Football: The man to unite Rovers

Neil Bramwell examines the size of the Blackburn task facing Brian Kidd
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The Independent Online
JACK WALKER is not a gambling man. He did not make umpteen million pounds with the financial pages, a blindfold and a pin.

His fortune was built on the tried and tested business formula of a shrewd instinct for a good deal and the ruthless drive for success. For the Jersey steel magnate, Blackburn Rovers is both business and pleasure. The same rules apply.

So Walker was not about to fritter away any fraction of his wealth on a sporting hunch. Having lost patience with Roy Hodgson's results on the field, the search for a successor had to match the ambition and the imagination displayed in previous managerial hunts.

Walker had a name in mind from the outset, so there was perhaps little point in the rest of the Blackburn board debating the relative merits of other shortlist contenders. "We picked Brian Kidd from a very strong shortlist and the word 'gamble' does not come into it," Walker said. "Brian was my number one right from the word go. That is the important thing. We have done a lot of homework on him and, from everything we have heard, we have done the right thing and got the right man. I don't often go on missions that do not succeed and we were always confident of getting him."

However, Kidd, the sixth man to be entrusted with the Ewood Park reins during Walker's reign, does represent the biggest risk taken so far.

The appointment of Kenny Dalglish rocked football with its brazen audacity and Ray Harford was a natural successor following the club's championship season. Sven Goran Eriksson had the necessary profile until his U-turn forced Walker back to the drawing board. Blackburn's confidence in Tony Parkes then afforded Walker the breathing space in which to lure Hodgson.

It is not difficult to recognise the attraction of the Blackburn job. The new incumbent has never been short of funds with which to play the transfer market and the personal rewards are not to be sniffed at. It is more puzzling that Walker has been forced to scour the market for the right man with such frequency.

To halt the swelling procession out of Ewood, Kidd faces two crucial tests. The first, to unite a disjointed and disgruntled playing staff, should prove the easier of the two. Kidd is renowned as a players' champion and those who had grown tired of Hodgson's sometimes supercilious approach will find their new manager's emphasis on coaxing a refreshing change from coercion.

It is a technique already perfected at Blackburn by Parkes during his four spells as caretaker. The two men held lengthy scene-setting discussions on the day of Kidd's appointment and some form of continued role for Parkes seems certain. The classic formula for a managerial pairing, though, is the stick and carrot. Both Kidd and Parkes prefer the carrot and a stick-wielding sergeant major may be a necessity to crush any pockets of insurrection.

The initial response from senior figures such as Tim Sherwood and Jason Wilcox have been encouraging. "The club have done very well to get him away from Manchester United," said Sherwood, the club captain. "It's not the easiest of places to get people from. It's a fresh start for everybody."

It is equally important for players to have a winner back at the helm. "If he brings with him some of the knowledge he must have picked up at Old Trafford then it should improve our education as players," Wilcox added.

Kidd's immediate task, of course, is to keep Rovers in the Premiership. But his second test will be to make them a challenging force. Supporters, players and Walker have all been weaned on success and are retching at the taste of failure.

To do that, Kidd will have to impose himself on the transfer market. Since the arrivals of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, Blackburn have lost the ability to land the game's big names. Sutton, who has a clause in his contract stating that he can talk to other clubs following Hodgson's departure, will provide Kidd with his first personnel problem. Attempts to sign Dion Dublin highlighted the transfer issue. Rovers insist wages were not a problem, and recent signings by Hodgson proved that the funds are available.

Kidd, however, will be operating under the kind of constraints that previous managers might point to as an excuse for their own downfalls. Walker may be just about the most willing of benefactors but the business head still rules the heart. There is no bottomless well of money. Neither, despite the bonhomie of yesterday's welcome, is time on Kidd's side.

Neil Bramwell is sports editor of the Blackburn-based 'Lancashire Evening Telegraph'