Friday, August 6, 2010

Blackburn FC: Newcastle v2.0 - Small club in Big Pants

Blackburn have been amongst the Premier League's most successful clubs. That they've actually won a title automatically places them in that category; their place in history assured in the third year PLE (Premier League Era) behind the genius of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton. They've also been consistently challengers for European competitions through virtue of their final league position; due to this success Blackburn have risen from “small” to “medium” to “big” and now back to “medium” Club status. When you look closely there are a number of “bigger” clubs outside the Premiership: Leeds of course, Nottm Forest and even the Sheffield boys, United and Wednesday. As financing in football becomes all-consuming, when a squad past its prime has a bad run the risk of relegation looms exceedingly large – and suddenly whatever club status they hold, be it big or small, doesn't really fly anymore.

Newcastle are the perfect example of this conundrum. They've spent ludicrous dollars on transfers for high-profile players. They've carried themselves with the pomp and brashness of a big club. Yet the results simply haven't added up and two seasons ago they found themselves with their tails between their legs in the Championship. The Toon haven't won anything since 1950-something and as such they are not a big club – they're a mid-sized club with a large supporter base.

It can be argued that a big club is made of four things: fan following, results, money and swagger. You can probably even squeeze into medium club status with two of the four. Newcastle for several years have had that swagger and following, if not the results. Blackburn haven't had the following and much less so the money. They have a poor-ish following, results that're middle-of-the-pack at best and money less than average. As for swagger, well, they represent Blackburn – there's no swagger in rural Lancashire, just honesty.

They have one of the four things which indicate a big club. They have barely one of the indicators for a medium-sized club. They are a small club, with a small market, a small but loyal fan base and a small budget. Blackburn are fighting that horrible struggle where the heart and reputation says they belong in the Premiership but the other indicators – especially regularly drawing only 20,000 – screams “Championship”. The methods need to change in order to draw more and if this risks relegation, then so be it: the future looks brighter when there's more money or more people filling the stands.

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