Behind Enemy Lines: Blackburn Rovers

THE Championship returns this weekend after the international break with Millwall looking to build on a good start to the 2019-20 season.

The Lions lost just once in the league in August – a 4-0 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage. They had impressive victories over Preston and Sheffield Wednesday at The Den, as well as creditable draws at West Brom and Middlesbrough.

Next up, a trip to Lancashire to face Blackburn Rovers, who have made a mixed start to the season, winning two, losing three and drawing one of their opening six games.

Millwall will be going in search of their first away win of the season in the league, which could take them into the top six at this early stage.

Alex Grace spoke to Blackburn fan Michael Delap this week.

Twitter: @mikeydelap

Why do you support Blackburn?

Because nobody else has the willpower?

Just kidding (sort of) but many a moon ago I was a young kid in a school near Manchester and as the slightly curious sort I seemed to be drawn to the teams that others weren't supporting – City and United were of course very popular – and I was recruited by a school friend and his Dad to come to see a Rovers game.

That was approaching 30 years ago. I haven't stopped since. Viva the Rovers.

What has been your favourite season following Rovers?

1994-95 for fairly obvious reasons I don't need to go into. I was also a big fan of the 2005-06 season, or the Craig Bellamy year as it is otherwise known. He was absolutely brilliant that season and twinned with a scrappy, strong support cast we did far better than we had any right to.

And the worst?

The year Steve Kean took us down from the Premier League. We were awful, life was awful. Everything was AWFUL.

Tony Mowbray has been in the post since 2017, is he still the right person for the job?

The jury is out at this stage and it depends who you ask. My answer is yes, he is, he's been an absolute breath of fresh air since arriving at Ewood and deserves every credit.

Another reasonably solid if unspectacular season seems to be on the cards this time around which would get another pass mark. But the big question remains…when do we want to realistically try for something better?

It's been a mixed start to the season for Rovers, what have you made of it?

As you say, mixed. We looked fairly poor the first two games, then three (surprising) clean sheets on the bounce and some solid displays marked a turn in fortunes before a bit of a humbling at West Brom.

About 6 out of 10 so far, I make it.

Was keeping hold of Danny Graham and Bradley Dack the best bit of business the club did this summer?

The best bit of business we seemed to have pulled off to date is bringing in Stewart Downing on a free transfer. Yes, he's in the Indian summer now but he's a very classy and compact operator and, no, I wasn't sold on this signing in the summer.

I don't think Danny Graham leaving was ever realistically going to happen, but certainly Bradley Dack bidding farewell at some point is an ongoing concern. But chances are we're going to get a good fee for him when it does happen so that should at least cushion the landing.

What is a good season for Blackburn?

To improve on the last one.

I don't think we're going to be good enough, often enough to trouble at the business end of the table but everyone at Rovers is a little wise after last season's re-entry back into the second tier.

So, a finish somewhere around 10th should just about please the more sane among our fandom.

Who will be your key men on Saturday?

Long hair, stumpy frame, cheesy grin. Bradley Dack as always.

If you're looking for outsiders to join in – Derrick Williams has been excellent at centre-back when called upon so far. And Lewis Travis is fast emerging as a very good central midfielder.

What are your thoughts on Millwall boss Neil Harris?

I don't really have any, if I'm honest. He seems to be doing a good job for you and I'm happy that's the case…as long as that doesn't bugger things up for us.

If you could sign one Millwall player, who would it be and why?

Can we have Connor Mahoney back please? He was ours in the first place.

Will you be at the game on Saturday?

I will. With my five-year-old son in tow. You can never start the disappointment and fear of impending doom early enough…

What is your predicted Blackburn starting XI and formation?

4-2-3-1: Walton; Bennett, Lenihan, Williams, Cunningham; Downing, Travis; Johnson, Gallagher, Dack; Graham.

Only question marks are Adam Armstrong getting involved in place of Graham or Sam Gallagher and Ryan Nyambe playing right-back instead of Elliott Bennett. Other than that, that's what you're up against.

Finally, a score prediction?

Tight it will be. I shall call upon the optimist in me and say 2-1 Rovers.

Mahoney for you, Dack and (takes a punt) Gallagher for the best team in the world.

Graphic: @jay_taylor18