BRFCS News Editorial Comment
24 days after becoming owners of Blackburn Rovers, Venky’s stamped their mark on the club by announcing the sacking of manager Sam Allardyce. Yet prior to the events of yesterday, they had talked about respecting the traditions of the club, building on those traditions, listening to the existing management and taking the club forward in a modest fashion. It seems that it was all ‘hogwash’ because what happened yesterday does not befit a proud club such as Blackburn Rovers.
Sam Allardyce was a manager who polarised opinion among Rovers fans. His style was widely criticised, but there is no doubt that he got results when it really mattered. He got the club out of deep trouble in his first season and we finished 10th in his second season, while this season Rovers currently sit in 13th place, 5 points clear of the relegation zone and just 2 points from 7th place — all of this done on a negative transfer budget! Surely he deserved the chance to take the club forward — even Mike Ashley gave him six months!
According to Mrs Desai, Sam was sacked because he didn’t fit in with Venky’s vision for the club. So what exactly is their vision for the club? It has been said that they want attractive, entertaining, winning football, which sounds good, but to achieve this they need to make huge investment in players. Yet everything that we have been told thus far points to the opposite, with initial talk referring to a five-million-pound transfer budget and ‘leasing players’.
Sources at Ewood told BRFCS last week that trouble was brewing. The problem seems to have arisen over transfer targets. Sam had identified targets such as David Bentley, Robbie Keane and Roque Santa Cruz, but he was also willing to listen to suggestions from Venky’s advisors Kentaro. However, sources indicate that he reacted negatively when presented with names such as Kris Boyd and Geovanni, both players who Sam felt were not good enough to take the club forward. This seems to have been the catalyst for the removal of Sam and one wonders whether such players were put forward to him in the knowledge that it would provoke a reaction. The answer to this may become clearer once our targets for the January transfer window are revealed.
In the Lancashire Telegraph this morning, Mrs Desai has said that it could take a couple of months to find a replacement and that our owners are happy to leave newly appointed caretaker manager Steve Kean in charge, describing him as an excellent, hard-working coach who is great with the younger players. It is surprising to hear Mrs Desai talk in such glowing terms about Kean as he was a member of Sam’s backroom team; moreover, it would seem unlikely that she has met him. He is, however, a Kentaro client, so perhaps those credentials suffice.
Taking a couple of months to appoint a new manager and leaving Steve Kean in charge would be another huge mistake, for although Kean may be an excellent coach, a manager he is not. Reports indicate that Rovers’ dressing room has been left shocked and disgusted by the sacking of Sam, and there are plenty of strong personalities in the Rovers’ dressing room, which Steve Kean would find hard to control. If the owners were thinking about spending months finding a new manager, then surely it made sense to keep Neil MacDonald, who did well as manager of Carlisle and did an excellent job last year when Sam was away from the club having heart surgery, unless of course the owners want a “yes” man who will be willing to accept players suggested by Venky’s advisors Kentaro.
Perhaps even more disconcerting for the future of Blackburn Rovers Football Club is the fate of John Williams, our highly respected chairman, who spent much of yesterday trying to dissuade the owners from sacking Sam Allardyce, with whom he had built up a good working relationship. Indications are that there is deep disquiet within Ewood at what has happened over the last week. Mrs Desai has said in today’s Lancashire Telegraph that John’s job is safe but already today there have been reports that he has resigned.
The owners showed yesterday that they are willing to take decisive action if they feel the need to, and that is all well and good. However, the sacking of Sam Allardyce has left the players, fans and the footballing world at large shocked, as no one had seen that coming. The next few weeks are crucial: on the pitch, December is a critical time for Rovers with games against West Ham, Stoke and West Brom coming up. For Rovers to push forward, we have to win these games and then relegation worries will be all but gone and then we can look forward to a productive end to the season. But negative results during this period will see Rovers dumped into a relegation battle.
Off the pitch, there now needs to be stability. The owners need to come out and explain their vision for the club, the role of Kentaro, the future of John Williams and most importantly they need to appoint a new manager who is not only willing to accept Venky’s vision but is also capable of taking the club forward. Venky’s have asked fans to trust them, but here in East Lancashire trust is not given, it is earned. The actions that the owners take in the next few weeks will determine whether the fans can trust them or not.