Would Duncan Ferguson be a success at Blackburn Rovers?
Blackburn are by no means the only EFL club still in the market for a manager for 2022/23, but in their case their involvement is symptomatic of poor planning.
Elsewhere in Lancashire, Blackpool boss Neil Critchley took the Aston Villa assistant manager’s position rather unexpectedly, meaning their summer plans have got forced back outside their control.
In Rovers’ case, though, they let Tony Mowbray’s contract expire. In fact, the board did not even notify their long-serving manager of their plans to look elsewhere.
It was only because of the lack of communication from the hierarchy that Mowbray took matters into his own hands and expressed his desire to leave, in order to spend more time with his family in the north-east.
The lack of respect for Mowbray’s work over the last five years meant a sour end to an otherwise reasonable period for the club, which includes promotion from League One in 2017/18 and two top-half finishes in four seasons, none lower than 15th.
Mowbray not only delivered competitive results on the field, albeit without always being necessarily revered by fans, he also took on a lot of responsibility for running day-to-day operations.
Although Rovers have an opinion-dividing CEO in Steve Waggott, they do not have a Director of Football, a Sporting Director or a Head of Football Operations as most Championship clubs do.
That means the manager must take on increased responsibilities, and thus the absence of a boss stalls internal processes.
This is the danger of the situation Blackburn have left themselves in. John Park remains as Head of Recruitment to provide some continuity in that department, although it’s unclear how many other recruitment officers the club have employed.
Plus, while the club may have targets lined up, they cannot push forward with the most important ones for not knowing whether the incoming manager would approve of those deals, and that uncertainty means the club risks losing out on targets to clubs that are operating with more clarity.
The good news is that Waggott plans to bring in a Director of Football, and that person could be Steve Walsh.
The scout, credited with identifying would-be Premier League title-winning players for Leicester – not to be confused with the former centre-back turned target man extraordinaire who twice won the League Cup with the Foxes – could come in this week.
Walsh has worked with Duncan Ferguson at Everton, which is why the Scot is now the favourite to take charge – odds-on with some bookmakers.
Ferguson has had the number one job at Goodison Park on an interim basis on two previous occasions, prior to being replaced by bigger names in Carlo Ancelotti then Frank Lampard, which suggests the Toffees hierarchy do not see the Scot as a long-term candidate.
Blackburn, therefore, can give Ferguson an opportunity he would not gain on Merseyside, as they attempt to build a side that can be competitive in the Championship in 2022/23.
The 50-year-old's main selling point is his passion.
It’s what made Everton fans fall in love with him as a player, over two spells, and again as a manager.
That would provide a contrast from Mowbray, who was not so much of the chest-bumping, first-pumping variety – not an evil by any means, but some fans like to be able to see the emotion in the manager.
On top of that, Ferguson makes time for supporters and is extremely active in the community; where others do the bare minimum for the PR, he really cares about engaging with people from all walks of life.
Plus, it could be argued that Blackburn’s current scenario requires a passion-merchant – somebody who will throw themselves into the job head-first – more than they need a strategist, a perfectionist, or a tactician.
That’s not to say that the new boss will not need to be intelligent, but they must be capable of adjusting to difficult circumstances.
Rovers have 21 senior players contracted for next season and Ben Brereton Diaz is likely to get a Premier League move; while the fee for last year’s top scorer could be large, it will not be re-invested in the team due to the debt the club owes to the Venkys.
The remaining 20 includes Harry Pickering, Dan Butterworth, Hayden Carter, Tyler Magloire, Aynsley Pears, Joe Rankin-Costello, Dilan Markanday and Tayo Edun, each of whom fared superbly at Under-23s level and/or in a lower division – either on loan or prior to signing – but for different reasons are unproven at Championship level.
James Brown could be placed in a similar category, although in his case he signed from League of Ireland Premier Division club Drogheda United in January.
Scott Wharton, after a positive campaign, may have moved himself into the category of Championship proven and there’s some optimism for winger Ryan Hedges, who is not established in this tier of English football but did have a strong three seasons with Aberdeen.
John Buckley is another inexperienced figure, although there is plenty of hope that if the midfielder can nail down his best position, he will build on an excellent 2021/22 campaign, similarly to quick-footed forward Tyrhys Dolan – although the latter has been around the first team for two seasons now.
Buckley and Dolan may be relied upon hugely next season as two of a handful of players who have previously thrived at this level, along with midfield dynamo Lewis Travis, goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski and defender Daniel Ayala – if the latter can stay fit.
Bradley Dack would in theory come into that category, but the attacking midfielder peaked in 2017/18, the promotion season, 2018/19, the first season back at this level and 2019/20 pre-injury.
Since then, Dack has either been absent or not quite the same player when he has played, and while the new manager will try to get the 28-year-old back to his best, it’s not something to bank on.
With that in mind, next season could be an arduous one for Rovers, who have their work cut out trying to stay in the Play-Off reckoning.
The Lancashire club will have limited funds to compensate for the inevitable departures of Brereton Diaz, Darragh Lenihan and Joe Rothwell, whilst competing with clubs that are wealthier, possess more individual quality and/or have more managerial stability.
However, if the next manager can galvanize the fanbase and help get Ewood Park rocking in a way it has not been for a long time, then they have a chance.
Full next Blackburn manager odds below...