Blackburn Rovers were in for a shock on their League One debut as they were blown away by a strong Southend United side at Roots Hall.
1,600 travelling fans made the journey south, but it took only 28 minutes for Southend to open the scoring as Ryan Leonard found space at the far post to rifle the ball home.
Matters went from bad to worse for Tony Mowbray when Michael Kightly, previously of Burnley and making his second debut for Southend, scored again ten minutes later.
Rovers dominated early in the second half, Charlie Mulgrew pulling one back from a free-kick, but they failed to mount any real challenge and the Shrimpers comfortably saw the result out.
Here is what The Boot Room learnt from the game…
Phil Brown’s side are contenders
Blackburn’s starting eleven will be one of the strongest in League One this year, on paper at least, but Southend played them off the park. With only two shots on target, they prevented them from posing a real attacking threat and hit them on the counter with a devastating impact.
Michael Kightly and Stephen Hendrie both enjoyed fine returns for second spells at Roots Hall, but Brown was without many key players too. After a quality performance like this, and with the additions of the injured Anthony Wordsworth, Michael Turner and Ben Coker, with Rob Kiernan also building fitness having signed this week and Nile Ranger expected out of prison soon, it could be a strong season for the Shrimpers.
Life won’t be easy in League One for Blackburn
Tony Mowbray’s side really struggled at Roots Hall, with the manager’s stubbornness partly to blame. His refusal to change the system didn’t help matters as Southend continued to exploit their weaknesses, spreading the ball wide whenever possible.
Charlie Mulgrew did his best to save the side, with his excellent free-kick clawing them back into the game, but it was of little consolation in the end. The Scot showed the kind of commitment and desire that has been lacking at Rovers for too long. New signings like the woeful Bradley Dack should take note.
Ryan Leonard is worth keeping hold of
Amid intense speculation linking him with Millwall and Sheffield United, as the Independent reports, Ryan Leonard showed exactly why the Blues want to keep him around. Leonard made it clear that he was committed and would give his all to the club until any potential move, opening the scoring with a darting far post run to volley home.
Alongside Michael Timlin, the duo bossed the midfield and left Rovers chasing them for scraps. It’s clear to see why Championship sides are interested in the number 18, but even clearer just how important he is to Phil Brown’s set-up.
Sandro Wagner set for amazing summer three years after Leeds, Forest and Blackburn interest
Sandro Wagner is now a Germany and Bayern Munich star.
When the World Cup begins in the summer, one nation will be the favourites to retain their crown. Germany will be hotly tipped to win the competition again, four years after their triumph in Brazil.
If they do so, the performances of Sandro Wagner could be key.
The languid striker is looking to book his place on the plane to Russia after a January move to Bayern Munich from Hoffenheim.
If he was to spearhead the German attack in Russia, it would certainly shock some Football League fans.
Back in August 2015 it was being reported that Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest were all chasing the signature of Wagner – as reported by German publication Sport Bild.
Leeds United’s manager at the time was Uwe Rosler. The German connection was clear and Leeds were hunting for striking reinforcements.
Nottingham Forest were looking for striking options as Britt Assombalonga was out of action with a serious knee injury.
Blackburn were preparing for the worst as Jordan Rhodes was heavily linked with a move away at the time. The club had already lost Rudy Gestede to Aston Villa that summer.
Wagner, remained in Germany and the story since has been one of an incredible rise. Instead of heading to Leeds, Forest or Blackburn the striker headed to newly promoted Bundesliga side Darmstadt. There he scored 15 goals in 34 games, securing a move to Hoffenheim the following summer.
18 impressive months at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena followed, which included a first Germany cap. The 30-year-old has since scored five goals in seven appearances for his country. He is now hotly tipped to be in the Germany side for Russia 2018 after securing a dream return to boyhood club Bayern Munich in Germany.
Leeds signed Chris Wood that summer, a deal that proved beneficial in a footballing and financial sense. Forest have yet to find their goalscoring replacement for Assombalonga. Blackburn did lose Rhodes that season and dropped out of the Championship the following campaign.
This summer, it will be three years since Leeds, Forest and Blackburn made enquiries to sign the imposing centre-forward.
In the time since, Wagner has proven himself a top striker and is playing for one of the biggest clubs in world football. If he lines up for Germany in Russia, many fans of the trio of Football League clubs who missed out will wonder what might have been
Wagner on the other hand will be pleased with his career choices.
How will Blackburn Rovers cope in their first season in League One?
It was a dramatic final day to say the least in the 2016/17 EFL Championship season, with Blackburn, Bristol City and Birmingham City under the microscope as they fought to retain their Championship status. It turned out to be a day to forget in the history of Blackburn Rovers football club. Despite an impressive 1-3 victory at Griffin Park, Birmingham and Bristol City did what they had to do, and so Tony Mowbray’s side were relegated.
Blackburn join the list of ‘big clubs’ to fall into the third tier of English football in recent years; a club that spent so many years in the Premier League, and of course one of just six clubs to win the title. The glory days of Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer are long gone at Ewood Park though, and Tony Mowbray has a task on his hands to restore some pride into the town of Blackburn.
One thing you can guarantee with League One is that it’s a league that can suck you in as a club if you do not get promoted at the first time of asking. Indeed, many clubs who were most likely under the illusion that promotion would be a simple task have failed. Look no further than Sheffield United, Portsmouth, Charlton Athletic, Blackpool – all clubs that have been there in the big time like Blackburn Rovers.
If Blackburn were to take a look at the recent clubs to be promoted from the division in recent years, all those teams had a goalscorer. Last season Billy Sharp scored for fun pretty much every week for the Blades, Millwall had the prolific partnership of Lee Gregory and Steve Morison to thank, too.
Blackburn have a striker that produced in the Championship, so Danny Graham is going to be a real key player once again for Blackburn this season you would imagine. With the additions Mowbray has made, it would be a surprise if Graham didn’t find the net regularly, with some real quality being brought into the midfield.
Peter Whittingham, the long servant of Cardiff City made the switch to Ewood Park this summer, a player with a wand of a delivery in his left boot. Ben Gladwin, despite struggling in the Championship, has produced in League One before and, under the right management, could prove to be a key player.
The one signing that should stand out for Rovers fans is Bradley Dack, a real flair player that perhaps Blackburn have been crying out for in midfield. Dack has had a couple of impressive seasons in League One and will know all about the division’s defences and how to hurt them. Another signing made more recently is Dominic Samuel, a young player with bags of pace up front. A different kind of striker to Graham, but undoubtedly an effective one too.
On paper Blackburn have a squad that, without a doubt, should be challenging at the summit. However, as League One has seen time and time again, the quality of a squad on paper doesn’t guarantee success on the pitch. Rovers will need more than that. They will need togetherness, willingness, determination.
The Blackburn fans have seen managers come and go rather frequently in recent times, so it is important the club sticks with Tony Mowbray, an experienced head who should be someone the fans can get behind and warm to.
The start to the season will also be important. The last thing a club like Blackburn wants is to lose the first few games, with confidence taking a hit, along with morale and enthusiasm among the supporters.
It is just five days until they make the trip to Roots Hall to take on Southend United, and the fans that are making the four-and-a-half hour trip will be hoping for the perfect start, in what is a new era for Blackburn Rovers.
What is next for Blackburn Rovers as they prepare for life in League One?
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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