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LFW Awaydays – Blackburn, Ewood Park
LFW Awaydays – Blackburn, Ewood Park
Wednesday, 7th Mar 2012 00:29 by Awaydays

Another one of those days on the pitch, and a long trip in rough weather off it. It’s probably fair to say the LFW travelling crew won’t miss Blackburn if it’s not on our list again next season.


On the Pitch

There is a tendency to go overboard in football – every performance is either the best or worst ever, every player the greatest or most incompetent, every moment the most uplifting or most demoralising. People say Joey Barton is the worst player they’ve seen in a QPR shirt and they’re wrong, just as people who say this performance is as bad as it has ever been are mistaken as well. This was awful, but it no kind of awful we haven’t seen from QPR a thousand times before.

It was, nevertheless, a shocker. Blackburn, a club that seems to have had a bet on itself to be relegated but somehow still sports a team that refuses to become downtrodden and roll over, were far better than Rangers in every department for the first hour of this game by which time they were 3-0 up. The statistics show that Rovers had only two shots on target (for three goals) compared to QPR who made it into double figures, and the modern coach will trot out all manner of irrelevant nonsense from Pro Zone to prove that his team isn’t that far away from getting things right. Hell, Steve Kean has wheeled out enough steamy piles of bullshit about “penalty box penetrations” this season for the people of Blackburn to know it when they smell it.

But you don’t have to look at statistics to get a feel for a game, a performance and a team’s mood. This was abject from QPR, truly horrendous against a near relegation rival. It was only when Jamie Mackie came on in the second half and carried the team single handedly, coupled with Kean’s usual tactic of removing his most effective midfielders when holding an advantage in some weird Paul Hart-like fixation with inviting as much pressure onto his team as possible, that QPR came into the game at all. They scarcely deserved the two goals they got and all it served to do was set up another load of rhetoric about building on the second half performance to spew out for the following week before turning in another inept performance at Fulham.

You can tell by my tone, still angry three weeks later, that this was a performance that makes fans fall out of love with players. This game turned me from being sure we’d stay up to certain we’d go down in 90 minutes, and the incident in the second half where Joey Barton sat on the ground feigning injury rather than tracking back a Blackburn attack only to leap up and get on with the game when QPR won the ball back moved me from the dwindling camp of his supporters into the massed ranks of his critics.

Not good enough from front to back and left to right, Jamie Mackie excepted.

Scores >>> QPR performance 2/10 >>> Opposition performance 6/10 >>> Referee performance 7/10

In the stand

Sadly, not for the first or probably the last time in my life, I’m currently in the midst of the five stages of relationship break up. It could be argued (and indeed has been by several close family members) that insisting on spending Saturdays journeying to weird and wonderful places like Blackburn only to return in the small hours of Sunday morning in a tired and emotional state may have something to do with why this has happened. However on this occasion I think my better half moving into a television industry that I assumed was populated entirely by gay guys but actually turned out to be packed with better looking, richer, less QPR orientated males than myself probably had more to do with it.

Anyway I’ve been through this a few times before, as I’m sure we all have, so the stages become pretty familiar. There’s the denial, where it comes to light, usually quite late at night after a few drinks, that things aren’t right and you put it down to the time of the month and think a few flowers and grand gestures might help. Then there’s the bargaining, where you offer to perhaps stop going to the League Cup games from the 2013/14 season with a view to cutting out midweek away games with a journey time of more than four hours from 2015/16. Then there’s the anger, where you just want to rip her face clean off, or at least swear at it for a day or two. Then there’s the depression where you think you’re so ugly and ridiculous nobody other than a Helen Worth look-a-like is ever going to even want to speak to you again, never mind agree to semi-regular mediocre sex. And finally there’s acceptance.

Now I would never for one moment suggest that the pain of an away defeat at Blackburn Rovers comes close to the sudden, dramatic and rather surprising end of a long term relationship that I had rather hoped would spawn a couple of children for me to brainwash into supporting QPR thereby ensuring a miserable Whittingham at Loftus Road for decades to come but those stages of grief were very evident in the away end at Ewood Park as this one played out.

Initially there was the denial – first that we were playing badly (“we always start slowly, it’ll be alright) and secondly that we were in a lot of trouble at one, two and then three goals down (“we’ve come back from worse”). Then there was the bargaining: “Please win a header Hall you fucking useless tosspot, just one header and I’ll never say a thing against you again.” Then anger, specifically in the form of loud swearing as the league’s most farcical club surging into a three goal lead was met with mere shrugs by the QPR team. The depression kicked in at half time, the first moment since the Tony Fernandes takeover I’ve actually thought we might be relegated. And finally there was acceptance – I’d do anything for this club, those useless tossers out there wouldn’t, let’s just get on the train and go home.

There was a little football equivalent of break-up sex when Jamie Mackie turned up and scored two goals but otherwise it was 90 minutes that will be tough to get over, and judging by the reaction of those around me in the travelling support plenty felt the same.

A key component of away wins at Ewood Park this season has been angering a volatile home support by scoring an early goal – letting them have three of their own nullified the potentially beneficial anti-Kean and Venkys attacks from the home stands and the Blackburn fans in general looked and sounded like a group of people struggling to believe their luck.

Scores >>> QPR support 6/10 >>> Home support 6/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 6/10 >>>> Stadium 7/10 >>>> Police and stewards 7/10

On the road

Blackburn is a textile town with no textile, like my home town Grimsby is a fishing port with no fish. It’s a town that you struggle to see a point to, other than as a home for a football team that’s success over the past two decades is miraculous given its surroundings.

When Grimsby Town played in the First Division people said they were punching above their weight and nobody was greatly surprised when they were relegated again, and again, and again down to the Conference. Blackburn is Grimsby without the water, it just sort of sits on the edge of the Pennines feeling a bit sorry for itself, and yet there’s a Premiership team residing there.

There is no direct mainline service to Blackburn, you change in nearby Preston and board one of Northern Rail’s famed buses on wheels that were originally built in the 1960s to last until the 1980s but remain today. That stresses and strains itself up the side of the mountains calling at Pleasington (there was nothing pleasing about it) and Cherry Tree (presumably long since felled) among others. Place names dreamed up by ‘blue sky thinkers’ of old to distract you from the reality that you live in a dead-end shithole. Cue “usual nonsense from a bitter southerner” and “London isn’t all that great” comments from north of the Watford Gap I’m sure – I’m not southern, I’ve lived my whole life in desolate northern places, I know them when my train rattles past them.

Eventually you arrive in Blackburn, greeted by the sight of an enormous steel bridge which I presume is another one of those projects the European Development Fund throws horrendous amounts of money at for no discernible benefit whatsoever. This bridge appears to link nothing very much to nothing very much. Spending public money in Blackburn seems rather like ploughing your money into saving Darlington Football Club, or restoring a beaver population to Scotland – sooner or later you have to ask what the point is? It clearly wants to die, perhaps you should just let it and start afresh somewhere else.

We walked past the bridge to nowhere after the match on the way back to the station, which at 6pm on a Saturday afternoon was entirely unstaffed and absolutely pitch black either because of a power cut or because the man who goes round snuffing out the lanterns had somewhere else to be later in the evening.

The news headlines on the Visit Blackburn website tell me a punk festival planned for April has been cancelled, the visitor centre has moved next to the revolving doors in the market and one of the town’s café’s has had a makeover. Roll up, roll up.

A search of the Sky website for pubs near the station that could afford the outrageous subscription costs to show live football turned up just three in the entire borough of Blackburn and Darwen – population somewhere in the region of 120,000. Of the pubs previously recommended near the ground we were told one was shut but had opened a temporary bar in the car park, which sounded less than tempting in weather worse than that which claimed Scott of the Antarctic, while the other had burned to the ground. I was reminded of the old line from Alan Partridge: “Excuse the stench of urine, there really is nothing else for them to do around here.”

Blackburn’s population is now 25% Muslim with huge recent migration from India and Pakistan – the third highest in the country and the most outside London. I’m forced to wonder what the attraction is? It wasn’t even cheap to get here, Virgin Trains made us pay through the nose despite the early booking as usual and then set about cooking us by ramping up the temperature in our carriage on the journey north to such an extent I felt it necessary to strip to my boxers and lay out across the table to air out my cracks and crevices. Frowned upon, as it turns out.

Football clubs don’t win things based on population and the town’s GDP of course, but you get the point I’m making. It’s astonishing that Rovers are one of only four teams to win the Premier League since its inception and you fear for this place should the Mad Indian Chicken Farmers drag them off to the fiery Championship grave they seem so desperate to climb into. Blackburn is identified by its football club, and it needs to be far better looked after than is currently the case for the sake of a long suffering town.

Scores >>> Journey 6/10 >>> Cost 2/10

In the pub

Where are these sausages coming from? Who is responsible? If I ever find out they can expect a campaign of raw hatred to be unleashed on them. A LoftforWords Jihad upon anybody responsible for the manufacture, distribution or sale of these hideous sausages which increasingly populate our pubs.

If you order a sausage of some sorts in a British pub at the moment you never get a mediocre sausage. You’re never left at the end of the meal reflecting on a passable meal, or something that was alright. You’re either lounging back in your chair, rubbing your stomach and thanking God you’re alive, or you’re in the toilet, envying bulimics. If I was Fitz Hall I could throw this insult to food up, but I’m not and so I can’t.

A good sausage should be mainly meat, with some added spice and flavouring. If you want to be adventurous then by all means chuck a leak or apple in there with your pork, just make sure there is some bloody pork in there. The meat is the key. Somewhere out there in Dante’s circles of hell there resides a sorry excuse for a human being, with greasy hair, thick rimmed glasses and a balance sheet in front of him. This slimy, pathetic, sorry excuse for a man been working hard while his wife has been off shagging somebody else and has discovered that by cutting the meat content of sausages back to below 20% and replacing it with ash you can actually produce sausages for a matter of pence, while still charging £8-£13 for a plate of them with mashed potato. This man blights our society and must be stopped. I would not piss on this man if he was on fire.

A sausage should cut into slices like a meat loaf, and it should be a wonderful meaty colour all the way through with hints of whatever herbs and flavourings you have put in there. It should not wheeze and deflate when pierced with a fork, it should not be the same shade of grey as a cadaver, it should not have a thick brown skin that looks like it was borrowed from the chef’s shoe and it should not contain a squishy gruel like substance in the middle. It should taste, you should be able to taste it. It should not be completely plain leaving you only with the texture and the thought of what horrors went into it. Sausages are not hard, or expensive, to make so stop this nonsense now.

The Station Hotel, Preston, you do not serve “fine food” as your sign promises. You are purveyors of this evil blight on British cuisine. And, it should be said, not very quick purveyors either. The clue is in your name; The Station. People at train stations have a finite amount of time. They do not have 53 minutes to sit and wait for the world’s worst sausages to be served with powdered mash potato, peas from a can and gravy from granules. You should be absolutely fucking ashamed of yourself, and closed immediately.

Suitably poisoned and grumpy we moved on to our old Blackburn haunt The Adelphi where I believe, if the collection bucket and black and white photograph are anything to go by, my assertion last season that the barmen was a heart attack waiting to happen proved to be a rare correct LFW prediction. Commiserations and sympathy to everybody there, both staff and punters are always very friendly and chatty with us and the land lord was very welcoming last season so if he has indeed succumbed then it’s a great shame. Staff that understood Jaz’s “half a wibbly wobbly dog’s bollocks” order immediately as half a Boondoggle are hard to find and should be cherished. The marks are split between the two pubs, one did well, the other less so.

Scores >>> Pubs 6/10 >>> Atmosphere 7/10 >>> Food 1/10 >>>> Cost 8/10

Total 77/140

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Pictures – Action Images

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YorkRanger added 10:03 - Mar 7
Priceless.
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MinionR added 10:40 - Mar 7
A superb piece of writing about an all together s**t day.
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themodfather added 17:04 - Mar 7
a shi* day..i thought it was worse, so maybe not as bad then??
nah, def a wrong un....stats can be quite funny, except the goals "for" ones!
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PlumsteadQPR added 18:51 - Mar 7
This was supposed to be the 'centrepiece' of my stag do. As it turned out, it will live long in the memory of everyone on the stag - mainly as a stick to beat the QPR supporting members of it for years to come.

Half the coach hadn't been to bed having spent the previous night in Liverpool and Saturday morning in a village pub (I'd hesitate to call it welcoming - more begrudging - but at least they served us and didn't call the police; you'd think they'd be a bit more grateful for us tripling their annual turnover in the space of three hours) and yet we still would have made a better fist of the first half.

It's probably what I expected.
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hoops123 added 19:25 - Mar 7
Blackburn........an even bigger sh.t hole than Burnley.....just.
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