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. Venkys have proved to be owners with as much common sense as Piers Morgan in the position of Euro 2012 betting analyst.
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. Whether or not Kean pulls it off, there will be chaos in Blackburn this summer regardless.