Ian Holloway, Crystal Palace's new manager, may have sat this one out, watching from the stands, but it was obvious that the man who took Blackpool into the Premier League on a shoestring budget two seasons ago – and nearly did so a second time but for defeat to West Ham in the play-off final in May – was itching to get his hands on his new team.
"I can't wait to give these boys a piece of me," said the 49-year-old, who vowed not to tinker with a side on an 11-match unbeaten run before, in classic Holloway analogy mode, forging an unlikely comparison between Palace and Barcelona. "Palace have got the right colours to do what I believe football is all about," he said. "The strip's very similar to Barcelona and they represent what I'm trying to get to: possession, passing, attacking, defending off your attacking, fresh young footballers and creating your own style."
Make of that what you will – and there is no denying that Palace played attractive football against Blackburn who, prior to this fixture had been unbeaten on the road this season – but what is clear is that having signed a four and a half year contract both Holloway and the club have signalled their long-term intent.
And what a turn up for the books for Palace fans following a tortuous fortnight of uncertainty – unexpectedly losing their club hero, manager Dougie Freedman, to a big money contract with Bolton smack bang in the middle of their best start to a season in 11 years. Supporters could hardly have imagined that they would end up with a replacement as experienced and as widely praised as Holloway. On the message boards they had just one question: what on earth must Bolton be thinking right now?
The caretaker manager Curtis Fleming, who refused to be drawn on whether he would join Freedman, revealed that Holloway had visited the players in the dressing room before the game. "He introduced himself and was lively as he is, I think the lads quite enjoyed it and I think they'll enjoy working with him."
On the pitch Palace purred. Boasting by far the bigger share of possession and chances, the club's young talent shone through as a succession of penetrating crosses from Yannick Bolasie was topped only by last season's Football League young player of the year, Wilfried Zaha, working his wizardry in and around the box.
"What a player Ian Holloway's got to come and work with on Monday morning," Fleming said. Paul Robinson's goal was peppered with shots but it took until just before the break for the home side to take the lead, as Glenn Murray headed in a superb cross from Owen Garvan.
Blackburn struggled to cope with the pressure, despite two isolated flashes of inspiration when Dickson Etuhu's header rattled the crossbar early on, and then Morten Gamst Pedersen almost nailed an equaliser in the second half but for a fine Julián Speroni save. There was scant else to praise, however, as Palace tore away with the momentum.
At half-time Holloway stepped on to the pitch to address the fans. "I don't know about you but how lucky are we to see a team like this?" he said. "Absolutely fantastic. When do you get a chance to lead a club with an opportunity like this? Absolutely outstanding. People may ask me why [did I sign]? Well they've given me four and a half years, they've sold me your dream for the club."
Two penalties for Palace followed in the second half, with Murray scoring the first but missing the second – by which time, despite the Blackburn substitute Rubén Rochina hitting the bar – the visitors were well and truly out of it.
On the sidelines Blackburn's new manager – their former captain Henning Berg – cut a morose figure. The Norwegian had slammed the club and its owners, Venky's, in May, saying: "There are no real managers with credibility who would accept a job like that." One can only wonder what went through his mind after his team's poor performance.
His press conference gave little away, crucially refusing to say whether he would buy players in January. "Sometimes you can lose games and play well, sometimes you play badly and win games but we didn't do either," said the 43-year-old. "We had a bad performance today. We can do better than this.
"But it is a fresh start. I don't know everybody 100 per cent yet but it's a good squad we have here. I have seen this team play much better than they did today. Hopefully this is a one-off."