Football: Hendry the man for Blackburn

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The Independent Online
BLACKBURN ROVERS will today begin negotiations to try to prise Colin Hendry away from Rangers as a replacement for the departed manager, Roy Hodgson. In the meantime, Tony Parkes will act in a caretaker capacity for the fourth time in his 28-year association with Ewood Park.

The 32-year-old Hendry left for Glasgow at the start of the season but the chance to become player-manager of the club that he served in two spells for nine years from 1986 could prove irresistible. Whether he will be installed by Sunday's match with Liverpool at Anfield is debatable but he is believed to be the club's first choice.

Hendry's inspirational displays at centre-half made him a cult hero at Rovers and he was captain when they won the championship in 1995 for the first time since 1914. The Scotland international's lack of experience would count against him but reservations on that point might be offset by his inspirational qualities.

As Leeds United found when they tried to replace George Graham, there is a lack of credible candidates when it comes to managers. There was talk yesterday of the likes of Jim Smith and Howard Wilkinson, Roy Evans and even a return of the Kenny Dalglish/Ray Harford partnership, but none is likely to fill the place vacated by the 51-year-old Hodgson, who left on Saturday after a 2-0 home defeat by Southampton pushed Blackburn into bottom place in the Premiership.

That leaves Hendry, whose pounds 4m transfer to Rangers was the first suggestion that all was not well with Hodgson's 16-month old regime, as the best candidate. With Parkes - who is greatly admired by the club's millionaire owner, Jack Walker - as assistant, Hendry's obvious flaw, inexperience, would be countered.

Yesterday the question of whether Hodgson had jumped or been pushed was unresolved and instead of clarification, noises of regret emanated from Ewood Park.

"The manager can only coach the best he can and put you in a strong frame of mind when you go out on a Saturday," Chris Sutton said. "In fairness to him, he did that and maybe the players didn't respond as they should have done. Certainly the results would suggest that. It's very disappointing from my point of view since Roy Hodgson has helped me as he helped others and there will be a lot of disappointed players today. It is up to us to dig us out of the hole and keep us in the Premiership."

Tim Sherwood, who had a dispute with Hodgson earlier in the season over a possible transfer to Tottenham, added: "It's harsh to put the sole blame on Roy Hodgson, but results speak louder than words and we have not been getting them."

Nevertheless, there have been suggestions that Hodgson's relationship with his players had deteriorated as Gary Croft hinted.

"We're all pulling in different directions," he said. "We've had a lot of injuries and suspensions, but I feel if we start pulling in the right direction, then the confidence will start to creep back and we will start getting some results."

Croft is adamant that Blackburn are good enough to avoid relegation. "Whoever comes in will have a good squad of players to work with," he said. "It's just a case of all of us putting in a lot of hard work because we are the ones who can save us from this situation."

The winger Jason Wilcox, 12 years a player at Ewood Park, said: "It's always sad when someone loses his job but we really need to tackle the matter head on."

Tony Gale believes the break-up of the Rovers defence is the main factor in their decline. "The manager has had a lot of injuries, but the signings he has made have not come off. When you look at the back four there was Hendry, Le Saux and Pearce who have all gone."

It is ironic that Liverpool provide the next opponents because they were the opposition for Parkes' first match as a caretaker following Harford's dismissal in 1966. That day Blackburn won 3-0.

There have been signs of problems within the camp over recent weeks with many players appearing to be unsettled. Supporters, too, have become increasingly disenchanted, many believing that Hodgson had failed to spend money wisely in the transfer market. When Parkes took over two years ago he resuscitated the club, who had four points from 11 games, and ensured they avoided relegation.

"I just got the magic wand out and waved it about a bit," he said, not entirely seriously. Today, Blackburn could do with that wand again.

Glenn Moore's verdict, Match report, page 28

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