Lowly Blackburn Rovers had already been relegated prior to their final day fixture against Champions League finalists Chelsea, therefore the result at Stamford Bridge – a 2-1 victory for the home side – made very little difference to much-maligned manager Steve Kean and Rovers’ angry supporters. However, the team picked by the ever-positive Scot may have given fans a glimpse of what to expect in the Championship next season.
Crowd favourite Paul Robinson and defensive midfielder Steven Nzonzi were both missing from the squad altogether, with the former absent through injury. Both have been linked with moves away from Ewood Park this summer. While the futures of some of the others who did feature – such as strike duo Junior Hoilett and Yakubu – are unclear, around half of those who started the game in London could still be Blackburn players next season.
Should goalkeeper Robinson attract a bigger club, then his deputy on Sunday, Jake Kean, and usual standby Mark Bunn, will be expected to fight it out for the No 1shirt. Youngsters Adam Henley, Marcus Olsson and Jason Lowe also look likely to stay in Lancashire. In addition to this, all three substitutes at Stamford Bridge – Josh Morris, Ruben Rochina and David Goodwillie – could play a big role for the club in 2012-2013.
Interestingly, the 11 Blackburn players who ended the game at Chelsea had an average age of just 22. The oldest – 30-year-old Frenchman Gael Givet – is another player who could attract interest from a Premier League side or a top division European team, but after that the oldest player in the team was Scott Dann. The youngest was 17-year-old defender Henley. Kean has, on a number of occasions, admitted that he is trying to build a young team, and based on his latest selection and choice of substitutes, it seems as though Rovers will continue to be reliant on their terrific Academy system to produce even more stars for the future.
Kean’s many critics will argue that while having an exciting, youthful team is impressive and particularly good for those climbing the ladder, experienced heads will be needed if Rovers are to climb back into the top-flight. Worryingly, the club have let the likes of Jason Roberts, Ryan Nelsen, Brett Emerton and Chris Samba leave over the last 12 months, while Real Madrid legend Michel Salgado has been marginalised. Some would suggest that it was the loss of that experience which played a part in Rovers’ relegation. Will Kean replace them with new, older players over the coming months?
Will Kean even be around to sign new players? The Blackburn boss is expected to meet with the club’s Indian owners on Tuesday and although the Scot is confident that he will still be in charge next season, Rovers’ relegation may have persuaded Venky’s chairwoman Anuradha Desai to part company with Kean. Fans will be seeking many answers from the owners over the coming weeks and for the time being, Venky’s plans for the club are unknown. The only thing that supporters can be certain of as they head into the summer is that the Lancashire outfit’s 11 year stint in the Premier League is officially over.
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