GARETH Ainsworth knows he is only taking his first steps in management, but his long-term goal is clear.
While all the focus at Ewood Park is focused on the club’s search for a new boss, former Rovers youngster Ainsworth is currently impressing as care-taker manager of League Two club Wycombe Wanderers.
A boyhood Rovers fan, Ainsworth casts an envious glance towards the vacancy at Ewood.
He cannot hope to be in contention this time, but he dreams of one day becoming Rovers’ manager.
Released by his hometown club at 18, a burning ambition to return to Rovers as a player has gone unfulfilled.
“I was devastated when I was released,” said Ainsworth, who is still playing for Wycombe at 39 after notable spells with Preston, Lincoln, Port Vale, Wimbledon and QPR.
“All through my career I hoped I’d get the chance to play for Blackburn.
“When I went to Wimbledon for £2m, one of the first games was against Blackburn and Jack Walker said to me,’ You should have come to us’.
have come to us’. I said to him, ‘I wish you’d put a bid in because I would have walked there’.
“The only time I’ve played at Ewood was for QPR in the FA Cup (in 2006). After the game I swapped shirts with Craig Bellamy and held it up to the Blackburn End to say I’d love to have worn that shirt.
“I never played for the club but maybe I could manage them one day. It would be my dream job.
“I’m obviously realistic and I know that I need to prove myself as a manager first.
“It’s gone really well at Wycombe so far, we’ve only lost one in six now.
“We’ll have to see what happens in the next few weeks but I want to be a manager, and Wycombe is a good club.
“Some good managers have done well at Wycombe and had good careers.”
Among those to have cut their teeth at Adams Park include Martin O’Neill and Paul Lambert.
For Ainsworth it is the third time he has taken charge of a club, after two spells as caretaker at QPR during his time as a player at Loftus Road.
It came during a turbulent time under owner Flavio Briatore, displayed in BBC documentary called ‘The Four Year Plan’ earlier this year.
“I had nine games as care-taker in two spells,” he said.
“QPR whetted my appetite and that’s when I decided that I did want to be a manager.
“We had a cup tie at Manchester United that we only lost in the last few minutes.
“That was really special and Sir Alex Ferguson said some nice words about me after the game, which was great.
“It was volatile at QPR with the situation there with Flavio Briatore and the people there.
“But to work in that chaos and mayhem was an experience that has helped me now.
“A lot of things that happened did open your eyes.
“Flavio was okay, he wanted the club to be successful.
“He would ask you why players he bought weren’t in the team and how players were doing, but he never picked the 11 – even though some people thought he did!
“He was involved in a lot of the team meetings but he had invested a lot of money in the club and it was his right to do that.”
Ainsworth keeps a close eye on events at Ewood and believes that Rovers need a boss who can put fire into the players’ bellies as they chase promotion back to the Premier League.
Ian Holloway, who he played under at QPR, is still believed to be in the running.
“I’m a Pleckgate lad and I was sat in the Riverside Stand with my dad from when I was six years old,” Ainsworth said.
“It was when we were in the old Division Two under Howard Kendall and Don Mackay. I was a season ticket holder for 10 years.
“Simon Garner was my hero, although he broke my heart when he scored for Wycombe against me in the play-off final when I played for Preston!
“I’ve watched some of Blackburn’s games and I think the next manager needs to be someone who can really instil that drive and commitment in the players.
“I would have given so much to play for Blackburn.
“It doesn’t have to be someone who has played for the club, I think as a manager that is within you.
“Martin O’Neill and Sir Alex Ferguson weren’t fans of the clubs they are at, but they have that.
“I worked with Ian Holloway at QPR and he is definitely someone who won’t accept anything less than 100 per cent from players.
“He has done a good job at Blackpool and is certainly one of those who would instil that passion.”