Fan Focus - Blackburn Rovers (H) Pre-Match Views

This weeks edition of Fan Focus saw Roker Report catch up with Mike Delap, editor of the VitalBlackburn website, and blogger in his own right at The Wild Blackburn Rover. We got his thoughts on Blackburn, Steve Kean, and our upcoming match...

Sam Allardyce. I don't think I've seen one Rovers fan who is glad he's gone. What on earth are Venkys up to?

Mike: Well I wouldn't say the upset over his sacking is universal, there is certainly a minority that are pleased the days of "boring anti-football" have gone but on the whole the decision was met with wide spread scepticism.

It seems that the Rao brothers of Venkys have their own master plan of how to push Rovers up the Premier League ladder and make them a more attractive proposition to the up and coming Indian markets they crave. The problem seems to stem from their apparent horrible PR techniques... one day we are gunning for the top 4, the next we are being realistic. One day we are going to be signing David Beckham, the next we are going to be financially prudent.

In short the communication with the fans, who are the bread and butter of the club has been frustrating and devoid of common sense hence the hole they have dug for themselves with a blood soaked shovel (so to speak).

Venkys have told the Ewood faithful to trust them and to see their plans unfold - we don't have a lot of choice in the matter so we shall just have to see how it develops.

Do you think with Venkys apparently taking advice from Kentaro, appointing Kentaro's own Steve Kean as boss, and looking to sign Kentaro owned Kris Boyd & Geovanni, that the eventual plan is for Venkys to sell to Kentaro?

Mike: I can't see that to be perfectly honest as the conflict of interests in that situation would cause alarm with both the Premier League and the media. The involvement of Kentaro (a sports agency) has caused a lot of resentment amongst Rovers stakeholders and until the exact nature of their efforts at Blackburn become clear there will always be rumours and back chat aimed in their direction.

The rumours of Geovanni and Kris Boyd joining Rovers I would probably file under "speculation" as there is no concrete evidence that these are the players that Rovers would want or indeed make the club any better. Signing Kris Boyd in particular would be a ludicrous move as he is a Championship failure of sorts and has the turning circle of a small cruise liner - what would Rovers gain by signing him? We might as well stick with cow's arse banjo boy Jason Roberts who at least has the speed and the strength to annoy Premier League defences.

But in answer to your question, no I can't see Venky's selling to Kentaro. The chicken farmers are in this for their own gain as well as the clubs.

It's Steve Kean's job until the end of the season, are you happy with that? If not, who would you rather stepped in?

Mike: I can't say I am thrilled but the initial impression of him is that he is a likeable man with a good grasp on the coaching side of things if a bit short of the fire that I personally like to see from managers that take the reigns of Blackburn Rovers.

He has the chance to make the job his own and I am up for giving people a chance so the floor is his to strut his stuff and walk the walk. His first two games in charge against West ham and Stoke were pretty horrible if truth be told but the last outing at West Brom may have slowly turned the tide in a more favourable direction - the fans were finally heard singing his name and the players dispelled the rumours that they were disillusioned under Kean with a truly spirited display.

From the long list of potential managers I would have preferred to Kean I would have hung my hat on the cloak peg of someone like Martin Jol or Bob Bradley... both have good all round skills and would make good fists of being the manager of Rovers.

But we are where we are and it is Kean's job to lose.

Venkys wanted sexier football. Has there been any change in style under Kean?

Mike: Most definitely. Kean really wants to embrace the passing side of the game and has encouraged the players to play football with the ball on the deck and in a much more attacking sense than the tactics and the approaches that Sam Allardyce was using.

The recent negative results have believe it or not come about as a result of this change in style. Quite frankly the players have not been use to this more aesthetically pleasing brand of football and the steel and difficulty to beat factor of our performances has gone out of the window as we try to take every game by the scruff of the neck. We are slowly morphing into "Arsenal-lite" but for us to match the nice, tippy tappy play with the results that matter so much the transfer window cannot come soon enough.

The existing players we have are going to struggle when playing against better players and some more accomplished ball players are required to add consistency to the play that will make Rovers the great side that Venky's apparently want.

Chris Samba has been stripped of the captaincy following his support of Sam Allardyce, is there any future for him at Rovers?

Mike: Contrary to what a lot of the papers seem to assume yes there is.

The spat between player and club was well documented but since stripping him of the captaincy the reaction has seemingly been a positive one with Kean indicating that Samba wants to see how the transfer window goes for the boys in blue and white and has given a good sign that he wants to play for Rovers.

The situation is very much in the balance at present, but for those of us that like Chris and see him as an important player the outlook looks better than it did this time last week.

I'm interested to hear more about some of Blackburn's youth players who seem to be making breakthroughs; Phil Jones, Grant Hanley, Josh Morris & David Hoilett. What can you tell us about these guys, and are there any more coming through the ranks?

Mike: Firstly that they are an impressive bunch. We can even add the name of Martin Olsson who is a very talented young man to the list of names that you mention.

The most celebrated of the young lads has to be Phil Jones who has been cruelly robbed of the rest of the season by injury and will be sorely missed, he is now an established member of the first team that can play both centre back and the holding role in central midfield. At only 18 he is a pretty safe bet for the England set up when he returns from his lay off.

Grant Hanley, Josh Morris and David 'Junior' Hoilett are all on the fringes of the first team action... Hoilett is a ultra quick if raw winger/striker, Morris is an energetic left sided player and Hanley is a solid and strong central defender. I would suggest all have bright futures in the game and particularly at Ewood Park.

Keep your eye out Jake Kean (goalkeeper), Jason Banton (forward) and Jackson Ramm (defender) for other young lads in the Academy who can make a breakthrough in the near future.

What do you expect Blackburn's line-up to be on Saturday, and what, if any, changes would you make if you were in charge?

Mike: We are very much down to what Harry Redknapp would call the bare bones of the team at the moment through injury and suspension so the team more or less picks itself I am sad to say from our point of view.

Steve N'Zonzi, Phil Jones, Vince Grella, Keith Andrews, Jason Roberts, Chris Samba, Michel Salgado, Niko Kalinic and Paul Robinson are all out for one reason or another (Samba might return) so expect us to line up as follows -

Bunn, Emerton, Hanley, Nelsen, Givet, Hoilett, Emerton, Dunn, Pedersen, El Hadji Diouf, Mame Biram Diouf.

Obviously please don't leak this team to Steve Bruce as we don't want Sunderland getting an advantage...

Looking at our team, is there anyone you fear (from Sunderland) heading in to our game on Saturday?

Mike: Yeah I really like the look of your Ghanian man Gyan, he was awesome in the World Cup and he has impressed me immensely since his move to England. £13 million (I think?!) is a hell of a price tag to justify but he is doing pretty well and anyone that can getting Bolo Zenden to dance like that is all good in my books.

I also must admit I have a soft spot for Titus Bramble who I always felt was massively underrated.

Where do you think both Blackburn & Sunderland will finish in the league this season?

Mike: Sunderland are well set after spending plenty of the green stuff and I can envisage (using my ultra dodgy crystal ball) an 8th place finish of sorts with maybe a decent FA Cup run for you guys.

Over on planet Ewood it really could be anything, the whole season has turned into a bit of a lottery so it could be anything between 1st and 20th (OK with a bit of hyperbole) but if you pushed me I would say maybe that we would finish 13th.

And finally, your score and match predictions...

Mike: I think it could be a very open game which would not be too different from your recent match with away specialists Blackpool. I will go for a 1-1 draw with Bent scoring for Sunderland and Mame Diouf for Rovers.

Either way have a great game and good luck for the rest of the season.

As well as the links at the start of the article, you can find Mike on Twitter @WildBburnRover

Don't forget too, we'll be catching up with Mike after the match to get his post-match views on our New Years Day match-up, so be sure to check back on Roker Report!

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