According to the Daily Mirror at the start of last week, Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce had two games to save his job at Ewood Park. After a loss to Aston Villa in the Carling Cup and a win over Fulham at the weekend, it seems as if Big Sam’s job is safe for now, but where do Blackburn and the manager go from here?
Since being linked with the England job and leaving Bolton for pastures new at the start of 2007, Allardyce’s career has gone somewhat downhill. After failing to succeed at Newcastle United, Allardyce has found himself once again at a club with limited resources. His priority when he first took over at Blackburn Rovers after Paul Ince’s departure was to get them out of the relegation zone. He succeeded in this aim, and he did it in a style that we have become accustomed to from the manager.
Long ball, long throws and physical play became the order of the day at Ewood Park and with a lack of fit strikers, 6ft 5 defender Christopher Samba was used as a lone striker as last season came to a close. No doubt, Blackburn fans appreciated that Allardyce had got them out of their troubles at the bottom of the league last season, and they didn’t mind what style of football, no matter how ugly, they played to keep their Premier League status, but as results have begun to go awry this season, the issue has become more prevalent.
Under previous manager Mark Hughes, they had also been a pretty physical team during the Welsh manager’s early reign at the club but with players such as Roque Santa Cruz, Benni McCarthy, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Tugay in the side, they played some good football. Something which has been notably absent from Allardyce’s tenure in charge so far.
Playing with only Franco Di Santo or Jason Roberts up front has hardly helped matters on occasion and it has been reported that both Allardyce’s direct style of play and player selection has upset senior players at the club. Whether this is the case is up for debate but what isn’t, is Blackburn’s recent slump in form which had seen the side not win since Allardyce had returned to the touchline.
Allardyce himself had to have heart surgery in November, and certainly all has not been well with the team on his return. Before Saturday they had not won in the league since they won 2-0 against Bolton on November 22nd but the win over Fulham will of course certainly have lifted the pressure off the manager and moving up to twelfth in the table will certainly ease supporters’ fears of another relegation battle. Allardyce felt that although they had not played as well as some other games this season, they actually got the rub of the green for once:
We felt the pressure [on the pitch] today, there is no doubt about that. But, then we got the first goal, which was what we were looking for. And, for the first time in a long time, the bounce of the ball broke for us. I think that on the corner, it [the ball] bounces back off Damien Duff on the line and Chris Samba finishes it off. That sort of bounce we have not seen for a long timeOf course, timing of goals is very important. Just after half-time and a great free-kick by Benni [McCarthy] and a great header from Ryan [Nelsen] saw the game off quite comfortably for us – a big, big win and from all the lads it was well deserved.
A big win it certainly was, and although Big Sam has his supporters in the board, the win will no doubt keep many supporters in the stands appeased too. The game saw both Nicola Kalinic and Benni McCarthy start together for the first time in the Premier League for Blackburn and Rovers fans will hope that this is good omen for matches to come.
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