Preview - Blackburn Rovers (h)

The Riversiders (no, me neither) tentatively pick their way around 4000 holes and make their way to FCR on Saturday. Rich quizzes friend of the LYBP, Mikey Delap, about what might happen in this upcoming game of association football, and ting.

Rich: I’m going to get this out of the way upfront. I’ve never forgiven you for Chris Sutton. There, I’ve said it. It’s out in the open and hopefully we can move on and put that behind us. So, to kick us off, a quiz question for you. What do Blackburn Rovers, Everton & Arsenal have in common?

Mikey: Crikey ambiguous questions ahoy. Have we all beaten Norwich 7-1? No was that just us? Tell me it was so?

Other than that it could be a few hundred things… shall we say they’re all teams that have made my blood boil at various points in my life?

Rich: Ouch, the 7-1. *shudders* You're correct in that it could be many things, but the thing I'm thinking of is that you each have a namesake in another country. There’s an Everton in Chile, an Arsenal in Argentina and a Blackburn Rovers in South Africa. So, as the song should go. “Two Blackburn Rovers, there’s only two Blackburn Rovers”.

We last spoke to you prior to the opening day fixture between us. The sun was out, our tans hadn’t yet faded and we were all full of optimism. For differing reasons we’ve both had that knocked out of us, but I sense you’re in the midst of a bit of a revival.

Owen Coyle has departed and been replaced by Tony Mowbray who has got you moving up the table. You beat your pals from Wigan on Saturday with a great goal from Marvin Emnes, (look it up people, sublime first touch). That got you out of the relegation zone and you drew with Cardiff midweek to make it 8 points from 16 since Mowbray came in. 4 games unbeaten. What’s he changed to have such an effect?

Mikey: Amazingly nothing you’d notice immediately! But from his first four games there’s definitely an air of assurance, resilience and confidence that wasn’t there before - under Coyle it was like watching a group of death row inmates standing around awkwardly waiting for execution.

There’s an argument there that the players appear to be a bit fitter but hard to tell initially I’d wager. 

As a result the crowd has started to turn (the right way) with that feeling of unity and not throwing a strop when we go one goal down starting to rear it’s head - hopefully not fleetingly!

Rich: We're the anti-Blackburn at the moment, with our crowd turning in the opposite direction. Judging by the reaction on social media, Saturday could see the first real protest to get our manager removed, always great for the team when that happens. Incidentally, if Saturday’s game was taking place in the early 1900s you’d have to use your away kit as our original kit was blue and white halves. You’d also give us a right tonking as we were still fannying about in the Southern League, while you were a giant of the game. But I digress.

Coyle came to you having previously managed local rivals Burnley, Bolton & Wigan. What’s it like to have so many teams so close by? (we are situated in a vast expanse of wilderness). And can you rank your local rivals in order of level of enmity, who are your number one baddies?

Mikey: Yeah it’s pretty awesome when the stars align and most of them are in the same division - there’s absolutely no denying that. The region has a real old school flavour to it when these local derbies kick in.

Burnley are the number one rival in the area though. You’d have to be mental to try and argue otherwise.

Other than that the Preston rivalry is a good one. That’s probably at a stretch number two. But Bolton, Wigan and Blackpool are all a good crack too. I love it when games like that roll around.

Rich: And you have Preston Nob End (as my Carlisle supporting mate calls them) coming up next week, so good luck with that one. He also says that Carlisle’s number one rival is Burnley too, which is weird, but then he’s from Carlisle.

I see you’re collecting ex-Norwich Elliotts. You have two at the moment Bennett & Ward, you only need Shaun Elliott to complete the set, though he’s long since retired. They were both part of some good times with us and were well thought of, particularly Elliott Bennett. How are they doing in a Blackburn shirt?

Mikey: One (and in fact probably the only) strategy we’ve had, has been to collect Norwich Elliotts - so expect an overpriced bid for Shaun in the summer.

As for their fortunes - Ward has been injured more or less all season, prior to that he was OK, If I’m being generous, and why not? A little sloth-like and error-prone, but I’ve seen worse. Much worse as it happens (Darren Peacock/Shane Duffy pre-Brighton move - I’m staring at you).

Bennett I quite like. He’s not the next George Best by any stretch, but he’s a handy little lad who doesn’t put much of a foot wrong. I quite like his attitude as well - which doesn’t equate to many extra points, granted, but I’m a sucker for that.

Rich: He’s a lovely lad is Elliott, he’s also unlike many footballers in that he’s not a massive bellend and I loved his ready smile and cheeky little freckled face. I was genuinely sad to see him go. I mentioned Marvin Emnes’ goal against Wigan above and it was an exquisite piece of skill, but apart from him, who else should we have an eye on for Saturday?

Mikey: Charlie Mulgrew is generally a good bet for a bit of quality - he was signed to reasonable levels of derision but he’s been arguably our best player this season.

Also keep an eye on Connor Mahoney, likely off the bench he’ll come but he’s a good un. Smashing player.

Rich: Mahoney's a local lad isn't he? He set up your late equaliser against Cardiff on Tuesday night. Always good to have at least one in the team. We have the Murphy twins, fans can identify with them more I guess, their success is ours. Plus it’s good that clubs are bringing players through.

Now, sorry to bring it down, but I think all right-minded football fans are disgusted at what has happened to you under the ownership of Venky’s. Is there any end in sight? Can you give us a update please?

Mikey: The current state of play isn’t the brightest looking forecast - as you can well imagine.

Venky’s seem to be intent to balance the books as much as possible this season, we’re a cool £100m in the red but that’s more or less exclusively owed to Venky’s in “interest-free loans”.
What this equates to is selling anything that isn’t strapped down and that we can get some cash for while replacing their spot in the squad with a free or a loan (our league position explained in a nutshell).

Meanwhile they keep everything in house, don’t communicate in any meaningful way with their customers and just seem to plod along without a discernible plan. With their business interests I can’t imagine we’re featuring high up on their list of priorities… more than likely we crop up in the last 5 minutes of a 2 hours Venky’s Monday morning meeting.

As for an end? Your guess really is about as good as mine. They could give it all up tomorrow or they could be here till the end of time. One thing you can be sure of with Venky’s is that it’ll be on their terms if/when they go.

The scary aspect of this is that until they want to go/find a willing buyer then we kind of need them. Somebody hug me…

Rich: Come here man *hug*. That's awful, they've been a joke from the outset. I think it's disgraceful that people can come in and do that to a club but there we are. Hope it works out in the end. You may have competition from Birmingham, Wolves & Villa for your most disastrous owners title in time.

So let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Prediction time.

You have a latin motto, which is pretty posh of you. It’s ‘Arte Et Labore’ (That’s Skill & Labour, for you non-latin speakers). We don’t have a motto, and are certainly showing no Arte or indeed Labore at the moment. So I don’t know what ours should be, I’m going for ‘Ex vento gaudium’ (From wind, joy.) We’re having to take our fun where we can find it at the moment as the team’s stopped doing it for us.

So having said that and with a poisonous atmosphere waiting to kick off, if you can keep us out for 20 mins or so (shouldn’t be difficult) the crowd may turn and you could get a win. But on the other hand we have been clinically dispatching mid-table sides at home, despite our issues. So I don’t know what to think. I’m erring on the side of a draw. 1-1.

What about you, do you think Mowbray’s ex-Ipswich credentials will see him steer you to a win and continue your good form? Or can we be the first team to beat you under his management. Oh and will you stay up? Yes or No answer please.

Mikey: Almost surreal seeing you describe a crowd and atmosphere like that… normally that’s us and for the time being it’s not! I’m quietly confident we can pull something out of the bag at the weekend, I’m not convinced we’ll pick up the full 3 point haul but I’m almost tempted to steal your prediction.

Actually sod it. 1-1 it is. Shall we shake hands now?

As for the relegation run in, I’m certainly more confident than I was under Coyle.

It’ll be close, but I think we’ll pull it out of the bag… there ain’t no way like the Mowbray way (sorry).

Mikey Delap is a Blackburn fan and writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @MikeyDelap