INTRODUCING Aston Villa’s embarrassingly-easy victory at Derby on Match of the Day last night, Ray Stubbs remarked that they were in a three-team mini-league chasing an Intertoto Cup place. No criticism of Stubbs, but that mini-league does sound about as appealing as a Christmas present brought from a petrol station.
(Incidentally, if anyone is thinking of getting me charcoal briquettes for Christmas, don’t.)
Another team in that mini-league are East Lancashire’s finest – and friends of this blog – Blackburn Rovers.
“With 15 points to play for, we still have a chance to get that UEFA Cup or Intertoto spot, so we’ll give it our best shot,” said goalkeeper Brad Friedel ahead of today’s Premier League match against his former club Liverpool.
(On the subject of Friedel, I was having a discussion with a work colleague the other day as to whether being Blackburn’s second-choice goalkeeper is the easiest job in football. Friedel hardly ever gets injured, and is consistently outstanding, so never gets dropped either.
With Peter Enckleman on loan at Cardiff, the job of Friedel’s deputy is currently held by Jason Brown, who has played 45 minutes of first-team football in nearly two seasons at Ewood Park. I know there are reserve games to be played, and I’ve no doubts at all that Brown is a conscientious, hard-working footballer – but it’s hardly the most strenuous schedule, is it?)
Anyway, Friedel’s hopes of Euroepan football took a knock at Anfield today, as Liverpool won slightly more comfortably than they did in the Champions League against Arsenal in midweek. You’ll be delighted to know that, with Manchester City winning at Sunderland yesterday, Rovers have now returned to their rightful place of ninth in the Premier League.
So, with just the 12 points to play for now, and Manchester United to visit Ewood Park next sataurday teatime, what are Rovers’ planss for the rest of the season now? Manager mark Hughes didn’t sound too sure in his post-match press conference.
“We’ll keep going,” Hughes said. “We’ve got four games left and we’re still trying to achieve something, and that is a credit to us.”
It is indeed a credit, whatever that something may be. Sadly – and I know this sounds cynical – it’s not the kind of talk to keep David Bentley at the club.