Vultures circle as Blackburn farce rumbles towards a grim conclusion

As the clock slowly ticks down in the race for Premier League survival, things are beginning to look increasingly desperate for Blackburn Rovers. While they remain outside the relegation zone by two points, they face a tough run-in, hosting both Manchester clubs and local rivals Bolton in addition to six point dogfights away at fellow strugglers West Ham and Wolves. To compound matters, they are currently in abject form, and in the midst of their worst winless run in a quarter of a century, having not tasted victory since January’s vanquishing of West Brom.

Neither owners Venky’s nor the manager they appointed, Steve Kean, have given fans much cause for optimism in recent weeks. Kean’s insistence that his team’s first half performance in Saturday’s lifeless defeat to Everton was “better than good”, despite Blackburn mustering just one attempt on goal, left supporters open-mouthed with bewilderment. The poultry magnates who bought the club last November meanwhile, have seemingly learned nothing from the ridicule they earned when publicly targeting a top five finish this season shortly after taking the reigns. Just yesterday, co-owner Balaji Rao told the Lancashire Telegraph that not only would Kean still be in charge next season, but vowed that 2011/12 would see Blackburn “at least finishing top eight or something” and deliver “at least one cup”.

Such baseless optimism has riled an increasingly disconsolate Ewood Park support. The decisions made by Kean – or made on his behalf – in the weeks since his honeymoon period of wins over Liverpool and West Brom ended have engendered much frustration. He has stubbornly refused to field top scorer Nikola Kalinic, despite him showing signs of getting to grips with English football this season, while the departure of El Hadji Diouf – agitating, polarising figure though he undoubtedly is – has robbed the side of another creative option in a team bereft of invention. Prodigal son Roque Santa Cruz has looked a shadow of the player who hit 19 Premier League goals in 2007/08, still without a goal to his name in eight starts since returning to Lancashire. Mauro Formica, another striker, who set Rovers back around £3.5m in the January window, is still to taste even one second of first team action. Moreover, an injury jinx has piled on further misery, depriving Kean’s men of Canadian sensation David Hoilett – perhaps their one remaining source of hope – and defensive stalwart Ryan Nelsen.

Many Rovers fans were glad to see the back of Sam Allardyce, a manager whose negative, long ball style (married to what some felt was a patronising attitude towards supporters who were less than satisfied with his methods) won him few friends. However, while life at Blackburn might not be boring anymore, the arrival of Venky’s and the rise of Kean has hammered home the meaning of that old Chinese curse: ‘May you live in interesting times’. The owners might deal in poultry, but it is starting to look as if Blackburn’s goose is cooked.

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