Rants and musings from the magazine team
When Steve McClaren was the England manager, he was in a perpetual struggle with the size of the task entrusted to him.
He failed to adjust to the pressure placed upon him and was incapable of adapting to the constant focus he received. McClaren had taken for granted that he had the ability to do the job and, in a bid to regain some control, used empty, clichéd rhetoric such as "I'm a winner” and “when their backs are against the wall, English players will fight to the end”.
It's a similar situation to that currently unravelling (there can be no more appropriate a word) at Blackburn Rovers, only this time the protagonist is Steve Kean.
Only last weekend Kean said: "Look at Fergie and Redknapp and how they turned things around. I know I can do that."
What he overlooks is that Harry Redknapp, at Tottenham Hotspur, inherited a squad that was struggling and drastically changed their fortunes and league position and while Sir Alex Ferguson may have once been under pressure at Manchester United, they'd been underachieving before he ever got there.
Kean, however, last season almost relegated a Blackburn side that had previously look destined for mid-table. The contrast truly couldn't be greater and thus his argument carries the weight of a Championship jockey.
Under Sam Allardyce – and with a poorer squad – Blackburn regularly fulfilled their ambition of Premier League survival and did so with relative ease. Now, under Kean - and boosted with the additions of Scott Dann, Mauro Formica and possibly Yakubu - they are the worst team in the league.
Blackburn’s fans, refreshingly, are not known for their unrealistic expectations – unlike at Newcastle United, Allardyce's exit was never their making – but they know that prolonging Kean's stay severely risks their Premier League status.
Kean, like McClaren, speaks with not so much a whiff but an overpowering stench of 'he doth protest too much'. His public positivity - not indifferent to David Brent's – has the subtlety of a Rory Delap throw-in and is as desperate as it is unconvincing.
"I see myself as a friend first, entertainer second, and football manager third..."
In reality Kean fools no-one – save, discernibly, Blackburn’s owners, Venky's – and merely serves to infuriate those who want a reality check at a club who claim to have targeted the signatures of Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho and Raul in recent months.
“For us to control as much possession as we did and create that many chances, I think we have got to give ourselves a pat on the back.” Blackburn had just lost 2-1 at home against a below-par Tottenham to go bottom of the league, yet Kean maintains a positive stance – a moment of blind optimism if ever there was one.
Kean says what he believes he should say, not what he wants to. He’s all too aware of the fact he was fortunate to be appointed manager and his consequent reluctance simply enhances the view that Blackburn are continuing their practice in pretence.
“Even the ones I didn’t bring to the club I consider my players. I’ll take the criticism on my shoulders and take it away from them.” Another blatant attempt at a model managerial aphorism and another that fails to disguise the severity of the situation.
Countless managers are prepared to take pressure for their players or to divert it elsewhere. What they don’t do is talk about it or seek praise for doing so. Saying this, earlier in the season, is an acknowledgement on Kean’s part of the failings of his team – for which he is responsible – but a reminder that he is still capable of doing the bare minimum.
The greatest managers in the game possess both a natural authority and conviction – Kean has neither. Like McClaren, he appears to be fighting an inner doubt – an acceptance that he’s out of his depth – and hopes that, by some stroke of fortune, saying the right thing will somehow make him appear responsible if his players can only find it within themselves to excel and drive his side out of trouble.
Blackburn were once one of the finest run clubs in the league. Under Mark Hughes they worked judiciously, signing Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen, making vast profits on David Bentley, Roque Santa Cruz and Stephen Warnock and overachieving with their league finishes.
Now, under the ownership of Venky’s – to whom they were sold amid fears of not being able to sustain their existence in the top flight – they are a directionless, soulless and ignominious club, a cruel irony to suffer for the fans of this once-proud small-town side.
Like McClaren, Kean’s best role may not be as a manager, juggling numerous strains, but as a coach in the relative comfort zone of the training pitch and away from the unforgivable, omnipresent public glare.
And, like McClaren, Kean seems destined to undergo a painful, public decline as his team falls to depths previously unimagined by those who appointed him before his role ruthlessly reaches its ungraceful conclusion.
Gone are the days of Shearer and Sutton, of Wilcox and Sherwood and of Flowers and Hendry. Blackburn’s fans know it but their manager and owners appear unaware.
Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton Athletic and Coventry City are just four of the clubs who have plunged to greater depths after relegation from the Premier League. Under Kean, Blackburn look set to join them.
In the day when football fans wrongfully refuse to back their manager because of irrational expectation levels, Blackburn’s fans are the exception to the rule. They know a good manager when they see one, and they know that Kean has to go.
Follow Declan Warrington on Twitter @decwarrington
ouch! I do feel for him a little though.
You cant forget about the budget differences between the clubs mentioned though.
What Harry has done with my beloved Spurs is truely amazing, especially to have the balls to buy back most of the players the former manager sold.
But what could Kean do with 50 million quid I wonder?
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