Everyone is currently coming to terms with that Monday feeling. Most face returning to work, some with a heavy hangover looming over them. Newcastle fans are celebrating silverware whilst Harry Redknapp is breathing a sigh of relief, and Nottingham Forest fans are finally are picking up the nail files after biting them repeatedly for the last 10 months. Blackburn fans, however, are reprogramming their Sat-Navs with Plymouth and Southend as they come to terms with relegation to League One.
Yesterday, despite a 3-1 victory at Brentford, The Riversiders became the first team to win the Premier League and to have dropped the third tier of English football. The transformation since that glorious campaign in 94/95 season when Blackburn claimed the title to now has been a very rocky path. That season, Nottingham Forest finished third, but pipped Blackburn to safety yesterday following a 3-0 win at home to Ipswich.
I had predicted Blackburn would be the club to go down at the start of the season and after many Forest fans were worried following Montanier’s sacking in January, I was the only one in my local reiterating that Blackburn would fill that spot. I must admit that I didn’t expect it to be that close and was nervous I could be eating my words before long. To explain why I was so sure I need to take you through the events leading up to this season’s conclusion and why that gave me such a strong gut feeling.
Prior to the 2010, when the V H Group bought the club, Rovers had spent just two season in the Championship before returning to the Premier League and in the 09/10 season Sam Allardyce led the club to a tenth place finish. The next season Allardyce had won just 4 of the first 13 games and when the club takeover was completed on November 19th they had amassed 15 points, 1.15 points per game. Three games later Allardyce was sacked despite winning two of the three games since the takeover, taking that average to 1.31 points per game.
Steve Kean was appointed temporarily, and it was not long before controversy surrounded the decision with his agent playing a large role in the takeover of the club. Kean was given a permanent contract shortly afterwards, despite only picking up four points in five games, and after a run of ten matches without a win the club finished 15th. Next season Kean signed an improved contract despite the club sitting bottom of the table, much to the outrage of the fans who had been calling for his sacking for most of the season.
The club posted a large pre tax annual loss in December but insisted they would continue to fund the club even if they were relegated. To me, as an outsider, that raised alarm bells. In December, with five months of the season left to play, I would not be mentioning relegation publicly even if the club were bottom. With the January transfer window imminent, I would be focused on investment and strengthening the squad, essentially thing that would provide a positive atmosphere around the club. This to me sounded like they had already accepted defeat.
Skip forward to the January tranfer window and the only player they spent money on was Bradley Orr from QPR, who only started ten games following his arrival. Since then he was loaned out for much of his career only, starting 18 games for Blackburn across the next three seasons, before retiring after a spell with Toronto. That isn’t the kind of funding you would be expecting when faced with relegation which is what that season resulted in.
The transfers Blackburn have conducted have been worrying to me. In 2014 the club hardly spent anywhere near what was needed on player transfers as well as firing two managers. This was the start of the club falling behind their peers in my opinion. A club selling players but not bringing in any of a certain standard is a club that will never progress and to get those players requires a warchest, which could have been partly funded by parachute payments.
The club sold players such as Rudy Gestede, a striker of so much quality he now plays in the Premier League. They sold Alan Judge and Jay Spearing to Championship Rivals, both who are creative midfielders who can change a game and create chances. Shane Duffy left for Brighton in 2016, a stone wall defender who just won promotion with Brighton, and Jordan Rhodes left, a man that provided 82 goals across 3 and a half seasons for Rovers. Throughout this, the club has failed to replace these sales, failed to replace those goals.
Over the last four seasons they have scored 70, then 66, then 46, and finally this season just 40. Across the same time period it is not just the scored that matter, but also the goals conceded. Defenders like Duffy leaving has resulted in their goal difference slipping over the last four seasons from 14 to -12, a 36 goal swing. Duffy contributed too 19 clean sheets this season as well as two whilst on international duty, he also scored twice. At the age of 25, you would assume he will be playing a big part in Brighton’s first season in the Premier League and is an asset to any club. Blackburn have scored more goals this season in the last 15 minutes, than any other time whilst they have conceded their first goal in the 40th minute, meaning they are behind more often than they are ahead.
Vineeth Rao, a Venky Representative and Rovers had previously insisted selling their best players was ridiculous after Christopher Samba left according to Echo-News.com. They reported Rao said: “There are no plans like that there, that is ridiculous. There are no plans to sell any more key players, why would there be? Our immediate focus is on staying up in the Premier League. We hope Chris Samba will be the last key departure. There are no plans to sell any more key players because we want to improve the squad. We want to add to the squad and improve it, not sell the players we have got. We are not planning on selling any more key players.”
I cannot trust owners who are doing that to their own club and I am a neutral so how would a Blackburn Fan. Not only that the debts are reportedly piling up for the club and with the reduced revenue in League One they are only likely to get worse. If the free fall is to stop they must sign now and sign wisely and bounce back at the first time of asking or risk becoming the next Luton, Blackpool or Portsmouth. Blackburn are currently favourites for promotion next season, I would be laying my money on them finishing the other end of the table.
All Statistics taken from Soccerway.