Blackburn Rovers – A Tumultuous Tale

Blackburn Rovers, the Lancashire club that has had to trade the acclimatisation of success for the lesser expectations of lower league football over the last decade, has found themselves in freefall and at risk of a second relegation to League One in the club’s history. The legendary late Jack Walker is still living and breathing from the raptures of Ewood Park but his beloved club is slowly being tarnished from within by the negatively received Venkys as the financial struggles continue to build off the pitch with the fans’ fury at their expense. 


However, the Venky’s aren’t the only people hailing critics from the fans. CEO Steve Waggott has received his fair share of judgment after failing to complete three transfers that seemed, from the outside, a done deal. This isn’t a newfound critique though with the tumultuous times at Blackburn a common theme since the V H Group gained a 99.9% stake in the club in 2010. 


No Points = No Job


Despite the anguish behind closed doors, the results on the pitch are only adding to the negative aura surrounding the club at present, amassing just 8 points from the 39 available in their last 13 games seeing them plummet from challenging for the playoffs to now a spot in the table at 16th, only four points above the relegation zone. Ultimately, following the result at home to QPR, this resulted in the mutually consented leave of the head coach, Jon Dahl Tomasson after one and a half years in charge. 


An Assistant Headteacher, a 7-0 Hammering and the Son of Santiago – How Blackburn Are Fighting to Reach the Big Time


The new man in town was to be John Eustace following what was deemed as unfair dismissal from his previous club, Birmingham City. An appointment was made in order to ‘steady the ship’ and bring back the passion from both the fans and the players in an attempt at retaining their Championship status, despite wanting to aim for more. Upon appointment, Eustace spoke about those qualities that may have been lacking in recent months as he attempts to turn around a club with Premier League aspirations. 



Blackburn now face a tough end to the season with all of the current top four still left to play and after finishing so close to the playoff spots at the end of the 2022/23 campaign, Rovers fans will be hoping there is no final day heartbreak this time round at the other end of the table. 


Problems to Address


Defensive Negligence


The key problem in Blackburn’s lacklustre form are their defensive troubles. Only one team has conceded more goals in the Championship, and that is bottom-placed Rotherham. The saving grace is that Blackburn are good going forward and manage to score in most of their matches however almost always give themselves a mountain to climb with their defensive insecurities. 


One way this has looked to be solved is through the January reinforcement of veteran defender, Kyle McFadzean. The 37-year-old centre-back has played over 400 games in the EFL and is the vital experience Rovers cried out for. Since his debut for the Blues, Blackburn have conceded 5 goals in their last 5 games, a vast improvement on the 12 goals conceded in the 5 games prior. 


With the signing of McFadzean, Rovers have opted to switch from a 4-2-3-1 into a more structured defensive tactic, typically setting up in a 3-4-2-1 with the former Coventry centre half at the heart of the back three. This has been implemented to prevent being caught with their full-backs high up the pitch. They now have the licence to attack with the right-sided wing-back, Callum Brittain especially astute in this setup. 



Since this implementation, Rovers have looked much more structured in their defensive responsibilities whilst also still creating chances from the wide areas with Brittain being a high-volume crosser. This allowed Blackburn to keep their first clean sheet since November in their 0-0 draw with Cardiff. 


Another big addition to this defensive unit was the return of goalkeeper, Aynsley Pears, from injury with their summer recruit, Leopold Wahlstedt falling victim to critics after a flurry of goalkeeping errors over the Christmas period. The new air of confidence and EFL experience has proved to be a vital cog in the slowly improving Blackburn Rovers. 


Over-reliance on Szmodics


Sammie Szmodics has taken the Championship by storm so far this campaign, with the Rovers number 8 the league’s top goalscorer (18). However, the over-reliance on him has caused Blackburn problems going forward. The next highest scorer behind the Irish national is Arnor Sigurdsson (5). As key as it is to have a player of the ilk of Szmodics, the lack of goalscorers amongst the Blackburn ranks may raise a cause for concern. 


Sammie Szmodics – The Ewood Entertainer


Having such an over-reliance on a player in the forward areas can better equip defences to focus on them, almost removing his key assets from the game. Rovers need to find more match winners amongst their squad; players that can take big chances when called upon with Blackburn missing the third most big chances in the division (50). 


Market Madness


Blackburn thought they had addressed the striker issue in January when they targeted American forward, Duncan McGuire, in a deal from Orlando City. The transfer was ‘completed’ on Deadline Day and announced just before the deadline. However, amongst the disastrous times surrounding Blackburn at present, another one appeared. The signing was later to be said as incomplete; the documents were reported to have been handed in after the deadline thus meaning the transfer couldn’t be completed. 


After a few days of back-and-forths with the EFL, the transfer was said to be null and void with Blackburn comedically ‘saving the documents instead of sending them’. This only frustrated fans further as results had already caused fury. The club are reported to be interested in a pre-contract deal in the summer but for this to happen for the third time in only two windows, fans started to ask questions? 


Plymouth Argyle: The Green Army On the Rise


Waggott was the main target of critics as his capability of completing simple, yet vital transfers seemed non-existent. Ethan Brierley, Lewis O’Brien and Duncan McGuire. No surprise to see why Rovers fans aren’t Steve Waggott’s biggest fans… 

Where to go next?


After the conclusion of the 22/23 campaign, Blackburn fans expected to push on once again after missing out on the playoffs on goal difference however they have regressed and will look to staple themselves in the Championship ahead of the 24/25 campaign. A club and fanbase with high expectations and rightly so. Improvement seems to be arriving with John Eustace at the helm but it’s a slow process and Rovers fans will have to be patient. 


The Decline of Huddersfield Town


The sale of academy graduate, Adam Wharton, in the January transfer window to PL club Crystal Palace for £22m will inject the club with much-desired financial aid and the summer transfer window will be an crucial test for Blackburn if they want to aim for the PL next season. 


A sleeping giant in every sense and once it’s awoken I fear we could have a very ambitious football club with aspirations of the top. History does tend to repeat itself after all and everybody knows Blackburn’s history… 


By: Ben Sheldrick / @benshlrz

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Dave Howarth – CameraSport