x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Clueless Venky's are at fault for Blackburn's struggles

Dileep Premachandran: Rudderless ships usually sink and with matches at Liverpool and Manchester United up next relegation appears inevitable.

Blackburn fans remonstrate against their manager Steve Kean who saw his team lose to Bolton on Tuesday to leave them bottom of the Premier League.
Blackburn fans remonstrate against their manager Steve Kean who saw his team lose to Bolton on Tuesday to leave them bottom of the Premier League.

Contrary to what some of his supporters would have you think, Sam Allardyce is no footballing visionary.

If his name comes up in conjunction with England's national team job, that's more a reflection of the lack of English talent to fill a post that was once denied even legends such as Brian Clough.

His remark last year that he was good enough to coach the likes of Inter Milan and Real Madrid would have been greeted with derisive laughter at the San Siro and the Bernabeu.

What Allardyce does have is impeccable pedigree when it comes to keeping mid-table English clubs afloat and even challenging for a Europa League spot. In his eight seasons at Bolton Wanderers, they were a constant source of irritation to the likes of Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez in particular, whose Arsenal and Liverpool teams were stymied by an unapologetic physical approach.

At Blackburn Rovers, where he took over after being dismissed by Newcastle United, he guided the team out of relegation trouble to finish 15th with 41 points. In his first full season in charge, they aggregated 50 points and finished in 10th place. When Venky's, the club's new owners, sacked him just over a year ago, they were in 13th position.

They didn't replace him with Brendan Rodgers or Paul Lambert, young managers who will surely be courted by bigger clubs than Swansea City and Norwich City in the near future. They opted for promotion from within, with Steve Kean given the task of leading the side to safety and then consolidating for the future.

That Blackburn survived was more down to the ineptitude of those that finished below them. West Ham United were doomed from the start, accompanied by the delusions that they were "too good to go down". Blackpool went into free fall in the New Year, while Birmingham City stopped playing once they won the Carling Cup in February.

That things weren't right behind the scenes at Ewood Park was obvious from the new owners' utterances about Ronaldinho and Champions League football. Usually, takeovers are preceded by extensive due diligence. What they said made you wonder what sort of advisers Venky's had.

For a club of Rovers' size to even talk of a top-four finish is fanciful in the currentvenk financial climate. Their average attendance last season was 24,999, a third of what Manchester United managed, and less than half the figure for Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

A bigger stadium is no solution either, with Ewood Park seldom full even for marquee games. There were more than 9,000 empty seats when Chelsea came to play earlier this season.

You can only feel for the fans who have seen the Jack Walker years give way to this shambles.

Though they have never matched the heights of the Walker-Kenny Dalglish era - they were champions in 1994/95 - they were still good enough to finish seventh with 58 points just four seasons ago.

While international players struggle to get work permits to play in England, there's seldom as much scrutiny of those that wish to invest in clubs.

Blackburn had a narrow escape just before the Venky's takeover, with the board turning down Ahsan Ali Syed, who then turned his attention to Racing Santander.

Syed is now missing and wanted by Interpol in connection with accusations of financial fraud. Miguel Angel Revilla, the president of the Cantabrian region, had this revealing nugget to offer the Daily Mail a few months ago.

"He [Syed] had never been to a match in his life," he said. "I'm by his side in the directors' box and I am dying with laughter. A defender gives the ball back to the keeper and he applauds like a maniac. He doesn't know anything about football."

Syed's football nous was apparent in an interview he gave to an Indian newspaper after the Santander takeover. "I hold no ill feeling towards anyone associated with Blackburn," he said. "In fact, I can't wait to meet them on the football pitch, and wouldn't it be great if it was in the final of the Champions League!"

You couldn't make it up. Sadly for Blackburn fans, Venky's appear to be just as clueless, arranging a friendly in India in October and calling Kean to Pune for meetings.

Rudderless ships usually sink and with Kean on the bridge - four wins in 31 games - Tuesday night's defeat to Bolton Wanderers and games at Liverpool and Manchester United up next - a watery grave appears inevitable.

Jack Straw, the Member of Parliament for Blackburn, had this message for Venky's on a radio show: "It would be good to get on an airplane, come to Blackburn and sort this out."

With just 10 points from 17 games, it's probably too late.

sports@thenational.ae