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Blackburn Rovers: This year’s West Ham?

Blackburn Rovers: This year’s West Ham?

Jacob Steinberg on 6 October 2011

Blackburn's current predicament is reminiscent of West Ham last season. Will Rovers make the tough decisions that the East Londoners resisted?

Last season Avram Grant’s West Ham beat Tottenham and Liverpool in the league, they thrashed Manchester United in the Carling Cup and they got to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. For those who wished to support the Israeli, there was always something to cling on to, a result that suggested he really was a manager who could lead a side to a Champions League final. West Ham were relegated with one game to spare and finished bottom by six points.

Too good to go down, then? Despite the presence of Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Scott Parker, clearly not. But that still doesn’t mean they should have gone down; the outcome could have been very different if they had changed their manager when they had the chance, which is precisely the situation Blackburn find themselves in now. One of only four teams to win the Premier League are in a perilous position, one point and one place off the bottom of the table. Only Bolton, who have had a shocking set of opening fixtures, are sparing their blushes.

The locals are restless. Unhappy with Venky’s, the owners who incredibly sacked Sam Allardyce last December, the mood at Ewood Park is mutinous. Allardyce’s successor, Steve Kean, is despised and there have been protests before and during games calling for him to be sacked. Indeed during the 4-0 defeat at home to Manchester City last Saturday, the visiting fans were applauded when they suggested Kean would be collecting his P45 the following morning. Still no sign of it yet, however, despite a trip to India during the international break to discuss where it’s all going wrong.

Sacking Allardyce is the short answer. But there’s nothing to be done about that now. Instead, while learning from the mistakes of the past, Blackburn have to look to the immediate future and it appears increasingly obvious that it doesn’t include Kean, who had no managerial record to speak of before being given the job. They have to act before it’s too late.

Just like Grant at West Ham, Kean has hinted at a managerial acumen that’s not really there. The timely win over Arsenal, which came after fans had marched against him, staved off the doubters for a short while, but the parlous state of Arsene Wenger’s side means there are too many caveats attached to that victory. Against City, Blackburn were taken apart, although they’re not the first and won’t be the last side to crumble against their moneyed neighbours.

Even so, that defeat completed a set for Blackburn: they have lost games against relegation rivals, they have been thrashed by title contenders, they have lost games they should have won, they have thrown away leads and they have been meek away from home. All in all, a recipe for relegation.

Yet the feeling remains that Blackburn really are too good to go down, like West Ham in 2003 and Newcastle in 2009. On the surface, their defence appears too solid to have conceded 17 goals in seven games, even if Paul Robinson is generous enough to make the tamest of shots resemble Roberto Carlos’s banana free-kick against France in 1997. In Christopher Samba and Scott Dann, Blackburn have one of the better defensive partnerships in the league, while Michel Salgado and Gael Givet are slow but dependable full-backs. Alternatively the speedy Martin Olsson can play at left-back and offers a daring sense of adventure the other two are not capable of.

Steven Nzonzi is an able destroyer in midfield, while David Dunn is a canny player when not felled by injuries and a lack of fitness. On the wing, Junior Hoilett, all pace and trickery, is one of the brightest young talents in the country, and Ruben Rochina and Mauro Formica have demonstrated a readiness to adapt to English football. Yakubu might not be able to move, but he knows where the goal is; David Goodwillie is a promising acquisition, even if he’s not quite the Scottish version of Wayne Rooney, as Kean suggested. The players are there. Now how about a manager?

Jacob Steinberg writes for The Guardian, and is a regular contributor to The Blizzard. Follow him on Twitter here.


An accurate & concise appraisal of the woes that are Blackburn Rovers. I think you've hit the nail on the head in highlighting the personel in the Rovers squad, they shouldn't be in the situation they find themselves. I also agree that Steve Kean has never demonstrated sufficient managerial quality or acumen to be give the top job, but who would you suggest the Venkys bring in the replace him Jacob?
by Sean McKenna on 06 October 2011 at 12:53 PM

As a Blackburn fan I genuinely feel a little sorry for Steve Kean. He is out of his depth and some of his over confident responses to the media has certainly raised a few eyebrows!
However, my issue remains with the Venkys and in particularly with Jerome Andersson and his SEM group. The Venkys appear to back his every whim and fancy which is incredibly worrying. I actually wrote an open letter to them and sent a copy to the club, to which I have had no response.

I fear for the club this season and unless something changes soon it could well see us relegated. I hope not but something must change...and fast!
by Andy Hunter on 06 October 2011 at 01:25 PM

Great read, very accurate of the situation regarding Blackburn Rovers at the moment. Kean is hapless, and is in way over his his head, but will not get any sympathy from the fans whilst he is still manager, spouting out bullshit about our 'togetherness' every week. He needs to go.
Venky's are much more deluded than Kean however, which is worrying, as no manager would want the uncertainty that Allardyce had, but at the same time, they appear to be giving 100% support to the manager. Just a shame the manager is woeful.
Having watched all Rovers games this season, the performances of Salgaldo must be highlighted as being extremely poor, with Givet a close second whenever playing at full back.
by David Clucas on 06 October 2011 at 10:43 PM

Oddly enough West Ham were linked Formica for a few windows before landing at Blackburn.

I worry for Bolton, West Ham started last year with a similar gruesome schedule and never were able to recover when it lightened up.
by Chris on 07 October 2011 at 05:52 AM

Spot on assessment of the situation.

@Andy Hunter - good news is that Jerome Anderson is no longer involved in advising Venky's from what I've heard. Should never have been in the first place though!
by David Robinson on 13 October 2011 at 02:56 PM

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