Tuesday, 13 May 2014

One chance gone - but opportunity will knock again

So another season has hit the history books and unlike the previous couple that preceded this one, it's a difficult one to summarise in a few less than witty paraphrases.

On the one hand, our Rovers have enjoyed a much better season in 2013/14. The club has looked like something resembling an actual football club rather than a temporary lunatic holding cell, finishing comfortably higher in the league standings than last season's turgid and at times disgraceful effort and under Gary Bowyer have created a Championship side with the potential to achieve what the club PR machine is constantly championing.

Therefore you'd think it'd be a case of happy days and drinks all around to celebrate a job well done.

However, and there is of course always a however, there is that hollow and disappointing feeling that comes with a chance spurned. 

Despite Rovers spluttering and splurging through large portions of the campaign unable to string together the large run of wins needed to be serious challengers, Bowyer's boys were still in with a shout of making the end of season play-offs right up until the final day.

If Rovers had managed to find a run of form like the criminally underrated end of season "unbeaten in 12" earlier on in proceedings, we'd have comfortably extended our season past the regular 46 game format.

But even if we had crashed the end of season festivities, there is still that lingering doubt that Rovers wouldn't have possessed the necessary mental strength make up and managerial tactical nous to beat the likes of the excellent Derby County and the even more expensively assembled but deeply unlikeable QPR.

Mixed feelings aside though, it's difficult not to look at the campaign as a whole though with a feeling of renewed optimism (yes I know).

No, not the "oh well, hopefully things will get better somehow, fingers crossed" type that we're all a bit sick of hearing about by now - a more tangible form of hope. One with a footing in reality and a foundation built on more than the usual metaphorical verbal quicksand.

As fans we started the season placing our misguided faith solely in the basket of the exploits of Jordan Rhodes. He was the sole beacon of hope, the expensive juggernaut keeping our head above very mediocre water.

Fast forward nine months and there's now Craig Conway, the absolutely excellent Rudy Gestede, the classy Tom Cairney, Ben Marshall and Corry Evans on which to build a side and some real attacking options around.

There's also the ridiculous (not actually an accolade) accolade of Blackburn Rovers managing to negotiate an entire season without jumping on the managerial merry-go-round Venky's embarrassingly embraced last time out.

Regardless of not achieving the advertised goal of promotion, the job Gary Bowyer has managed to pull off this season is deserving of a second crack at the promised land.

Despite the increasingly annoying fad of a minority of fans playing a new and seemingly easy game of "Championship Fantasy Hindsight Tacical Expert Football Manager" after all defeats and dropped points on social media after each game, Gary Bowyer has done what he needed to do to carry on the job he started.

He's done enough right to keep his job and in turn he's not done enough wrong to start sweating over a P45 dropping onto his desk anytime soon.

Unfortunately the manager will face similar sanctions and handicaps during the summer transfer market with the likes of Leon Best, DJ Campbell, David Goodwillie, and the few remaining Portuguese no marks all returning to clog up the crippling wage bill. But the remit will be the same - find them all unlikely homes whilst spending as little of the Rao family cash as humanely possible.

Rovers will deservedly continue to pay the price of past transgressions but due to the stellar work of the last two transfer windows Bowyer can already start planning for 2014/15 with at least half the personnel needed to crack this bastard. 

As we take a peaceful walk along State The Obvious Avenue it's now up to the former youth coach to complete the incoming transactions this pre-season. We'll need more economically gained quality to add to what we've already got... maybe Cardiff will be kind/daft enough to have another car boot sale this summer?

Critics are right to point to the notion that finishing this season on a roll means diddly squat when the reset button is pressed and a new campaign rears it's head this August, but due to the work carried out this campaign Rovers will stand a far better chance when we hit the promotion trail next.

Because to start a race with the car in first gear, with the tuning sorted and on flat ground is a far better proposition than to start it with the gears crunched, the clutch worn out, the steering wheel disabled, the engine smashed to pieces and parked on a muddy hill with nails scattered across the road.

That is what this season has ultimately left us with - a better footing and a football club finally being run (in England at least) by football people with something resembling a connection re-established with the fans.

Keep the faith, we may have missed this season's promotion bus, but we're in a better position to catch the next one.