Saturday, July 09, 2005

Blackburn Rovers: on the up with the "Welsh Five"

Blackburn Rovers' signing of Craig Bellamy adds to the ever-increasing Welsh contingent at Ewood Park, and that has this Rover dancing to a happy tune.

The only way now for the Blackburn Rovers Football Club is up, up, and up after the latest signing of 25-year-old Welsh forward Craig Bellamy, who adds to the ever-increasing Welsh contingent at Ewood Park which started since manager Mark Hughes replaced an outgoing Graeme Souness in September 2004.

Only days ago, before Thursday's signing, it was all doom and gloom for Rovers supporters, who had already witnessed the sale of promising young striker Jonathan Stead to Sunderland for the price of £1.8 million, even though the manager stated himself that he thought the former England Under 21 international would develop to the level that Hughes expected of him in a couple of years time.

He felt that he needed the money to allow for more flexibility in the transfer market, however.

The doom and gloom was further exacerbated by the free signing of Shefki Kuqi from Ipswich in the English Championship, with the Kosovo-born Finland international not viewed as a viable option in attack, and only as a squad player who should give the manager an extra option.

The other options for the front line at this point of time included the unfashionable Paul Dickov, youngster Paul Gallagher, and the struggling Matt Jansen, which prompted supporters to grow restless with the prospect of another season with a distinct lack of quality up front.

Only 32 goals were scored in 38 English Premier League games in 2004/2005, which was quite appalling, even though Hughes tightened the defence in the second half of the season, a performance only bettered by Chelsea in terms of goals conceded.

Even though it was thought to be only a matter of time before the real replacement for Stead was to come through, the time that elapsed seemed to start putting doubts into the minds of the Ewood faithful, since there seemed to be a distinct lack of activity by executive chairman John Williams and manager Hughes in the transfer market.

Finally, news filtered through that out-of-favour Porto striker Benni McCarthy was a target and that Williams and company was attempting to negotiate a bid with the former UEFA Champions League winners.

McCarthy was quick to come out and say that he desired a move to Blackburn, but Porto were not going to budge on their €9 million evaluation of the South African, which was a far cry for the €6 million evaluation by Rovers, and despite McCarthy's plea that they accept what he also thought to be a realistic bid.

Williams, quite a stubborn man at times, did not budge either, and the case dragged on for weeks, and it might still be going to go on for now, but that point will be touched upon later on.

Anyway, all seemed to be lost for Rovers, and there seemed to be little motivation to renew season tickets or to bring back the much-needed supporters who had fled Ewood Park in recent years, since attendances at home last season averaged at only 20,000, in an educated estimate.

However, out of nowhere on Thursday, there was news that Craig Bellamy was undergoing a medical at Blackburn and that he was negotiating a contract, although there were rumours a couple of days before that the Welshman intended to head for the Lancashire outfit.

At any rate, the actual signing of the quality forward sparked a frenzy of excitement amongst supporters and all news on the McCarthy front was soon mostly forgotten, and why not, since he is a quality forward who had the likes of Celtic and Everton chasing his signature, who were offering Champions League football.

Bought at a fair price of under £5 million, he was at the time, and still is at the time of writing, the third most expensive buy in the English top flight this summer, which added to the excitement.

The fans' frenzy of excitement was matched, and maybe even outstripped in some people's view, by the reaction of Bellamy, Hughes, and Williams, for all of a sudden they were starting to talk up European competition and backing the manager in the transfer market!

Said Bellamy: "We can certainly get into Europe, everything is so wide open from the bottom place to fourth spot anyone can get it."

Champions League Football as a possibility, and not just the UEFA Cup?!

Imagine that!

And what really has my heart beating faster upon hearing that notion is that it indicates that Bellamy did not join Rovers for an easy ride from fellow Welshman Mark Hughes, of whom he has worked with before with the Wales national team.

It really does appear that he is really desperate to make two marks on the football world for himself and the club.

Said Hughes: "That's the measure of our ambition, we want to get into Europe this year, and I think with the player of Craig's undoubted ability we have an opportunity to do that now."

Here is a man who was talking of survival last year, who is all of a sudden raising expectations with comments like that, even though as manager he could easily say that he neither has the resources nor the time to take the club forward, to keep his position safe.

Said Williams of Hughes: "He has set out his stall and while we will not risk the future of the club, we will continue to stretch every budget we can in order to assist him."

It is certainly a great time to be a Rover, and Europe does seem a very real possibility, because the defensive side of Rovers' game in there; all that is needed is for Bellamy to stay fit, fire a few goals, and bring other players into matches with his classy work.

Now let me address the negatives that I can find in all of this clamour, including the need for further investment and Bellamy's attitude.

There are still areas in need of investment, to be sure, especially in terms of a creative midfielder and another quality striker, but there is enough quality there to be going on with, and there is no indication that Williams and Hughes have given up on McCarthy, especially since it seemed that the South African had his heart set on joining the club and linking up with South Africa international captain Aaron Mokoena.

There is also some concern over Bellamy's potential to ruin the dressing room atmosphere with bad attitude, but I was very impressed in the way he conducted himself after his signing in front of the media, with his calm and smart communication and appearance.

He has also worked with Mark Hughes and two of the backroom staff with the Wales national team, and so there is no reason to doubt Hughes' ability to control Bellamy.

It appears to be that the only way up for BRFC is up, up, and up with a new ambitious attitude and with the Welsh Five as the team's core: the non-playing staff in Mark Hughes, Mark Bowden, Eddie Niedzwiecki, as well as players Robbie Savage and Craig Bellamy.

It is a great time to be a Rover indeed, and most supporters will be very impatient for the season to start and see at least a marked improvement on last season.

4 Comments:

At Tuesday, July 26, 2005 2:31:00 am, Blogger Cathal Breathnach said...

Hi footballmusings would you like to trade links with our blogs first check mine out http://football-corner.blogspot.com/

 
At Tuesday, August 23, 2005 12:10:00 am, Blogger weenie said...

Rovers have a great win over Fulham and you haven't updated your blog yet!!!?

:)

 
At Wednesday, August 24, 2005 11:04:00 pm, Blogger James No. 7 said...

Weenie: Well, I didn't watch it--only the highlights--so I had nothing interesting to say.

I'm watching the match against Tottenham live down here in a few hours though, at the ungodly time of 5AM, and should have something to say about that.

By the way, I still read your blog fairly regularly, but don't comment very much at all, obviously. Good stuff, though.

 
At Sunday, October 09, 2005 10:31:00 pm, Blogger editor said...

Enjoyed reading your blog. Well Done!
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