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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Blackburn Rovers: Who will replace Ince at Ewood Park?

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Paul Ince was regarded as one of the game's best young managers but after just 17 games in charge at Blackburn Rovers the former Manchester United, Liverpool and England ace has been axed. Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Wigan was the club's 11th game without a win and left them just one point off the bottom of the Premiership. The Blackburn board took a risk in appointing Ince in the summer but it looks as though the gamble hasn't paid off.

Now the search is on for Ince's successor and Blackburn officials are confident of having the right man in place before this weekend's visit of Stoke City. A number of high profile names have been linked with the vacant position with Graeme Souness and Sam Allardyce leading the way, according to the bookies, but here's my assessment on the runners and riders for the job.

Graeme Souness

The former Blackburn and Newcastle boss is hotly tipped for a return to Ewood Park but how many Rovers fans will be happy to see him back? The former Liverpool and Rangers man was hardly the most popular figure in Lancashire even before he walked out on the club for Newcastle United. After all he had ruffled a few feathers and watched the team slide down the table. He did, however, guide Rovers back to the Premiership and won the League Cup with them in 2002, but I don't believe he is the right man for the job even with Tugay as his number two.

Sam Allardyce

The ex-Bolton and Newcastle chief has apparently ruled himself out of the running for the job but you shouldn't believe everything you read in the Press. Allardyce has a great record of making the most from limited resources and is regarded by some as one of the best English managers in the game. Like Ince, he wasn't given the time to turn things around at St James' Park, but his achievements at Bolton are second to none. His style of play may not be to everyone's liking but it gets results. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the hot seat and I believe he would safeguard their future in the top flight for another season at least.

Martin Jol

If Blackburn can persuade the former Spurs boss to leave Hamburg it would be the best early Christmas present ever for the Rovers fans. The Dutchman likes to play attractive, entertaining football and would surely love another crack at the Premiership. He guided Tottenham to two fifth place finishes but was hideously treated by Daniel Levy who allegedly went behind his back to attract Juande Ramos to White Hart Lane. But would he be willing to leave Hamburg who are right in the hunt for the Bundesliga title?

Steve McClaren

The meer suggestion of his name may send shivers down your spine but the FC Twente boss is a great club manager and has plenty of experience of the English game. He led Middlesbrough to the UEFA Cup final and landed them their first trophy in the shape of the League Cup. Obviously his failure to qualify for Euro 2008 while England manager will haunt him forever but could he resist the lure of Premiership football? FC Twente are currently doing well and are in Europe after Christmas for the first time in 30 years, so he has made a lot of friends in Holland. But would he be prepared to throw all of that away to be slaughtered by the English Press again? I doubt it.

Avram Grant

The former Chelsea chief was harshly treated by Roman Abramovich despite leading the Blues to the Champions League final and taking the title race right to the wire. He may not be everyone's cup of tea but he certainly did exceptionally well considering all of the pressure on him to succeed at Stamford Bridge. Like Jol I'm sure he has a few points to prove in the Premiership. However, does he have the skills necessary to lift a club out of the bottom three?

Mark Hughes

Despite doubling his money, and then some, at Eastlands the dream for the former Blackburn and Wales boss has turned into something of a nightmare. He may be in charge at the richest club in the world but the results have not gone for him and rumour has it that the new owners may well be looking for someone with a bit more experience to spend their billions in January. Could Sparky be willing to leave the club and make a sensational return to Ewood Park?

Kevin Keegan

The former Newcastle boss is still seeking employment following his departure from St James' Park. With no takeover in sight at the Toon and Joe Kinnear given the job until the end of the season Keegan could surprise everyone by joining Blackburn. He has the experience and enthusiasm to lift the players and the fans and would bring excitement to the club. Could Special K be the right man for Rovers?

Other names being linked with the manager's job include Sven Goran-Eriksson and Chris Coleman, but if Blackburn believe they will have a new man in charge in time for Saturday's crunch game against Stoke City then surely their man is not involved with a team right now.

Paul Ince will no doubt bounce back from this setback, but will Blackburn Rovers be able to lift themselves out of the drop zone and retain their Premiership status? It all depends on how they appoint.

* Calling all Blackburn fans. Who would you like to see replace Paul Ince at Ewood Park? Do you think Ince should have been given more time to turn things around? Where did it all go wrong for Ince at Blackburn? How concerned are you about being relegated? Do you think the new man has the right players at his disposal to transform the club?

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Colin Illingworth



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