Written by Dan Connor @dancon22
Be under no illusion, Blackburn Rovers are going through a tough spell. After a period of consolidation, this was the year that optimistic opinion suggested that the club may have been able to show some progress and challenge at the top half of the table.
The championship is a highly competitive league with some very good teams all trying to achieve the Holy Grail (and the related payday) of Premier League football. The likes of West Brom, Leeds, Swansea and Fulham to name just a few are all eying up the prize, however Tony Mowbray and the owners must, at the start of the season, have thought that they could compete at this level and make improvements on the previous year.
Unfortunately, sixteen games into the season and that optimism has disappeared and unless there is a significant upturn it will ultimately be another disappointing year. Eighteen points from those sixteen games has left the club languishing in eighteenth spot having only managed five wins. Currently with the fifth worst form in the division over the last six games, consisting of one win, one draw and four losses, results and fortunes simply must improve. Recent performances have led some sections of Blackburn’s (still massively declined) support to question whether or not Tony Mowbray is still the right man for the job.
For what it is worth, I am not one of those. Is he the man to take the club back to the top flight and return them to former glories, maybe not. However it is important to remember the state the club was in when he was
appointed. Still reeling from past managerial appointments, most notably Steve Kean and Owen Coyle, amongst others, the club was the epitome of instability. For a small club who had always historically been looked at by outsiders as a model on how a professional football club should be run, this image had been turned on its head. Mowbray arrived and single-handedly achieved calm and managed to steady the ship. No longer are the club seen as a laughing stock. The owners now are rarely seen or heard these days, maybe fearing the backlash from the fans or recognising that the running of the club should be left to those who know how to do so. Whatever the reason, this too has contributed to achieving more stability around Ewood Park.
That said, when considering this seasons struggles, it is hard not to look at the squad, the balance and strength or lack of it in certain areas and question who is responsible for that. It has to be noted that Mowbray has managed to bring in some quality players. Bradley Johnson and more recently, Lewis Holtby (a former German international no less) have been fantastic additions and Stewart Downing has shown that he still has something to offer. Along with Bradley Dack and (the now aging) Danny Graham, Rovers certainly have some quality players.
However, defensively the club have been threadbare in recent weeks. A hamstring injury in September to Darragh Lenihan and a season-long anterior cruciate ligament injury to loanee Greg Cunningham (on loan from Cardiff City) have forced a new partnership in Ryan Nyambe and other loanee Tosin Adarabioyo (on loan from Man City). With hindsight (such a wonderful thing), maybe the decision to loan Charlie Mulgrew to Wigan wasn’t the greatest of decisions.
In the summer, Tony Mowbray highlighted that he wanted to strengthen in the goalkeeping area, but then the sale of David Raya to Brentford, with no adequate replacement in place seemed to undermine this and the subsequent arrival of goalkeeper Christian Walton, on loan from Brighton appeared to be a rushed decision. Of note, ever-present Walton has kept four clean sheets in the sixteen games played.
It cannot be said that Venkys have not made funds available to Tony Mowbray and he has certainly splashed the cash on attacking options. But has that money been well spent?
Highly-rated 20 year old attacker, Ben Brereton, was seen as one of the countries brightest prospects, when he signed for £6M from Nottingham Forest. Currently he looks like a player bereft of confidence and has only managed twenty five minutes of league football this season coming on as a substitute in the defeat to Fulham, where he didn’t register a single shot on target.
Another striker who is struggling to find form this season is new recruit Sam Gallagher who has returned to the club on a permanent deal having previously played for the club during the 2016/17 season on loan. Gallagher joined for a reported £5M and he has managed one goal in fifteen games so far during this campaign.
The thing in the favour of both Brereton and Gallagher is that age is on their side. Aged 20 and 24 respectively, both have time to develop and justify their price tags, which aren’t huge by modern standards but big enough for a club of Rovers’ current stature. The question is; will Tony Mowbray still be around to oversee their coming of age? Has Tony Mowbray achieved enough to be afforded good will from the owners and will they give him more time to turn things around? Or will they decide that it is time for a change at the top?
If they do decide to go down that particular route, one hopes that they do their due diligence and look to the best available options, not just the cheapest. Nobody wants a repeat of the ‘not so special one’ SK.
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