Blackburn Rovers come to The City Ground this afternoon looking to reignite their play-off hopes under Tony Mowbray so we caught up with the Rovers faithful to gain their insight on what has been a fairly promising season so far and what Forest can expect from their visitors this afternoon.
What’s your name and where you from?
I’m Ryan Hildred, 33 and I’m from Sturton in Lincolnshire. I’ve supported Blackburn since the Premier League blew up in the early 90s. I remember watching the promo of the Premier League on TV and was drawn to Blackburn’s kit colours and Alan Shearer sporting them. Winning the Premier League in 1995 totally cemented that relationship. As a kid you’re always drawn to the players scoring the goals and Shearer’s statistics were unbelievable. I was so proud to see him as England’s No.9 at Euro 96. Alan Shearer of Blackburn Rovers.
Since those heady days of Jack Walker being one of the first multi-millionaire owners in the new Premier League era, you seem to have come full circle from when he took over the club in January 1991. How are things going down at Ewood Park?
The Venky’s ownership has split into two halves which not all Rovers fans will agree with me on. The first part was devastating, they made bad appointments and the recruitment was shocking as we dropped down the divisions. Their lack of engagement built contempt within the fanbase.
However, for the last three to four years, they deserve credit for their ownership. They’ve been putting money into the club to keep us stable and have continued to invest in our Category One status academy. Tony Mowbray has been in charge for almost four years now and has a philosophy of playing good football.
We have a business model of signing young English talent and then selling on for a good price. Mowbray has developed relationships with Premier League managers and to say we’ve had loan players from Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti says an awful lot about Mowbray's reputation within the game.
There is a structure behind the scenes and now that Venky’s have addressed those problems that plagued us, everything is in place for Rovers to have a push for the play-offs.
Tony Mowbray seems to have been an integral part of the recent success. Being in charge of a club for that period of time is a rarity in this day and age. What are your thoughts on the job he’s doing?
Tony is definitely doing a 7/10 job. Although he couldn’t save us from relegation to League One, he galvanised the club from that position, got the fans back on board and we were promoted at the first attempt. Adam Armstrong and Bradley Dack had signed for the club and it was a like a restart. It gave everybody a lift.
Having lost my connection with the club after huge disappointments over the years, Mowbray helped rekindle my love for Rovers and built a team that I could recognise and be proud of.
Since coming back into the Championship, we’ve consolidated and improved our league position in year on year. I’d be higher in my rating for him if I didn’t think we were underachieving this season.
What should Forest expect from this Blackburn side (style of play)?
We are comfortable in possession and away from home we’ve been a counter-attacking force with pace in our ranks. We play a 4-3-3 formation and I think we’ll come to The City Ground to cause you problems. We struggle when teams sit back and let us play in front of them but I think you’ll be wanting to win and will come onto us which will suit our game plan.
A lot of Forest fans were disappointed to see Ben Brereton leave the club. It feels like he’s started to turn the corner after a really difficult start to his Rovers career?
The £7million transfer fee definitely hasn’t helped him as there was instant pressure for him to produce. We could see the raw ingredients but we couldn’t see why that money was spent and his lack of goals became a bit of a standing joke. Fair play to him though because in the last six months or so, he’s worked hard on his physique and has been a player reborn for us. He has made the wide left his own and is one of the first names on the teamsheet. He has got pace, power and goes at the opposition. He seems a really popular lad in the dressing room and a lot of Rovers fans will agree that he has been one of our best players this season. It has been good to see.
Which player should Forest fans keep an eye out for and why?
Harvey Elliott is the player to look out for. He’s on loan from Liverpool and must be one of the best teenagers in European football. The touch, the vision, the weight of pass, what a player. He has the presence of a 30-year-old that has been playing for years. Harvey has been a provider of goals and has scored some excellent ones too. His versatility to slot in across the attack is important and he’s the number one ranked player at the club in terms of output.
Where are the chinks in the Rovers armoury?
First and foremost, we are such a streaky side and consistency has been one of our biggest problems. We seem to go on winning runs of four and then lose five on the trot. We are so up and down! We started the new year positively but we are struggling once more. Defensively we are suspect and haven’t been able to get a settled back four for some time. I’d be looking to penetrate our full backs too. If you can cause a bit of a chaos in our box, we do look fragile and we’re a side that will give up chances to the opposition.
Which Forest player will you be most wary of and why?
Joe Lolley is always a player that does well against us but Glenn Murray’s experience could really test our centre halves and Anthony Knockaert could also hurt us from wide areas.
What’s your score prediction with scorers?
I’m going go with a 1-1 draw with Harvey Elliott getting our goal and Joe Lolley for Forest (as it’s written he always scores against us)!
How’s pandemic football going? What are you missing the most?
It has been a bittersweet experience for me. I’ve missed the whole matchday experience as every game is like an away game for me travelling up from Lincolnshire. It’s not just the 90 minutes, it’s the book ends either side of it. Getting excited the night before, the drive up, listening to the radio, reacting to team news, it’s just all part of the day. I make no apologies for this but I’ll probably be very tearful when I’m back inside Ewood Park for the first time. I think being back, hearing the chants and seeing the players will be overwhelming for a lot of people.
The good side is that we’ve been really able to connect with fans through our Rovers Chat channel in a way I don’t think we would’ve done without the pandemic. It has hopefully supported fans get through some difficult times with some laughter, smiles and just chewing the fat on all things Rovers.
Lastly and most importantly, what do you call a bacon cob in Blackburn?
Where I am in Lincolnshire, it would definitely be a bacon bap but I’m reliably informed that in Blackburn, it would either be a bacon butty or a bacon teacake.
For more Blackburn Rovers fan insight, you can find Ryan on the Rovers Chat YouTube channel.