Michael Appleton is just latest victim in the unravelling of Blackburn Rovers
Rovers' owners have cash but no clue, and are in serious danger of relegation to League One
Michael Appleton almost met the most powerful man at Blackburn Rovers for the first time today. He and the club's "global adviser", Shebby Singh, who have never crossed paths, missed each other by about 15 minutes, which was just about how long it took the Blackburn manager to head off the main road towards the Brockhall training complex, head into his office soon after 10am and collect the letter that Singh had arrived to deliver, informing Appleton that he was sacked.
Appleton, who lasted two days longer at Blackburn than he did at Blackpool, was at least tipped off about the contents of the letter by Derek Shaw, the managing director who had hired him, and who subsequently alerted him to his imminent exit, though Shaw had not known for long. "I don't know of any football club manager being sacked with his MD almost entirely unaware of it," a source close to these events said.
As Appleton cleared his desk – reflecting, no doubt, on the folly of a Rovers career that makes even Bloomfield Road under the chairmanship of Karl Oyston seem like a place of sanity – the Blackburn jokes multiplied on Twitter. The image of a packed stadium titled "Reunion of ex-Blackburn managers" was a good one but flicking through them your heart also bled at the memory of John Williams, the club's chairman in the pre-Venky's era, worrying himself half to death as he agonised over whether to sack Paul Ince to preserve Rovers' top-flight status four years ago. Williams was at his own son's wedding in the midst of that decision. It is hard to imagine that it did not stalk him through that day.
Everything has changed utterly now. The first decision Venky's made was to sack the man in whom Williams wisely invested his Premier League survival hopes – Sam Allardyce – and what we have seen in the months since is the public unravelling of a proud football club because no one at the helm has the remotest idea about how to run one.
Almost every decision has been wrong and, on the footballing level, Singh's moves have beggared belief. When Steve Kean finally resigned, Singh could have signed Ian Holloway from Blackpool. Holloway was interested and, after initial contact, awaited the offer you imagine he will always get from a managerless club seeking a route to the top flight. It never came. Singh, it appears, did not fancy appointing Holloway. Lucky escape for the manager. There was the same silence from India when it was made clear to the owners that Alan Shearer would be interested in a conversation with them. Even the timing of Kean's departure was nonsensical: the club had reached the top of the Championship table before he was finally pushed to resign.
As the club's football has deteriorated to the dismal fare witnessed in Sunday's east Lancashire derby against Burnley, so the commercial fabric of the club has gone. The local businesses who would once advertise and entertain at the ground want nothing to do with it now. Engineering company WEC Group, once the club's biggest commercial sponsor; Blackburn Chemicals; and furniture firm Senator International have all gone.
If you fancy a high-profile sponsorship spot at Ewood Park now, amid the Venky's hoardings, you will find that they are going for a song, costs in the low hundreds where once they would cost thousands. There is no one there to see them, though. The supporters are voting with their feet – boycotting the club, rather than dropping off because the team were relegated from the top flight.
In the background, the vibrant new Rovers Trust is desperately seeking engagement with Venky's, to restore some of the knowledge of how clubs are run that has been missing. They are getting no replies either.
It is unusual to see a supporters' trust like this set up when a club is solvent, rather than in receivership, though part of its work behind the scenes with national law and accountancy firms, operating pro bono, entails having the infrastructure in place to move fast if and when the club does sink into administration. "If we go into administration tomorrow we have the people who could sit down with the administrators," says the Trust's Neil Thornton.
But the prospect of hitting that financial floor – which would be the best thing that could happen in many ways – is actually a very remote prospect. Venky's is not short of money. The sales of Phil Jones, Chris Samba and Junior Hoilett, allied to around £20m of its own investment, mean financial stability. The imminent prospect of the Premier League parachute money running out is not feared.
Rovers just face more of the same, listing again and again, quite possibly dropping into League One in May, until they reach such a point when Venky's decides that the little Lancashire business, a minor and insignificant part of their empire, is not worth the trouble.
Poultry return: How Rovers have fared under Venky's
19 November 2010
Indian poultry company Venky's pays £23m to the Jack Walker Trust to buy the Ewood Park club. Blackburn sat 14th in the Premier League under Sam Allardyce at the time, two points clear of the relegation zone.
Allardyce is sacked after a loss at Bolton, with Rovers 13th and five points clear of safety. First-team coach Steve Kean is put in charge until the end of the season.
Roque Santa Cruz, Ruben Rochina and Mauro Formica join, despite the club being linked with Ronaldinho and David Beckham. Kean handed a three-year permanent contract.
Despite being dragged into a relegation battle, Kean guides Rovers to safety, finishing 15th in the league. Blackburn win 3-2 at Wolves on the final afternoon to retain their top-flight status.
Following a start of one win in five, fans stage a protest against Kean and Venky's before match with Arsenal. Protests also follow match against Manchester City.
Relationship with supporters worsens as Venky's bans protest banners from the ground. Supporters respond by laying wreaths outside the football club.
Ryan Nelsen released and Chris Samba sold to Anzhi as Kean hires bodyguard for protection. Rovers relegated from the Premier League after 11 years in the top flight and 17 years after winning the title.
After a poor start to Champ-ionship campaign, Kean resigns. His replacement, former Rovers defender Henning Berg, lasts just 57 days before being sacked.
Michael Appleton becomes third Blackburn coach of the season. Arsenal beaten in FA Cup but Danny Murphy stripped as captain. Appleton sacked after 15 games.
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