Blackburn’s baffling owners: Strange behaviour at Ewood Park

As Blackburn embark on their Championship campaign, the club’s fans will take some heart from the fact that the squad has been bolstered this summer. However, looking at owners’ Venky’s treatment of manager Steve Kean and approach in the transfer market raises some huge question marks, and further proves that the Indian conglomerate have no idea how to run a football club.

Despite some plucky performances and results at times last season, Rovers looked like a relegation contender for the majority of the campaign, and in the end were demoted to the second-tier of English football. The dramatic downturn in the team’s fortunes since the harsh sacking of Sam Allardyce back in December 2010 has been startling, with the club’s fans pinning the blame on the owners and Steve Kean.

The Scottish coach was a surprise selection to replace Allardyce given his inexperience, and has had to face a brunt of abuse from the Ewood Park faithful. Protests to have Kean sacked and constant dissatisfaction from the fans throughout 2011-12 saw the coach as a favourite to be axed, but Venky’s stood by their man, even after relegation.

A bit of loyalty in football can be admired, but after their continued backing of Kean, Venky’s have completely changed their approach. New director of football Shebby Singh has come out and stated that Kean will be sacked if Rovers lose three games in a row this term. Why stand by an inexperienced and under-fire manager for an entire campaign, which results in relegation, and then sack him three games later?

In the transfer market Venky’s actions again have been strange. Rovers were in big trouble at the turn of the year, and needed investment in new players in the January transfer market to stand a chance of avoiding the drop. However, the owners parted less than £2 million to bring little-known Anthony Modeste, Bradley Orr and Marcus Olsson to Ewood. Now that the side have been demoted the owners have invested to bring the likes of Danny Murphy, Nuno Gomes, Dickson Etuhu and Leon Best to Lancashire. Although the Rovers fans will welcome the investment, it is six months too late as the club are stuck in the quagmire of the Championship.

Blackburn have a great chance of bouncing straight back to the top flight at the first time of asking due to the quality in their squad comparative to other sides in the Championship, but it is clear that the club are being mismanaged. No wonder the protests and frustration continue, however Rovers fans should aim their anger at inept owners rather than an inexperienced trainer.

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Manchester United, Liverpool and the biggest Premier League losers of 2011-12

Despite a fantastically entertaining season with a raft of Premier League winners this term, it has been a campaign to forget for some teams and individuals. Euro 2012, the Olympics and the summer transfer window are approaching, and for some 2011-12 could not come to an end quick enough. Here are Ninety Minutes Online’s biggest losers of 2011/12.

Liverpool

Despite lifting the Carling Cup with victory over Cardiff, 2011/12 has been the worst campaign for Liverpool for quite some time. The Anfield outfit’s fans expected their side to be challenging for a top four berth, but a eighth place finish, 17 points adrift of Tottenham in fourth, has been a massive disappointment.

From Fenway Sports Group’s ill-fated home-grown transfer policy, to Luis Suarez’s racism ban, defeat in the FA Cup final to embarrassing home defeats to some of the division’s lesser lights, Liverpool fans will want to forget 2011/12.

Andre Villas Boas

After leading Porto to an unbeaten league title and lifting the Europa League in 2010/11, Andre Villas Boas was heralded as the next Jose Mourinho and the man to lead Chelsea back to the summit of the Premier League. However, an at times bullish squad rotation system saw the senior players at the club alienated, the Blues floundering outside of the top four and Villas Boas given Roman Abramovich’s axe.

The £13 million Chelsea paid Porto for AVB’s services was not rewarded, and the young trainer is still out of work after seeing his stock drop in west London.

Wolves

Wolves have been in a fight to stay in the Premier League over the last number of seasons, but Mick McCarthy has led them to survival and commanded the respect of the squad. Steve Morgan’s decision to sack McCarthy, despite a poor run of form, was an ill-sighted one, and the appointment of assistant Terry Connor a disaster.

The Molineux club reportedly interviewed the likes of Alan Curbishley and Steve Bruce for the role, but were reluctant to offer the experienced pair long-term contracts. The appointment of Connor has backfired, with the club finishing bottom with a woeful five wins all season.

Sir Alex Ferguson

2011/12 will be a season to forget for Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. The Old Trafford outfit are known for their will to win and mental toughness at the business end of the season, but the relinquishing of an eight-point lead is sure to give the legendary Scottish manager nightmares for years to come.

A lame Champions League exit in the group stages, a 6-1 hammering from City at Old Trafford and FA Cup elimination to Liverpool have been hard to take for the defending champions’ fans.

Alex McLeish and Aston Villa

Alex McLeish was a shock appointment at Villa Park last summer given his links to rivals Birmingham City, and the club’s supporters have not warmed to the Scot since. A toothless tally of seven wins, weak defending, a lack of creativity and the division’s second-lowest goal tally have had the Villa fans with their heads in their hands.

McLeish’s position as Villa manager must come under scrutiny this summer, but Randy Lerner must also invest in new players if the team are to have a better 2012/13 – Stewart Downing and Ashley Young have simply not been replaced.

Honourable mentions

  • Venkys – With Blackburn relegated this term, Steve Kean has received most of the flack from the media and the club’s fans. However, the Lancashire outfit’s Indian owners Venkys have not given the Scottish coach any funds to spend, and the side are now reportedly in financial trouble.
  • John Terry – Due to stand a court case in July for reportedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, the Chelsea skipper has lost the captaincy of his country and there is a train of thought that Terry may be excluded completely from Euro 2012. Add to this a sending off against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals for petulantly kneeing Alexis Sanchez, and Terry has had better years.
  • Jermain Defoe – The diminutive striker has proved time and again that he can score goals at the top level, but has simply not been given enough time on the pitch this season. Harry Redknapp’s preference for Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart could cost Defoe a place at Euro 2012.
  • Jack Wilshere – The talented Arsenal midfielder has not seen one minute of action this season, with consecutive knee cruciate injuries keeping him on the sidelines throughout. Wilshere will also miss Euro 2012 due to injury.
  • Joey Barton – Barton is no doubt talented and able when in the correct mindframe, but stupidity, ill-discipline and a terrible attitude have continued to blight his career. A red card against Manchester City on Sunday cost his team the game and his constant abusive and opinionated Twitter comments should see Mark Hughes ditch his troubled ‘captain’ this summer.

Published – Soccerlens

Kean In, Venkys out

As Blackburn Rovers languish towards the bottom of the Premier League, manager Steve Kean continues to be backed by the club’s Indian owners: The Venkys Group. Despite the current trend in the game of sacking underperforming managers prematurely, fan protests outside Ewood Park and the total inexperience of Scottish coach Steve Kean at this level, Kean still remains on the Lancashire side’s bench. The 44-year-old’s continued employment comes as more of a surprise given Venkys’ lack of patience and harsh sacking of Sam Allardyce back in December 2010. Big Sam had taken charge at Rovers in 2008/09 with the club facing potential relegation, lifted the side to mid-table security, and led Rovers to a 10th placed finish the following campaign. After the Indian organisation’s buyout of the Premier League side in November 2010, Allardyce was dismissed a month later with the club in 13th place in the standings.

Given the backers’ claims of their desire to break into the top six, the appointment of an untried and virtually unknown manager was a shock, never mind his continued employment given Rovers’ final-day escape from relegation last term, and floundering this term. There is no doubt that discarding Allardyce was a foolish and knee-jerk decision by a board of directors bereft of knowledge or experience in the game. Kean’s continued managerial tenure at the club may well have something to do with the widespread condemnation of Big Sam’s ill-treatment by a number of leading figures in the game.

Given Rovers current plight this term, should Kean still have a job? The natural reaction would be no, as up until a few weeks ago Rovers looked for all money to be a sure thing for relegation. Kean’s lack of experience at this level coupled with the frustration and downright anger of a section of the Ewood Park faithful would lead the neutral to believe it is a matter of when the Glaswegian is sacked, and not if. Take into account the Martin O’Neill effect at Sunderland, and the merits of bringing in a new manager with a track record of success is there for all to see.

However, there have been signs of recovery in Lancashire, and a case to stick with Kean.  Injuries, particularly in defence, have played their part in Rovers’ misfortune, and the 44-year-old has continued to employ an attacking and brave brand of football despite the team’s shortcomings at the back. Positivity by Kean has saw Yakubu Aiyegbeni rediscover his scoring boots and four points out of a possible six from trips to Anfield and Old Trafford have given the side hope. Blackburn may well still be near the bottom of the pile, but despite Rovers’ plight, the players seem to still have faith in the Scot’s methods and back Kean with determination and effort on the pitch, even if quality at times is lacking. 

But this article is in no way a slight against Steve Kean. He has had limited resources to work with in his first managerial role; he has been thrown in at the deep end. The ‘Kean out’ protests are due to the supporters’ understandable fear for the club’s Premier League status, but their frustrations should be angled towards Venkys, not Kean.

Blackburn’s current situation is down to the ignorance and mismanagement of the owners, rather than Kean’s inexperience. Would the club be in such a mess if Allardyce was still at the helm? Probably not. Venkys have shown the two extremes of managerial support; firstly sacking Allardyce inexplicably and then backing Kean equivocally. Kean should most likely have been sacked after 5-10 games of the campaign, but now that he is still in place Venkys must stick with him, and back him financially during this transfer window.

In December 1989, Manchester United sat just above the relegation zone in the English top flight, and calls for one of Kean’s countrymen to be sacked as their coach were deafening. 22 years and 12 league titles later, Sir Alex Ferguson has picked up the Fifa President’s Award for achievement with the Old Trafford club.

Steve Kean is not the next Sir Alex Ferguson but his determination in the face of overwhelming criticism may well be decisive in Rovers fate this term; the Scot has the herculean task of reaching the all-illusive 40 points mark. If he doesn’t keep Blackburn in the Premier League however, Rovers’ fans exasperation at their relegation should be directed towards inept ownership rather than inexperienced management.

PublishedA Football Report

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