Reality check for Blackburn ahead of Saturday’s trip to Newcastle
Can’t say I have much sympathy for Blackburn Rovers.
In their last home match of the 1994/95 season, Blackburn beat Newcastle with an Alan Shearer goal. Outside Ewood Park afterwards, Newcastle fans were full of support for the opposing fans despite the defeat, wishing them well in their battle for the Premier League title against Manchester United.
Blackburn went on to lose their final game against Liverpool but the points from the win over Newcastle saw them crowned as Champions, one point ahead of Man Utd.
Step forward a year and it was Newcastle this time up against Manchester United for the Premier League title, NUFC though going down 2-1 at Ewood Park. Outside the ground afterwards there was a distinct lack of class and some short memories, as Blackburn fans taunted Newcastle supporters about the defeat.
Anyway, it is Newcastle v Blackburn once again in the same division but happily there are 20 places in the table separating the pair.
I’m full of admiration for the job Rafa Benitez has done but when you look at what the likes of Blackburn are up against when competing with Newcastle, it should really be a sure three points on Saturday.
As opposition fans like to remind us, Newcastle did spend a lot of money (over £50m) in the summer but it is really the state of Blackburn these days that I want to talk about.
Last season, Rovers managed an almost respectable 15th place in the Championship, conceded 46 goals in 46 games, only one team outside the top six leaked fewer goals.
The summer saw Blackburn in dire straits and to balance the books and avoid falling foul of the strict Championship FFP rules, they were forced to sell their two biggest assets.
Grant Hanley moving to Newcastle for over £5m and central defensive partner Shane Duffy to Brighton for just under £5m. However, none of that money was available for replacements and Blackburn were forced to bring in more than a full team’s worth of free transfers and loans, then free agent Wes Brown on top of that in September.
Last weekend produced a surprise win over Brentford and half of the 18 man matchday squad was made up of the free transfers, loans and free agent.
Only three clubs have conceded more goals than Blackburn this season and they are third bottom, meanwhile the two clubs that their pair of star players joined, Brighton and Newcastle, have got the best defensive records in the Championship (Brighton conceding 10, Newcastle 13 – the same as Derby).
Shane Duffy has been a star player for Brighton whilst just to run the salt into the wounds for Blackburn Rovers and their fans, former Captain Grant Hanley has only started one Championship match for Newcastle and that was opening fixture against Fulham when Mbemba was coming back from injury and pre-Ciaran Clark being available.
Former Blackburn star man Hanley has only played a further 58 minutes of Championship football as a sub for NUFC, often struggling to even get on the Newcastle bench – he was left out of the matchday 18 at Leeds on Sunday.
No match is a forgone conclusion but if Newcastle don’t win this one…I’d be surprised.
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