THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Both clubs have just two points from opening four matches

icon champ228 August ~ It’s easy to imagine Sky executives sifting through the early Championship fixture list in search of exciting games to televise and seeing the Blackburn v Bolton “derby" between two sides separated by just a few miles as an obvious choice.

With both teams making equally atrocious starts (two points from four games and knocked out of the League Cup by lower league opposition) the broadcaster will now be wondering what on earth they were thinking. Added to that is the fact that Blackburn Rovers’ supporters only really have spite for Burnley and TV can’t even rely on a spicy atmosphere to make this game watchable.

Flying back north after their 1-0 defeat by Brighton last weekend, Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer and managing director Derek Shaw were surprised to hear rumours of the coach’s sacking. The fact that Ewood Park staff were forced to telephone the Indian headquarters of owners Venky’s in order to check who was in charge only underlines just how shambolic things still are at the club. Although Bowyer was reassured that his job is safe, tonight's game has already been labelled as a "must win" for his tenure which as we know is only one stage away from the dreaded "last chance saloon”.

Poor early season form combined with the loss of several key players (including Rudy Gestede and Tom Cairney) is pilling pressure on a team greatly restricted by the Financial Fair Play rules. Declining attendances reflect a fanbase disillusioned by Bowyer’s tactics, which have not developed since his surprising promotion from within the club’s backroom staff. With player acquisition hidebound by FFP and purse strings tightened by Venky’s, there’s little room for manoeuvre in the transfer market and the manager’s job is definitely on the line.

Neil Lennon’s side has been hampered by a goal drought stretching from the final two games of last season and ending only with a last-gasp equaliser against Forest six days ago. With owner Eddie Davies looking to sell the club and refusing to pump in any more money their main hope centres on loan signings and a crop of good young players which includes the particularly promising Zach Clough.

As the club’s future has become unclear supporter expectations of a Premier League return have consequently been lowered to merely maintaining stability in the second tier. The main hope for any neutrals daft enough to watch this game is that both Blackburn and Bolton are so desperate for the points it might just force them to go all out for a win when a goalless draw seems the most obvious and likely result. Bruce Wilkinson

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