For a lot of fans, transfer deadline day was to be a time of excitement, anticipation and celebration. But for Blackburn fans, not only did the day represent the window closing on incoming players, but upon the faith in the owners as well. Indeed, Wednesday was very much regarded as ‘judgement day’ for the majority of Rovers fans, who had not yet drawn conclusions on their views of the Rao family and how seriously they valued the club. At the beginning of the summer, it was evident that the squad needed bolstering; after all, the club had only just avoided relegation on the last day of the season, a situation that many fans did not wish to see repeated following the victory. Therefore, the owners had three main targets to achieve in order to ensure that the fans felt happy going into the new season:
1. Retain the services of key squad members, including the likes of Chris Samba, Phil Jones and David Hoilett on a new contract.
2. Bolster the squad with new signings, most importantly a goal-scoring striker and a creative playmaker.
3. Replace manager Steve Kean with an experienced football tactician, such as Mark Hughes or Martin O’Neill, who have knowledge of the Premier League football requirements
Phil Jones – (2/10)
The early loss of central defensive youngster Jones certainly did not put the owners in the good books of any Rovers supporter, and appeared to be a poor decision from Raos. It was widely expected that the 18 year old local-lad would stay on to gain valuable first team experience alongside Chris Samba, especially after signing a new 4 year contract just months before, and being promised future captaincy for his childhood club. The boy had a remarkable resemblance to a young John Terry, is his ability to play the ball up-field, as well as feel comfortable on the ball and defend in the air and on the ground. However, it appeared that, although Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was prepared to wait another year for his services, the hunt from Liverpool and Arsenal forced the Scotsman’s hand. As Jones made it increasingly clear that he desired to leave, it can be said that Kean didn’t have much of a choice anymore – retention of want-away players in the past have lead to lacklustre performances. The loss of Jones was huge to the fans, with many already calling for the heads of club management. He promised defensive stability, and certainly, with injury prone Nelsen and inexperienced Hanley on the sidelines, was considered a huge player for the club for the future as well as the present. But, the money from the transfer, equating to an overall £18 million, meant that some could be spent on spreading quality through the whole squad rather than in just one position. Despite this, many fans will say they the owners cannot hide behind excuses, and that they should have invested some of their own money as promised upon arrival. The man’s departure also meant that another centre back must be added to the priority list, furthering fan frustration.
Nikola Kalinic – (3/10)
The departure of the Croatian striker was greatly expected by the Rovers fans, after a long season of anger and despair towards manager Kean who lost faith in his goal scoring ability. Described as ‘the future of Croatian football’ by national team manager Slaven Bilic, the loss was a strange one, even more so as his future was certainly more promising than strikers such as Jason Roberts and Benjani who’s best days were behind them. It appeared though, that the striker wanted a one way ticket to Ukraine rather than a chance to fight for the Rovers first team, and was sold for £6 million to Dnipro soon after making his transfer request. This money, was however, regarded as a ‘refund’ by some, for a player who had failed to make an impact. He was given time throughout his stay, but for a striker, who had only netted 7 goals in 44 appearances, appeared to need a little more before making a statement. This ‘time’ was something that Kean didn’t believe Blackburn had, and, with the increasing call of experience from Jason Roberts, meant he was no longer regarded as highly as he used to be. Despite this, the departure of a future talent meant that the money had to be sensibly re-invested in a goal scorer of similar or better quality, with the need of another striker still on the list of priorities.
Frank Fielding – (4/10)
£400,000 seems like a measly price to sell England’s promising under 21 goalkeeper. But Bunn was constantly chosen over him to warm the bench, and so he felt that he had more of a chance to make a name for himself at Derby County in the Championship. As beneficial as it would have been to retain his services, it was clear that his future lied elsewhere. The less imposing and vocal goalkeeper always had a mistake in his locker, but could be one that got away.
Deadwood – (8/10)
After a long hard season, it was clear that some players needed to be shifted in order to make space on the wage bill for better quality talent. Some players had been at the club for almost 8 years and were considered ‘deadwood’ by the fans - their services were no longer required. Initial departures included the likes of Benjani, the ‘worse Jason Roberts with hair’ to Portsmouth on a free, despite a new contract offer. Georgian international Zurab Khizanishvili was also released by the club after playing with Championship side Reading on a season long loan. The defender had been among some supporters a fan favourite simply for the comedy value of his rather long name, and will be sorely missed. Dutch striker Maceo Rigters had been with us for 4 years, and only received 2 substitute appearances during his time, scoring no goals for us or either Norwich and Barnsley on loan. It was quite surprising he turned out to be such a flop; he played well for the Dutch under 21 national side, scoring 6 goals in 9 games, including a memorable overhead kick against England and claiming the Euro tournament’s golden boot prize. He did however, finally score for Willem II on a third loan back to his home country, seemingly enough to earn him a move on a permanent deal to Gold Coast United on a free. Take note Pedersen. Welsh goalkeeper Jason Brown finally gained a free move to Aberdeen, after years of back up service to Brad Friedel and Paul Robinson. With Mark Bunn and Jake Kean now waiting in the wings, the man had done his duty for the club and is wished all the best. This lies in much contrast to deadwood piece number 5, El Hadji Diouf, who, although offered experience and general quality to the team, was looked down upon by his own teammates and fans, as he had never been a player who could control his own personality or a player that could be controlled by another personality. Therefore, it was agreed on deadline day to terminate his contract, after missing the start to pre-season training and being in the centre of trouble since his move from Sunderland in 2009. The final piece of deadwood, although not regarded so by many of the fans, was Australian midfielder Brett Emerton, who had enjoyed a lengthy spell with the club since joining from Feyenoord in 2003. Despite being a valuable asset to the Rovers team that helped push for survival last season, he was regarded as surplus to requirements by Kean, and with his desire to ‘give something back’ to his homeland for Sydney FC, his contract was terminated by mutual consent. The majority of business in this area has pleased many, however the retention of the Ozzie would have been beneficial as to cover the defensive midfield or right full back positions if needed.
Scott Dann - (10/10)
Scott Dann is undoubtedly the best addition to the squad in the summer transfer window, and with proven Premier League experience will form a brick wall in defence with Chris Samba that will be, in my opinion, one of the best central defences outside the top 6. Dann signs from Birmingham for an initial £6 million fee, rising to £8 million if he is successful in the long term. He also comes at a bargain price; earlier interest from Liverpool and Arsenal saw bids of up to £12 million rejected, and to get him at such a cheap price is a steal. Although the motivation to play for Rovers after such speculation may be faltered, he will certainly feel at home and will go far to fill the huge void left by Jones’ departure.
Simon Vukcevic – (8/10)
The Montenegrin midfielder could take the league by storm, as he is one of the many players in the Montenegro national team that is growing stronger and stronger. The country is close to qualifying for the 2012 Euros and Simon will help develop those around him in the Rovers team using his international experience. It’s a very shrewd and clever buy for £2 million, and Steve Kean must be credited for seeking him out and keeping it concealed from the media until the transfer’s latter stages. See previous article, ‘Simon Says’.
David Goodwillie – (7/10)
Just because a player impresses in the SPL, doesn’t mean he will impress in the world’s biggest league. However, the capture of the Scotsman for £2 million seems a bargain for his excellent finishing ability. Space is something hard to come by in the Premier League, and, although not the physically toughest of customers, certainly has the speed to find room and prove his worth. He is only 22, scoring 29 goals for Dundee United, and has great potential.
Aiyegbeni Yakubu – (6/10)
The Nigerian striker has absolutely proven his worth in the Premier League with Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, and Everton - it’s just a question of when his quality subsides. He has a similar physical strength and pace to match Roberts’, but also possesses the finishing ability that Roberts does not possess. For £1 million it’s a snap, and it’s not so much the quality that excites fans but the fact that he, Roberts, Goodwillie and Rochina will all be fighting on level terms for a starting place. Although some consider it a very underwhelming signing, if the chant ‘feed the yak and he will score’ still holds true, then the midfield line up of Vukcevic, Formica and Hoilett seems very promising for the team indeed.
Radoslav Petrovic – (6/10)
The swoop for the Serbian midfielder for £3 million in mid-summer seemed a decent buy, but yet another at the lower end of the financial scale. As a driving box-to-box midfield playmaker and a supposed long-shot specialist, he will be a hit or miss – initial impressions suggest that he is just settling in, and will need time before showing his quality as at the moment he seems quite a clumsy fellow. But alongside the likes of N’Zonzi, Samba, and Dann to back him up, he shouldn’t find it too difficult to find his feet, despite his height of 6’4 inches.
Jordan Slew – (4/10)
When signing a new 2 year contract in pre-season, Slew made a statement saying that Sheffield ‘is my hometown and where I want to continue my development. The aim now is to play as many games and score as many goals as possible’. The 18 year old youngster is now subject to anger from the Sheffield United fans after his lack of loyalty, and, although it is too early to call on his potential, shows that the ‘Jones’ situation can work at both ends of the scale. He is, however, set to partner striker Zac Aley in the Rovers reserves team upfront.
More Deadwood – (1/10)
Rovers have replenished deadwood with deadwood in their squad, much to the despair of the supporters. They appear to be very silly, not to mention controversial, signings. The full back positions indeed needed covering; the defensive side to Olsson’s game has let him down in the past meaning Givet is the only real option, and Salgado is too old and therefore slow, to play for more than 70 minutes. Unfortunately, the replacements in Myles Anderson and Bruno Ribeiro smell very fishy – especially as they are both related with men behind the scenes at Ewood Park. They have no real proven quality, and so funds could have been spent better for different players to fill the same voids.
Overall, transfer window success can be regarded as nothing less than acceptable. In some cases, Rovers have stuck their finger out, and in others, haven’t bothered. Let’s go back and review how successfully the initial aims have been achieved.
1. (7/10) All key squad members, except Phil Jones, have been retained. Despite strong interest from Arsenal and Tottenham over club captain Samba, no deal ever materialised, and so the Rovers defence continues to be strong and hard to break. This is arguably the most important aspect of the window – in holding onto Samba we can guarantee defensive stability. More speculation also surrounded David Hoilett, as the Canadian was putting off a new contract; however, he is now set to sign in the next 24 hours. Martin Olsson and Steven N’Zonzi were other names put into the mix, but no real interest sparked from Arsenal either. Blackburn fans can sleep well in the knowing that club quality has (mostly) been retained.
2. (5/10) At the beginning of the window, quality was called for in the centre forward and creative midfield positions. However, the departures of ever-reliable Brett Emerton, Phil Jones and Nikola Kalinic meant that a new central defensive midfielder, defender and striker were all needed, piled on top of the demands already in place. Goodwillie and Yakubu have replaced Kalinic and Benjani, whilst Petrovic comes in for Emerton and Dann comes in for Jones. All of these signings haven’t bolstered the squad as such, but nothing beyond adequately replaced the quality that has left the club with some younger signings with more potential. Therefore, Simon Vukcevic is the only real addition to the squad that supporters can regard as exciting, who can hold us in better stead than we were in last season. He will also force Pedersen, someone who has been very poor in recent years, to actually work for his place in the team, rather than just expect an inclusion. It can also be said that although Formica and Rochina were signed in January, the two attackers will furthermore provide excitement for the fans as they rarely featured last season and are expected to make the step up this time around.
3. (1/10) The decision to keep the faith in manager Steve Kean by Venkys has not sent out a positive message to the supporters. With just 2 wins in the last 17 games, the Rao family must realise that he is the wrong man for the job. The only positive that the fans can take from this decision is the fact that part of Scott Dann’s reason for joining the club was to link up with his former Coventry coach. However, there is overall disappointment that Kean has not been replaced, as his tactics are shocking and his formation selection even more so.
After drawing up my conclusions, I believe that Venkys do have the club’s best interests at heart, and are trying to sign quality as well as continue the financial stability of the club. This may be considered a generous interpretation as more money has been recouped rather than reinvested. However, it is obvious they have a clear lack of football knowledge and can’t rely on Kentaro to give them advice. We as fans must show that we’re behind them in this, and drive out the external influences behind the scenes together, so that we can succeed as a football club. It’s all about what happens on the pitch now though, with hopes that the new team members can gel in time to make an impact in the league and steer themselves away from danger. The player quality is now almost certainly here, so we can only be relegated if Kean pursues with his poor formation setup and tactics if not replaced, and a hefty barrel of bad luck. This, in theory, should be our new 25 man squad to be released this Friday (4-2-3-1):