When Owen Coyle was appointed Blackburn Rovers manager on 2nd June 2016, to succeed the hapless Paul Lambert, who had succeeded in dividing the club and causing general mayhem , there was not possibly one Rovers supporter who thought the appointment a good one. Social media went into meltdown in protest, at what appeared ,such a crass appointment. After the turmoil of Lambert and the brutal and unnecessary sacking of Gary Bowyer, it was not the appointment Rovers fans were looking for. Whilst the likes of Gary Monk went to Leeds, Jaap Stam to Reading, Alan Stubbs to Rotherham, Nigel Pearson to Derby, Dimatteo to Viila, Benitez to Newcastle, Russell Slade to Charlton , Gary Bowyer to Blackpool and Ryan Giggs future in limbo, to name but a few. Rovers fans were given the failed Owen Coyle. To say they were not happy is an understatement. The sale of season tickets came to a shuddering halt, the Ewood Park switchboard was put into meltdown by furious fans venting their anger , some vowing never to set foot inside Ewood again . Even the national press and radio picked up on the supporters anger, whilst club secretary Ian Silvester and Director Mike Cheston were men under siege. After over a month of drawing up a , so called short list, of possible suitable candidates and conducting interviews, the appointment of Coyle came swift and sudden. According to Coyle, approached on Monday 30th May and appointed on Thursday 2nd June. Rovers fans and the football world were stunned. What happened to the short list ? What happened to the candidates interviewed ? The general consensus of opinion was that the club had been turned down by their preferred choices, although it was never made public who had been interviewed . Maybe the poison spread by Lambert about the clubs owners, the lack of ambition, the lack of funds, had an effect on prospective candidates. Maybe , unlike Coyle , they were not prepared to work under such restrictive guidelines. Now almost a month has passed since Coyle( pic above) was appointed, and opinions are slowly changing. Coye, against the odds, has signed fans favourite, Danny Graham, from Sunderland on a free transfer on a 3 year contract. But Graham will not have come cheap. A signing on fee will have had to have been paid, possibly in the region of £1.5m . His wages will be high, but not in the region of the £32 ,000 pw he earned at Sunderland. Coyle has also signed striker Antony Stokes from Celtic on free transfer. Again a signing on fee will have had to have been paid, how much ? who knows ? But with 135 appearances and 58 goals for Celtic, plus 54 appearances and 27 goals for Hibs, Stokes will not have come cheap, his wages, like Grahams , will have stretched the club. Add to those two the further free transfer signings of Stephen Hendrie , Liam Feeney and Jack Byrne, the mood to Coyle is softening a little. Although the real test will be performances and results. If they do not go well for him the crowd will very quickly turn on him, for this is not a popular appointment by any means. But Coyle's activity in the transfer market begs a question. Given that both Graham and Stokes are, in the long term, expensive and costly acquisitions , were does that leave Lamberts claims that the owners were not prepared to spend any substantial money on the team ? Me thinks there is more to Lamberts departure than meets the eye. Unless Coyle has to recoup the expense by selling one of our assets for big money. Bye, bye Hanley , maybe ? Time will tell.
Rovers search for a new manager continues. Six weeks and counting since Paul Lambert announced his pending departure from Ewood Park. Having sacked the Venky's and told us to stick our crap club up our backsides. Not his exact words, but that is what he meant. Various names have been banded about, to replace the hapless Lambert. We are told interviews have taken place. So far nothing, zilch. The club and fans are in limbo. Does no one want the job ? Is it a poisoned chalice ? The owners, when they bought the club, in November 2010, talked the talk. They talked big time. European football, big name players, big name managers. Big Sam was not good enough for them, so they sacked him. It has been down hill ever since. Apart from a brief ray of light provided by Gary Bowyer. So why do the owners not now take the bull firmly by the horns ? With the recent changes at Man Utd , why do they not approach Ryan Giggs to become Rovers new manager ? What is their to lose ? You can not get more high profile the Giggs. Just think about it. More national and world wide coverage. Surge in international press and TV coverage. Attendances into the 20,000's. Increased club shop sales. Massive increase in revenue. What's not to like ? Giggs would cost big money, but as they say in business, speculate to accumulate . Would the Rao family take the gamble ? Would Giggs take the job ? Probably not. But we can all but dream. Would Giggs be a success ? Who knows, but with his attack, attack style of play it would be a exiting time at the very least. If you don't ask you don't get. Pick up the phone and dial Ryan Giggs. You never know !
Has England manager Roy Hodgson sabotaged England's 2016 Euro Championship bid before it has started ? By naming no less than three players whose fitness is in doubt , Hodgson has taken a massive gamble. It can be argued that Wiltshire, Henderson and Sturridge should not be in the squad, all three have played very little football of late. In the case of Wiltshire, he has missed almost the entire season. His inclusion appears reckless at the best. Danny Drinkwater has been excluded at the expense of these players. Drinkwater, who has had a magnificent season for Champions Leicester , can feel hard done by. Especially when the squad is light of defensive players. Only Eric Dier provides any mid field defensive cover. Is he better than Drinkwater ? I think not. It was Spurs and Dier who blew up in the final four games of the season. Whilst Drinkwater and Leicester kept their bottle and cool , to win the title. Dier in particular, lost his head on occasions, particularly against Chelsea , in the season's penultimate game , when he should have been sent off, he completely lost it. Having said all that, both Drinkwater and Dier should be going to France. We are very light weight in mid field. Sterling and Barclay are also two out of form players who are fortunate to get the nod before Drinkwater and Andros Townsend. I fear the squad is badly unbalanced. This could all end badly.
Many Rovers fans are hurt and angry. The club in it's wisdom has shut the Blackburn End Top Tier, and moved the Family section to the Jack Walker Stand Lower Tier. This has caused distress amongst those who have used that area for many years. Me amongst them. We are no longer allowed in that area of the ground, it is Family's only. Why ? Has the club lost it's marbles completely ? What are they trying to do ? Drive everyone away ? I have spoken to the club, I am told it is the new Family Stand. I am told to use the Darwen side. I have never used the Darwen side, and do not intend to start now. I and others, have no desire to be near the away section or near the visitors dug out, we want the Blackburn End. This scheme has been badly thought out. I do not think the manager/coaches/play
ers in the home dug out , will be to pleased being surrounded by a unruly, noisy 'creche' . Lots of stewards will be needed. And what of disabled supporters ? Are they now expected to be at the Darwen side, subject to taunts from the away support ? I and others, have no intention of going into the Blackburn end either. Some of us used to stand on the JW lower tier when it was the Nuttall Street Enclosure. The whole scheme needs a re think. At least allow seniors and disabled into the Family section. The Family section would be better placed on the Riverside side stand. Why was there no consultation with the fans before this scheme was implemented ? Another own goal !
Alan Shearer says he knew exactly when it was time to leave Blackburn Rovers. It was the summer after they won the league. The club made two signings in that period. Adam Reed, a £200,000 central defender from Darlington, and West Ham midfielder Matty Holmes for £1.2million.
A couple of others arrived through the season, but nobody who indicated that Blackburn were taking their status as champions seriously. Kenny Dalglish, the manager, became director of football — one presumes because he could see the direction in which the club was headed, too.
They had done enough. They had done what no one thought possible. Blackburn Rovers had won the league. And they were happy with that, Shearer believed.
It was as if the work was over. Jack Walker, Blackburn’s benefactor, had realised a lifelong dream, and now the club would start thinking like, well, Blackburn again.
Shearer remained another year — indeed he finished top scorer once more with 31 Premier League goals — but he was already convinced his future lay elsewhere. Blackburn finished seventh and the following summer he joined Newcastle for £15m.
Ray Harford succeeded Dalglish as Blackburn’s manager. His first problem was what to do about the left wing, where Jason Wilcox had suffered a serious injury after 27 games of the title-winning season. He was unlikely to play for at least half of the following campaign, too, and wide play was vital to Blackburn’s style.
Harford asked more than once for the funds to replace Wilcox, even short-term. Each time he was refused. Walker wanted to remain loyal to a player who came through Blackburn’s youth system.
It was a noble attitude, but no use to a team trying to defend its title and entering the Champions League for the first time in its history. Blackburn lost four of their first five group games in that tournament, and did not win until the final dead rubber with Rosenborg at home, on December 6.
And although the polite thing to do would be to let Leicester have their homecoming party against Everton on Saturday before thinking about the future, football is not a polite business.
Other clubs are already making plans and formulating policy. By the time the cleaners have been through Jamie Vardy’s place, Leicester have to know what they want to be.
Not Blackburn, that is for certain. Within a year of winning the title, Blackburn were on a downward trajectory that has proved irreversible in any meaningful way since.
By the end of the 1998-99 season they had been relegated, and although they have returned to the Premier League subsequently, it has never been to contest the title or even the top four places.
They are 15th in the Championship, and looking for a manager who will be their 14th since Dalglish’s departure. And, without care, Leicester could go the same way. Claudio Ranieri, ever the realist, talks of trying to stay in the top half of the table next season.
No matter the fight in the dog, Leicester are a small club. What they have achieved this year is little short of miraculous.
Elite teams with every financial advantage are right now licking their wounds and regrouping to make sure this never happens again.
And there are plenty of them: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, all thinking they should be good enough to win the league.
Below that band, West Ham, Everton, Southampton, all believing they could be the next Leicester. That’s close to a top half right there. Sit still to drink it all in, and Leicester could be back where they started. And all this before they factor in the colossal commitment of the Champions League.
A short while ago, Emile Heskey, one of the club’s famous sons — it’s not a limitless supply, so they’re getting quite a lot of work, these lads — was asked whether the club needed to spend big next season.
‘Not really,’ he said. ‘It’s difficult because if they bring in marquee signings, they risk hurting the philosophy Ranieri has put in place. He has a good set-up. If he starts chopping and changing with personnel who don’t really fit, he’s going to start causing trouble.’
Yet if he doesn’t, Leicester are sunk. Nobody is expecting a second title challenge. The 5,000-1 price offered at the start of this season would be almost as valid for the next campaign, and for the same reasons. The stellar names, the vast budgets, the cutting-edge coaches, all will be lined up against Leicester, just as they were this season.
Then there is the possibility that players such as N’Golo Kante receive tempting offers from elsewhere. So Leicester improve, or this is a fleeting moment in time. Just to maintain that top-half position, they will have to make changes.
Not a Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Leicester don’t have to spend £300,000 a week on wages, or ditch what has made them great for superstars eyeing the last big cheque before a move to China. Yet there must be more to it than Darlington’s player of the year.
The same scouting acumen that recruited Kante and saw the potential in Riyad Mahrez must be at work shaping a squad for a whole new raft of challenges.
At the very least, European football requires additional personnel. Ranieri won’t get away with unchanged starting XIs next season. He will have to be a tinkerman again, have to find a way of doing without the odd stalwart when Burnley come to town, if the following Tuesday brings a trip to Moscow.
Mike Ashley has plenty of regrets about his time at Newcastle, but his biggest is that the year they came fifth in the league, 2012, he chose not to improve the squad.
Ashley adhered to the old line about not fixing what isn’t broken, and thought a group of players good enough to qualify for Europe would benefit from the experience and be even better the following year. Newcastle finished 16th and were fighting relegation for much of the season.
It is a myth that a football club stands still if it doesn’t invest. It goes backwards, because the clubs around it get better.
And, yes, perhaps it is inevitable that Leicester fall back after such an incredible campaign. The bigger question is how far would constitute a palatable fall?
They wouldn’t want to be Blackburn. Nobody would want to be Blackburn. At the risk of shutting down the music at a very good party, Leicester cannot afford to drink this in for too long.
With thanks and apologies to Martin Samuel Daily Mail