Blackburn Rovers: lacking points but not protests


Blackburn Rovers playing in the India Cup
Image: ramnath bhat

Anyone casting a casual glance Blackburn Rovers’ way would certainly be forgiven for thinking they were a club imploding. They sit deep in the relegation zone, struggling for results both home and away. There are fans protesting at games, against both manager Steve Kean and Venky’s, the owners of only 12 months. There seems to be a real difficulty in getting information from the club and the media are getting frustrated, driving the discontent of protesting fans.

Meanwhile, the owners continue on with their plan which they primarily keep to themselves. They have talked of having great ambitions for the club and are aiming high but the manager they chose to replace Sam Allardyce continues to struggle to get results. However, Steve Kean certainly does not struggle to put a positive spin on the club’s position and is bullish about their ability to climb the table. The players have repeatedly expressed their support for both the manager and the owners and present a united front against the protests of fans. If you were drawing a battle line, it appears that the owners, manager and players are on one side and the supporters and the media on the other.

However, that isn’t entirely accurate. Despite there being a highly vocal group of fans who wish to see Steve Kean and Venky’s leave the club they certainly don’t represent all fans. Nobody really knows how many of the fans are being dragged along by the rallying cries of people who have now prevented Steve Kean’s family from attending matches due to their behaviour, according to the beleaguered manager. Those who do not hold ire and fury for Kean are not likely to spend money on sending wreaths to signify the death of the club (especially not on Remembrance weekend when the idea seemed in rather bad taste). They won’t be getting a plane to fly over the ground trailing a message behind it proclaiming to anyone tired of watching the football that Kean should get more time. The supporters are as split in opinion as Rovers defence has been of late.

Ewood Park
Image: Ronnie Macdonald

The lack of communication from Venky’s that the media cite as such a problem stems in part from the mauling they took when they first bought the club and had the temerity to suggest they were going to aim for the club getting in the top 5 and that good players (although fairly old ones) might be brought in. The media took great delight in using these quotes to paint them as ignorant and naive foreign investors who clearly knew nothing about football rather than take them as statements of ambition. While it’s hardly new for the British media to attack people in order to generate news, it set the tone for Venky’s relationship with them. They are now cautious about revealing anything to fans or the media – a position which is very understandable when anything they do say is thrown back at them as being either lies to placate the fans or another naive move from people who “don’t get football”. You can almost hear the unspoken “because they aren’t from around here”.

Blackburn Rovers celebrate a goal
Image: Ronnie Macdonald

Meanwhile, Steve Kean is criticised for everything down to the colour of his socks. He is clearly struggling and the decision to give him a long term contract only a few months into his time as caretaker last season was strange indeed. However, Venky’s are able to dispense of his services any time they choose to. Despite some recent attempts to smear the financial position of the club, money is not a significant issue for them and paying off his contract would cause no difficulty. They are simply choosing to back a manager who has shown some promise and clearly has great regard from the players he works with. His ethos of developing and promoting youth players dovetails with the plans of the owners to grow the club incrementally rather than follow the route of Manchester City or Chelsea. Also, he has the Blackburn side playing some really rather attractive attacking football at times too. Despite the lack of points, there are clear positives from his time at the club.

That appears to leave some fans who never wanted Kean managing the club being whipped up by a media who feel cheated now that the owners aren’t making it quite so easy to ridicule them. However, Venky’s are showing the kind of loyalty and belief in a manager that has so often been called for, by both those in the game and the media. It’s easy to do that when the manager is doing well, it takes real commitment and strength to do it when things are going badly. Perhaps Venky’s just make better headlines when you can make chicken puns.

What is certain is that no Blackburn fan wants the club to go down. However, protests only cause harm to the club, in terms of image, prestige, and according to the players themselves, results. It would be better for Blackburn in the short and long term is their fans took the same line as Venky’s and provided the kind of united front that the owners, manager and players are taking. You can’t expect the British media to stop chasing a wounded animal but it would be truly inspiring to their own players to have the supporters actually give unconditional support.

Rob Parker
From the Roverstalk.com website