My wife noted the other other day that Sophie had a talent for turning Match of the Day on. And quite rightly I’m proud of my daughter for that!
Unfortunately though, after last nights results, Sophie and I won’t be watching the Premier League with anything other than a mild interest after Blackburn Rovers’ fourth season in the Championship was mathematically ensured.
Of course that eventuality was unofficially confirmed over a month ago when they twice went in front against Brentford only to lose and then fell dismally at home 1-0 to Brighton – a not completely unsurprising chain of events after a sapping run of fixtures.
And yet, despite a memorable Cup run, Rovers fans are left with a distinct feeling of anti-climax, that we’re missing out on the epic race at the top of the Championship when we really ought to be amongst the front runners.
It’s hard to argue that we’ve not underachieved. Up front we have a strikeforce who are apparently worth over £17m and have scored nearly 35 goals between them. Rudy Gestede though has lost his scoring touch, missing another great chance on Tuesday night. It seems that when one of Rhodes and Gestede is firing, the other isn’t. Contrast that with Watford whose strikers seem to always be bang in form.
In midfield, Ben Marshall is capable of electric form but went off the boil before Christmas. Tom Cairney is composure personified and scored two stunning goals at the start of the season, but went quiet. Josh King is phenomenally fast…but is always injured. And Craig Conway took until Spring to recapture the form which made him a firm Ewood favourite last season.
As for the defence, it wasn’t until Matt Kilgallon and Alex Baptiste became the centre halves that we looked solid – and that was March! Until then, our defence was all over the place as sadly club captain Grant Hanley makes too mistakes at this level.
The knives have been out at times for boss Gary Bowyer which is tremendously unfair considering the stability and respectability he has brought back to the club in very trying circumstances. Indeed, it would have been interesting to see how the likes of Derby would have coped if they’d been under the same transfer embargo and not been able to bring in Darren Bent and Tom Ince to inject new life into their promotion bid. Ditto Norwich and Graham Dorrans.
However, Bournemouths emergence as a flamboyant, exciting team with a solid defence and exceptional attack has been a major surprise and Rovers need to take note for next season. Having a healthy balance is vital in the Championship as is taking your chances when on top in games. Matches such as Bolton, Wigan and Millwall away, Blackpool and Huddersfield at home to name just a few, are all games we should have won comfortably.
So we look ahead to another season at this level, having flattered to deceive and even run Liverpool close only to lose in the end.
Story of the campaign? Let’s make sure it’s not the story of next year as well.