Parkes supplies glimpse of Rovers' future

Blackburn Rovers 4 Coventry City 0
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The Independent Online
In a season riddled with misleading signals, the idea that Blackburn Rovers were destined for relegation always seemed a little suspect.

It is too soon to say with assurance that the champions of 1995 will not suffer that fate but if current form is maintained there is not the remotest chance. Indeed, there are teams in the top half of the table of lesser quality. Quite how they managed to occupy bottom place for two months may well be seen as one of the season's great mysteries.

Tony Parkes, caretaker manager since Ray Harford's departure in late October, is clearly doing a splendid job. Of the 12 games for which the unassuming first-team coach has been in charge, Rovers have lost only two.

If he is doing something right, however, he is not inclined to suggest what it might be. In 26 years on the Ewood Park staff, as player, coach, assistant manager and caretaker manager (three times), trumpet-blowing has not entered his repertoire. "It is the players who have done it," he said. "It's not me out there kicking the ball."

Those players evidently respect and respond to their coach. Their play bristles with confidence and inventiveness, in complete contrast with the early weeks of the season when Harford had clearly lost his way. Chris Sutton, restored to the attacking role he prefers and wearing Alan Shearer's old shirt, looks a new player. Saturday's goals were his ninth and 10th of the season.

The appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson as Harford's successor scarcely seems necessary at the moment. Parkes, however, does not want the job. He applied to be manager before Kenny Dalglish came but now wants to preserve his lack of grey hairs. "We are a big club now," he says, "it's different."

Happily, after surviving four managers, he seems likely to be retained under a fifth, despite suggestions that Eriksson, under contract with Sampdoria until June, will bring in his own coaching team. A link-up with David Platt, who played for him in Italy, has been mooted, and Eriksson was represented on Saturday by Tord Grip, a coach with the Swedish national team whom Eriksson has deputed to report back on Blackburn's matches.

Grip will have been impressed, having seen Coventry's defensive fallibilities exposed time and again by the width and variety of Blackburn's attacks, invariably prompted by the drive and intelligence of Tim Sherwood in midfield.

Coventry were done no favours by the 20th-minute dismissal of Dion Dublin - his second in consecutive matches - for a reckless studs-up lunge at Henning Berg, but Gordon Strachan, named December manager of the month, offered no excuses.

"It certainly didn't help," he said, "but even before that we were heading for defeat. We did not start the game right, we were second to everything and when he had the ball we couldn't keep it. We were well beaten."

In between Sutton's goals, both from close range, Kevin Gallacher exuberantly scored against his former club after their defenders watched Sherwood's header bounce back off a post. The best came later, during a low-key second half, when Georgios Donis, having arrived a minute earlier as substitute, rounded off a move reminiscent of England's third against the Dutch in Euro 96, Sherwood duplicating the Sheringham feint.

Goals: Sutton (17) 1-0; Gallacher (30) 2-0; Sutton (34) 3-0; Donis (76) 4-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-3-3): Flowers; Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux; Flitcroft, Sherwood (Fenton, 86), Bohinen; Gallacher (Donis, 73), Sutton, Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Marker, Warhurst, Given.

Coventry City (4-3-3): Ogrizovic; Telfer, Shaw, Daish, Borrows; McAllister, Richardson, Williams; Salako (Jess 45), Dublin, Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Boland, Willis, Shilton, Filan.

Sending-off: Coventry: Dublin.

Referee: P Durkin (Portland).

Man of the match: Sherwood. Attendance: 24,055.