Belfast Telegraph

Blackburn owners Venky's told to sack Steve Kean months ago

By Tim Rich

A leaked letter written by the highest-ranking official still at Ewood Park, warned the club's owners, Venky's, that Blackburn Rovers would be relegated as long ago as last December.

Paul Hunt, Blackburn's deputy chief executive, wrote to the club's principal owner, Anuradha Desai, following the 2-1 defeat to Bolton during which protests against Rovers' manager, Steve Kean, reached a vicious crescendo. He argued that they risked relegation and administration unless they came up with "significant investment". Now that their 11-year tenure in the Premier League is over, administration is a far more likely scenario. Hunt, who has been running Ewood Park since the dismissal of the club's long-serving chief executive and former chairman, John Williams, wrote: "With the bank closing in, I fear they will look to foreclose and have the potential to implement financial restrictions upon the club that could, as a [worst-case] scenario, enforce administration.

"As you are aware, Barclays have asked for the owners to put £10m into the business. This needs to happen and I am confident this could only be a loan as we would increase the value of the club significantly. With all the speculation in the press, the playing staff value and the overall club value are depreciating on a daily basis."

The letter, obtained and reprinted by the Sporting Intelligence website (, was ignored by Mrs Desai, whose backing for Kean has been unswerving.

Instead, in the month that followed, Venky's speeded up the departures of experienced, high-wage players. Chris Samba, a defender good enough to have interested Arsenal, the club captain, Ryan Nelsen, striker Jason Roberts and midfielder Keith Andrews were all allowed to leave.

The former Real Madrid defender, Michel Salgado, was told his services were no longer required since if he played again he would trigger a clause in his contract, entitling him to a new deal. After Monday night's limp defeat to Wigan Athletic confirmed Blackburn's relegation, Kean said the team that had lost seven of their final eight matches was "the youngest in the league". There is a reason for that.

Kevin Gallacher, a member of Rovers' 1995 title-winning squad, said he expected Junior Hoilett and goalkeeper Paul Robinson to leave quickly.

Perhaps most damning for the chances of Kean's survival is Hunt's conclusion that five months before he relegated Blackburn, the manager had lost the confidence of his players. He wrote: "I have supported him from the start and have been desperate for him to do well. However, I am now of the opinion that it isn't working and he is ready to go. He has lost the crowd and, as a result of this evening's game, he has lost the dressing room as well. It is a shame and disappointing but we must act now to save the club."

However, immediately following that defeat to Bolton, they forced a draw at Liverpool and beat Manchester United at Old Trafford. That bought Kean's regime time but last month there were reports of training ground bust-ups with other senior players, including Robinson, the midfielder Steven Nzonzi and defender Gaël Givet. Kean dismissed these as "laughable" and called Radio Five's 606 phone-in, where Roberts works as a presenter, to congratulate him on winning promotion with Reading. Since Kean was the man who forced Roberts out of Ewood, the striker found the call surprising.

Kean's removal was part of a 10-point plan that Hunt hoped would salvage both Blackburn and the Venky's brand which, he said, had "suffered terribly" since they paid the Walker Trust £23m for the club in November 2010. He said Blackburn were in breach of their contract with shirt manufacturer, Umbro, worth £800,000, by continuing to make Rovers shirts in India. He warned the Premier League would intervene if their brand became tarnished by association with Blackburn, asked for a coherent PR strategy and for the owners to make more appearances at Ewood. Not one was on hand on Monday night to see the club relegated.

Belfast Telegraph


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