Blackburn Club Focus – Rovers India trip a success on and off the field

Jason Roberts bagged a brace as Blackburn Rovers cruised to a convincing 3-0 win over Indian outfit Pune in a historical friendly on Friday. Silky Spaniard Ruben Rochina also found the net, in a game that saw a Premier League team play in India for the first time ever. The Lancashire side, which is currently languishing in the top flight’s dreaded relegation zone, dominated the exhibition match from start to finish. However, Steve Kean knows that Rovers’ next league opponents – newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers – will provide a much tougher test this weekend.

While many supporters of the Ewood Park outfit were against the idea of Rovers going on a mid-season tour to South Asia, the trip appears to have been a great PR success. In an attempt to improve relations with the fans, club owners Venky’s invited and paid for nine hand-picked supporters to travel to and stay in India. They were also given an opportunity to meet with Venky’s co-owner, Balaji Rao, to discuss current issues at Rovers.

In addition to this, Rao announced plans to open Blackburn Rovers club stores across India, as the ambitious owners move to raise the profile of their multi-million pound investment. He said: “We will be launching our own merchandise stores that will be selling exclusive Blackburn merchandise. To begin with we will start the first stores in cities like Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, and will then gradually expand to cities like Hyderabad, and also to places in Goa and Kerela where football has a big fan following. Everything that is available there right from the jerseys, training kits, flags, mugs accessories will all be bought to India.”

Despite all the good publicity that has been generated recently, many supporters are still unhappy about Rovers’ lowly position in the Premier League and have repeatedly called on the owners to dismiss the manager. Their voices appear to be falling on deaf ears however, with Rao recently claiming that Kean is a ‘brilliant manager’ and that the club is going ‘in the right direction’ under the Scot. It looks as though the under-pressure boss will be given more time to turn Rovers’ season around.

The future of Rovers’ Canadian starlet and key player Junior Hoilett appears less clear. He continues to be linked with a move away from Lancashire. Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle are targeting the young wing wizard, who now has less than a year left on his contract. Rovers value Hoilett highly and have offered him a bumper, long-term deal to remain at Ewood Park. Disagreements over a minimum release fee are believed to be a sticking point however, with the Hoilett camp allegedly unwilling to sign a deal which would only allow the player to leave if an offer of almost £20m was to be received.

It is unclear whether the two parties are still locked in negotiations, but if Hoilett fails to agree terms it will come as a bitter blow to the club. Worse still, should Rovers consequently decide to cash in on the youngster in January, it could severely dent their chances of Premier League survival.

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