Why would anyone want the Blackburn Rovers job?
As Harry Redknapp turns down Rovers, Tim Rich asks whether those in charge at Ewood Park are as clueless as they seem
Wednesday 31 October 2012
Of all the words in Harry Redknapp's statement rejecting the chance to manage Blackburn Rovers, the most significant ones were: "I am starting to get bored. You can only play golf so often and I am losing too many balls at the moment."
It was never likely Redknapp would go to Ewood Park. The furthest north he has managed in a 30-year career is Tottenham. In popular terms, he an Artful Dodger on London's streets not a Heathcliff striding the bleak northern moors.
Redknapp was not displeased to be linked with Blackburn and, although he did not travel to Lancashire, there were talks between the club's "global advisor", Shebby Singh, and Team Harry, headed by agents Paul Stretford and Mike Morris.
It was always improbable that Blackburn could afford someone with Redknapp's CV and stature, but the lad himself has had the chance to stand in front of Sky Television's cameras and declare that, at 65, he might be ready to dip his toes back into management's crocodile-infested waters.
At Queen's Park Rangers, where Mark Hughes might be one game from the sack, and at Southampton, a much easier drive from Redknapp's home in Sandbanks than Blackburn, those words would hang heavy in the air.
At Ewood, the age of grand delusion goes on, although probably not to the extent Diego Maradona and his entourage are expected at the Brockhall training complex any time soon.
Reports that Venky's who, soon after their takeover in 2010 were talking of bringing Ronaldinho and David Beckham to Blackburn, were flirting with Maradona are unlikely to bear fruit.
His tortuous time as manager of Al Wasl saw him paid $2.7m, plus a six-bedroom villa in Dubai's exclusive Palm Jumeirah district, where the Beckhams have property. There were also the services of a PR firm who often had to carry out damage-limitation work. In return, Maradona took them to eighth in the UAE Pro League although, when taking away his private jet and handing over a $400,000 severance package, Al Wasl's owners conceded he had "increased brand recognition by 1,600 per cent".
Blackburn do not need increased brand recognition and cannot afford to finish eighth in the Championship. They need points and a seasoned manager.
It should not be a hard sell. By way of comparison, in 1998, another Rovers, Doncaster, were relegated from the Football League. They were insolvent, had finished 15 points from safety and their chairman had been arrested for trying to burn down the ramshackle main stand. They had 37 applicants for the manager's job.
Venky's have done many things since their takeover but they have not tried to burn down the Darwen End to collect on the insurance. In the summer, when it was far too late, they did finally spend significant sums of money on the kind of players likely to deliver promotion – Colin Kazim-Richards from Galatasaray, Danny Murphy from Fulham, Nuno Gomes, a free agent after his time at Benfica and Braga, while spending £8m on Huddersfield's Jordan Rhodes.
When Redknapp said anyone who took the job would inherit a good squad, he was not just being polite. They will also take charge of superb training facilities and an imposing stadium.
However, there is another side to Blackburn. Singh's appointment may have meant managers no longer face a monthly journey to Pune in western India to face the trio who run the poultry conglomerate.
Yet, Singh, a Malaysian footballer turned commentator, has made it clear his job entails rather more than turning around Blackburn's, often disastrous, image. He intends to be a hands-on manager, a director of football in all but name.
This might explain why approaches to Tim Sherwood, who led Blackburn to the title in 1995, and Billy McKinlay, another former player, failed. They were being offered not the job of manager but of first-team coach.
There are distinct parallels with Newcastle in their first disastrous year under Mike Ashley, a man who, like the poultry kings of Pune, had little real knowledge of football. Both sacked a highly competent manager in Sam Allardyce and went down several bizarre avenues, including Redknapp, to replace him. Ashley's initial bets on Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer were punts on men who had either essentially retired from front-line football or who had no managerial experience.
Newcastle were at least moving under the direction of one man. Blackburn appear split. Singh is believed to favour an adventurous appointment, although not as adventurous as Maradona. The club's chief, Derek Shaw, is said to prefer a more conservative figure with experience of the division and getting out of it.
Ian Holloway is still the best example of option B. Blackpool's eccentrically-brilliant manager has been linked with plenty of work in the past month and, since he has moved his family from Bath to the Fylde coast, might prefer it to be in the north-west. His relationship with the Oyston family and limited resources at Bloomfield Road mean that if Venky's can find £500,00 compensation, he might move. Since he also keeps chickens as a hobby, he would have something in common with Venkatesh and Balaji Rao, should they meet.
Runners and riders: Rovers' best bets
Ian Holloway Odds: 8-11
Blackpool manager may be ready to seek a new challenge after coping with limited resources at Bloomfield Road for several seasons.
Henning Berg 6-4
The former Rovers defender was sacked by Lillestrom last season.
Eric Black 12-1
Has steadied ship in caretaker role after the long-drawn-out departure of Steve Kean.
Diego Maradona 20-1
Took UAE side Al Wasl to eighth in their Pro League but at huge cost.
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