25 October ~ Tomorrow night's League Cup tie between Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United brings together two clubs with wildly contrasting fortunes. Judging by the strength of the "Kean Out" protests after Sunday's game with Tottenham, it can only be a matter of time before Blackburn's owners Venky's are forced into replacing the manager. Despite a good performance against a very strong Spurs side, Steve Kean must know he's on borrowed time but it seems unlikely that he will risk putting out an under-strength team – not least because Rovers have lost to Newcastle once already this season.
Newcastle, on the other hand, have made one of their best starts to a top-flight season for many years, and are currently in fourth spot above Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal. Not exactly fêted on his arrival at St James' Park and with a questionable Premier League track record, Alan Pardew has done well to strengthen the team's position in the highest division. He might be tempted to put out a weakened side except for the fact that a first major honour since the 1969 Fairs Cup might seem achievable in this year's competition.
At Blackburn rumours continue to circulate that Walter Smith or Kevin Keegan might take on a director of football role, effectively demoting Kean to the coaching staff. With Paul Clement recently brought in as assistant without his knowledge, Kean appears increasingly isolated, although the players continue to support him. Recently banned from driving after a positive breath test, Kean claimed in court that his drink had been spiked. This is faintly more believable than his latest bizarre utterance, maintaining the team are on course for a top-ten finish despite only six wins in 30 games since he took over from Sam Allardyce in December 2010.
Blackburn fans fixated by axing Kean are surely missing the bigger questions springing from the club's current predicament. These include why he was appointed and continues to be supported against all logic, and who decided to sack most of the backroom staff as the crisis built. Most pertinently, fans wonder why the club was sold to owners with a limited grasp of football, minuscule communication and PR skills and who have shown little evidence of promised transfer funds since their arrival. In this context the game seems irrelevant, other than that a heavy defeat could finally release Kean's ever more shaky grip on Ewood Park. Bruce Wilkinson