Club Focus – Blackburn – Tentative start for caretaker Kean

A week of high drama at Ewood Park ended with Steve Kean’s Blackburn Rovers side holding out for a drab 1-1 draw against the Premier League’s bottom team, West Ham. Kean was selected by the owners to temporarily take charge of first-team affairs at Ewood, following the shock sacking of Englishman Sam Allardyce.

The new owners, Venky’s, said they did not believe Allardyce was the right man to take the side forward. Chairwoman Anuradha Desai felt that he could not take Blackburn to the top five. She was also critical of his signings and the style of football Big Sam encouraged his side to play. Impressed by the commitment of Kean, the owners have given the Scotsman a chance to prove his worth as a manager.

But Kean’s managerial career did not get off to the best start. In his pre-match press conference, the coach said that Rovers could play slightly higher up the pitch and begin to make more use of the wide areas. Indeed, the team were playing a different style of football against the Hammers. Under Allardyce, Rovers would have been more direct, got the ball into the box more frequently and tested the inexperienced opposition goalkeeper, Ruud Boffin. Instead, the home side attempted to pass the ball around and keep possession, something which any onlooker could tell they were not used to.

The usually reliable Brett Emerton and David Dunn misplaced far too many passes, much to the bemusement of the crowd. It seemed as though Rovers were chasing lost causes and the Lancashire outfit did not really look like they had it in them to beat West Ham. Even Ryan Nelsen’s goal was fortuitous – the defenders effort went in off his knee.

But it will take time for the Blues to get back to their best, particularly considering the fact that they were so used to Allardyce’s style of play. Kean is a good coach and his comments prior to this match were very positive and encouraging. Things may change if he is given time to stamp his authority on this side. On the other hand, Venky’s may be starting to look at other options.

Worryingly for Kean, all three of his substitutions against Avram Grant’s side were forced. Jason Roberts was replaced by Benjani very early on and captain Chris Samba had to go off later too. Impressive youngster Phil Jones replaced him, but the 18-year-old was also injured soon after, and Grant Hanley came on. Jones’ injury was particularly bad and early indications suggest that the centre-back will face four or five months on the sidelines. That will come as a blow to Kean, seeing as Jones has very much been a regular in the Rovers side this season.

Although Kean’s career as Rovers boss has not got off to the best start, he still has a chance to turn things around. Rovers face Stoke at Ewood Park on Boxing Day and victory over the Potters would certainly silence the critics. Anything less would put more pressure on him and the owners.

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