Blackburn are back on track under Berg

Tuesday 20-November-2012 09:53

This Monday marked the two-year anniversary of the takeover of Blackburn Rovers by Venky's.

Since then, the club have been involved in an on-going struggle between the owners and the fans, in which one of the oldest clubs in the world has had its fine name tarnished.

The intentions of the Venky's ownership were made clear with the sacking of Sam Allardyce when Rovers were lying 13th in the Premier League table.

The club have since been embroiled in an embarrassing saga that has seen calls for action by ex-players, managers past and present, fans, politicians and the town's local paper.

Never in its history had the club been so desperate.

In the years I have supported Blackburn Rovers, the times have been good to us. Premiership winners in 1995, Champions League football the following season and after two seasons in Division One, we were promoted back where we felt like we belonged.

This was on the back of the hard work and structure that Jack Walker - a boyhood fan - instilled into the club with his great financial backing.

After this prosperous time built on stability, I suppose - as is the way in football - we were due a bad spell... but no-one was prepared for what we got.

Promising a return to the glory days, Venky's - Balaji Rao, Venkatesh Rao and Anuradha J Desai - started linking the club to the likes of David Beckham and Ronaldinho, while targeting a return to Champions League football.

What we got was David Goodwillie, Radosav Petrovic and relegation to the Championship.

Under a new manager, we were also promised attractive, attacking football. The only person who knew we weren't ready for this leap was Steve Kean.

In some games, it was like lambs to the slaughter, and a trip to Ewood Park became an easy three points for visiting teams as the determination and competitiveness we had sometimes unfairly been attacked for, vanished before our eyes.

To antagonise the fans even more, dialogue between them and the club broke down and became virtually non-existent.

John Williams, chairman and great ambassador for the club, left after 14 years of harmony between boardroom and fans after his position was made untenable. No surprises that he is now working for the English champions, Manchester City.

The culmination of this led to a mass boycott by the Ewood faithful as fans targeted the club's management and refused to attend games.

During this time, I have never seen such a poisonous atmosphere at a football match, but with nowhere to turn and no one to listen, the exasperated fans who had endured a year of pain acted in desperation.

Yes, Kean was the target for a lot of the fans, but the owners wouldn't step inside the ground. Kean was the only visible spokesperson for the regime.

By insisting on trying to find positives after countless appalling displays, failing to stem the flow of goals and insisting on making trips to India to talk to the owners, instead of being in the trenches with his team, Kean became the embodiment of everything that was wrong at the club.

Again, the owners had plenty of time to act, but it became clear that we were dealing with amateurs.

Fan-backed campaigns by the local paper continued to bombard Venky's over in India as they refused to take any notice of the club's perilous position, and news started coming out that there were financial issues including the threat of administration - but still no answers were given.

Plenty of 'experts' had their opinions on the matter, with many of the Premier League's managers rushing to the aid of Kean and damning the fans' behaviour.

I will always maintain that the protests in and around the ground were because of the supporters' love for the club.

Regardless of what opinions there are, the work of the fans and The Rovers Trust was essential, no matter how inevitable our relegation was.

With the fans' predictions coming true, and all the battling quality beaten out of both supporters and players, Rovers were relegated with a whimper.

We started the new season how we left the last one, with very little obvious change to the team and management structure.

But eventually on September 28, despite a reasonable start to life in the Championship, Rovers fans were ecstatic after receiving the news that Kean had resigned.

Despite this change of fortune for the fans, the owners once again showed a distinct lack of decision-making. Eric Black took the Rovers helm for two months, winning only two games during a pivotal period in the promotion bid.

The managerial decision was eventually made, with the owners opting for an ex-Rover to get the fans back onside. Realistically, after what we'd endured, any manager with Championship experience would have outshone Kean.

That said, Henning Berg was not the fans' first choice.

Collecting only four votes from more than 700 in an online poll, the owners again refused to listen to the fans' demands and appoint an experienced coach.

Ian Holloway expressed great interest and was the fans' favourite, but was overlooked for a man who had previously said that it would be 'madness' to work under the Venky's regime.

It seemed like a worrying turn-around from someone who was initially so critical, and then willing to accept the position under the circumstances. It was concerning that we were on to another 'yes' man in the Kean mould.

But in Berg, we have a man who is one of the most successful defenders in Premier League history, having won the league once with Blackburn and been part of the Treble-winning side at Manchester United.

He knows the club as well as anyone, having made 250 appearances for Blackburn and as a former defender is just what is needed to help bolster our fragile back-line.

Although he may lack managerial experience in England, Berg has already looked to make his mark on the team, promoting young Adam Henley to the troublesome right-back position and sending Kean cheerleader Bradley Orr out on loan to Ipswich.

I'm also taking great confidence from Blackburn's performance against Peterborough on Saturday. For the first time in years, the result wasn't in doubt and we actually controlled the game from start to finish.

What I do see is a new direction. It's too early to say how successful Berg will be, but promotion through whatever means is a must and can be achieved if we can tighten up the defence.

We have been lucky to keep the majority of the squad after dropping into the Championship and the depth of the squad is unparalleled, with Jordan Rhodes vital to our promotion challenge.

Now is the time to be committed behind a new man with new ideas, but remembering our old philosophy - Arte et Labore, 'By skill and hard work'.

You can follow James on Twitter at @JDixon_88.

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