By Anna Louise Adams.
In her maiden blog for the Offside Rule Podcast, Anna Louise Adams looks at Blackburn Rovers and whether Gary Bowyer really is the right man to lead the team back into the Premier League.
Gary Bowyer is a passionate, hard-working and likeable man. At times, he has also shown himself to be tactically inappropriate, and substitutionally lacking of ideas. This is not to say that I, nor other Blackburn Rovers supporters dislike Gary Bowyer, or want him to be sacked.
In fact, I do like Gary Bowyer. I think he has proven himself to be a more than capable manager, in a situation where he inherited a team combined of three different managers choice of players. When Bowyer was appointed as manager of the club, the squad was a mess – there were a number of players sitting on lucrative contracts, there were players who hadn’t played for months, there were players who simply did not fit the bill any more, and there were, hidden amongst the pile, players who had something to offer to a team who wanted to better themselves.
Bowyer was able to identify a number of those players, he was able to rid the club of the majority of dead wood, and he negotiated the transfer markets wisely. Although some of his signings unfortunately did not go to plan; Alan Judge and Alex Marrow – he has brought in a number of excellent players who have contributed to performances on the pitch; Tom Cairney, Rudy Gestede, Jason Steele, Matt Kilgallon and Tommy Spurr.
As a manager, Bowyer has instilled confidence back into a club where there was little to be confident about until recent times, confidence which has allowed the club to play well and win points. There is no doubt that Bowyer has led the club to a far better and more stable position than they saw two or three seasons ago.
He should be praised for that. However, just as other managers inherit the duty to answer questions of the fans, the time has come to ask whether Gary Bowyer is able to take Blackburn Rovers forward as a club, and specifically back to the Premier League.
Rovers finished last season on a 12 game unbeaten run, which was excellent for the fans. However, six of those games finished in a draw, and three of those draws were at home. The club dropped a number of points through starting off poorly and conceding early, or taking the lead in a game and then dropping back and defending far too deep which led to opposition equalisers. If the tactics in defence had been adjusted, and therefore the team had drawn less and won more, it is likely that Blackburn would have finished in the play offs.
This season, the story begs the same plot – in 25 games the club has won eight, drawn eight and lost nine times. To put it bluntly, the squad are inconsistent. One week can see Ewood Park graced with a dominating performance from the blue and white halves, leading to three goals being scored in the first half alone. Other weeks can see the players struggling to work as a unit, misreading each other’s passes, or dropping back too far again.
There is a real problem with dropping back when teams are leading, unless you have a united, strong defence which struggles to be penetrated. When a team simply have a decent, or a good defence, dropping back when in front only leads to conceding goals – this is because in Rovers case, it tends to invite the opposition on and allows them more opportunities than they would have if Blackburn had just kept attacking.
This deep defending has been a recurring problem which has seen the club lose leads and instead end up in draws – and it seems that Bowyer sees something in this plan which fans do not, as it happens often. Questions have also been asked of Bowyers competency regarding substitutions. Frequently, the manager leaves it until the 75th or 80th minute to make a game changing or impact substitution. Of course, Bowyer also can make very good substitutions which do impact the game, but there is room for much improvement.
While Bowyer is a well respected, passionate, confidence boosting manager, Blackburn could be in need of an established Championship manager who has experience of promotion out of the league, and can offer that experience to Blackburn. The teams at the top of the league, are the kind of teams who play with consistency – even if they lose a game or two, they are the kind of teams who have played with the same consistency as they would have played had they won, and have merely been unlucky or affected by injuries.
Blackburn, however, are inconsistent, and unless these issues of consistency are resolved, which could rely upon the need for a more experienced managers, it is increasingly unlikely that Blackburn will make a return to the Premier League soon.
This leads me to the conclusion, that while Bowyer is an excellent man, and someone who has done a magnificent job at Blackburn Rovers – given the circumstances he inherited the club in, he is not the man to take the club to the Premier League. He is a great youth manager, and in my eyes, should be given the opportunity to resume the work he did with the youth teams before he took on the role, should he want it. However, if the clubs aspirations are as high as the owners say they are, the club is shouting for an experienced championship manager. Someone like Mick McCarthy – who is doing wonders at Ipswich Town.