Is this the man to guide Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League?
It is hard to believe that when Blackburn Rovers were relegated from the Premier League in 2012, the club would still be in the second tier of English football four seasons on. Fast forward to the present day and that’s exactly where they are. More worryingly for Rovers fans, the club find themselves in the bottom half of the table after 16 games.
It’s no wonder then that Blackburn relieved Gary Bowyer of his managerial duties after picking up just three wins this season. They have brought in a new man to take the reins though, step forward Paul Lambert. The question for the Ewood Park faithful now, is what exactly can Rovers expect from their new manager, and will he be the right fit for the club?
First off let’s look at the statistics. Lambert has a reputable CV, with his first claim to fame coming during his tenure at Wycombe Wanderers, guiding the club to the semi-finals of the League Cup, where they were eventually beaten by Chelsea. He also led Norwich City to the Premier League within two seasons, taking charge of the club while they were in League One.
Lambert is also a manager with experience in the Premier League. His first and only season with Norwich in the Premier League resulted in a 12th placed finish for the club. Sadly though, his record at Aston Villa is not as impressive and after a number of relegation battles, he was eventually sacked by the Midlands outfit in February 2015.
Despite the disappointments at Villa, Lambert should still be regarded as a top manager. The results speak for themselves and even though his style of football may be criticised, you only have to look at the way Villa played towards the end of his time at the club – building attacks from the back, dominating more in terms of possession, and creating more attacking chances.
That is what Blackburn can expect from their new boss. The question is, can the team really turn things around under his management? Probably not for the first few games, as it is very difficult for any new manager to arrive and immediately persuade the players to play the way he desires. It inevitably takes time to implement their own tactics and styles, particularly if that style is completely different to the predecessor.
A prime example of that is Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool; the German’s ‘heavy-metal’ football is certainly significantly different to the type of play operated under Brendan Rodgers. Only a month into his tenure, people are starting to see a difference in the way the team is playing – excluding The Red’s most recent game against Crystal Palace.
Lambert will ultimately face a similar challenge at Ewood Park. He does have a number of good players at his disposal – Grant Hanley, Jordan Rhodes, Marcus Olsson, Danny Guthrie to name a few. Granted, not many of these players would be considered ‘big’ players in the Premier League and they are certainly not names that jump out immediately on the team sheet, but they have all shown their quality in the past. Lambert will of course be looking to call on them as he looks to rebuild the club and take them back to the promised land of the top flight.
Then there is the issue of the club’s transfer embargo. The club have been unable to sign any new players for a fee since the first month of this year, meaning that unless it is lifted in the near future, Lambert won’t be able to delve into the transfer market come January in order to add to his squad.
Certainly for the first season in charge, it is very unlikely that Lambert will be able to completely turn around the club’s fortunes (or more accurately misfortunes), but like with any manager, he must be given time if his chances of succeeding are to be optimised.
Out of the current crop of managers that are available for jobs, Lambert is certainly one of the best candidates and he is the right man to take the club forward in my view. All the fans can do is be patient with him; allow him to get to know his squad in full, give him the flexibility to implement his tactics and playing style and; once the embargo has been lifted, grant him the opportunity to strengthen his squad and build a team that suits his playing style. Then, Blackburn may well rise up into a real promotion fight and eventually return to the Premier League, where many would argue that the former champions deserve to be.
It may take one, two or perhaps even more campaigns to achieve, but the mark of a good club is one who gives the manager freedom to create a team that suits him and backs him throughout their tenure. If Lambert has both of those things at Blackburn, then the future is looking bright for the North West club.
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