May 15, 2017

What is next for Blackburn Rovers as they prepare for life in League One?

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Blackburn Rovers were once one of the top sides in England, and were the winners of the Premier League in 94/95 under Kenny Dalglish, with a team that featured the likes of Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton, Graeme Le Saux, Colin Hendry and Tim Sherwood. During the mid-2000’s; Rovers were consistently finishing in the top half of the Premier League and competing in European competitions.

When the Venky’s took over at Ewood Park it was originally just the source of ridicule from opposition fans which can often come with foreign ownership, but it has descended into chaos due to the actions of the Rao family. Tony Mowbray’s men now face next season in the third tier for the first time since 1980 – a full two divisions behind bitter rivals Burnley. One of the massive questions that is on the minds of the Blackburn faithful is simply; what next?

As so often happens with clubs that have just been relegated; the summer exodus of playing staff has already started in Lancashire. Rovers had the 9th biggest wage bill in the Championship last season and will no doubt have to drastically restructure if they are to avoid falling into deeper financial problems. There are no doubt some players who will be attracting interest from other clubs. The likes of Danny Graham, Jason Steele, Grant Hanley and Ben Marshall are likely to move on as they have enjoyed relatively positive seasons despite the plight of the club.

Despite the possible outgoings, it is looking like Blackburn may struggle to recruit for the following season. The Venky’s have not mentioned any form of further investment into the club and, just 24 hours after the club was relegated, Director of Football Paul Senior also departed. Senior was no doubt going to play a key role in any summer recruiting that Blackburn were aiming to complete so could prove to be a big miss.

One of the main issues heading into next season is that the Venky’s have shown their lack of knowledge about football in the past – starting with the dismissal of Sam Allardyce with the club sitting 10th in the Premier League back on 2010/11. There are a long list of embarrassing public incidents that have gone on since they took over the club back in 2010.

The differences between the four professional divisions of English football are becoming greater and greater and it is likely that the club’s owners are not experienced enough to rescue Blackburn from the situation they are now in. They rejected an approach for joint-ownership from local businessman in May 2016. Ian Battersby of Seneca Partners, the consortium that offered the proposal, said that, “There is not the structure there to deliver the change and take the remedial action needed to take this club back to an even keel”.

However, there is some cause for optimism amongst Blackburn fans. The club appear to be willing to stick with current head coach Tony Mowbray, who signed an 18 month deal with the club in February, after taking over from Owen Coyle. Under the former Coventry manager, the club managed 22 points from their final 15 games, which is the 9th best record in the league from the moment Mowbray arrived.

The Blackburn head coach has experienced League One football before whilst working with Coventry, but his knowledge of the league and the opportunity to put his own twist on his side during the summer transfer window could prove crucial if Rovers are to stabilise for next season and avoid falling further down the footballing pyramid.

The situation at Ewood Park certainly seems dire. One of the biggest issues is that the Venky’s have never faced a situation like a club getting relegated into League One and will need to start communicating better with the management and fans if they are going to start turning things around. The reluctance of the owners to sell to anyone who isn’t a foreign businessman has left local supporters feeling helpless and you have to feel that the situation is only going to get worse.

Tony Mowbray will need support from the board in order to have the chance to make real changes to a club that desperately needs it. Relegation to League One may seem like the end of the World for Blackburn fans, but it is a chance for the club to completely re-identify itself and makes widespread changes across the board. If the Venky’s begin to communicate with the club and the fans and Mowbray gets their backing, then this opportunity could prove to be a glimmer of hope for the Lancashire outfit.

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Calum is a Reading fan and has been a season ticket holder for many years. He is currently studying for a degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology.

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