Football: Role of No1 fits Kidd just fine

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The Independent Online
AS NEWS reached Ewood Park of goals rolling in and the Reds seeing red at White Hart Lane, the thought occurred to many in the press box that we were in the wrong place. Far below us a man with more reason to be in the capital with Manchester United than any had no doubts.

Brian Kidd's formative managerial influence may be Alex Ferguson but he looked more like Barry Fry in Saturday's goalless draw as he prowled his coaching box exhorting and directing his players on everything from positional discipline to body shape. At times he was almost on the pitch and had Rovers managed a goal we may even have seen a Fry-style jig of delight. For a man previously thought to be happy in Ferguson's shadow he gave every impression of relishing centre stage.

He appeared equally at home in the press conference afterwards as he joked, of his still-youthful looks, "as soon as the hair goes I'll chuck it in". But it did not take long before he confessed "the one place I enjoy is on the training pitch, the rest, talking to you lot and everything else, is an occupational hazard". Which is why he is in no rush to replace Derek Fazackerly, sacked as coach last week, with Brian McClair or anyone else. "That's my strength, that's what they have employed me for," he said. Kidd's coaching at Old Trafford was widely praised and, while Roy Hodgson came to Blackburn with a similar reputation, Kidd, after his eight years at Old Trafford, is likely to be more comfortable in the milieux of an English dressing-room.

One experienced journalist suggested last week that Kidd could be found wanting when it came to "show us your medals" time but since, at the time of writing, he is the only member of the Blackburn Rovers staff to possess a European Cup winners' medal - and has more England caps than all but Tim Flowers - this should not be a problem.

To judge from the players' effort it has not taken long for him to lift their spirits. That Tim Sherwood, one of the most disaffected players under Hodgson, was their best performer, was particularly promising. "Tim is a lot happier and there's more camaraderie in the squad," said Rovers' full-back Jeff Kenna. "The new manager really knows his stuff and everyone is keen to impress."

There is certainly no shortage of expectation. Jack Walker, the club's benefactor, said he expects Kidd to make the club "better than top six" material and the supporters showed similar belief with 5,000 more rolling up than last week to produce the biggest gate of the season.

This was still only half the average gate at Old Trafford but the job, in its own way, is as big. Rovers' plight is partly due to the injuries that continue to keep Flowers, Chris Sutton and Kevin Gallacher on the sidelines but the championship side, a team full of good players, has been allowed to break up and not been adequately replaced. This is partly due to poor decision-making but also down to Blackburn's geographical isolation, and, in the modern megabucks Premiership, the diminishing clout of Jack Walker's wallet.

There is still the nucleus of a decent side and some good youngsters but it was no surprise to hear that Kidd had spent most of the week on defending - though a neat free-kick, which nearly brought a goal for Sherwood, showed his imagination.

Sherwood later "scored" after 72 minutes but the referee had already given a penalty for a perceived foul on Nathan Blake. Kenna, who missed from the spot against Newcastle in the Worthington Cup last month, hit a post. "I won't be taking any more against them," he said. A minute earlier the improving Kevin Davies had hit the bar but it was clear that, until Sutton, Gallacher, or both, were fit the attack would continue to be weak.

Newcastle were even less potent and the post-match reaction reflected aspirations rather than performance. The clean sheet meant Kidd was satisfied with a point when he should have had three while Ruud Gullit, though fortunate to even get one, and away from home, was angry. The Newcastle manager was overseeing his 18th match and, while constrained in the transfer market, it is long enough to have imposed his philosophy on the team and he was unhappy that it had not been followed. "Certain players disappeared from the game and that cannot happen at this level," he said, ominously.

In a midfield lacking Rob Lee's drive Dieter Hamann did enough to confirm the early-season impression that he would be a useful player when fully fit but Gary Speed, as ever, flattered to deceive while Norbert Solano and Stephen Glass were largely anonymous. Further forward Duncan Ferguson was unconvincing but it would be hard for anyone to impress with Andreas Andersson as a partner. Whether the combination of Ferguson and Shearer will work remains to be seen but it will at least give defences two players to worry about.

When Shearer will return is anybody's guess, his hamstring injury is taking longer to heal than expected and Gullit was predictably evasive. How long he will then stay is another unanswered question. If Newcastle fans wondered on Saturday what life, post-Shearer, could be like they did not have far to look. As Blackburn have found, he is a hard act to replace.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Fettis; Kenna, Henchoz, Dailly, Davidson; Johnson, Sherwood, McKinlay, Wilcox; Blake, Davies.

Substitutes not used: Duff, Broomes, Marcolin, Croft, Williams (gk).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Charvet, Hughes (Dabizas, 64), Howey, Barton; Solano, Hamann, Speed, Glass (Geordiadis, 83); Andersson (Ketsbaia, 64), Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Barnes, Keen (gk).

Referee: R Harris (Oxford).

Bookings: Blackburn: Davies. Newcastle: Speed.

Man of the match: Sherwood.

Attendance: 27,569.