Kean’s time surely up as chickens come home to roost at Blackburn
The release into the public domain of a letter sent to the club’s owners by the deputy CEO of Blackburn Rovers, requesting first a pay rise and then the removal of the manager, sums up how much the odds were stacked against Steve Kean. Paul Hunt’s remarkable missive to Venky’s chairperson Anuradha Desai, published on the Sporting intelligence website yesterday, was originally sent back in December, the day after the club had lost 2-1 at home to fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers. It lays bare the turmoil at the club, one of the founding members of the Football League.
Blackburn, after Monday night’s 1-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic, have now returned to the Football League, something Hunt feared would happen if Kean remained in charge. “He has lost the crowd and as a result of this evening’s game [v Bolton] has lost the dressing room as well – the players no longer want to play for him,” says Hunt, bluntly. This point might have been lost on the club’s owners, who looked on from their base in India, due to what happened shortly after the email was sent. Blackburn won a point at Liverpool, though given the Anfield club’s record at home this season perhaps this did not merit wild acclaim. But the worth of a victory at Old Trafford a few days later could not be ignored. Kean remained in situ.
Sadly, the fact his team could muster, at best, only stuttering form thereafter meant they always seemed destined for the drop. A run of five consecutive defeats from late March all but extinguished their flickering flame of hope, and saw whatever goodwill there was for Kean evaporate completely. And now we come to the question of where next for their manager. It’s hard to believe he has the stomach to stay on after another 90 minutes of almost continuous abuse on Monday night.
However, shortly after the final whistle Kean expressed his intention to help the club re-build ahead of the task to come straight up again next season. One bookmaker has already installed Blackburn as more likely to be relegated to League One than return to the Premier League next season. The downward spiral is reckoned to be set to continue by many, with or without Kean’s involvement.
Hunt’s letter appears to make the Scot’s position look untenable, as do the results. Kean promised the fans they would stay up. However, on the evidence of Monday night, they went down with barely a whimper against a revived Wigan. Once relegation rivals of Blackburn, Roberto Martinez’s side have saved themselves with points to spare, their survival plan having been built around the perhaps unlikely figure of skipper Gary Caldwell.
Blackburn, by contrast, saw their own skipper/centre-half, one they hoped would be their own inspiration in the fight to avoid the drop, walk out in January and then leave for Russia a few weeks later. Chris Samba’s actions were another reason for the fans to vent frustration at the owners, who they believe have helped create a climate which encourages such delinquent behaviour.
On Monday night, the chickens came home to roost – literally so in the sense that a fowl in the Wigan penalty box saw play halted during the first half. A chicken draped in Blackburn colours and used to mock Venky’s, a company specialising in chicken meat processing, was released onto the pitch by one fan. It says everything that the owners opted to stay away from such a crucial match, although this is par for the course. Points raised by Hunt in a long, and at times rambling, letter were a) the observation that they were not around enough, and then b), the complaint that their absence was compounded by the fact they did not delegate enough responsibility to those on the ground at Blackburn, and who were left bearing the brunt of the supporters’ anger.
Kean, put in place by the Venky’s regime, remained a willing shield, however. Even after wins at Old Trafford and successive victories against Wolves and Sunderland, it was only an uneasy peace which existed between the supporters and the manager. Recent results meant that undisguised contempt broke out again, although Kean had remained a defiantly stoic presence.
“Uncle Fester out”, urged one banner on Monday. “The most deluded man in football,” was the description of Kean on another. Their methods have often been crude, but the mood of the fans’ cannot be dismissed. Clearly something is not right in the court of Ewood Park. While Wolves’ plight at the very bottom would seem to underline why it is so often folly to replace a manager in mid-season, Blackburn’s problems show that sticking with the status quo does not always yield the hoped-for results.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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