , and the crowd has a part to play in that , it’s been said we need that extra bit of class – the 2 goals we scored were certainly class IMO

  7. Indeed,I think that the way managers dress is often a good indicator of character and approach. I personally favour the Mancini look, but as a female supporter long thwarted by Sunderland in the glamour stakes, I would wouldnt I ? I find Pulis’s image very interesting, that cap and the rest seem to represent his matter of fact, businesslike approach. Kean does look out of place in his role, although no more so than Steve Bruce did. I do quite like O’Neill’s attachment to his dated track suit, but a touch of Armani occasionally wouldnt go amiss. Superficial arent I ?

  8. John P. Just picked up on your point about Steve Kean. This guy spends most of his time explaining why Venky’s won’t sack him. Is it because they are chicken? 🙂

    I can’t recall of a football manager who looked less like one, despite his best efforts to look and sound like one. I remember Rupert Lowe sacking Paul Sturrock saying that “he just doesn’t look right.” and whilst demeanour and appearance should not constitute grounds for dismissal then Kean’s results surely must. He always wears the same kind of nondescript suit, despite creating the distinct impression of not having previously owned a suit prior to Big Sam’s dissmissal. Far be it from me to be advocating a consultancy service for dressing football managers but Kean might give himself just a modicum more legitimacy if he abandoned his posh garb for a track suit. You’d think Mrs Kean would have a word with him. I’m surprised Venky’s haven’t given him a chicken suit like the ones that Gene Wilder and Richard Prior wore in Stir Crazy.

    We could start a completely new thread with this. What can the dress of a PL manager tell you about him? A sort of Psychology Today for the savvy Salut reader.

  9. What I find staggering is that we have had to change the manager in order to give a debut to James McClean, (a player signed by Bruce). McClean provided the energy and impetus that we’ve been lacking for year or more.

    He got 18 goals in 57 games for Derry so knows what the goal looks like. He’s a confident and determined lad. You can see that from a mile off, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him given a run down the middle if the need arises. He looks far more ready for the physical side of the PL than does say Ji and arguably Noble, who still deserves to be involved and soon.

    We were very fortunate for the goal that was disallowed as there was nothing wrong with it at all. Uncharacteristically Westwood set off unsure of whether his intended destination was the lavatory or the barbers. It was a perfectly good goal. Blackburn had my sympathy for that.

  10. I think the nervousness, lack of confidence has troubled us all this year. But I think MON will encourage it back. I remember when the SOL was a fortress a while back. Its the fans that play a far bigger role than even themselves think they do. I am convinced that if we eavesdropped an away team’s pre-match talk it would be something like,”if we frustrate them for 25 mins, then the crowd will get on their backs and they’ll get nervous.”
    We’ve got to have more nouse as supporters and make the SOL a place of fear. And not for our own team, but for the visitors!!

  11. Dr.Jeremy,


    Dr.Jozef Venglos managed Villa.

    Dr Pangloss convinced me years ago that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

    My point, although somewhat obscure, is that Martin O’Neill is the perfect appointment for our football club. Whatever the short term outcome might be, he will be given the time to improve our football club in every respect. I am elated to such an extent that two season tickets have been delivered. Steve Bruce took away my enthusiasm, THE MON has returned it in bucket loads.


    • Pete. I’d have though that after all the years you’ve known me that my reference to Pangloss managing Villa was no alight to the works of Voltaire (who has been mentioned elsewhere on Salut in recent times, but in connection with other events.

      Bruce had completely obliterated my enthusiasm, much the same as you. In the future he will in my view be regarded with complete and utter disdain, for the serious damage that he did with his appalling wheeling and dealing which saw players of value cast aside, and players who hardly deserve a place in the car park appearing week in and week out.

      It was hard to believe that anything was for the best during Mrs Doubtfire’s reign.

  12. I was fearing thew worst with 10 mins to go. We huffed and puffed but the traits that have been haunting us all season were still there and I just could not see where a goal was coming from.

    Fair play to MON as he changed things early enough for the changes to make some kind of impact.It is so refreshing to see a real winger in McClean who is willing to take players on and put good deliveries into danger areas. There are so many in the EPL who can’t cross a ball past the first defender.

    It was a vital win which will hopefully re-launch our season .I have great faith in MON and despite the under-achieving wasters in our squad I am still confident he will steer us to safely by getting what he can out of the current squad and bringing in a couple of influential players in January.

    I felt a bit sorry for Blackburn fans having to watch their current team every week. They were absolutely woeful and with a turkey of a manager will comfortably fill the bottom spot in the EPL should nothing change.

    They led 1-0 and instead of going for a 2nd which would have finished us in my opinion, they chose to sit back and hope for the best. The after match interview by Kean was his usual mix of verbal diahorrea that he has spouted all season.A decent club like Blackburn deserve better.

  13. No matter what happens from now on we should ditch the measured views and indulge in a huge dose of ‘optimism’.
    The ‘best of all possible worlds’ has arrived at the finest of football clubs, managed by the best of all possible managers; Martin O’Neill. This is my ‘candide’ view.

    Dr Pangloss

  14. I’m happy with the result, and satisfied with the performance. In the second half in particular, the lads worked hard pushing Blackburn further and further back. Unlike in recent weeks, we did manage to convert a few of the chances created.

    Maybe it was the luck of the Irish; maybe it was the largely renewed spirit of the crowd. But it was nice to pick up a win after weeks and weeks of dominating our opponents, but leaving the stadium with nowt.

    Like everyone else, I was hugely impressed with McClean. Good on Brucie for buying him; good on MON for playing him.

    I thought Titus played really well, all things considered. I’m glad MON gave him this chance; hopefully he can repay the manager’s trust this time. I have to imagine this is his last chance.

    Spurs and QPR will be tough days out. But I’m looking forward all the same.

  15. It’s true that O’Neill saw all the team’s failings and weaknesses and that is as it should be. The last thing anyone needs is for MON to be labouring under any misapprehensions. What’s more important, though, is that he saw a team that – no thanks to Steve Bruce – still has its essential underpinnings in place. There’s plenty to build on; plenty of spirit. A post-Stoke backlash from Spurs? Maybe O’Neill’s Cats will lash right back…

  16. I’m sure as the new management team reflect on the game they will be looking to work on the deficiencies that were apparant. Bruce I suspect would have seen a similar final score as a justification of his methods. For me yesterday, the immediate effect of the new manager was the duel substitution which made sense.

    Replace the hard working but tiring forward with another (though I thought Noble might have been the choice) and a hard working but limited midfielder with someone who can play on the wing. O’Neill left Sess Vaughan and Larsson on – all players who can add a goal threat as well as create chances for others.

    SB I suspect would have brought on Elmo for Larsson, Ji for Sess and Noble for two minutes instead of Gardner.

    I’m not going overboard yet but at least we beat one of the teams we should be beating and am confident that the new manager will bring a level of intelligence and adaptability that the previous one failed to do.

  17. I have to say that is, yet another, first class report – I have to say that as ithe views expressed tally, exactly,.with the way I was feeling and my thoughts on the game.

    Switching to MO’N’s choice of the number 31, instead of his initials, on his tracksuit, does anyone know what that is about?

    I’m guessing that it is some form of superstition because, having checked, he wore the same numbers at both Celtic & Villa.

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