Over to you, Eriksson

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 2 Southampton 1

To Graeme Souness, it was just another one of those days at the office. To Tony Parkes, it was one of those busmen's holidays when the caretaker gets to lock up after depositing a good day's profit in the company safe.

"It's an easy job," Parkes said of football management. "You get a bunch of keys at the start of the day to open up for training and give them back when you lock up at the end of the week."

There was a glint in his eye as he spoke. Though he has swept Rovers to two wins and two draws in their last four matches, Blackburn's caretaker has no wish to stay out of the Ewood closet for longer than he is obliged to.

"I want to stay the same happy-go-lucky chap," he told his thoroughly- entertained audience in Ewood Park's media theatre. Mr Souness will put you right. He's a proper manager."

He is that. And when, in the course of your professional duties you happen to have raised the hackles of the bigots on both sides of Glasgow's religious divide (by signing a spiritual left-footer for Rangers), undergone open heart surgery (while in charge at Anfield) and had half of Istanbul screaming for your head (after planting your club flag in the heart of enemy territory), the kind of managerial misfortune Souness encountered on Saturday was strictly a routine part of the job.

His first-choice goalkeeper (Chris Woods) was carried off to hospital with a broken leg; one of his defenders (Ulrich van Gobbel) was sent off for a second bookable offence which the television replay suggested was never committed; and his 10-man team, after commendably retrieving a losing cause, were beaten by a late goal.

Yet when he said: "It's a cruel game," it was intended as a statement of the obvious rather than a plea for sympathy. Of the sending-off he said: "The referee told me it was for ungentlemanly conduct but he could not tell me what the ungentlemanly conduct was. Ulrich was just shielding the ball out of play. Defenders do it all the time."

On another day at the office, in fact, Southampton would have been buried by the six clear chances Blackburn created before Woods collided with Colin Hendry in the 12th minute.

It took a rasping drive three minutes from the end by the outstanding Chris Sutton to finish off Souness's Saints. But some of Blackburn's sweeping first-half moves bore hallmarks of their champion class of two seasons ago. Their caretaker has clearly done a tidy job in the brushing up department.

"No, I don't want the job," Parkes emphasised in his post-match press conference. "Do you?"

There was no reply. Sven Goran Eriksson was, after all, in Verona. He will find his office spick and span when he finally makes it to the Ribble Valley.

Goals: Sherwood (27) 1-0; Ostenstad (61) 1-1; Sutton (87) 2-1.

Blackburn Rovers (4-3-3): Flowers; Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux; Sherwood, Flitcroft, McKinlay (Bohinen, 65); Gallacher (Donis, 71), Sutton, Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Ripley, Croft, Given (gk).

Southampton (4-4-1-1): Woods (Beasant, 16); Dryden (Lundekvam, 83), Van Gobbel, Monkou, Charlton; Dodd, Maddison, Magilton (Robinson, 58), Oakley; Berkovitch; Ostenstad. Substitutes not used: Watson, Basham.

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).

Bookings: Blackburn: Wilcox. Southampton: Maddison, Monkou, Van Gobbel. Sending-off: Van Gobbel.

Attendance: 23,018.

Man of the match: Sutton.