THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

There is a toxic atmosphere around Ewood Park, with supporters split on whether to support the players or concentrate on removing the owners

24 February ~ The sacking of Owen Coyle (by the usual "mutual consent") has come as no great surprise to the supporters of Blackburn Rovers who have seen their side slide towards Championship relegation.

Despite building a decent team on a paltry budget and the occasional burst of good quality, quick-passing football, Coyle’s overall record at the club has been awful. Perhaps more surprising is that shambolic owners Venky’s seemingly had a plan in place when they got rid of the ex-Burnley coach; swiftly bringing in experienced manager Tony Mowbray.

It’s the timing which is terrible; just after the closure of the transfer window and with so few games left with which to turn things around. In another hard-fought Championship with few outstanding teams, it’s a crisis which has often felt avoidable despite all the off-field distractions.

Although the season has generally been a slog, it has only been at the last few games when the fans have vocally turned against Coyle. Perhaps that’s more because, in the greater scheme of things and with Rovers fast disintegrating, the Scot has seemed merely a sideshow to an ongoing football car crash; followers’ ire pointed mostly in the direction of the Indian owners.

With substantial ongoing protests both about how the club are governed and the unwillingness of the authorities to intervene, the focus has inevitably been elsewhere. A joint boycott and demonstration with Blackpool supporters at the recent FA Cup fixture between the teams brought some publicity but no action either from the Football League or the FA.

With Rovers currently lying in 23rd place, tonight’s away trip to Burton (just three places ahead in the table) will be a huge game which, if Blackburn have any ambition of staying up, they will need to win. This match is followed by three enormous home ties in just over a week against Derby, Wigan and Cardiff by which time the team may practically be relegated if they don’t pick up a substantial number of points.

With crowds declining and the Ewood Park atmosphere often toxic among fans split between those focused on backing the players and others voicing their anti-Venky’s anger, any home advantage is often marginal these days. The only hope lies in Mowbray organising a defence which has leaked numerous soft goals and in his ability to rapidly increase the fitness of a side which visibly tires before the end of many games.

In the longer-term, either a complete change in direction by the Venky’s or the magic appearance of new owners with sensible, strategic plans would bring hope to the east-Lancashire club. Bruce Wilkinson

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