THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

21 August ~ After one of the dullest summers in living memory, things are finally happening at Ewood Park. Last Saturday Everton were the visitors, and an uncharacteristically generous Tim Howard gave Rovers their first opening-day home win since 2003. On Tuesday the club marked a sad anniversary: ten years since the death of Jack Walker. He is still revered in the town and it's no exaggeration to say he is solely responsible for the modern Rovers.

Walker's legacy ranges from the replica Premier League trophy lurking inside the redeveloped main stand (the Jack Walker Stand, naturally) to the current team, which continues to compete in the Premier League. His statue outside Ewood Park bears the legend Rovers' Greatest Supporter. It isn't hyperbole.

Sandwiched between the Everton game and the Walker anniversary was another significant event. On Monday the club welcomed a group of negotiators representing the Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed, who has emerged in recent weeks as Rovers' likely new owner. In the space of 24 hours, Blackburn's past and potential future came together – you have to admire the timing.

It's no secret the club needs new investment. Blackburn are still owned by the Walker Trust set up to protect the family's interests. The Trust has proved a steady but resolutely unspectacular owner, gradually tightening the club's budget over the last decade, and Rovers have been on the market for several years. Potential owners have come and gone without much acclaim, but Ali Syed seems serious: he is the first would-be buyer to reach the stage of due diligence.

The transfer window may be shutting in less than a fortnight, but that aside Ali Syed's timing is good here, too. Rovers have been operating on a negative transfer budget over the past few seasons, selling players such as David Bentley, Stephen Warnock and Roque Santa Cruz for big money without reinvesting significantly in the team. The trust has also tried to shrink the club's wage bill as they try to balance the books of a club based in a small town struggling with the recession. Most Blackburn fans are realistic enough to understand the financial reality of the Trust's policies, but there is a concern that the club are effectively giving up on competing against their wealthier neighbours.

Things reached a nadir of kinds over the close-season – at the start of the summer Rovers were linked with Raul and Guti, but the only signing so far is Mame Biram Diouf on loan from Man Utd. Including this new Diouf, Rovers have three senior strikers on the books, and one of them, Jason Roberts, hasn't even been allocated a squad number for the season. At the moment, the most likely new forward the club will sign is Benjani on a free transfer.

Ali Syed appears to be serious about buying Rovers. In a series of interviews this week about his plans he's said the right things, talking about a steady 15-year plan rather than sudden revolution, promising to invest in the youth academy, and backing the current management. He also insists he wants to be seen as a fan, and has talked about buying a house in Lancashire. There's also the £80m- £100m in transfer money that he's promised to Allardyce. Football has moved on since Jack Walker's largesse of the early 1990s, and £100m won't suddenly turn Rovers back into contenders in this new Abramovich-and-Mansour-dominated landscape, but it'll come in handy.

The mood around Ewood Park is generally one of cautious excitement – there's a precedent set for a wealthy new owner to make good on his promises, of course, as Rovers fans can testify; but in recent years, more of these high-profile takeovers have gone wrong than right. One criticism that the fans have never been able to level at the Walker Trust is foolhardiness – Rovers have never been in any danger of a Portsmouth-style calamity. If Ali Syed's backing is genuine, Blackburn could be about to take a leap into the unknown. Karl Sturgeon 

Comments (1)
Comment by frontier psychiatrist 2010-08-22 21:07:58

So what happens when he wants the £100m back?

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