Not keen that Rover Steve should carry on
I’ve got a lot of time for Steve Kean, the beleagured Blackburn Rovers manager. Correction … I had a lot of time for Steve Kean. My opinion changed in the course of just 90 inexplicable minutes on Sunday, when Blackburn lost 2-0 against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
What transpired, from a Rovers perspective, was one of the most disgraceful displays I have ever seen in the Premier League or, indeed, at any level the world over. At times, it defied belief; at times, I found myself almost screaming at the TV, begging Blackburn to give it a go.
But, no, even at 1-0 down in the second half, they sat back and allowed Tottenham to dictate the play, to push forward gently yet incessantly, to dominate in a manner that suggested that Rovers had already resigned themselves to the grisly fate of relegation. It was pitiful to watch.
And what did Kean do about it? Nothing. Well, actually, he did do something. He took off Yakubu, Blackburn’s 17-goal top scorer, in the 72nd minute. Unbelievable. And what effect did that have? Three minutes later, Spurs went 2-0 ahead, albeit through a magnificent free kick from Kyle Walker that no goalkeeper would have saved.
Consider the facts: Blackburn needed a victory, or at the very least a draw, to aid their fight against the drop and Spurs have been struggling of late and were perhaps ripe for the picking. It called for a selectively adventurous policy from Kean, a counter-attacking ploy that gave his team a chance of pinching three points.
But, no, he went for a flat back-five, as negative and defensive a system as you could imagine. And the result? Not a shot in anger, neither on target or into Row Z – the first time this has happened in the top flight since West Bromwich Albion drew a mega-blank against Manchester City in 2004.
Also, Rovers committed only 11 fouls and received no bookings. While their discipline is to be applauded – no one could accuse them of trying to kick their way out of trouble – where was the passion, the desire to unsettle Tottenham, the steely mantra of “Thou shalt not pass” at all costs as befits a side on the slide? Nowhere.
And yet Kean, astonishingly, uttered afterwards: “I’m not embarrassed, I’m disappointed. We’ve got plenty of fight and plenty of fire in our belly.” Excuse me? The supposedly raging infernos in their stomachs must have been left behind at Ewood Park because what the long-suffering Blackburn fans witnessed was essentially an abject surrender, right from the kick off. What must their journey home to Lancashire have been like? Utterly forlorn, I guess.
The media have been kind to Kean and rightly so. He has shown much patience in coping with Blackburn’s remarkably football-naive owners Venky’s, the Indian poultry tycoons who have received such a paltry return for their huge investment. He has shown much dignity, too, in the face of the torrent of abuse that has been directed at him by sections of the Rovers supporters.
But even us seen-it-all journos turned on Kean on Sunday. My colleagues smelt blood and flew for the jugular, variously describing Blackburn’s performance as “dismal”, “insipid”, “timid”, “tame” and “apathetic” and Kean’s tactics as “unfathomable” and “bewildering”. All the goodwill that has been extended to Kean over the season by a generally sympathetic Press had vanished in a trice.
And it has gone for good.
Blackburn have two games left, against in-form Wigan Athletic and Chelsea, the FA Cup and Champions League finalists, in which to extricate themselves from the mire. Thus, effectively, they are gone. Even the reassuring words from Venky’s that they will not be “chickening out” and selling the club should Rovers take the plunge barely means anything. Most fans would prefer that they fly the coop, anyway.
Kean was plucked [OK, that's enough fowl references! ... Ed] from relative obscurity to be manager when Sam Allardyce was carved up [Seriously, that's enough! ... Ed] and made his egg-cit [That's it, I give up! ... Ed] from Ewood in December 2010. He has since done a decent job in the most extreme of circumstances. But the ridiculously bizarre goings-on at White Hart Lane cannot be rationally explained and, I’m sorry, it was inexcusable and unforgivable.
Reluctantly, I have joined the disgruntled and disaffected Rovers masses. Kean must go.