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Entering the 2012/2013 season, few could have expected just what would happen at Blackburn Rovers over the ensuing 9 months.

Records were broken, interior battles were fought, and a legal case highlighted just how perilous the clubs situation currently is.

There was much expectation placed on Blackburn in pre season, emphasised by some big name, big money signings: Jordan Rhodes was brought in for a Championship record fee of £8 million; Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu were brought in from Fulham; and Leon Best joined from Newcastle United for £3 million; as was the experienced Nuno Gomes, although the bizarre signings of five other relatively unknown Portuguese players may yet come back to haunt the club (more on that later).

The pressure was also high on manager Steve Kean, who remained in the Ewood dugout despite a shocking managerial record and countless attempts to excuse the inexcusable. The introduction of former Malaysian international Shebby Singh as “Global Advisor” did not help Kean, or Venkys for that matter. Throughout the season Singh courted controversy. If Singh’s comments that Kean would be sacked if he lost three games in a row endeared him to the Rovers fans, his claims that long serving midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen was a “pensioner”, did not. It was not the last time Singh would find himself in the headlines.

My name’s Shebby, you’ll be hearing a lot from me

My name’s Shebby, you’ll be hearing a lot from me

The season started well for Rovers, a 1-1 draw at Ipswich Town was followed up with back to back home victories over Hull and Leicester. Morten Gamst Pedersen celebrated his winner against Leicester with a walking stick, in reference to Singh’s earlier comments. Despite being unbeaten in the League after six games and sitting atop of the table, numerous poor performances and a League Cup exit to League 1 MK Dons had the vast majority of Rovers fans worried. That unbeaten League run ended with a 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough the next time out, it was a defeat many fans had been expecting, and led to numerous calls for Kean to leave, and leave he did. Exactly one week after the Middlesbrough defeat, Kean held his pre match press conference ahead of Rovers’ trip to Charlton, wherein he claimed he had held positive talks with Venkys and that he would be remaining as manager. Something must have changed by that evening, when Kean announced he was resigning from his position, stating that it had become “untenable”. The 27th September has since become a day Blackburn supporters will forever remember.

Thus began the reign of Blackburn’s second manager, Eric Black was Kean’s assistant and the obvious choice to take caretaker charge. Black’s time as manager began well enough; a point at Charlton was commendable given the circumstances. Black managed six games losing only one, at home to Wolves. Black’s final match at home to Watford saw allowed Black to leave on a high, as Jordan Rhodes made up for Colin Kazim Richards penalty miss with a stoppage time winner allowing Black time s caretaker manager to end with the club still 5th in the Championship.

The third man to enter the Blackburn dugout was Henning Berg. The Norwegian defender was at Rovers when the club won the Premier League in 1995 and the League Cup in 2002, but had been out of work since being sacked by Lillestrom in 2011. Believed to have been the choice of Shebby Singh, Berg’s appointment came as a surprise to some, given that the likes of Ian Holloway had been linked to the job. Berg’s first game at the beginning of November was a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace who had just appointed their own new manager: Ian Holloway. Berg’s first win was a 4-1 thumping of Peterborough in which Jordan Rhodes scored his first Blackburn hat trick. It would be Berg’s only win as manager, and despite six defeats in his ten game spell Berg did see Blackburn continue their unbeaten run over local rivals Burnley with a 1-1 draw. A Boxing Day defeat at Middlesbrough spelled the end for Berg after just 57 days in charge with Rovers having dropped to 17th in the League. At the same time Berg was relieved of his duties; his backroom staff discovered they had lost their jobs when it was announced on television.

Well that didn’t last long!

Well that didn’t last long!

Though he didn’t know it at the time of stepping up as caretaker manager, Gary Bowyer would become the hero of Blackburn Rovers’ season. His first stint as caretaker manager lasted just four games during which he remained unbeaten, with 2 wins against Barnsley and Nottingham Forest and a draw at Wolves in the League accompanied by an FA Cup 3rd Round victory over Bristol City. Throughout his time in charge Bowyer repeatedly rejected suggestions he may take the job full time, although he may have expected to be in charge for longer than he was. As 2013 began Shebby Singh announced Rovers would not be appointing a new manager until the end of January, and Bowyer would be in charge until then. Managing Director Derek Shaw however, had other ideas.

On the 11th January 2013, as Gary Bowyer led his Blackburn team to a 1-1 draw at Wolves, the club chose to announce that Blackpool manager Michael Appleton would become the fifth man to take charge of Blackburn this season. Appleton’s debut was disappointing to say the least, a 2-1 defeat at home to Charlton, the atmosphere at Ewood was undoubtedly damaged by the presence of owners Venkys, whose departure after 65 minutes was greeted by a chorus of boos. Appleton’s first League win was at home to Bristol City saw Jordan Rhodes hit both goals in a 2-0 win, and his goal in the following game at home to Ipswich he hit the only goal to become just the fourth Rovers player to score in seven successive games. Appleton had already overseen an FA Cup 4th Round win over Derby which provided the back story to the highlight of Blackburn season. For the 5th Round Blackburn were drawn away to Arsenal in a match that will go down in Rovers history. Jake Kean had long since established himself as Rovers’ first choice goalkeeper earlier in the season and he certainly proved why with a string of top class saves as Rovers defended resiliently at the Emirates, before in the 72nd minute Martin Olsson had Blackburn’s first shot of the game, Wojciech Szczesny could only parry to Colin Kazim Richards, whose mishit shot managed to find its way into the Arsenal net. For the next 18 minutes Rovers withstood attack after attack before the final whistle sent the travelling Rovers fans into hysterics.

Colin Kazim Richards scores Blackburn Rovers' winner v Arsenal

Colin Kazim Richards writes his name into Blackburn folklore

Victory at Arsenal would, however, be Appleton’s last as Blackburn manager as the club began a worrying slide towards the dreaded dotted line. At the beginning of March Rovers conceded three at home to struggling Peterborough in just 27 first half minutes, eventually slipping to a 3-2 defeat. Rovers were also knocked out of the FA Cup by Millwall in a replay; strangely Appleton appeared to attempt to employ the same tactics against Millwall as they had against Arsenal, when a more offensive style of play may have seen them reach the hallowed turf of Wembley. Just five days after their FA Cup exit Rovers had to pick themselves up and prepare for the East Lancashire Derby at home to Burnley. Rovers had not won in seven in all competitions since the trip to Arsenal, and went into the match below their local rivals in the table. Rovers began playing the defensive tactics that had become synonymous with Appleton’s time in charge. 10 minutes in and the main event of the first half came when a chicken once again found its way on to the, delaying the match for two minutes. Jason Shackell went on to give Burnley the lead on 32 minutes. Rovers’ response was not what would have been hoped for, Rovers stalwart David Dunn appeared to be carrying the side. In the second half the dismissal Ben Mee gave Rovers an added momentum, but still struggled to find a way past a determined Burnley defence looking for its first derby win in 34 years. It looked as if they were going to get it as well, until David Dunn, the boyhood Rovers fan and tireless performer in the midfield arrived in the area to drive home an equaliser in the 6th minute of stoppage time, sending Ewood Park into mass celebration, as Rovers long unbeaten run against their rivals was extended for another season at least. But that finish was simply the prelude to an even more dramatic string of events at Ewood Park.

Yes, he was on the wing!

Yes, he was on the wing!

Two days after the draw at home to Burnley, Michael Appleton was sacked by Venkys, sending the club into disarray. It emerged that Appleton had been sacked by a letter delivered by Shebby Singh, a man Appleton claimed he had never spoken during his time at Rovers. By now it was clear that Singh and Managing Director Shaw were at loggerheads over the direction of the club, having reportedly not spoken to each other since Appleton’s arrival. As players; fans and media alike expressed their shock at Appleton’s sacking, a slide towards a second successive relegation looked inevitable; only one man could save Blackburn Rovers now.

Gary Bowyer had already stepped in to the frame once before in the season and had worked wonders to get back on track following the departure of Henning Berg, and now it was once again up to him to save Blackburn’s season. The first three games however wielded just one point, as a draw at home to Blackpool was followed up by defeats at Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday, sending Rovers into the bottom three with just six games remaining. But then, the course of Blackburn’s season turned once again, as Bowyer and Rovers rallied to take three wins from the next four games, a run during which Jordan Rhodes was once again essential to Rovers’ success, scoring in all three wins including one against his former club Huddersfield as Rovers made the push for safety. Rovers then finished the season comfortably with two draws against Crystal Palace and Birmingham, as Gary Bowyer yet again proved his value to Blackburn and staking a claim for the managerial job full time, should he want it, and it’s fair to say Venkys have certainly given him reason not to want to.

Bowyer to the rescue, again

Bowyer to the rescue, again

Not long after Appleton had been sacked by letter, a report revealed that during the summer, Shebby Singh’s last minute summer spending spree on the aforementioned “Portugal Five” had cost the club £1 million in fees to one agent, claims Singh has desperately tried to reject. If that wasn’t bad enough, a court case brought against the club to settle Henning Berg’s compensation for his dismissal saw Blackburn’s own legal representative admitting that the club were “out of control and incompetent” on the back of claims that Managing Director Derek Shaw had operated without Venkys permission when he agreed to pay Berg his full season’s wage and later issuing a statement on the club’s website claiming that Shaw himself had Venkys full support.

On and off the pitch then, it’s been a season of disappointment for Blackburn Rovers, but with Gary Bowyer expected to take the job full time following his two fantastic stints as caretaker manager; Jordan Rhodes seemingly committed to the club, and the fan backed Rovers Trust continuously growing in support as it looks to take over control of the club, all the signs point to a more positive outlook in the future of the club as it looks to get back to where it belongs after a season of disappointment on the pitch and embarrassment off it, a season that can really be summed up by two simple statistics: five managers; one chicken.

Post written by Toby Wilding
Twitter: @1tobywilding

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