Blackburn Club Focus – Kean forced to prioritise Premier League over FA Cup

Struggling Premier League outfit Blackburn Rovers have been known to take domestic cup competitions extremely seriously over the last few years. Not only did the Ewood Park club reach the Carling Cup semi-final in 2010, but more recently they progressed to the quarter-final stage of that same competition before being knocked out by Cardiff City in November. However, as they prepare to face high-flying Newcastle United in the FA Cup this weekend, under-pressure manager Steve Kean knows that his main priority over the coming months will be to guide the Lancashire side out of the Premier League relegation zone. So as Rovers currently sit at the bottom of the league, how much importance will the upcoming clash against Newcastle really hold for Kean?

The Scot has been made to chop and change his back-line constantly due to cruel injuries sustained by key defenders throughout the season. In fact, Kean has recently been forced to select the likes of Jason Lowe, Grant Hanley and Adam Henley in defence. Although the trio are good, young talents, Rovers are in desperate need of leadership and experience in these tough times. With Gael Givet and Martin Olsson pushing to be fit and available for the FA Cup game, will Kean be brave and select his key returning players at the Sports Direct Arena or will he save them for the next league fixture against Fulham?

There is no doubt that a good cup run would boost the morale of a squad who may just be starting to lose some confidence. Regular FA Cup wins would also help ease the pressure on Kean, who has been fiercely criticised by Rovers’ own fans, the media and even the local MP. There will certainly be positives to take should Rovers manage to progress through the tournament.

But there are also issues. A good cup run with a squad already lacking any real depth could lead to further injury problems. Even more problematic could be the distraction of it all. Last season, Birmingham City won the Carling Cup, but were eventually relegated from the Premier League. For Rovers, relegation would be disastrous. Therefore, the league must be a priority.

Regardless of how strong the team Kean picks to face Newcastle is, the luckless Scot is unlikely to have the highly-rated coach Paul Clement by his side. According to The Independent, Clement, who arrived as Kean’s assistant just a few months ago, has opted to join up with his former boss Carlo Ancelotti at French club Paris St-Germain. The newspaper also claims that Rovers do not have the finances to bring in another assistant for Kean, therefore first-team coach Ian Brunskill will now play that role.

Worryingly for Rovers fans, recent media reports suggest that owners Venky’s are unwilling to invest any of their own money during this transfer window and will instead be relying on player sales to fund any new signings. Star man Junior Hoilett is expected to leave, along with Michel Salgado and Jason Roberts. Rovers are unlikely to have a strong enough squad to reach the latter stages of the FA Cup and survive in the Premier League. It will be interesting to see how brave Kean is with his team selection against Newcastle.

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