Rory Smith

Rory Smith is a football writer for The Independent.

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Steve Kean is ignoring the obvious - Blackburn are bottom of the table

Kean's endless optimism turns crisis into a farce

Steve Kean has grown used to the banners billowing from Ewood Park, the blimps soaring into the skies above the Ribble Valley. Still the Blackburn manager has done for his reign what Comical Ali did for the Iraq war: he has obfuscated and optimised, shrouded the truth in spin and statistics. There comes a point, though, where the truth is so blatant, so clear, that it cannot be denied. Bottom of the Premier League, only one win all season, no clean sheets: the tanks are rolling down the road.

Steve Kean is ignoring the obvious - Blackburn are bottom of the table

Kean's endless optimism turns crisis into a farce

Steve Kean has grown used to the banners billowing from Ewood Park, the blimps soaring into the skies above the Ribble Valley. Still the Blackburn manager has done for his reign what Comical Ali did for the Iraq war: he has obfuscated and optimised, shrouded the truth in spin and statistics. There comes a point, though, where the truth is so blatant, so clear, that it cannot be denied. Bottom of the Premier League, only one win all season, no clean sheets: the tanks are rolling down the road.

'We have a very good relationship - not only professional but personal as well,' says Roberto di Matteo

Di Matteo insists he is staying put

Assistant to Villas-Boas shrugs off claims he is about to leave and restates commitment to Chelsea

Juan Mata (right) is establishing himself as a player whose importance at Chelsea rivals John Terry’s and Frank Lampard’s

Blues are united behind Villas-Boas, insists Mata

Chelsea 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

John Terry rises above the Wolves defence to connect with Juan Mata's corner and give Chelsea a lead that was never under threat

Chelsea revived as Romeu runs riot

Chelsea 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0: Villas-Boas signals start of new era at Stamford Bridge with demotion of Lampard to bench and a debut to graduate of Barcelona's famed academy

Barton’s Scouse accent may flummox his Argentine team-mate, but in footballing terms the two midfielders understand each other

Faurlin hero happy at QPR

The boy from the tough pampas production line that delivered Messi and Mascherano has always drummed to a different beat and is happy with life at QPR

Chelsea manager Villas-Boas insists there is no role at Stamford Bridge for Guus Hiddink

Villas-Boas starts to feel the strain

Chelsea manager admits job is on line but claims Abramovich's backing

A pensive-looking Andre Villas-Boas: Could he be heading for the Chelsea exit

Rory Smith: Is Villas-Boas heading the way of his predecessors?

A stagnating squad, transfer failures, faltering form. The Chelsea manager faces an unmistakeable sense of déjà vu

Michael Ballack felt Chelsea had lost some of their mental strength

Ballack: Chelsea players must deliver now more than ever

The iron mental strength which brought Chelsea such success under Jose Mourinho and made the sort of run currently threatening to destroy the club's season unthinkable is conspicuous by its absence in Andre Villas-Boas's side, according to the former Stamford Bridge midfielder Michael Ballack.

Manuel Friedrich's header beats Petr Cech

Friedrich's blow piles more pain on Villas-Boas

And so the hangman tightens his noose. Talk of Andre Villas-Boas's execution after just 16 weeks as Chelsea manager might have seemed premature, almost paranoid, but after his side's hopes of progress in the Champions League were jolted as their Premier League dreams have been, the Portuguese will feel Roman Abramovich's breath on his neck.

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