Blackburn Rovers bowed out of the Carling Cup on Tuesday after a 2-0 defeat by Cardiff City. With Rovers bottom of the Premier League the loss is but the latest blow to manager Steve Kean, who said in the aftermath:“We
Kean rested a number of players for the trip to the Welsh capital – including Paul Robinson, Christopher Samba, Junior Hoilett and Yakubu – and fell to goals from Kenny Miller and Filip Kiss. Kean’s post-match comments were at odds with what was reported before the match, when Kean said: “We’ve said all along that we’d like to go all the way and get to the final and try to win the competition.” The Rovers manager would not be the first to change views on the Carling Cup dependant on results, but doing so within such a short space of time – and after a defeat to lower league opposition – smacks of self-preservation.
It is easy to read the two sets of comments and conclude that Kean was being less than honest when giving at least one of those statements, since they do appear to contradict each other, but that is not necessarily the case. Kean’s side, albeit with a handful of changes, was still replete with first team names who should have accounted better for themselves and been more than capable of dismissing a Championship side. Including the likes of Robinson and Yakubu would also not have guaranteed an improved performance or result.
Nevertheless, Blackburn is in the most dire form and losing to Cardiff merely emphasises that fact. Without a league win since September 17 – a 4-3 comeback against Arsenal – the Carling Cup has provided succour for Kean. Morale-boosting victories over Leyton Orient and Newcastle United have lifted the gloom somewhat, although defeat to Cardiff has further darkened the skies. It could have been worse had Blackburn lost to Cardiff after selecting the big guns.
Kean pointed to Blackburn’s weekend match with Swansea City and the fixtures thereafter as his reasoning behind leaving out Rovers’ few consistent performers. It is a well-worn reason where the Carling Cup is concerned, and only when the latter stages – in reality, the semi-final – are in sight do managers and supporters give the competition the same kind of attention as the league or the FA Cup. But a victory over Cardiff could have snapped Rovers’ losing streak and erased the memory of the insipid defeat to Stoke City last week, instead of giving the anti-Kean brigade further ammunition. It is a balancing act for Kean as much as every other Premier League manager.
Blackburn’s result against Swansea will ultimately decide whether Kean was correct to give up on the Carling Cup. Win and the manager will be vindicated. Lose and he will be vilified. Such are the fine margins that exist in football, and on which Kean’s future at Ewood Park may depend.
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