In Toon Today: Blackburn Rovers – The Chickens are Coming Home to Roost

Who Manages Them:

Owen Columba Coyle, named after Irish monk Saint Columba who was credited with turning Scotland to Christianity, so it’ll be no surprise that Coyle has been described as a committed Christian and he’ll probably need that faith today.

Blackburn aren’t exactly flying this season under his stewardship, with just 4 wins so far this season, though the home win against Brentford last time out may have kept him in a job past Thanksgiving. It didn’t start well for Coyle at Rovers, given the job in June he immediately faced a fan revolt with an online petition calling for him to be sacked within hours of his appointment.

The petition, which received 200 signatures, labelled Coyle’s managerial career a “disaster” and claimed he has previously thrown clubs into turmoil. It read:

“Let us state 100% that Mr Coyle being an ex-Burnley manager has nothing to do with the fans disgust at his appointment. We believe his dismal managerial record gives him no right to be considered for the post.”

Fair enough, I have felt like that a few times myself supporting Newcastle.

Early results backed up the fan disenchantment though comedy owners and chicken processing moguls Venky’s London Limited have hardly helped Coyle by not spending any money in the summer. By that I don’t mean they didn’t spend much, I don’t mean they spent a paltry amount, I mean they didn’t spend anything at all, unless of course we include the ‘hidden’ money Mike Ashley bangs on about, agent fees, taxi’s, good lawyers, champagne and caviar.

Early howkings by Norwich and Wigan pointed to a disaster looming but to be fair, since then, Blackburn haven’t lost by more than one goal in any game so they may not be the pushover that their third bottom league position suggests. Coyle of course, still believes he can survive the chicken run, this month saying:

“We will move ourselves to a position of safety in this league, there is absolutely no doubt about that and when we do, we need the right investment and the right time to kick on. We believe that we can get this club, in time, back to where we feel we should be. We want to get better in one or two areas and I certainly know the areas we want to improve the club.”

All of which of course has absolutely no substance and is just meaningless drivel. And he probably won’t get the investment either, The Blue and Whites are a reported £104m in the red and the debt seems to be somehow going up.

Off the field, fan protests haven’t made life for the staff any easier with a recent protest at the Wolves home game meaning the fans walked in after 18 minutes and out after 75, with reference to the year the club was founded. Unfortunately for the fans they missed both goals in that game, which has been typical of their season. Still, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

Coyle himself played 669 games for virtually every team in Scotland apart from the good ones and just over 50 appearances in England for Bolton. It was an association which was to follow him throughout his managerial career, after early success at Falkirk and St Johnstone, in 2007 he was appointed Burnley manager after Bolton Chairman Phil Gartside wrote him a reference, Coyle missing out on the Bolton job to first choice Gary Megson.

Coyle took Burnley to a second season promotion, within 3 minutes of a League Cup final place and then promptly quit after a difficult start to the next PL season, poached by their Lancashire neighbours. Bolton had sacked Megson early in 2010, Coyle quit Burnley saying Bolton were “10 years ahead of Burnley at this time.” Well Coyle soon saw to that, within two years Bolton had been relegated, the fans wanted him out and while Burnley have frequently surprised, the only surprise  about Bolton is that they haven’t gone bust.

A six month spell at Wigan ended badly, as did a year and a half in the MLS with Houston Dynamos and now Coyle has ended up back in the North West. He’s another one of these managers who has some early success and then seems to be given endless about of jobs no matter how long ago it was that he did well, he may not be as famous as McClaren, Pearson, Warnock and McCarthy but he matches their lack of achievement. He still thinks he can do well though, this week saying:

“Benitez will know we are a good side and I am very respectful, I think they have got a lot of quality and I think they will win the league. But there is no reason why we can’t go there and shock them. Hopefully we will get one or two back for going to a tough venue but one we should be looking forward to after how well we did against Brentford.”

Yes, yes Owen, we know, we had all this last week with Leeds and virtually every other week this season. You win one game and you are Cock of the North.

blackburn rovers

‘Owen Coyle: More of a cock than a chicken’

Who have They Signed:

A mish-mash on the unattached, the free and the loaned, the sort of motley crew which would inspire someone to make a film called The Magnificent 7 if this was the wild west and if any of them were in any way magnificent.

I suppose Wes Brown could be Yul Brynner, they are both bald, though Brynner always looked a lot fitter than Brown when he was alive. Brown had a successful career where he played for Manchester United and won the league 5 times, Champions League and FA Cup twice and League Cup 3 times. He also played for Sunderland. He didn’t win anything there. Brown might play today though, this being one of the his designated ‘not-injured’ weeks and joining him will be prolific goal-scorer and fellow ex-Mackem Danny Graham, another free from Sunderland and his two goals in his last one game scoring form was much crowed about this week. Well it is much better than his two goals in eleven games this season ratio, if only every week was like this one eh Danny?

Graham will be joined up front by Anthony Stokes from Celtic, Sam Gallagher on loan from Southampton and Marvin Emnes on loan from Swansea, so on paper at least Blackburn look like they have the ability to score goals. Another PL loan signing, this time in midfield, Jack Byrne from Manchester City will be worth keeping an eye on as the 20 year old is highly rated by the Irish FA. Other free transfers Liam Feeney and Derrick Williams should play on the wing and at the back respectively.

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‘Danny Graham: More of a turkey than a chicken’

Who have We Seen Before:

Shrewsbury’s top self-publicist Danny Guthrie, who on leaving Toon for Reading four years ago said:

“I’ve come here to stay injury free and play and if that happens then I will give myself a chance of breaking into the England squad. I know I will get a chance to play at Reading and that if I’m playing well I’ll stay in the team, it hasn’t always been like that before.”

Sooner or later all of our chickens come home to roost. Guthrie moved on a free transfer to Reading in the summer of 2012 after four years on Tyneside where he averaged 23 games a season after a £2million move from Bolton.

At best effective, at worst pedestrian, Guthrie’s statement on leaving told only half the truth of his stay at NUFC. He did “get a chance” at Newcastle but his own appearance record wasn’t helped by better players like Cabaye, Tiote, Nolan and Barton being ahead of him in the first team queue. That’s football Danny, those players were all better than you. He didn’t help himself by pecking up regular injuries and his average displays when he was in the team forced successive managers to favour the bigger name players.

At the end of his contract, Newcastle offered him a new one which he turned down and decided his career would be better served elsewhere but it didn’t all go to plan for the creative but sluggish midfielder. After three years slowing the play down at Reading and dithering around in midfield he was released and signed a two year contract with Blackburn.

He’s more than halfway through that now and still hasn’t played for England. Looking back he might think that 92 appearances he made at NUFC was the time of his life, though at 30 years old there is still time for him to be recognised internationally. Perhaps they will name a factory after him in India, ‘The Headless Chicken’ springs to mind. And he’s doubtful today.

A Special Mention For:          

Former Mackem and Celtic striker Anthony Stokes has had his problems with the drink before,  he was banned from The Glass Spider club in Sunderland by Roy Keane in 2007, the dog walker claiming that frequenting the club was affecting the lads performance in training. Stokes obviously didn’t learn that lesson as this month he was due in court after admitting assaulting an Elvis impersonator. The assault, which happened In The Ghetto outside a night club in Dublin in the summer of 2013, was said to cause the defendant actual bodily hu-hu-harm, thank you very much and left him All Shook Up.

The court case was adjourned this week as one of the key witnesses was ill, much to Stokes’ annoyance as he told the court he had a new job, which is true, he’s currently impersonating a footballer for Blackburn Rovers. The adjournment means that Stokes is available today but it is possible by the time we play at Ewood Park in the new year It Won’t Seem Like Christmas, it could be the Jailhouse Rock for the Rovers forward.

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‘Elvis impersonators: More of a Kentucky Fried Chicken’

How Will They Do This Season: 

With the likes of Hanley, Duffy, Gestede and Josh King having flown the coop recently, sold for over £30million in the last 18 months and Rovers not spending a penny of that money on replacements, it is easy to see why Blackburn are struggling. Throw in some baffling ownership and a manager who has left his last three clubs on the verge of relegation, the bookies 5/2 relegation odds look to be well justified.

However, small signs of recovery have shown over the past few weeks and the Blue and Whites come to SJP with 8 points from the last 6 games, not as good as the 18 we have taken in the same period but better than any other comparative period this season. If Rovers can get their experienced strikers scoring goals, they may yet comfortably survive this season and give themselves a platform to build on.

However, this week Corry Evans worryingly said:

“There’s obviously a lot of reliance on the strikers to get goals, so we need to chip in from everywhere. It’s not just the midfielders, it’s the defenders as well. We’re particularly strong from set-pieces, so we need to make the most of them. Set-pieces nowadays can win or lose you games.”

Which is exactly what the likes of Rotherham, Barnsley, Preston, Cardiff and Leeds have all tried recently with no effect. Just throw the ball into the box every time you get it and see what happens eh? The Championship may well be the most competitive league in the country but it can also be the most repetitive. Set-pieces can win you games, but if that’s all you’ve got then you are well and truly plucked.

Are We Going To Win?:               

It’s a while ago since we inevitably lost at home to Wolves after duffing QPR in the midweek. Since then all of the talk has been about not being complacent, managing games and winning. It is easy to see Rafa’s formula, control the ball early and you control the game early, then sooner or later the goal will come.

Once you are ahead, if the opposition have a dominant spell in the game, soak up the pressure and add to the goals if you can. Lots of clubs this season have held up that we haven’t beaten them 8-0 as evidence that the opposition have been in the game or deserved something better, or more bizarrely that they matched us in the game, whereas we know that this has rarely been the case.

Blackburn Rovers look like they will come to SJP with the same mentality, whereas the reality is that if the opposition at least tried to keep the ball off us and attacked us, they would stand a better chance of at least enjoying themselves.

As Owen Coyle said this week:

“It is a brilliant game for us to go there and show that we are a decent team and a game we certainly feel, if we’re at our best, we are capable of getting a positive result from. I am sure people will have written us off already, but if they have, then they have certainly not watched our recent performances, because I believe we have enough to trouble the opposition.”

Most of the teams that I have seen this season have had enough to trouble NUFC, we’re not Barcelona, it’s just that most of them don’t try and trouble us for long enough or with enough players.

It is true that being Newcastle United there is always a Dobbin around the corner lining up to ruin it all for us, but Benitez is far too experienced, the players too well drilled now for that to be case very often. This may not be a Turkey Shoot, Blackburn Rovers may not get roasted or battered but they will be in the oven long enough to get well cooked. Howay The Lads.

(***Newcastle United: more of a phoenix than a chicken)