Football: Rovers reveal a thrifty side

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. . .3

Everton. . . . . . . 0

A MANAGER and his money are soon parted, but the contrasting fortunes of Kenny Dalglish and Mike Walker demonstrate the difference between buying judiciously and throwing millions at the market.

Dalglish's Blackburn, the Premiership's biggest spenders, are in third spot and playing beautifully as they embark on their first European adventure tomorrow. Yet some of their most influential performers cost peanuts by modern standards. Everton, beaten for the fourth time running, are a spineless shambles in bottom place, despite an outlay Walker hopes to push beyond pounds 10m this week by paying pounds 2.5m for the Brazilian striker Muller.

It is far too early to judge their pounds 3m Nigerian, Daniel Amokachi, whose subdued debut gave the Blackburn crowd a chance to turn back on the visitors the chant everyone throws at them: 'What a waste of money]' The Goodison faithful may, however, detect a worrying lack of pragmatism to the way Walker is using Peter Johnson's investment.

After Anders Limpar and Vinny Samways, the Peter Barnes and Alex Sabella of the Nineties, he now proposes a front two from football cultures alien to anything they are likely to encounter on a frosty February night at Wimbledon or Coventry. An imaginative pairing but, considering Everton's parlous position, a gamble they can perhaps ill afford to take.

There were of course those who questioned the sanity of Dalglish's pounds 3.3m outlay on Alan Shearer. Turning sharply on to Tim Flowers' long kick, Shearer was like a blowtorch in blue and white as he burned off the pacy David Unsworth before firing past Neville Southall for the first goal. His second was a penalty rashly conceded by the keeper, and in between he crossed for Jason Wilcox to volley home.

While Shearer took the man of the match award, two players whose combined cost was a measly pounds 1m had an equal claim. Colin Hendry, infinitely more disciplined since Dalglish brought him back from Manchester City, had Amokachi in his pocket. Robbie Slater, a pocket-sized Anglo-Australian practically stolen from the French League for pounds 300,000, was so dynamic and economical at the heart of midfield that the injured David Batty was not missed.

The one occasion Amokachi slipped Hendry, soon after Blackburn had gone ahead, the Scot exploited the split second the newcomer needed to switch the ball to his favoured foot by making a textbook sliding tackle. 'I earned my corn there,' Hendry said, 'though he'll score once he comes to terms with the pace of the English game.'

Amokachi then appeared, built like a gridiron guard and sporting a gold earring. Asked about the possible arrival of Muller, who had an unsuccessful stint with Torino but is reportedly keen to try Europe again, he replied with touching optimism: 'All we need right now is another striker and a lot of work.' Little, his inquisitors were thinking, does he know.

Goals: Shearer (17) 1-0; Wilcox (43) 2-0; Shearer pen (60) 3-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Gale, Hendry, Le Saux; Ripley, Slater (Atkins, 86), Sherwood, Wilcox; Shearer, Sutton (Pearce, 86). Substitute not used: Mimms (gk).

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Jackson, Watson, Unsworth, Burrows; Stuart, Ebbrell, Samways, Limpar; Amokachi, Rideout. Substitutes not used: Hinchcliffe, Angell, Kearton (gk).

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).