An I-League club faces a club from the Premier League. What could be running through the mind of the I-League players and management? Fear, trepidation or even a mild case of the heebie-jeebies? It’s a trick question because all of the aforementioned emotions are synonyms. While many of us may just whisper such thoughts, Blackburn Rovers’ Indian owners said it aloud.
“A match against East Bengal was in the pipeline, but it didn't materialise because they said they were not prepared, and couldn't get the team ready in time. Maybe they were also too scared to face an EPL club,” Venky’s MD Balaji Rao told HT in a telephonic interview.
East Bengal had turned down Blackburn’s offer of playing a friendly during their India tour because coach Trevor Morgan felt that with six national team players away on duty ahead of World Cup qualifiers, the Kolkata team would have been seriously undermanned.
Starting his first full season as owner, Rao is looking to help the club improve on their outing last season when they finished four points above the drop zone. However, the owners’ inexperience in dealing with the complex transfer market was evident in the manner the Phil Jones saga unfolded.
Rovers accepted Man United’s initial bid of £16.5m (Rs 117 cr), even though they could have held out for more, especially considering Jones’ promise. “We did get an increased offer of £22m (Rs 156 cr), but no point in looking back. We are happy.”