Indebted, inexperienced, incapable? Blackburn Rovers stare down the barrel of a damning 2021/22 season
The mood is rife among fans of the Football League – pre-season friendlies are being played under the sun and teams up and down the country are looking forward to welcoming back their fans. For Blackburn Rovers supporters though, there’s very little to shout about.
A 15th-place finish in the Championship last season capped a season of two halves for Blackburn Rovers. The first competent followed by a miserable second, in which Tony Mowbray’s side won just seven games with three of those coming in the final five games of the season.
Having yet to make a summer signing either, Rovers go into the new season with the skeleton of a squad which could yet get thinner. The signs are ominous for Blackburn Rovers and the reasons for it are damning.
Over ten years has passed since the V H Group took a 99.9% controlling stake in Blackburn Rovers through their holding company, Venky’s London Ltd.
Since, Blackburn Rovers have dropped out of the Premier League of which they were once winners, right down into the third-tier of English football and back into the Championship. They’ve done so at a loss, too – Rovers this summer posted their accounts for the 2019/20 season showing a total loss of £21.9million before tax, which was an increased loss of £3.7million compared to the 2018/19 season (Lancs Live).
Perhaps any amount of losses posted in the next few years can be mitigated due to the pandemic. Football was postponed indefinitely half way through the 2019/20 campaign and the Venky’s would subsequently pump a further £14million of their own capital into the club, meaning that Blackburn Rovers’ total debt to them now stands at £140million.
At some point further down the line, the Venky’s are obviously going to want to see that money. The highly contested and debated current ownership of Blackburn Rovers has caused controversy right across its tenure but that £140million won’t be recouped anytime soon.
Often with football club owners and debt owed to them by the actual football club itself, said debt is often paid off when a new owner comes in and agrees to take on any outstanding liabilities. But as the past 24 months or so have shown, takeovers are becoming increasingly difficult to navigate for clubs in the Football League and Rovers could eventually find themselves in a similar position to a certain Derby County.
Buyers are being put off by Derby’s apparent £60million debt that any potential buyer would have to take on. With Rovers indebted to the Venky’s by at least £140million, any future takeover or buyout already already looks to have its flaws. As uncertainty and unhappiness towards the board lingers on, that mood will slowly leak into the club itself and with fans back in stadiums next season, there could be some deafening sounds coming from the Ewood Park terraces.
Where’s Rovers’ Championship experience coming from?
According to Transfermarkt, Blackburn actually had one of the youngest average squad ages in the Championship last season, coming in at under 25-years-old over the course of the campaign.
But Rovers’ young loanees from the last season would’ve brought that number down significantly and whilst they do have some younger members of the first-team in Ryan Nyambe, Scott Wharton, Ben Brereton and left-back Harry Pickering to welcome from his loan spell back at Crewe, they really don’t have many names with a great deal of Championship experience.
The likes of Barry Douglas and Tom Trybull brought a degree of knowledge to the side last time round, whilst the more weathered likes of Stewart Downing, Corry Evans, Amari’i Bell, Elliott Bennett, Charlie Mulgrew and Lewis Holtby have all departed. Names like Daniel Ayala and Darragh Lenihan will really need to step up to the plate next time round, Thomas Kaminski in goal and Bradley Johnson in midfield can offer experience and guidance where needed – four names not to overwhelm about, yet they’ll be Blackburn’s leaders in the dressing room next season.
Championship football can be a cruel mistress. Rovers experienced that for large parts of last season, and whether the club’s youngsters can weather what looks to be a storm approaching in the 2021/22 season is a question that fans might not want to be asking just yet.
Mowbray was the man who brought Rovers out of League One and arguably out of the darkest days in their modern history. For that, he’ll forever have a seat at Ewood Park. But over the past two seasons in particular, fans have become unsettled with his management of the side and whilst his hands are largely tied when it comes to recruitment, his insistence with possession football wades beyond stubborn.
Fans have coined it ‘Mowbrayball’ and whilst it has made for spectacular viewing on occasion, with Blackburn having been prolific under Mowbray’s watch, it’s also made for patches of painstaking performances which have subsequently kept Rovers from nearing on the top-six since their return to the Championship three years ago.
With two promotions to his name as a manager and as many as a player, Mowbray certainly knows what it takes to earn it. The question remains whether he’s capable of doing so with this current Blackburn Rovers side – indeed, would any manager be able to?
As much as a necessary change might be around the corner, Blackburn simply don’t have a squad good enough to compete and eventually break out of the Championship. The changes can only start on the pitch and in the dugout but fans know that the real issues lie upstairs and with the club now heavily indebted to the Venky’s, it begs the question of whether we’ll see change before we see relegations, worsening financial problems and the collapse of a once great Blackburn Rovers.