2001 – All over again?

The upcoming season has already brought some shocks – with Rovers expected to sell more season tickets than last season. @barryshoz82 says that’s down to one man…

TM

Season ticket sales at a high even with relegation! #TMBWA trending on Twitter! Rovers fans looking forward to going to Ewood again! Where has all the negativity gone? It seems that that for the first time in the Venky’s era, a smell of optimism fills the air like a hot Holland’s Pie at half time.

This can be put down to only one man. So calm and consuming, with a piercing look of someone who does it HIS way. Tony Mowbray exudes confidence, and this obviously rubs off on his players and supporters alike. But a sense a Deja vu is in the air.

Ewood Park has seen this all before in recent memory. A man coming in on the back of a spiteful and misguided period, and having to replace a hapless manager and a dysfunctional team. The ethos of Blackburn Rovers needed changing, almost as though they had lost their identity. This man changed the way they played. He strengthened with both young, hungry players eager to prove themselves at this historic club. Bringing in some old heads in vital positions across the pitch. Keeping hold of the most valuable and touted players of the squad. All this whilst bringing through four or five youth team players who have proved their worth through playing regularly in the first team. Sound familiar?

Tony Mowbray’s blueprint for Blackburn is the same as another steely eyed, straight talking manager – Graeme Souness. And if he continues in the same vein, Rovers could have stumbled across the perfect formula for a first time bounce back to the Championship.

Although the circumstances are very different from 2000-1, the similarities are striking. Rovers had a relatively small squad of 18, but with Dunn, Duff, Flitcroft and Jansen, Souness had a lot to work with. But it is the players that he bought, which when added to this nucleus, gave the team automatic promotion.

After losing 7 senior players in the summer of 2000, Souness did not spend much time in plugging the holes of the squad with experience. Brad Friedel is arguably the Scot’s greatest signing in his management career, with the American becoming a fans favourite for years to come. Also adding experience in the likes of Craig Hignett (20 goals in 1999/2000 for Barnsley from midfield), Mark Hughes, Craig Short and vitally Henning Berg, this gave the young guns the platform they needed to get back into the Premier League.

Although in different positions, Mowbray’s signing have lead to the shape of the team being very similar. He has signed older heads and league experience in the centre of midfield. Whittingham will provide that guile in the middle, with Dack being a very similar signing to the one of Hignett 17 years ago. Gladwin and Smallwood will add energy to the team – which has been crucially missing in the Championship in the past few years. And if Samuel signs, his pace will add the same dimension that Marcus Bent brought all those years ago. This all added to Mulgrew, Bennett, Evans and Graham who are too good for this division, and if Rovers keep hold of Lenihan, who is stand out for captain if he stays, it bodes well for a similar result to 2001.

The one thing that is grabbing the attention of Blue and White fans is the youth setup. Brockhall has been wasted under Venky’s, but now we have a manager that trusts in youth. These youth players cannot be compared to the likes Dunn and Duff, as these were special talents. But so often Rovers have brought in mediocre players that stop the youth team members get their chance. Just look at how many former youth players are now plying their trade in higher divisions than Rovers currently find themselves.

The Venky’s not ploughing money in to the club has meant we have had to look at and play the youngsters in crucial games, giving them the confidence that is required. The next crop at Brockhall must be rubbing their hands together, the barrier has been lifted, and a route to the first team is now in sight – especially after we retained our Category 1 status.

As much as optimism is rife within Ewood Park, and this will only increase after meaningless big wins over York in pre- season, the fans have to be patient. You only have to look at September 2000 when Rovers went five without a win, and only one win in September. This didn’t sway the supporters in 2000 as they could see how the team was being moulded by Souness. The fans have a huge part to play for the forthcoming year, and the message has to be: BELIEVE IN MOWBRAY.

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  1. After being an uninterrupted season ticket purchaser for the last 37 years, l entirely agree that, at last, I really look forward to the new season following the latest management change!