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Shebby to give his all for Blackburn Rovers
“PROMOTION, or die trying.”
A quick glance at the signature on Shebby Singh’s Blackberry Messenger account shows the controversial Malaysian knows what he wants at Blackburn Rovers.
Given the unusual title of ‘global advisor’ when troubled owners Venky’s charged him with the responsibility of rescuing a crisis club, the 51-year-old has already made it clear he is ready to do what it takes to achieve their dreams.
Ahead of today’s Champion-ship opener at Ipswich Town, Singh has already ruffled a few feathers. He has upset players, the manager and left many fans sceptical about his role at the club.
The former TV pundit was the first to admit he had over-stepped the mark last weekend, although remains adamant he was misinterpreted, but he also insists he hasn’t come to Ewood Park to make friends.
But despite posturing behind the scenes for his removal, Singh’s position is not thought to be under threat.
He said: “I had a meeting with Madam on May 30 with Balaji, Mr Desai and Steve and every morning when I wake up I recall that moment. That is the motivation when Madam said ‘Shebby do what you have to do, I want promotion’.
“It is going to take a long time for some people at the club to accept they have got an in-house pundit as a global advisor, who has been sent here to oversee the present and future of the club.
“I have never been too popular and I don’t think anything will change but I will get the job done. I am the owners’ representative. I have been sent here by the family to get promotion, as simple as that. Get the club promoted.
“On my Blackberry Messenger it says ‘promotion or die trying’. I take my responsibility very, very seriously and, along the way, if people get upset and think that is not the train they want to be on... I will not push anyone off the train, nor will I convince anyone they should stay.”
Singh’s route into English football has raised a few eyebrows. After a playing career in Malaysia, he has spent the past 15 years on Asian TV, and also spent the last year as the Venky’s head of football development in Asia.
His arrival at Ewood was a bolt from the blue though as he was charged with the almost impossible job of bringing a broken club back together.
“My son Soniljut is my go-to man. We were having a chat about this and he said, ‘Do you know what you’ve done? You’ve walked into the most impossible job in the world!’ That’s my son’s opinion of it.
“Yes, it’s a big big challenge but the bigger the better. It’s better to have tried and failed than never have tried at all, that’s always been the way I approach life.
“The first thing I did when I came here was to try and bring the fans back.
“From a footballer’s point of view, you don’t want to play in front of empty stadiums, and the last thing you want to do is play in front of your own fans who are not on your side. I’m trying to rebuild bridges and to regain the supporters’ trust and confidence.”
Singh’s forthright comments have certainly caused a stir.
Players at Ewood are up in arms about perceived criticism of Morten Gamst Peder-sen and he has said sorry for any personal remarks about the player and manager Steve Kean. He is standing by comments made about Kean losing his job if he loses three games in a row though. No one should be surprised, after all, he called for Kean to go as a pundit just a few months ago.
He said: “The club has come down, Steve was the man in charge when the club came down. Steve is the man in charge at the moment and we need to go back up. “Madam watched me on television when I was in Asia and knew what I was thinking, what I was feeling, what I was saying. At the end of the day, the owners have made this purchase, this commit-ment, but it is down to the soldiers. The soldiers can make the owners look good, or otherwise.
“What happened over the weekend, my bluntness is too sharp for England. Sometimes there are situations where indirectly, in the heat of the moment, or tongue in cheek, you get it wrong.
“Obviously a couple of things I said didn’t go down well and when I’m wrong I’m the first to put my hands up and say I am sorry.
“But I did not call Pedersen a pensioner. It was misinterpreted.
“I certainly don’t think he is.”
So what does the future have in store for Rovers fans?
“A lot of people have underestimated the family,” said Singh. “There is a way forward.
“It’s not the end of everything. Yes, there’s a lot of a hurt which everybody feels. Financially, the club has been hit but there is very strong resolve now.
“I think this season you will see my bosses here more often. We’ve discussed this and visibility is very important.
“I would never use the word naive towards my bosses because they run a conglomerate, an empire. With their other business entities, they trust people they put in place to get results.
“But this being a totally new business, they went about it the same way, putting their trust in a group of people to make sure the business was a success, but this is a totally different business and it’s been a very difficult transition period and a very hurtful period as well for my bosses.
“Subsequently the reaction now is proving that there is stronger resolve and there is a better and deeper understanding, and that’s very important.
“The owners aren’t standing still and will never stand still in ensuring this becomes another successful business.”