IT’S a long time since I’ve been to Ewood Park, despite growing up less than 10 miles away. When I last visited, the main stand was about half its current size, and the only place you could buy programmes was from a brick kiosk outside the ground.
In those days, Blackburn’s manager – be it Bobby Saxton, Don Mackay or even Kenny Dalglish – would hold his post-match press conference in a club-owned house across the road from the ground.
A work colleague of mine once told me a story of a journalist crossing the road to attend the press conference after one Rovers game. He banged on the door, walked in and found a chap sitting on a chair watching television.
“Any chance of a cup of tea?” said the journalist, and the man dutifully went into the kitchen to brew up. “Oh, and how about some sandwiches as well?”
The journalist was supping on his tea and munching on his sandwiches, waiting for the press conference to start. It was only several minutes later, as he puzzled over the lack of activity around him, that he realised he was in the wrong house.
Tonight’s final match: Blackburn 1 Fulham 0
Commentator: John Roder
Of course, Blackburn are a much grander club these days, capable of attracting managers such as Roy Hodgson (who once led a team at the World Cup) and Paul Ince (who once played at the World Cup).
This was Hodgson’s second return to Blackburn with Fulham – and both times, the game has been last on Match of the Day.
Worryingly for Fulham, their expensively-assembled strike partnership of Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson couldn’t find a way past a Blackburn defence who have been more generous than JK Rowling lately.
It will certainly be unusual tomorrow to read all those Sunday paper match reports containing the words “Blackburn” and “clean sheet”.
They will also contain the phrase “home win” – something Blackburn managed for the first time this season today – thanks to Matt Derbyshire’s late winner.
“It is nice to get three points, but with the way things have been going in the last two weeks – conceding eight goals – it was important that we gained a clean sheet,” Ince told Blackburn’s official website during the various post-match press conferences.
Whether a journalist was enjoying sandwiches next door, oblivious to Ince’s words, sadly remains unrecorded.
1. Wigan: 2 (Capello difference: +1)
2. Blackburn: 2 (Capello difference: 0)
3=. Capello: 1
3=. West Ham: 1 (Capello difference: +1)
5=. Bolton: 1
5=. Fulham: 1
5=. Hull: 1
5=. Sunderland: 1
5=. West Brom: 1
10=. Gubba: 0
10=. Arsenal: 0
10=. Aston Villa: 0
10=. Chelsea: 0
10=. Everton: 0
10=. Liverpool: 0
10=. Manchester City: 0
10=. Manchester United: 0
10=. Middlesbrough: 0
10=. Newcastle: 0
10=. Portsmouth: 0
10=. Stoke: 0
10=. Tottenham: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)