Football: Rovers' steep learning curve: Glenn Moore reports on a team's need to feed off their manager's experience

Click to follow
The Independent Online
LIKE many a teacher, Kenny Dalglish was reflecting yesterday that you can talk until you are hoarse but pupils only really learn from personal experience.

Dalglish spent 17 consecutive seasons in Europe with Celtic and Liverpool but the Blackburn Rovers manager was clearly unable to implant his distilled knowledge into his players before they began the club's first European campaign on Tuesday night.

The manner of their 1-0 Uefa Cup first round, first leg home defeat to the Swedish part-timers of Trelleborgs showed that if his team had listened, they had not learned.

To succeed in Europe teams need to marry player discipline with individual flair. Arsenal's European Cup-Winners' Cup success last season was founded on the former precept. Once past the early stages George Graham's side, working on the principle that if the opposition do not score you only need to do so once, kept it tight, never over-committed themselves and relied on nicking a goal here and there.

More adventurous teams place greater emphasis on an Eric Cantona or Peter Beardsley unlocking the well-organized, heavily staffed defences regularly found in home legs. However, this approach does not mean defensive discipline can be neglected.

Graham points out that Arsenal learned much from their disappointing European Cup campaign of three years ago (when they lost at home to Benfica) and built on their education in the early rounds last season.

On Tuesday Rovers began with a caution that ill-suited their game and underlined their nervousness over European football. They ended it by going too far the other way, forgetting that in the home leg of a two-part tie it is more important not to concede than to score.

The match also exposed Rovers' lack of guile, with Tim Sherwood unusually quiet and Robbie Slater crowded out, their forward play was so predictable Dalglish must have been tempted to pull on his boots. Instead he was reduced to replacing his central midfielders, Sherwood and Slater, in a double substitution more eloquent than anything the pair had produced.

While it is unlikely that so many players will be as poor in the second leg on 27 September, Fredrik Sandell's goal means the pattern of the game will be similar.

As on Tuesday, Trelleborgs do not need to score and Blackburn can again expect to find the path to Shearer's head and feet a crowded one. However, such is the England striker's rare ability Rovers can never be discounted, and if Tuesday's lessons have been learned they should still progress.

Comments