After another spineless defeat at home to fellow strugglers Wigan, my beloved Blackburn Rovers were confined to relegation. The miserable season reached a suitably miserable climax, and we’re all left to try and dissect just where things went wrong for Blackburn. The fans continue to tirade against Steve Kean and (mostly) Venkys, the players are surely contacting their agents about moves away and the club seems to be in free fall. It’s difficult to have even the slightest vein of optimism as a Blackburn fan at the moment. More often than not, football fans have a tendency to be pessimistic and this is often misplaced pessimism, but looking at the situation at Ewood Park at the moment, it just screams out one word. Hopeless.
Before going any further however, it is important to make one thing clear. We 100% deserve to go down. All season, we have been utterly abysmal. When thinking of high points, it really is a struggle, with not even a win at Old Trafford looking particularly rosy anymore. Sure, we scored a lot of goals, but that is completely pointless if you are letting them in at the rate we did. The final two defeats against Tottenham and Wigan summed up our season, in that we surrendered so meekly, quicker than a career coward in a ring with Brock Lesner. For a while it looked as though we might stay up in spite of ourselves, but this final run of 7 defeats in 8 has been a killer. How has this happened? When Sam Allardyce was sacked we were in 13th place, looking solid and certainly safe. Steve Kean was ludicrously offered the job, and here we are 16 or so months later facing away trips to Peterborough and, why oh why, Burnley.
The immediate blame seems to fall on the shoulders of Steve Kean. There is a misconception amongst the media that we want him out at any costs, and even if he put together a solid side we would still be against him. This isn’t true, if we were solid and doing well we do not care who the manager is. In fact, nothing would have made a lot of us happier than if Steve Kean had been a success, because he is a very likeable chap. He has handled himself well in the media despite some ridiculous statements, and has certainly shown a decent amount of spine in the face of pressure. The simple fact however, is that he just is not a Premier League level manager. Tactically, he has been found out on a constant basis. One game in particular sticks out in my mind, and this was the 2-1 defeat to Sunderland in December. After taking a lead against the run of play and going in at half time 1-0 up, Kean proceeded to set the side out to defend, defend, defend and defend in the second half. We played as if we were playing with 9 men during that 45 minutes, as opposed to the 11 v 11 that it was. It was incredibly disheartening. We essentially sat on the edge of our 18 yard box and told Sunderland to try and score, maybe even try and score 2, and of course, they did. To call it tactically naive is a complete understatement. This was followed 9 days later by the equally depressing home defeat to Bolton, and the writing was on the wall. Steve Kean is not a premier league manager. Very likeable person yes, top level football manager no.
Some of the transfer decisions were completely baffling as well. Selling Christopher Samba was inevitable, but doing so at the same time as releasing Ryan Nelson left our defence with a huge gaping vacuum essentially. No experience, no bite. Grant Hanley and Scott Dann certainly did the best job that they could, but it just wasn’t good enough for the premier league. The loss of Phil Jones also could not be underestimated, as he came to the fore the season previous and would have certainly provided enough grit to make up for any Samba/Nelson related loss. Other experienced premier league players were let go, in the shape of Jason Roberts, Brett Emerton and El Hadji Diouf. Now I’m not saying these players are outstanding individuals, but they certainly would have provided the grit and balls that it takes to survive a relegation battle. As it was, we were left with little experience throughout, and with players like Morten Gamst Pederson seemingly more and more spineless with each passing game, relegation became almost inevitable. There is going to be an exodus this summer, and that may end up being a blessing in disguise.
Another major factor has been the lack of squad investment over the last few years. We seem to constantly have very profitable summer transfers, which then never seems to get put back into the squad, and this is where everyone’s favourite scapegoats come into it. Step forward the most absent owners in all of English football, Venkys. After they initially came in promising money and big name signings such as Ronaldinho and David Beckham (seriously), it soon became apparent that the Indian poultry giants had absolutely no idea how to run a football club in the slightest. As things slid slowly towards the land of no return this season, the owners of Blackburn Rovers were nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be heard. Now, Newcastle fans have questioned Mike Ashley’s commitment at various times, but he at least shows his face and airs his voice. Venkys have barely existed for us. Even at the end of this season, they have merely put forward a statement saying things are confusing and nothing is sorted out. These people should not be running a football club.
At the end of the day however, Blackburn Rovers were relegated this year for one main reason. We just weren’t good enough to survive. I will go out on a limb straight away and say we are also not good enough to come straight back up. The road back to the Premier League will be a long one, and that is if we even manage to find the thing. I’m not holding my breath.