The Fan's View: Venky's must stop treating Blackburn Rovers like a franchise
The club have proved far better at firing than hiring managers
The process by which some of us come to support the football clubs we do is a strange one. With some, it is a hometown association, others (like me) develop some childish liking for a name, colours or star player and find it sticks, while for still others it is hereditary, passed down the generations like ginger hair colour or a tendency to back trouble as the years go by. But whatever its origins, it produces a peculiar loyalty, quite unlike any other.
All our other attachments, whether it's to "our" newspaper, favourite drink, novelist, holiday location or even partner, have some sort of breaking point. If our newspaper grows tired and tedious, if our holiday venue becomes overdeveloped, if our whisky changes its blend or our partner becomes permanently objectionable, then we switch to something, or someone, else.
Bizarrely, this connection between performance and continued loyalty seems not to apply to the football club to whom we give our allegiance. This may seem an odd thought to a supporter of Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea, for whom a bad season is one in which no major trophy is added to the cabinet, but it is not to those of us who follow – unswervingly, if not uncritically – football's spear-carriers. No one knows this better than we Blackburn Rovers supporters, who, of my vintage, have experienced years in the mid-table doldrums of the second tier, the dizzy heights of a Full Members' Cup final triumph, the scarcely credible winning of the Premiership some 18 years ago, and even, in the mid-Seventies, a brief excursion to the old Third Division. Whatever the troughs, however self-inflicted the damage, the sight of the old blue-and-white halves has – like the face of a first love – retained the capacity to stir the blood.
And so, speaking of things being stirred, we come to this season, one in which you would need the fingers of more than one hand to count the number of Blackburn managers, both "permanent" and acting. The club have proved far better at firing than hiring, hence the slalom down the Championship table. You would need to be a fly on the boardroom wall and have access to all emails to know whether the blame lies with the owners, Venky's, or others. But there are two things I suspect. First, that an ownership from the Indian subcontinent was always likely to struggle to get an entirely prejudice-free hearing in some quarters. Second, that Venky's have yet to understand that a major English football club are not A.N. Other franchise, to be managed remotely, and at time capriciously, but a unique entity to which their followers (their market, in other words) are viscerally and permanently attached.
Most of us would still be looking for Blackburn Rovers' results and cheering them on even if they were turning out in the Darwen & District Five-A-Side League. All the more reason, then, for the owners to begin a process of outreach, of talking to, and learning from, their fans, their Trust, and the town to which they ultimately belong. That way, they may show some sign they recognise the true nature of the club they have bought.
David Randall has been a Blackburn Rovers fan for 54 years.
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