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The all-too-predictable sacking of Michael Appleton has come on the back of dwindling attendances and an overriding sense of apathy among supporters at Ewood Park this season

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By Matthew Stanger

It is a sad indictment of how far Blackburn Rovers have fallen under Venkys that the news of Michael Appleton's dismissal after just 67 days in charge barely came as a shock to the club's fans. The appointment of reserve team coach Gary Bowyer until the end of the season marks Blackburn's sixth managerial change of the campaign so far, with a second successive relegation a distinct possibility.

Amongst promises of Champions League football and stellar signings, Venkys also pledged to ensure that Blackburn remained "one of the best-run clubs within the Premier League" following their arrival at Ewood Park in November 2010.

Two-and-a-half years later and Rovers are the worst-run club in the Championship. The laughter and tears have long since disappeared and instead the majority of supporters, myself included, have been left with that most lamentable of sentiments towards their club: indifference.

The fans' apathy is entirely understandable. It isn't enjoyable to endure constant heartbreak and rather than accept more misery many supporters have decided to vote with their feet this season, causing Rovers' average attendance to almost halve from last year.

This policy of staying away has never been more evident than at the recent FA Cup replay against Millwall when a crowd of just 8,635 - the lowest in an FA Cup quarter-final for over 20 years - turned up to watch a dismal 1-0 defeat. It was a result that certainly played a part in Appleton's swift departure, with the manager leading the team to only four victories in his 15-match reign.

DEAD MEN WALKING
Venkys' managerial appointments

Steve Kean
Games: 74, Wins: 21

Henning Berg
Games: 10, Wins: 1

Michael Appleton
Games: 15, Wins: 4
While Appleton's record hardly engendered great optimism, there was some hope amongst fans that the former Blackpool and Portsmouth boss could provide a steady hand on the tiller after Henning Berg's disastrous 57-day tenure and Steve Kean's turbulent two years in the hot seat. But Appleton's sacking has been met with little more than a shrug of the shoulders - there was no time to become attached before the revolving door in the manager's office wreaked more havoc on a club in turmoil. At Blackburn the absurd has become the norm.

After declaring that I would no longer pay for the privilege to watch Venkys run Blackburn into the ground in the summer, I broke my own vow at the weekend for the East Lancashire derby against Burnley.

Not only did I witness one of the worst performances I've ever seen from a Rovers team until David Dunn's last-minute equaliser, but I was also shocked at how the divisions in the club's boardroom were reflected in the stands. Ewood Park used to be a second home, but now it's a broken one, where in-fighting and anger contribute to a virulent atmosphere.

There may have been times when last season's protests over Kean's reign over-stepped the mark, but from a fans' perspective it was at least possible to celebrate our solidarity as the team hurtled towards the Championship.

It was always clear that Kean was out of his depth, yet even though the same could be said of both Berg and Appleton, the supporters' energy and desire to protest has slowly been sapped away by Venkys' senseless and damaging decisions. When a chicken was thrown onto the pitch in the first half against Burnley, the reaction was not one of excitement, but simply "Oh, another chicken." The campaign to oust the owners is currently a losing battle and never have Rovers fans felt so powerless.
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There are nine games left for Blackburn to save themselves from dropping into League One and although another relegation would cause yet more anguish, privately many fans would be happy to suffer as long as Venkys are pushed closer towards selling the club.

There are even supporters who would welcome immediate demotion to the Blue Square Premier if it convinced the owners to sell up, potentially allowing the fans to buy a stake and have a say in the running of the club.

Until that day we can only try and convince ourselves that we don't care what happens to this shell of Blackburn Rovers. It's easier to pretend than accept the painful truth.

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