Yakubu: 'Shocking' fan abuse is hurting us

In an exclusive interview, the Blackburn striker admits he is amazed by the supporters' vitriol towards manager and becomes first player to say how it's harming side's efforts to avoid relegation

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Ayegbeni Yakubu has admitted that the toxic atmosphere at Ewood Park is affecting the Blackburn players.

The situation at Ewood Park has become so grim that many fans now fear that any victory will only extend manager Steve Kean's time in charge. It's a mood which is unsettling for the players, says their striker.

"I don't know if they don't want us to win or [they want us to] lose, but when we concede goals it's like they keep calling out against the manager. They want him to go, but what can [the players] do?

"For me, it's hard," he told The Independent. "It's not good for us as players. We are all feeling it. There's always pressure when you are not winning. I've never, never been in a situation like this before in my life. Not since I've been playing football. Calling for the manager to leave, I don't know what to say. It's shocking, but what can you do? The players aren't talking about bringing in a new manager. We'll just stick together and see how it goes."

With just two Premier League wins this season, Rovers fans have been waging a long-running campaign to oust Kean, and successive home losses to West Bromwich Albion and Bolton Wanderers have put the Scot in an almost untenable position.

The 29-year-old Yakubu says the players are very conscious of the "Kean Out" chants from supporters. "We arrive at the game and say, 'What is it going to be? Are the fans against us?' We just plead that they stick with the team. The situation is not good for the players, it's not good for the club. They are our 12th man. We need them to help us achieve something for the club; to help move up from our position. We are not in a good situation, bottom of the League. We need them to be with us and fight together."

However, he stops short of saying that the players actually prefer the away games. "No, at the moment, not really. We will see at Liverpool [on Boxing Day] if it's going to be the same. The situation is not good when you're not winning."

Much of the ill feeling stems from the frustrations of Rovers supporters, who feel unable to voice their concerns to the Indian owners. Kean is the only visible target for the growing number of fans who have serious questions about how their club is being run. But the form of the Nigerian forward has been the only bright note for the Lancashire club.

Having been signed by Kean in August, Yakubu has hit 11 goals in 12 starts including all four against Swansea City, a club record for a Premier League game. Surprising when you think this was a club where Shearer, Sutton, Cole and Yorke all plied their trade. Kean believes the striker will get 20 goals this season, a target which Yakubu predicts he can reach. "I always believe I can score goals. Twenty goals this season is possible for me."

If Kean is looking for credit, perhaps he can take it from getting goals from the talented Nigerian where others have struggled. Much of that is down to an understanding between player and manager. "There are strikers who can chase the ball for fun, but they aren't going to give you 15 or 20 goals a season," Yakubu adds. "Sometimes I chase the ball, but not for 90 minutes. I'm not that sort of player. I'm very good in the box and very intelligent in the box. The players know when I get the ball what I can do. They have confidence in me."

Despite his wish to repay the faith shown to him by Kean, Yakubu insists his own personal relationship with the Blackburn supporters is strong. "I don't have any problem with the fans. They've been great with me since I've arrived and I always want to go out on to the pitch and perform for them." Though he says he would rather hear the "Feed The Yak And He Will Score" song than the abuse which is currently being directed towards the club.

During Tuesday night's defeat to Bolton, the abuse Kean suffered reached such proportions that questions of his personal safety began to arise, but Yakubu played down such worries. "I don't think something bad will happen to him. I don't think anyone will attack him. In Middlesbrough I remember it was bad. We were losing and a lot of the fans didn't like Steve McClaren. They were throwing their season tickets at him. Telling him, 'You don't know what you are doing. You have to go.' In the end we played in the Uefa Cup final. We couldn't believe it, everyone was so happy, and in the end he left to go and manage the England national team. Things can change."

With Liverpool and Manchester United to play away, the festive season looks anything but charitable for Rovers, but Yakubu insists that they are not disheartened. "Yes, it's going to get harder but look at Wigan, you'd never think they'd get a point against Chelsea. You'd never think they'd get a point against Liverpool. In football anything can happen. If we play well we can get a draw or a win. That's the Premiership. If you don't play well you won't get anything. We are ready for this, we are ready to fight to the end."

For Blackburn fans there seems to be only one solution. Removing Kean may get the fans back behind the team but Blackburn's problems appear to start further up the food chain. At least they've got a goalscorer, and one hungry to scrap until the end.

David Fearnhead is the author of 'Bailey of the Saints', available from Great Northern Books, price £8.99

The Facts About Yak

Born: 22 Nov 1982, Benin City, Nigeria.

1999: Joins Maccabi Haifa, winning two Israeli Premier League titles.

April 2000: Makes international debut at age of 17 against Ethiopia.

Jan 2003: Moves to Portsmouth on loan, made permanent for £4m when club reach Premier League later that season. Scores 43 goals in 92 games, including four against Middlesbrough.

July 2005: Joins Middlesbrough for £7.5m and scores 35 in 103 games.

Aug 2007: Switches to Everton for £11.25m. Scores 33 in 107 games

Jan 2011: Moves to Leicester on loan.

Aug: Joins Blackburn for £1.5m. Hits 11 in 15 games as Steve Kean's side struggle for form.

Tom Metcalf

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