Blackburn deny Maradona link

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LONDON, December 16- That Blackburn Rovers felt obliged to deny a report indicating Diego Maradona was heading to Ewood Park to replace sacked manager Sam Allarydce tells you a lot about modern football.There was a time when such a suggestion would have been deemed unworthy of any comment except a few raised eyebrows; now hardly anyone bats an eyelid.

After all, nothing is too outlandish for the Premier League or indeed a global game where Qatar, a country with hardly any track record in football, will stage the 2022 World Cup.

Allardyce, in charge for nearly two years, was fired on Monday despite Rovers being relatively well placed at 13th in the table, five points above the relegation zone.

His departure came less than a month after Venky’s, an India-based poultry firm, purchased Blackburn for 23 million pounds (30 million dollars).

There was a time where the only link between a football team and poultry came in the shape of a local meat supplier such as Bob Lord, a Burnley butcher who was chairman of his hometown club for 26 years.

Lord was by no means always a popular figure but it was inconceivable to imagine him anywhere else.

Blackburn, local north-west rivals of Burnley, have known what it is to have great wealth compared to other clubs. Bankrolled by the millions of late former owner Jack Walker, a lifelong Rovers fan, they won the Premier League in 1995.

But Venky’s ambitions for Rovers appear to be beyond even that of the club’s most ardent supporters, with chairman Anuradha Desai saying: "We want good football and Blackburn to be fourth or fifth in the league or even better."

For former Blackburn captain Tim Sherwood, who skippered Blackburn to the league title 15 years ago, present-day football economics have put another championship and most likely the top four beyond Rovers’ reach.

"They will never win the league again – that would take (the wealth of) Roman Abramovich (Chelsea’s owner) and Sheikh Mansour (Manchester City’s owner) combined. They are good enough to get safety every year and knock on the door of six, seven and eight in the Premier League."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson – whose 26-year reign and counting at Old Trafford makes him the last top-flight boss to have a real ‘grip’ on his club – detects another problem with the set-up at Blackburn.

There have been reports Venky’s are using Kentaro, a Swiss sports agency linked to leading British agent Jerome Anderson, to advise them on transfers.

Ferguson, who labelled the sacking of his friend Allardyce as "absolutely ridiculous, told American radio station Sirius XM: "It’s incredible. The game has gone mad.

"Apparently they (Blackburn’s owners) have taken on an agent to advise them how to run the club, which players to use and pick. It’s unbelievable, very odd, and it tells you everything about the modern game."

And nor is it simply a matter of foreigners who don’t ‘understand’ English football finding themselves in the firing line.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley — whose southern English roots mean he is often accused of having installed a ‘Cockney (London) Mafia’ at St James’ Park by disaffected fans – appears to be the latest homegrown businessmen whose sure touch in making money in the commercial world disappears when becoming involved with a football club.

How else to explain his decision last week to sack Chris Hughton, a man who had guided newly promoted Newcastle to 11th in the table.

He then replaced him with Alan Pardew who, although having the experience Newcastle said Hughton lacked, has a track record that is far from convincing in suggesting he will do a significantly better job.

Mind you, when the likes of strikers Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez threaten to leave Manchester United and Manchester City respectively despite colossal weekly salaries well beyond what most fans earn in a year, is it any wonder club owners sometimes lose their bearings as well?

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