18 October ~ Samuel Allardyce could never be accused of shying away from publicity, but for once the column inches dedicated to him and his team have been an unwelcome distraction in the build-up to the Sunderland match. Danny Murphy's headline-grabbing comments, naming Blackburn among the teams he deems over-physical and Allardyce as one of the managers he directly blames for over-revving his teams, have thrown the spotlight directly onto this televised game. Despite Steve Bruce's support, with his defence of the physical side of football, there's no doubt pundits will use tonight's match to measure Murphy's words against the robust style of play for which Sam's teams are renowned.
Protracted buyout discussions have combined with the manager's ever more eccentric media claims, instilling perhaps the greatest sense of insecurity at the club since Jack Walker's death. Last season's top-ten finish on a shoestring budget has earned the respect of some sceptical supporters but Sam's tactics are yet to convince fans who'd prefer at least a modicum of style alongside the physical approach.
There is, however, a big difference between playing long-ball tactics and deliberately setting out to injure opponents, and that's where the Fulham player's comments don't add up. It's unlikely the current boss will ever be loved like Kenny Dalglish or Howard Kendall no matter what he achieves but that's as much down to his ridiculous pronouncements as it is to turning Morten Gamst Pedersen into the quarterback of the Ewood touchline.
With West Brom and Blackpool confounding pre-season predictions, supporters' expectations of a comfy mid-table ride may yet turn into another fight for points to avoid the bottom three. Sunderland's ability to invest in players only serves to highlight how Rovers are being left behind even by mid-table teams with money to spend. The question is whether a club like Blackburn should chase the dream by taking on suspect investors or risk slowly sliding backwards into the lower divisions through lack of money. The shadow of events at Portsmouth and Liverpool are perhaps what's delaying takeover talks as the Walker Trust look long and hard before selling – but it's a tightrope all but the biggest sides will have to walk as the global media market expands the ever increasing gap between top and bottom. Bruce Wilkinson