FORMER Blackburn Rovers midfielder Mark Atkins has urged the fans and owners to get fully behind new manager Henning Berg. Berg, who was appointed on a three-year contract to replace former manager Steve Kean, picked up his first point as Rovers boss in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Huddersfield Town.
Now the man who openly criticised owners the Venky’s just a few months ago will be bidding for maximum points against Birmingham City tomorrow as he makes his Ewood Park return.
Both Atkins and Berg were influential in Blackburn’s 1995 Premier League triumph.
Former midfielder Atkins, who made 569 professional appear-ances in his career, has heaped praise on his former team-mate but admits he needs help from his bosses to be a success.
He said: “Henning is a very intelligent man, and he knows what he wants from the club. “The owners have obviously changed his opinion and they have given him a fantastic opportunity to manage a club where he played and will always be remembered.”
Rovers fans have stayed away from Ewood Park this season with attendances falling to just 14,000, which is 8,000 less than last season.
A bumper crowd is expected for the visit of the Blues tomorrow to welcome in Berg’s era with Atkins, who spent seven years at Rovers, admitting it has been sad to see the fans so “despondent” in recent times because of their dissatisfaction with Venky’s and now departed boss Kean.
“Everyone must get behind the manager and get the club promoted,” said Atkins. “By achieving success the fans will then get behind the owners and come together.”
Owners Venky’s have proved controversial since they bought the club back in 2010. They declared soon after buying the club that they wanted Rovers to become the “Arsenal” of the north.
Experienced manager Sam Allardyce was then sacked for not producing ‘entertaining football’ as the owners appointed Kean as boss. Atkins, who made 34 appearances out of 42 in 1994/95, believes sacking Allardyce was a mistake.
He said: “Sam was sacked far too early. His know-how and experience would have been vital in keeping Blackburn in the Premier League.
“Teams move forward and if you don’t do the same you get left behind, which happened a lot last season.”
Rovers’ 11-year stay in the top flight ended in May. The club’s global advisor Shebby Singh applied the pressure before the start of the new campaign, telling supporters if Kean lost three straight matches he would be sacked.
“With statements like that coming out the pressure intensifies towards the manager and players,” said Atkins, who is now manager of Evo-Stik Premier Division outfit Matlock Town.
“Steve will have had his own targets, but when targets are made public everyone feels under pressure to achieve them. “The squad is good enough.”