Steve Kean has shown strength of character

FOOTBALL managers and politicians are both in the public eye, and both have to put up with regular criticism, whether they like it or not.

It goes with the territory.

But there are limits. I no more approve of gratuitous insults against football managers, Steve Kean included, than I do against politicians.

I say two other things about Mr Kean.

One is that he has shown considerable strength of character in recent weeks.

The second is that, with a mainly young team, he has secured some remarkable results in recent days; the draw, away, against Liverpool; the fantastic win, away, against Manchester United; and the very fine result last Saturday when our ten-man team beat a determined Fulham 3 – 1.

I am happy to put on record that this was against my expectations of what I thought he, and the team, could manage.

If we could just win those six-pointers against the other teams at the bottom as well, we might still be in the Premier League next season, too.

The breathing space which these recent, better results give, should be a time for reflection by the club’s owners about how they can improve relations with the club’s many thousands of supporters.

I’ve been sitting in the same seats at the Blackburn End for at least the last 15 years. So have most of those around me.

They are a good cross-section of fans; and they don’t deserve some of the criticisms which have been made of them, either.

They are decent people, just deeply frustrated by an unnecessary absence of communication, and direction by the owners (which, by the by, has unfairly placed Mr Kean in the firing line).

Many of us have tried, so far without success, to make constructive contact with them. I live in hope that, despite recent difficulties, the owners will now positively engage with the fans and the community.

They would be pleasantly surprised by the result.

A moment’s thought should tell them that their interests are, in truth, the same as ours.

The electoral triumph of Giggs’ victory

Even though he plays for that lot down the road, only the most petty-minded of football fans would deny Ryan Giggs the honour of being this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

At a time when professional football sometimes suffers from a cynical edge – the theatrical dives of so many strikers, for instance, or the infamous Thierry Henry handball – Giggs is a great example of the true spirit of sport, and a great example to so many youngsters as well.

Giggs is a one club man, making his debut for Man Utd in 1991. It’s not impossible that he’ll still be playing at the top level on the 20th anniversary of that occasion.

Had he been English he would no doubt have played at several World Cups, and would have been in the running for a place in the squad in 2010. Not that he is short of achievements – 11 Premier League titles, European cups, FA Cups, League Cups. He was the footballers’ choice for Young Player of the Year twice. And he is probably the greatest ever player to turn out for Wales.

There were some who said he didn’t deserve to win the BBC award, that compared to the likes of Jensen Button and Jessica Ennis, he hadn’t done enough in a single year to rival their achievements.

Certainly the achievements of Button and Ennis were worthy of high praise (particularly, in my mind, the heptathlon world champion Ennis), but the award to Giggs, in a year when he won his 11th Premier League winner’s medal and continued to perform outstandingly at the top level, was well merited both for this year and all his years at the top.

After all, to have played for a team like United for nigh on 20 years is a quite remarkable achievement.

But his triumph on Sunday was also victory for the sheer love of sport.

Asked for the secret of his success, he said simply “Desire, looking after myself”.

He appears to love the game as much as he did when he was kicking a ball around as a youngster.

And there is something wonderfully exuberant about Giggs’ play which sums up the essence of sport – free-flowing, inventive, energetic and at times breathtakingly brilliant. That in celebration and in private he is often poker-faced almost adds to the allure of seeing him in full flow on the pitch.

Winning the award was also a great achievement in itself. Giggs is the first non-English footballer to pick up the trophy, it having previously been won by Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Bobby Moore (all in the wake, incidentally, of World Cup heroics).

He’s also, let’s face it, a Manchester United player. They have, of course, a big following.

There are also many who are less than charitable about them (me, on some days!).

Yet Giggs won enough support from non-United supporters who recognise his ability and enormous contribution to the game.

In terms of an electoral triumph, that’s pretty impressive!