Former Blackburn Rovers strike star fears there may be no way back
AS Blackburn Rovers wait for Monday night’s televised visit of Wigan Athletic knowing defeat at Ewood Park could seal their Premier League relegation, one man can’t help but draw striking similarities to the past.
Matt Jansen was a member of Brian Kidd’s Rovers squad, whose drop into the Championship was confirmed by a 0-0 draw with Manchester United live on TV on the penultimate match of the 1998/99 season. He fears the same fate on Monday.
But while Jansen and co were able to ultimately enjoy a happy ending with a quick return, the former Rovers striker is struggling to see a similarly bright future, after admitting there could be no way back this time.
Jansen considers his four years at Ewood Park as his career highlight, especially scoring the goal at Preston that sealed Rovers’ Premier League return in 2001.
Now, with new owners Venky’s showing little signs of being able to take the club forward, Jansen admits the signs are not good as he almost resigns himself to seeing the club he still loves stuck in the doldrums.
He said: “When we went down last time, thankfully we still had Jack Walker’s money to bounce back into the Premier League, albeit in the second season. That first season was a massive learning curve and in the second year we did it.
“I fear this time round though whether Rovers will be able to get back into the Premier League.
“You have to question this time whether there is the ability, the funds or the ambition to bounce back again.
“The problem is if you don’t get back within two years, things go stale and it gets harder and harder. As well as Jack Walker’s money, we still had the parachute payments coming in and we knew it would become very difficult for us after that second year.
“The Championship is the most difficult league to get out of, without exception. It is fast and furious and so different to the Premier League. You play a lot of football and it is a fight, it takes some getting used to from what you are used to in the Premier.”
All is not yet lost for Rovers as they precariously cling to their Premier League status.
A win for either QPR or Bolton tomorrow though will leave Steve Kean’s needing two wins from the last two games to even stand a chance of survival.
Jansen, 34, is still keeping his fingers crossed for a miracle.
He is expecting relegation but stresses the importance of doing everything they can to avoid it.
“I remember that day against Manchester United, we got relegated with a draw,” he said.
“It was on television and it was a really horrible feeling. You obviously hope the same doesn’t happen again.
“It is a huge game on Monday, absolutely massive. I have to say though things don’t look good, because even if we win we will probably have to win at Chelsea – and even that might not be enough. It is of course a must win game to even stand a chance.
“I fear for Blackburn Rovers if they go down and that is why I am keeping my fingers crossed that they survive. I expect Rovers to go down but I hope they can get a couple of results and other results go their way to prove me wrong.”
Jansen is not the only one who has little faith in Rovers’ owners to bring about a quick return should the worst happen.
Their track record over the past 18 months leaves them deserving little else.
The now Chorley player-coach is quick to say he hopes he is proved wrong – citing Newcastle’s stunning turnaround – but admits he would be surprised if he was.
He said: “If they do go down it is up to the club to prove everyone wrong because not many would expect them to come back up.
“I was playing golf with Dwight Yorke earlier in the week and we were comparing the situation between Blackburn and Newcastle.
“People were hammering Mike Ashley for what he was doing at Newcastle and his appointment of Alan Pardew. Look where they are now.
“You can only hope the same thing happens.
“We both fear it wouldn’t though. Venky’s are not Blackburn through and through and you are just not sure whether there is that real ambition to see the club be a real success.
“I hope we are wrong. The circumstances feel different.
“Blackburn is a family club, it is a community. If they go down it would be a massive shame and I think it would be very difficult to get back up.”
Jansen himself is showing potential in the coaching circles, as he continues to impress alongside Chorley boss and fellow ex-Rovers star Garry Flitcroft.
He said: “We are going to crack on with Chorley.
“In the long term myself and Garry are just trying to progress.
“I am 34 and obviously have ambitions. I would be stupid to say I wouldn’t love to come back to Blackburn one day. ”