Manager search turns into farce as Bollywood actor takes Rovers reins

Ian Herbert

Blackburn Rovers has descended into one of the most farcically run football clubs in Britain, with minimal prospect of finding anyone credible to manage the club in tandem with a new British-Indian coach who is expected to start work today.

The club's former manager Mark Hughes, who made the early running with bookmakers to replace the sacked Henning Berg, has no intention of meeting Blackburn's Indian owners Venky's or their global adviser Shebby Singh. Though Singh would like to speak to Roberto Di Matteo about the vacancy, the chances of the former Chelsea manager dropping from the Champions League holders to Rovers appear equally remote.

Singh has involved himself heavily in team matters – a factor which is understood to have contributed to Berg's departure from Ewood Park after 57 days – and he himself is rated at 22/1 to replace Berg.

With no one else currently lined up for the manager's role, a coaching duo of Judan Ali – who has featured in a Bollywood football movie and was assistant manager of a London Sunday league side two years ago – and Steve Staunton's former assistant manager Kevin MacDonald is expected to take over the running of the Championship team.


Ali recently spent a week shadowing Berg at Singh's invitation and was first linked to the manager's position when Steve Kean was sacked in September.

Any credible manager will need persuading that the task of guiding Rovers back to the Premier League will not backfire as it did so spectacularly for Berg.

The Norwegian's record of one win in 10 was poor and left him vulnerable at a club which is desperate to make it back to the top flight, having invested heavily in 11 players last summer.

But Berg also had Singh's involvement in signings and his heavy interest in team selection to cope with. It is understood that Berg's unwillingness to field a clutch of Portuguese players signed under Singh's direction during the last transfer window was proving to be a particular point of contention. Diogo Rosado (22) joined from Sporting Lisbon on a three-year deal, with Nuno Henrique, who agreed a three-year deal from Academica De Coimbra.

The two Portuguese, part of an incoming summer contingent of six from Portugal, were players Kean admitted he had never heard of, shortly before his own dismissal.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper Grzegorz Sandomierski – who was in the Polish Euro 2012 squad – was also unknown to Kean before arriving at the club. These players were Singh's signings and there is little doubt that any incoming staff will have to assimilate some or all of them into the team.

The manner of Berg's departure typified the farcical way in which the club has been run during its descent from the Premier League to 17th in the Championship – following a third successive defeat, going down 1-0 against Middlesbrough on St Stephen's Day. Berg was informed of the decision prior to the announcement and arrived at the Brockhall training ground yesterday to say his goodbyes.

But while there seems to have been an assumption that his back-room staff – assistant manager Eric Black, first-team coach Iain Brunskill and goalkeeping coach Bobby Mimms – knew that they were sacked, they actually had no idea. They only discovered their fates via Sky Sports after the news of their dismissals had been made public.

"It goes without saying that I am bitterly disappointed to have been relieved of my managerial duties at Ewood Park just 57 days since my appointment," said Berg, who signed a three-year contract in October.

Berg made an angry exit from Rovers' Christmas party after being made to dance and having a Michael Jackson wig placed on his head. The former Rovers and Manchester United defender is believed not to have gelled with a number of the players, who did not feel he had an adequate record in football management.

There are various reports as to who will be in the dugout for Saturday's trip to Barnsley. Gary Bowyer, who has taken over training ahead of Ali and MacDonald starting work, is the youth team coach who has a good pedigree of bringing through players such as Junior Hoillett and Phil Jones. Colin Hendry is also expected to be in the dugout. Meanwhile, club executives Paul Agnew and Derek Shaw have been summoned to India. (© Independent News Service)