With the game hopelessly lost and the stadium echoing to cries that he would be sacked in the morning, a bird of prey settled on to the gantry not far from where Steve Kean was standing. Staffordshire does not do vultures but the hawk was symbolic enough.
However disastrous a result this was which leaves Blackburn bottom of the table, Kean will not be sacked in the morning. If some Blackburn fans had to be physically prevented from confronting him after the final whistle, the manager retains the support of the dressing room and, critically, its boardroom. However, his substantial pay rise, which was announced this week to astonishment within Ewood Park, cannot have been performance-related.
Kean is a manager whose language is as peppered with statistics as others are with expletives. However, statistically, averaging 0.8 points a game, he is the worst performing manager in the Premier League and unless there is a significant improvement in December it is hard to see how even Venky's support can continue. Given that one of the club's owners, Anuradha Desai, is due to stand trial on environmental charges over a property development in western India that carry a theoretical penalty of five years in prison, it might be argued that they have more pressing matters than Blackburn Rovers. However, the guarantees that Kean has already given his local paper that the club will not be relegated are already wearing painfully thin.
"Steve is a young manager and, if he wants to survive in this game, he has to learn to cope with abuse like that," said Tony Pulis after his Stoke side had convincingly halted a run of four successive defeats. Kean appears to be coping admirably with the vitriol from the stands that began after 12 seconds here; it is events on the pitch that appear to be spinning wildly beyond his control.
Stoke are slightly more sophisticated than their popular image but their recent sequence of results had forced them back to a primitive caricature of their game – the ball collecting air miles as it was lumped relentlessly into the November skies. The most naked physicality, however, came from Blackburn's Steven Nzonzi, who was fortunate not to be dismissed when his elbow was driven into Ryan Shawcross's face in the opening exchanges.
Retribution arrived when the Frenchman tripped Peter Crouch and, from Jermaine Pennant's free-kick, Rory Delap stole ahead of his marker, Gaël Givet, to head Stoke into a lead they only once looked likely to surrender.
That moment was minute 47 of what had been a limited contest. Kean's tortured time at Ewood Park has been notable for aborted bids for Robinho and David Beckham but Ruben Rochina, a graduate of Barcelona's La Masia academy, will count as a more lasting gift. Two minutes after the restart he glided past Pennant and then Crouch before backheeling across the face of Thomas Sorensen's goal. It deserved a better ending than Mauro Formica's miscue. Two fabulous left-footed drives earned a goal and a fine save from Sorensen but by then the fate of this match had already been settled. Glenn Whelan's finish from the centre of the D was spectacular after Matthew Etherington had pulled the ball back from the tightest of angles but Crouch was allowed to walk his way through the Blackburn defence for the third.
Whatever Kean's attempts to accentuate the positive – he said that only three teams had gained more points from losing positions than Blackburn, as if manoeuvring yourself into a losing position was some kind of achievement – nothing can disguise their catastrophic defensive deficiencies. When a number of black bin liners were blown across the pitch, they kept their formation better than Blackburn's back four had done all afternoon. Both were rubbish.
Stoke (4-4-2): Sorensen; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Pennant (Whitehead, 71), Whelan, Delap, Etherington; Walters, Crouch (Jones, 83).
Blackburn (4-4-2): Robinson; Lowe, Hanley, Dann, Givet; Rochina, Nzonzi, Pedersen, Hoilett; Formica (Roberts, 68), Yakubu.
Referee Mark Halsey.
Man of the match Rochina (Blackburn).
Match rating 6/10.Reuse content