When Sam Allardyce was sacked in somewhat surprising circumstances last year, nobody could scarcely believe it.The captain, Ryan Nelson, said he was “shocked” and “devastated”, while Sir Alex labelled the announcement “ridiculous” and said he’d never heard of such a stupid decision in all his life. Sam had inherited a side who had lacked any real ambition under Paul Ince and guided them, from just the 20 games he had, to a well-respected 15th – a solid finish, considering they lay in a lowly 19th position prior to the festive fixtures. In his first full season at the helm, he then led them to a hugely successful 10th. Nelson pretty much summed it all up when phoning in to BBC’s Radio 5 Live after hearing of Big Sam’s departure. “What he picked up when he took over was a club in diabolical trouble, he’s turned it round into an efficient streamlined club that’s spent no money and done extremely well – it’s the world we live in, but I just feel absolutely gutted for the man.” So why was he relieved of his duties at Ewood Park?
“We have taken this decision as part of our wider plans and ambitions for the club.
“We would like to put on record our thanks to Mr Allardyce for his contribution to Blackburn Rovers Football Club,” the statement read.
Steve Kean was appointed as caretaker manager for the “immediate future” and his first game in-charge came against relegation-threatened West Ham at Ewood Park. A dire 1-1 draw was the result and it left Kean open, already, to criticism. Bill Boaden, a Blackburn fan, emailed the Guardian to argue the case that if Allardyce was still at the club he was “fairly sure” they would have taken all three points. That seemed and still does seem the common misconception among Blackburn fans.
After a run of only 2 Premier League wins in 6, Kean was awarded with a new, potentially danger-inducing, two-year contract. The new owners rattled off some nonsense to back up the Scot’s extension about how the squad was in ‘safe hands’, and how Kean impressed them with his “football philosophy, enthusiasm and positivity.” Two months had barely elapsed before Blackburn Rovers became embroiled in a fierce relegation battle, all under the guidance of Mr Kean. Upon signing his contract, Kean’s Blackburn proved victors on just three occasions in sixteen fixtures. Only a final day win vs Wolves guaranteed Rovers’ survival in the Premier League. Kean celebrated as if he had just triumphed in qualifying for Europe, or, failing that, the Premier League title itself. The relief on his face at full-time said it all. He was remarkably lucky. He knew that, we knew that – heck, everybody at the Molineux on that final day even knew that. However, it would have been a different story if Rovers had have gone down. Kean would’ve been released and everybody’d be happier. It’s interesting to note what Blackburn fans would have preferred? Staying in the Premier League or being relegated and getting rid of Kean? I, personally (and from a neutrals point of view), want the latter because it’s going to take something drastic to have someone else reassigned in Kean’s position and relegation might well be it.
And so that brings us to this season, where Blackburn lie an unpredictable last – having failed to collect even a single point from their opening three matches. Prior to the season’s beginning, Kean had been the bookies’ favourite to be the first to get the sack, pricing at a lowly 6/4, but now, having clearly established himself as one of more inexperienced and inept managers in the division, Kean is now at just 5/6 – some way ahead of the pre-forecasted relegation battlers from the likes of Neil Warnock and Brendan Rodgers, who are priced at 10/1 and 33/1 respectively – for the axe. His lack of footballing philosophy is becoming more and more evident after every game and the fact that this is Blackburn’s worst start to a campaign for 60 years says it all.
So where do Blackburn go from here? Well, if his summer signings are something to go by, they shan’t be in trouble for long. Kean made arguably one of the better buys of the summer when he signed Scott Dann from Championship side Birmingham for the smallish fee of just £6 million. Dann had been a wanted man for months after his solid displays for the Blues in the Premier League last year and was heavily linked with top-dogs such as Liverpool and Arsenal during the transfer window. Kean made three signings in total on deadline-day and his purchase of the out-of-favour Everton striker Yakubu was genius. The Nigerian had joined Leicester on-loan for the latter half of last season and rediscovered his goalscoring touch, finishing with a record of 12 goals in 20 games for the Foxes. Upon signing Yakubu, Kean heaped praise on the 28-year-old, stating that “to get somebody with a track record of scoring goals at this level is great. Everybody knows that if you can get him in the box and get him the service he scores, so I think it’s a brilliant signing.” So with his new signings and renewed vigour, should Kean be able to avoid the drop? In short – no. His absence of experience in the managerial field will prove to be key in Blackburn’s fall from grace this year, but if the owners – who, in fairness, don’t have a clue of what they’re supposed to do – should finally choose to replace him, and hopefully with an experienced manager rather than another Paul Ince, then Rovers should be able to see out the season in a somewhat comfortable position.