It was a story that was completely in keeping with the entire way in which Blackburn Rovers Football Club has been run over the last couple of years or so that whether it was true or not was almost irrelevant. As a barometer of what most think of the owners of the club, that the story that Steve Kean had been sacked its manager and then decided to carry on anyway as if nothing had happened was so readily believed in itself spoke volumes about the respect – or the lack thereof – with which both are held amongst the clubs support and the wider world of football. When viewed through this prism, that he remains in charge of the club is the icing on the cake for all bar the beleaguered supporters of the club themselves, but how much longer he can remain in this position is still a matter for conjecture, even if the previous form of both the owners and the manager suggest a tendency to hang on until the bitter, bitter end.
It was entirely in keeping with the chaotic nature of this football club that Keans future should be called into question in this respect at a time during which it may just about be able to state a case for saying that he has turned some sort of corner. Blackburn Rovers spent a considerable amount of money on new players during the summer, but – if we disregard their early exit from the League Cup earlier this month – although their opposition so far this season might not necessarily have been the most testing, any team can only beat what is put in front of them and four wins in their opening six matches hinted that a corner might just about have been turned. Last weekend, however, something approaching normal service returned to Ewood Park with a tepid and dislocated home defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough, and the stories began again not that long after the full-time whistle blew.
Of course, the ownership of Blackburn Rovers now have a reputation amongst their own support so low that they were unable to successfully manage the fall-out from the rumours. The clubs director of football, Shebby Singh, told BBC Lancashire that the situation surrounding Kean’s future at the club “gets worse by the day”, and these comments came just twenty-four hours after the club had refused to comment on the matter. As things stand, he remains the manager of the club, but it rather feels as if Kean himself – and, probably his agent Jerome Anderson, about whom Sir Alex Ferguson once memorably said, “he couldn’t pick his nose” – is more or less the only person in the world who still feels as if his position at the club is anything like tenable in anything like the medium-to-long term.
Sacking Steve Kean, however, may well not be a panacea for the clubs ills. To a great extent, he has become a totem for everything that is wrong with the way that this club is being run at the moment but he is, of course, far from everything that is wrong with it and getting rid of him, while it may provide a little short term amelioration for the clubs supporters, could be regarded as attacking a symptom rather than the cause of the clubs recent difficulties. It is the owners of the club, the Venkys group, that pressure should continue to be applied and it is to be hoped that this pressure doesn’t let up if Kean is released from his duties in the near future. For the purposes of clarification, this is not because they are foreign owners – the argument that football club owners are necessarily bad if they are foreign is based upon something of a false binary – but because of clear and real concerns about the clubs decline since they took over its management. If Blackburn Rovers Football Club is to arrest its decline, then the removal of Steve Kean as the clubs manager is not the be all and end all.
Fortunately, moves are now being made to provide a credible alternative to Venkys. With what might be described as fortuitous timing, Blackburn Rovers Supporters Investment Trust (BRSIT) and Blackburn Rovers Supporters Trust (BRST) have united to form Rovers Trust, a single group backed by Supporters Direct which is setting up as a Community Benefit Society with the intention of reaching the ambitious goal of purchasing the club. A single, unified group working towards this goal is a hugely positive step forward for the supporters of the club that want real, tangible change at Ewood Park. What is critical at this stage is that Rovers Trust communicates its goals successfully, perhaps most importantly that there is no disconnect between it and the clubs support. At other clubs, one of the problems that has been faced by supporters trusts has been the tendency of some – particularly those who, for whatever reason, are “opposed” to the very idea of supporters trusts – to talk about the trust incessantly as being “them”, clearly implying that the trust is a self-serving clique more interested in its own ends than the well-being of the club itself. It’s a familiar trope, but if this new group can successfully overcome this hurdle, then the future could yet be bright for Blackburn Rovers.
For now, though, Steve Kean remains in charge of the club and Venkys remain its owners. If the culture of nihilism that has settled over the clubs support in recent months and years can be channeled into something more productive, then those days could be numbered. It might not feel to many of the clubs supporters as if the empty seats which have spread across Ewood Park like a plastic pandemic over recent months will be filled again in the near future, but there is a chance that the supporters could take control of their own destiny and reshape it to be what they want it to be, and such causes for optimism should be cherished. Blackburn Rovers coming under the owner of its supporters remains, in the cold light of day, something of a long shot, but those that care enough about it are doing something about it and that, even the hardest of cynics would have to admit, is a start.
For more information about Rovers Trust, you can visit their website here.
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