A Chat With Vital Blackburn
With Arsenal's match against Blackburn Rovers tomorrow lunchtime in view, I sat Rovers Mastermind Mikey Delap in the hotseat. Specialist subject? Blackburn of course!
1) Allardyce has been with you for 9 months now. What is the general consensus with Rovers fans? Are you happy with him?
On the whole very much so. We were in a very tricky spot when he arrived due to the debacle that was Paul Ince and he did what he does best. Got back to basics, man managed his way to guarantee our survival and made Ewood a fortress again. There are the usual draw backs with his management style, i.e. tough tactics and the inevitable 4-5-1 as he likes to play the percentages as opposed to going for the jugular. But in hindsight it is for the best. Rovers have become hard to beat again under his stewardship and he has got players fit again that weren't last season.
So the general consensus is yes, we are happy again.
2) How do Blackburn fans feel about Mark Hughes? Thankful for what he did or scornful because he left?
Thankful. I think the only thing would have stung was that he was banging on about players honouring their contracts and then him busting one the minute an offer came in from a club with money.
But apart from that minor grumble the Hughes years were excellent years at Ewood Park. Two FA Cup semis, two trips into Europe and solid league positions were over achieving for a club with as small a budget as Rovers operate on. Hughes also bought players such as Croque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy (no not a typo!) and Benni McCarthy that were big name players - they wanted to play for Hughes and came to the club to play for Hughes.
3) From an outsider's point of view, Blackburn seems to be a club that has hit a glass ceiling. Allardyce's style together with the quality of your squad I think means you will not be in contention for the drop, yet with the resources available to clubs like Sunderland, Villa, Spurs and of course, Manchester City means you won't truly challenge for Europe either. When Hughes built a team capable of threatening the top 8, the likes of Bellamy and Neill had to be sold. Would you feel that's an accurate assessment?
I wouldn't say a glass ceiling. In my eyes Rovers are a club in transition that are having to re-shape due to budget means and several players wanting to leave after a few years at the club (Croque, Stephen Warnock, Brad Friedel, David Bentley). Rovers can rise again, they have always operated well with limited means and with a squad change that is starting to shape then a push for Europe, perhaps next season is not out of the question.
As far as Allardyce's style goes, a large portion of that is the ignorant media cliches and the lazy journalism that gets bandied about and accepted as gospel by casual fans. He may not attract the most eye catching, more Arsenal style of football but there is a difference between Allardyce Bolton and Allardyce Blackburn. Players such as David Dunn, Diouf, Benni McCarthy, Vince Grella and Brett Emerton are a lot better on the ball and more considered in their approach than given credit for - but you often find the general consensus is normally ignorant and detrimental towards the less fashionable club.
I would agree though that for this season we more than likely will be somewhere in the middle of the two splits groups you mention.
4) What the hell has happened to Morten Gamst Pedersen? Three years ago he was tipped to be Giggs' replacement at Old Trafford, he along with Benni McCarthy seem to have dipped.
He has been under performing for a while but nobody seemed to notice! He is a flash player so has retained his allure to neutral fans even though he has been poor for a while. The last two seasons he has had NO competition for his place and nobody to kick him up the rear so complacency may have set in? Or maybe he stopped caring? Who knows but you are right in your assesment in him. At the moment he is a functional player who works hard, which is fine but not the Morten that we remember. Sam has transformed Pedersen into a player that fans now consider about 80% of the old Morten in terms of the results he produces, but in his defence this season he has been getting steadily better to be fair to him though.
His free kicks and throw ins are returning to a potent level but his goal supply has dried up. We could do with him to chip in to be fair!
Benni is a funny one, its a shame he is pretty lazy and carrying extra timber as he is a cracking, talented player when applying himself properly.
5) It's fair to say that in El Hadji Diouf, you have one of the Premiership's least popular players (you can see why he and Adebayor are such good friends!). What actually happened at Goodison a few weeks back?
Well its going to sound like I am sitting on the fence but I am not too sure. The anti-Diouf camp will say he is a racist moron who doesn't deserve to be alive and the Rovers contingent will explain that he was provoked by the crowd and the ball boy in question.
I am pretty sure that the banana story he trotted out is just that - a story. But if I was to guess what happened in full I would say the following -
- Diouf goes over to take throw in.
- Ball boy messes around with him and chucks ball away.
- Diouf snaps and says something he shouldn't of.
- Crowd insight Diouf and hurl abuse.
- Media jumps on the usual bandwagon.
My best guess is that.
6) Do Rovers have anyone coming through the Youth and Reserve sides that we should look out for?
Very much so. Central defenders Gavin Gunning (on loan at Oldham at present) and Phil Jones (who impressed in the Carling Cup v Forest the other day) are both excellent prospects and Aaron Doran on the right wing has looked good, he even gave Ashley Cole a good test at the back end of last season.
But the one that really stands out is the super quick David 'Junior' Hoilett. We fought for ages to secure a work permit for him and finally got one after years of loaning him out to mainland Europe. He has pace, good touch and puts himself about. He can play on the wing or off a main striker and has the eye for a bit of flash on him. He has regularly been on the bench this season and made a few cameo appearances. He also bagged his first goal against Gillingham in the cup as well.
7) If you could take one Arsenal player from our squad for Rovers, who would it be?
Robin Van Persie. Then and only then it seems will he stopped flaming scoring against us every god damn time!
In seriousness though he has a hell of a pair of feet on him. Can create havoc out of nothing and will always be on the fringes of the action.
Great player. Second choice would be Andrei Arshavin but we don't have the money for both ;)
8) There have been a fair number of new faces this summer and with Tugay leaving, it seems Rovers have changed their system and gone with Allardyce's favoured 4-5-1 with Dunn off the strikers. How has this bedded in so far? And who is stepping into Tugay's breach?
Pretty well. The results we have had do not tell the full story. The only game we haven't been the better side in so far was Everton away. Apart from that we have been short changed so far results wise.
As far as the system goes it is not to everyones taste but it is about efficent and it works more than it doesn't. I think 4-4-2 would be preferable but until Nikola Kalinic is up to speed fitness wise and Benni cuts out the Burger King trips playing Dunny off of Roberts/Di Santo is the better option.
As far as Tugay is concerned no-one has stepped into his breach, nobody was going to as he is one of a kind. He has the passing and vision of any of the Arsenal midfielders, you may laugh but its' true.
We have kind of changed shape to alter this deficit in skill. Keep an eye out for Steven N'Zonzi who is a great prospect in midfield though and its a shame Vince Grella isnt about though as he adds much need steel to the defensive half of midfield.
9) Where you do you envisage finishing this season?
At a stab in the dark I will say 10th based on current form. Away from home we look a bit weak and one dimensional but at home I get the feeling we can be a match for anyone - so mid table seems right.
Either way have a great season and enjoy your football. Best of luck.
Thanks very much to Mikey there for taking the time to answer those questions. You can see my response to Mikey's questions over at . Vital BlackburnLD.