Ahead of tomorrow’s game at Blackburn, I have been chatting with Oscar from Talk of Ewood. We got along famously…
So… first of all a bit about you and your Rovers ‘journey’?
I’m a lifelong Rovers fan, but not your average Blackburn supporter. A teenager, from Huddersfield. Yes, Huddersfield. Yet with a Darwen born, Rovers (and football) mad father, Blackburn Rovers has, is and always will be a huge factor in my life.
In terms of my first game, all I know is that Rovers beat Leeds 3-1 at Ewood, and I fell asleep during the second half, aged about 2! As for my first memory, it has to be Boxing Day 2006, when Rafa’s Liverpool came to Ewood for a top-half Premier League game. At the age of just 4, I was still exhilarated by the presents Santa had dropped through my chimney the evening before; Liverpool’s slick, rosy red Adidas home strip, accompanied by no other than a classic, crisp Blue and White halved Blackburn Rovers shirt.
Whoever won, I supported. Benni McCarthy. 1-0 Rovers. A game that shaped my life from then on. Possibly the only Blackburn Rovers ‘glory supporter’ (only support them because they won) under the age of 20. Since then, I’ve followed Rovers religiously, home and away, week in week out. Sometimes with my dad, other times with my grandad, once or twice with friends and even sometimes with just me, myself and I. A better love story than Twilight.
Huddersfield eh? What’s happened to them?
So …. how’s the season been for you so far? Just five points off the playoffs must mean it’s gone well? Have the expectations changed since the start of the season?
This season has been, well, a weird one. That’s got to be the best way to describe it. I see myself as quite a humble, level-headed, yet optimistic Rovers fan who requires a woeful string of performances (we’ve had our fair few) to start properly complaining.
Last season was a dream. Exactly what the club needed. A hungry, young, talented group of lads fighting for the shirt from the word go, and a manager that quite simply is the best manager I’ve witnessed thoroughly at the club (being a little too young to fully appreciate the likes of Big Sam and Mark Hughes).
A season which, despite how many positives it produced, gave some fans a winning mentality back. Brilliant… A side in League One who were actually winning every week and brushing teams aside without even reaching top gear.
Yet a fair few fans seemed to have carried that mentality over into this Championship season, and we were never going to win as many games this time round, much to the annoyance of some ‘idiotic’ Rovers fans, who have even called for Mowbray’s head at some points thus far. Baffling.
Anyway, rant over, this season has been a steady one. A few great results (2-1 win over Leeds, 3-2 win at Stoke), yet a few shockers (4-1 away losses at both Bristol City and Preston). Good enough though. We’ve kept it ticking.
I said it when we were last in this division, floating around mid-table, at arm’s length of the playoffs, is a better position than you’d think. Especially with the side we have now, one built very much on confidence and spirit.
And if that side can string two or three wins together, or at least have a really positive January, we could easily find ourselves in sixth or seventh with ten or so games left to play. That’s my optimistic view of it anyway. But realistically, mid-table would be a success.
Mid-table would indeed be decent return but as long as you’re in the hunting pack – as you said – then anything is possible, mate.
Bradley Dack and Danny Graham worry me a bit …. have I every right to be concerned?
Dack and Graham? Noooooo, don’t worry about them! They’ll do nothing! So don’t bother marking them… Please!?
Joking aside, they’re that touch of class and quality that can turn a mid-table side into promotion contenders, or a relegation-threatened team into a comfortable mid-table. Their link-up play at times is, well, unplayable. Sheffield Wednesday at home I think it was, we won 4-2. Graham scored three and assisted one. Dack assisted three and scored one. That tells you all you need to know. They compliment each other so, so well and they’ve got to a point in their play now that they can just tell where each other will be, and when they will make that run. It’s a mesmerising watch at times.
Hhhmm … now there’s a question I wished I’d never asked! Because we tend to have a lot of the ball and encourage both full-backs to join in, we do look a tad vulnerable on the counter at times, Could be an interesting one.
What’s the latest on Venky’s? Has it all settled down now? Or is the Ewood faithful still desperate to see the back of them?
Venky’s. Blimey. I’ll try keep this one short, but where to start…
I, personally, feel a (slight) bit of sorrow for the Venky’s. They seem to be nice, genuine successful business owners but were horrifically advised when they first came to Rovers, as they seemed to underestimate what the Premier League was all about. For the past three or four seasons, it has been clear Venky’s have lacked trust in managers, and have to gain trust in order to back the manager in the transfer market – the very reason your old friend Paul Lambert walked away from the club.He felt he deserved their backing, they didn’t, he walked.
It’s also another reason why Tony Mowbray has expertly grasped every aspect of this club – by gaining the trust of not only the fans but also the owners, which has seen him backed in the transfer market, with Rover recently agreeing on a fee around £7 million for Ben Brereton.
However, recent statistics show, despite the endless amount of money the Indians pump into the club, relegation to League One saw Rovers more than double their losses for that financial year to £15.5 million.
That’s an intriguing take. Not quite as gloomy as I was expecting.
Anyway… how’s Elliott Bennett getting on up there? Must surely be the nicest guy in football.
Benno is absolutely fantastic. He optimises everything that Tony Mowbray has brought into this club. Passion, desire, blood, sweat, tears, quality and, at the end of the day, a magnificent attitude. Like you say, one of – if not the – nicest footballers I’ve come across. A real role model to all. I can’t sing his praises enough. Although I do see him struggling to make it into the starting XI consistently at the moment, with another one of your old boys, Harrison Reed, adopting his position expertly.
Doesn’t surprise me to hear that Reed has impressed. A good player with a great attitude, and said some nice things about us when he departed.
What type of football does a Tony Mowbray side play?
Mowbray’s style of play seems to differ depending on the side we come up against. Yet if I had to say, he prefers pretty football yet in a direct manner.
Last season, he used the words ‘soldiers and artists’ time and time again, describing how he wants his team to balance. And I think that sums it up perfectly. You look at the defensive options, which he often changes around; Nyambe (soldier), Lenihan (soldier, but has a bit of artist in him at times), Mulgrew (artist, but has a bit of soldier in him at times), Williams (soldier) and Bell (artist). Dack and Graham, soldier and artist. He often plays one attacking winger (Armstrong – naturally a striker) and one defensive winger (Benno or Reed) to reinforce his ideas of soldiers and artists. We play a ‘hard to beat’ tactic for the most part, with the flair of Dack, Graham, Armstrong, Rothwell, Palmer, Brereton etc. Carrying us forward in attacking positions. Don’t be surprised to see a long ball punted up to Graham, though!
Blimey, never had Mowbray down as a wordsmith! This is *the* Tony Mowbray we’re talking about? Good analogy though to be fair, and it seems to be working.
You up to speed on our German revolution? Thoughts?
As I mentioned, I am from Huddersfield, and Wagners revolution there seems all so similar to Farke’s down at Norwich. I’ve struggled to keep on top of Championship football this season as much as I have in the past, but it’s obviously working for you! I imagine there is a lot of ‘gergenpress’ (or whatever it is called) going on, as well as fast, direct attacking football when you have the ball. And I am sure you won’t be short of goals with Super Jordan Rhodes up top, let alone Pukki.
Finally… standard… score prediction?
We don’t often lose at home, but I can only see one winner, unfortunately. 2-1 Norwich. Rhodes to score if he plays.
Andy, who correctly predicted the ‘Desmond’, last time out against Bristol, put some daylight at the top of our prediction league. With the visit to Blackburn kicking off a (potentially season-defining?) spell of eight games what do our panellists make of it all?
Penney predicts: A couple of Lancashire have suggested that Blackburn are currently the Championship draw specialists. I still fear the chubby but gifted Bradley Dack, as indeed do one or two of our regular MFW commenters as well. But we shouldn’t have too much to worry about from a club that lets its shirts run out in colour due to overuse of the washing machine.
And let’s remember that they don’t have Sutton and Shearer any more (ha!) – and our very own Elliott Bennett (a truly lovely man – I’ve met him a few times) and their other first-choice right-sided winger are definitely out through unfortunate injury.
When I worked in that area about 20 years ago I used to stay in a place called Withnel with friends (about 10 miles east of Blackburn) and the banter was great. 1-0 City
Andy assumes: Blackburn have an impressive home record and in Bradley Dack, one of the most consistently potent attacking performers in the Championship. Defensively they can be vulnerable though so hopefully City will be brave. I’m going to guess at a 1-1 draw between two good teams.
Gaz guesses: Am a tad concerned by the threat posed by Dack and Graham (even more so after speaking with Oscar), but we’re good enough to come away with a point. I’ll go with one of Andy’s Desmonds. 2-2.
Cookie concludes: Mo back in the reckoning is a huge bonus, but this is still set to be a hugely testing fixture. 1 – 1 Draw
Stew suspects: Another dangerous opponent if they’re focussed and we’re not. Shame Timm Klose is still out, but the return of Moritz Leitner makes a difference. With our momentum still intact, and Leitner giving us an edge, I’m going for a narrow City win. 2-1 Norwich.
The oppo’s opinion: We don’t often lose at home, but I can only see one winner, unfortunately. 2-1 Norwich.
Siri says: The answer is Blackburn 3 – City 1