A football manager requires the support of the majority of his players or he simply won't survive. He certainly needs the approval of the club owners, but whether the backing of the fans is as important is worth considering too. Certainly in Steve Kean's case anyway.
Keith Andrews had plenty to say on the influence of supporters when he left Blackburn Rovers for a short-term loan deal with Ipswich Town in November. He was told by Kean that he would not be selected because of the fans' reaction to him in the previous games. Most players can accept being dropped for reasons which relate to performance, but losing your place because the crowd don't like you is tough to take. Either you have the backing of the manager or you don't. Either you are good enough to play or you aren't. Appeasing an angry mob shouldn't come into it.
It's easy from the outside to understand why a decision like this could be made to protect a player, but I can empathise more with Andrews' view that it seemed like a glaring act of cowardice and weakness from Kean. Whether that reflected anything like the truth at the time is irrelevant now, but it bears little resemblance to how he is behaving today. Pleasing the fans is no longer a concern for Kean.
In terms of both the level of abuse and the length of time it has been on-going, it is hard to think of any other manager who has had to endure what Kean is currently going through. The orchestrated campaign of hate and intimidation against him would have led to the resignation of many others. However, recent results at Anfield and Old Trafford with an injury-depleted squad must have placed those angry supporters in the difficult position of celebrating their four-point haul through gritted teeth. I'm sure that pleased the players and Kean even more.
While the majority of football fans believe they behave with the best interests of their club at heart, there isn't always consensus among them on what that may be. So while some content themselves with singing and cheering in support of their team on a weekly basis, others feel the need to chant offensive and disgusting phrases at the players and coaching staff whenever they can. At Blackburn Rovers these days, it isn't a rogue minority who are causing the headlines, but a well-organised campaign involving supporters' groups, local MPs, former players and local media.
Kean is not the only target, as the removal of the club's owners and the board of directors is the stated aim of the demonstrations. It would appear they are not a particularly well-run club, nor is their communication with their supporters what it should be. There also seems to be misgivings about the honesty with which the owners spoke originally about the funds they have available to improve the squad.
But recent results suggest Kean has the backing of his players which would no doubt infuriate some of their support. As convenient as it is for protestors to single out the manager when things are going so badly wrong (even more so when the owners say so little), Kean may not be the problem they believe him to be.
Players will return from injury and there are plans to make some signings this month. There is obviously the possibility that some will leave the club, but that money may be given to Kean to re-invest. The league table does not look particularly encouraging at the moment but it is a long time since Kean has had all his best players available.
That's a very optimistic snapshot of the situation I know, but the behaviour of the Blackburn fans is doing nothing to make life easier for their players. I would think that alone should make them consider alternative forms of action but, unfortunately for Kean and his players, it hasn't.
There's never a better time to play at a particular ground than when the crowd have turned on the home team. The job is made easier because the conditions are more favourable. It's that simple. Supporters realise the impact they can have on a team when they get behind them, but their impact can be far greater when they do the opposite. There's no sign of that changing in Blackburn any time soon.
The campaign against Kean has been roundly condemned by other Premier League managers. Everton boss David Moyes walked out of Ewood Park at half-time recently, disgusted at what he was witnessing.
Despite calling off their action for two games over the Christmas period, hostilities are to recommence soon. According to a recent statement issued by its organisers, "the intensity of the protest will increase substantially". Lord knows what they have in store for the man now.
Sunday Indo Sport