Saturday, 18 August 2012

'Ipswich will be a tough nut to crack': match preview with Blackburn Rovers fan Mike

My earliest memory of Blackburn Rovers goes back to 1995.

I was in my last year at primary school and a classmate of mine was a huge fan. We used to tease each other about results and argued over who's team was better, of course he eventually won that argument: Rovers became Champions of England while town were relegated to the second tier.

Since then I've always kept an eye out for how Rovers were doing and always kind of took it for granted that they would continue to be a Premier League side. So their relegation last year left me a bit shocked and, from the massive media coverage they and their manager Steve Kean have attracted, I'm guessing I wasn't the only one.

As one of the Championship's newest members they make an incredibly tough first opponent for Town. I spoke to Blackburn Rovers blogger Mike Delap to see how they are feeling about their exit from the top flight and their first test of the season.

How much has changed for you over the summer? 

The short answer is a fair bit has changed, in the circus that is Blackburn Rovers things always change!

We've lost two big names in Junior Hoilett and Yakubu which was inevitable given relegation but we have surprisingly been very active in the transfer market without losing 3 or 4 more which was the fear given the "mass exodus" warnings the papers were firing out in May.

In have come Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu, Leon Best (who's already injured sadly), Nuno Gomes, Colin Kazim-Richards and an influx of cheap Portuguese talent which stands us on 8 new players as we try to reshape for a new division.

Player wise it's been a rather unlikely surprise given the aggressive cost cutting and talented player stripping we've witnessed so far from owners Venky's, so as far as the squad quality goes, for the Championship it's very strong.

How about Kean? Have fans got any faith he'll get you promoted, or even last the season!?

Any faith in Kean? None whatsoever. Sure he gets stick in places where it just isn't merited but largely the vitriol and abuse you see heading his way is because I don't think you'll ever meet or see anyone in your life who is quite so sneaky. He plays the media to his advantage, he's a smooth talker and he knows his way around the footballing world. 

The problem is most of what he says is total bullshit and he's spent the last 18 months getting sections of the crowd to turn on each other, promising us actions that haven't been delivered and generally just being a yes man and a mouthpiece for the owners who've hidden behind the Scot.

That and he's just simply not very good. His win/loss record tells you all you need to know.

We could still go up in spite of Kean, but I doubt this time round he'll last the season given the change of operation at the club implemented over the season.

With that in mind: ITFC fans have been split by their opinions on Paul Jewell this last year, do you sympathise or does it annoy you given the rough time you've had as a club?

Doesn't annoy me at all, every club and every fan has a right to be annoyed and voice concerns. Given the character that Jewell tends to be I am not surprised he divides opinion.

As a fan of Rovers I would wager we've had a fair bit rougher time than most this last season or so but that doesn't mean problems don't exist elsewhere. For what it's worth I've always thought Jewell was a little bit underrated.

What are you expecting from the Championship? 

It is shaping up to be an incredibly competitive league. Looking down the squad lists I can see as many as 10 teams fighting for the the top 2 spots and that's not accounting for the usual surprise packages that emerge out of nowhere with the mandatory "didn't see that coming" push for the top.

The promoted sides don't appear to be weak and seem to have big ambitions so I expect every game to be worth something which in it's won way makes it a better watch than the Premier League (I'm not bitter honest).

It'll be tough, it'll be different, but I'm looking forward to it.

And what are you expecting from Ipswich today? Are you going to be there?

I'm not personally at Ipswich on Saturday, I was at Norwich last season (yes, I know, boo hiss) but I can only make that long, 12 hour return trip once every so often!

I'm expecting Ipswich to be a tough nut to crack and as with most Jewell sides to play with a freedom that should create an open game - not to mention we're not the greatest defensively!

I've always rated Carlos Edwards who has a skill and a flair to him that makes him an easy watch and not to mention Michael Chopra who's been in and around the Premier League and the Championship scoring goals in both.

I tend to hear good things about Ipswich given the set up at the club, it's always come across as a family club (like Rovers) so I expect the banter to be strong and fair.

Finally: can I get a score prediction and a 'Player to watch' from your team.

Absolutely. As always I'd like to think we'll get off on the right foot so I am predicting a win for the Rovers - 3-1 if you want a scoreline with Kazim-Richards, Gomes and David Dunn the scorers.

If you want a dark horse to watch keep an eye out for young Fabio Nunes, you won't have heard of him but he's looked the business in pre-season pacey winger with a bag of tricks in his locker.

Thanks to Mike for taking the time to talk to me, see what he has to say after the match at  

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