A period of introspection is inevitable after relegation is confirmed for any side but at Blackburn Rovers, the question may be more numerous than elsewhere, as well as far more questions posed than answers offered. Chief among the inquisition, however, will be exactly how a side that earlier in the season defeated Manchester United has found itself slipping out of the Premier League.
The New Year’s Eve win at Old Trafford, and a victory over Arsenal earlier in the campaign at Ewood Park, were arguably the highlights of a very dark year in Blackburn. If defeating two of the possible top flight’s top four was the peak then the valley was arguably losing 2-1 at home fellow relegated side Wolverhampton Wanderers. Yet the defeat to Wolves came on the opening day of the season and while it is always dispiriting and damaging to lose to a direct rival, there was plenty of football yet to be played, plenty of opportunity to right the wrong. But Steve Kean’s side never did.
Other results against the candidates to follow Blackburn into the Championship were little better. Two defeats against Bolton Wanderers – not only relegation rivals but local rivals too – added six points to Owen Coyle’s cause and a 3-3 draw with Wigan Athletic – the Wigan Athletic of November 2011, well before Roberto Martinez’s side clicked into gear and in fact were bottom of the table when the match was played – was possibly as damaging as the 1-0 defeat that eventually condemned Blackburn to the drop. Dropping points, particularly at home, against two of their closest competitors is a prime reason why Blackburn will not be part of the top flight next season.
Nevertheless, the full extension of that thought is that Blackburn have this season not been good enough in comparison to their rivals – self-evident when they have been relegated with a game to spare. Quite why Blackburn have not been good enough is another question entirely. Blackburn finished last season in 15th with 43 points, 12 more than their current total and nine more than Rovers could possibly wrack up. The goals for column is slightly better this year, with 47, to 46 last year and it is the goals against column that is the most damning. A year ago Blackburn conceded 59 goals. This year it is 76 and counting. Away from home Blackburn have let in more twice the amount they have scored. The damage has been done in defence and in particular on the road.
Between this season and last Phil Jones moved to Manchester United and in January Chris Samba went to Anzhi Makhachkala and Ryan Nelsen joined Tottenham Hotspur, all centre-backs. In came Scott Dann, formerly of relegated Birmingham City. Evidently Dann was not enough, and when re-enforcements failed to arrive in January, and instead more troops departed, Rovers sealed their fate, the owners either unwilling or unable to stem the tide. Blackburn’s first game of 2012, a 2-1 home defeat against Stoke City, left Kean’s side with a goal difference of -15. Jump to the end of the season and it is -29, 14 goals that sum up why Blackburn could not survive.
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