By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
4 December 2011
Blackburn’s hierarchy were making plans to sack manager Steve Kean after Saturday’s match at Swansea, Sportingintelligence can reveal, but the 4-2 victory, and particularly the actions and words of Yakubu towards Kean during and after the win have earned the Scot a stay of execution.
Well-placed sources have told Sportigintelligence this morning that it had become widely accepted among senior Rovers executive staff at Ewood Park that Kean had to go, and this sentiment was being shared by at least one of the brothers who co-own the club, Balaji and Venky Rao.
It had reached the stage where the club’s principle decision maker, and the Rao family matriarch behind Venky’s, Anuradha Desai, was being petitioned by senior executives and even some senior players that Kean should go.
But the final say was always going to lie with Mrs Desai, and she has remained Kean’s most loyal supporter, albeit from India having only ever made one trip to Ewood Park during the family’s ownership of the club.
Mrs Desai then watched the win over Swansea live at the bungalow complex home in the hills above Pune on Saturday, and was struck by the apparent togetherness of the team, and by Yakubu’s four goals.
‘Kean was on the brink, there was little chance of him surviving if Rovers hadn’t won that game,’ said a source. ‘But not only did they win but Mrs Desai noted that Yakubu ran to Kean after scoring, which demonstrated the manager retains the faith of the players, and she noted Yakubu’s words of support afterwards for Kean, and the very fact the team won has changed the mindset for now.
‘There is still a mood that Kean is in danger. Some of the senior people at the club think Mrs Desai should have sacked Kean even after the win as a sign she was strong enough to make this decision. But Steve is a lucky man because even the results by Bolton and Wigan fell into place for him to allow Rovers to climb two places. And the next three fixtures offer the chance of more points.’
Rovers play at Sunderland next weekend before home games against West Brom and Bolton. It is understood Kean will almost certainly be given the chance to earn a longer stay of execution.
Mrs Desai was not immediately available for comment this morning but she has emailed Sportingintelligence this week to stress that Rovers are not for sale and that there was no truth in reports that the Rao family had held talks with a Qatari group about a possible sale.
“Let me re-iterate that we have no intention of selling the club, and we really do not know from where these rumours emerged,” she told this website. “We are completely committed to our club, and there is no question of selling it.”
She added that there is “no truth” in reports that the club is on the verge of a financial crisis related to its account with Barclays. “I don’t know who is responsible for such false propaganda,” she said.
Vociferous protest against Kean and Venky’s have continued to growth over recent months, with many supporters concerned by an apparent lack of direction at the club, a lack of big-money investment, continued faith in an inexperienced coach who hasn’t produced results, in appalling PR, and in a lack of communication.
Senior Blackburn officials will meet on Monday to discuss plans for the January transfer window, and officials from Barclays are expected to attend. The club had around £20m of debt at the bank when Venky’s took over a year ago, and it is understood this has been reduced but not yet cleared.
Because Mrs Desai has been so staunchly supportive of Kean, no replacement candidates have been seriously considered. Mark Hughes’ name has been mentioned internally as a prospect but officials are wary of the ‘baggage’ of his agent Kia Joorabchian, while Kean’s recently appointed assistant, Paul Clement, is well regarded.
“One win has definitely changed the mood over Kean though,” an insider said.