Coyle exit changes little for Blackburn


Owen Coyle –

It seems unlikely that Owen Coyle’s departure from Blackburn Rovers will impact the club’s survival chances.

The ominous prospect of third tier football for the first time since 1980 has long loomed over Ewood Park. Since the Venky’s took ownership in 2010, the club has regressed on average five places per season, going from 10th in the Premier League to a Championship relegation battle over seven years.

In that time, they appointed six managers, the best two being Gary Bowyer and Paul Lambert. Both had the team organized and they fared reasonably well in the circumstances, but appeared to be delaying the slide rather than overturning it.

Last season, both built on the foundations of centre-backs Shane Duffy and Grant Hanley, two of Blackburn’s rare plus points from the previous campaign. With debt to pay off, the club sold the duo without re-investing the money. Therefore, Coyle has had to build a team of players who are either past their best or yet to prove themselves at this level.

Relative to budget, there is an argument to say that his recruitment has been mixed, rather than disastrous. Of the eight arrivals who have started more than five league games, hardworking forwards Sam Gallagher and Danny Graham have scored 23 goals between them, the latter having impressed under Lambert last season. Marvin Emnes makes powerful runs and was one of the best players on the pitch against Manchester United.

Throw in the five assists from Craig Conway and Blackburn have looked reasonable going forward, having scored more goals than six teams in the league (36) and as many as 11th place Derby. A poor defensive record has not been helped by injuries at the back. Tommie Hoban impressed prior to his October injury, the likes of Elliott Ward, Gordon Greer and Derrick Williams have also had fitness issues while Wes Brown is 37. In the 3-2 defeat at Preston in December, Coyle was forced to use a centre-back pairing of Darragh Lenihan and Charlie Mulgrew in midfield. The former’s tenacity and the latter’s composure could have made either more suited to central midfield.

When working with no money, an element of luck with injuries is required to ensure limited ability is made up for by tactical consistency and team spirit. Blackburn have not had that and so it is hard to see Coyle’s exit – regardless of who made the decision – changing fortunes.

Whoever the next man to step inside the dugout, they will be battling against the tide.