What a difference six weeks make. It says much for the progress under Steve Kean during his short time in charge that, after leading Blackburn to their highest league position for two-and-a-half years on Sunday, he was able to discuss Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba signing new contracts.
No-one was more vocal in their opposition to new owners Venky's sacking Sam Allardyce and replacing him with Kean last month than Allardyce's two lieutenants.
Gift of the Gab: Gabriel Tamas (30) hands Blackburn the lead with a glorious headed own goal
But in the week that Kean's appointment was ratified by a new long-term deal, and on the day that Big Sam returned to the club for the first time as a Sky TV pundit, the new Rovers boss could measure his progress as much by the change of heart in his senior players as Blackburn's rise to seventh place in the Barclays Premier League.
Ronaldinho or Beckham might not be joining Blackburn, but Kean knows the significance of getting his club captain and team skipper to sign on the dotted line.
Wrong end: Tamas attempts to clear with a header but the ball ends up in his own net to put Blackburn in front
There has been a notable changeamong the club's supporters as well. The same people who demonstratedoutside the gates, suspecting Kean of colluding with the owners inAllardyce's departure, were chanting 'Keano, Keano, give us a wave' onSunday.
The Scotduly obliged and with Blackburn well on the way to his third league winin charge and Allardyce looking on, it must have sounded particularlysweet.
Rocket: Hoilett rifles home to double Blackburn's advantage early in the second half at Ewood Park
'There wasconfusion early on when everything turned out like it did but there hasnever been negativity at the training ground,' said Kean, who gavedebuts to loan signings Roque Santa Cruz and Jermaine Jones yesterday.
'Therewere rumours the players are unsettled but to tie down Samba and Nelsenwould be fantastic for us. Ryan has signed for the rest of his careerand we're hopeful of putting a new contract together in 24 hours forChris. That would be massive for us.'
Victorydid not come easily on Sunday. Blackburn were grateful for a calamitousown goal by West Brom defender Gabriel Tamas and a wonderful strike byDavid Hoilett, as well as superb goalkeeping by Paul Robinson andreferee Mark Clattenburg's baffling decision to deny the visitors apenalty.
Instead,Clattenburg awarded West Brom a free-kick on the edge of the box, eventhough Jones's foul on Peter Odemwingie after 67 minutes was clearlyinside it.
'Apartfrom the referee, everybody else thought we should have a penalty,'said irate Albion boss Roberto Di Matteo, who has now suffered sixdefeats in seven league games.
Rovers return: Santa Cruz was making his second home bow for Blackburn after signing on loan from Man City
'It's not the first time either. I'm fed up with talking about thisevery week. It's incredible. 'It's a foul and it's a penalty. I don'tknow how he saw it outside the box. It wasn't even as though it was onthe line or anything like that.'
Another win: Rovers manager Kean
Kean must look forward to playing West Brom. Blackburn's trip to the Hawthorns last month brought his first win in charge.
Albion's Tamas, who was sent off on that occasion, had anothermiserable afternoon. There appeared little danger when David Dunnfloated in a cross from the right after 40 minutes and, although theRomania defender appeared to be under little pressure from NikolaKalinic, he planted a header beyond Boaz Myhill into the top corner ofhis own goal.
'It was bizarre,' admitted Di Matteo. 'He mistimed his jump and headed it the wrong way.'
Itwas particularly cruel on Myhill, who had produced fine saves to denyMartin Olsson, Samba and Santa Cruz. But he was beaten again a minuteafter the interval when Hoilett breezed past Tamas and sent athunderous effort into the roof of the net.
Havingbeen forced into action after just 30 seconds to keep out Odemwingie,Robinson made a series of outstanding saves from the impressive JeromeThomas to preserve his team's lead. But on the day a Premier Leaguerecord was set with 22 nationalities represented on the pitch, the mostsatisfied man was a Scotsman.
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