Blackburn Rovers 1 Portsmouth 0
You can imagine Graeme Souness's reaction when he was picking his Blackburn Rovers team last season. Dwight Yorke? "Over my dead body." Andy Cole? "We're still not talking." Matt Jansen? "Is he still here?"
To say Jansen was the forgotten man of Ewood Park is an understatement. His last start was in March, and you have to think that was when Souness would rather have selected his grandmother than play Yorke, and before that you have to go back to November for the last time the 26-year-old striker had been on a pitch for a Premiership kick-off. The local memory man could recall The 39 Steps, but Jansen's last goal? Now you've stumped me.
Which goes to prove how fickle football can be. Two years ago Jansen was flavour of the month and there were suggestions he would solve Sven Goran Eriksson's perennial problem on the left. But World Cup selection slipped him by and a nasty motorcycle accident put his life, never mind his career, at risk. He recovered externally but internally he was a mess and Souness, an admirer, eventually gave up on a player whose confidence was shot.
It would have surprised no one if Jansen had been transferred this summer, but he stayed at Blackburn and with Souness gone and Mark Hughes newly installed as manager at Ewood, Jansen senses a fresh start.
"It's given me a new chance," he said. "If anyone knows what I can do it's Mark." Hughes, then a player at Blackburn, admired from close quarters as Jansen attracted attention from his country, and he gambled on his former colleague by putting him on the bench for this game. It was a flutter that paid off because Jansen got the winner, a fierce left-foot shot from the edge of the area, to give the new manager a good start that could very easily have turned bad.
Blackburn betrayed the faults of the Souness regime - lack of threat on the flanks, no one prepared to run from deep to support the strikers, a defence that scattered when someone ran at it - but, like make-up, a win can camouflage a host of flaws. Portsmouth hit a post and were denied a blatant penalty when Brad Friedel barged Ricardo Fuller, and while Harry Redknapp was fuming, Hughes was smiling.
"There's always the worry in a team not doing particularly well that cliques are formed, people trying to protect their own position, but I have spoken to all the staff and none of them has alluded to anything like that in the football club," Hughes said. "They are a genuine bunch of players who basically want to be successful.
"There are areas we can improve on. It's going to be a busy week, lots of meetings to go to and things to change around." And Jansen?
"Physically he's fine," Hughes replied. "He just needs a bit more confidence. It's been a difficult period for the boy but he's got very supportive team-mates, they all want him to do well. He's a great lad, very popular in the dressing room, and you could see the feeling they have for him by the reaction when he scored."
Goal: Jansen (76 ) 1-0.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Short (Amoruso, 40) , Matteo, Gray; Emerton, Ferguson, Flitcroft, Pedersen (Jansen, 59); Stead (Bothroyd, 65), Dickov. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Tugay.
Portsmouth (4-3-1-2): Hislop; Griffin, Primus, Stefanovic, Unsworth; Quashie, Faye, Berger (Kamara, 77); Berkovic (Stone, 35); Yakubu, Fuller. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Taylor, Cissé.
Booked: Portsmouth: Griffin, Stefanovic, Fuller.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Man of the match: Jansen.
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