The Cirque de Soleil Ewood Continues….

Picture the scene, a Premier League club, such as West Ham, are bought out by a, lets say, American organisation famous for selling tea. They come in and within 2 months their manager is sacked, although they sit in a relatively steady mid-table position, completely out of the blue. Instead of installing a high-profile or experienced Premiership or European manager – they promote a first team coach with no managerial experience, a figure only few will recognise the name of, lets say someone of the ilk of Ian Hendon. The team bundle along and find themselves in a relegation battle come the final two months of the season, but fans are slightly put at ease with the news that a number of star players have extended their contracts, and a couple of exciting youngsters brought in from the likes of Barcelona (although it is rumoured the agents fees paid in the deals amount to more than the transfer fees themselves). It goes to the final game of the season but thankfully they produce their best performance since the new coach took charge and they stay up.

Many fans think that having steered the club to safety, just, but in doing so, having proved maybe they are not the best management materials, the coach will be asked to take a step back, and a more suitable and experienced manager will come – but no, they are kept in the job and given money to spend – meanwhile, a number of key squad players leave for next to nothing. The season starts to protests from the fans who believe the coach is not the man for the job, amid rumours of other players leaving the club. As predicted by protesting fans the start is slow and they find themselves in a relegation battle within weeks of the start of the season – added to this, a number of key and experienced players are no longer featuring, not even on the bench, instead, youngsters from the youth team are being called up to deliver the goods in important games, rumours rife that the owners want shut of the players and do not wish to pay appearance bonuses. Come the January transfer window more key players, including the club captain and vice captain are sold, one of which being allowed to leave with a statement that they will not play again this season, that player played in their new teams first game. Next to no money was spent on the struggling team. The manager maintaining that he is the man for the job. The team continue their downfall and even take part in a game where they do not have a single shot, on target or off target – the manager quoting that he felt he set his team up correctly, the same manager who forfeited a game in the cup at Cardiff, the winning of which could potentially have led to a trip to Wembley. The end of the season comes and with a game to spare, the club are relegated with a whimper, losing in their last home game of the season.

Now the fans believe the manager must go, but no, he keeps his job and is given a war chest to deliver promotion. A new Managing Director and Operations Director are appointed, along with, potentially more importantly a , a ‘Global Advisor’, earning a reported £400k is appointed – a former Malaysian footballer turned pundit, who a few months earlier had given reservation about the American tea company and their running of the club. The Advisors first contribution; he calls an experienced professional footballer a pensioner and says the manager has six games to keep his job – both of which he retracted, but confirmed there would be a points target at certain points of the season. The start is good and the team find themselves top of the league, but more  by luck than skill as performances are poor, but still, the team remains unbeaten after 7 games but then a home defeat, the first defeat of the season – the manager has not reached a points target, but he remains in his job. Then the coach decides enough is enough and resigns stating he was forced to make the decision and his position was untenable. Time for a fresh start, but the start is slow in coming, the number two takes charge and keeps the ship steady until, nearly two months later, a former player, with limited experience in management, and no English managerial experience is appointed. The results don’t pick up and 57 days later, the club lying in the bottom half of the table only a few points off the bottom of the table, the new manager is sacked just days before the transfer window opens, along with the majority of the coaching staff. The Global Advisor reportedly takes training with a former movie star, lets say Tom Cruise for arguments sake, and the Chairman, from his tea company office, states that a manager will be named after the next game and that they do have Premier League experience.

This is a summary and does not include all the details of goings on during the American Tea Company’s tenure, other things to consider include: –

  • The reported/rumoured inference of a football agent in the dealings of the club, including his own son being signed, after being deemed not good enough for the Scottish leagues;
  • A mid-season trip to Pune;
  • The implemented coach being forced to travel to Pune every couple of weeks to report on progress;
  • A drunk drive and a slander charge for the implemented coach – the slander being in the direction of the his former boss;
  • Meeting of fans with politicians and concerns being raised in Parliament;
  • The creation of numerous fan action groups;
  • The signing of numerous Portuguese players out of the blue;
  • The signing of a late twenties Brazilian defender on a long-term deal, but never playing in his debut season;
  • Rumours of bids for Ronaldhino;
  • Commitments to be in the Champions League within two years of the new owners taking charge;
  • No communications from the club on any issues, despite continued attempts from fans and media;

Finally, when taking over the club, the American Tea company lead to the removal of all the backroom staff amid rumours that there was nothing for them to do at the club, pointing the finger at the agent being heavily involved in the club, despite him continuously denying this.

Would the Football Association let this happen right before their eyes?

This story is obviously not about West Ham United, and is about Blackburn Rovers – but the point remains the same, if this was to happen to a more fashionable club, or a club from the capital, would they be left to suffer in silence? Their fans pillared for protesting against the poor running of the club and forecasting relegation? I think not.

Lets remember that only 3 years ago, this club was seen as one of the best run in football, the manager’s job seen as one of the better jobs to take. The club are now a laughing-stock. The fans and club realise that they are not going to challenge for the title like they had in the 1990’s, but they deserve better. They plough their hard-earned money in to the once family club (in previous years the majority of spending on wages and transfers has been funded by ticket sales) only to be ignored and abused in the press – the press who very rarely give more than a thought to their suffering. The Chairman stating that they love the fans but that they should ‘just support the team’.

So this leads us to the current situation: the team are managerless; relatively coachless; a global advisor is taking training with a former Bollywood star; the Managing Director and Operations Director have been summoned to Pune, India; the team sit near the bottom of the Championship; and the transfer window opens in only a matter of days – yet the Chairman says he still believes promotion is achievable.

The role of the Global Advisor needs to be questioned, other than commenting on issues that do not need his input (leading to conflict and negative press), his contributions have been minimal – although you could say he has put most of his efforts in to jumping in bed with a certain fan group, arguably to keep them ‘on-side’, particularly in times of need. His decisions in the past regarding appointments have been questionable, especially when you look at the ultimate goal of instant promotion to the Premier League. Yet now he takes first team training – has this been his plan all along? Has he always had desires on managing the club? Either way, in my eyes, he needs to do more to earn his salary.

I have no idea who the next manager will be, but I can tell you now it will not be a shock to me whoever gets the job, as nothing that happens at or around Blackburn Rovers surprises me anymore – and that is the sad thing.