Blackburn Rovers have sacked manager Michael Appleton.
There is always cause for concern when a club is the subject of a successful takeover, yet few Rovers fans could have envisaged just how bad the Venky’s have been since their arrival in October 2010. It took them less than two months to dismiss Sam Allardyce, who had the previous season led them to a tenth place finish in the Premier League table.
Martin O’Neill, Martin Jol, Sven Goran Eriksson and Rovers legend Alan Shearer were immediately linked with the job, but they instead turned to coach Steve Kean who was initially placed in caretaker charge. This was an unpopular decision at the time, yet more so in January when he was handed a contract until the summer of 2013.
As the winter transfer window opened there was fanciful talk of Ronaldinho, the Brazilian superstar, heading to Lancashire, and there was even speculation that David Beckham, the former Manchester United legend, could be lured from LA Galaxy. Instead, Roque Santa Cruz was brought back on loan from Manchester City, Jermaine Jones also arrived on a temporary basis, and two youngsters, Ruben Rochina and Mauro Formica, were signed.
When Allardyce was sacked, on the back of three defeats in five matches, they were in 13th position in the top-flight, five points clear of relegation. At the end of the season, under the leadership of Kean, they finished two places lower, and just four clear of the drop. But the Scot was assured that he would remain in charge, despite protests from fans which would increase throughout the course of the following campaign.
A 1-0 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic in May 2012 condemned Rovers to relegation from the Premier League, a fate which had been on the cards for much of the season. This was Kean’s 34th defeat from 65 games; Allardyce had lost the same amount of matches during his entire reign at the club, which took in 90 fixtures.
To the dismay of the supporters, the Venky’s kept faith the 44-year-old, and he remained in the dugout when their Championship campaign began in August. Rovers won four and drew two of their opening six matches, but a defeat at home to Middlesbrough was to prove Kean’s last in charge, claiming he had been forced to resign.
Henning Berg, who had helped Blackburn win the Premier League title in 1995 and the League Cup in 2002, was appointed despite his limited experience. The Norwegian won just one of his ten matches, and he was dismissed in December. His 57 days in charge is the shortest reign of a manager in the 137-year history of the club.
Next up was Michael Appleton, the former Manchester United youngster, who left Blackpool for Rovers after just 64 days in the Bloomfield Road hotseat. The 37-year-old, who cut his managerial teeth at troubled Portsmouth, was handed a two-and-a-half year contract, but he has lasted only 67 days at Ewood Park. Despite the memorable FA Cup win away at Arsenal, a run of just two wins in 11 league matches has placed Rovers in a dire fight against relegation, as they sit just four points ahead of the relegation zone.
Reserve team manager Gary Bowyer has been placed in caretaker charge, whilst the usual suspects are being mooted as potential successors to Appleton: Nigel Adkins, sacked from Southampton earlier this season, former Swindon Town boss Paolo di Canio, ex-Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo, and even Steve McClaren amongst them.
One other name being linked is Mark Hughes. The Welshman was in charge at Ewood Park from 2004 to 2008, during which time be earned a reputation as one of the best young coaches in the country. He has since been sacked by both Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers, whilst he walked out on Fulham in between these spells.
He led Blackburn to a first FA Cup semi-final in over 40 years in his first season in charge, and followed this up with a sixth-place finish in the Premier League in his second, in doing so leading them into the UEFA Cup. Hughes built an impressive squad during his time at the club, with the likes of Benny McCarthy, David Bentley, Santa-Cruz, Ryan Nelsen, Stephen Warnock and Christopher Samba all brought in for bargain prices.
Those days must already seem a distant memory to Rovers fans.