Steve Kean’s reign as Blackburn manager ended even before his resignation on Thursday. It was a matter of when rather than if as Blackburn fans watched in disgust at the demise of their club under his tenure. Kean, to be fair, was not fully to blame, some of which lies at the feet of absentee owners, Venkys. Since they took over the club from former owner Jack Walker in the winter of 2010, their promises of star signings like David Beckham and Ronaldinho have never materialised. Their hands off approach to the fans and to footballing matters have let the club slip further behind their rivals and led to Blackburn’s relegation from the Premier League last season. Kean was never a popular appointment and indeed controversy surrounds how he became the manager in the first place.
Before the Venky’s purchase, Sam Allardyce, the former Bolton and Newcastle manager had taken over the hot seat from the ineffective Paul Ince in December 2008 and in his first full season in charge (2009-2010 season), he successfully led an average Blackburn team to a respectable 10th place in the league and a league cup semi final place. In his second season, Allardyce’s name was mentioned in connection with the England manager’s job after Fabio Capello’s squad failed to live up to expectations in South Africa at the World Cup 2010. When the Venky’s took charge in December of that year, their first task was to dismiss Allardyce and promote his unknown and untested assistant Steve Kean as his replacement. Players, managers and fans alike were shocked but gave the benefit of the doubt to Kean and wished him the best for his first managerial position. However Kean’s inexperience showed during his 21 month reign racking up only 21 wins in 74 games in charge (28% success rate) which ultimately left the owners with no choice but to dismiss him. The burning question for most Blackburn fans is why this didn’t happen sooner.
The search is now on for Kean’s replacement with a host of former Blackburn players being touted as possible candidates. Former Scotland midfielder Billy McKinlay, former England strikers Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton and Norwegian defender Henning Berg all starred in Blackburn’s finest hour in 1995 when they outclassed and outgunned Manchester United to claim their one and only Premiership title. All have been rumoured to be interested in the vacancy at Ewood Park but its the dynamic captain of that famous team, Tim Sherwood who leads the race to take over.
Currently a coach at Tottenham, Sherwood lacks managerial experience but his growing reputation as a coach, experience in the game and his love for the club, makes him an interesting candidate. Added into this, the Venky’s know they have a job to do to repair their shattered relationship with the Blackburn fans so the hiring of a genuine fans favourite would help to build these bridges. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will demand a high fee from the Venky’s for Sherwood’s release from his current contract but its a small price to pay to get Blackburn back on track. Whether Sherwood, 43, wants to enter the lion’s den and work with them is a different story. Sherwood is no fool, and will be fully aware of the turmoil that has surrounded the club over the past 2 years but the draw of starting his managerial career at his beloved club could be too strong to ignore.
If the challenge is accepted by Sherwood, he will have a job on his hands. The Blackburn squad needs direction and confidence badly. The current set of players are a mix of experienced internationalists like Nuno Gomes and Paul Robinson and emerging talent like Grant Hanley, Jason Lowe and £8 million signing Jordan Rhodes but lack the tactical direction and belief that is needed to get back into the Premiership. Regardless of who gets the job, automatic promotion back to England’s top league this season will be the only acceptable outcome for the Blackburn fans. Time will tell if they are to be disappointed once again.