Chaos continues under Venky's
23 March ~ Where Blackburn Rovers go next is a mystery. Three permanent managers have now gone in the space of six months, they are 18th in the Championship and have a divided, dwindling fanbase. Steve Kean, Henning Berg and Michael Appleton – the three managers to have been shown the door so far by Blackburn owners Venky's – have had striking similarities in their profiles: young, largely unproven managers without a full head of hair. Appleton, the latest of these, actually started quite well.
He made the right noises about winning the fans back and having full control over football matters, beat Arsenal in the FA Cup away at the Emirates (this may remain the highlight of this season) and made the team far more solid defensively than it had been under Berg.
If the good came first, there is no denying that Appleton had an awful last month in the job. League form slumped with defeats to Bolton, Peterborough, Leicester and Hull and he was spared the indignity of leading Blackburn to their first loss in 34 years to arch rivals Burnley only by a 96th-minute equaliser by David Dunn.
Blackburn had looked utterly directionless during this period, comparable to the lows of the “Kean years”. The nadir of Appleton’s tactics came during the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Millwall. With the prospect of a Wembley semi-final to play for, the whole Blackburn team set up to launch long balls directly onto Millwall captain Danny Shittu’s head. It was a shambolic performance and left many fans feeling ashamed.
Appleton’s January transfer strategy left much to be desired too. Yes, as he pointed out, the team needed rebuilding and rebalancing. But Appleton’s decision to send Rubén Rochina on loan was disastrous and stripped the team of any kind of option from the bench. Then there was the rest: stripping Danny Murphy of the captaincy and his place on even the substitutes' bench (surely not a good use of a reported £45,000 a week when only uncapped reserve-team players are there to replace him) and expressed slight bemusement at the supporters' heightened interest in the derby with Burnley – not a good way to ingratiate the fans during a run of poor results.
Despite these faults, each successive manger taking over at Blackburn is inheriting such a mess that unless someone is given the time to rebuild player confidence, implement a coherent transfer strategy and follow this through with some long-term perspective the team will go nowhere, lose its best players and inevitably be relegated into League One.
Behind all of this is the problem of Venky’s ownership. They have run Blackburn Rovers with such incompetence and disregard that the authorities must be held accountable for ever thinking this was a fit and proper outfit to run a football club. "Global Advisor" Shebby Singh seems to be back in the fray, reportedly sacking Appleton despite having never met him. He is a joke figure and, along with "General Manager" Paul Agnew, has done absolutely nothing to arrest the chronic decline of the team since Venky’s took over.
The whole club is in chaos. Unless either new owners can be found or the authorities decide that some investigation is warranted into the inner-workings of the club, the case of Appleton’s sacking will be a mere footnote in the story of how a club that had once won the Premier League was dismantled by pure owner incompetence. Tom Greene @tomdgreene