Emerton leaves as Blackburn Rovers struggle to fulfil big ambitions

Having survived relegation on the final day of the 2010/11 season, Blackburn Rovers find themselves in familiar territory early on in the new season. Successive defeats in their opening three matches leave Rovers sitting bottom of the Premier League, a far cry from the success levels sought by the club’s ambitious owners.

The lack of success on the field has largely matched the unfulfilled ambition shown off it. As Indian poultry giant Venky’s completed a takeover of the club in November 2010, attentions were seemingly focussed towards returning Rovers to the glory years that saw them lift the Premier League title in 1995. In the months following the takeover, Sam Allardyce was the first major casualty of the new regime at Ewood Park, replaced by Steve Kean in a shock move by the new owners. Keen to usher in a new era at the club, Blackburn were linked to a number of high-profile players, with David Beckham and Ronaldinho reportedly in the frame, but both failed to materialise, as Kean’s side struggled to steer clear of the drop.

Having eventually survived, Blackburn fans will have been looking forward to signings that would propel Rovers to new heights. With the new manager targeting European football in the coming seasons, Kean’s side continued to be linked with big names including Schalke’s Spanish forward, Raul. However, once again, such signings were not possible and, with highly-rated youngster Phil Jones moving to Manchester United, Rovers have begun the season with the all-too familiar struggle for points. Blackburn’s last outing saw a double blow: beaten for the third league game in a row this season, going down 1-0 to Everton, coupled with news that the game would be Rovers’ midfielder Brett Emerton’s last for the club, following the board’s agreement to cancel the Australian’s final year of his contract to allow him to return home to Sydney FC. With high-profile departures and successive defeats, Blackburn’s lofty expectations would appear, in the short-term at least, to be slipping away.

Such form has led to a call for focus from within the Rovers camp. Veteran defender, Michel Salgado, has urged the club to concentrate on improving with the players it already has rather than relying on the acquisition of high-profile players. Recently quoted in The Sun, Salgado said: “We need to know as soon as possible the players who are going to be with us for the whole year. After that we can kick-start our season.”

Salgado was equally sceptical of the club’s public declaration of its European ambitions. Salgado, a Champions League winner during his time at Real Madrid, believes that once consistency has been established within the squad, Rovers must look to improve their league form before aiming to compete with Europe’s elite: “They were talking about Champions League. But the main thing is to be realistic — we have to focus on getting points every weekend.”

The club’s new owners certainly appear keen to take Blackburn Rovers to potentially new heights, beyond their 1995 triumph, but with Rovers already looking up the league table at the majority of the competition the board, management, players and supporters alike, will be hoping their side can find their best form in the Premier League, in order to avoid the late drama of last season.

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