A fresh storm was brewing at Blackburn Rovers last night after controversial comments from their director of football, while the team were pre-season training in Cork, ended with him being forced to make an apology after several first team players threatened to walk out.
Steve Kean’s team played out a low-key friendly with Cork City at Turner’s Cross but the real story was behind the scenes as a player revolt further disrupted their preparations ahead of the new campaign, which kicks-off on Saturday afternoon away to Ipswich Town.
Shebby Singh, the chief adviser at Ewood Park, had claimed on Friday night at a supporters’ Q&A session that Kean would be sacked if the team lost three games in a row, much to the delight of the fans who have consistently called for the manager’s head in the past 12 months. Singh’s comments left many of the players irate and after holding a meeting yesterday morning, the squad had threatened to submit transfer requests en masse unless he withdrew his comments.
Yet after last night’s game Singh said he sat down with the players to clear the air. “I had a meeting with the players and the manager and I apologised because I realised my bluntness is not something many people can accept,” he said.
“But at the end of the day it’s a situation where I have a responsibility and I accept that I will upset people from time to time. I’m trying to build bridges but sometimes I have to say my piece as well.
“I’m caught in between and trying my best. I’m not going to be able to please both sides but hopefully over the next few weeks both parties will find middle ground and enjoy our football.”
Kean, meanwhile, refused to answer when asked if the issue could be put to bed. Singh flew in to watch yesterday’s game and flew straight back out, with the players refusing to entertain him — even going as far as not leaving him on the team bus.
Morten Gamst Pedersen, though already on the transfer list, was believed to be one of the most outspoken against Singh, which is unsurprising considering the club’s Director of Football said players like Pedersen are the reason “teams fail” and that he is “of no use to the team”.
Indeed the 30-year-old had plans to board a plane back to Norway after last night’s game, raising further questions about his future at Ewood Park.
Pedersen certainly went some way to showing Singh that he’s not gone past it with a trademark free-kick from 30 yards on the hour mark, curling a sumptuous strike into the bottom left corner of the net for Rovers’ third of the afternoon in the 3-1 win.
He was surrounded by team-mates after the goal and they acted out a ‘zimmer frame’ celebration, pointed towards the Malaysian in the stands.
That was the highlight of a typically drab friendly clash, with Colin Kazim-Richards adding a brace for the visitors against what was effectively a Cork reserves side.
The Leesiders face St Patrick’s Athletic tonight in a crucial league clash so Tommy Dunne decided to rest his entire starting 11. They did take the lead though, a calamitous error from Paul Robinson after spilling a long-range attempt from Kalen Spillane affording Andy O’Connell the opportunity to tap home after only six minutes.
But Kazim-Richards, who was making his debut for Blackburn after joining on-loan for the season from Galatasaray, levelled on 18 with an acrobatic volley after Bradley Orr fizzed an inviting cross in from the right.
Kazim-Richards then gave Rovers the lead six minutes into the second half with another straightforward finish when Fabio Nunes found him with a cute ball in from the left.
CORK CITY: White (D Browne 84); Horgan, Kavanagh, Spillane (Kennedy 84), Carroll; S Kenny (Lehane 84), Lenihan (A Browne 71), Buckley (R Kenny 71), K Quinn (Hannafin 71); O’Connell (D Morrissey 63), Parker (P Quinn 71).
BLACKBURN ROVERS: Robinson; Orr, Dann, Givet, Lowe (Morris 71); Formica (Edinho 84), Etuhu (O’Sullivan 84), Pedersen (Jorge 63), Nunes (Ribeiro 71); Kazim-Richards (Goodwillie 84), Gomes (Dunn 63).
Referee: P Sutton (Clare).
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