Football: Kidd's iron hand in a soft glove

Keeper Filan no longer playing second fiddle as new manager rings Blackburn changes. Bramwell

IT IS not the first time a serious upheaval has worked in John Filan's favour. When his distant Irish ancestors the O'Faolains were caught horse rustling, the penalty was deportation.

"For rustling a horse or two, they were sent to Australia, one of the best countries in the world - some punishment," the Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper joked.

Roy Hodgson's enforced exile for ruffling a feather or two during a disastrous 1998 in charge at Ewood Park triggered the latest upturn in fortunes for the Filan clan. The 29-year-old Australian had played a consistent second fiddle to Tim Flowers during Hodgson's reign. When Flowers returned from long-term injury, Filan's relegation to the bench was neither deserved nor explained.

Under the new Blackburn leadership of Brian Kidd, possession is ten-tenths of the law and Flowers will find himself as a substitute for today's FA Cup fifth-round trip to Newcastle.

Filan's retention of the No 1 jersey has prompted the England international to hand in a transfer request that has been rejected by the club. Competition for places has returned to Ewood Park and the treatment room is less congested than in the days leading up to Hodgson's departure. Noses are sure to be put out of joint - the former skipper Tim Sherwood a case in point - but the arrival of Kidd has had a tangible effect on the collective camp spirit.

Kidd is a players' manager. He can sense vulnerability and constructively massage it back into an effective expression of talent. After one recent training session he spotted Oumar Konde, a young Hodgson recruit from FC Basel in Switzerland who has struggled to find his feet in England, eating quietly on his own.

Kidd sneaked round the back of Konde and with a playful tug of his dreadlocks started to sing his own version of "Oumar Paloma Blanca". The player was putty in his hands.

Filan, who was last week named as the inaugural Wilkinson Sword Player of the Week for his performance against Aston Villa and has recently signed a new four-year deal with Blackburn, has enjoyed a change of heart as well as fortune. "The last management team kind of lost their way a little bit," he said. "The club was just a flat place to be and we were lacking team spirit. Since the new manager has arrived the club has picked up. All you ask is that the manager gives you a fair go and sticks by you."

The uplift in spirits has been accompanied by a surge in training ground respect. A return to morning-only sessions from Hodgson's twice-daily outings was an instant hit.

"The manager is very aware of the importance of rest," Filan explained. "A quality two-hour session is as good as being out there for four hours. He has taken the players back to football. There is a lot more work done with the ball and he has a lot of different football ideas - his enthusiasm spreads through."

Kevin Davies is another Kidd beneficiary. A player low in confidence and fighting a persistent tonsil infection under the previous regime is again champing at the bit having been handed "a fresh start". "I think that could be said of me and others, too," he said. "There were a lot of players who were down, the club was down and there are now fringe players who will be hoping they will have a chance. He tried to get the [pounds 7.5m transfer] fee out of my head and didn't want me to worry about it."

Kidd's man-management skills, however, have not been mistaken for a soft touch. "I don't think the players would feel too comfortable if the manager was too close," Filan said.

The former Manchester United No 2 has certainly won players and supporters over with a seemingly natural affinity for the club. Togetherness is the catchword. Or, in Kidd-speak, "we and us". His refusal to do an interview for MUTV at one of a flurry of four press conferences trumpeting Kidd's success in attracting fresh blood won tacit approval among the ranks and in the Ewood corridors of power.

That decisiveness in the transfer market has reflected the enthusiasm with which he has gone about the task of restoring Blackburn's credentials as a Premiership force. The capture of Matt Jansen from Crystal Palace was a throwback to the honeymoon period shortly after Kenny Dalglish's arrival when, if a top-class player became available, Blackburn would act first and tinker later.

Jansen and Jason McAteer are Cup-tied today to deplete further resources already stretched through injury. The centre of midfield is a serious worry for Blackburn with the anchor man Billy McKinlay the latest doubt, although that alarm would switch to defence should Stephane Henchoz and Jeff Kenna fail their fitness checks.

Neil Bramwell is sports editor of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there