Don't be chicken! Singh the enforcer vows Blackburn's a good job for somebody
23:27 GMT, 11 October 2012
Shebby Singh walks over to Steve Kean’s old desk at Blackburn’s training ground and points to a motivational magazine’s tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson pinned up on the noticeboard.
‘What an interesting article — pity he didn’t put any of Ferguson’s methods into practice,’ said Blackburn’s mischievous global advisor.
That is the beauty of Singh. Every conversation, no matter how serious or light-hearted, always has a sting in the tail.
Bring it on: Shebby Singh does not want anyone to be discouraged from applying for the job
Singh is the eyes and ears of Blackburn’s owners, Venky’s, director of football in all but name and carrying the responsibility of restoring the club to the Barclays Premier League.
A former professional player in Malaysia, he quit as a TV pundit in Singapore with ESPN to take up his Ewood Park role in June.
In the mornings he looks like one of the coaches, marching on to the pitches at Brockhall Village in Blackburn-branded training gear, bearing his initials, and muddy boots.
‘When I got here it was like a holiday home,’ he said. ‘Too many fat cats who were overpaid and underperforming. That’s changing.
‘I watch training but I don’t want to be the manager. I’m here to support the players.’
After lunch, he puts on a suit and drives over to Ewood for an afternoon of conference calls and emails with his Venky’s bosses at their enormous chicken plant in Pune, India.
‘Everyone knows there has been a situation between the owners and the fans and the previous manager, but they are on our side now,’ he said.
Discussion: Neil Ashton with Singh
‘You cannot insult the owners because
they are chicken farmers. You will always get people with their sick
minds and silly jokes but it does get upsetting. You do not insult
someone’s profession or make fun of it, that is unacceptable.’
Singh himself has been fair game since he told Blackburn fans Kean would be sacked if he lost three games in a row in the Championship and referred to Morten Gamst Pedersen as a ‘pensioner’. He is aware of his reputation but his enthusiasm and passion for this unusual role rubs off on everyone with whom he comes into contact.
He stops, smiles, shakes hands and talks to everyone, from bumping into caretaker manager Eric Black in the corridor to the ladies working on reception.
Gone: Steve Kean has left
‘The atmosphere around the place has been lifted, there is a feeling of relief,’ said Singh. ‘Against Wolves in our last game there were 4-5,000 extra fans and they are behind the team again. I haven’t heard a single grouse or complaint from them and they are more understanding.
‘I can safely say the worst is behind us. We went through a difficult period in the club’s history but we are over that.’
Kean left the night before Blackburn drew 1-1 against Charlton on September 29 and Singh has the power to appoint the next manager.
Tim Sherwood, who captained the team which won the Premier League title in 1995, tops a list of possibles that includes wild card Henrik Larsson.
Singh said: ‘We don’t want anyone to be
frightened or worried about coming here. The objective is to build a
team but it’s not like going to a supermarket and picking a manager off
‘They don’t have to worry, I’m not
going to be the manager, I wouldn’t insult other managers or coaches. I
am in a supportive role. I’m not here to breathe down the new manager’s
neck, I’ll be his biggest supporter.
‘The new manager must understand he
will not have two or three seasons to build the club — he will be under
pressure straight away.
‘If he doesn’t get it right we will have a chat about things. He doesn’t have to worry about losing three games in a row at the start — because he’s new we will give him a few more.’
Managing Blackburn should be a prestigious job but Kean’s replacement will inherit a team playing Championship football for the first time in 11 years.
Last year’s 49.9million wage bill has been swollen by the 40,000-a-week contract signed by Jordan Rhodes in August and debts of 36m increased with the striker’s 8m transfer from Huddersfield.
They are ninth in the Championship and it is not good enough for a club with Rhodes, Pedersen, Paul Robinson, Nuno Gomes, Danny Murphy and David Dunn at their disposal.
Chance: A new boss will be given time to settle – but not too much
Venky’s have promised financial support, footing the bills in return for a manager who can win promotion this season. That is Singh’s immediate target but convincing fans who waved ‘Venky’s out’ banners last season is another priority.
Sir Jack Walker, the steel magnate who pumped money into his hometown team, is the benchmark at Blackburn. Nearly 20 years on from that title- winning team and 12 years after he passed away, Walker is still revered in the area.
Singh said: ‘When there is a change in ownership there are expectations and only time will allow my bosses to be spoken of in the same breath as Sir Jack. That is the owners’ ambition and, if we can surpass it eventually, that would be something.
‘Managers want to be remembered like Sir Matt Busby or Bill Shankly, owners want to leave a legacy for the supporters and the town.
‘We hope we can stand alongside him. We already have a stand in Ronnie Clayton’s name. If we get promoted, it will be too soon to think of naming “The Shebby Stand”.’
If they don’t make it, he knows it may be his last stand.