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The People fabricating a ‘Spurs raid for Blackburn’s Junior Hoillet’ story

Overheard in The People’s newsroom late last night:

‘We need some transfer rumours!’

‘Just make some up then.’

Every week it’s the same, create a link between a player and a club – possibly by rolling a dice, and then fill an entire article with suggestive language but no quotes, evidence, or facts.

‘Tottenham are set to add to struggling Blackburn’s woes by moving for their star player Junior Hoilett.

Spurs supremo Daniel Levy is set to sanction a raid for the Canadian attacker, whose ­contract runs out at the end of this season.’

Based on what exactly? Still, the best part of the article is the moment where it claims that ‘there would inevitably be swap deals offered’. Obviously, anytime you see the phrase ‘swap deal’ appear in transfer story, an alarm should sound in your head that screams ‘this is bollocks, this is bollocks.’

If The People didn’t exist, would anyone bother to invent it?

Blackburn to avoid relegation? 4/6 with Paddy Power.

Tottenham to qualify for the Champions League? 11/10 with Paddy Power.

Blackburn’s owners burying heads in the sand

Blackburn fans, it’s time to start worrying. Either the club’s owners are completely deluded, or this is the most misleading vote of confidence in the Premier League’s history.

“The team is in the relegation zone now but it’s going to come up, I am sure of that.

We do know a few people have been generating thousands of emails demanding the ousting of Steve Kean, who is a brilliant manager.

But we know the team is going in the right direction and we are very positive about the way the team is performing and the way it is going.”

That’s co-owner Belaji Rao for you. Quick question though, which particular parts of the recent performances have given reason for such optimism? Was it the 3-1 defeat at St James Park or the 4-0 defeat by Manchester City?

The ‘brilliant manager’ comment is beyond derision really, because Steve Kean has never even really demonstrated that he’s competent – let alone brilliant. Realistically, this Blackburn team has been in decline ever since the Scot took over in December, and there’s no real reason to believe that slide will be arrested any time soon.

Blackburn to be relegated 11/10 Blackburn to avoid relegation 4/6

David Dunn turns on Blackburn’s ‘unreal’ fans

What’s the best way to stop your own fans booing you? When you’re Blackburn Rovers it might be difficult, but a good starting point would probably be not having a go at your own fans.

It’s not rocket science – but someone should probably tell David Dunn.

“The booing and the jeering doesn’t help anyone. From a players’ point of view, we see the hard work the manager and the staff do so it is disappointing to see the reaction. I am hoping it is just a minority. I heard the guys that are leading the protest on the radio and it is poor. To be leading protests is poor.
I had a reality check on Saturday when I looked at City and one of the players on their bench cost more than our owners paid for our club. Put it like that and maybe we need to get real.”

Right, just a couple of points though David…

Flip your ‘from the players point-of-view’ comment on its head, and look at it from the supporters’ perspective. They see all the hard-work that goes into being able to afford a Premier League ticket, and look what you’ve produced on the field. Maybe once upon a time you could expect unconditional support, but the commercialism that has swallowed the game – and afforded the players the lifestyles that they enjoy – means that football is now entertainment, and fans have a right to voice their discontent.

With regards the protests, the owners of Blackburn Rovers are perceived to have lied to the fans over budgets, objectives, and the long-term future of the club. If you’re a fan, why should you tolerate that. If my club is being fumbled with for an unclear purpose, I’m not going to be applauding as I watch it happen.

The ‘disparity in wealth’ comment? No I’m sorry, there are an awful lot of Premier League clubs that are paupers in comparison to Manchester City, but they aren’t turning in the kind of limp dross that Dunn and friends have been. Invalid.

What is it with footballers becoming so sensitive? You’re playing badly, the fans are going to boo you – deal with it, or find another profession.

Alan Shearer’s weak ‘non-defence’ of Blackburn’s Steve Kean

Alan Shearer has continued his habit of using a lot of words to say not very much, this time to claim that Blackburn manager Steve Kean deserves ‘more time’ to turn around the club’s ailing fortunes.

“He’s the same manager who was there last season and we are only seven or eight games in to the new one. You don’t become a bad manager in that space of time.”

Isn’t that the problem though Alan? True, you don’t become a bad manager in ten months, but Steve Kean has never been a good manager – and Blackburn have never been headed anywhere but down since he took over from Sam Allardyce last December. If Steve Kean is still manager of Blackburn next May, they will be relegated – end of discussion.

“The fans are unhappy and it is a tough situation for him to be in. They haven’t got the points that everyone would have hoped. He’s having a tough time and he needs results ASAP, just like any other manager does. It’s a tough situation and he needs to win games. He hasn’t, which is why he is under pressure. He will have known that when he took the job though.”

All true Alan – but why does any of that support the notion of Kean not being sacked?

Does Alan Shearer have any actual opinions on the game that he can quantify – everything he says is just a continuous flow of rhetoric and cliche.

How is this guy a pundit on terrestrial television’s flagship football program, he doesn’t ever say anything beyond repeating facts that everybody is already aware of. Anything bad is ‘disappointing’, anything good ‘deserves credit’, etc etc etc. Scoring lots and lots of goals does not make someone interesting.

Just a big thank you for chipping in there Alan, your thoughts and vocabulary continue to enlighten us on a weekly basis.

Blackburn vs Manchester City: Preview

Blackburn Rovers 11/2 Draw 11/4 Manchester City 4/7

Saturday, 3pm

4/7 on Manchester City equates to the bookies just giving money away. There’s no way, regardless of whatever happened in midweek, that Blackburn are capable of causing City any problems.

Blackburn are without the suspended Martin Olsson, and have doubts over Scott Dann and Michel Salgado. For City, Nigel De Jong is ready for a return to the squad, although the game comes to soon for Adam Johnson – Carlos Tevez is obviously banned.

The biggest threat for Blackburn is going to be David Silva, because the home side just don’t have the ability to cope with someone who plays in between the lines like he does. That’s the be all and end all of this game, because if Silva roams free – City will win comfortably.

It’s not that Blackburn are necessarily that bad, it’s just that there’s nothing to suggest that Steve Kean has the capability to motivate this team to play at the level they’ll need to in order to take anything from the game. If City do inflict the expected defeat, this should be Kean’s last game – John Jensen was sacrificed this week, expect the uninspiring Scot to follow him through the exit door imminently.

Maybe consider the over 4.5 match goals market, because 4/1 offers tempting value even if it is a bit of stretch…

City by a cricket score.

Blackburn Rovers 11/2 Draw 11/4 Manchester City 4/7

Four Things We’ve Learned – Tottenham, Blackburn, Everton, Michael Oliver

Tottenham look realistic challengers for Champions League qualification

As the weeks pass, it’s becoming obvious that being humbled by the Manchester clubs is not necessarily a true indicator of where a team is – it’s going to happen to a lot of teams this year.

Luka Modric looks happy, Ledley King is playing, Gareth Bale looks to be regaining his form, and Emmanuel Adebayor is scoring goals. As long as all four of those remain constant, then Spurs are the fourth best side in the country.

As is the club’s habit, they made winning at Wigan far harder than it needed to be, but it’s a sign of progression from last year that they headed back down the M1 with three points rather than one. What marked the successful 2009/2010 season out, was Harry Redknapp’s ability to take points from lesser teams on the road – Wigan, Stoke, West Ham – and that seems to be a habit that’s been rediscovered.

Now the tricky start has been navigated, the fixture list is extremely kind to Tottenham between now and Christmas – Redknapp will consider every game until Chelsea visit the Lane on the 20th December as ‘extremely winnable’. If Liverpool continue to stutter, and Arsenal don’t snap out of whatever is afflicting them, then Spurs could have a very healthy advantage by the time 2012 comes.

Blackburn need to change their manager…now.

Steve Kean has Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker to thank for keeping him in employment, because without Blackburn’s anomalous result against Arsenal nobody would have any doubt that he’s not capable of taking them anywhere but the Championship. In retrospect, that win might do the club more harm than good, because it incorrectly suggested that a corner had been turned. One week later, and one insipid performance against Newcastle later, and the reality looks a little more stark.

Look around the sides that will be fighting to stay out of the relegation places, and look at their managers. QPR, Swansea, Wigan, Norwich, maybe West Brom – would you take Steve Kean over any of those managers? Not based on anything we’ve seen from Kean so far.

The owners need to forget about the circumstances by which they appointed Kean, because fans will forgive boardroom mistakes – what they won’t forget is the failure to correct them.

Complaints about Everton’s negativity at Manchester City are absurd.

This is part of a general point, and a bit of a personal grievance against something that’s been around for a while now. Arsene Wenger used to make the same complaint when visiting teams set-up defensively at the Emirates Stadium and likewise Jose Mourinho whenever his team dropped any points – moaning about a team being negative.

It’s not a footballing crime to settle for a point when away from home against a more illustrious and better-resourced opponent. That it’s contrary to the instant gratification, entertainment culture of English football is completely irrelevant.

Given what Manchester City have already done to Bolton, Swansea, and Tottenham, is it not reasonable for teams facing them to adopt a guarded approach? Outside of Manchester United and Chelsea, any team that wants to trade blows with City will get an absolute hammering.

If you’re David Moyes, and you face the kind of players that Roberto Mancini has at his disposal, then you’re fully-entitled to employ whichever tactics you feel give you the best chance of a positive result.

The people that complain about this are the same set of dullards who bemoan Stoke’s style of football – it’s a complaint without any basis, and I’m yet to hear a convincing argument against ‘parking the bus’.

Michael Oliver enjoys making ‘big decisions’

What’s the quality we crave in refereeing more than any other? Consistency. We want an equal application of the rules at all grounds by all officials.

Michael Oliver was praised for his zero-tolerance of shirt pulling in his decision to give a penalty against Armand Traore, but isn’t that contrary to the consistency that we’re asking for?
That kind of offence takes place in every game, every week and is almost never punished – so either contact with the shirt is always a free-kick or penalty, or it never is.

Oliver has a history of giving what look like incredibly soft penalties for shirt-pulling, there was one at West Brom two years ago which was mystifying. Now, that may be a literal and correct interpretation of the rule, but then all the referees have to act in the same way. You can’t have one rogue official with a personal agenda against a particular nuance of the game, it doesn’t work.

Behind this, you also suspect that Oliver quite enjoys the attention that such decisions award him with – there’s a bit of the ‘Uriah Rennie’ about him. The game should be about the players, not the officials.

No more of this please.

Not buying into the Dalglish managerial myth

I’ve never been sold on Kenny Dalglish’s abilities as a manager. The alignment of the stars that happened at Blackburn is now over fifteen years ago; for some added context, that’s before Euro 96, before New Labour entered Government, and before we realised that the Y2K bug was merely hysterical rhetoric.

Moving back to the present day, I’m not convinced by what’s going on at Anfield – not the players that have been signed and not the tactics that are being deployed. Liverpool are still behind where they were under Rafael Benitez, their squad may be better but their first-team is worse. While stocking a club with ‘homegrown’ players may be popular, it’s not a formula that is likely to bring you silverware. It’s as if Dalglish is using what happened at Blackburn as a blueprint for his reign at Anfield; Stewart Downing is Jason Wilcox, Charlie Adam is Stuart Ripley, and Jordan Henderson is Tim Sherwood.

An old template in a modern game.

While the Liverpool fans may hope that Dalglish’s remodeling program brings silverware, deep-down you expect that already they may have their doubts. The pre-season chorus of belief in being an outside title-bet now looks laughably misplaced, and the re-entry into the Champions League that was almost assumed doesn’t look particularly realistic.

As a player and as a human-being, Dalglish deserves all the respect he gets, but that respect has leaked into the perception of him as a manager – what did he achieve post-Blackburn? Nothing, an underwhelming run at Newcastle with an arguably more talented set of players, and a bizarre and short-lived stay at Celtic Park as both Director of Football and Manager. It’s really not the most comprehensive CV, but strangely it’s not one that is ever really examined.

His tactics at White Hart Lane were frighteningly inept, and even before their numbers diminished Liverpool’s midfield was easily picked apart by Tottenham’s slick football. Martin Skrtel at right-back against Gareth Bale, without any protection in front of him, what did you expect would happen? The failure to introduce Dirk Kuyt after Charlie Adam’s dismissal was also a huge error, and one his side paid for in North London.

In reality, Dalglish may make the club look more cohesive than it was in the latter days of Benitez and during the reign of Hodgson, but as a force within the Premier League they’re really no closer to where they want to be.

Teams will be beaten in the tunnel at Anfield, just as they always have been, but Dalglish looks a little behind the times against more illustrious opponents – that becomes more obvious every week.

Newcastle vs Blackburn: Preview

Newcastle 5/6 Draw 11/5 Blackburn 11/4

Saturday 3pm

Newcastle are an absolute steal at 5/6.

In the long run, the victory of Arsenal at Ewood Park could do Rovers more harm than good – mainly because it seems to have encourage a false sense of security over where Steve Kean is taking this team. Let’s get this straight, last week was about Arsenal and not Blackburn.

Newcastle can be good, and can be awful, but there is a lot of quality in that team, especially in the midfield which is welcoming Hatem Ben Arfa back from injury. Up front, Leon Best is a better forward than he’s credited for and works extremely hard – and he also scores goals. It’s popular to bash the Cockney Mafia for what they’ve done, but they seem to have accidentally built a team very high on flair and creativity. They should have more than enough to take three points tomorrow – Ben Arfa or Marveaux against Michel Salgado anyone? Ugly.

If Blackburn do lose tomorrow, I think it’s time for Steve Kean to be relieved of his duties. It’s not about the players he’s had at his disposal, it’s about what he brings to the club as a manager – purely from a spectator’s perspective, he comes across as one of the most uninspiring characters in the league. Either he goes now or Venkys get rid of him later, either way they might as well get on with it – drawing with a sub-par Fulham and watching Arsenal self-destruct doesn’t really change anything.

Newcastle by at least two.

Early Morning Notes – Blackburn, Tottenham, Chelsea & Sandro’s new haircut.

First things first, i’ve you missed any of the games yesterday then the highlights are on the Facebook page – here.

A story in the Mirror this morning is claiming that The Venkys Group are flying a group of prominent Blackburn fans to India to meet with them and discuss their failings as owners. Not to be negative, but those supporters will probably start with the deception over how much money would be made available, the decision to remove Sam Allardyce, and the appointment of Steve Kean – good luck explaining that little holy trinity.

The Sun are reporting that Roberto Mancini is putting his side’s failure to take three points at Craven Cottage down to a lack of available players:

‘We’re lacking players at this moment. I can only change the full-backs or the strikers.
I have only two midfield players, as James Milner and Nigel de Jong are injured. I don’t have players at this moment.’

Well, you haven’t raided Tottenham or Chelsea yet, so maybe take some of their players Roberto?

Highlights of yesterday’s Old Firm derby are here, including Allan McGregor’s memorable clanger.

When Harry Redknapp needs to build bridges, he’s obviously not adverse to recruiting ‘literally Jamie’ to help him. From ‘triffic junior’s Daily Mail column this morning:

‘I’ve got to hold up my hands; I thought Daniel Levy should have sold Luka Modric. Take the money, allow an unhappy player to leave and then spend the profit on recreating another team. He didn’t agree and stuck to his guns and Sunday was the return of the Modric we know. He was dazzling, scored a sensational goal and looked happy again. Well done to the chairman.’

That’s fine, just replace all the I’s with ‘Dad’.

Yup, Fernando Torres’ miss is also on the Facebook page – quickly though, Torres was actually far better yesterday then he has been for a while. His link-play was largely excellent, his movement was as good as it’s been since he arrived at Stamford Bridge, and he took his goal brilliantly. It’s a shame the miss will overshadow all of that, but hopefully this is still a player approaching his best form again.

Not to come across all ‘Daily Mail Showbiz’ on you, but Tottenham’s Sandro Ranieri has had a new haircut – which, from the picture below, you can see is pretty special…

Four things we’ve learned – Tottenham, Manchester City, Blackburn, Chelsea

Harry Redknapp will never take any responsibility for Tottenham’s failings

As unpalatable as their team’s defeat to Manchester City was yesterday, it will have further irritated Spurs’ fans to hear their manager blame ‘Luka Modric-gate’ for the humbling his side received. As disruptive as having one of your best players courted by another team is, it’s unfortunately now a part of the game, and you have to develop some kind of resistance to it. It’s not good enough just to shrug your shoulders and make accusatory noises about ‘heads being turned’ and ‘unrealistic wages’.

This is a theme with Redknapp, because all his merits as a manager are undermined by the same deficiency – an inability to recognise when he’s wrong. When Spurs dominate a game at White Hart Lane without scoring and then concede a sloppy goal to a lesser team, it’s always explained away as just being ‘one of those days’. Much like yesterday; the team he has constructed and put on the field were second best – and if Luka Modric’s state of mind was so destabilising, why was he playing? Instead though, he hastily fashioned an excuse out of a ‘poor pre-season’ – right, well you planned and executed that pre-season, so have a word with yourself.

There are three more days left of this transfer window, and Redknapp would be better served identifying players that can actually improve his team rather than simply playing the victim card in response to Chelsea and Man City’s affluence. Yes Harry, it’s not a level playing field anymore, but if you’re unwilling to come to terms with the realities of the modern game, then it’s time to go.

Steve Kean needs to go now

It’s pointless to debate whether Kean or the current owners at Blackburn are more to blame for the position the team finds itself in – that’s the reality, and the manager is the only variable in this situation. Yes he’s had a lack of financial support, yes the team has been weakened by injuries, and yes the owners don’t seem to be delivering on any of the promises that were made – but ultimately it doesn’t really matter, because the owners will blame him before they look at themselves.

This team will not stay in the Premier League with Steve Kean as their manager, that’s an absolute certainty.

It’s time to recognise Roberto Mancini’s abilities as a manager

…because he’s done an extremely good job. Unfortunately for him, what he’s achieved is always suffixed with the amount of money he’s had to spend. Fine, endless resources of course make the job a lot easier – but with big spending comes big egos, and with big egos comes the need for very astute man-management. Couple that with the expectation that weighs on his shoulders, and you really have to admire what he’s managed to build.

Edin Dzeko is a case in point. You don’t become a £30m player without a decent sense of how good you are and without a sizeable chunk of self-belief – and you probably don’t expect to spend six months in and out of the team you’ve joined. That Dzeko exploded into life yesterday is credit to his manager, because there are plenty of his contemporaries that wouldn’t know how to deal with such an expensive fringe at their football clubs.

There was a specific moment when I started liking Roberto Mancini and admiring what he was doing – when he hauled off Mario Balotelli in the friendly against LA Galaxy. That was a manager with authority, treating his players as employees – ‘no, you don’t behave like that – I don’t care how much you earn’. Love it, there’s not enough of that in the game.

If City were a boxer, then last season they were too quick to cover-up and too hesitant to start swinging. This season, they have the same defensive nous, but with an added patience and stinging right hand that they now know how and when to use. The difference between the Tottenham fixture this season and last season shows how far City have come – and Spurs will not be the last team that are left dazed and confused by Mancini’s side.

Chelsea will not win anything this season

Because they’re just not elite anymore Whether that’s relative to both Manchester clubs, or just an accurate assessment of where that squad is you can’t be certain – but right now, they’re not even a contender. Barring something dramatic happening in the next two days, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t also be mauled at some point by City and United. To varying degrees, they have so far looked vulnerable against West Brom, Norwich, and Stoke – that’s not particularly encouraging. Truthfully, the spine of that team is creaking, and the players that could be relied on to produce individual game-winning moments – Drogba, Lampard – are now in steady decline. Yes, Juan Mata’s a good player, and Luka Modric will probably give them something – but neither of those two is going to win you a Championship.

Four years have now passed since Jose Mourinho left Stamford Bridge, yet the team is still built in his image. In comparison, look at the evolution that has occurred in the same time span at Manchester United, Manchester City, and even Liverpool. Gradual, incremental changes have gone on everywhere else except at Stamford Bridge – that’s why they are where they are now. The purchases of David Luiz, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and potentially Modric, clearly show that this is recognised at Chelsea – but you just can’t change a team that quickly – these types of players should have been integrated over a longer time period, and not brought into the club in the panicky way that they were. Of all the transfers, Torres’ move south best embodies this. Having lost the fear factor that won them so many points under Mourinho, whoever decides on the buying policy at Chelsea – and it’s not the manager – threw some money at a ‘name’ player that was playing the worst football of his career. It’s all gone a bit ‘Galactico-era Real Madrid’ at Chelsea, which is ironically completely the opposite approach of what brought them success – Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Michael Essien – all of those players grew into what they would become after they had been brought to the club.

This is the downside of having a very wealthy owner – there’s no room for the kind of patience that’s needed to build a proper team, so everything becomes very short-term.