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Blackburn's Steve Kean is having to learn fast as a manager

When the Indian chicken company, Venky's, bought Blackburn Rovers, sacked the manager, Sam Allardyce, and installed his third-in-command, Steve Kean, with a "vision" to be a fifth-placed Premier League club, they did not quite have in mind where Rovers are today.

Blackburn's Steve Kean is having to learn fast as a manager In 14th place, one point above the relegation zone, they face Ian Holloway's Blackpool, whose bounce has also gone flat recently, knowing they must win to avoid a genuine fight for Premier League survival.

Kean, bullish and optimistic this week, insisted: "We're not nervy. You can enjoy games like this." After a two-week break, he said: "We can't wait to get out there."

He did, though, admit to feeling "pressure, in terms of getting the points" and, reflecting on his own sudden rise, to having found it "difficult".

Kean's promotion has been a remarkable twist of this Premier League club takeover by faraway owners, particularly as his agent, Jerome Anderson, was also advising Venky's. Previously first-team coach under Allardyce and the then assistant manager Neil McDonald, Kean ushered Rovers to three victories in his first six matches, including his high point, the 3-1 whipping of Liverpool that finished off Roy Hodgson's tenure at Anfield.

Ewood Park was close to festive then, and with Rovers seventh after the 2-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion on 23 January, sceptical fans could wonder that there might be some method in the vision. The captain, Chris Samba, and Ryan Nelsen swallowed the objections they had voiced to Allardyce's summary dispatch and signed new contracts, and Rovers, advised by Anderson, introduced four players in January, including the returning Roque Santa Cruz on loan from Manchester City and young prospects Rubén Rochina from Barcelona and the Argentinian midfielder Mauro Formica.

Since that victory, though, Rovers have taken only one point, losing five other matches, sending the club down seven places to level on points with Blackpool, who, with just one win in nine games, are a place below on goal difference.

Kean this week talked up Rovers' still solid record at home, where they have conceded just 11 goals, the fourth best in the Premier League after Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, and the boost of a likely return for the young star defender Phil Jones, three months after a serious cartilage injury.

"We have a strong mindset at Ewood Park," Kean said. "The fans can help to create a siege mentality and an expectancy that we are going to win. The good thing is we have five home games left, and three away."

Kean has been buoyed by the statement of support he received earlier this month from the Venky's chairman, Anuradha Desai, stressing it was not the classic poisoned vote of confidence, but her reaction to media speculation that the new owners were considering his position. He stressed he enjoys the owners' support, flying to India once a month – they have met just once at Blackburn – and talking "regularly" on the telephone.

Since Desai's statement, he said: "I've spoken to her the same amount of times, her tone and her backing and the way she has been enthusiastic have been consistent, so that's positive."

Yet amid his relentlessly upbeat messages and optimism for today's match, Kean did admit it has been difficult to cope with the huge responsibilities loaded on by being elevated from coach to manager.

"The transfer window was an unbelievable experience. Not only were we trying to get new faces in, but it was all the re-contracts, the individual renegotiation; I didn't realise how complicated they were, plus the ones coming out and going in. At that time we were trying to win games as well, so that transfer window was really hectic. It has been a massive learning experience."

Handling the media and managing his relationship with the owners have also been new challenges. "It's been difficult but I wouldn't say it has been stressful because I have people to help," he said. "It's not as bad as you think, going to India – you go, get your meeting done, and come back."

His prime strategy for dealing with it all is to go where he remains most confident – coaching. "You cope by realising the bit you are good at. I always think if you are going through a hard time then you go out on the training ground. As soon as you can get your points across and you can see it has clicked and the players have got the point, any stress or frustration goes."

Describing the Rovers players' mood as good and "together" Kean emphasised that he is confident of victory today. "Hopefully the fans, like they always do at Ewood, can get behind us and roar us on. We get another three points and it'll take us up four or five places hopefully."

He did not care even to contemplate where Rovers might be if they lose.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by David Conn, for The Guardian on Friday 18th March 2011 22.00 Europe/London

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