by Jack Heaney
Sometimes it’s the unchangeable things in life which are the easiest to take. The things where no prevention, warning or Baldrick-style cunning plan could have stopped what would eventually occur.
You know, there is actually a calming, accepting liberty in helplessness: you couldn’t change what occurred, so why fight it? Why oppose what simply is? Suck it up, glug to the bottom of your frothy pint and carry on. No worrying will alleviate pangs of sadness and no excruciating, wearisome mulling over of relentlessly played out events will ever enable you to surf through time, unfurl what occurred and craft those events into a more pleasurable outcome. They are not malleable or pliable. Accept it, overcome it and move on is usually the order of the day. After all, why try and open your eyes to what no-one could ever have seen coming? It is fruitless.
And if it’s the unchangeable things which are the easiest to take, then my God it’s the unnecessary events which plague us like a Saturday night dose of Alan Shearer style punditry. The ‘what if’ and ‘why’ races through your head, the self-doubt creeps upon you and the things which simply didn’t need to happen – that were so, so unnecessary – buckle your bones. Football is the Devil’s playground for these ‘didn’t need to happen’ incidents which perch themselves on our shoulder and whisper bitter regrets into our eardrums.
Somewhere in non-league football a builder will be chewing on a sandwich wondering why he didn’t just hoof the leather skin out into Las Vegas, Chelsea fans may still wonder how pointless Didier Drogba’s slap on Nemanja Vidic was in the 2008 Champions League final which led to John Terry’s banana shoe slip-up. It has been said that Pep Guardiola would reject the arms of sleep in order to process and scrutinize every last segment of data and information. What could he have executed better? Why didn’t he do this, why didn’t he do that? Most pressingly, why did this happen when it simply shouldn’t have? Football smirks and tantalising dances around those who try to make sense of its fine lines and delicately placed dynamics. In some ways – in many ways – our sport is a wind up merchant.
And the ‘what if’ and bitter ‘why’ will be stoking up the fiery despair of Blackburn fans. The thirteenth of December – the date when Big Sam Allardyce unfairly received a sizable dent in his pride – was the date where relegation licked its lips and started to swallow Blackburn. In fact, it may very well feel like the number thirteen is dancing upon Blackburn’s grave. For it was the position which they lied comfortably within upon Sam’s sacking. Safety; strapped in; buckled up; almost relaxing in the strongbox of the Premier League. They weren’t pretty but were rigid and optimistic. It didn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. In sauntered the Scottish Steve Kean, a jester snugly wrapped in a manager’s clothing, and with a whimpering, watery crack of the reins and after 18 months have passed, Rovers are relegated and viciously being sliced through the trap door netting is the disrespected legacy of the beloved Jack Walker.
It didn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. Never have a more sour twelve words stung the lips of Blackburn fans. Sadly it’s easy for the one writing this piece to empathise with Blackburn fans for obviously, I do not have to feel what they feel. I do not have to read this piece and feel the pillar of the local community being soiled, tarnished and corroded by the incompetent hands of unknowing owners. Blackburn fans do. And when you have a hearty set of supporters like Blackburn’s divided from their club – alienated from a vital organ of their town – then you lose all reason for the club’s existence. Rovers fans connection to their club runs like a baby’s deep connection to it’s mother. When that is destroyed, the club loses it’s life’s blood and allure.
Rarely has the negative influence of foreign ownership been more apparent. Rumours still float around that Venky’s had not one inkling that relegation was possible. The embarrassing ‘top four’ aspiration was ludicrous yet even more is the apparent fact that financial ruin is now a possible outcome of Blackburn’s plight. Blackburn are not just being sunk; they are having their pants pulled down at the same time which is a far cry from the polished, well-tuned club which is often labelled one of the best ran in the world. The togetherness and the spirit of the club that sent that down – Wigan – and their small yet family like unit was juxtaposed to the deep set problems within the Rovers hierarchy. This disease has dug in and it will not leave until Rovers have been stripped of every nutrient.
Much has been said about Steve Kean and his ‘dignified’ approach. And guess what? It’s absolute, utter hyperbole. And that is without commenting on the video which reveals his truer nature. Strangely and here’s a bashful confession, I even remember supporting him at one point. I apologise. For this man is not ‘dignified’ but a walking, talking delusion. On the touchline he wasn’t being soaked with rain but the outcomes of his madness. You see, ‘optimism’ is only such when it is founded and believable and supported by evidence. It’s like saying a suicidal man is ‘optimistic’ about his chances of survival as he does the hokey cokey off the Eiffel Tower. It is bilge. If Kean cared about his reputation and the club he serves he would have ejected himself out after Blackburn’s loss against Bolton in December. Yet the delusion (and money) kept his feet firmly in place. He has placed his own delusion above the very real plight of Blackburn. And as we wince he notes that there are ‘exciting’ times ahead and talks of how he will stay on to guide Blackburn through a tough and competitive Championship division. What a shambles and a disservice to a club which deserve more.
Do Venky’s care? It’s doubtful. Does Steve Kean care? It’s doubtful. Laughably, it is Blackburn fans that are being criticised! I do not condone violence – that really is too far – but the Rovers faithful find themselves in almost paradoxical situation. Do you create a blood shedding atmosphere and hinder your team’s performance or let the most out of depth manager to ever boss a Premier League team hinder it even more? In a sense, the protests were the lesser of two evils. They simply had to do something yet it is an insult to suggest that the only people who actually seem to care about the club are ‘abusers’ for rising against its tormentors. For it is Steve Kean and Venky’s who are the vandals; the abusers in all this.
Just what are Blackburn fans expected to do? Sit and smile like a limp wristed, mind controlled unich as a part of their pride and joy – a part of their town – is wittled away? The football world seems to suggest Blackburn fans should try their hand at ‘support’. But this isn’t Blackburn. This isn’t their club anymore, but a morphed, unfamiliar figure of ugliness. Why should they support what has been stolen from them? The only thing they should support is what they have been supporting: a plan to get their club back. For they are not just being relegated; that tells a one dimensional story. Before our eyes they are being exploited by this disease.
Like most negative incidents in life, the unnecessary nature of Blackburn’s season will plague the Rovers faithful, as will the ‘why, why, why’; the ‘why did this have to happen’ regret of the anarchy unfolding before English football’s very eyes. With Steve Kean probably to remain in charge for another season and leaked letters inferring how the owners will simply ignore any cries for help, it might just be about to become worse. The life of Blackburn Rovers is slowly but surely escaping, gasping for air, swimming around the remaining carcass of the club and burying itself in a mountain of ill-advised insanity, incompetence and awful, cash-hunting swindlers. We’ve seen this happen before; clubs heading for wreck and ruin and having, in the Riversiders case, 137 years of history tarnished and disrespected. If it keeps up like this, God only knows what Rovers next 137 years will be like.