Harty on the Albion and John Keeley

WHAT a difference three points make, the Albion travel up to Doncaster, win 3-1, and in a very tight league find themselves within touching distance of the play-off picture.

All against a backdrop of several key players out of the side through injury. It does make you wonder what might be possible when the Albion have all their key personnel back fully fit.

Blackburn Rovers are this week’s visitors to the Amex and it’s a timely reminder to the very small minority who dare to question him, that Tony Bloom does actually know how to run a football club.

When Asian-based chicken manufacturers Venky’s purchased Blackburn, it probably encapsulated all that is wrong about parts of our domestic football.

One of the founding fathers of the Football League, Rovers typified what for generations professional football in the North of England was all about.

Owned by local businessmen, with a strong working-class fan base, eventually the aforementioned businessman, Jack Walker, through his own hard work and determination, had amassed a personal fortune which enabled him to bankroll his team to the point of where they won the third ever Premiership in 1995.

I do wonder if, as they celebrated their title win at Anfield back then, supporters could have imagined what would have happened to the club 18 years later.

I’m not for one minute suggesting the former owners misled the purchasers, but clearly the Premiership win probably featured heavily in the sale info, along with, what has since been rumoured, that the Venky’s were unaware that there was any relegation in our domestic football.

It is said they thought our top football competition adopted the same format as American sport, i.e; no relegation, so demotion from the top flight came as an even bigger shock.

Last year’s reported losses of £34 million, which rolls into an overall club debt exceeding £60million, paint a very worrying future for the Ewood Park faithful.

A far cry from Sutton, Shearer and co lifting the top prize in the country and perhaps a timely reminder to some Albion fans that sometimes things aren’t as bad as they seem and certainly all that glisters is not gold.

Although on a lighter note, Blackburn’s visit also sees the return of a genuine Albion legend in the shape of Rovers goalkeeping coach John Keeley.

Kilo, plucked by Alan Mullery and Barry Lloyd from a Canvey Island cab office in the mid 1980s, went on to become one of the most popular keepers in the club’s recent history.

He still remains in my all-time Albion XI, to the point of when Michel Kuipers kindly asked me to chair his testimonial committee, I told the ‘Former Dutch Marine’, as an Albion legend himself, I’d do whatever he wanted but he would never replace Kilo in my first 11!

And, with that in mind, I sincerely hope the 25,000-or-so on Saturday give John the welcome back he so richly deserves, before the Albion win 3-0.