Football: Kidd keeps calm after the storm

Blackburn Rovers need more than money tonight.
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The Independent Online
SEVENTY-TWO HOURS after a million home truths had exploded out of Brian Kidd and crashed about the ears of Blackburn Rovers' expensive and cosseted players the scene was tranquil yesterday. No shouting, no rows, just a sense of foreboding.

Even the building work on Blackburn's youth academy was too distant to impose on the picture-postcard views from Brockhall, Rovers training ground, which was the essence of tact. The development speaks of the future and how can you think about that when the present holds so little?

If they lose or draw to Manchester United at Ewood Park tonight it will carry even less. The promise, the joy that accompanied Blackburn's championship win four years ago will have been overtaken by relegation from the Premiership and a return to the nobody status that the club had assumed for 30 years.

How can a club bankrolled by Jack Walker be facing this? The supporters have been asking until they are as blue as half the club's shirts and on Saturday Kidd provided the answer that his predecessors, Ray Harford and Roy Hodgson, had left unsaid. The players, he said, lacked spirit and fight.

In fact, he said a lot more in language that did not disguise his fury. In the Sixties and Seventies managers worked in this vocal currency, berating their charges like sergeant majors let loose on raw recruits, but since Bosman and obscene wages the power has passed to the players. Kidd's onslaught will have shocked because of its rarity as much as its force.

Yesterday Kidd was quieter, but the anger provoked by a limp defeat against 10-man and relegated Nottingham Forest still smouldered. "I couldn't duck the issue," he said. "It was there for all to see and I had to say something. I don't regret it for one moment.

"I have put questions to the players and I've found the answers to them over a number of weeks. I'll protect my players, they can even make mistakes and I'll find excuses for them. But I can't take a lack of effort. I can't stand back. I hope I was wrong. I'd love it if I was."

You know he knows he is not. Harford and Hodgson spent millions and Kidd, himself, has offloaded pounds 20m since his arrival in December and the sum product is a team second-bottom in the Premiership. Injuries have played a crucial part but the bitterest lesson is that commitment, like love, cannot be bought.

"Pound notes are not going to be the answer here," Kidd said. "I know people think otherwise, but we've got to get a heartbeat and a spirit back into the club. Character doesn't come by throwing money about."

The biggest irony of a whole heap of them is that heart is the very thing that Kidd traded in when he was assistant to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford. The United team that could send Blackburn down as they go helter skelter for the title is partly his creation and certainly had the worth of fight and endeavour drummed into them by his flat Collyhurst vowels.

Yesterday Kidd was still singing the praises of Ferguson, who he continues to refer to as "Gaffer" and his former players who will almost certainly give Blackburn their final push. The media may want to make it the apprentice versus the sorcerer but he was not playing. Rather, he downplayed the fixture, pointing to nine months of ineptitude.

"I don't have to say anything about United. People know how I'll feel," he said. "But it isn't one game that matters, we had chances against Southampton, Charlton and Forest. Your season doesn't come alive in April when you suddenly find you can get into Europe or you're fighting for your lives to not be relegated. It begins the day you come in for pre-season training."

Drawing comfort that Old Trafford has had its problems, too, he added: "I have so much respect for the Gaffer. I've been in the changing-room when United had bad times and I've seen how he's handled adversity. I've seen what a man he is.

"Manchester United are such a great team. The players are a credit to football, themselves and their parents but it didn't come overnight and it won't come overnight here."

Now it is Kidd's turn to prove his calibre, most likely in the First Division next season. Overpaid under-achievers will be cleared out, grit and heart will be brought in. "Relegation would be a terrible disappointment," he said. "I wouldn't be able to describe how I'll feel if we do go down."

Tomorrow you fear he will be able to describe it only too well.

THE SQUAD THAT PROVES MONEY CAN'T BUY SUCCESS

BLACKBURN `B' TEAM

CROFT

(1.7m)

DUFF

(free)

DAVIES

(7.5m)

BROOMES

(free)

FLOWERS

(2.4m)

WARD

(4.25m)

MCKINLAY

(1.75m)

DAILLY

(5.3m)

GILLESPIE

(2.3m)

BLAKE

(4.25m)

KENNA

(1.5m)

TOTAL COST: pounds 30.95m

GRAND TOTAL: pounds 58.7m

Substitutes: Corbett (0.5m), Konde (0.5m), Dunn (free), Johnson (free), Fettis (gk) (0.3m)

BLACKBURN `A' TEAM

GALLACHER

(1.5m)

McATEER

(4m)

JANSEN

(4m)

FLITCROFT

(3.2m)

HENCHOZ

(3m)

FILAN

(0.7m)

SUTTON

(5m)

CARSLEY

(3.3m)

PEACOCK

(Free)

WILCOX

(free)

DAVIDSON

(1.75m)

TOTAL COST: pounds 26.45m

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