Opinion piece by Toby Wilding, sports journalist and Rovers fan
There was a sense of inevitability about today’s announcement that manager Paul Lambert will leave Blackburn Rovers at the end of the season.
Only Lambert knows exactly why he made the decision to activate a release clause in his contract less than six months after his arrival at Ewood Park, but many of those in and around the club must have a pretty good idea.
It has been more than two months since managing director Derek Shaw left the club and in the time since then communications director Alan Myers has also turned towards the exit door, leaving the club severely under-staffed at executive level.
As a result of these departures, Lambert had claimed in recent weeks he was close to becoming a spokesman for the club, a role he did not want given his previous experience at Aston Villa.
Another issue faced by Lambert, with the departure of board directors and the owners Venky’s apparently silent with regards to planning for the future, was the subsequent inability to make any plans with regards to player recruitment or sales in the summer transfer window.
With Lambert looking at the prospect of becoming a figurehead for something he could effectively do nothing about, the Scot really was on a hiding to nothing if he stayed. You can hardly blame him for walking.
Rumours – and the bookies – say he could become the next manager at Glasgow Celtic, which would, in many ways, at least provide a rational explanation for leaving so suddenly.
The question now is what next for Rovers? The club has said it will begin the search for a new manager immediately, but who will be doing the looking? Until a proper management structure exists in the boardroom, it is hard to see any reputable manager willing to take a chance. Although this is football and money talks…..
What is just as worrying as the club’s prospects of finding a decent new manager is the challenge of holding onto key members of the squad. Perhaps the most telling indication this is an issue comes in comments made just this week by Danny Graham. The striker, currently on loan from Sunderland until the end of the season, says he is willing to make a permanent move to Ewood Park, but claims talks have gone quiet over a deal.
Graham is Rovers’ top scorer still at the club this season, with his performances proving invaluable since his arrival in January. Any normal club would see it as a no brainer to sign the forward full time when they know he is open to a move. Blackburn Rovers are no longer a normal football club.
With stories such as this emanating out of Ewood Park, it is hard to see just how Rovers can attract anyone on or off the pitch in the current situation. One’s sympathy goes out to the few good people who remain, such as finance director Mike Cheston. As if his job wasn’t hard enough!
In allowing matters to get to the point where Paul Lambert felt it was impossible to remain in his post with things as they were, Rovers have lost a manager with a proven track record and it is hard to imagine the club presenting an attractive enough offer to any others.
Consequently, an inexperienced or under-qualified appointment may soon be in the offing, and given the league position the club is in as it is, that is not the type of risk the club wants to be taking. Alan Irvine is Lambert’s No. 2 and he has managed before, albeit with mixed success.
Especially considering the club can hardly afford to take the financial loss that would surely be suffered with a relegation that could so easily happen as the result of a combination of the wrong manager and the departure of key players without replacement.
As Rovers fans well know by now, what happens next is anyone’s guess. We thought Venky’s had finally, if belatedly, learned their lesson by at last appointing a proper football manager in Paul Lambert. With his premature departure, the Indian owners will have to act fast and make some astute hirings in both the boardroom and dugout to turn it around for the club.
Then again, how long have Rovers fans been saying things like that for?
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