When Blackburn Rovers’ influential skipper Chris Samba handed in an official transfer request earlier this week, Steve Kean could have been forgiven for feeling sorry for himself. The optimistic Scot has faced a number of problems since he became manager of the Lancashire outfit about 12 months ago and Samba’s public desire to leave is just the latest issue that the Rovers boss will have to deal with.
It seems that Kean is fighting a losing battle however, as every decision he makes, regardless of whether it is about a player signing, a substitution or a comment made in the media, is heavily scrutinised by passionate Rovers supporters. When his young team fail to win, Kean is the subject of intense abuse from the Ewood Park faithful. When Rovers do collect maximum points, just as they did at home against Fulham recently and also away at Manchester United, fans hand the credit to the players instead of the manager. Kean is certainly not the most popular man in Lancashire.
Unfortunately for the former first-team coach, his decision over whether to let Samba stay or go will also be criticised. As things stand, Kean has made it clear to his captain that he will not be able to leave during this transfer window. However, anything can happen in football, and if the rich French club Paris Saint-Germain or the apparent title-contenders Tottenham Hotspur make a tempting offer of over £10m for the Congolese giant, then those above Kean may take the matter out of his hands.
If Samba does depart, Kean will inevitably take the blame. Supporters have been debating the defender’s transfer request this week, and there are clearly a number of them who believe that Venky’s should dig their heels in and force him to stay. After all, Samba signed a new, lengthy contract less than a year ago, so according to many, he should be made to honour it. Another reason for wanting him to stay is that he is so crucial to Rovers’ chances of survival. The centre-back has been superb for the former Premier League champions this season, both defensively and in attack. To lose him now would severely dent Rovers’ bid to stay up. If Samba does leave, it will be Kean – the public face of the club and the man on the touchline – who will have to answer the questions, not silent owners Venky’s.
Is Kean doing the right thing by keeping Samba? It is not so clear-cut. There are some fans that are angry at the 27-year-old’s selfish behaviour and feel he should be sold immediately. Former Rovers legends Simon Garner and Kevin Gallacher agree. Garner told the Lancashire
And then there is the question of whether Samba should remain captain, despite making it clear he wants to leave. Again, this is an issue that divides opinions among supporters. For Kean, the Samba saga is just another battle. Another battle he cannot win.
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