I do hope that their fans take this in the right spirit, but speaking as a Southend United supporter, it’s so nice to know there’s a team out there that even we can feel sorry for. The Shrimpers are currently marooned in the fourth tier, they’re under a transfer embargo, they’re millions of pounds in the red and they have very little in the way of saleable assets but, hey, it could be worse. We could be Blackburn Rovers!
It matters not whether last night’s rumour that Steve Kean had been given the sack and had just ignored it was true or not. What matters is that everyone was so ready to believe it. How times have changed. Blackburn have never been the most flamboyant or tantalising of clubs, but under the careful leadership of former chairman John Williams they were never a national laughing stock. They were dependable and stoic. When they made mistakes, as they did with Paul Ince, they rectified them calmly and sensibly. That’s not exactly the case now.
Defenders of the Venkys group will point to this summer’s investment as evidence that they have learned their lessons and are now the very model of modern major football club owners, but it’s hard to give that theory too much credence. Blackburn may not be in the Premier League anymore, but in the short-term, they’ll continue to receive lavish Premier League parachute payments.
Lashing out millions on transfer fees and wages isn’t a sudden epiphany; it’s the equivalent of feverishly tearing off your dead dad’s gold watch and tossing it at the disapproving croupier. It’s a spin of the wheel. If the ball lands one way, it’s salvation. If it goes the other, it’s an appointment in the alleyway with the bouncers, the dustbins and a large ‘hurty-stick’.
The recruitment of Shebby Singh as Director of Football was another reckless move. Singh actually used to share space with me on the sports pages of The New Paper in Singapore where he contributed fiery, controversial columns that almost certainly contained less spelling mistakes than my own. If I were tasked with finding a director of football, I would have checked those fiery, controversial columns just to make sure the candidate hadn’t said anything provocative. Like, for example, mercilessly criticising the manager and calling for his head. Which, of course, was exactly what Singh had done.
I might also have wondered if hiring a hot-headed and passionate pundit for a role that calls for quiet diplomacy was really that wise a move. I mean, the last thing you’d want your new Director of Football doing is savaging team spirit by publicly announcing that a 30 year old first team midfielder is a ‘pensioner.’
But all of this pales into insignificance when we look at the curious case of Kean. There was no doubt that this inexperienced, low profile coach did not deserve to get the job in 2010. At no point has he done anything to suggest that he should keep it. You can speak about his dignity and courage under fire for as long as it pleases you, but he took over a steady, mid-table Premier League team, almost relegated them inside six months and then contrived to complete their demotion the following season.
But it’s too late. Sacking Kean now is like shutting the stable door when the horse has bolted, when the horse has lived a happy life in freedom, when the horse has died of old age surrounded by his family, when his children have died, their children have died and all the horses in the world have died and horses are extinct.
Sack him last winter and you might not go down. Sack him last summer and you have a clean slate, a chance for the new man to lay down foundations and build for the future. Sack him now and the new man inherits someone else’s team and is thrown into the relentless swirl of the Championship schedule without any preparation. Honestly, it’s as if Venky’s don’t know what they’re doing…
So, I’m sorry Blackburn fans, especially as I don’t think I’ve ever met one of you who wasn’t utterly grounded and lovely. Whether Kean goes or not, I fear you’re still in a lot of trouble. But, hey, look at it this way. You’re cheering everybody else up!
Click here to read more from the magnificent Iain Macintosh.
Blackburn are currently 7.00 favourites to win The Championship.