Football: Davies scores - and no kidding
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 06 December 1998
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 22,560
IF EVERY substitution Brian Kidd makes as Blackburn manager works out as fortuitously as his first, he will be an unstoppable success at Ewood Park. Kidd, supposedly there only to watch a team picked and prepared by that perennial caretaker, Tony Parkes, could not resist getting involved on the touchline when he saw for himself just how far Blackburn have to go to reach the standards he is used to.
His first act as Rovers' manager was to get himself warned by Graham Poll for remonstrating with his new charges from outside the designated box; his second was to send on Kevin Davies - a man who has gone 15 matches without a goal for the club that beat its transfer record for him.
Davies broke his duck with a winner to take Rovers off the foot of the table, and he did so with considerable help from the Charlton goalkeeper, Sasa Ilic. Thus there is a limit to the direct credit that Kidd or anyone else can claim. No matter; the important thing for Blackburn is that it smacks of the quality Napoleon most coveted in his generals: luck.
"I had a word with young Kevin before the match, telling him that moving for pounds 7m or pounds 7.5m is not his problem," Kidd said of his first piece of man-management. "He's got to get out there and enjoy his football. It's his first goal and I'm delighted for the lad."
Davies and Kidd stumbled across the precious commodity of good fortune when they needed it most. The striker had given little hint that he might prove Blackburn's match- winner after coming on when Kevin Gallacher tweaked a hamstring. But 15 minutes from the end the ball broke for him when Richard Rufus's tackle stopped David Gunn. Davies tried a speculative effort from outside the area that bobbled just before it reached Ilic and then sneaked under his body.
Charlton manager Alan Curbishley was characteristically gracious. "As soon as Davies came on, I knew that if anyone was going to score for them it would be him, because that's the way it goes. I'm very disappointed, but it's a great start for Brian."
Curbishley was entitled to be disappointed, because his team, sinking closer and closer to the foot of the table, had the better of this uninspiring affair.
Blackburn's third choice goalkeeper, Alan Fettis, had to make two fine saves from free kicks, Neil Redfearn missed an open goal, and the Addicks also had a plea for a penalty turned down when Paul Mortimer was tackled from behind. All in all, there was little doubt that they deserved something from the match and, even in the last minute of injury time, Rufus's header could have sneaked in.
It would probably have been no great shock for Blackburn supporters if it had - one more injury to their hopes, another suspension of their dreams. But their new manager's good fortune spared them this further pain, sighs and shoulder shrugs.
It would not, however, have blinded them, or Kidd, to the harsh realities of his new job. Indeed, it took only 16 minutes for him to be sufficiently moved by the inadequacies on show to abandon any plans he had to watch quietly from the stand and make an arm-waving appearance on the touchline. "It was difficult to watch it from up there," he said. "It's hard work when you haven't got control of the ball. We've got to try to get some shape into the team."
The former Manchester United number two, whose wife took delivery of a good luck bouquet from Alex Fergusson yesterday morning, can hardly wait to get out on to the training pitch with his new players. He will have seen clearly enough from this performance that there is much work to be done if Blackburn are to drag themselves up the table.
"Under-achieving," was how he chose to describe his impression of them so far this season, a view reinforced by their performance against United three weeks ago. When Kidd went on to the pitch and congratulated his players at the end it was as much for their good fortune as anything. "The result is the thing. We've got to take something from every game," he said.
Kidd could take some encouragement from the contribution of young players like Damien Johnson and Damien Duff to this urgently-needed victory. "We've got to get a good work ethic," he said.
With that, and the touch of luck that marked the debut of the new boss at Ewood, Rovers could yet achieve respectability before the end of a season that was threatening to swallow them whole.
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