April 24 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Listening to local radio on the way to Ewood Park, Steve Kean was declaring: “This is like a cup tie for us.”
So, if this was a cup tie you didn’t want to give the media their story.
Like the visit to Paulton three seasons ago you wanted to make this a bit of a non-event.
And that’s pretty much what the Canaries did against a side, let’s not forget, with just three goals and no points to show from their previous five fixtures.
The watching press corps must have been expecting to write about how the new kids on the block brought the end of Rovers’ 11-year Premier League stay a step closer.
Instead, the established hosts reminded their upstart visitors just how crucial it is to score the first goal at this level.
Blackburn had to score first to halt their slump, whereas had City gone ahead the local mood of anger and protest would have been stepped up several levels.
And for half an hour it looked like the match was going to play out in the latter manner.
The first “Kean out” chants started after seven minutes, Blackburn continually gave away possession and City just wouldn’t let them get the ball out of their half.
But already the warning sides were clear for all to see. The Canaries displayed plenty of nice touches, but – as at Stoke and Fulham before, just didn’t look as if they had goals in them.
Granted a perhaps far-from-first-choice-in-2012/13 defence held out longer than at Craven Cottage, but they gave away an avoidable first goal and allowed Rovers to run on and attack them again for the second.
And at 2-0 it was game over and one of our most ineffective away performances of the season.
At White Hart Lane two weeks ago City seemed to almost be inspired by the slogan plastered around the ground: To dare is to do.
They kept up the same high tempo throughout, set the agenda and – most importantly of all – didn’t concede any stupid goals and be forced into playing catch-up.
As opposed to the visits to Stoke and Fulham – both of whom faced City on the back of poor runs – and now Blackburn.
Individual away off-days happen, but unless these games really are being used as a preparation for next season City are making too much of a habit of them.
Now that doesn’t really matter this season if you’re not fussed with positions an Premier League prize money – and this season was ultimately all about Operation Survival, which was completed by Easter – but you can’t afford to let it happen when 2012/13 gets under way.
We’ve been spoiled over much of the last three seasons, so eight points from 10 games is the kind of ‘slump’ that we haven’t seen since around the start of 2009.
We may not go to Blackburn again next season, but if we do we have to show an awful lot more top-flight professionalism.
• EVEN PAUL IS MOVED TO HINT OF CRITICISM
Paul Lambert’s post-match views are usually pretty formulaic, but I hope I detected a level of criticism in these views on Saturday: “You have to lift yourself and go again. There’s no doubt people feel tired, but you can’t afford to stop doing all the work that has got you where you are.”
Now our end-of-season slide is nowhere near being in the same league as Hull’s in 2009 – three draws and eight defeats in their final 11 games – but 2011/12 is now in danger of being divided into pre- and post-Swansea.
There have been some battling home displays of late, but they will count for very little if you surrender on your travels – a harsh lesson we learned seven years ago.
The almost effortless way in which we eased to survival will be diminished if we let this season slip away in the final three weeks of the season.
Liverpool have lost four out of their last five away fixtures and have bigger things on their mind.
I’m not expecting anything from Arsenal other than a day out.
And when it comes to Aston Villa, we last won a final-day fixture in 2004 against Crewe. We can certainly do without another of the ’phoned-in’ performances we saw against Carlisle and Coventry.
We need at least one victory to sign off in style.
• MATCH MAGAZINE IGNORES PROTESTS
The most bizarre thing about Saturday? The total lack of official comment from the top at Ewood Park in the match programme.
If any other club ever found themselves in such a perilous position – on and of the field – somebody from the board would no doubt be wheeled out to declare: “We understand your pain, we’re all in this together.”
There was none of that from Blackburn. Eighteen short paragraphs from Steve Kean and that was it in 76 pages which did their best to skirt around Rovers‘ calamitous prospects.
• BIG CLUB STATUS MEANS THERE’S NO HIDING PLACE
It’s easy to go to Blackburn, hear chants of “we’re 2-0 up and we want Kean out”, and think that nothing like that could happen anywhere else.
Anyone who knows anything about football is well aware that any club is lining itself up for trouble in the event of the appointment of a wrong and/or unpopular manager and frittering away its Premier League income-stream on a set of under-performing players.
After all, you’ve only got to look back to events in these parts around 1995/95 and 2006 to demonstrate that unrest can occur in what others might consider the most unexpected or unlikely of places. Which is why events of the past week around here have done the club no favours whatsoever.
Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, but having seldom put a PR foot wrong since August 2009, they scored an embarrassing own goal of the proportions not seen since the days of Robert Chase.
For many years I’ve put my money into the football club believing it to be a pillar of the local community, but the actions of this past week are more what I’d expect from a totalitarian Latin American regime.
They certainly amounted to a significant withdrawal from the club’s until-recently overflowing goodwill account.
Perhaps this is how we are expected to act “if we are a big football club”, I don’t know.
But your actions – good and bad – are likely to receive a lot more publicity.
If you wanted to tell the world that you had, say, sold a lot of season tickets, such is the brand power of the English Premier League that details will turn up on the website of the Bangalore Express within a matter of hours.
But if you make a PR misjudgement then it’s no longer a case of being ‘little old Norwich’ and getting away without external comment on shareholders being insulted for not having a “tenure as manager of England”
Or having to hand out a rebate to getting on for two thirds of your season-ticket holders after relegation.
The likes of the Huffington Post aren’t interested in former Premier League members fallen on hard times.
But when you’re part of an elite you should expect greater scrutiny. With higher status should come greater responsibility as befitting “a big football club“.