Blackburn Rovers surrendered their Premier League status at home to Wigan putting up very little fight. It was the end of a season that’s seen some horrible scenes in and around the ground. People have been quick to throw blame around. In fact throwing blame at different parts of Blackburn has been a pastime for many who follow football myself included. Now that they have finally succumb to relegation here are some collected thoughts and feelings on why and who is to blame.
Venky’s are a logical place to start. You can chart the fall of Blackburn right back to when Sam Allardyce was sacked as manager. Under Allardyce Blackburn were often hard to beat, usually hard to break down and in no danger whatsoever of being relegated. Then as can happen in football they took a mauling at the hands of Manchester United and as a result, the owners who had arranged for the game to be shown to a group of their friends and associates in India, feeling suitably embarrassed, sacked the manager.
It should be made clear what a terrible decision that was, I would equate it somewhat to a scenario where Norwich sacked Paul Lambert after the team lost 5-1 away at Manchester City and then appointed Ian Culverhouse, which brings me nicely onto Steve Kean.
Would a better manager have done a better job with those players and as a result got less abuse from the fans? Unequivocally yes. It’s obvious to me that Blackburn Rovers owners triggered events which led to the relegation of the team. The club wasn’t healthy behind the scenes, but the club still had some good players and were they being led by a better manager I don’t think relegation was anything like a certainty. Steve Kean didn’t do a good job, he didn’t even do an average job, he pretty much all round did a bad job. Once fans lose faith in a manager their position quickly becomes untenable, it’s really incredible that Kean kept his job until now, which again points to the owners stubbornly refusing to accept the inevitable.
A man that has got less attention for his role in Blackburn’s demise is Jerome Anderson. Anderson is a football agent and he handled every transfer for Blackburn Rovers. He oversaw Venky’s takeover of the club and some claim that it was his involvement in the running of the club which caused Allardyce to argue with the board and actually led to his sacking, not results on the pitch. In the aftermath of Big Sam’s sacking Blackburn turned to his assistant Steven Kean and appointed John Jensen as his assistant, coincidently they are both represented by Anderson.
I think Blackburn’s problems got worse in the January transfer window, it was a real turning point. Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba leave, the team is already in trouble, this weakened the team instead of strengthening it. Whereas teams like QPR spent a vast amount of money trying to improve the side, Blackburn sold two of their most experienced defenders, at a time when they were leaking a worryingly large number of goals so it’s no surprise that this trend continued. A good signing in January can really boost a team, look at Pogrebnyak at Fulham, Sigurdsson at Swansea or Howson at Norwich all of whom improved their respective sides.
Finally we get to the fans. Those people who show up and “support” the team. There has been a lot of debate about the role of fans in the modern game. Stan Collymore was one of the more vocal critics of the Blackburn fans on my twitter time line. He put forward the idea that these days there are fans who support the team whatever happens (supporters) and there are fans who want value for money and are far more likely to boo their own team (consumers). While this idea might work in a snappy radio talk show it doesn’t stand up to any kind of serious scrutiny.
It doesn’t for example, take into account the people who care about the club. It implies that by the action of booing you can’t care about the team you’re supposed to be supporting. This is frankly a moronic notion as often booing is a sign of acute frustration and dissatisfaction because the fan in question cares a great deal about their team. The simplistic nature of trying to categorise fans into two easy to define groups sums up a lot of what I hear on Talk Sport, the criticism of fans was mostly populist reactionary drivel.
When the fans that boo take the time to organise a protest march, when the fans in question make banners criticising the owner and the manager and when these same fans still show up game after game, to try to claim they are only booing because they want value for money from their ticket is so patronising it almost defies belief. To assert that the role of a fan should be as straight forward as to show up and blindly shower the team in affection could only come from a narcissistic former pro like Collymore.
If the fans had done that, if the fans had stood by their team and manager and cheered on the side regardless, would they now be sat half way up the league in the safety of mid-table, I’m deeply sceptical that it would have made a significant difference. If you knew that whatever happened the fans would cheer, if support and adulation from the fans was unconditional, then that would render it meaningless.
You might not like the behaviour of the Blackburn fans, you might not approve of it, but blaming them for relegation? That’s massively excessive and is the kind of thing said by those in the game who would rather lay the blame on fans than their fellow professionals. Fans anger is symptom of the situation not the cause., it’s a reaction to what is going on with a team and while it may have been a catalyst for the team’s failure it certainly didn’t instigate it. It’s easy to condemn the abuse the manager received but I think it’s equally easy to understand why it happened.
The people I feel sorry for at Blackburn are the non-playing staff at the club who could well lose their job because of this relegation. The club will have to cut staff and in this recession the knock on effects on people who might have been at the club for years and may now have to look for a new job aren’t talked about enough.
In many ways it’s been an unfortunate season for Blackburn, with two of the promoted clubs doing so well it was always going to lead to some of the more established Premier League teams suffering as a consequence. The problem for Blackburn now is that things don’t look like they are going to change even though they’ve been relegated. Steve Kean has already said he won’t quit and why would he? I doubt he’ll ever get a better job in football management, if the abuse really bothered him he would have long since walked away from the club.
Blackburn now face The Championship, which seems to be getting harder by the year. A mass exodus of players and a huge cut to the wage bill, falling attendances, falling commercial revenue and falling down the football league ladder. When this happens to a club, changes need to be made, from top to bottom, but the worry for Blackburn is that under Venky’s every change they’ve made has been for the worse.