THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Owen Coyle hasn’t endeared himself to fans, who are protesting against the club’s owners

26 August ~ A recent ex-Burnley manager was never going to be in for an easy ride at local rivals Blackburn Rovers, so what Owen Coyle most needed to keep supporters on-side was a good start to the season. After a disastrous first game against Norwich in which they were 3-0 down within 30 minutes and the subsequent loss of the team’s two centre-halves (Grant Hanley sold to Newcastle, Shane Duffy who has just gone to Brighton having been suspended and fallen out with Coyle) the coach is already under serious pressure.

Despite the boost of a couple of cup wins (albeit against lower-tier opposition) the side’s league form has been woeful with away defeats to Wigan and Cardiff and a “six-pointer” with fellow relegation favourites Burton Albion ending in a draw. Coyle hasn’t particularly endeared himself with fans by defending the performances of a team who thoroughly deserve to be rock bottom of the Championship.

Added to the on-field problems, supporters’ groups have united to launch a campaign asking the football authorities to investigate the manner in which the owners Venky’s are running the club, with a large public meeting planned for early September and an online petition gaining momentum. A match boycott is under discussion while fans are also trying to convince the owners to sell Rovers to a local conglomerate but Venky’s have made no comment and now rarely visit the ground.

Season ticket sales and attendances have fallen dramatically while the atmosphere at home games veers between stunned silence and intense anger as followers lose any sense of optimism for a season only just under way, while protests during matches merely add to the gloom surrounding the club.

Despite rumours that Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic was considering his position at tomorrow’s opponents due to unfulfilled transfer promises, his team have made an unbeaten start to the season, defeating promotion favourites Newcastle in their opening game and Middlesbrough in the cup, and they currently sit in the play-off places.

Former Rovers Player of the Year, Tom Cairney, returns to Ewood Park with a side which will be confident of taking three points from a Blackburn team with a defence leaking goals and a midfield lacking creativity. A couple of decent loan signings are not enough to replace the loss of quality forwards such as Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede, with cash investment needed in order to turn the form around of a side in steep decline.

Coyle though must surely have been aware when he took the job that there would be little money to spend on players and that organisation, tactical nous and inspiration would be needed to develop the team but it’s sadly all three which are currently lacking from their performances. Bruce Wilkinson

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