How much power does Shebby Singh have at Blackburn?
Believe it or not there was a time when the actual on field activities were the centre stage at Blackburn Rovers football club. The team played, we won, we drew or we lost and we’d analyse to death what happened. The midweek period was simply a build up to the next clash on the calender, things were simple as a sensibly run club went quietly about it’s business.
Those were the days. I remember them fondly.
Nowadays of course, in the midst of the dreaded Venky’s and Steve Kean era, the football plays second fiddle. A relaxing sideshow to the all singing, dancing, mighty and conquering circus that follows us around wherever we go.
The latest act in this never ending onslaught of confusion and PR counter statements came yesterday with Steve Kean freely admitting that out of our three deadline day signings – Nuno Henrique, Diogo Rosado and Grzegorz Sandomierski (err, we’ll call him Greg for short) – the Rovers manager had seen precisely none of them in the flesh prior to their arrivals at Ewood Park.
They were all the brainchild of the club’s new “Global Advisor” Shebby Singh.
Yesterday’s confession is not particularly a revelation or even that controversial, it is merely a further indicator that the balance of power at Blackburn Rovers has shifted from where it lay when we were a Premier League side. If anything it gives the outside world a big clue into the bigger picture.
Prior to this summer, everything seemed to be run from across the other side of the world. The Rao Family who comprise the owners of Venky’s were the overlords, they spoke only to Steve Kean who in turn kept closed quarters and a lot of directors and club staff in the dark over commands that were being passed down.
No-one else at the club had direct contact to the new owners, including respected club administrators like John Williams, Tom Finn and Martin Goodman, it was just Kean and Kean alone.
It was a closed shop and one that ultimately meant a completely inept and under skilled person had a lot of power in East Lancashire – which was about as successful as it sounds it might be. We were relegated and didn’t really have a fighting chance with a doomed set up.
See, the Rovers fans aren’t Steve Kean fans for more than just his results productivity which in itself is borderline appalling. They don’t like him because he is sneaky, false, unaware of his own failings and constantly blaming others for the mess he was/is predominantly creating.
Opinions on him won’t change if we romp to the Championship title this season, it’s not just a win and loss situation. It’s a trust thing and he smashed that to pieces with his own proverbial sledgehammer a while back.
Now it seems things are run slightly different. By design, by fluke or by acceptance that they took some shockingly bad advice upon purchasing the club back in November 2010 the owners decided to shake things up.
In came Shebby Singh as a global advisor at Rovers, formerly an advisor to Venky’s and ESPN Asia’s motor mouth TV pundit. He was tasked with running the show from his base in England and reporting directly back to India with news of the latest defeat, staff uproar incident and departing sponsorship deal.
There is still the usual flurry of Managing and Sporting Directors at the club but Shebby is the king. The one they all report to. He’s the top dog and even the previously untouchable Kean has a boss in England.
And that’s what yesterday’s news item further demonstrates.
Shebby can do what he deems fit and he’s the one with the sway at Ewood Park.
For fans opinion on Shebby is hugely divided. Some love that we’re finally being communicated with after a lean 18 months of being treat like children and ignored, the outspoken tone isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but at least he seems to respect the fan base and what they represent.
He’s seen as a hope and someone that can finally stand up to the eternally smug Steve Kean who has previously been untouchable.
Others think he is the next big PR disaster. A foghorn who is the latest in a long line at the club to bullshit his way about and have his talking device write cheques that his backside can’t cash.
Comments about taking Kean’s promises with a pinch of salt and calling a respected player a “pensioner” did not endear him to a large portion of the faithful, neither did his subsequent radio interviews where he seemed to be backtracking so fast he was in danger of leaving a massive pundit sized hole in a nearby wall.
He’s made bold statements and he’s going to have to deliver to avoid a repeat of last season’s scenes. One thing is for sure though – he does have some mighty sized grapefruits to take this task on the way he has.
Thankfully now, we’re at the stage where his talking and outspoken views are to be judged. The ultimate judgement will be passed on Shebby this coming season and it’s a test I for one am willing him to pass.
He’s proven that he has the power to overrule and manage Kean with regards to the signings he’s making as yesterday’s “not seen them live” confession backs up, but claims (that Shebby made) of being able to remove Kean are yet to be verified.
That’ll be the true test and one that’ll bring all the doubters and naysayers into the Shebby Singh fan club for the long term.
It’s a different kind of circus to last year’s version but rest assured it’s still a circus. It’s anything but dull.
Mike Delap writes at the The Wild Blackburn Rover blog.