For some, the January transfer window is seen as nothing but a hindrance; for others it provides an opportunity to breath new blood in to a squad that may be missing a little something, or perhaps more than just a little.
For a club fighting relegation at the turn of the year, the winter window can prove to be a pivotal period in deciding their eventual fate.
After a huge away win against Manchester United in Blackburn’s last league game of 2011, Steve Kean will have entered the new year with mixed emotions. No doubt buzzing on the back of his sides 3-2 success at Old Trafford but a little twitchy knowing the transfer window had reopened.
Sure the window would provide the Rovers boss with an opportunity to strengthen his squad in their bid for Premiership survival but an underlying worry will have dogged the Scot knowing he would face a massive battle holding on to his star players.
The dark cloud that has descended on Blackburn’s season and massive unrest among supporters stems from false promises made by the Venky’s Group when they bought the club in November 2010.
Prior to the January window opening, the controversial Indian owners vowed to do everything they could to finance the arrival of at least four new Premier League players, with Kean intending to buy in the earliest part of January so the new additions can have an immediate impact.
With the door now firmly shut on another transfer window how did Steve Kean and the Blackburn hierarchy fair in the market? More hot air from the Venky’s and Kean or did they manage to deliver a promise for change?
Four new players HAVE arrived at Ewood. So Kean and Venky’s have delivered this time around? Not quite.
Through the door at Ewood Park are Tim Payne, Anthony Modeste, Marcus Olsson and Bradley Orr. None of which are proven Premier League players, nor did they arrive in the early part of the January window. Hardly the established sort of names Rovers fans would have been hoping for to wet the appetite.
It quickly became apparent in the early part of January that the Rovers boss would have no significant transfer funds available to spend on new players due to the clubs £18m pre-tax loss, as well as calls for the debt to be reduced by the banks, as reported in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph.
Selling the clubs prized assets would be the only way to fund a rebuilding of the squad unless bargain basement signings, free transfers or loan deals could be arranged.
New Zealander, Tim Payne, is one of the names captured by Steve Kean in the market. Regarded as his country’s hottest prospect, Payne impressed after undergoing numerous trials at Blackburn’s Brockhole training ground and was offered a 2-and-a-half year deal when he turned 18 in January – his first professional contract. Payne’s compatriot, 34-year-old Ryan Nelson, was instrumental in bringing the teenage striker to the club from ASB Premiership outfit Waitakere United.
Payne may have plenty of potential but surely not what Rovers require as they prepare for a relegation dogfight. One to look out for in the future.
Incidentally, Nelson has had his contract terminated by mutual consent at the end of the window and leaves the Blues after over six years service. The experienced central defender has signed for Tottenham on a free transfer.
Jason Roberts (34) and Keith Andrews (31) have also been shown the Ewood Park exit door as neither player were featuring in Steve Kean’s plans. Roberts left for Championship side Reading for a fee in the region of £500k, and Andrews, who spent the first half of the season at Ipswich, has joined West Brom on a free transfer after handing in a transfer request.
Bradley Orr, a 29-year-old full-back, who had grown out of favour with newly promoted QPR, was drafted in by Kean on deadline day. The English defender made just 6 Premier League appearances for Rangers this season and the January arrival of Nedum Onuoha signalled the end to his short spell at Loftus Road. Kean pointed out the valuable experience that Orr can offer as a major influence behind his signing.
Another of Kean’s deadline day captures was the free transfer of Marcus Olsson from Halmstads BK and joins his twin brother Martin at Ewood Park. The 23-year-old Swede can operate on the left flank or in a more forward central role. The brother’s trialed together at Rovers in 2005 but only Martin was offered a contract.
Following significant development over recent time, Marcus was rewarded earlier this year with his first senior caps for the Swedish national side, and now Kean has given the forward an opportunity to step up another level by offering him a 2-and-a-half year Premier League contract.
Of the new additions, Anthony Modeste, a loan signing from Bordeaux, will fill Rovers fans with the most intrigue. The 23-year-old forward, who has represented France at Under-21 level, joined the Ligue 1 side from Nice in the summer of 2010 for €3.5m. Modeste has since failed to make the sort of impact that was expected of him finding the net on 10 occasions in his first season and just 3 this time around.
According to Sky Sports, the Rovers boss spoke of the Frenchman’s attributes in an interview with Blackburn Rovers TV.
“He’s an attacking player who very much likes to play on the shoulders of central defenders,” said Kean.
“He’s got pace, he’s got power, and he is technically very good. He can get a goal and he can link the play, so I think he’s an exciting player.
Like most French players he has got good technical ability and he can play with his head up.”
Modeste could prove to be an ideal partner for Rovers top goalscorer Yakubu. However, the French forward is only on loan until the end of the season with Bordeaux emphasising that there’d be no option to buy in the summer.
Although the aforementioned names are relative unknowns the January transfer window has been of relative success for Steve Kean. Perhaps his most significant dealings in the market was his determination to hang on to key players.
The Rovers boss will have been initially resigned to the possibility of losing his captain Chris Samba and young star Junior Hoilett but his firm stance has seen the duo remain at the club.
Samba handed in a written transfer request and expressed his discontent at how the club was being run. Kean rejected the powerful centre-back’s request and moved quickly to warn off potential suitors after receiving two offers from an unnamed club. Tottenham boss, Harry Redknapp, was heavily linked with the Congolese national.
The sale of a key player, such as Samba, could have had a detrimental effect in sending out the wrong message to the rest of the squad, which in turn could have been the catalyst to other senior players wanting to leave. While some may applaud Kean for his stubbornness, there is risk in taking such a stance – it can go one way or the other.
It is often better to let a player leave if they no longer wish to be at the club as divides in the dressing room can begin to form creating further unrest. Samba, as captain of the club, is clearly an influential character and any ill-feeling he has can be contagious to the rest of the squad.
The flip side to the argument is that the 27-year-old regains his focus and continues giving 100 per-cent in Rovers’ battle for Premiership survival from now until the end of the season.
The future of Junior Hoilett will have been of concern for the Blackburn boss too. The 21-year-old’s contract expires in the summer and rumours were circulating that a number of Premier League clubs were ready to swoop. Kean did indicate that he may have to sell his nippy winger and that the youngster held all the cards with only 6-months remaining on his current deal, but no bids were forthcoming. Talks of a new deal between Hoilett and the club had ground to a halt during the current season which suggested the Canadian could be set to leave but he remains a Blackburn player.
Kean will now risk losing Hoilett for nothing more than a compensation fee at the end of the season if they can’t agree on a new contract.
We may now end up seeing Samba and Hoilett leaving Ewood in the summer, and for much less money than Rovers could have acquired in the January transfer window but, there is more value in holding on to the star duo for the remainder of the season. If they can both help to preserve the clubs Premier League status, it is a gamble well worth taking as long as they remain professional and focused.
While Rovers dealings in the January transfer market will be considered as a relative success, the inactive approach of bringing in established players, whether it be due to Venky’s lack of cash or a lack of will to invest, will be yet another cause for concern among the Blues faithful.
Steve Kean should be applauded for his determined stance to hang on to his key players, especially as we live in a time where player power is at its most prominent. However, deeper issues lie beneath the surface at Ewood. If a relegation scrap wasn’t enough to worry about, Rovers supporters continue to protest against the Indian owners who have failed to deliver on a succession of promises.
Such protests have been widely misinterpreted by those less informed – preservation of the clubs legacy left by the great Jack Walker is the agenda here. The Venky’s Group are sucking the heartbeat out of a town and dragging a proud club through the mire. Something will eventually have to give – Steve Kean and Rovers supporters will be hoping it isn’t the Premier League trap-door giving way underneath them.
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