Time Management

Stephen Grimes

Last week, Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated his 25th anniversary at the helm of Manchester United, an accomplishment that he called a “fairytale” and given the recent climate in Premiership football this will not occur again for a long time, if ever. Unfortunately, Steve Kean’s term in office so far reads more like a horror story than fairytale and he is struggling under the inevitable pressure accompanying any Premiership manager who’s side props up the foot of the table.


Kean’s Blackburn side have been in a buoyant mood recently after a run of encouraging results. Their last fixture saw them come up against a Chelsea team who were having their own mini crisis and needed to stop their run off two straight defeats. Despite Blackburn’s spirited effort, it was Chelsea who ran out winners with a narrow 1-0 victory and the reaction from Andre Villas-Boas at the full time whistle showed that pressure at the top of the table is just as intense as the bottom.


Steve Kean must be feeling a little like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’ this season as it has become a recurring sight at Ewood Park to see Blackburn Rovers fans’ protests before and after each game. But, with a stiff upper lip, Kean is rolling with the punches and taking it all in his stride with the strength of the boardroom behind him. The protests were taken to the extreme last weekend with a group of supporters paying to hire a plane to fly over Ewood Park trailing a banner reading ‘Steve Kean out’. This stunt proved useless as Kean admitted not seeing it, presumably more concerned with the game at hand.


Things are indisputably different now to how they were in Kean’s playing days. One disturbing trait of the modern game is the way in which managers are treated as a commodity, discarded after they are considered to have past the point of being useful. So far this season however no manager has been sacked and, with what happened at Ewood Park last Saturday, this shows how much more vocal fans are in expressing their concerns these days. Whilst on one hand highlighting their passion, on the other hand it is a key factor in unsettling the dressing room. For now, Kean has the backing of his players but with the Premier League big guns flexing their financial muscle, it makes the Rovers fans agitated, feeling that their club needs to do the same.


The club’s owners, Venky’s are sticking by Steve Kean, giving him the opportunity to build his squad and get them playing his style of football. This was seen at both Manchester City and Chelsea, if one manager doesn’t produce results, they are removed and replaced with a ‘bigger’ name, simply because they can. A couple of million pounds spent on compensation and new players will not make a dent in the tycoon’s wallets, they simply see it as a hobby. It could be argued that if Chelsea had stuck by Carlo Ancelotti rather than bringing in Andre Villas-Boas, they may have been higher up the table pushing the two Manchester clubs for this year’s title. So let us hope that the Venky’s are playing the long game rather than seeking instant success.


With over half of the Premier League teams owned by foreign investors they want to see a return as quickly as possible, putting strain on the lesser teams around them to succeed no matter where they sit in the league. The teams currently sat at the bottom of the table are Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton and until recently, Wolverhampton. Their respective managers, Roberto Martinez and Mick McCarthy have both been involved in relegation scraps and have survived to keep their jobs, whereas at the top of the pile, the likes of Ancelotti and Mark Hughes were sacked for not winning enough.


I don’t believe that Steve Kean’s job is completely safe, far from it. But the way Blackburn’s season has started it seems that they too will be involved in a their own relegation battle. Their most realistic, although still far fetched, chance of winning anything this year is the Carling Cup, or at least reaching the semi finals. Therefore Kean’s focus should lie on securing Rovers future in the Premier League and then kick on from there next season to stand any chance of keeping his job.


Football is a cruel and unpredictable mistress and Kean’s number could be up at any time.  For now though he has the backing of the board, and historically, success has been built on continuity. I’m not saying Kean is on the cusp of something special at Blackburn but it is well documented that Sir Alex Ferguson was himself subject of increasing scrutiny from above until one fateful Mark Robins goal turned his fortunes around and he went on to win the FA Cup that very year and as they say the rest is history.



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