Football: Kidd may be the man for all seasons

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 1 Charlton Athletic 0

AT 49 and counting, Brian Kidd still looks like the slightly older brother of the fresh-faced youth who looped that header over the Benfica goalkeeper 30 years ago.

That might indicate that, at a Premiership club, it is the No 1, rather than the No 2, who is paid to do the bulk of the worrying.

In that case, it will be instructive to do a "before and after" - comparing one of the many pictures taken of Kidd at Ewood Park on Saturday with a portrait, say, two years down the road.

Despite this urgently needed victory, Blackburn remain the sort of side that could give their new manager all the things he currently lacks - grey hair, a furrowed brow, bags under the eyes. He got a taste of the strain they could put him under even as they secured a morale-boosting win.

Kidd, not scheduled to take control until today, had planned to observe quietly from the stand. It took all of 16 minutes of watching Rovers perform with little pattern and less confidence to send him scurrying down to the touchline.

It looked little better from down there, but it at least gave him chance to get involved to an extent that brought a warning from Graham Poll.

Although he tried to confuse the referee by changing coats for the second half, Kidd's vocal contribution apparently extracted a confession from Poll that it must be him and not Alex Ferguson who has been responsible for the notorious racket from the bench at Old Trafford.

The overriding impression of Kidd before, during and after the match was one of a barely containable enthusiasm. His ability with players on the training ground is well enough known, but he attacked aspects of the job for which some thought he would be less suited with equal relish.

One of the question marks put up against him concerns his ability to deal with the media spotlight. But his performance in that department was all the more impressive for the self-deprecating humour that accompanied it.

"Nobody wanted the coach to be rubbing his gums at United," he said, employing an old Collyhurst expression to explain his apparent reticence in the past. But morose in the limelight? Averse to having a chat and a laugh with those outside his immediate orbit? Not a bit of it.

Not that Blackburn's current situation is any laughing matter, even with Saturday's three points hoisting them off the foot of the table. "From Premier League champions in 1995 to this - there's obviously been a problem. But you only get jobs when people are having a rough time."

Despite the encouragement he drew from the efforts of young players like Damien Duff, David Dunn and, especially, the enterprising Damien Johnson, Kidd saw enough to suggest why times have been rough.

Even opponents as badly out of the winning habit as Charlton could have left Ewood with all three points, given an equal share of luck. Blackburn's Alan Fettis, a third-choice goalkeeper called up on the morning of the match because John Filan was suffering from concussion, was far busier than Sasa Ilic.

Unfortunately for Alan Curbishley's peace of mind, Ilic made a complete mess of the one real save he was called on to make, letting Kevin Davies' shot slip under his body with 15 minutes to play.

It was a flukey way for the Davies to score his first Blackburn goal since his pounds 7.5m transfer from Southampton. He would not even have been on the field if Kevin Gallacher had not succumbed to a hamstring injury late in the first half, and he showed no sign of becoming a match-winner until his speculative strike made Kidd's first afternoon a happy one.

Kidd admitted that it was with one eye on the calendar that he found Blackburn's advances so irresistible. "I think you can leave it too late," he said of his decision to become his own boss. "I don't want to die wondering. It's been well documented that I'm 50 in the summer. I hope I get some good presents."

It might have been a few months early, but this could count as a down payment. Other gifts will have to be worked for - starting on Kidd's natural terrain of the training pitch today.

"That's what I feel I'm here for. I hope they don't want a PR man," he said. The early evidence is that he could be equally effective at that side of the job.

Goal: Davies (75) 1-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Fettis; Croft, Henchoz, Dailly, Davidson; Johnson, Dunn (Broomes, 83), McKinlay, Duff; Blake, Gallacher (Davies, 41). Substitutes not used: Marcolin, Taylor, Williams (gk.)

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Ilic; Mills, Rufus, Youds, Powell; Robinson, Kinsella, Redfearn, Mortimer (Newton, 51); Hunt, Mendonca (S Jones, 66). Substitutes not used: Barness, Tiler, Royce (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

Bookings: Blackburn: Dunn. Charlton: Redfearn, Kinsella, Youds.

Man of the match: Johnson.

Attendance: 22,569.

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