Friday 22 September 2017

Keane pursuit a factor in Allardyce sacking

Sam Wallace and Ian Herbert

Sam Allardyce was sacked as Blackburn Rovers manager yesterday after losing his battle over player signings with the representatives of the club's new Indian owners, who refused his request to let him sign, among others, Robbie Keane from Tottenham next month.

The decision by the Rao family, who bought Blackburn last month, came as a shock to club employees yesterday who were informed by email as the announcement was made public. Allardyce is understood to have believed that the writing had been on the wall for him for some time.

Events came to a head in the last week over disagreements on potential transfer targets in the January window.

Allardyce put the names of Keane, Charles N'Zogbia of Wigan and the Espanyol striker Dani Osvaldo to the board but was told that Kentaro, the management company who effectively run Blackburn on the Rao family's behalf, had different ideas.

Kentaro are themselves advised by the football agent Jerome Anderson and his company Sports Entertainment and Media Group (SEM), who Kentaro describe as their "corporate partners". They work on behalf of the Rao family who own the Indian poultry firm, Venky's.

This month, Kentaro told Allardyce that they wanted him to consider Geovanni, the Brazilian striker formerly at Hull City, who was available on a free transfer from San Jose Earthquakes, and Kris Boyd of Middlesbrough as potential January signings. Allardyce was opposed to signing those players.

Yesterday, Allardyce was told of the decision to sack him by John Williams, the club's chairman, who appointed him when the club was still under the ownership of the Walker Family Trust. Williams has always been a staunch supporter of Allardyce and will probably fear that his days at the club are also numbered.

Stuart Pearce, the England U-21 manager, is one surprise name under consideration by Kentaro and SEM to succeed Allardyce.

The former Tottenham manager Martin Jol, who left Ajax this month, is also in the running. Steve Kean, Allardyce's first team coach, who has been placed in temporary charge, is also thought to have a chance of the job and is close to SEM.

The former England manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, now at Leicester City, must also be considered a contender. His move to Manchester City in 2007 was engineered by Anderson.

After his dismissal yesterday, Allardyce, who was on a one-year rolling contract, was installed as a favourite to succeed Avram Grant at West Ham, currently bottom of the Premier League. His assistant Neil McDonald was also dismissed.

With Blackburn 13th in the Premier League there was dismay around English football yesterday at the manner in which Allardyce was treated.

Rescued

He rescued the club two years ago from a disastrous start to the 2008-2009 season under Paul Ince and kept them competitive despite very limited resources.

Allardyce said in a statement that he was "shocked and disappointed" by the decision. Later, he said that it was "unexpected". "That's the world of football today," Allardyce said. "I'm a little confused in my own mind but the reality will kick in over the next few days.

"I have had a fantastic two years and really enjoyed my time at the club. The support of everyone at Blackburn -- the fans, the players and the board -- was great and I really enjoyed my time there despite the relatively difficult financial circumstances. I knew that when I took the job. I am very disappointed not to be part of it but the club had to be sold."

The influence of Kentaro, whose expertise is primarily in television rights, has been felt increasingly around Ewood Park over the last two weeks.

Ryan Nelsen, the Blackburn captain, said that "virtually all the players will be devastated" by Allardyce's sacking. "When you look at what he (Allardyce) has done on such limited resources, it is incredible," Nelsen said. "The owners will look at the broader picture, but in the world we live in he did incredibly well at getting the best out the team.

"We were all happy because the club had to be sold and over the last few seasons the Walker Trust needed to sell. The club was a wee bit dead in the water, which is why he did an incredible job keeping us away from relegation, and we even finished in the top 10."

As of last night, the leading contenders to replace Allardyce were: 2/1 Jol; 7/1 Chris Hughton; 9/1 Alan Curbishley, Martin O'Neill; 10/1 Alan Shearer; 12/1 Steve McClaren; 14/1 Glenn Hoddle, Dave Jones; 16/1 Mark Hughes, Frank Rijkaard; 20/1 Steve Clarke, Roberto di Matteo, Paul Jewell; 25/1 Gus Poyet; 33/1 Pearce. (© Independent News Service)

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