Before The Venky’s bought Blackburn, the word relegation was hardly a topic that entered the minds of soccer fans when discussing Rovers. Just in the last several years, the club had reached the semi-finals of the League Cup and FA Cup, finished as high as sixth in the league, and had qualified for Europe three times in the space of five years.
Then, just a few weeks after The Venky’s took charge of Blackburn, they sacked manager Sam Allardyce even though the team was in thirteenth place in the league. One year later, the club is bottom of the league and in complete disarray.
Watching Bolton’s victory on Blackburn’s home turf Tuesday night, I felt sorry for Blackburn manager Steve Kean. It’s easy for pundits and soccer fans who haven’t watched Blackburn much this season to criticize them as a poor team. But the fact of the matter is that they’ve played far better than their position in the table hints at. Unfortunately, when Kean needed his Blackburn side to play at a level that they’re completely capable of, they failed to turn up, giving their worst performance of the season against their Lancashire neighbors. Bolton played like the home side Tuesday night and completely deserved the win. Blackburn played better in the second half, but Kean left his substitutions too little too late to have an impact on this game. Having said that, Christopher Samba almost nabbed an equalizer in injury time, but when it sailed past the post, the miss seemed deserved based on Blackburn’s lack of fight during the entire 90 minutes.
The reason why I feel sorry for Kean is that he’s doing the best he can with the resources he has at his disposal. If anyone is to blame, it’s Blackburn’s owners. But since they’re so removed from the club, Steve Kean is the easy target. He’s no hero and isn’t the best man for the job, but the shortsighted decision to sack Allardyce and put Kean in charge wasn’t Kean’s decision. The Venky’s were the ones who decided to pull the trigger. And, as a result, it should be the Indian owners who are to blame.
Blackburn’s Ewood Park was not a place for the faint-hearted on Tuesday. Immediately after the final whistle blew, throngs of Blackburn supporters showed their outrage as they tried to run up to manager Steve Kean. Security was able to keep the supporters at a safe distance from Kean, but the negative atmosphere hung over Ewood Park like a dark cloud. After all, this is the same club who won the Premier League title in 1994-95. And it was this small town in Europe who played in the Champions League.
Sacking Steve Kean seems inevitable, but whoever replaces the Scotsman will find it tough to keep Blackburn up this season. The two men who could do the job are Mark Hughes and Allardyce. Big Sam, I’m sure, wouldn’t touch Blackburn with a ten foot pole while The Venky’s are still in charge, and I don’t think Hughes would be interested in taking a step backwards to manage Blackburn once again especially after the way he left Fulham. If neither of those managers take the job at Ewood Park, is there anyone out there who could save Blackburn this season?