Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Blackburn Lose 1 - 0 To Charlton

Blackburn Rovers have some squad strengthening to do after its latest loss. Rovers lost 1 - 0 against Charlton Athletic away from home at The Valley on Monday night. It seems that this season will not be smooth sailing for the Lancashire club in the English Premier League.

A lapse in Blackburn's concentration in defending a corner kick cost the team, with Talal El Karkouri's header three minutes into the second half sealing a win for the Addicks. They were caught flat footed in ex-Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy's corner kick.

This was a match where Blackburn mostly dominated. Charlton only showed very small spurts of dominance that lasted little more than a few minutes. Despite dominating the match, Rovers clearly lacked the firepower to put Charlton away. The loss of striker Andrew Cole to Fulham during pre-season, as a result of former manager Graeme Souness' long-running spate with the former Manchester United star, has shown to be a great loss in attack.

The Charlton fans in a 26,193 crowd were frustrated with their team's performance. Later in the match, they released their frustration on referee Steve Dunn, who was paying many decisions against the Addicks. However, they should have been applauding him, since he gifted the under-performing team three points. A clear handball by defender Hermann Hreidarsson on 73 minutes in the penalty box was not paid in Rovers' favour, despite protests from Australia International Brett Emerton, who had his cross blocked unfairly.

The best chance for Blackburn came on 7 minutes in the first half. A Matt Jansen cross to the near post was struck by a running Gary Flitcroft, who put the ball straight into the left post from only yards out.

The second best chance of the match came shortly after the penalty appeal by Blackburn. A corner kick cross fell to Flitcroft, who poked the ball toward goal. However, several Charlton defenders scrambled behind the balls only two or three yards away from the box, where a scramble was fought between several players from both teams. It was eventually cleared for a corner kick.

There were two changes in Blackburn's line-up from their last league appearance. Defender Lorenzo Amoruso replaced injured Craig Short, while Matt Jansen earned his first English Premiership start. He was put on the left wing to replace Morten Gamst Pedersen.

The lone substitution in the match due to injury came from Charlton's striker Francis Jeffers. He was replaced on 11 minutes due to a neck injury he was experiencing.

Blackburn Rovers are still on five points from seven matches, only a point above the relegation zone, while Charlton are now in seventh place in the English Premier League table, with eleven points.

Charlton: Kiely, Young, Stuart, Perry, Lisbie, Jeffers (Johansson, 12 minutes; Euell, 75 minutes), Hreidarsson, Murphy, El Karkouri, Hughes (Kishishev, 75 minutes), Fortune.
Substitutes not used: Andersen, Rommedahl.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Amoruso, Matteo, Gray, Emerton, Flitcroft (Tugay, 69 minutes), Ferguson, Jansen, Stead (Bothroyd, 69 minutes), Dickov.
Substitutes not used: Enckelman, Gamst Pedersen, Johansson.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Blackburn Match Against Charlton Will Be Direction Indicator

Recent managerial appointment Mark Hughes will have to prove to Blackburn Rovers fans on Monday night that the current Rovers squad has the ability to be able to be competitive in the English Premier League. The result of the Monday night match against Charlton away from home at The Valley will be a very good indicator of the squad's current ability and future performance.

Losing against Charlton on Monday night will cast enormous doubt on the squad, especially after the relegation battle experienced last season. Blackburn only scraped to 15th by performing well in its last few games and to survive the English Premiership another year. This year, they have only earned five points from six league games.

A loss against Bournemouth on Wednesday night in the Carling Cup, which went all the way to a penalty shoot-out, has already raised doubt over the current Rovers squad, especially since Bournemouth is a lowly League One club. Yes, manager Mark Hughes did field a largely second string side, but beforehand you would have thought that most of those players were good enough to hold their own in a first string side. That is not the case now, however.

Despite winning 1 - 0 in the match against Portsmouth, the unconvincing performance in that match created the foundation to such doubt over the squad. In that match, possession was easily squandered, with passes missing their targets and, in the worst case scenarios, which were more than once, the ball was presented as a charitable gift to the opposition.

A draw against Charlton away from home on Monday night will show Blackburn Rovers fans that the squad is heading in the right direction. A win, however, will instill great confidence in the squad, and will indicate that there are great times ahead for the 1994/1995 English Premiership winning club.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Chelsea Frustration Due To Lack Of Utilisation Of Space Out Wide

Tottenham's defensive strategy against a star-studded and expensive Chelsea squad was very smart tactically, and it has left Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho fuming. A 0 - 0 result at Stamford Bridge on September 19 in the English Premier League was a very good result for Jacques Santini's side.

Santini, a French manager, is no doubt well aware of how football is played on the European continent, and devised a wonderful defensive strategy, with a counter-attacking function in case there was a serious break. Jose Mourinho played a typical European game: a narrow tactic with a narrow midfield. However, he helped Santini's case immensely when Mourinho's men tried to break down the Tottenham defence almost solely through the middle, failing to use the width of the pitch.

The problem with through-the-middle attacking with the European style is that it is much easier to defend against if you are looking for a 0 - 0 draw. Because of the lack of width that Chelsea used, the Tottenham back four were able to keep close together. This proved to be fantastically hard for the Blues to break down with any real success, instead usually relying on half-chances to exploit. This was not good enough, as goalkeeper Paul Robinson is an excellent 'keeper who rarely makes mistakes.

Had Chelsea used their width, then they would have been able to break the Tottenham back four up, leaving plenty of space for the likes of forwards Didier Drogba and Eidur Gudjohnsen to work with. A midfield of Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele, Joe Cole, and Tiago Mendes did not contain one natural winger. When Damien Duff came on as a substitute in the second half, he was not utilised as much as he should be, and sometimes ignored when in space near the touchline. Therefore, due to the "claustrophobia" the front two experienced due to all these factors, they were forced to move wide many times, which is not where strikers should be.

What also did not help the Chelsea cause was the fact that they have also been playing defensive football, conceding only one goal in the five previous league games. Mourinho argues that Chelsea did all the attacking and Tottenham all the defending, but hardly enough players were moving up the field, making the job of defending even easier for Hotspur.

If Jose Mourinho wants his expensive Chelsea team to be able to exploit such defensive strategies that are tested against his team in future, he must tell his midfield to utilise space out wide, even if they are playing with a narrow midfield. It would also helped if he added a natural winger or two to the midfield mix. And better yet, utilise the right and left back positions.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Blackburn Win First EPL Match Of The Season Against Portsmouth

Blackburn Rovers earned a somewhat unconvincing 1 - 0 win against Portsmouth in front of 20,647 at Ewood Park on September 18. However, doing so, they registered their first three points of the season in the English Premier League, now with five points from six matches and out of the relegation zone. Portsmouth is on seven points from five matches.

New Rovers manager Mark Hughes was given a standing ovation when he entered the field before kick-off, who acknowledged the crowd by clapping back. He was a delighted man after the match, having made the perfect start to his club managerial reign.

"I've had a great day, we've won a game, we're off and running, and the other results appear to have gone reasonably well for us. It is the start of an adventure and I'm looking forward to it," said the Rovers boss in a post-match press conference.

The first half was disappointing for both teams, as no one fully dominated lengthy periods of the game. Blackburn Rovers were very disappointing in the final third, with many crosses and passes missing their targets. Similarly, Portsmouth were disappointing in their attacking area, wasting possession.

As many shots were going wide or high, Portsmouth striker Ricardo Fuller produced the only real chance of the half, whipping past both Dominic Matteo and Michael Gray into the box and taking a low shot which hit the outside of the right post.

Both teams also suffered first half casualties. Portsmouth midfielder Eyal Berkovic was replaced by Steve Stone on 21 minutes after a clash with Rovers midfielder Gary Flitcroft. Veteran Blackburn defender Craig Short was replaced on 41 minutes due to what appeared to be a knee injury. Lorenzo Amoruso replaced him.

Blackburn came onto the field in the second half with vigour, setting out to prove the dominating team. On 56 minutes, Amoruso's free kick caused opposition goalkeeper Shaka Hislop to scramble the ball.

A minute later, a vicious tackle on Rovers left winger Morten Gamst Pedersen by Andy Griffin, who received a yellow card, was the reason why Pedersen left the field minutes later. However, he had been disappointing. The new Norwegian signing was obviously still trying to adjust to the pace of the English game. Many of his passes were going astray.

Matt Jansen was given a rapturous reception when he came on, and instantly made his mark with a corner header on 60 minutes, but it went too high under pressure.

Four minutes later, Australia international Brett Emerton made a powerful running long shot, but it was to be deflected by fellow teammate Paul Dickov. Emerton made a few such runs down the middle of the pitch, playing an impressing game.

Blackburn striker Jonathan Stead was unable to make his mark on the game, and was replaced by Jay Bothroyd, who is currently on loan from Italian club Perugia.

On 71 minutes, Portsmouth striker and Nigeria international Aiyegbeni Yakubu had perhaps the best chance his team had for the match. After beating the Blackburn defence, he was one-on-one with goalkeeper Brad Friedel, but his high shot went beat Friedel and the crossbar.

New Rovers signing Bothroyd impressed a minute later, taking on the Portsmouth defence in a skillful piece of play, impressing the home fans. His shot went just over the crossbar.

A lovely Matt Jansen strike on 75 minutes thrilled the home fans, and also thrilled Jansen, who has been left in the football in the last two seasons and a bit, due to a terrible motorcycling accident he had in Italy on a holiday. The assist came from Lucas Neill, whose powerful pass inside the box was picked up by Matt Jansen, who had an easy chance right in front of goal.

The goal lifted the spirits of the Blackburn team, who put in a more dominating performance afterwards. Jansen, Emerton, Bothroyd and Neill all put in shots.

However, the wonderful Blackburn defence was all of a sudden in serious trouble on 86 minutes when Portsmouth striker Fuller was on the right side of the box, given a open goal for him. He was not given the chance to shoot it by Rovers goalkeeper Friedel, who barged the striker in the back. In what should have been a penalty kick, referee Mark Clattenburg showed Fuller a yellow card for diving.

The Blackburn Rovers win will no doubt install some optimism and confidence in Rovers fans for the coming months, and especially in popular new manager Mark Hughes. There was a clear lack of quality in Rovers' game, making the win seem somewhat unconvincing, but they played with high spirits.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Short (Amoruso, 41 minutes), Matteo, Gray, Emerton, Ferguson, Flitcroft, Pedersen (Jansen, 59 minutes), Stead (Bothroyd, 65 minutes), Dickov. Substitutes not used: Enckelman, Tugay.

Portsmouth: Hislop, Berkovic (Stone, 35 minutes), Primus, Stefanovic, Unsworth, Griffin, Faye, Quashie, Berger (Kamara, 77 minutes), Fuller, Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Ashdown, Taylor, Cisse.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Mark Hughes May Prove To Be Successful At Blackburn

The appointment of 40-year-old Mark Hughes as manager for Blackburn Rovers on a two-year contract is an excellent decision by Rovers Chairman Robert Coar. He may prove to be the new impetus Blackburn needs to climb the ranks of the English Premier League to a respectable European place spot within a couple of seasons. He has plenty of respect from his players, and the man management and tactical knowledge to succeed.

The Wales national coach, who seems to still be coaching them on a part-time basis, had an impressive 2004 European Championship qualifying campaign with the modest Wales team, reaching the playoffs for a place before losing to Russia. A highlight of the qualifiers was Wales' 2 - 1 win against star-studded Italy at Millennium Stadium in Wales in October 2002.

He is also a very popular choice at Blackburn, among fans, players, and backroom staff alike. Caretaker manager Tony Parkes, who has been at Blackburn for some 30 years, was perhaps the most supportive, highlighting exactly who he thought would be successful at the club, which perfectly fitted Mark Hughes. In fact, he directly mentioned him, but not as a clear-cut endorsement.

"We now need a young up-and-coming manager, someone with a lower profile than Kenny Dalglish or Graeme. The club is at the stage where Sir Jack Walker is gone and there is not a lot of money around. We need someone who can manage the club and work with the players, somebody who still has something to prove and can bring in some modern ideas. Some of the names being linked fit that bill and if it's Mark Hughes we'll welcome him with open arms."

Veteran defender Craig Short, however, gave his clear-cut support for Mark Hughes, in what could be seen as a direct intervention in the management appointment process from the dressing room.

"I think Mark Hughes would be very, very good for Blackburn Rovers. He commands instant respect and he's the type of guy that all the players would want to give everything for. If I was a manager then the first thing I'd want to know is 'would my players be prepared to run through a brick wall for me?' and I think 'Sparky' would get that here. He's the popular choice in the dressing room and I think the fans think the same way, too. I know players don't end up choosing managers but sometimes maybe they should. Players, and especially senior ones, have a good inkling as to who would make a good manager and I'm certain Mark would do a great job here."

The question mark hanging over Mark Hughes is whether he is ready for club football, since his only head role ever has been for Wales. Craig Short decided to help dispel this doubt: "People say Mark hasn't done it in club football, but he's working with high-profile players at international level, so I don't see that as a problem."

Hughes has already proved that he can combine his role at Blackburn with the Wales position, although he will only be taking charge of their next two World Cup qualifiers next month. Wales appointed him as national coach in 1999, while he continued to stay on as a player at the Lancashire club before leaving some time after.

Saying all that, he appears to be quite the preferable choice. He may well prove to be what Blackburn needs to once again rise the ranks of the English Premiership, after Rovers' fall from grace in the last year under recently resigned manager Graeme Souness. Currently, they have two points from five league games this season, and finished 15th last season in the Premiership. This is quite disappointing compared to the sixth place Rovers earned in the 2002/2003 season.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Eriksson Unfairly Treated By Media

England national coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was unfairly treated during the period set aside by FIFA for international games. After England's 2 - 2 draw to Austria away in the first World Cup qualifying game, the English media once again went on a drool fest, floating that Eriksson's position was under immediate threat.

Before England's second World Cup qualifying game against Poland away, "LOSE TONIGHT AND ERIKSSON'S HISTORY," screamed The Mirror. "It may be two months, rather than two years, and only a win tonight will ease the threat to Eriksson," concluded Martin Lipton, Chief Football Writer, in his article.

There are plenty of criticisms that could be made of Eriksson. For one, he does seem to be reluctant to make the controversial changes when necessary. He seems to feel that if a player is underperforming constantly, then they should still be given plenty more chances.

However, sackable after one game away from home he is not, never mind two. He has done a decent job in his four-year tenure as England national coaching, reaching the 2002 World Cup quarter finals, as well as earning a quarter final appearance in the 2004 European Championship.

After England's 2 - 1 win over Poland on September 8, Eriksson, still unable to grasp the irrationality of the English media, commented that he never felt his position was under threat. "Talk about an over-reaction, that our World Cup chances were over after one game? We played good football in Austria but made some mistakes and drew the game."

The English media vultures are now distancing themselves from Eriksson as another quiet month is now upon us. The Swede has fought off the media with a striking win. He is not safe as Lipton warned, however.

The facts remain clear, though. Sven-Goran Eriksson has had decent success in his tenure in the major tournaments, and is so far undefeated in the 2006 European World Cup qualifiers after two away games. He is clearly doing his job well at the moment, and should not be under the pressure he has been in the past week or so. Instead, the best that anyone can do is limit the criticism and allow the man to lead England to World Cup 2006.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

A Touch Of Arsenal Class Beats Fulham

A touch of Arsenal beat Fulham at Craven Cottage in front of a crowd of 21,681 on September 11. Fulham had caused trouble for the Gunners in the first half, but those from the Cottage did not get their cheese in a match where they might have come away with a point in the English Premier League.

The controversy of the match came ten minutes before the break, when Ashley Cole made a late challenge on Andrew Cole, who at that stage, did not have the ball under complete control. Referee Mark Halsey originally pointed to the penalty spot, but after some negotiating with the assistant referee, as well as the players, he made the controversial decision to override himself, much to the displeasure of the Fulham supporters.

The crowd response afterward until half time was almost comical, yet understandable. They booed continuously while Arsenal held position, and then cheered when Fulham regained the ball. However, Arsenal missed out on a penalty earlier in a challenge on Fredrik Ljungberg in the box, but the referee missed it.

Fulham continued to batter Arsenal, some fearing that Arsenal's 44-match unbeaten run might end. Andrew Cole and Pape Bouba Diop caused some trouble for the Arsenal defence, while Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires failed to make an impact.

The Craven Cottage tenants duly collapsed, however, when Fredrik Ljungberg scored Arsenal's first goal in the 62nd minute in a touch of class. From there, the Gunners went on a ten-minute rampage, with Thierry Henry's pressure too great in the box, forcing Zat Knight to kick the ball into the back of his own net in the 65th minute.

Substitute Jose Antonio Reyes scored in the 71st minute to put the match beyond doubt. Playing on the left wing, the young Spaniard immediately made an impact when he came on in the second half. He is currently on a terrific run of form, scoring five goals from five Premiership matches.

In injury time, Collins John appeared to score a goal for Fulham from a header merely three yards out, but that was ruled out, since it was ruled he had unfairly held and pushed Arsenal defender Kolo Toure.

This, once again, could perhaps be seen as making up for the earlier ignoring of a challenge on Henry in the penalty box at the other end, with a Fulham defender putting their studs into the back of the Frenchman's legs. It caused him a considerable amount of discomfort. He immediately rushed to the sideline to get treatment, but was alright to play afterward.

With a 3 - 0 win over Fulham, Arsenal's goal tally has reached 19 goals in five games -- almost an average of four goals a match. They are now two points clear of second place, on 15 points after five wins. They extend their unbeaten run to 45 unbeaten league matches.

Fulham: Edwin Van der Sar, Moritz Volz, Carlos Bocanegra, Ian Pearce, Zat Knight, Sylvain Legwinski (Tomasz Radzinski, 76 minutes), Mark Pembridge, Pape Bouba Diop, Collins John, Luis Boa Morte (Brian McBride, 83 minutes), Andrew Cole.
Substitutes Not Used: Mark Crossley, Alain Goma, Billy McKinlay.

Arsenal: Jens Lehmann, Lauren, Kolo Toure, Pascal Cygan, Ashley Cole, Fredrik Ljungberg (Jermaine Pennant, 73 minutes), Patrick Vieira (Cesc Fabregas, 75 minutes), Gilberto, Robert Pires (Jose Reyes, 61 minutes), Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry.
Substitutes not used: Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Souness Appointment Good, But A Risk Too

Recently appointed Newcastle United manager Graeme Souness is already making his mark on the well-supported English club, despite not officially starting until after the weekend. He has already encountered his first clash with recent signing Patrick Kluivert, signed by former manager Sir Bobby Robson to strengthen the front line.

The story is that Kluivert failed to show at a reserves match on Wednesday that Graeme Souness gave clear-cut instructions to attend. There is no doubt that the strict disciplinarian wanted to see the man in action to be able to see him in action. As Souness’ assistant manager (who followed him from Blackburn) said on his appointment, Souness is not a man who will form opinions before arriving at a club and making his assessment then.

Patrick Kluivert has made a big mistake that may well cost him in his long-term future at the club. As David Dunn, Andrew Cole, and Dwight Yorke learned, Souness is not a man to be messed with. He is strict and hard in his methods, making sure that others know who the boss is. He is more than happy to have a scrape with a player if he believes he is in the right, and will not hide the fact from the football public.

Whether Graeme Souness is in the right or the wrong in his individual scrapes, Newcastle has taken a risk in appointing the confrontational man. He is quite an exceptional manager, but he does have that tendency to weaken a team in order to have a submissive squad.

Some will argue that losing David Dunn due to a clash Souness had with the young midfielder at Blackburn in the 2002/2003 season was a very big blow for Rovers. In that season they finished sixth, but with a weakened midfield the next season, they finished 15th.

Newcastle may very well end up being weakened by Souness’ reign, like Blackburn was. It is a risk I am sure that the Newcastle United board considered. Considering the success he enjoyed time at Blackburn, though, he does have the potential to take Newcastle to big places, collecting a trophy that the Magpies have long been starved.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Klinsmann Must Get Tough On Germany

New Germany national coach Jurgen Klinsmann has so far done well to have a win and a draw to his name since being appointed after the disappointing UEFA European Championship 2004 campaign. He has had no previous coaching experience, but appears to have results under control at the moment. A 3 - 1 win against Austria, as well as a draw against Brazil at home, the host of the World Cup 2006 final, suggests that Germany perhaps has what it takes to make it all the way through.

However, Klinsmann must get tough on the players and the teams to make it all the way. Bayern Munich versatile defender and midfielder Torsten Frings has warned that he wants to have a regular place in the midfield, otherwise he will refuse to play. This arrogance is the sort of behaviour that will bring Germany down. It will split the playing group, and not only that, Klinsmann will not have the opportunity to do the job he was hired to do. Frings should be playing only where Klinsmann wants him to play.

Frings' behaviour is not what earned Greece an international trophy for the first time in July 2004. Greece was a very united force, putting faith in their coach to look after the tactical side of the team. The players concentrated on the jobs they were assigned. Despite being a squad of very average players indeed, missing some players who would make the team on individual merit (coach Otto Rehhagel only wanted players with big hearts), they did the unthinkable and won.

France, on the other hand, were the very opposite. The French players, very gifted individuals, basked in their arrogance and decided to create a core group of experienced players to "advise" the coach Jacques Santini at the time. They were all part of the World Cup 1998 winning team, including Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane, but their so-called input did not produce any significant positive effect, if any at all.

Indeed, they dropped out of the tournament to the very average Greece in the quarter final, while reports of discontent and player friction were almost constantly reported. Veteran Bixente Lizarazu publicly expressed his opinion that the "secret garden" group of players were undermining the team in favour of their self-interest. Santini afterwards accused the players of betraying him with their poor tournament performance, and no doubt their behaviour effected their performance a large deal. (I do acknowledge that player fatigue was the other of two reasons for bad performance, mind.)

Jurgen Klinsmann must not let this happen to Germany. He should be doing what Rehhagel did: drop those players who are in the team for their own individual interest, rather than the team's. Torten Frings is one of those players. He must get tough and refuse to be bullied by his own players for the sake of Germany, especially since they are no longer the star-studded team they once were.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Sense Of Déjà Vu For Blackburn

With the departure of manager Graeme Souness from Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United in the English Premier League, it cannot be helped, but there is a sense of déjà vu over the club.

Tony Parkes, who has taken over the caretaker manager job five times previously, has taken it for a sixth time, while the Blackburn Board of Directors decides on a new manager. While he is one coach who has chosen to stay, and will be for a long time, Blackburn has already lost three coaches in assistant manager Alan Murray, also including Phil Boersma and Dean Saunders.

That is the thing with Graeme Souness. He has a habit of taking coaches, but especially players, around with him as he changes clubs. The fear in this case will be that some Blackburn players will be poached by a cashed-up Souness.

In his time at the Lancashire club, he has made several signings from previous managed clubs, including big names Tugay and Barry Ferguson. There is currently speculation that some players, especially recent signing Morten Gamst Pedersen. He was shocked when he heard the news, and has denied speculation that he will re-evaluate his position, but you can never tell with players, especially those of Pederson's reputation.

All Rovers fans can do is watch. Most Blackburn fans will, at the very front of their minds, will be hoping that the new manager is a very reputable and influential manager indeed, who can retain players. Perhaps if not that, then they can bring in some quality signings from previous clubs.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Graeme Souness Served His Time Well At Blackburn

Many Blackburn Rovers fans of the English Premier League will no doubt be disappointed by manager Graeme Souness' decision to join Newcastle United as manager to replace recently sacked Sir Bobby Robson. He had great success at Rovers, but the possibility of the Newcastle job, with a larger budget no doubt, was too tempting. Blackburn Chief Executive John Williams had no option but to allow the G14 club to approach the man when Souness expressed an interest in the job, much to his disappointment. Souness will leave the club on September 13.

Graeme Souness joined Blackburn in March 2000 when they were in First Division. He made an immediate impact in his first season, when he lifted Blackburn to second spot at the end of the 2000/2001 season, claiming an automatic spot for the fallen English Premiership champions of 1995.

Not only did he lead Rovers to promotion; he made them competitive in the English Premier League. In his first season with Blackburn in the EPL, Souness led Blackburn to a top ten finish. He also led Rovers to claim the English League Cup with a 2 - 1 win over Tottenham Hotspur, earning a UEFA Cup spot in the process.

The 2002/2003 season was arguably Graeme Souness' most successful at the Lancashire club. While not earning any silverware, crashing out of the UEFA Cup early to Celtic, Blackburn finished sixth, this time earning a UEFA Cup spot "the hard way".

The 2003/2004 season was largely disappointing, as the loss of left winger Damien Duff in the summer and David Dunn during the season took its toll. The new signings, including Scotland international Barry Ferguson disappointed, as injury and bad form ruined a potentially exciting season.

Overall, Blackburn fans will no doubt look fondly upon the strong character, who was at times comical when in his characteristic fits of rage. He led Rovers out of the First Division quagmire, and made a team competitive enough to match the giants of the EPL on their day. He served his time well.