Right, I've had a month off football. Or rather, this blog has had a month off talking about Blackburn Rovers. I'm glad, because in many instances I do encourage my children and workmates to refrain from saying anything if you can't think of something nice to say.
On Wednesday my friend Stephen Ashworth invited me down to Northwich to see a Rovers reserve side play the Vics, a club surrounded in turmoil and dark plotting of which Ashy is being invited to join in.
Here are ten thoughts - five bleak, five more positive, on what's been happening.
Selling. We have sold our most effective player from last season - Brad Friedel. Gutted isn't the word. He is an immense goalkeeper. There was a sell on clause for David Bentley. So, we split the proceeds on his sale with Arsenal. Is there a player that doesn't want to leave?
Managing. Paul Ince has - according to a good source in football agent circles - "lost the dressing room" already. His pre-match prep is patchy compared to Hughes and Ray Mathias takes the training. He likes winding players up by telling them there have been offers from other clubs. He wasn't even at Northwich, why?
Media. There's this from the Fiver yesterday which sums it up:
As for Blackeye Rovers, although they've now lost their two best players - Bentley and Brad Friedel - in the space of a week, they can comfort themselves with the thought that Bentley's attacking threat will be replaced with 84-year-old property magnate Robbie Fowler's pac ... Oh. Well, they can comfort themselves with the thought that Friedel's comforting presence has been supplanted with occasional goalkeeper Paul Robinson's handl ... Ah. Well, they can comfort themselves with the thought that Roque Santa Cruz isn't being linked to every half decent club with a few pennies to rub togeth ... Gah!
Bad buying. Robbie Fowler. Please, no. At Northwich he looked more like he should be in a veterans tournament. We are also being linked with Keith Andrews from MK Dons, Jermaine Penant, an Ecuadorian, a Mexican and a Chilean. And Robbie Fowler. Hughes had a great network, he sprung some great surprises. This looks like the old boys network.
Support. Season ticket sales are down on last year, despite some imaginative pricing. 2000 off the target according to the minutes of a fans forum. It's always a struggle.
Performances. We played alright in Portugal, according to those who went. The Vics game seemed to be a bit of a run out for Gallagher and Darbyshire as wingers, to see if one of them can fill Bentley's position.
Behind the scenes. Chris Ronnie isn't buying the club. Well, he never was really, it was as a front for a few others. The price I was told was £50m, which is ludicrously high for a club of Rovers size and the support we get. The best solution is for a supporters trust, underwritten by the Walker trust. Jack Walker's legacy was always never to see it sold to Cheshire property developers backed by Icelandic banks, etc. Better news is that the Walker Trust are reinstating the £3m they pay the club. I would like to think that this had something to do with it.
Good buying. Paul Robinson is a good keeper. That's a good signing for us and a good move for him. And he seemed to be a nice chap too; we chatted in the car park after the match.
Young players. Alan Judge looked good at Northwich, and the way in which the bench were instructing him, he's a key player.
Prospects. I'd settle for 9th now. But I think we'll struggle this season - 14th.