So, after a season of over achieving, you rebuild your side for the next step up. Of course the new players take time to gel, but is it ok to only have one win under you belt 5 games into the season? Am I talking about Latics? Or Blackburn, whose record after five games was spookily similar to ours? Defeat to Pompey, a draw against Everton, exchange a laughable draw against Watford with a farcical one against Sheffield United and you can see where I’m going. Now I’m not about to trawl through Blackburn messages fans to find out if they were as despondent with the situation as some of our fns are being now, but a second league win and progress in the UEFA cup has certainly given them a bright outlook for this game.
Last season’s games have given this one a bit of history outside of the “Dave Whelan used to play for Blackburn you know” cliches. The tonking they handed out at the JJB was shrouded in controversy, nearly as much as it was blessed with Stephen Reid’s piledriver and the return leg was just another round in Phil Dowd’s battle to drive Paul Jewell to drink and an object lesson in why he shouldn’t be allowed to think about football, let alone referee games.
Whether Blackburn will be as horrible a side as they were last season remains to be seen. The loss of Bellamy, Dickov and Kuqi has to help, but any club with Robbie Savage in the side are never going to win any popularity contests. The biggest girls’s blouse in world football is an injury doubt for Sunday’s game and as much as you want to be playing against people’s best teams, 90 minutes of Savage might prove that bit too much after putting up with Tim Cahill the other week.
Even less likely to play is Jason Roberts who has spent the last few weeks out with a groin strain. A pity as, with people complaining that Heskey can’t stay on his feet and moans too much (sound familiar baggies?) it would be an opportunity to contrast what we’ve got and what we had. Also out for Rovers are Ryan Nelson and the aforementioned Reid.
With the lack of steel shown in the last two games it’s good to know that Lee McCulloch is in for a possible return to the Latics side for this one. As I’ve said a million times before, I don’t know what he gives us but the team always plays better with him in it. Elsewhere, Jewell will have to make a number of decisions. Does he stick with the players that were so poor (and not able to follow his game plan) against Watford or shake it up a little bit? To be honest the possibilities for that are slim.
Webster’s absence from the Scotland squad suggests that he’s not fit enough to take a place in Latics defence and whilst David Wright is a possibility at right back, I’m as likely to get a game. It looks like it will be same again at the back hopefully they’ve spent the week working on their distribution. There are more options in midfield but I suspect that the only likely change will be Teale for Valencia; the Ecuadorian looked jaded last week and could be due a rest. If McCulloch does play, expect it to be a straight swap for Kilbane. Todorov still hasn’t got 90 minutes in him according his manager so even if Jewell would consider dropping one of Heskey or Camara, it’s unlikely.
The prospects for this one are interesting, the home defeat last season was blamed on Blackburn’s freshness after a frozen off mid-week game. Tomorrow’s game comes 2 days after a European tie whilst Latics have had a full week to stew in their juices. Rovers might not be as knackered as Latics were last December but they shouldn’t be as fresh as Paul Jewell’s men, although Latics have spent the week climbing Mount Everest or something.
If the team has learnt lessons from last week, if the defence has it in them to make a pass of less than 40 yards if the team as whole realise that we’ve got another four players on the park, called the midfield then we might have a chance, but to be honest, that could be a bridge too far. It could be that the wave of pessimism has taken over, but a draw is probably the best we can expect from this game.
Then again that should be seen as a good result. The boos last week we’re (hopefully) more the style of play, than the result and tomorrow is a chance to fix that. To come back down the M65 with no points wouldn’t be anything to cry about as long as we can hold our heads up and be happy that Latics at least played some football and gave it a go. With the international break coming up, it’s the last chance they’ll have to prove their credentials for a while.
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