As we edge towards the end of one of the closest Championship seasons in years, we have up to seven teams locked in a relegation battle. If anybody ever needed retelling of the instability and unpredictability of modern English football, this season’s Championship has proved a swift reminder. However, it is at Ewood Park where we have seen the serious repercussions taking a ruthless, unnecessary turn can have on a club.
Blackburn Rovers have been dragged into the thick of the relegation scrap, and were sitting 20th in the table just two points above the relegation zone at one stage. They are also on their fourth manager of the season after another distressing year for the Rover’s faithful, which has attracted fresh criticism and embarrassment for the club’s Indian owners. Steve Kean’s reign, which coincided with the beginning of the club’s troubles, was bought to its inevitable end when the Scot resigned in September, despite guiding them to third in the table.
His successor, club legend Hanning Berg, was dismissed after just 57 days in the hot-seat while Michael Appleton lasted just ten days longer then the Norwegian after he was sacked in March.
And so, the Rovers, Champions of England in the 1994-95 season and seemingly an established Premier League side just over two years ago under Sam Allardyce, could now face a potentially nail-biting battle to avoid relegation to the third tier of English football. The former Newcastle and Bolton manager bought some much needed stability to Ewood Park following his arrival in December 2008. The Lancashire side had endured a difficult start to the season under Paul Ince, who was axed after just 17 league games at the helm.
However, Allardyce steered them to a respectable final finish of 15th in the table, and an equally decent finish of 10th in his first and only full season in charge. Unfortunately, this was not deemed suitable by the club’s controversial Venky owners. They bizarrely opted to replace Allardyce with his assistant Steve Kean as manager in December 2010, under a month after they completed the takeover of the club.
This sent the club on a downward spiral, as Kean struggled to adapt to life in the top job, which eventually lead to the club’s relegation to the Championship last year. Many have rightly highlighted the Venkies and the topic of foreign ownership as the main issue surrounding Blackburn’s decline. However, their fall has also emphasized the dangers of clubs taking their place in the football pyramid for granted. The dangers of being blinded by over-ambition and the paranoia of making rapid progress as a club have all contributed to Blackburn’s freefall.
It is mindsets such as these which have also contributed to the continuing problem of managerial changes which at times has made English football a laughing stock. On the final day of the 2008/09 season, Tranmere missed out on a spot in the League 1 playoffs on goal difference to Scunthorpe, thanks to a late equalizer by The Iron in the winner takes all match.This led to then manager Ronnie Moore’s dismissal, with the club stating they wished to move in a “new direction.”
Moore was replaced by John Barnes at Prenton Park, who lasted just three months at the club before himself being sacked after leading them to 22nd in the table. It took the return of Moore last March to finally lead the Birkenhead club away from the relegation zone. It is outcomes such as these that clubs facing managerial dilemmas need to be aware of.
Debate suddenly raged about the future of David Moyes at Everton following their humbling FA Cup exit at the hand of Wigan. Some sections of fans began to question whether the Scot had taken the club as far as he could, and even more outrageously, began to ridicule his contribution since his arrival in 2002. Those fans seem to be forgetting the solidity that Moyes has bought to Goodison Park.
Prior to his arrival, Everton struggled to gain any momentum in the Premier League and were regularly languishing towards the bottom of the table. Apart from a lackluster season in 2003/04, Everton have mainly secured solid finishes in the top half of the table under his guidance.
It was details such as this that were wrongly ignored when Allardyce and Moore were removed from their positions. The Everton faithful should remember the price Blackburn and Tranmere paid for their delusion as we head into a potentially pivotal summer.
Written by @AndrewCrawley2
I don’t think any Everton fan has dismissed what Moyes has done for the club, but similarly you can’t just dismiss the viewpoint of Everton fans who want more than just finishing 6th/7th every season and tanking in the really big games (FA Cup Final against Chelsea, Fiorentina, FA Cup Semi against Liverpool, FA Cup Quarters against Wigan). Moyes has been rightly lauded for what he’s done at Everton, but there seems to be some sort of unwritten agenda that he’s beyond reproach, and that Everton should be thankful to have him.
There was a time when we undoubtedly owed him a huge debt, and we should always be grateful for his turning our club around from perennial relegation strugglers to consistent challengers for Europe. However, no club the size of Everton should ever settle for just making up the numbers and there comes a stage when you think a manager might just have done as much as he can do at a club.
For the first time, this season and last, I felt he’s held us back - the players we had last year, and the start we had this year, coupled with the results we’ve picked up against the big five, suggest that our team is capable of challenging far beyond the scraps of sixth/seventh.
Moyes is very conservative, and we’ve dropped a glut of points this season from winning positions in games we’ve dominated, because there seems to be an inherent fear of just going for sides’ throats. Liverpool wallop their inferiors but can’t beat the big sides. We’ve done the latter, which is inexcusable and points to a fundamental lack of winning mentality.
I’ve seen us win leagues. I’ve seen us avoid relegation on the last day of the season. It’s kept me reasonably well grounded in terms of what I demand. But there comes a stage when you have to ask “what’s the point of football”? To me, it’s about winning stuff, and that’s why I find it hard to accept the unquestioning support that the media demands Everton afford to David Moyes. He’s been great. He could have done better. The two are not mutually exclusive and I have a sneaking suspicion that under him, we’ll always be too scared to really mount a proper challenge because all of his sides have been content to go in front and then try to close the game off, rather than go in front and then really go for the opposition.
This squad is without doubt our best under him, but he still sends us out with that mentality. If Evertonians are happy with that then fine. Personally, I want more from Everton. If we’re going to die, it should be on our feet through a lack of ability, rather than on our knees through a lack of ambition.