blackburn rovers 2 – 1 leeds united: zero varneys givenBack
Blackburn fans will learn. They might love him now, but they’ve a lot to learn about Luke Varney. We, on the other hand, didn’t learn anything on Saturday that we didn’t already know.
If Blackburn fans think that dive for their penalty was in any way a selfless way of guaranteeing a win for their side, they’re wrong. Luke Varney doesn’t play for the clubs that pay his wages. He plays for himself. He didn’t win that penalty for Blackburn, he won it for Luke Varney.
And he won it so that we couldn’t. You can feel the resentment emanating from him; you can see the need to prove a point being scrawled across his face as if a kid with a magnet and some iron filing was is in charge; you can see it the language of his constantly fake-shrugging body. What the actual bloody need is, I have no idea. Varney seems to hold it against Leeds that we paid him handsomely for two seasons to do nothing for us. That curled lip, the bristling muppet like hair crowning his pineapple head; it doesn’t scream ‘love me’, but that we never loved him will be forever held against us.
“He’s Luke Varney, he dives when he wants,” sang a young Blackburn fan outside the ground, no older than six, and Varney can be satisfied that his day’s work has earned him the adoration of impressionable young Rovers fans like that. He’ll no doubt be just as satisfied when the kid turns to his dad and asks, ‘How did Varney miss that? And why doesn’t he look like he cares?’ So far in his Blackburn career Luke Varney has contributed no goals and no assists. I’m confident that that dive on Saturday is the sum total contribution Blackburn Rovers Football Club will ever receive for the money they’re paying him.
Luke Varney doesn’t care; I don’t even think he enjoys playing football. I’ve never seen him do anything on a football pitch that denoted fun or joy or pleasure or any of the other things you’re supposed to get from what’s supposed to be a tricky winger. This was the player, remember, that meant selling Robert Snodgrass wasn’t going to be a problem. Snoddy had a hard time looking joyful, but that was generally because he always looked exhausted, as if he was climbing out of a quicksand ditch to celebrate a goal. Varney, on the other hand, just looks blank. Blank, blank, blank. Look at any random photo of Luke Varney and try to describe what he’s thinking. Blank, blank, blank.
I could tell you what I think when I look at random photos of Luke Varney, but I think you can guess.
That Luke Varney’s brainlessness won the game is all the more aggravating, because at the end of the first half at Ewood Park I was ready to praise Leeds United for their intelligence. It wasn’t a vintage performance from Leeds; this wasn’t the first half against Blackpool repeated. But then Blackburn are a much better side than Blackpool; and coming in at half-time with the lead in an even match was to Leeds’ credit.
Whereas Darko Milanic brought Leeds back after the last international break looking brittle and confused, Neil Redfearn seemed to have used the time to get the same team that beat Blackpool well drilled. Leeds still love to go side-to-side and then through the middle, but Warnock and Byram were pushing far enough forward to make the wings into territory we could invade if not occupy.
The tempo is gradually increasing game by game, and our Brazilian star-in-waiting is gradually showing the world just why they call him Tavares – what a different report this would have been if his long range shot had not been tipped over the bar. Leeds’ decision making is becoming more sensible; you can actually see some sharp edges to this diamond, with Cook and Mowatt determined to give it some attacking points while not going hell for leather and gifting the ball away.
Intelligent is not a word you can use to describe Leeds’ play for either of Blackburn’s goals, however. After Cardiff, now Blackburn, and we’re learning that Marco Silvestri, sent out in the second half in a non-clashing lime-green keeper kit, is fallible after all. Back when Silvestri was nothing more than a flash YouTube showreel, I wondered if there would be a price to pay for the way he flies through the air to tip simple, non-threatening headers over the crossbar, and now we’re discovering the cost: on his line he’s brilliant, in his box he’s fine, but outside the penalty area, he’s a liability. That makes you wonder why he keeps coming out there, but if he’s going to do keep doing it, he needs to learn not to have any fear about clattering Cooper or Bellusci or Pearce, much less one of the opponents.
Bellusci was brought on as a defensive midfielder, a role that seems made for him in a way that central defence isn’t, but there was a feeling about Leeds in the second half that whatever we tried wasn’t going to work: we couldn’t even turn the Blackburn sending off to our advantage. It was Bellusci whose thoughtless pass in his own half started the move that led to Blackburn’s winner, and if Varney is guilty as every last corner of hell for the way that goal was scored, Leeds themselves were guilty of giving him the chance to cheat. Bellusci should know better than to give the ball away so easily, Byram should know better than to get close enough to Varney to make a dive an option.
That’s a disadvantage that perhaps comes from fielding a team of players that don’t know the Championship all that well, whether because they’ve come from abroad or come from the youth team. Maybe Byram should have enough experience not to let Varney dive in those situations, but it should have come from the experience of being at the same club as the shiftless bastard, not from experience of the game in general. Byram only really has a season and a half of that, but that actually makes him, compared to everybody bar Warnock and Pearce, one of the starting eleven’s senior players.
You can take two stances on the way the second half at Blackburn faded into haplessness and defeat. You can jump right on the backs of Silvestri, Bellusci, Tavares, Bianchi and Doukara for not seeing the game out; or you can hope that, with time, they’ll learn and develop and look more at home in the Championship. Frustrated at full-time at Blackburn I honestly wasn’t sure which is the better option, but with calmer reflection comes the optimism that things can change.
Hopefully our players can learn about the Championship, and what it takes to win games like these, and we’ll have happier days ahead. And hopefully Blackburn fans will learn about Luke Varney, and what sort of man he is and just how little he will ever give to their club, and Saturday’s cheated win will ring hollow in their sorry hearts forever. Unfortunately for them, it’s only their hearts that will feel it. Luke Varney won’t care.