Although the cold light of day has brought some brief respite the grim reality of relegation has weighed heavily on my shoulders since last night’s crushing defeat at home to Bolton Wanderers. Despite some positive words from mates the truth is that Blackburn are not currently good enough to compete in the top tier of English football.
Unfortunately for me, being a fan, it is a horrible realisation to accept. A club I have followed for almost two decades could be in free fall and I honestly have no idea what to expect now. A few years ago I lived with a mate who is a massive Leeds fan and I was with him when the club was relegated from the Premier League; he was distraught and I found it very difficult to empathise with him. He is a huge fan of the club and has family has connections within the club that made it even harder for him; only a few years later I now understand exactly how he felt.
Quite often people just don’t understand exactly what a football club can mean to those that follow them. I am a poor fan in many senses; I have not been to a home game in a decade and fail to make many of the games in London. That being said Blackburn Rovers are the team I support and always will do. I explained to my girlfriend at the weekend that I could be quite upset in May if we get relegated and she turned round and said ‘but you said that last year and it was ok, at least you’re prepared for it this year.’ As sensible and correct as she was it was not what I wanted to hear.
The day you decide, or inherit a specific club is a monumental day in any supporters’ life as it is a relationship that binds you for life. You stick with it through thick and thin; it is similar to all other interactions we have in our lives in many senses; we have good days/seasons and we have appalling days/seasons. It is generally the tough times that bring you closer and makes the good times even more enjoyable.
Blackburn have of course been relegated from the Premier League once before during my time as a fan. I remember the day we went down and remember feeling unhappy and very uncertain about the clubs future. However, at least it was being run the right way and had some semblance of normality. Since the new owners came in last year the club has been surrounded by uncertainty and this season has almost come as no surprise.
I genuinely felt some level of loss last night whilst sat watching that diabolical performance from my team. I will never change my allegiance to the club I have followed for so many years but the realisation that we may never play Premiership football again is not lost on me. For a small club in the middle of industrial Lancashire the club have done remarkably well over the last few years and I think it is why we have witnessed such a backlash from the fans. It is a family club and one that is a focal point of the community. Observers are criticising the supporters who are protesting but I feel they have every right to do so. The owners should have been at the club last night to back their manager and demonstrate there is some solidarity within.
Hopefully it is not all doom and gloom and the club will recover once the Venky’s have departed. However, the reputation of the club has been tarnished beyond any level I ever considered possible. I was excited about the foreign ownership when it happened but hopefully this will serve as a valuable lesson for any clubs considering such moves in the future. Football clubs are vitally important to many millions of people worldwide and it is not a plaything for the super wealthy.