From Ronaldinho to relegation: How Venky's Blackburn dream turned sour

The Indian poultry company aimed to bring Champions League football to Ewood Park when they took over the club in 2010 but their dismal management has now resulted in relegation
By Oliver Platt

With the likes of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City, foreign owners are often viewed as a fast-track to success - but it hasn’t panned out quite that way at Ewood Park.

In fact, as long as the Venky's cash flow continues, Blackburn seem to be stuck with the poultry business responsible for the inexplicable decisions that have inevitably resulted in the club's relegation.

Alarm bells should have been ringing as soon as Sam Allardyce was dispensed with in December 2010. New chairman Anuradha Desai spoke of good football, good players and "fourth or fifth in the league or even better ... It is nothing against Sam but we have a different vision looking forward and we want the club to grow."


NOV 2010
The Indian company purchase the Premier League club for £23 million
DEC 2010 Venky's move to sack boss Sam Allardyce and replace him with first-team coach Steve Kean
JAN 2011 The club announce ambitious plans to sign then AC Milan star Ronaldinho
MAY 2011 Rovers retain their Premier League status with a 3-2 win away at Wolves on the final day of the season
DEC 2011 Venky's reveal significant losses relating to their first year in charge but vow to stick with the club
MAY 2012 Rovers are relegated following a 1-0 defeat to Wigan in the penultimate game of the season

In reality, it seems probable that Allardyce was sacked because of his refusal to cooperate with sports management agency Kentaro, whom Venky's had employed to help with the acquisition of new players and essentially run the footballing side of the club on their behalf.

Reports suggested that Kentaro, who work with the football agent Jerome Anderson and his Sports Entertainment and Media Group (SEM), had put names such as Geovanni, formerly of Hull City and Kris Boyd, at that time a Middlesbrough player, to Allardyce. But Desai continued to insist that Allardyce had the final say.

SEM has represented a number of Arsenal players, including Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, while Anderson was involved in the controversial transfer of John Obi Mikel to Chelsea and worked with Thaksin Shinawatra during his short spell as owner of Man City.

Steve Kean replaced Allardyce, initially as caretaker manager before agreeing a deal until the end of the season. Bizarrely, just two weeks later, Desai confirmed that Kean would be offered a longer contract and, by the end of the January transfer window, he had extended his deal until 2013.

That month is best remembered at Ewood Park, of course, for the failed pursuit of Ronaldinho and David Beckham. Desai very publically declared that Rovers had made the Brazilian playmaker an offer worth £20 million over three seasons before the two-time World Player of the Year sensibly opted to steer clear of the Venky's circus and return to his home country to sign for Flamengo.

Kean sounded prudent at the time when he spoke of the need to lay down solid foundations even if Rovers were suddenly able to fork out significant fees for "a little bit of magic". Yet, 18 months later and it is very difficult to highlight where progress in that regard has been made.

Scott Dann was signed for £6m in the summer but has endured an underwhelming season and it is hard to argue that Blackburn's defensive core has got stronger, despite the admirable efforts of the talented Grant Hanley, given the departures of Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba.

Yakubu, an astute £1.5 million signing from Everton, has done his best to delay the inevitable for as long as possible with 16 Premier League goals this season. But the majority of Rovers' fruitless additions, such as Simon Vukcevic, Mauro Formica and Radosav Petrovic, reek of outside involvement given how sporadically they have been employed by Kean. Of the trio, only Formica has made more than 20 league appearances in 2011-12.

1/3 Bolton are 1/3 with Bet365 to be the third team relegated from the Premier League

Monday evening's defeat against Wigan Athletic was the culmination of the disastrous Venky's management. Antolin Alcaraz's late header condemned Blackburn to relegation to the Championship after a run of one win in eight games. Despite Bradley Orr's insistence that Kean retains the backing of the players, Rovers have been abject when their fellow relegation rivals have shown fight and determination.

The experience brought to the table by the likes of Nelsen, Samba and Michel Salgado has been sorely missing during Rovers' run-in. The latter of the three has been the sufferer of yet another case of baffling management. Salgado was frozen out once he found himself one appearance short of the total required to trigger an extension to his contract - the Spaniard openly agreed to waive the clause just to play, but continued to find himself ignored by Kean.

Apparently not deterred by the protests that have accompanied the club's home games this season, director Vineeth Rao vehemently denied reports suggesting that Venky's were looking to sell the club in April. Kean, meanwhile, was quick in the aftermath of the Wigan to defeat to reiterate his determination to stay on as manager next season.

WIth no end in sight, the nightmare looks set to continue.

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