Monday, 17 February 2014

Is our current spot good enough?

With 16 games left to go in the Championship season it'd be fair comment to say everyone in the league is now winding up for their best attempt at the home stretch.

As usual it's been a tough league to call and given the competitiveness/mediocrity (delete as applicable) coursing throughout the division, there are a lot of issues far from settled - if you take 2014/15 Premier League side Leicester out of the equation that is.

Back closer to home on Planet Ewood, we find ourselves in a league position that perfectly summarises our offerings so far - we've been decent by and large, occasionally very good, but lacking the consistency to nail down a more profitable spot in the standings.

Rovers need now to also face up to the very real proposition that we'll fall short of hitting the play off mark. We're certainly capable enough as a side if we can lift our form past what has been delivered so far, but our boys are now on an increasingly bloody battlefield fighting for that sacred 6th spot.

The likes of Forest, Derby and Burnley above us have been and gone, catching them now would be the equivalent of yours truly standing on a fishing bank and casting a plastic Tesco's bag (other bags are available) into the water in an attempt to catch a shark.

Meanwhile Reading have lifted their game, Uwe Rosler's Wigan and Brighton the same. There's also Ipswich and an improving Watford side in the mix too. I'd love to be wrong, but my pre-season prediction of a higher-mid table finish might actually come true for once...

So is something around 10th position really good enough?

We're constantly reminded by the more financially aware and those with a glass half empty mentality that Blackburn Rovers' finances are in an unhealthy shape. When we say "unhealthy" we don't mean one or two curries over the weekend unhealthy, we mean Michelle McManus roaming round a beach in Inverness with a beer in her hand unhealthy.

The club faces financial Armageddon and somewhere if you look close enough there should be four proverbial gentlemen armed with weapons and horseback tearing up a horizon near Brockhall.

With the club still losing money and likely to be in circa £70m debt by the time the next set of accounts roll around, we're in as bad a need for the holy grail of Premier League television money than most... unless you're based in outposts near Bolton and Loftus Road.

We've spent another season paying very handsome money to the likes of Jordan Rhodes (well spent), Leon Best (not so much), not to mention many others, whilst in return for this bloated outlay in the standings we're set to make a decent if not earth shattering positional improvement on last season's near relegation, all conquering omnishambles.

But is it good enough?

Next season might be different - the financial restructuring, which as the club reminds us was carried out successfully during the month of January, will likely have to continue in the summer if we face another term in England's second tier. A more modest budget in line with our increasingly limited revenue streams may have to be adopted - that means kissing a sweet goodbye to the likes of Mr.Rhodes.

Somewhere along the line, that artificially created money bubble that the Pune lot have manufactured and maintained will have to pop and the pressure will only intensify as time wears on.

Venky's have shown that they're willing to back us financially if not in any actual sense, but there is only so long they can continue to do so in the current vein until the words "administration" and "we're probably Portsmouth" get bandied about in more than just fear or negativity.

This season has been mooted as a glory or bust type campaign, with even the club's pre-season cheerleading indicate this would be another tilt at a return to the Premier League... the special season ticket offer even suggested as much, not to mention the ongoing and endless past/present player commentary on our tilt at the promised land.

So is 10th (naively assuming we finish round there) actually something to be satisfied with?

From my point of view, despite the proclamations of doom made above, I'd say it is yes.

Some or even most would consider anything other than a top 6 spot an automatic fail, but I would counter by saying expecting that this term was likely expecting too much.

Realistically speaking, given the mass upheaval and player turnover at the club, to expect to go from being inconceivably and toxically bad last season to a fully functioning, promotion machine a calendar year later was fanciful to say the least. Epic turnarounds in fortune are of course not uncommon in football but in our case it would have taken more than just a casual leap up a metaphorical curb to achieve.

Manager Gary Bowyer has taken on a job that wouldn't have roused many into inspiration - "fancy making our team better whilst saving bundles of cash?"... Oh yes please.

Take away all the usual football posturing and journalistic pressure for the right here/right now and it's the sort of sporting rescue act that will inevitably take longer than many would like, worryingly it might even take longer than our current financial predicament will allow. But it IS the only way back, assuming of course we are to make it back.

Venky's as owners have certainly improved as owners this season, even if that is coming in from the mother of all low bases. It would be nice for them to actually pop along and actually, you know, DO SOMETHING at Ewood Park rather than sit at home and make decisions from a desk situated in Asia but the proof this season has been in the pudding.

No circus, no Shebby and Agnew, no new manager every 48 hours and a decent squad overhaul that has seen overpaid wasters in the likes of Danny Murphy and Bradley Orr replaced by a solid, work hard nucleus in the form of Tom Cairney, Tommy Spurr and Ben Marshall. It seems they've started listening to some actual advice, rather than the self serving guff they've bought as help before.

The owners letting a manager carry out his plan - and repelling semi-regular claims for a change from one certain executive that have still been about this season - has paid it's dividends, it's certainly made for a calmer and more stable environment at the club which if we're honest is about as we could have prayed for back at the start of 2013.

Is Gary Bowyer the manager to take us up to the Premier League and establish Blackburn Rovers back in the big time? Possibly not, but he should be considered a success for his work so far for providing us with a base to build on. Furthermore he should be allowed the time to continue.

Providing Venky's don't bolt and run (and they've proven over time they aren't ones to do what's "right" and what the authorities think is best) leaving us in a financial blackhole or better yet, a knight in shining armour comes along armed with the resources to takeover and start again, I'd be inclined to treat our current projected position in the Championship as a good finish to this campaign.

If it leads to us becoming a more prudently run club within our financial means then so be it and all the more so...


  1. I agree that BRFC fans are 100% Championship minded if they are anyhow OK with these owners. The Venkys are not at all interested about the Club, I know that they will take BRFC to 4th or 5th division and they do not care about that. As much as you fans wanted to think otherwise. Simple as that.

    1. Really. I wonder why they spent 8 million on Jordan Rhodes and reiterated that he's not for sale then.

      And before we even get down to the 4th division, we have to get down to the 3rd division first, and if anything it's more likely that we'll get promoted to the1st division than get relegated to the 3rd division.

      Or maybe you're a Burnley fan. That explains the extreme negativity.

    2. Just bein realistic about the club in Championship and not having any future about PL. If you think of PL with such squad you are just being naivy mate

    3. Plus dont forget derek shaw was the one who GIFTED with 2 million the previous manager, plus Mr. Shaw was placed there by his long term mate paul agnew...

  2. You're very harsh on GB Mr Delap, to say he's done well this season but then limit the upward trajectory isn't fair. Gary has a proven eye for players and got a good team spirit. For most poor results (usually down to individual mistakes anyway!) I could point you to a good result. What more do you want in a manager? #TeamGB

  3. You can not do dissection until the season is over it is the manager who has to do ,for it is he who has set the goals .Your is only wish which can change based on the team playing but for GB it will be true dissection because he has planned what he need to achieve.

  4. Agree with pretty much everything you've said Mikey. I expected us to finish somewhere around midtable at the start of the season and so far it looks like that is where we'll finish (and just shy of the play-offs), this would represent a huge improvement on last season and is probably as much as anyone should have expected given the last 3 years of on/off field trauma.

  5. Totally agree with the post. After last season, I always thought that this season was all about steadying the ship. Bowyer has done that this, plus with the background noise of Shebby etc seemingly gone, he's gone about his business and improved things a good deal on the pitch with some good signings and getting rid of others. If we can't this season, then hopefully Rovers can push on for Playoffs and beyond next season.

  6. Dan.m
    There's no doubt that GB has steadied the ship and brought in a few quality players! If we wasn't in so much financial ruin then to finish mid table this season would be a great step in the right direction. Just fearing a mass exodus next season and being back to a worst position than we were in when venkys first took charge.

  7. Team has no ambition. As fan I find this unacceptable. Draws and losses due to poor tactics rather than poor players. With a good manager team could threaten the play off teams. Burnley annoyingly have showed the way.

  8. I know this might be overly optimistic but I don't think we'll go the way of Portsmouth. Reading between the lines it seems that Venky's have accepted the need to service the club debt to protect their investment, whilst restructuring the business so it has lower operating costs relative to our lower, post Premier League level of income. This will at least slow the rate at which the debt has been increasing. It's sound business sense (pity it was lacking for the first 18 months of their reign) but it means no new investment for players unless it’s part of a package to lower costs (i.e. bring in players on lower wages to replace those on higher wages). The risk is that with limited ability to reduce the debt (i.e. they won’t spend their own money to pay it off, merely service it) and limited abilty to increase income in the short term (i.e. get promoted) then the club is effectively stuck in a financial straight jacket with little room to manouvre. It’s able to survive, but not able to invest, continually looking to lower costs, but somehow trying to remain competitive. This is what Venky’s mismanagement has brought us. Not quite Armageddon, but a sort of Championship purgatory. Given this, the only real future is to find footballing solution as opposed to a financial solution. I hate to say it, but we need to replicate what the Dingles have done with Dyche. A low cost (probably young) team with the hunger to be competitive and a manager who can spot a player, forge a progressive team and take it to forward without being dependent on significant investment that normally defines success in today’s footballing economy. Bowyer has proven over the last year that he can both reduce costs and improve quality to keep us competitive in this league and 10th is good given the depth of problems Bowyer inherited. This earns him my backing and faith that he can keep this going into next season, but let's not be unrealistic about the new reality the club is operating in.

  9. I think the reality is that we'll see BRFC in administration this season. Unsustainable losses have a habit of (eventually) coming back home. The error was to delay the now obviously needed restructuring to this season. It all hung like Risdale's tropical fish on sustaining the fantasy - in Leed's case of a quick return to champions league football - of a minor blip, an aberration from business as usual. The 'new reality' is you are months off bust. Enjoy.

  10. Agree largely with the post although I'd dispute whether "we've been decent by and large, occasionally very good". I think the occasions on which we've been very good are very rare (once or twice all season) and I'd say that we've been pretty average rather than decent. That said, given the circumstances, Bowyer is carrying out the brief of stabilising the club and bringing through younger players well but his lack of tactical nous can hold back at times. Injuries to key players and the Rhodes conundrum (i.e. how to fit a one dimensional player into the team) haven't helped.