Tag Archives: Blackburn Rovers

A Riversider for the day

“It’s okay, my mate will be there so you won’t be the only black lad.”

She says it with a smile. If I’m honest, I was more surprised she has another black friend, but I brush off a questionable joke with a shake of the head and accept the invitation to my first Championship away day – Brentford hosting Blackburn Rovers.

Daisy lives in London but is a die-hard Rovers fan, tattoo of the badge and all. Blackburn are based in Lancashire, and with only five London teams in England’s 2nd tier, there are only so many games she can go and watch in the capital, and this was one of them.

I said no initially for three reasons. Firstly, it’s Blackburn; couldn’t name a player if you put a gun to my head. A team I have no ties to in any way, and I don’t think I’ve ever watched them play on TV before. Secondly, its Blackburn… I’ve never seen or heard about any trouble from them, but still… Thirdly, I don’t succumb to peer pressure. Except this time, I did.

When we arrived, the atmosphere was already quite hostile, and winding up the Brentford fans seemed to be the main item on the agenda for the away contingent.

Stunning volley

Adam Armstrong gave Rovers the lead against the run of play after 10 minutes and added his third in as many games from the penalty spot shortly after the restart to put Rovers in control in west London.

But a stunning 25-yard volley from Ollie Watkins reduced the deficit for the hosts in the 62nd minute, before Said Benrahma tucked away a spot-kick of his own to earn the home team a deserved share of the spoils.

I was pleased to see a good game with lots of goals, and after calling the Blackburn players by their first names all game, I felt obliged to clap them off as if I too was a Riversider.

Scenes

As for Griffin Park itself, no seating arrangement like at the Emirates or the occasional snoozefest once the game loses its intensity. This was constant, and my voice really couldn’t hack it, with more shouting, screaming and swearing than I’d ever done.

The terrace we were on was directly behind Brentford keeper for the second half, and we did not give him a moment’s peace. I also used this opportunity to practise my football chants. “It’s all gone quiet over there” at 2-0 up was started by me.

The home fans weren’t just letting this happen, of course, and were doing their best to quieten us down. After Benrhama had equalised, a local lad ran the length of the pitch from the stands to come to the away end to give us a piece of his mind.

I felt at home, one of the lads. I got laughs out of people with my slightly odd (and if you ask me effective) but imaginative way of trying to get into the Brentford players heads. “He doesn’t want it” “Let them come and get it”.

With the match done, it was time for a drink. I lost my friends in the wave of supporters flooding out but, nonetheless, I found the pub they had headed to and caught up with them there.

Post-match

Man of the match – Ollie Watkins: A constant thorn in Rovers’ side as he scrapped and fought for chances all game. After Brentford sold Neal Maupay to Brighton in the summer, Watkins was entrusted to play up top, coming in from the wing to be a fully-fledged striker.

The frontman bagged goal number 21 of the campaign in sensational style at Griffin Park and rightly changed the course of the game with his venomous second-half strike; probably his sole meaningful contribution but what a contribution…

The managers

Brentford’s Thomas Frank: “I’m annoyed we didn’t win but immensely proud of the boys for their attitude, the way they stayed together, kept going and worked hard to the end.

“In the end, Blackburn looked so tired and that is a huge credit to our team. We have big togetherness even after going behind in the first half when we really should have been in front.”

Blackburn’s Tony Mowbray: “For the majority of the game we managed them pretty well and we know what talented individuals they’ve got and how they can build pressure.

“We got to the point where the crowd were about to turn on them after a few misplaced passes and then a bit of magic from their centre forward changes things.”

Struggling Blackburn stun Fulham with late leveller

Fulham missed the chance to move into the Championship play-off places as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home to struggling Blackburn.

A 94th minute equalizer from substitute Lucas Joao stunned the Cottage and ensured Tony Mowbray’s unbeaten run since taking over Rovers continued.

Fulham have been scoring for fun this season – only Newcastle have notched more goals in the division. But the potency that has been so apparent in recent games seemed to be lacking slightly.

After 40 minutes, the game’s best moment was referee Andy Davies stumbling to the floor as the hosts looked to counter attack, until Neeskens Kebano was hauled down for a free kick. Everyone was down, including Thomas Kalas, who kindly picked up the referee’s red and yellow cards and handed them back to him.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s side were patient and slick, without being particularly penetrative. Ryan Fredericks and Scott Malone both got forward with intent as Fulham started to step up the pressure.

Influence

Rovers looked like they were going to get to break all-square, until Tom Cairney found the one thing the visitors didn’t want him to find: space. He turned, he surged, and he found Stefan Johansen free on the left.

Sone Aluko came closest to putting Fulham ahead earlier in the half, and it was he who was on the end of the Norwegian’s cross to guide home his sixth goal of the season on the stroke of half-time.

At that point, Fulham looked on course for a win that would take them into sixth place, between Reading and Sheffield Wednesday, with the two scheduled to play each other at Hillsborough on Friday.

Only Mowbray knows the reason why Joao did not start, and it must have been a good one. The Portuguese striker was brought on with half an hour to play and looked a class above the rest as he started to influence the game.

Lively

The Cottagers have kept just one clean sheet in their last eight games, and that seemed to give Blackburn some encouragement. Chris Martin dallied on the ball on the halfway line which enabled Rovers to pounce.

Marvin Emnes, who was lively all night, was brought down in the area and Craig Conway fired home the resulting penalty with 10 minutes to go.

Fulham pushed for a winner, and Ryan Sessegnon had a few promising runs down the left side to no avail. The 16-year-old wonderkid has recently been linked with a move to Tottenham, but it was a former Spurs defender who was the white’s best player on the night.

Fredericks looked to get forward at any given opportunity and his endeavor was finally rewarded late on when he played the ball low across the six-yard box for substitute Cyriac to convert low past Jason Steele.

Stunned

Craven Cottage was rocking. The Hammersmith end went into party mode for all of about five minutes as their elation was cut short. The man that had the biggest influence for Blackburn on the night had the final say.

Joao fended off Tim Reem with ease to sweep home a Derrick Williams cross in the 94th minute, leaving the Cottage stunned. It was a third goal in two games now for the 6ft 3in forward as Mowbray’s side jumped out of the drop zone.

Joao was booked for celebrating with a little too much wild abandon. The only plus for Fulham was the draw extended their unbeaten run to eight matches, but this was definitely two points dropped for Jokanovic’s team.

A home win against lowly Wolves on Saturday would still see Fulham rise into the play-off places, but they cannot afford to drop too many more points, especially at home.

Heaven knows I’m miserable now – the DJ besotted with Blackburn

Manchester City have Oasis, Manchester United have the Stone Roses – there are many musicians with special clubs in their heart.

One such talent is a DJ and producer steadily making waves in the Manchester scene – 21-year-old Grizzle has a burgeoning reputation, featuring on a number of websites dedicated to tracking emerging talent in UK music.

On any given weekend he would be booked to play a minimum of two shows, but there is always time, he says, to see his beloved Blackburn Rovers.

“I hate the state the club’s in now, I haven’t been to a game in years, it would hurt too much”

We convene close to Euston, where Grizzle has just arrived from Manchester. He’s down for a regular slot he has on a developing radio station, but is in no great rush and insists we watch the second half of the Arsenal game, a team he “semi-supports, but not really”.

It appears years of supporting the perennial rollercoaster that is Blackburn Rovers have taken a heavy toll, luckily for Grizzle – and the Manchester club scene – such travails have forced the young producer to focus more avidly on his musical endeavours.

“It’s not good for my heart to see the team struggle, so I spend my time focusing on music and study,” he tells me. The depths plumbed by Blackburn have catapulted the grime producer into a creative period, featuring on countless EPs and compilations, a situation Grizzle has labelled “bittersweet”.

Family ties

My interest in his love of Blackburn was piqued by the fact that he grew up in London without ever living in the Lancashire town, and yet speaks so glowingly about his relationship with the club.

He pulls out a book he carries with his turntables, it’s a rudimentary notepad with a Woolworth’s sale sticker conspicuously hacked away on the front. “I used to go to games quite a bit, I would wait around and try to get signatures. The one I love most is the Lucas Neil’s – he was a titan in defence”.

“Look at the teams at the top this year, even a lot of the teams around us, they’re all making progress, we’re stagnating”

The Neil signature remains mysteriously out of bounds, but I am entrusted with a look of the first page; it’s a man named David Yelldell, whom Wikipedia informs me was a goalkeeper, but never played a competitive game for Rovers.

Grizzle’s love of Blackburn, like many supporters of many clubs, stems from family ties. “I didn’t ever really choose who to support, it was never an option. Sometimes I wish it had been,” he laughs, but I can’t help feel the last sentence carried truth and a tinge of remorse.

“I hate the state the club’s in now, I haven’t been to a game in years, it would hurt too much.”

Nadir

Grizzle has a passionate enmity towards the club’s heirarchy. “I knew it would go tits up when they [the Venky’s, Blackburn’s owners] said we’d get Ronaldinho. They’ve made my dad support Arsenal outright, it’s tragic.”

“At least we’ve won the League. Pity I was born two months after we won it…”

Indian poultry magnates the Venkys bought the then top-flight club in 2010, and it has been a dizzying plummet since then.

The last six years have seen relegation, Championship struggles and a revolving door policy in relation to managers – a stark contrast to the owners’ willful assertion  that Champions League football would be seen at Ewood Park within four years. Alas, Rovers, were relegated in two.

“The moment that sticks out is the 2012 relegation, we were s***, we deserved to go down and what’s more, we [the Blackburn fans] all knew we’d be down for a while,” Grizzle tells me.

Jealous

He doesn’t see much cause for optimism, either. “Look at the teams at the top [of the Championship] this year, even a lot of the teams around us, they’re all making progress, we’re stagnating.

“When I saw Bournemouth go up I was so jealous, they had a young manager and most importantly a solid foundation, why’s it so difficult to be like that?”

Time is getting on, and wary of upsetting himself too much before his radio show, Grizzle begins to pack up.

He’s evidently not too happy being a Blackburn fan in this stage of their existence, but he rightly points out “at least we’ve won the League. Pity I was born two months after we won it, typical Blackburn fan of this day and age.”

Sadly, a return to English football’s summit seem eons away, so Blackburn fans will have to continue occupying themselves with other hobbies such as DJing for the time being.

Photo of Bournemouth v Blackburn by Chris Parker via Flickr Creative Commons