You have to admit it’s rather apt that a chicken was found clucking around Ewood Park on Monday night. An historical idiom used to identify cowardice, it provided a stark correlation to Blackburn and the faint hearted efforts to prolong their top flight existence for another week. On an occasion where Rovers required every last drop of tenacity and belief to save their Premier League skins the feeling was that they’d effectively chickened out of the battle. You know it would’ve been fitting if the absconded foul has mimicked the players feeble efforts and scampered around the pitch with its head unattached.
The inquest into Blackburn’s demise certainly won’t make attractive reading material. Whilst the headline writers will be bursting with chicken related puns the cold harsh truth is that the one time Premier League champions will be playing Championship football once again next season. Who should the finger of blame be pointed at? Boardroom, dugout or the stands? Arguably they are all hold a level culpability for Rovers’ demotion to the second tier of English football for the second time in the 17-years since their title win.
A majority of supporters will point to the arrival of Indian poultry giant Venky’s, owned by the Rao family, as the catalyst for their collapse over the last 18 months. Promises of the Champions League or, according to chairwoman Anuradha Desai “to be fourth or fifth” never came to fruition as Blackburn plummeted into the abyss. The alarm bells should have started to blare as soon as she uttered the line “I had never watched a single football match in my life”. Desai’s misguided ambition seemed to hold no bounds as she targeted Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho offering him a £20 million deal over three years before the player dismissed the move and joined Flamengo.
Fan’s began to question the validity of Venky’s ownership after they declared “if we need to spend £5million, we’ll spend £5million” before being forced by Barclays to deposit double that into their accounts to cover the wage bill. Significant losses at the beginning of this season only served to indicate that the Indians were hopelessly out of their depth running a football club. There was even a rumour suggesting they weren’t aware of the concept of relegation. The vitriol directed towards them from the stands spoke volumes as to the level of confidence Rovers supporters held in the clubs hierarchy to deliver success.
The sacking of Sam Allardyce certainly set the ball rolling on the road to mistrust. Allardyce’s departure allowed coach Steve Kean to step in to fill the breach eventually going on to become Blackburn’s permanent manager.
A run of 13 wins in 65 games in charge has done little to justify that decision with Kean becoming a pariah and beacon of disdain amongst the Rovers support. Beyond a shadow of a doubt the 44-year-old has been found wanting in every aspect of modern day football management proving to be tactically limited and unable to properly motivate a team that, on paper, could easily finish in mid-table. From day one the fans made their feelings over his appointment perfectly clear creating a hostile working environment that Kean has struggled to cope with. But theres a part of me that is starting to feel for him.
Blackburn fans, unable to directly voice their displeasures to the usually absent owners, unleashed a barrage of psychological brutality on a man trying to find his feet in a role he’d have been foolish to turn down. You can’t hold it against Kean for actually taking the managers job in the first place with employers offering very public assurances that he won’t be sent packing to the redundancy line at the first sniff of trouble. He was even offered a long-term contract just weeks into his tenure. And whilst he’s presided over a disastrous campaign he’s hardly going to adhere to the calls beckoning for him to resign. Would you? It’s Venky’s prerogative to sack him and if they don’t then Kean isn’t obliged to quit.
Truthfully he’s had to contend with a myriad of other problems that would have had other Premier League managers scampering for the hills. False promises from owners over budgetary allocation, a distinct lack of control over player purchases and the loss of several experienced members of the dressing room.
Due to Venky’s boardroom blundering and crippling oversight Kean was left with pittance to spend during the transfer window despite the sales of Phil Jones for £16 million and Nikola Kalinic £7 million. It speaks volumes that the players brought in, such as Simon Vukcevic, Mauro Formica and Radosav Petrovic, have barely scraped together a handful of starts whilst his shrewd acquisition in the form of Yakubu has banged 17 goals in. Without the Nigerian delaying the inevitable Blackburn would have dropped a long time ago.
Add to that the departures of captain Christopher Samba, Brett Emerton, Ryan Nelsen and freezing out of Michel Salgado and it’s easy to pinpoint why Rovers have struggled this season. Samba’s dissatisfaction with the owners was well documented and did nothing to dispel the toxic atmosphere gradually choking the life out of the club. Rovers have sorely missed the quartet’s knowledge in the latter half of the season.
If that wasn’t difficult enough for Kean to subsist with factor into the equation all the protests sparked by an irate fan base and planes hovering over Ewood Park gesturing for him to step down. His refusal to give in to peer pressure saw the contempt towards his presence in the managers office escalate to threats of physical violence and even death for which there is no justification for. Frankly you have to admire the man’s dignity and mental strength to carry on fighting under a blaze of acrimony. From day one he’s had 30,000 people on his back who have spurned the opportunity to let bygones be bygones and support Blackburn Rovers no matter what. Of course they have the right to object and disagree but the way they have done so has been more deconstructive than constructive.
Of course tracing back through each every contentious issue from the past 18-months will lead to the buck stopping right at Venky’s door. Their inept running of the club, hiring the much maligned Kean and an innumerable amount of unkept promises caused the relationship breakdown between Rovers and it’s supporters.
Repairing that chasm is the only way for Blackburn to mount a serious fight to make it back to the Premier League promised land at the first time of asking. Fans have to accept their role in Rovers’ degradation and pull together with the owners and manager who have already stated they aren’t going anywhere. Affording Kean and Venky’s a chance to rectify their mistakes and return the club to the top-flight is a necessity if it’s going to become a reality. Allowing the negativity to perpetuate over the summer and into the next campaign will prove disastrous.
It’s down to the fans to nip that in the bud and put their unequivocal support back into Blackburn Rovers.