Decision day for Walker and Rovers

Norman Fox expects Blackburn to pick a manager before today's Liverpool test
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The Independent Online
While this afternoon Blackburn Rovers will be hoping to capitalise on any queasiness Liverpool may still be suffering after their helter- skelter European Cup-Winners' Cup win over FC Sion in midweek, the more significant business will be done in the Ewood Park boardroom this morning when a successor to Ray Harford is to be decided.

With the club's owner, Jack Walker, coming over from his home in Jersey, presumably the board know who is going to have the casting vote, but this is not the sort of meeting they or Walker ever anticipated. It was never envisaged that the multi-millionaire Rovers patron would be looking for someone to rescue the club from a dangerous fall rather than continuing to raise it in a spiral of success.

The board has drawn up a shortlist of serious applicants. Probably it is very short indeed. Available managerial talent is thin on the ground these days. So unless they come up with a complete outsider, they will be considering the merits of Howard Kendall, Bruce Rioch, Howard Wilkinson and Terry Venables. Joe Kinnear has also been mentioned, but why should he leave Wimbledon after doing all the work and at last taking the credit?

Venables has mildly and interestingly distanced himself from what at first seemed logical speculation that he would not be interested in moving so far away from his southern base. He said in the week that he was keeping all his options open. But what other big-time options are there? It seems that he wants to stay at the sharp end of football. So there is probably substance in the rumour that the man who was sharp enough to leave the England job with his reputation and mind still intact has met with Blackburn officials.

What would appeal to Venables is the attraction of going back into full- time management with a club that in spite of its massive spending, still has a sound financial base on which to rebuild a struggling team. With over pounds 20m supposed to be available to purchase new players, whoever comes in is going to have the resources for a transplant operation, although returning the club to a high place in the Premiership is going to take wise rather than financially impressive investment. Walker is said to be ready to spend what it takes to rediscover a championship winning team, but there's only one Alan Shearer.

Managed today, probably for the last time, by Tony Parkes, who has been at Blackburn for 26 years and acted as caretaker "boss" twice before, Rovers will not know whether to expect Liverpool to be concerned about a defence that Sion often shredded at Anfield on Thursday, or depend on their old gift for reacting positively to any shocks. The latter is the more likely.

The absence of Chris Sutton and Kevin Gallacher against West Ham last weekend left Blackburn lacking in attacking strength, but both are back today and will be looking for the known flaws in the centre of the Liverpool defence. There is also a chance that Colin Hendry will return to Blackburn's own central defence only four weeks after a groin operation. Craig Brown, the Scotland coach, will be there to monitor his fitness. Blackburn also know that Hendry has had a couple of attractive offers to end his career in Scotland, perhaps even linking up again with Kenny Dalglish who, talk has it, could become Rangers' chief scout. Either way, he is unlikely to make up his mind until he sees who is going to take over at Ewood Park.

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