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With Indian-owned Blackburn Rovers out of the Premier League and on the slide in the Championship, Mrunal Nakashe examines what has gone wrong.

From the day Indian poultry magnets Venky’s bought Blackburn Rovers from the Walker Family Trust in November 2010, the Lancashire-based club has been on a downward spiral that refuses to halt.

It could be argued the Rao family started off on the wrong foot with the sacking of now Hammers boss Sam Allardyce. It was a decision, that on reflection seems to have been the catalyst for the present day scenario. When the former Bolton boss was surprisingly shown the door, Rovers were in the bottom half of the table but clear of the relegation zone and with a fair chance of staying up. As on 14th November, 2010, with 13 games played, they were placed 14th on 15 points.

After the subsequent appointment of first team coach Steve Kean to the manager’s hotseat, they were relegated to the Championship the following season, finishing a miserable second from bottom with only 31 points from 38 games.                 

                               
                                  Steve Kean was given a raw deal by both owners and fans

Kean may have been the owners’ man but he never had the fans on his side and a dismal 2011-12 campaign that ended Blackburn’s 11-year stay in the top flight of English football, and did little to change that. After the Venky’s owned outfit were in the second tier, the fan revolt at Ewood Park had reached fever pitch with anti-Kean protest marches and slogan chanting. Faced with dwindling attendances and with a vast majority of supporters baying for Kean’s head, the Rovers hierarchy knew they had to act.

They decided to call on the services of former Malaysia international turned television pundit, Shebby Singh as the club’s Global Advisor. From the very beginning it was clear that Singh and the manager did not see eye-to eye. It could be suggested that Singh was to act as a link between the board and disgruntled supporters, in an effort to repair a public relations exercise gone wrong. Indeed, during an interaction with a supporters forum in August this year the outspoken Malaysian responded to a question on Kean’s future by saying that if Rovers lost three games on the spin, the manager would be gone. Predictably enough, this statement was greeted by rapturous applause by the attending audience. 


                                                Fans played a key role in Kean's sacking

It was a credit to Kean that even amidst all the upheaval surrounding him, the Scot made a creditable start to life in the Championship. But, truth be told, he was fighting a losing battle from the start to save his job. Confronted with unrelenting opposition from fans, he was unceremoniously shown the door at the end of September with Rovers placed third in the table and having lost only one out of eight games played in the league.

Kean’s dismissal was followed by the appointment of former Rovers player Henning Berg after a managerial search spearheaded by Singh himself. However the ex-Norway international has enjoyed a rocky start to management in England, winning just one of his 9 games in-charge. This has also included a run of four defeats in the last five games. This miserable sequence of results has meant Rovers now languish 15th having plummeted from the heady heights of third earlier in the season.

All this has meant that with January transfer window approaching, some of the key players at the club have been openly questioning their future as the prospect of achieving the stated of goal of immediate promotion back to the Premiership looks far away.

                                 
                                        Henning Berg lacks experience needed for the job

Although, Berg has played for the club in the early 90’s, his career in management can best be described as being at its infancy. His experience of having managed two clubs in the Norwegian league seems a far cry from the demands of managing what can be rightly termed a ‘big club’ in Blackburn Rovers. Sure enough he seems to have failed to galvanize the squad or get a grip on Rovers’ on-field struggles amidst all the turmoil that still continues to surround the club.

So who is responsible for Blackburn’s current woes? And where has it gone wrong?

As owners of the club, Venky’s must inevitably take responsibility for some of the major decisions that have clearly come from the boardroom, such as the changes in management. It must be remembered that this is their first real venture into sports ownership, and as such, it still represents a learning experience even for them. Therefore, it holds to reason that they should have relied on the experience of Allardyce and at least given him a reasonable length of time to get the team out of the rut that they were in.

                         Managerial record for Sam Allardyce, Steve Kean and Henning Berg

Name

No. of clubs managed

Games

Win

Draw

Loss

Percentage

Sam Allardyce

8

814

330

219

265

40.54%

Steve Kean

1

74

21

15

37

28.38%

Henning Berg

3

218

84

73

61

38.53%

 

                                              Allardyce was the right man for Rovers

The stats show that not only did Allardyce have more than double the experience of the two managers that succeeded him put together, but, he had managed extensively in England and had the knack of being able to get teams out of trouble at the bottom. This is exactly the kind of experience Rovers are missing at this time and did so last season when they were battling to avoid the drop. Big Sam's sides may not produce the fancy football that some owners and most fans crave, but his track record proves his methods have been effective and continue to deliver results.

When the Rao family initially took over the club around two years back, they had promised that significant funds would be invested towards the team. Sadly this is a word that has not been kept.

A look at the full transfers undertaken at the club in the four transfer windows that Venky’s have overseen, shows that around 24 players have been brought in on an outlay of somewhere in the region of 35 million pounds including quite a few free transfers (figure does not include signings on loan). Out of this, the two signings of central defender Scott Dann and striker Jordan Rhodes from Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town respectively have cost the club in the region of 14 million pounds. While most of their other signings have been either past their best or surplus to requirement at their previous clubs. This shows that not only has there been a lack of spending but more crucially Rovers have lacked experienced hands to spend wisely whatever money has been available.

So what next for the men from Ewood Park? They currently sit in the bottom half of the table 15 points off top spot. So it would be reasonable to say automatic promotion is unlikely. However the playoff places (3-6) should still be considered a realistic target, given the right kind of investment in the winter transfer window. First and foremost though, Berg’s men must arrest this dangerous slide during the busy festive period with some much needed wins, or else, they face the very real prospect of being closer to the bottom than to the top by the time January comes calling.

With all that said, if Rovers do indeed fail to bounce straight back up, their Indian owners will have no one else to blame but themselves and as history tells us, the road back to the big time could be very long. 

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