Henning Berg's replacement
30 December ~ On Thursday Blackburn Rovers sacked manager Henning Berg after only 57 days in charge. Rovers won only one of the ten games Berg was in charge for and slipped from the play-off places to 17th in the table. Despite the team being drawn into this relegation battle, global advisor Shebby Singh says that the owners are in no rush to appoint a replacement. Former Aston Villa coach Kevin Macdonald had been lined up to work alongside Berg but discussions have stalled while managing director Derek Shaw and general manager Paul Agnew hold emergency talks in India.
There is speculation in the local press that they want the owners to remove Singh who they see as a destabilising influence at Ewood and that they are imploring Venkys to employ an experienced manager.
The dismissal of Berg did not come as a great surprise to supporters aware not only of the team’s terrible performance since he took over but also of the Norwegian’s increasingly negative body language and the rumours about his disintegrating relationship with the players. The departure of Berg and assistants Eric Black, Bobby Mimms and Iain Brunskill (who heard they had been given the push on Sky Sports News) is merely the latest strange development at Rovers under Venky's and takes place against a backdrop of cost cutting. A strength and conditioning trainer was recently let go without replacement at a time when the team is leaking goals towards back end of games, often a sign of a lack of fitness.
The appearance of Judan Ali at Blackburn’s Brockhall training complex has given the tabloids something to get excited about. Ali was a youth-team trainee at Arsenal before going on to play for Spanish side Murcia and has since developed a role as a community football coach in London. He has blamed racism within the game as a barrier to his making it as a professional, something which formed the basis for the film Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal (in which he plays a brief cameo), giving the media the opportunity to portray him as a Bollywood actor. Invited to the club to observe coaching, he is said to have taken training on Friday and is seen as a candidate for the manager’s job. Singh has denied Ali is under consideration and reserve team coach Gary Bowyer took charge for Rovers' 3-1 win over Barnsley on Saturday but this has not stopped the national press from having much fun at the expense of this once well-run club.
Blackburn supporters who crave some stability are once again asking Venky's either to give an experienced manager the autonomy to run a team with enough good players to win promotion or to sell up, preferably to the supporters' trust. There seems little hope of either action, leaving fans increasingly desperate for intervention from the football authorities who seem to care little about the disintegration of one of the founder members of the English league. Bruce Wilkinson