Stop criticising Blackburn fans for caring

Booing or general protesting in football is one of those obscure trend-following occurrences, in that it is both fashionable to do it and fashionable to criticise those who do it.

While many will argue that booing only serves to create a negative atmosphere which doesn’t help the players on the pitch in the slightest, it is a reasonable assertion to counter that fans have every right to voice their opinions.
There is a line, of course. The abuse and threats sent in Steve Kean’s direction have been nothing short of obscene and paint a damning – and misleading, quite frankly – picture of Rovers fans as a whole. Sympathyfor Kean has been forthcoming and those fans giving such treatment to the manager have been roundly criticised, and this is entirely fair.
What is not fair, though, is the condemnation of Blackburn fans who can see their club nearing the abyss, relatively and potentially speaking. Particularly galling is the media and fans of other clubs criticising Rovers fans for essentially caring about their football club. As the brilliant Andi Thomas puts it in his June article: “The underlying message to the fans is that their opinion is not worthy of consideration because they are emotionally involved with the club”.
How can people who have no emotional ties to the club and watch Blackburn games on a semi-regular basis – usually through ten minute highlights on Match of the Day, never the best way to analyse a team – shout down those who watch the games every week and have seen the club slowly but surely turn into a big Chicken-puns-galore joke?
There are small positives for Blackburn: Chris Samba is a colossus; Yakubu is one of the best goal scorers in the League when given the chances to score; Junior Hoillet and Ruben Rochina are exciting talents but look likely to move on to bigger and better things. Nice for the fans to enjoy them while they can, though.
Make no bones about it, however, Blackburn are utterly woeful, and the fans know it. They can see the club being torn apart by the Venkys, the soul being ripped out by a manager who doesn’t appear to have any ideas on how to save the club and owners who – from what the football world has seen of them so far (and what else can we judge them on?) – quite literally don’t know what they’re doing. As Blackburn blogger Mikey Delap says, fans are unhappy with much more than just Kean’s managerial record.
Since October, Blackburn have won two games (not including the friendly against Pune FC): Newcastle at home in the Carling Cup after extra-time and Swansea at home in the League. Of their last ten games, six have been losses and 21 goals have been conceded. An embarrassing – and deserved – exit from the Carling Cup at the hands of Cardiff City is only a small part of the overall mess that is Blackburn Rovers.
The club’s financial situationdoesn’t look particularly positive and the connection to the club of Jerome Anderson continues to be a worrying state of affairs. Blackburn fans don’t like the way the club is going and, given that Rovers are one of those clubs largely ignored by the majority of people on a regular basis unless they overachieve massively or they are particularly poor, it seems quite condescending to not only tell Blackburn fans how to behave, but also how to feel.
The Championship beckons for Blackburn, by no means the worst thing in the world but not where their fans want to be. Are they supposed to sit with their hands on their laps, their mouths shut and only speak when asked to?
Just as commenters on the outside can seem rational and are said to sometimes talk more sense than those who have emotional bonds with a subject, they can sometimes not get the full picture on the subject, and can at times misunderstand completely. To condemn all Blackburn fans for their protests – for caring – is wholly wrong.

Are Blackburn Rovers facing relegation?

“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.

Premier League Preview: Blackburn Rovers

My Premier League previews continue with Lancashire side Blackburn in the spotlight. After a strong 2009/10 season under manager Sam Allardyce, Rovers are yet to bring in any big names in terms of summer signings. They will be looking to improve on last season’s 10th place finish. 

            The Blackburn squad is largely unchanged from last term as Allardyce looks to bring some much needed stability to the club. Steven Reid is the only departure of any real note, joining promoted side West Brom on a free transfer. The club are currently being linked with many players, with Roma midfielder Ricardo Faty and former Portsmouth loanee Hassan Yebda among them.  The lack of transfer action for the club may worry some fans.

            Rovers, though, have real quality in their side. Goalkeeper Paul Robinson seems to have settled down at Blackburn and, if the season goes well, could be pushing for an England spot. The former Leeds goalkeeper has the perfect combination of experience, agility and ability to read the game that would be cherished by an England side that could do with a revamp in the goalkeeping department. In front of Robinson Rovers boast the versatile, reliable and, when called upon, attacking asset that is Christopher Samba. The Congo international has proved himself in the last few seasons to be a solid centre-back. Alongside him Blackburn have New Zealand World Cup star Ryan Nelson who, after having a few years of his career ruined by injury, seems to be getting back on his feet and has also proved to be unyielding at the back. The awareness off the ball of Pascal Chimbonda helps a great deal for the right-back, who is as good going forward as he is defending. The pace of the defender could also be of huge benefit to the team, who don’t really possess a speedy winger of sorts. Gael Givet proved last season that he was a competent left-back and is showing all the right signs in pre-season recently, proving that Blackburn are going to be a tough nut to crack this season.
            The story is pretty much the same in the middle of the pitch. The strength and work effort of both David Dunn and Vince Grella could prove very important to Rovers next season; they will be the two players that bridge the gap between defence and attack. Once that bridge has been built, Blackburn will be able to attack freely with the likes of Morten Gamst Pedersen supplying pin-point passes. Steven N’Zonzi and Keith Andrews, as well as Dunn and Grella, will need to push forward to aid with the attacks, though, as it is in the forward areas that Blackburn may struggle.
            The lack of potent goal scorers in the Rovers side is very apparent. Jason Roberts and El-Hadji Diouf have never been high-scoring forwards, while David Hoilett and Maceo Rigters lack a little experience and composure in front of goal. Nickola Kalinic, on the other hand, is a proven goal scorer although, apart from the odd glimpse, he is yet to really show that in the Premier League. If Blackburn are to score goals they may need to dip into the transfer market, with Portsmouth striker John Utaka and Manchester United forward Mame Biram Diouf both names that have also been linked with a move to the club. The on-going speculation that the club is currently considering offers of a takeover, which could pave the way for some big money signings, can only create uncertainty as they prepare for the new season.
            One to watch in the 2010/11 season is Phil Jones. The young English centre-back looked solid and assured at the back last season and will be hoping to have an extended run in the first team this season. Blackburn may not play the most attractive football under Allardyce, but they get the job done. And if they can improve on last season’s tenth place finish, the Rovers’ faithful will certainly not be complaining.

Where will they finish?: 12th
Official relegation odds: 7/1 (Bet365)
Star man: Paul Robinson
One to watch: Phil Jones
Main weakness: Lack of goal scoring ability