THERE will be sympathy for Rovers’ plight from many quarters, questions raised from others, but relegation will be tough to take for the club’s long-suffering fans who have been used to fighting above their weight.
From the fans’ reaction at the final whistle, it was clear where they point the finger of blame for the club’s relegation: owner’s Venky’s.
Since taking over six-and-a-half-years ago, the Rao family have now presided over relegations from the Premier League, in 2012, and now from the Championship.
Next season will be the first since 1979/80 that Rovers have plied their trade in English football’s third tier and just a sixth in their entire history.
The facts and statistics are worrying, the decline alarming, and the Rovers fans making the long journey back to East Lancashire yesterday will have been contemplating ‘what next’?
The outlook appears bleak. How can the club arrest a slide which is only continuing to accelerate?
Relegation will impact the entire club and the whole town. Jobs will be lost, further cuts made, and crowds at Ewood Park could plummet even further.
There will be an estimated six-figure drop in television revenue - another gap the club’s owners will need to plug.
Then comes the wage bill, incredibly Rovers were operating with the ninth highest in the Championship, and with wage costs exceeding annual turnover, it’s an unsustainable model.
Around £12million has been recouped in transfer fees this season but that will have done little to dent the club’s owed loans to the Rao family which now total more than £110 million, five times more than they inherited back in 2010.
Of the departures defensive duo Shane Duffy and Grant Hanley have already achieved promotion to the Premier League with Brighton and Newcastle respectively, while Jordan Rhodes and Tom Cairney will be battling it out to join them through the play-offs.
Any owners of clubs outside of the top flight will insist a place at English football’s top table is their aim, and the pre-written statements that are relayed to the fans from Venky’s always include such a reference. It’s starting to wear thin.
A return to the top flight is two promotions away and next season’s squad will once again be made up of free transfers, loan players and youngsters.
Brockhall, and the club’s Academy, remains something of a jewel in the crown.
It offers a slice of hope, but assets must be secured, and supplemented with quality in the form of permanent transfers.
And then there is the future of head coach Tony Mowbray. He will want assurances that he can build a side capable of launching an immediate push to return to the Championship.
You can point to missed opportunities in games, the number points thrown away late on and injuries to key players, but in truth, woeful mismanagement and decision making on and off the field, poor recruitment, and underperforming players have been the reasons for relegation.
Mowbray got the best out of the players in his 15 games in charge, losing only three, but the managerial change came too late.
Now is the time to give him all the tools necessary to lead a fightback.
With acknowledgement to Lancashire Telegraph.