x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Culture shock and tough grind of England await Amer Abdulrahman

UAE football star should expect a culture shock, and not just because Ewood Park is one of England's colder grounds, writes Richard Jolly.

UAE's Abdulrahman Amer impressed many with his run at the London 2012 Olympic Games, close to Blackburn's home 30kms away. Adrian Dennis / AFP
UAE's Abdulrahman Amer impressed many with his run at the London 2012 Olympic Games, close to Blackburn's home 30kms away. Adrian Dennis / AFP

Welcome to the madhouse. Amer Abdulrahman's potential move to Blackburn Rovers from Baniyas portends an experience like no other. Or it will be if last year, a shocking, surreal season, is any guide.

Blackburn began the season as promotion favourites and ended it in 17th place. They occupied every position from first to 22nd but were in the relegation zone with four weeks of the campaign remaining. They had five managers, used 39 players and had probably the Championship's biggest wage bill.

With one manager, Henning Berg, sacked after 57 days and his successor, Michael Appleton, only lasting 67, with a power struggle behind the scenes between global adviser Shebby Singh on one side and the alliance of managing director Derek Shaw and the now-dismissed operations director Paul Agnew on the other, they became a laughingstock.

Berg won a solitary game and got a £2.25 million (Dh12.6m) pay-off after a court case when Rovers' lawyers portrayed Shaw as a maverick, out-of-control figure and said the owners were incompetent.

Only at Blackburn, it seemed, could this happen.

The aim is to ensure it does not again. The summer's events, including Abdulrahman's recruitment for a trial run, can be seen as a reaction to last season.

The hope is to prove that lessons have been learnt; the fear is that as long as Indian poultry company Venky's own Rovers, mistakes will continue to be made and that bizarre decisions will remain a regular feature of life at Ewood Park.

The most important, however, brought a welcome injection of common sense.

Gary Bowyer, the caretaker manager who steered Rovers to safety, was confirmed in the top job. The squad is being remodelled with the headlines created by the big names who are departing, not the lower-profile newcomers.

Two of 2012's marquee signings, Danny Murphy and Nuno Gomes, have been paid off, a year before their contracts were due to expire.

After their relegation from the Premier League, Blackburn showed a cavalier disregard for experience and understanding of the Championship.

A series of inexperienced imports from Portugal were hardly used. Ageing technicians struggled against younger, fitter players. England's second tier tends to reward teams with specialist knowledge of its unique demands.

It explains a very different recruitment drive. Of their eight additions, six have a grounding at this level.

The exception is Abdulrahman, the one arrival from overseas. Perhaps he will be charged with replacing Murphy, providing Blackburn with a professional passer in the centre of midfield.

He should expect a culture shock if he makes the side permanently, and not just because Ewood Park is one of England's colder grounds.

A series of clichés surround the Championship: that there are no easy games, that every team can beat every other and that it is a long, hard slog. All are true.

There are 46 intensely competitive league games. Reach the play-offs or have a cup run and 55 matches can be crammed into the fixture list.

Mastering a gruelling routine of Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday games is essential if Abdulrahman is not to become a bit-part player.

There was no such thing as a settled side last year. Finding one will be a priority for Bowyer. The Blackburn of last season would have been the worst possible club for Abdulrahman to join.

This season's side, he has to hope, will provide the environment to excel.

But there is no guarantee of that. This, after all, is Blackburn.

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