Not long now to wait before the start of another season in the Championship. The England flags lie in tatters, together with many a betting slip that promised so much but delivered so little. Perhaps now is the time to look at how Blackburn Rovers performed last season with a match by match analysis from a long suffering supporter. There’s hope, despair and a few songs along the way, but at the end a reason to believe in a return to better times:
Another year, Another season. Its upon us before we’ve had time to erase the memory of the last. “To Be or Not To Be – That Is The Question.” Gary Bowyer wants to be in a job, Rovers supporters want to be above the relegation places, and the Venkys just want ‘To Be Loved’.
Sunday 4th August Away at Derby and a 1-1 draw is achieved thanks to a rare cameo appearance by Leon Best. The start of something good for him? Probably not.
Wednesday 7th takes us to Carlisle for a Capital One Cup fixture with a ‘Seriously 90’s ‘ feel about it. Goals rain in from Taylor, Cairney and Judge before it rains even harder and we lose 4-3 on penalties. Oh well, no time to waste, concentrate on the League and all that.
Saturday 10th August brings a home game with Nottingham Forest and a chance for 14,469 fans to see just what the new slimline, sleek and above all cheap squad can do.
Not a lot, as we lose 1-0. Ask me at the end of the season and ‘Tell Where I Lie’.
Friday 16th and the impressive Tommy Spurr leads his new team to his old one at the KeepMoat Stadium where Doncaster Rovers again put us to the sword and we lose 2-0. 19th place in the division and everyone is thinking Gary Bowyer will be the first ‘Fall Out Boy’ of the Championship.
The following Saturday 24th August has a crowd of 13,058 wondering what we were worried about as Barnsley come to Ewood Park and are spanked 5-2 with Jordan Rhodes bagging a brace. Just a shame it means ‘Waiting All Night’ to watch the highlights on the Football League Show.
‘About Time’ I say and only a week to wait for another home game with Bolton on Saturday 31st. A Super crowd of 15,828 see a Super game. Did I say winning was Super? (Roy Of The Rovers stuff). It’s 4-1 this time and that man Rhodes is like a ‘Mosquito’ stinging twice just like the week before. Bowyer can’t wait to go into ‘The Blue Room’ and tell the assembled press gang the good news; We are up to 11th place. The Blackburn faithful regroup to various bars and off-licences where all too soon its Sunday and they are ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’.
Not a bad August after all.
Saturday 14th September. The trouble with ‘Our Version Of Events’ is that it’s never going to match The Dingles version, but with a ‘Pitch Perfect’ for football Rovers have to thank that man Rhodes for making the long coach journey from Burnley more bearable with a face-saving 1-1 draw. Sky employees search through ‘Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor’ but can find little footage worthy of a re-play. Williamson attains legendary status by preventing Burnley from scoring and gets himself a red card in the process. Research scientists collect ‘DNA’ samples from both sets of supporters to discover why this hatred exists but later admit there was a Little Mix up. They are unsure which are the mums or the dads. Some appear to have completely vacant cells.
Tuesday 17th September takes Rovers to see some Foxes. ‘Some Nights’ you just don’t have any Fun and Leicester win 2-1 on the night.
Huddersfield Town come calling on Saturday 21st September looking to hijack Rhodes and take him back across the Pennines but ‘The Truth About Love’ is you don’t always get what you want and both sides are turned off in this 0-0 affair.
Saturday 28th September we travel to the south coast. Even Best gets on the scoresheet with a 3-1 scoreline. Rhodes has packed his shooting boots and grabs a brace. With every goal his value goes up. ‘Long Live A$AP’ I say. At this rate we can sell him in January and buy the team we have been wanting since Steve Kean became manager.
We finish September in 11th place.
Tuesday 1st October and a Jordan Rhodes goal sees us winning 1-0 at Watford with ‘Night Visions’ of a place back in the Premier League as we go up to 8th, but it’s too soon to be thinking of promotion. Too soon to be thinking of enjoying ‘The 20/20 Experience’ but being Justin the mix is ok by me at this stage of the season.
Sunday 6th October is chance for supporters to avenge those awful visions of our passing out of the Prem with a pint & pie at the DW but as the ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ plays after each home goal we are consigned to a 2-1 defeat. I’ll fly to Mars before Rovers get back in the top flight at this rate.
Saturday 19th October brings Charlton Athletic to Ewood. I decide to search ‘Random Access Memories’ about our previous meetings in order to get an idea if we can win this game, but Daft Punk that I am, it’s 5:00pm and the game is over before I get a WiFi connection in the stands by which time we have lost 1-0.
Saturday 26th October. A trip to the seaside at Blackpool. Some supporters head for the promenade but others go to the match where they witness DJ Campbell coming on as a sub just long enough to see Red. The match ends in a 2-2 draw with the result never in doubt, and the offending ‘tackle’ being replaced on the club video with a shot of a greedy donkey happily grazing on the turf. At the end of October we are in 12th place.
Saturday 16th November brings a good crowd of 16,645 to Ewood for a match against Middlesbrough. We like playing teams in ‘Red’. Jason Lowe, ‘Forever’ wide of the mark when it comes to shots on goal, finally hits the target to send us home happy 1-0 winners.
Saturday 9th November – We travel down to Brighton for a game that proves to be a far cry from the ‘Halcyon’ days of our time in the top tier.
Saturday 23rd November and the visit of Reading, one of our main rivals for a play-off place, sees us firing blanks. 0-0 in front of 12,903 supporters.
Saturday 30th November. A crowd of 20,267 with a good smattering of away supporters for the visit of Leeds United, sees Tommy Spurr on the scoresheet for a 1-0 win.
We end November in 13th place.
Tuesday 3rd December. A long trip down to Suffolk for an evening game with Ipswich Town. Buoyed by the narrow victory over Leeds we do get Rhodes back on the scoresheet but give away three goals at the other end, in part due to the increasingly insecure performances of Jake Kean. The ‘Legend’ that is Paul Robinson, is back in training and that could be making our young keepers nervous. Jake played so well last season but has started to ‘Fade’ of late. It finishes 3-1 to the Tractor Boys.
Saturday 7th December and a trip to north London where Simon Eastwood gets his chance to shine in goal. ‘Until Now’ I’ve thought QPR were destined to go straight back to the top tier but all the money of the Middle East or the Mafia can’t always guarantee success. We keep a clean sheet thanks to Eastwood and with three home games to come in December we can surely climb the table soon?
Saturday 14th December. At home to Millwall and a welcome 3-2 win. Ben Marshall has finally found his feet in this team. As he streaks down the wing I can’t help thinking ‘Now That’s What I Call Running’ and he caps it off with a fine goal.
Saturday 21st December away to Yeovil. The team seemed to have spent the entire game in midfield, frightened to go near the Yeovil goal where their mascot patrols. ‘My Head Is An Animal’ he cries from the byline. Bowyer tries to calm the players at half-time by getting them to think of the monsters and men they have known, but it takes until the 90th minute for Rhodes to summon up the courage to score. Rovers finally win 1-0.
Thursday 26th December a draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday 0-0. Christmas is a time for cheer but there is little on display today. Both managers seem ‘Unapologetic’ about their players lethargic performances. This was not so much a boxing match, more a cold turkey in front of the festive fans. You get the feeling we all got stuffed.
Sunday 29th December. We lose at home to Birmingham 2-3 despite 2 goals from Rhodes. We leave Ewood having made up our minds, ‘This Is The Last Time’ we are going to put up with performances like this in 2013. All our Hopes and Fears have been on show over this festive period and things need to change – Fast.
The year ends with Rovers in 12th position.
It’s Wednesday 1st January. A trip to ‘The North Borders’ of the football world takes us to Leeds. A 2-1 win thanks to goals from Rhodes and the impressive Gestede, who might just turn out to be the bargain of the season.
Saturday 4th January and Paul Robinson is back! The FA Cup 3rd round brings the BT Sport cameras and a sizeable bunch of hardcore Manchester City supporters to town. Rovers are magnificent and a goal from Scott Dann has us thinking we could be the ‘Dark Horse’ of this competition, but it ends 1-1 and the Perry is put back on ice for another day.
Saturday 11th January brings a home win against Doncaster Rovers 1-0 thanks to another goal from the fast improving Rudy Gestede.
Wednesday 15th January and back on TV with the Cup replay at Manchester City. Time to lay to rest some ‘Demons’ and imagine we can slay a few dragons but ‘Hey Brother’ it’s a bridge too far. Even with Robinson starting in goal we get thumped 5-0 and are forced to ‘Let It Go’ for another year.
Saturday 18th January. We have hit the heady heights of 8th position as we go to Nottingham Forest. Eastwood goes between the sticks today but despite a Marshall goal we let in four. Cries of ‘Timber’ can be heard as we are felled 4-1 by the Forest. Somehow we hold on to 8th place.
Saturday 25th January. As Winter draws to a close, we try again to beat a Rams side shawn of their manager since we last played them with Steve McClaren now shepherding the side. Gestede gets us out of trouble but the game ends in a draw 1-1.
Tuesday 28th January is a game too soon for many as the crowd at Oakwell is just 9,703. Have the hard up fans decided to stay at home? It may be entertaining on the pitch but it’s starting to get predictable. I might have a bet myself. Think I’ll go for a score draw. Cairney and Gestede are the scorers in this 2-2 draw. Bowyer loses it after some strange decisions by the officials.
The month of January ends with Rovers in 9th position.
Saturday 1st February and the only home game of the month sees us entertaining a Blackpool side in free-fall. A healthy crowd of 15,045 see goals from old ‘Big Head’ Hanley and David Dunn as Rovers cruise to victory and back into 8th position. I wouldn’t say it was the ‘Best Day Of My Life’ but the fans go home happy.
Saturday 8th February and a trip to Teesside to test out our fast growing confidence. However, the betting syndicates seem to have other ideas and it’s a 0-0 draw thanks to some inspired goalkeeping by Robinson. The rest of the team look like they would ‘Rather Be’ on the International break.
Saturday 22nd February. I personally witness one of the strangest games of my life as I sit with the home fans at the Madejski stadium to watch Rovers beat a lacklustre Reading team with a deflected Craig Conway shot. Tom Cairney gets a serious looking ankle injury and mysteriously boo’d by the home fans. ‘All Of Me’ wants to jump up and tell them to lay off him but I decide against that idea. It never really got started as a game of football but it ended 0-1 to Rovers and the dream is on once more.
The end of February and still in 9th position.
News comes from the other side of the world that Steve Kean is loving managing his new team DPMM FC from Brunei, who sit in 2nd place in the Singapore S League. When interviewed he said ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’. Well Steve, we all said you were an excellent manager.
Saturday 22nd March. You have to be concerned when the league leaders come to town and despite wearing a dreadful khaki strip, they manage to rip ‘Into The Blue’ while Rovers players stand and watch. How ironic then, that a Kilgallon goal just before half-time would provide the springboard for the best 45 minutes seen at Ewood for a long time. Weeks of boring Winter Coldplay and then 45 minutes of ‘Magic’. Cries of ‘A Good 2nd Half Team’ from the terraces finally ring true.
At the final whistle it’s Rovers 1 Leicester City 1 and we must ‘Let Go For Tonight’, as we accept the Foxes are top dogs.
Tuesday 25th March. A chance to play against an Italian side. A chance perhaps to be ‘Counting Stars’ of the future or will they just be the next set of baristas in Costa. Best seek out a Cafe Republic and find a good Italian blend to raise the caffeine levels for the night ahead. Just as well because there’s no beer inside the ground. Watford try and spoil the party with an early goal from Cassetti but Dunn fools the home defence by wearing gloves to score the reply and set up Conway for another. A harsh penalty and a late Battocchio goal have the Italians thinking it’s all over but Gestede powers in a header on 93 minutes to make it 3-3 on the night.
Saturday 29th March and into the Lions Den. The travelling army prepare to meet the latest batch of ‘Doo-Wops and Hooligans’ bred in Millwall or Mars and the team are fortified by Tuesday’s performance. David Dunn has spent the last three days being rebuilt on the treatment table. There’s no doubt we ‘Need U 100%’ if we’re going to win this one. This Lott could get ‘Nasty’ if Rovers don’t stamp their authority on the game. However, Ian Holloway has fired up the home side but ‘Hey Now’ Blackburn clearly haven’t read The Script as they go for a repeat ‘#3’ goals. London Grammar says its 2 apiece by tea-time and as Winter draws to a close, the draws carry on.
Tuesday 1st April and Rovers have fooled Brighton & Hove Albion into finally playing us in the League. Bowyer knows that 3 home games and 9 points in the space of a week will go a long way to settling the argument that Blackburn Rovers are fit for the Play-Offs. Jordan Rhodes notches up his 49th and 50th goal in 89 games which starts to ring alarm bells for Simon Garner, but it’s not enough to win the game as Brighton threaten to do another Italian Job on us at the death although we manage to rescue it and it ends 3-3 on the night.
Saturday 5th April. There has been talk all week about how Rhodes wants to play in the Premier League (with Rovers) and how the club should be offering him a new extension to his contract. I just love this pre-transfer banter, don’t you?
Ipswich Town ride into Ewood on Grand National day and we wonder if half-time will be extended or the Big TV used to provide some entertainment for the dwindling masses. McCarthy (who would have made a safe manager for Rovers) has transformed Ipswich into Play-Off challengers. During the game an ‘Air Balloon’ drifts aimlessly across the stadium. That’s a lesson to Burnley fans saving money on unofficial away travel. We have our sights firmly set on the field of play as Rhodes and Gestede send the Tractor Boys home empty handed. 2-0 to Rovers.
Tuesday 8th April. ‘Arry brings his boys for a kick about this evening. Publicly he’s kept Faith with his expensive team but privately he’s told them I ‘Can’t Rely On You’ and you must do better. Fair Play, the end of season prize has to be worth a gamble but on the night you have to wonder where the money has gone. QPR are poor throughout the game. On the other hand Rovers have a new found confidence. Conway is narrowly beaten to the MOM award by Rudi Gestede, who grabs the 1st goal, with the whole team finally playing as a unit. Robert Green is beaten at the near post by a shot from Tommy Spurr and ironic cries of ‘England’s No.1’ ring round Ewood at a keeper who flapped at everything that came his way. Harry Redknapp cuts a forlorn figure on the touchline, a bit like Paul Ince but with substitutes. They get thrown on but it makes no difference. 2-0 to the Rovers. After the game you don’t blame him for saying there’s ‘Money On My Mind’, after all he’s not just any old Sam, Smith or Harry is he? I think it’s time for this Harry to start the car.
Friday 11th April brings ‘Kids Again’ to Ewood when England Under 18’s Schoolboys entertain Scotland’s finest and they show what a shining Example of the talent there is in this country and over the border. There are no Prima Donnas here. Just an honest endeavour to show off blossoming talent. 1-1 and England win the Centenary Shield.
While Blackburn have been climbing slowly up ladders and sliding down the odd snake, the teams above them have been showing mixed form too. Reading continue to cling onto 6th place despite a very poor string of results. Cherries normally blossom in May but Bournemouth are already blooming. If any one of the chasing pack is going to sneak into the play-offs then it might be them.
Saturday 12th April and Rovers travel to play Sheffield Wednesday. It is the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Gary Bowyer was in the Nottingham Forest end on that fateful day as a fan for the FA Cup semi-final game against Liverpool. He and Stuart Gray lay wreaths at the Leppings Lane end in front of 96 white seats, each with a red rose on them.
The match today kicks off at 3:07 and Rovers take advantage with goals from Rhodes, Conway and Keane. Unfortunately they can’t hold out and have to settle for a 3-3 draw with Nuhiu getting his 2nd and the equaliser in the 95th minute. Bowyer’s post-match team talk was probably short and to the point – ‘If you don’t like playing on Saturdays I’ve arranged a game on Friday for you. Let’s make it a Good one.’
So Friday 18th April comes with the green and white scarves of Yeovil being held aloft in the Darwen End. Junior home supporters have been warned not to look into the eyes of their scary mascot. In his pre-match interview he says “People say ‘I’m A Freak’ but I’m really just a rather nice guy.” I think we will pass on taking a ‘#Selfie’ with the Yeovil mascot and join the Chainsmokers in the toilets instead. Officially there are 14,353 inside the stadium with 347 from Yeovil but contrary to reports the Venky’s entourage are not amongst us. They choose to entertain the Queen at Ewood the day before. With the sun shining down and no snow expected they surely could have watched this game too, but perhaps they knew this would be a totally ‘Fowl’ affair. As our closest rivals slip up it would have been nice to have got 3 points. I can’t wait to see the season revue on DVD, maybe they will just have the QPR game on a continuous loop. It ends 0-0 and erased from my memory.
Monday 21st April and with Gary Bowyer’s post-match interview still ringing in their ears, players and supporters travel to Birmingham City determined to make amends. The players have had ‘We’re Not Giving Up’ tattoo’d on their heads to make it easier for identification. Now they can see each other it’s easy. 4-0 up at half time and Gary Bowyer is already working on his next interview. Ok, the home side get 2 back in the 2nd half but Rovers win 4-2.
Saturday 26th April. Rovers travel to Charlton to see How Green Is My Valley. Rovers decide to give every away fan a scarf with thanks for their support. News reaches home supporters and there is hope that they will get more than a novelty chicken mask at the final game against Wigan. Gestede has said ‘I Will Never Let You Down’ after his hat-trick and promptly obliges with one more to keep the boss happy. Keane and Cairney top off a very successful afternoon with Rovers winning 3-1 at The Valley.
Monday 28th April and the Daily Mail run an article designed to bolster the job prospects of Steve Kean. Apparently he doesn’t think his time at Blackburn has damaged his reputation. In typically bullish mood he tells them “I can count on one hand the number of games when we were really, really poor”. Oh Steve, I hope the therapy goes well for you.
Tuesday 29th April. Rovers don’t play but Birmingham attempt to. They allow our next and final opponents Wigan to cement their play-off place as they themselves slip quietly towards Division 1.
Saturday 3rd May. We go into the ‘The Final Countdown’ for our chance to play in the best League in Europe. It’s been pointed out to me that it’s not over yet and that the Championship is decided on goals scored. So if Burnley beat Reading and keep a clean sheet, Brighton lose and we score at least 3 goals (or was that 7?), we go into 6th place. The stakes are high and it’s A Great Big World out there. You have to wonder if forces can fix it and ‘Say Something’ to the respective managers in order for this unlikely scenario to happen.
Thankfully, Rovers have saved the best ’till last. 45 minutes of the most exciting football Ewood has seen for years with the goals to go with it. A goal from Cairney and two from Gestede before half-time have us believing, but Wigan bring us back to earth after the break. A Rhodes goal near the end provides a fitting conclusion to the season as the game ends in a 4-3 win.
Burnley can only draw at Reading but it doesn’t matter as Brighton win at Forest to sneak into 6th place. I stand applauding the players and their children as they take a lap of honour and I can’t help thinking “what if”, but it was not to be. Two of the players youngsters that catch the eye are a young Kilgallon who looks like he could make a useful winger in the future and a mini Robinson, complete with shirt and huge gloves, who seems to have a brilliant right foot. I hope the scouts were watching.
Afterwards Gary says “I’m already looking forward to next season but there is going to be a lot of work ahead. This club needs another three windows before the squad is back where it should be.” I gather SafeStyle are doing a BOGOF deal this summer.
I suppose you have to be ‘Happy’ that we have ended up at the right end of the table this year, albeit not in a promotion place. Blackburn Rovers are definitely back and going in the right direction. The nice thing about this season was that we never had to worry about relegation. I wonder if all those songs helped?
Not long now ’till we play again.
My thanks to:
To Be Loved – Michael Buble
Seriously 90’s – Various Artists
Tell Where I Lie – Fossil Collective
Thriller – Fallout Boy
Waiting All Night – Rudimental
About Time – Cassie
Mosquito – Yea Yea Yeahs
The Blue Room – The Orb
Wakin On A Pretty Day – Kurt Vile
Our Version Of Events
Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor
The Truth About Love
Long Live A$AP
The 20/20 Experience
Random Access Memories
Forever – Haim
Red – Taylor Swift
Halcyon – Ellie Goulding
Legend – Bob Marley
Fade – Jakwob
Until Now – Swedish House Mafia
Now That’s What I Call Running – Various Artists
My Head Is An Animal – Of Monsters And Men
Unapologetic – Rihanna
This Is The Last Time – Keane
The North Borders – Bonobo
Dark Horse – Katy Perry
Hey Brother – Avicii
Demons – Imagine Dragons
Let It Go – Idina Menzell
Timber – Pitbull
Best Day Of My Life – American Authors
Rather Be – Clean Bandit
All Of Me – John Legend
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys
Into The Blue – Kylie Minogue
Magic – Coldplay
Let Go For Tonight – Foxes
Counting Stars – One Republic
Doo-Wops And Hooligans – Bruno Mars
Need U 100% – Duke Dumont
Nasty – Pixie Lott
Hey Now – London Grammar
#3 – The Script
Air Balloon – Lily Allen
Can’t Rely On You – Paloma Faith
Money On My Mind – Sam Smith
Kids Again – Example
#Selfie – The Chainsmokers
Not Giving Up – Saturdays
I Will Never Let You Down – Rita Ora
The Final Countdown – Europe
Say Something – A Great Big World
Happy – Pharrell Williams