“We want good football and Blackburn to be fourth or fifth in the league or even better.” The ambitious statement made by the Venky’s Group when they sacked manager Sam Allardyce in mid-December.
The sacking came with Rovers on a bad run of form – only three wins in five games, one of which was a 7-1 thumping away at Manchester United. When you consider the opposition, though, these weren’t ‘sackable offences’. Getting beat at Tottenham is nothing to be ashamed of, and a late Stuart Holden goal was the only thing that separated Allardyce’s side and Bolton come the final whistle, Rovers going down 2-1 in what turned out to be Big Sam’s last game in charge.
However, assured victories against Wolves (3-0) and Aston Villa (2-0), as well as hard-fought wins vs. Newcastle and Wigan before that, show that while Allardyce’s side may not have played the “good” football that the Venky’s Group craved, they did get results.
On 13th December 2010 (the day Allardyce was sacked), Rovers were sitting comfortably in 13th position, five points above the drop zone but, at that stage of the season, they were not looking like serious relegation candidates. The sacking of Allardyce, therefore, was seen as nothing short of lunacy.
Almost three months on, Blackburn are in dire straits. Steve Kean, who was the first team coach under Allardyce, has been given the manager’s job until the end of the season and, with the Ewood Park club just three points above the drop zone, the immediate future of the Lancashire club looks rather bleak.
Under Kean, Blackburn have recorded just three wins in eleven games, and they haven’t claimed three points since 23rd January – a 2-0 home win against fellow strugglers West Brom. If the Premier League table was purely based on recent form, Blackburn would be 17th, level on points with two out of the three teams in the relegation zone (of the form table) – West Brom and Wigan. With just two wins in eight games and only ten games left in the season, Kean is going to have to turn it around fairly quickly to prevent the club from returning to the second tier of English football for the first time since 2001.
After Saturday’s humiliating 4-1 defeat away to Aston Villa, many fans are beginning to fear the worst. With relegation rivals Wolves, Birmingham and, particularly, West Ham United all beginning to find some form in the League, Blackburn are in danger of being left behind.
Kean has today announced that, in order to stay up this season, Blackburn need to claim ten more points. In the coming weeks, Blackburn face Blackpool, Birmingham and Everton: they need at least five points from these three games, as beating teams around them has been a problem this season.
Defeated by Birmingham, Stoke (twice) and Wigan already this campaign, Rovers have wasted opportunities to pull away from the relegation zone. This time last year Blackburn, under Allardyce in his second season as manager, were sitting pretty in 12th position, ten points above the bottom three and looking towards the Europa League spots, never mind contemplating relegation.
When the Venky’s Group dismissed Allardyce, they expected Kean to produce positive results almost immediately. Clearly, that wasn’t going to happen. While the style of football under Kean may be easier on the eye than that of three months ago, he simply isn’t getting the results.
Kean, who has been an assistant manager at Fulham, Real Sociedad and Coventry City, has been criticised for an apparent lack of tactical knowledge. Under Kean, Blackburn have played a variety of different formations, including 5-3-2 for his second game in charge (Stoke City, 2-0 loss), 4-4-2 (Liverpool, 3-1 win) and, most recently, in the aforementioned Villa defeat, 4-1-4-1. Kean has only used the same formation for two games running once – against Tottenham and then Wigan at the beginning of February, with both games resulting in defeats for Blackburn. While it is always good to adapt to the opposition and try out new formations, the consistency, which is surely needed at this point in the season, clearly isn’t there.
Granted, Blackburn have suffered from injuries this season. Captain Ryan Nelson, full-back Gael Givet, commanding centre-back Chris Samba and promising defender Phil Jones have all been struck down at some point during Kean’s reign, but this cannot be seen as a reasonable excuse as they could have strengthened in the January transfer window.
In January (when, if you remember, the Venky’s Group were promising signings such as Brazilian forward Ronaldinho and former-England captain David Beckham) Blackburn signed Roque Santa Cruz on loan from Manchester City and Jermaine Jones from German side Schalke 04, again on loan. Santa Cruz is yet to score in three games while Jones has made five League appearances so far but is yet to really impress. Their other two signings (Ruben Rochina and Mauro Formica) are players for the future.
And the future of Blackburn is exactly the problem. With the club in a precarious position just above the relegation zone, and with crucial games coming up, Steve Kean has a massive job on his hands. He, though, shouldn’t be held accountable for the recent demise of the club. The Venky’s Group sacked Allardyce for want of better football and, in doing so, got rid of the most important thing for the club – results.
This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.