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â€¢ Exit of unhappy players lifts Rovers’ morale and results
â€¢ ‘Everyone wants to be here, you can see it in their play’
Steve Kean has claimed Blackburn Rovers are “on the way up” in a season of relegation fear and managerial protest and attributed the team’s improvement to the spirit within the squad following Chris Samba’s departure from Ewood Park.
Blackburn are three points clear of the relegation zone after wins against fellow strugglers Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers, the latter victory also producing their first clean sheet of an arduous campaign. Samba’s protracted exit, with the former captain joining Anzhi Makhachkala on Russia’s transfer deadline day in late February, was another major problem for Kean in his fight to secure Rovers’ Premier League status and to silence his detractors. But the loss of the defender, he contends, has had a galvanising effect on the club.
Kean, whose side entertain Sunderland on Tuesday night, said: “We’ve got a good spirit, a young emerging team and everyone on the training ground wants to be here. In the past we’ve had a couple of disillusioned lads who wanted away. They’ve gone now and we wish them well. Everyone who is here now wants to be here.
“There was never any negativity or irritation but if someone puts in a transfer request like Chris and he doesn’t want to be here then it’s going to affect us. He was in a bad place but he’s moved on. Now we’ve got a younger player who has come in â€“ Grant Hanley â€“ who is playing with Scott Dann and is showing he’s well capable of being a Premier League player. You can see it in their play. The fans have recognised that too. They’ve been great.”
Kean’s theory is backed by the former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, who has assumed the captaincy and has been in fine form. Robinson said: “Now the transfer window has closed we’ve got a group of players who want to be here. We realise the situation we are in and everybody is pulling in the same direction. In every window there is unrest and unsettlement but now the transfer window has closed it has given us a platform. We know what we’ve got and what we have to do to pull Blackburn Rovers off the bottom.”
Venky’s, Blackburn’s India-based owners, have been the focus of supporters’ unrest for the majority of their time at the club but Robinson, who suffered relegation from the Premier League with his first club Leeds United, denies Rovers are in a similar predicament. “The difference here is that this is a stable club with a solid background. You are not coming into the dressing room each day wondering if players are still going to be there, as was the case at Leeds. When we went down with Leeds it was more about the financial situation, it was more like the Rangers situation than what we have here. Here we have got a group of players who want to be here. We’ve got a very solid foundation and I think we’ve got a very good chance of getting out of it.”
The transfer of Samba is not the only factor in Blackburn’s recent up-turn with Kean citing the clean sheet at Wolves as evidence of a maturing team. The Rovers manager said: “We’ve had our ups and downs as everybody knows but I can only look at our recent form and we have been playing with confidence and have a bit of consistency now. We’ve got a very young team with an average age of 22 and I think they are improving and maturing together. They are starting to gel and I think we are on the way up.”