May 23, 2010
It is impossible to be impartial when watching a match not involving your own side. Pundits and commentators often allude to a fixture being a good game for the 'neutral'. What rubbish! Human nature will dictate you favour one side or the other, irrespective of past grievances. On Saturday, Blackpool were my adopted club.
In Ian Holloway, they have a figurehead who is the most passionate football person I have witnessed in a long time. There is no Mourinho hyped pretence. The man speaks from the heart. His soundbites will be craved by the media next season and they will have fun along the way but deep down he knows how to make a team tick. He is able to relate to true supporters of all clubs and this is an attribute that is very rare in modern football.
Blackpool are fellow Lancastrians and there is no ill-feeling between the two clubs.One of my first memories of seeing Rovers was on Granada's 'Kick-Off Match'. The year was 1978 and Rovers played Blackpool in the 2nd Division and got hammered 5-2. A guy called Bob Hatton got a hat-rick for the seasiders. Being a youngster, I remenber getting slightly confused thinking Blackpool were indeed Holland who were enjoying halcyon days of their own in the late 70's.
There is no doubt fans up and down the country will be looking forward to a weekend away by the seaside. Texts were flying around between my friends soon after the result was confirmed yesterday planning our away trip. It will be just our luck that the fixture computer is kind enough to give us a trip to the Fylde Coast on a Wednesday night in February!
I have been to the old Bloomfield Road a few times watching Rovers in Lancashire Cup games. The old stadium was interesting to say the least. Let's just say it had 'character'. The redevelopement has meant the capacity will be just under 13,000. Tickets will be hard to come by but for the sheer novelty value, it will be my most sought after away outing next season.
The success of Blackpool should inspire all clubs that they can succeed in the wake of adversity. Hopefully some of the bigger boys will feel slightly unwell after their Bloomfield Road rollercoaster ride. Immediately after the final whistle yesterday, commentators and pundits said that the Premier League will offer too many hurdles to allow Blackpool to cope. That maybe the case, but you wouldn't go up to the bride at a wedding, congratulate her, then ask her when the divorce will be. Let them have some fun.
Well done Blackpool. You will add much needed colour and be a breath of fresh sea air in the league.
May 13, 2010
This week has seen a sea-change in this country which may have altered British politics forever. Only time will tell if the 'Ant and Dec' coalition of Cameron and Clegg works out, but a football version has taken place between some unlikely bedfellows this season at Ewood.
Since January, the fans, manager, players and Chairman have been united in one common aim for the greater good of the football club. I have rarely known a time in 30 years of following Rovers when there has been so much unity. It is very rare that all four components come together as one. There are occasions at all clubs when the fans will support the manager and not the Chairman. Or there are times when certain individuals will have the sympathy of the supporters because of the apparent failings of the manager. Arguably this was the case before Christmas.
Any successful organisation has to have a strong leader who commands respect. Any Chairman who is able to unite all factions of a modern day football club deserves to be congratulated. John Williams since taking the helm at Ewood has rarely made an error of judgement. The appointment of Paul Ince maybe an exception, but he has largely backed a manager in good times and bad and his long term aims have provided firm foundations and a stability that other clubs can only dream about.
Let's be honest, Rovers in relative terms are skint. But by balancing the books and providing adequate support for managers in the last few years, John Williams has made Rovers into a perennial Premier League club.
The real success story has been the Board's willingness to treat the fans with the respect they deserve. The 'Taking Back Ewood' campaign has been incredibly successful. Vastly reduced season tickets have meant fans can get change out of 200 quid! At the time of writing, I believe Bradford City are the only club in England with cheaper prices. I know some reading this will argue that watching Rovers style of play should be made free! But the club now has 20,000 Season Ticket holders and has average crowds this season at the level when they won the League in 1995. The noise has increased, as has the general matchday experience. Other clubs should take note.
The whole P.R side of the club has improved under Williams's tenure. There was a feeling that the club lost touch with its' heartlands during and after the success in the mid-90's.Maybe the club became too big, too quickly. Williams recognised this and held out his hand to the loyal supporters of years gone by.
I will write a general review of the season in the coming days. But despite the campaign surpassing all expectations and the success of both the manager and players, the person who deserves the ultimate credit is the Chairman. How many supporters up and down the country can say that?
May 3, 2010
Talk about saving the best for last! In the final half of the final home game of this long hard season, Rovers produced a performance which outweighs any seen in this campaign. After frustrating Wenger and co in the first 45 minutes with Big Sam's trademark resolve, the side decided to take the game to Arsenal in the 2nd half and looked a formidable passing unit. This is something I thought I would not say this season.
As is usually the case, Arsene has already blamed Rovers' robust style and poor refereeing decisions for his sideâ€™s defeat, but most neutrals who watched the game would not give much legitimacy to his comments. I respect Wenger and the style of football he has brought to the English game in the last 15 years but his comments are sometimes so bizarre and surreal that they do no favours to himself or his great club.