The treatment meted out to Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean this season has not only been a little close to the bone but it’s also become counter-productive…
Usually when I travel back to England and settle down to write this column I focus on something that English football does better than Japanese, and suggest ways that the J.League could improve.
This Christmas, however, something that was going on in the Premier League had the opposite effect, with Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean being subjected to a ridiculous amount of abuse by his club’s own fans as the team slid slowly down the table.
Several times I have spoken of my desire for fans in Japan to be a little more spontaneous and to think for themselves rather than just robotically supporting their team regardless of what is happening on the pitch.
The treatment that was being dished out to Kean is definitely not something that I support though, and the fact that such mindless protests aren’t the norm in Japan is certainly something that the J.League can be proud of.
Sometimes, of course, a coach is not doing his job well enough and a change is the best option.
Indeed, Blackburn are certainly not in a good position, sat at the bottom of the table with a board who appear to have no real understanding of how to run a professional football club.
It is not so much the cause of the unrest which I have a problem with, it is more the personal nature of the insults and its counter-productivity.
Blackburn fans have been booing their side and chanting for the dismissal of their manager for several weeks, as well as hiring a plane to fly over their Ewood Park stadium with a banner reading “Kean Out!” during a match.
It is very rare that I agree with religious leaders, but ahead of Rovers’ tricky set of fixtures over the Christmas and New Year period the Bishop of Blackburn spoke a lot of sense on the issue.
“I would say please, always remember the human being, always remember that he’s part of a family — that other people will be suffering because people have got him in their sights,” Right Reverend Nicholas Reade said to the BBC.
Bolton Wanderer’s head coach Owen Coyle – whose side defeated Rovers to send them to the bottom of the table – was one of many managers to publically support Kean.
“I don’t think they have given Stevie Kean a chance from the outset when he was appointed,” he said. “Ultimately, people who shout the loudest get heard. Stevie Kean is a terrific coach, he is managing in the best league in the world and somebody has to fill the dreaded bottom places.”
While the team has struggled, the idiotic behaviour of their fans appears to have contributed to their plummet to the bottom of the table, and it is surely no coincidence that Rovers have reserved their best results for their away games – including a draw at Liverpool and a victory over Manchester United – while losing eight of their first ten at home.
Striker Yakubu threw his considerable weight behind his coach after the win over United, asking “What did [the fans] expect? They should give him a break and support the team. Look at the way he believes in the players.”
Kean also came out fighting, and pointed out the mindless nature of the protests.
“I have five or six players who are under 22 and if they can feel a negative vibe around the ground, it can get to the younger players. So I hope the fans realise we have a young side and are a little bit fragile, and I hope they get behind us.”
It was even suggested in some quarters that the impressive results against two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs would have displeased the protestors – by virtue of the points keeping Kean in a job.
“I wouldn’t imagine any true supporter would want to see us get relegated,” he said on that issue.
“If there is anybody in the stadium who is taking a bit of joy when we don’t win or when we lose and that’s their goal when they come to the ground, I wouldn’t class them as supporters.”
I fully agree with that; there are many words to describe those people and ‘supporters’ is definitely not one of them.