The Norwegian Henning Berg, who won the Premiership title with Blackburn Rovers in 1995, was appointed as the club's manager last night, ending their prolonged search for a replacement for Steve Kean, who left the club in late September.
It has taken five weeks for the Blackburn owners, Venky's, to finally settle, if not agree, on a candidate who they believe possesses the capabilities to earn the club promotion back to the Premier League from where they fell last season. The club's global advisor Shebby Singh was insistent on appointing a manager with links to the club – in the hope of getting the supporters onside quickly – while other key figures, notably managing director Derek Shaw, preferred experienced applicants.
Singh's vision of a former favourite won out though, although even that initially had its problems after supporters threatened to boycott fixtures if Billy McKinlay, the Fulham coach, was offered the vacancy. And so Blackburn have turned to Berg, who will be unveiled to the media this morning. He was a latecomer in the race to take over at Ewood Park but dazzled officials with his concept, his PowerPoint presentation and his new generational coaching ideas.
Berg played for Blackburn from 1993 to 1997 before moving to Manchester United where he won the Treble in 1999. He then rejoined Rovers in 2000 and stayed for three years.
Since retiring in 2004, Berg has had two coaching jobs and achieved relative success. First was with the small Norwegian club, Lyn from 2005-2008 where he guided them to third spot in Norway's Tippeligaen, with a harshly-awarded penalty in their penultimate game costing the club the title. Berg then left the club to join Lillestrom, where he was forced to curb an escalating wage budget, before a poor run of results saw him sacked after two years.
When asked whether certain individuals present a perfect fit for specific clubs Jan Aage Fjortoft, the former Norway striker and friend of Berg, laughed. "There are some players destined to end up somewhere," Fjortoft said. "Everyone in football knows the troubles at Blackburn, with the limitations currently in place that come with those kind of owners. But Henning will come in and have an immediate impact because the fans respect him."
Fjortoft also recalled the game in which Berg was spotted by Kenny Dalglish – when England faced Norway at Wembley in 1992. The Blackburn manager wanted a defender and was there to watch Tore Pedersen. Berg was on the bench, and with the score goalless, the Norwegian physio ran on to treat Pedersen for a bang on the head. When asked what the score was, Pedersen replied correctly, but the physio hadn't been watching the game properly, thought a goal had been scored, and said the defender wasn't fit to play.
Berg came on and performed superbly. Dalglish signed him soon after. Blackburn then won the League title.
"Clubs now spend more time deliberating who to bring in, and when they see a man bringing forward a good concept on how they want the club to develop on and off the pitch, he gets the job," Fjortoft said. "The Norway side of the 1990s worked hard on tactics and formations – it was obvious that some would go into management," Fjortoft said. "Henning was one of them, and was always a leader."
Blackburn haven't won any silverware without Berg at the club since 1928. The fans at the moment won't worry about the trophies but would settle for a bit of pride restored. They will revere the new man for his tough stance regarding the owners, Venky's, too. Berg was forthright in June when asked about the club's situation, citing that no manager with any credibility would accept the job. "He won't be messed about," Fjortoft said firmly. Assurances must have been sought.
The last time Blackburn won a trophy without Berg at the club.