To say Owen Coyle’s appointment as Blackburn Rovers manager in the summer of 2016 was doomed from the start may be harsh, but it may also not be far from the truth.
Not only was Coyle’s record far from convincing in the year leading up to his appointment at Ewood Park, but his links with Rovers’ great rivals Burnley meant he was always going to face an uphill battle to win round the Blackburn faithful.
Going 3-0 down to Norwich inside half an hour at Ewood Park on the opening day of the season in what would ultimately end a 4-1 defeat certainly didn’t help, and Coyle’s time at Ewood never really got going after that.
The Scot was eventually sacked on the 21st February 2017 – just days after an ironically admirable performance in defeat to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup – but with Rovers languishing in 23rd in the Championship table, three points from safety, having won just seven of the 31 league games played under Coyle.
It didn’t take long for Blackburn to find Coyle’s replacement, as just a day after his departure, it was announced that Tony Mowbray had taken over from Coyle at Ewood Park.
Prior to take over the Lancashire club, Mowbray had been out of work since the previous September, when he had left Coventry with the Sky Blues bottom of the League One table, and without a win in their ten league games up to that point in the season.
Perhaps with that in mind, plenty of Rovers fans appeared sceptical about the choice of replacement for Coyle, and here, we go back to the 22nd February 2017, to take a look at what some of those supporters initially had to say about Mowbray’s appointment.
Is it April Fools Day?????
— Gary Barrett (@aidenwb02) February 22, 2017
just when you think you’ve seen it all….. 😂😂😂
— paddy. (@roverpaddy) February 22, 2017
club is officially dead
— Luke Taylor (@LukusTaylor) February 22, 2017
is this a joke
— louie (@louieyoung__) February 22, 2017
Come on @Rovers you could of at least got a young manager in who is going to get the fans excited not one that’s got a history of sackings😥
— Dave DiscoThorley (@discopants79) February 22, 2017
that’s it I’m done I’m never setting foot in Ewood again what an absolute joke
— 18TMBWA75 (@dcokell) February 22, 2017
I’m done! 😡
— MB ✌🏼️ (@brewin84) February 22, 2017
gone from bad to worse
— Tom (@ThomasLewington) February 22, 2017
I’d have kept coyle this is a disaster 🙈🙈
— Maurice Murphy (@Mossymnm1) February 22, 2017
But despite that scepticism around Mowbray’s appointment, the recruitment of the former Middlesbrough and Celtic defender has proved to be something of a smart move from Rovers.
Under Mowbray, Rovers almost produced a stunning great escape, picking up 22 points from 15 games at the end of the 2016/17 season following Mowbray’s appointment, only to be relegated on goal difference on the final day of the campaign.
Even so, Mowbray remained at Ewood Park, and the fact he did will no doubt be a relief to the vast majority of those associated with the club.
The following season, Mowbray guided Blackburn to promotion straight back to the Championship, in a season that did wonders to help lift spirits around the club after a string of difficult seasons following relegation from the Premier League.
Did these 17 players ever score a league goal for Blackburn?
Then in their first season back in the Championship, where Mowbray put pen to paper on a new deal with the club until the summer of 2022, Rovers quickly re-established themselves back in the second-tier of English football.
That was then followed up by a top half finish last season as Rovers showed the potential to push for a play-off that they possess.
Now, following a promising summer transfer navigated by Mowbray and the Ewood Park hierarchy, it seems as though Blackburn are in a position to build on that and mount a push for promotion to the Premier League this season.
That Rovers feel they are in that place just a few seasons after promotion from League One, is testament to the work Mowbray has done at Ewood Park, as is the fact that he is now closing in on four years with the club, who prior to his appointment had a reputation for a swift and regular turnover of managers.
It seems therefore, that for all the frustrations raised by those Blackburn fans when Mowbray first joined the club, the move made by Rovers to bring the manager to Ewood Park, is one that has rather paid off.