x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ominous signs for Blackburn Rovers

The warning signs are there for Blackburn that if they do not spend money they are in for a difficult season in the Premier League.

Ryan Nelsen, the Blackburn defender, tries to tackle Aston Villa's Emile Heskey during Saturday's 3-1 defeat.
Ryan Nelsen, the Blackburn defender, tries to tackle Aston Villa's Emile Heskey during Saturday's 3-1 defeat.

There was one reoccurring theme as Premier League journalists made their pre-season predictions. It was an overwhelming belief that Blackburn Rovers will be relegated.

Lest we forget, this is Blackburn who are only one of four sides - along with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea - to have won the Premier League.

And this is a team that, under Mark Hughes, recorded three consecutive top-10 finishes including a sixth place in 2005/06.

Where has it gone wrong? To some extent, Blackburn have been victims of their success.

Three of Blackburn's best players of the past five years - Craig Bellamy, David Bentley and Roque Santa Cruz - were all bought by top-six teams in Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City. And City also tempted Hughes to join them as manager in 2008.

But a club can bounce back from losing players. They will find it hard, however, to recover from the damage Venky's, their new owners, are doing.

Within weeks of the taking over in November 2010, the Indian poultry giants had sacked Sam Allardyce, the manager, and appointed Steve Kean. The logic of ditching a man with experience of keeping unfashionable teams in the league in favour of a man who had never coached a side before? Sir Alex Ferguson summed it up: "Absolutely ridiculous."

Venky's appear to think they can pull the wool over the supporters' eyes.

Promises of major investment in the team and sound bites in the press about buying the likes of Ronaldinho and David Beckham mask the fact the club have again sold their best player - Phil Jones to Manchester United for £16.5 million (Dh99m) - and reinvested less than a third of it in new signings.

Hughes' team was built on a top-class spine: centre-backs Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba, Bentley and David Dunn in midfield, and a goalscorer in attack, be it Bellamy, Santa Cruz or Benni McCarthy.

The defence remains, but the quality of the rest of the team has diminished. Dunn is barely fit and Jason Roberts, the striker, has scored less than a goal every five games for the club.

A lack of investment will hurt Blackburn. There are much bigger clubs, in terms of fan base and prestige, waiting to take their Premier League place. And bouncing back into the top flight is harder than getting there in the first place.

Blackburn have lost their first two games and the warning signs are there. With just nine days of the transfer window remaining, they need to spend.

twoods@thenational.ae