The Blackburn manager is turning a deaf ear to the fans' criticism while the club's owners try to focus on the longer term
Steve Kean got off lightly at Portman Road. Such was the din at Ipswich's late equaliser that any cries of "Kean out" from the 1,062 Blackburn fans went unheard. This was not an encouraging afternoon for the manager, supervising Rovers' first match outside the Premier League for 11 years. Though they led for an hour, they were never on top and increasingly pinned back by a midfield quartet of 19- to 21-year-olds. Paul Jewell of Ipswich could take greater heart from the 1-1 draw.
"Kean out" has been a common refrain for most of the time since Kean has been in. In those 20 months the club have gone from Premier League comfort under Sam Allardyce to lower league crisis under Kean. As a coach his credentials are well proven. As a first-time manager he has come up short, which is no excuse for the level of abuse directed at him by fans. What some have condemned as arrogance others would commend as brave dignity in the face of deplorable behaviour.
Kean's elevation raised eyebrows from the outset. He shared an agent, Jerome Anderson, with Venky's, Indian poultry giants who had bought the club the previous month. Venky's have come under similar fire, a secondary target to Kean, being more remote. Without them Rovers' fans might have been looking at another Portsmouth or Rangers. Such is gratitude.
Contrary to terrace chants, Venky's do know what they are doing and will go on doing it. When doubts were cast in May, one of the chairperson Anuradha Desai's brothers said: "Our entire family have fallen in love with the club. We cannot sell it." Last week the other confirmed the commitment as well as their experience of such investment and antagonism. He said in so many words that, when you have been confronted by 50,000 chicken farmers, what are 20,000 football fans? Those fans should be flattered that Venky's embrace Blackburn in a portfolio that includes the famous old Bombay Cricket Club and Sachin Tendulkar. Verbal terrorism will get them nowhere.
The depth of disaffection is measurable. Season tickets sales are down from 15,000 to 7,000 and corporate clients from 250 to eight. The Prince's Trust, whom Venky's were proud to have as shirt sponsor, has pulled out, leaving those shirts as bare as they were when these sides last met on the first day 50 years ago, when Ipswich were champions and the score was 3-3.
Though Venky's put Rovers on a stable financial footing and set up their challenge for a return to the Premier League, they have made a rod for their own back by poor communications. They crow not, neither do they cluck. They do things quietly and getting Ian Silvester, formerly at Liverpool, as football secretary and Derek Shaw from Preston as managing director promises well. Colin Hendry, too, a fans' favourite, has joined the coaching staff.
But much pre-season good was undone when the club's new global adviser, Shebby Singh, a former Malaysian international, told supporters Kean would face the sack if Rovers lost three successive games and cast aspersions about Morten Gamst Pedersen, a veteran of eight years' service. An official club target followed Singh's: 16 points from the first seven games. That means five wins in six now. "We have one goal: promotion," Kean said, adding with Churchillian gravity: "It is our focus; it is our drive; it is our determination."
One goal was all they got and not enough. Pedersen's corner was straight as a pensioner's stick, Scott Dann headed back and Colin Kazim-Richards headed in, both unmarked. Kazim-Richards might have settled matters before the hour but, running clear, he shot prodigally over to sustain Ipswich's hope in the heat as the new men from Fulham, Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu, tired and fell deeper. By the end Rovers, with Dann and Gaël Givet showing Hendry-like last-ditch defiance, could be grateful not to have conceded more than Jason Lowe's own-goal.
Kean felt "the fans have seen a spirited, organised side" and smilingly added, on inquiry, that his "skin is quite thick". Fans, whether they had seen it or not, resumed their electronic abuse. They may scrap for wish-bones but Venky's, not they, will see Kean out. And results will determine it.