Graeme Souness arrived at Ewood Park in March last year pledging "to bring the good times back to Blackburn". Nineteen months later, Rovers are ready to step back into the Premiership indeed, they are already third in the 2001-02 table printed on their website, behind the alphabetically superior Arsenal and Aston Villa.
They finished fourth the last time they moved up into the top flight, nine years ago. But then they did break the British transfer record en route from the old Second Division, Jack Walker allowing Kenny Dalglish to lavish £3.3m on Alan Shearer as part of his pre-season preparation.
This time, things are different. Blackburn's days as big spenders disappeared with the £30m Brian Kidd spent transforming a team of Premiership under-achievers into a free-falling side on course for the Second Division. Souness has spent £9.7m on the squad that graduated behind Fulham three months ago and, on the evidence provided at Valley Parade yesterday, he has spent his money prudently, too.
Of the three new Rovers recruits on display, Corrado "Ciccio" Grabbi did most to impress, grabbing the early goal that set Blackburn on their way to a comfortable victory against the Premiership makeweights of last season and forging a promising partnership with Matt Jansen. A £6.7m signing from Ternana, Grabbi was the top scorer in Serie B last season, netting 20 goals. His 13th-minute finish yesterday was a simple one, the Italian sweeping a left-foot shot past Gary Walsh from 10 yards after the Bradford keeper parried a Damien Duff drive. It was his flicked header, however, that teased the opening, putting David Dunn clear of the home guard.
Grabbi looks a more than useful acquisition, though Jansen has to rate as Souness' best signing of the summer, the former England Under-21 international having been persuaded to put his signature to an extended contract after he headed Blackburn to promotion. The 23-year-old has a touch of the Dalglish and Peter Beardsley about him as he probes and schemes around the attacking fringes, always thinking one step ahead of the opposition.
An illustration yesterday was the way he drifted out to left wing to allow Grabbi space to head a Brad Friedel goal-kick and then set off to collect the flick-on through the middle sheer perception that came within a whisker of the perfect goal. From the edge of the Bradford penalty area, Jansen clipped a right-foot shot against the crossbar.
In comparison to such a sublimely creative talent, Tugay Kerimoglu was no more than functional in central midfield. At £1.3m, though, the Turk signed from Rangers did enough to suggest he will prove to be another shrewd acquisition. So did Gordon Greer. Prised from Clyde for the princely sum of £200,000, the central defender hardly put a foot wrong. He also put his head in the right place to divert Dunn's right-wing cross past Walsh in the 79th minute.
Bradford City 0
Blackburn Rovers 2
Grabbi 13, Greer 79
Half-time: 1-0, Attendance: 3,459Reuse content