No Christmas cheer for Rovers
THERE will be no good tidings for Blackburn Rovers this Christmas. Not even the mighty Ryan Nelsen can spark a New Year revival with Rovers rooted to the bottom of the English Premier League table.
The latest result - a 2-1 loss against Bolton this morning - almost certainly will end Steve Kean's association with the club. There would be cruel symmetry in the outcome - the same scoreline and opposition were the final nails in Sam Allardyce's coffin last December.
Traditionally, clubs that anchor the table at Christmas time are doomed to relegation. West Brom are the only club to have bucked that trend, in 2004-2005, since the league's inception in 1992. Unfortunately for Kiwi captain Nelsen, his comeback will be too little, too late.
The 34-year-old All Whites skipper is closing in on a return to action following a knee operation, but looks unlikely to feature until January. Kean tried to pander to the Ewood faithful by suggesting Nelsen's reunion with centre back colossus Chris Samba could be pivotal to Blackburn's survival.
He was right in implying that Blackburn's defence has been shoddy, because it has been useless. Shipping 38 goals in 17 games would not have happened with Nelsen present.
However, when relegation is a reality, survival won't happen solely from stemming the flood of goals. Every game is critical; hammerings by in-form teams are demoralising, draws with fellow relegation-zone clubs are heartbreaking. The season-long stress is tangible and the restlessness of supporters cascades down from the terraces.
Perhaps Nelsen can galvanise a club with his comeback. He's a leader - he will shout, cajole, rollick. But he won't boss a game and he won't hit full fitness immediately.
There is a sense of inevitability to Rovers' fate.
The horrendously cringeworthy Rovers advert that was released earlier in the year, featuring players tucking into shirt sponsor Venky's fried chicken, set the club on a path of humiliation that they have failed to deviate from since. Having a poultry organisation own your club is not a foundation you want to build on.
Kean has taken the brunt of the criticism for his team's dismal results. Out of the last ten games, Rovers have won once - against Swansea, drawn twice - against fellow strugglers Wigan and QPR, and lost six. In his last 38 games in charge, Kean has led the team to seven wins.
In seasons gone by, the old maxim "we're too good to go down" has been proved wrong time and time again. Unfortunately, Blackburn are too bad to stay up. Kean was a dead man walking before the Bolton game and even with Nelsen returning, the club won't be performing any Lazarus-type acts any time soon.