Belfast Telegraph

Kean's wife dragged into Blackburn row as manager defends owners Venky's

By Martin Hardy

Steve Kean was forced to defend the relationship between his wife Margaret and Venky's owner Anuradha Desai on another extraordinary day in Blackburn Rovers' disastrous season.

The club's deputy chief executive, Paul Hunt, was apparently dismissed following the leak 24 hours earlier of an email in which he had urged the owners to sack Kean, back in December. Rovers refused to confirm the decision but Graham Jones, MP for the nearby Hyndburn consistuency and a Blackburn supporter, insisted Hunt had paid for the leak with his job – and then offered a new reason for the loyalty shown to the rookie manager.

"Disgraceful sacking of Hunt," Jones tweeted. "On 22 Dec he indicated to me the problem at Rovers was the close relationship between Mrs Desai and Mrs Kean."

Kean, speaking at length for the first time since the club was relegated from the Premier League on Monday evening, admitted he felt the email, which he had not been made aware of and had still not read, was disappointing.

Once more he backed the club's owners, insisted he would be going nowhere, and then responded to Jones's allegation with a question. "I don't even know, who is he [Jones]?" Kean said.

He was then asked: "Does your wife have a good relationship with Desai?" He replied: "Yeah. We've been over once to India and they made myself and my wife feel very welcome; that's the kind of people they are. From a personal point of view, I've got a good relationship with the owners and I can speak with them direct; I think the most important thing is making sure our budget is a real competitive budget that can help us build a team that can go up.

"As far as the executives are concerned in different departments, I can only head up the department I've got. If Paul's left... I've actually not read it [the email]; I know it's out there and people are telling me little bits of it; I'll take time [to read it] if I ever get my copy of a full version of it. It's disappointing.

"If [the email was sent and they [the owners] were dismissive of it straight away, then I think that shows that, [if it was calling for me to be sacked] that wasn't going to happen, and maybe it wasn't even worth speaking about.

"I don't want to be talking about structures and processes and systems we need to put in place; I'll just sit down with the owners and they'll make their own decisions."

Kean then further risked his fractious relationship with Blackburn's supporters by arguing against the perception that the Venky's do not have a good knowledge of football.

"No, I don't agree with that," he said. "That's definitely 100 per cent not true. She [Desai] watches every game. You're asking me, do they know anything about football? Yes they do.

"I've had support from the owners every day. Up until the transfer window closed we talked on a regular basis, then when the transfer window closed we'd speak on the phone. They've supported me all the way through.

"Yes [they did watch the Wigan game]. Every time I have spoken to them they have told me categorically that they are in it for the long term. They feel emotionally bonded with the club. They want to get the club back to the level it should be at and beyond as soon as possible.

"I've spoken at great length to the owners and will continue to do so over the next six to seven days because the objective is to sit down and build a squad that will help us get straight back up.

"I spoke to them on Tuesday. They are obviously disappointed, but agree we must now look forward. I am here for the long term. These are challenging times for the club and the owners, but I believe Venky's are 100 per cent the right owners. I am not going anywhere and neither are the owners.

"The club was in a financial position where I don't think it was the most stable. Now we're in a very stable financial position. What we've not got, we've not got Premiership football. I'm not expecting big cuts. Obviously there will be cuts but I think what we've go to do is make sure that the money that we get is invested properly into the proper players."

At 86 per cent of turnover, Blackburn's current outgoing on wages is way above recommended levels but Kean insisted there was no threat of administration, as Hunt had suggested.

"For the last 10 years it has always been around that mark," he said. "What we've been is a club that has to sell.

"When your wages are so high as a percentage of turnover you have to be a selling club. There wasn't any percentage target put on myself to reduce it to and we wanted to still be in the Premier division. We are not and we will now make changes and a plan to get us back up. I don't think [the club 'doing a Portsmouth'] has got any chance of happening."

Belfast Telegraph


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