Relegation could rip Blackburn squad apart

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After Blackburn Rovers were condemned to the Championship following their limp 1-0 defeat against fellow relegation strugglers Wigan Athletic last night, under-fire manager Steve Kean has vowed to fight on, and refuses to walk away from Ewood Park.

The regular scenes of protest and collective vitriol from the club's disgruntled supporters may not be enough to push the stubborn Scot towards the exit door, but it's unlikely the same can be said for the players.

"I am not going to walk away. We're devastated but we'll live to fight another day," said Kean in a post match interview. "I will sit down with the owners and discuss a plan on how to assemble a squad to help us bounce back up straight away.

"We need to try to keep the majority of the squad together and add one or two experienced players that can help us. I am a big believer in my own ability and a big believer in the guys I have got in the dressing room.

"I have spoken to each and every one of them and they are devastated but I can't fault their commitment. I am convinced we can go on and build a side that can move us forward again - but this is a massive setback."

The result rounds off a dismal campaign that has been attributed primarily to the mismanagement of the club from the top down, starting with Indian owners Venky's, following their £43million takeover back in November 2010.

Venky's first major decision set the tone for the turmoil that would follow, sacking Sam Allardyce just over a month into their tenure, with the team sitting comfortably 13th in the table. His departure was followed two months later by the resignation of executive chairman John Williams.

A little over a year has passed since Williams left Ewood Park, but Blackburn's decline has been nothing short of dramatic, and the club could now face an exodus of players, determined to prolong their stay in the Premier League.

Junior Hoilett has attracted widespread interest, with the Canadian international forward's contract set to expire at the end of the season, while midfielder Steven N'Zonzi is another player to have caught the eye.

Meanwhile, the evergreen Yakubu, whose 16 league goals this term - the best ratio of his 10 Premier League seasons - weren't enough to save Rovers from the drop, could also be a target for clubs in the lower reaches of the division.

Former striker Kevin Gallacher, who was part of the Blackburn squad that won the Premier League title in 1995, fears that there will be numerous clubs knocking on the door to take the Lancashire club's leading stars off their hands.

"Junior is not holding off signing a contract for no reason," he told BBC Sport. "He wants to see what the future holds and now we know the club's future is in the Championship. No disrespect to Junior but I think he's gone and I am sure he will attract offers from the Premier League and also abroad because he is a real talent.

"You then worry that people like Paul Robinson may go as well. He has been a fantastic goalkeeper for Blackburn and you wonder whether another Premier League club will come in for someone of that experience and calibre.

"Gael Givet has been a stalwart but the concern for Blackburn fans will be that these players will want to play at the highest level rather than drop down a division with Rovers. There may be others who feel the same."

Gallacher said that the reality is Rovers had been in serious trouble for some time, and added that the sale of key figures earlier this season is what proved to be the final nail in their coffin.

Central defensive duo Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba were both sold in January and February, whilst the departure of senior stars Brett Emerton, Keith Andrews and Jason Roberts has also proved costly.

"I'm afraid relegation has had a feeling of inevitability about it for a while," he explained. "They lost their better experienced players - good players and big influences in the dressing room.

"When you do that and don't replace them then you can end up in trouble and sadly for Blackburn it has ended up with relegation."

The merciless protests continued long after the final whistle in Blackburn last night, and as the squad prepares to travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in a now meaningless final day fixture, the club is facing the uncertainty of life in a lower tier.

Many supporters may have already resigned themselves to their relegation fate, but the biggest fear now is that further player sales could mean that this is not the end of the downward spiral.

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