Have Venky’s chickens finally come home to roost at Blackburn?


VenkysSuch is the regularity with which their names adorn the country’s sports pages it feels as if Venky’s, the increasingly preposterous owners of Blackburn Rovers, have been part of the English football furniture for far longer than 28 months.

When the Indian Poultry firm bought a 99.9% share of the distinguished Lancashire club in November 2010 little was known about the latest foreign investors into the Premier League.  Initial briefings gave rise for hope to Rovers’ supporters, who in the previous 19 years under Jack Walker then – upon the multi-millionaire’s death in 2000 – the’ Jack Walker Settlement Trustees’ enjoyed rare and memorable success, followed by a period of stability – a state that loyal occupants of the Blackburn End surely now crave.

The selling trust’s chairman, Paul Egerton-Vernon was evidently convinced that relinquishing Rovers into Venky’s hands would prove a prosperous move for the club.

‘We have been impressed with their enthusiasm for the club and their plans and ideas for future investment to develop it further as well as their wish and commitment to preserve the legacy of Jack Walker.

‘Over the last ten years, the global appeal of the Premier League has grown significantly and it is only natural that, as we have seen at other clubs, international ownership and investment should increase’.

The words of Venky’s chairperson, Anuradha J Desai, can be viewed in hindsight as containing no prescience for the chaos that would prevail at Ewood Park under the stewardship of her company.

‘We plan to focus on leveraging the global influence in establishing Blackburn Rovers as a truly global brand.

‘We will absolutely respect the Jack Walker legacy and will be actively supporting the organisation to ensure that Blackburn Rovers remain one of the best run clubs within the Premier League’.

The next word of note from Desai came barely under a month after the Venky’s takeover.  On this occasion she was explaining the owners’ decision to sack the team’s manager, Sam Allardyce.

The current West Ham United manager left Rovers in 13th position – notably, in points terms, as close to the top six as the bottom three, and having steered the side to an impressive 10th place finish during the previous campaign.

Desai and Venky’s wanted more however;

‘We want good football and Blackburn to be fourth or fifth in the Premier League or even better. The fans should trust us because this is in the best interests of the club.

‘My message to the fans is that we want the club to go up and develop and we want it to perform much better.   Whatever we do we want to say to the fans that we have the best interests of the club in mind.

‘We do not mean anything bad for Sam Allardyce but we feel we need to take the club up in the league and grow’.

With time for a sideswipe at the fallen manager, Desai continued;

‘We had been talking to Sam in the past few weeks but he did not fit in with our vision for the club’s future. We wanted good football, wanted the games to be interesting and of course wanted to win and have good players’.

Ryan Nelsen, Rovers then captain, expressed a view not entirely in tune with the party line.

‘When he (Allardyce) took over it was a club that was absolutely in diabolical trouble and he turned it into a very efficient, streamlined club that has spent no money and has done extremely well.

‘A huge big leadership has gone from the club and the Premier League is unforgiving if you don’t have anyone directing the ship.

‘They (Venky’s) have a plan for the club – they must have to have made a decision like this.  But it’s ruthless.

‘I feel gutted for the man, the players liked him, the club liked him’.

While the removal of Allardyce was extremely harsh, the new owners could fairly claim that they were entitled to place their own man in charge.  What’s more, the avowed aspiration to grow and improve Rovers should have been no cause for antagonism.

Roman Abramovich did not invest in Chelsea, or indeed Jack Walker in his hometown club, with the principal aim of mid-table security in mind.

The spoke in the Venky’s wheel was the lack of action to back the positive talk. Alarm bells sounded in supporters’ ears when it was declared that the owners would make £5m available for player purchases during their first January transfer window – a paltry sum for a club with an eye on considerable progress from an already solid foundation.

The alarms bells turned to a shrill blast with fanciful talk of Ronaldinho and David Beckham being lured to the former home of the cotton industry to pursue their hitherto galactic careers.

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