Nelsen attacks owners for leaving Rovers in the dark

Blackburn 1 West Ham 1
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The Independent Online

If the scene was traditional, with snow around the pitch and the players' breath forming little clouds, the fall-out from a stalemate that satisfied neither east Lancashire nor east London was all too modern in character. Ryan Nelsen, Blackburn's club captain, criticised their new owners, while Avram Grant, striving to survive at West Ham, called management a "mad job".

Nelsen, who scored early in the second half before Junior Stanislas came off the bench to equalise for bottom-placed West Ham, condemned the handling of Sam Allardyce's dismissal by the controlling Indian poultry business Venky's. They had fired a "top manager", said the New Zealander, while having no replacement lined up, and all without a word to the players.

"The decision made has caused the kind of tension that was portrayed out there," Nelsen said of the fraught atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands. "I've no problem with any owners doing anything. It's their club. But when you make a monumental decision like that, you like to think there's a back-up plan.

"We as players know nothing. The staff know nothing. Nobody knows anything about what's going on. I found out about Sam on Sky Sports News like everyone else. It's all a bit worrying. We've had other managers but it's always been handled very professionally, but this was out of left field. The Premier League isn't easy. It's as tough as it gets in any sport. It would be nice, when you're down in the trenches fighting, to get a bit of communication."

Nelsen, who pledged the Blackburn squad's support for caretaker manager Steve Kean – "a fantastic guy and potentially a very good manager" – admitted he had been in contact with Allardyce. "He's as bewildered as anyone," said Nelsen. "We all are here. I think the whole country is." Asked whether "Big Sam" was upset by the comments of Venky's chairwoman, Anuradha Desai, about wanting to play with greater style and finishing in the top five, Nelsen replied: "I don't think so. It would have hurt him if someone who knows the Premier League had said it. But he won't lose sleep over it.

"We've got some very good players. We're striving to be a top-eight team. But when they talk about the top five, look at the teams who are there and the money they've spent. Then look at what we've spent: you do the maths."

The wider criticism of Allardyce's methods would not perturb him either, insisted Nelsen: "It has come from people who have never played under him, never been in his position or never played in the Premier League. People who know realise what a top manager he is. I wouldn't be surprised if we're playing against him soon in this league."

Kean, already bereft of midfielders, was left to reflect on injuries that will deprive him of Jason Roberts for six weeks and Phil Jones for the rest of the season. A modest £5m is reportedly available for recruitment next month, but the Scot has had "no detailed chats" with the owners and is unsure whether the figure includes salaries. Could Blackburn, 12th, realistically hope to finish fifth after spending just £5m? "If we have a full squad and £5m, I'm confident we could finish above 10th," said Kean, who conceded players might be reluctant to sign for a temporary manager. "But we need to sit down and see how the £5m breaks down."

And Grant thought he had problems. The Israeli reiterated he had received no ultimatum from owners David Sullivan and David Gold to win one of three games or face Allardyce's fate. He remained adamant comparisons between West Ham's position and Portsmouth's last Christmas (which ended in relegation) were invalid; his current team's future will be "decided on the pitch" and not by financial considerations.

"Football management today is a mad job," mused Grant. "Since big money came into football, with people who are not from football, I don't know how decisions are taken. In normal business they're not taken like this."

So where did the story of the "threat" from West Ham's owners come from? "I spoke with them and they didn't say anything about this," said Grant. "We talked about football and how we can make the team stronger in January, but that's all. People said the same things when I'd been here only two games. Now they're saying I've got three games. So there's a lot of improvement."

Scorers: Blackburn Nelsen 51, West Ham Stanislas 78. Subs: Blackburn Benjani (Roberts, 10), Jones (Samba, 57), Hanley (Jones, 67). West Ham Stanislas (Barrera, 56), Cole (Spector, 57), McCarthy (Dyer, 82).

Booked: Blackburn Givet, Emerton. West Ham Ben-Haim, Tomkins, Boa Morte.

Man of the match Parker.

Referee M Dean (Wirral)

Att 21,934.

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