Spyin' Kop: Blackburn Away

Posted by blert596 on April 13, 2006, 12:37:22 PM

Sunday sees Liverpool take the short trip to Ewood Park to face a Blackburn side enjoying an excellent season. Often accused by the press of being an ugly, roughhouse side last year, they've played attractive football this leaving them with a very good chance of European football next season, with the Champions League not yet out of their reach.

1884,1885,1886,1890,1891,1928 FA Cup winners
2002 League Cup winners
1912 Charity Shield winners
1994-95 Premier League champions
1911-12, 1913-1914 League Division 1 (now Premier League) champions

The club was established in 1875, and in 1888 became a founder member of The Football League. In 1890 Rovers moved to its permanent home at Ewood Park. Until the formation of the Premier League in 1992, the majority of Blackburn Rovers' success was pre-1930 when they won the league and FA Cup on several occasions.

In the early 1990s Jack Walker, a local boy and life-long supporter who made millions in the steel industry, invested heavily in the club. He lured former Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish as manager and a number of shrewd player purchases followed, most notably Alan Shearer. This lifted the club back into the first division, just before it became the F.A. Premier League — making Blackburn one of only a handful of clubs to be founders of both the Football League and the Premier League. After finishing runners-up to Manchester United in 1993/1994, Rovers won the championship the following year. A slump followed in the late 1990s, with relegation to League Division One. In 2001, the team secured promotion back into the Premier League, and in 2002 won the League Cup.

Current squad
1 Brad Friedel
2 Lucas Neill
3 Zurab Khizanishvili
4 Andy Todd (captain)
6 Ryan Nelsen
7 Brett Emerton
8 Robbie Savage
9 Shefki Kuqi
10 Paul Dickov
11 Craig Bellamy
12 Morten Gamst Pedersen
13 Peter Enckelman
14 Steven Reid
15 Aaron Mokoena
16 Tugay Kerimoğlu
17 Florent Sinama-Pongolle (on loan from Liverpool)
18 Vratislav Greško
21 Dominic Matteo
23 Lorenzo Amoruso
28 Gary Harkins
29 David Bentley
30 Richard Lee (on loan from Watford)
31 Sergio Peter
32 Eddie Nolan
33 Michael Gray

Due to moving flat, lack of internet access at home, and certain complications with my current occupation I must admit to letting this take a bit of a back burner. However, many thanks to Ste B from BRFC Supporters (www.brfcs.co.uk), and also Danny at Blue and Whites: Purely Blackburn Rovers (www.blueandwhites.com) who have given up their time and managed to supply some well thought out and incisive answers. Anyway here goes:

Firstly, on a personal note, and hopefully speaking for many other Liverpool FC fans, I'd like to express my gratitude at the way Blackburn FC have bent over backwards to accommodate the changing of the games date, and the kind words expressed by Mark Hughes. You appear to have been more sympathetic towards our fans feelings than our own club. With all the disruption for your own fans arrangements, what do you think is the overall reaction to both your clubs decision, and the attitude towards our club?

Danny: Blackburn’s agreement to reschedule the game was not unexpected at all.  Bill Shankly once said that football is more than a matter of life and death, however NOTHING should come in the way of the Hillsborough remembrance, paying tribute to those caught up in one of football’s most tragic events, and any ‘inconvenience’ caused to Blackburn fans should just be accepted full stop, although I don’t see why they couldn’t have changed the date at the start of the season, when the issue was first brought up. Ticket sales for the fixture have already flown past our record attendance for this season (contradicting any inconvenience).  All in all it’s worked out fine for everyone.

Ste: To put it simply, the game should never have been arranged on that date in the first place.  The way your club treated both its own fans and everybody at Blackburn Rovers showed a complete lack of respect.

How has the season been shaping up for you so far?

Danny: In terms of results, there’s no argument that Rovers fans can’t be satisfied with where the team lies in the Premiership at present, although on a personal note, good performances have been few and far between.  Traditionally (barring last season) Rovers are strong finishers to the season, so all the hard work between last August and now has given us the perfect platform to qualify for Europe next season, although the Champions League may be a little out of sight.

Ste: Its been one of the best seasons for a long time,and we are still in with a chance of champions league with 5 games to go.

What are your expectations for this season? Have they changed from day one?

Danny: At the start of the season, with the acquisition of Craig Bellamy, I thought Rovers would finish 8th.  A few weeks ago I changed my mind to 7th, but after Bolton’s recent collapse I would now be extremely disappointed if Rovers didn’t finish 6th.  A good target for Rovers now would be to match or better the 60 points gained in 2002/03 when Graeme Souness guided the team to 6th, although knowing Mark Hughes, he will still have his sights set on that elusive fourth Champions League spot that Liverpool were chasing last season.

Ste: Realistically we hoped for a top ten finish, but now we will all be disappointed if we dont finish in the European places.

Who do you think is/are your most important player(s)?

Danny: Craig Bellamy.  Despite being injured for half of the season, he’s still amongst the Premiership’s leading scorers in 2005/06.  Players with Bellamy’s ability are a rarity for fans to watch at Ewood Park; only recent players like Damien Duff and Alan Shearer fall into the same category.  Plain and simply, he’s a matchwinner, and despite how badly the other outfield players perform, we always seem to come away with points when Bellamy plays.

Ste: Craig Bellamy as he can create something out ofnothing, and probably Brad Friedal who is still one ofthe best shot stoppers around.

Your worst player(s)?

Danny: Personally I’d have three-quarters of our squad in this category because they’re all so frustratingly inconsistent, and over-rated by other Blackburn fans.  If I’m talking about the very worst though, Michael Gray is a complete liability, and Brett Emerton and David Bentley are just both as bad as each other.

Ste: Lorenzo Amoruso.   The only points we get with him are the 6 he got for speeding this week

Mark Hughes holds a certain position in many Liverpool supporters hearts, as does a certain Mr Souness. What has been the difference between the two managers, and what are the fans feelings towards both?

Danny: An easier question would be to list the similarities…and basically there aren’t any.  In one word though, Hughes is so much more professional than Souness was; in training, preparation, motivation, pre/post-match interviews, buying/selling in the transfer market, conduct on the touch-line, substitutions etc etc…the list is endless. In the supporter’s eyes, Hughes is seen as a legend, whereas Souness should have quit while he was ahead.

Ste: When Hughes was playing for ManU the Rovers fans used to chant "Useless" at him.  Nowadays that is our opinion of Souness.   

Do you have a particular memory of any previous meeting between our clubs? Say something that happened to you that day or a decision you personally disagreed with?

Danny: Obviously at Anfield 11 years ago there was a certain Premiership triumph, but most memories of games at Ewood between the two clubs haven’t brought such great memories – wreckless challenges, and too many draws! It’s about time Rovers put that right.

Ste: Quite obviously winning the title at Anfield.  Kind of surreal when all the Rovers fans started celebrating after Redknapp hit that last minute winner.  As for this seasons game, I hope Mark Halsey isn’t refereeing the return game after his comedy performance at Anfield where he sent of Kishnishvilli

This game hasn't been the happiest for certain Liverpool players in the past with the well documented injuries we've sustained. Do you think we're jinxed at Ewood Park?

Danny: No…we’ve just got some very clumsy full-backs.

Ste: I think its Rovers who are jinxed at Ewood against Liverpool. I can't remember the last time we beat you. With the world cup coming up, lets just hope Carragher and Gerrard stay away from Lucas Neill.

You've been labelled as, how shall I put this... over physical, in the past. How do you feel about the labelling. I've watched you a few times this season and you seem to be playing some nice football nowadays. Is this purely down to Mr Hughes?

Danny: Last season was about staying in the league, by whatever means possible.  We didn’t have the quality or quantity of players to play teams off the park, so we had to find another, Bolton-esque, means of winning matches.  Criticism was at times over the top, but it was justified.  Believe me, it was just as painful for the fans to see Rovers play that way, and I’m certainly glad we’re now starting to shake off that label.

Ste: The over physical reputation came from Mourinho and Wenger last season who seem to think sides like Blackburn are supposed to just stand there and let their teams play.  This season we are letting the
football do the talking.

Any young up and coming players in the squad that we might not know about?

Danny: With so much to play for in the next few weeks, unfortunately it doesn’t seem that our promising youngsters (at the head of the queue would be left winger Sergio Peter) are going to be given a chance in the near future, although some of our loanees (Matt Derbyshire at Wrexham and Jemal Johnson at PNE/Darlington) are doing very well.

Ste: Possibly Sergio Peter, a left winger who is a good crosser of the ball, but I would imagine that Hughes will go for an experienced squad for this one.

What sort of line-up will be put out against us?

Danny: Hopefully one that won’t include Dickov, Kuqi, Emerton or Bentley, but you just know they’re going to be in there anyway.  A guaranteed 4-4-2 formation, two strong banks of 4 with pace up front – Sami Hyypia is going to have a torrid afternoon.

Ste: 4-4-2.  Friedel, Neill, Nelsen, Kishnishvilli, Gray, Bentley, Reid, Savage, Pedersen, Bellamy, Dickov.   

Blackburn away has always been a favourite for our travelling support. A decent size allocation and a short trip up the road usually mean a good day out. What do you expect in the way of singing, etc from our away support? Do we compare well and how do you rate the atmosphere at your ground?

Danny: The Liverpool fans do tend to bring one of the noisiest sets of fans to Ewood, and refreshingly a variety of different chants as well.  The atmosphere at Ewood for afternoon games is admittedly not very good, although this actually seems to be the case for most grounds these days – it was incredibly quiet on Sunday at Anfield I noticed.  It could be worse though…the atmosphere at Craven Cottage is atrocious.

Ste: I tend to find most home atmospheres in the premier league are a bit flat until the home team takes the lead.   Its not helped at Ewood by having a drummer drowning out any chants that do start.   The atmosphere does get a lot better when the grounds full and we have something to play for, so it could be a good on on sunday.

Do you have a favourite/best chant(s) and perhaps any that require an explanation?

Ste: Some of our local Chelsea have started holding their shoes in the air and singing "Shoes off if you love Rovers".

Where do you expect - Blackburn and Liverpool to finish in the Premier League?

Danny: Liverpool third, Blackburn sixth.

Ste: Blackburn 5th, Liverpool 3rd

Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

Danny: Harry Kewell always scores against us, and Steven Gerrard is one of the best players in the world, but Xabi Alonso looks an incredible player – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who can pass the ball as well as he can, and he knows how to find the back of the net as well.

Ste: Crouch. Theres not much height in our defence.

And your feelings on the new 'Spanish flavour' Liverpool. Senor 'Rafa' Benitez and our new latin recruits?

Danny: It’s a shame to see certain imports struggle so much (I’m thinking mostly of Fernando Morientes here), when a cheaper English option probably would have brought more joy.  Hopefully Benitez has learnt his lessons from the likes of Josemi and Nunez, and will now try to bring in a few more home-based players (e.g. Robbie Fowler) that are more suited to the Premiership if Liverpool are to challenge for the title next season.

Ste: I think hes building something, but you are short of a couple of class strikers.

With our perceived need for a Right Midfield/Winger, we are obviously on the lookout for certain players. Mention has been made of a certain Mr Bellamy, but setting his undoubted ability aside, he has Liverpool fans split due to his somewhat tempestuous past. It appears Hughesy has calmed him down a bit and he's playing well for you. So, how much is he going to cost us this summer, and do you think he would be a "Liverpool" player.

Danny: Under Benitez, no, I don’t think he would be – I could just see him being played out wide like he did at Newcastle, which would just make him unhappy again.  Bellamy has a respect for Mark Hughes that I think few other Premiership managers could offer him. There may be some sort of a clause in his contract for him to leave for a certain amount, I think £7m was bundled about in the press at the time of him signing, and if you got him for that it would be an absolute bargain…a fee of at least £12m would reflect his true value.

Ste: I'd be more worried about him leaving to fill a strikers position, as he is certainly good enough. I would doubt he would enjoy playing as a winger, and would probably start playing up again if thats where he is playing.

Care to predict the score?  Go on!

Danny: 2-1 to Blackburn.  Liverpool didn’t impress me in the slightest on Sunday, and at this stage of the season games are decided by who wants it the most – Rovers need the points, Liverpool don’t.

Ste: 2-1 to Rovers.

Are there any travel hotspots/advice on car parking etc you can help us out with? Any pubs to recommend/avoid?

Ste: Car parkings a nightmare around Rovers.  Head into Blackburn from the M65 and park up at the School there. I'd recommend the Golden Cup near the junction, and you've also got the Fernhurst which will probably have a marquee up.  A lot of the other pubs near the
ground tend to be home fans only.

Many thanks for your time lads, and some well thought out answers (apart from the score which will be 2 – 0 for us). Good luck for the rest of the season and hopefully a good European place. If you can keep Arsenal or Bolton out of the Champions league then you’ll do for me.

© blert596 2006

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