Them and Us - Two views from Ewood Park ahead of Saturday

Posted by Armin on October 28, 2004, 08:55:56 AM

Once again RAWK has been picking the brains of our opposite numbers to find out what opposition fans think about the Reds and their chances in the upcoming match.  On Saturday we play Blackburn Rovers, a match that last year was shrouded in controversy following the Lucas Neil / Jamie Carragher incident.  The combative Souness has been replaced by mild mannered Mark Hughes ;) and the Rovers have not had as good a start to the season as they might have hoped.

Luckily this hasn't scared off the supporters as this week we have not one but two viewpoints from our next opponents.  Our thanks go out to James Billouin from and Danny from for agreeing to answer our questions and buy all the RAWKITES their first pint in the Fernhurst on Saturday ;-) 

RAWK:  How has the season began for Blackburn?

James:  Not so good at all, one win and the table doesn't lie! We are currently bottom!

Danny:  In terms of results, an absolute nightmare - the table doesn't lie, and you can't get much worse than 20th position.  In terms of performances, we should certainly have more than six points at this stage - a number of poor refeering decisions have severely cost us several points, but its no point whinging about that.  Individual player performances with a few exceptions have been nothing short of awful, but the Rovers fans are just hoping that this is a transitional stage under the new management.

RAWK:  What are your expectations for this season?

James:  Survival no doubt, it's been more or less the same since promotion from the old division one and so far, we've achieved it (almost ;) ) every time.

Danny: At the start of the season, most Rovers fans thought that a top 10 position would be acheievable.  After the popular (with quite a majority percent) change of manager, expectations were still high despite a number of poor results beforehand.  After a steady improvement (in performances, and not necessarily results), things have been going downhill ever since, and its fair to say that anything above 18th would be acceptable this season.

RAWK: Who do you think is your most important player(s)?

James: Without a doubt, Barry Ferguson. picked up almost every man of the match award at home, and rightly so. Former Red Brad Friedel is also an asset to us.

Danny: Paul Dickov is quite an unsung hero in the Rovers team, and a lot of the football pundits and other fans don't recognise the effort,committment and enthusiasm he puts into every minute on the pitch - I'm sure Leicester City fans would back this up.  Scored 13 goals for Leicester last season, and has chipped in with 2 (our joint top scorer) so far, despite being in a depleted team, incapable of creating chances.  Brett Emerton's form is increasing under Mark Hughes, but is ineffective out on the left hand side of midfield where he has been played recently.  Brad Friedel is the last line of defence, and has often kept scores at a respectable level  for Blackburn this season.

RAWK:  Your worst player(s)?

James: In my opinion it has to be Dominic Matteo, I believe that he has played every match this season for us, and we are yet to see a good performance. Very disappointing for such a highly rated player.

Danny:It would be harsh to say Javier De Pedro is the worst player as he has not settled in properly since his move from Spain, and has had limited opportunities in the first team.  For me, the worst player is a Liverpool old boy - Dominic Matteo.  I never understood why we signed him in the first place.  He was useless in midfield under Souness, and just as bad at the centre of defence under Mark Hughes - i've lost count of the number of times he has been liable for a conceded goal this season.

RAWK: What should those of us off to Ewood expect in the way of atmosphere, singing, pies etc?

James: The fans are friendly, the atmosphere on the ground is good as is banter! Ewood must be up there from an away fans point of view, especially as we always accommodate such a large amount of travelling fans, and they are not exactly the most expensive tickets in the premiership!

Danny: I've noticed that Anfield seems a little subdued sometimes when i watch them on TV, so there is little adaptation needed for a trip to Ewood Park.  Food & Drink is best bought outside the ground (there are a number of chippies, snack bars and decent pubs around the area) as it is mostly better quality and much cheaper.  Liverpoool fans probably wouldn't have heard about the 'fans vs club stewards' situation at Ewood Park over the past few games - theres a general opinion that theres one set of rules for the home fans (eg getting kicked out for standing up) and another for the away fans (eg not getting kicked out for standing up), and there was quite a commotion in the Blackburn End in the Middlesbrough game - the club released a statement following this, so there is quite a chance that if any away supporters persistently stand during the game then they will be thrown out - be warned!

RAWK: Any boozers to visit/avoid?

James: Try the Fernhurst,  no need to go elsewhere! The Fernhurst is thebiggest pub in the area and intended for away fans only.

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

James: Paul Gallagher has played a few games in attacking positions for the first team, he is still a big promise. Joe Garner is also a striker, he is currently playing for England U17s - definitely one to watch out for in the future.

Danny: Over the past few years, with a number of exceptions, Blackburn haven't been renowned for bringing youth players into the first team setup.  Local lad Paul Gallagher, a popular playe amongst the fans, scored against United reserves on Tuesday night, and he might be given a chance in the first team with Djorkaeff and Stead out of form.  James McEveley, who burst onto the scene a few seasons ago is unlikely to feature, although a lot of fans see him as our best defender!  Very unlikely to feature in the game on Saturday, but in the next couple of years look out for Joe Garner who has been scoring for fun at club and international youth levels.

RAWK: What impression have you made of Mark Hughes since he signed and were you disappointed to lose Souness to Newcastle?

James: I wasn't disappointed to see Souness go, however I am pleased with the overall progress the team has made since his appointment. Mark Hughes really needs time to bring in his own ideas and his own players, Rovers will no doubt suffer because of the transfer window. The fans will give him time, but for the sake of the club, results must start coming sooner rather then later.

Danny:Personally, I was pleased (but very shocked) to see Graeme Souness appointed as Sir Bobby Robson's successor at St James' as I thought some of his signings, team selections plus his general attitude (eg falling out with players, constant whinging etc) were not good for the club.  I would have preferred Gordon Strachan to take over (due to the miracles he performed with Southampton), but was still pleased with the appointment of a good young, up and coming manager in Mark Hughes.  As mentioned before, performances had steadily been improving, but after the two consecutive 4-0 defeats, questions have alread started to arise to whether he was the right man for the job with his lack of Premiership experience.  But he will be given plenty of time, and hopefully his football connections (eg with Man United and Wales) might entice some quality players to the club that may turn the fortunes around.

RAWK: What sort of line-up will Hughes put up against the Reds?

James: 4-4-2: Friedel, Gray, Todd, Short, Neill, Pedersen, Djorkeaff, Ferguson, Emerton, Dickov, Stead. Quite a few changes in that team, including Todd, Pedersen, and Stead. Todd missed out on Chelsea, just returning from injury, but I think that I think Hughes may include him his time around. I don't think that playing Djorkeaff upfront really works to well, both strikers end up dropping to deep

Danny:With the signing of Youri Djorkaeff, a 4-4-1-1 formation has been used, with Youri acting as a second striker.  Whether he plays or not will determine the shape up top, but I can't see any new radical formations being tried out, although he may opt for 5 across the midfield if he feels the likes of Xabi Alonso may be a handful in midfield.

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

James: There's only one Jack Walker. Simple, but gets the message across!

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

James: I think Liverpool will be battling with Everton for 5th place, I think that Souness' Newcastle will occupy fourth spot with the top three the same as last season.

Danny:Its worrying to see the likes of Bolton and Middlesbrough up in high league positions, but Liverpool should soon overtake them to finish either 4th or 5th.  I cant see them matching the top 3 under Benitez' first season in charge, so it should be between Liverpool and Newcastle for the final champions league place again. For Rovers, at the start of the season I predicted 8th, but now I'd be happy with 17th.  We generally do finish the season stronger, so I'd expect Rovers to gradually pick up form to finish around 14th or 15th.

RAWK: Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

Danny:Harry Kewell - hasn't been in spectacular form for Liverpool, but he ALWAYS seemed to get on the scoresheet against us when he played for Leeds United.  Will be up against fellow Aussie Lucas Neill (expecting constant boo's from the away supporters!) on Saturday, and with Neill's recent form, Kewell should tear him to shreds.

James: I've not really followed Liverpool's progress much this season, however Garcia sounds like quite a handy player!

RAWK: And your feelings on the new \'Spanish flavour\' Benitez Liverpool and our new recruits?

James:Sounds like Rafa is taking the club in the right direction, his signings overall sound perfect. I personally was glad to see the back of Houllier, I wasn't a fan of him at all.

Danny:At first, I didn't think either of them were anything special, but Xabi Alonso has gradually been improving, and should provide a superb partnership with Steven Gerrard once he recovers from his injury.  As for Luis Garcia, I thought £6 million was a little steep, after all, you could buy Jermaine Defoe for that amount, but the goal he scored on Saturday was worth that fee alone!  One of the major complaints under Gerard Houllier was that the tradition of the club was going out
of the window, and I don't see how all these foreign signings can improve the situation (Spurs are doing the reverse with their new manager - signing lots of talented, young english players who would prosper under a more attacking style of play), but Benitez did a superb job at Valencia, so he obviously knows what he is doing.

RAWK: Care to predict the score?

Danny:Hard one to predict really, this fixture seems to produce a lot of draws, but I can't see past a Liverpool win come Saturday evening.  A good, entertaining game, but a 2-0 win for Liverpool with goals from Kewell and Baros.

James: Do I have to! I'm going to predict a 2-2 draw. Rovers will be looking to show 'bouncebackability' after the last two results!

Rawk would like to thank both James and Danny for providing an excellent insight into our opponents.  We hope you pop back in to see the reaction and join in the debate.  All the best for the season (aside from your encounters with Liverpool that is!).

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