It seems like it has been on the cards for the best part of 16 months, but on Monday night Steve Kean and Blackburn Rovers were finally condemned to the drop.
Steve Kean has had much to endure, criticism from an MP and fan protests. He has even been forced into hiring a bodyguard for his own protection. Yet he still appears adamant that this is his job and will still be his job in August when Blackburn set out on their first campaign in the second tier in 12 years.
Despite putting in some impressive performances at times this season, Blackburn were never able to find the form that could really get them into a position they could consider even relatively safe. A run of six defeats at the business end of the season was just about enough to convince even the most optimistic of fans that the former Premier League champions would be joining Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Championship next season.
Some Blackburn fans who are able to look past the ‘wickedness’ of Steve Kean and his supposedly spiteful strategies can look back with pride at some parts of their season such as the 3-2 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford and an early 4-3 home victory over Arsenal.
The Blackburn Rovers squad certainly doesn’t seem one that should be going down with such ease. Junior Hoilett is an excellent footballer and with his contract running out this summer, will most certainly be on his way to a top Premier League club. Summer signing Yakubu was nothing short of a revelation, with 16 Premier League goals, his highest return in 9 years. The weakest aspect of the squad would be the backline. Losing Chris Samba would be a big hit for any team, let alone one with such a minimal amount of adequate back-up.
Throughout the season, it was presented to all that this squad was very determined to avoid relegation and were supportive of their boss. Many celebrations even involved Kean, much to the Ewood Park crowd’s dismay. So once again, it begs the question, why have Blackburn gone down without a whimper?
When experienced boss Sam Alladyce was sacked, Blackburn Rovers sat in 13th place. With Kean in charge the team went on to face a relegation battle escaping on the final day and finishing in 15th. Despite being so inexperienced many would think the experience alone of edging so close to the drop would send a message to Kean and his men. Warnings clearly were not headed and now the price has been paid.
On the simple grounds that Steve Kean has been unable to achieve survival, he should be shown the door. He has undoubtedly been through Lancashire’s version of hell and back throughout his tenure but that should not be used to protect his position. In football there is little room for sentiment and whilst some figures external to the club will have sympathy or perhaps empathy for Kean, he had a job to do and he did not do it.
It is of course easy to sit and blame the manager but the biggest sign of a man out of his depth was the decision to replace top goal scorer Yakubu with David Goodwillie against Tottenham Hotspur. Blackburn finished the game without having mustered a shot on goal whatsoever. A shameful statistic that is unthinkable for a team gripped in a relegation battle. The tactics employed in the game clearly weren’t working, yet they were not changed. Steve Kean was starting to seem like a man who had already accepted the inevitable.
It isn’t just Steve Kean who sits at the end of the Rovers supporters calls for the cull though. Owners the Venky’s are also wanted out the door as quickly as possible.
There has been a run of embarrassing moments for Blackburn fans to face since the Venky’s took over. The declaration of interest for Ronaldinho speaks for itself. The Chicken advert starring the Blackburn team was certainly nothing short of appalling though. Blackburn Rovers had always come across as a traditional football team in an industrial Lancashire town. To see them being rolled out as an advertising tool for Indian chicken was for the most part surreal. It has certainly done enough to convince me of the acting talents of one Mr. Ryan Nelsen though.
The Venky’s clearly saw the global potential Barclays Premier League teams had. They are a business group and from a business standing, purchasing the former Premier League champions was a chance to make some serious capital. For all their business acumen, the biggest problem is that due to their apparent ignorance and misunderstanding of football they probably don’t even understand the real problems that surround the future of their business asset now that they have lost their Premier League status. The parachute payments will look quite attractive though.
Obviously there are still people in administrative positions at the club with at least an inkling of football knowledge who understand the severity of this relegation but then why has Kean not lost his job yet?
Isn’t it obvious? The Venky’s seem to have no desire to pump tons of cash into the Rovers coffers. And so why get rid of a manager who is in no position to challenge them on this? Steve Kean clearly hasn’t got an army of fans willing to fight tooth and nail if his job was to be threatened and he’ll know this. This situation has meant the quality of the Blackburn squad has deteriorated. At this current rate things will just get worse and worse. To think an immediate return to the top flight is on the cards next season would be very foolish.
The only issue that could persuade the Venky’s to pull the plug could be the financial implications of a disgruntled fan base. The chances of a majority of fans purchasing season tickets next year are looking slim, unless they are looking forward to running up to Kean and ceremonially tearing it and throwing it toward him.
Ironically after a letter was leaked showing deputy CEO Paul Hunt calling for Steve Kean to be relieved of his duties it was Hunt himself who got the sack. Is this a sign that the Venky’s will stick by Kean and continue to do so even now they have been confined to the Championship? It is certainly possible that Blackburn fans could be stuck with Steve Kean and the Venky’s for some time yet.
Steve Kean is not doing his own career any justice by simply hanging onto his job. Some may argue that he wants to prove his integrity by sticking by his guns. However, it seems that the more decent and impressive thing to do would be to accept that he has not done the job required and show that he understands he is not the man to lead the club forward. Obviously, the last thing Kean would have wanted from his first job in management was this; he has certainly set himself up for some awkward job interviews in the future and he may have dug himself a hole that is just too deep to escape from.