Blackburn boss, Mark McGhee and the groundsman

Steve Kean Blackburn manager

Steve Kean

When Stevie Kean takes his place in charge of Blackburn at home to West Ham today it will complete an epic journey from First Division groundsman to Premiership boss for the former Celtic reserve.

There has been no silver spoon or helping hand given to the 43-year-old from Cumbernauld who overcame rejection from Celtic and a career ending injury to force his way into coaching and management.

As kids Kean and Derek Whyte used to travel from Cumbernauld to Hellenvale Park together hoping to impress Celtic into giving then their chance in the game.

While Whyte enjoyed success at Celtic and a playing career spanning over 15 years Kean quickly realised that his playing career wasn’t going to reach the same heights as his mate.

Hard work and a willingness to travel and learn has served Kean well and given him the opportunity to be involved at the highest level of the game.

Of the current crop of top Premiership managers only Carlo Ancelotti enjoyed a top flight playing career with Arsene Wenger, Davie Moyes and of course Jose Mourinho examples of managers who’ve battled their way through the ranks on sheer ability.

From his base in Dubai co-hosting the Showtime Arabia sports programmes Whyte has remained in touch with Keane and developed an impressive circle of contacts throughout the Premiership.

Chris Kamara will join him to go through the weekends matches with Allerdyce flying out to Dubai next week for some time in the sun away from the politics of Ewood Park.

Whyte has had an inside track into a week that has catapulted Blackburn into the spotlight and is confident that his mate has what it takes to handle the dramas that come with Premiership management.

“Sam told Stevie that it was an opportunity that he had to take,” Whyte admitted. “When the announcement was made that Sam was leaving Stevie was asked to take over.

“Initially he wasn’t sure about it but Sam told him to take it and see what will happen. Sam has been really good with Stevie, he wants to be a boss, that’s what he’s been gearing up for and this is a chance that he’ll take.

“Ricky Spragia found himself in the spotlight at Sunderland and didn’t enjoy that side of the game but Stevie is different. He is very confident in his own ability and has the character for the job- the attention and media side of the job won’t be a problem.

“A lot of the most successful managers take the hard route into the game, Stevie has worked under enough managers now and has been in the Premiership for almost a decade.

“You only have to look at Steve McClaren to see what can happen in management, he was an assistant at Derby, Alex Ferguson picked him out, heard that he was good and he ended up managing Middlesbrough, England and is going well in Holland and Germany.

“Stevie is in a similar position now, he’s 43 and ready for it. As a coach he gets on well with the players, he speaks to the foreign players in Portugese and Spanish and they like that.

“He’s close to the players but he’ll step away from that now. I remember when Bryan Robson came to Middlesbrough he was too close to the players and would go out drinking with us then he took a step back.”

Since his mid twenties Kean’s football ambitions have been in coaching after some advice from Mark McGhee.

In the early nineties McGhee was one of the top young managers in England after being recommended to Reading by Alex Ferguson.

After being sacked by Aberdeen McGhee’s managerial career could have ran it’s course but the former Celtic striker can claim a credit for encouraging Kean down the coaching route.

Derek Whyte

Derek Whyte showtime

Whyte added: “Stevie came back from Portugal to Reading for a trial and ended up playing non-league and got the job of groundsman at Reading.

“At that time he would be cutting the grass, collecting people from the airport and doing anything to get back into the game. Mark McGhee told him to get his coaching badges and he could be the youth team coach at Reading.

“From there he got a job at the Reading Academy and was head hunted to go to Fulham.

“When Chris Coleman had his car crash Stevie got him involved in some coaching to do with their Academy and when Coleman took over from Jean Tigana he wanted Stevie to be his assistant and coach the first team.

“After that he moved to Real Sociedad in Spain with Coleman and onto Coventry then decided that he wanted to go his own way.

“He had an offer to manage in Portugal but wasn’t convinced about the job and Sam Allerdyce offered him a job at Blackburn.

“Now he has a fantastic chance to show what he can do as a manager on his own. I’m really looking forward to see how he gets on and I’m sure that Sam will be the first person to wish him well.”

UPDATE BBC interview with Stevie Kean after West Ham match

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  • Dharma Bam says:

    Can I just point out, in the of pursuit of pedantry, that Steve Kean actually came from Westfield and not Cumbernauld. It’s a small but important difference, especially if you don’t come from Cumbernauld!

    It’s like calling a Canadian an American!

    I think it’s amazing and I wish him all the best.

  • Joe McHugh says:

    Fair enough Dharma

    I’d never confuse Croy with Kilsyth, or Dubai and Abu Dhabi

    Full respect to the People’s Republic of Westfield.

    Great to see guys work their way up- hopefully he’ll get a reasonable run at the Blackburn gig.

  • Tony Cassidy says:

    Hi Joe.
    Excellent piece on Stevie Kean.
    I lived in Abu Dhabi for a few years recently and it was good to see big Derek Whyte as a pundit on TV there in UAE week-in week-out with his mate Rob McCaffrey as the programme anchor-man.


    Are they still doin the EPL show for the folk of the Middle East? There must have been an audience of about 200 million ! And big Derek, as well as bein a talented pundit, always put a word in for Celtic every now and again, whenever he could.

    Actually, I honestly believe that Celtic could make some key contacts over there and I’m talkin about guys with MASSIVE money. And, the funny thing is, it’s guys exactly like Derek Whyte who could make it happen. I note here too that a certain G Souness was rubbin shoulders with some of these rich arabs back then too – I hope he didn’t mention the Gers in his discussions.

    Anyway, good luck to Stevie Kean. I had never heard of him before. It’s a terrific story.

  • Joe McHugh says:

    Derek is doing very well, well settled and looking forward to the Emirates Masters in March time.

    His station don’t have Premiership games this season but he does a Friday night sports preview that is mainly football but a lot more besides- he’s even covering The Ashes.

    Saturdays and Sundays they cover La Liga and Tuesdays and Wednesdays they cover the Champions League.

    He’s made the step from being an ex footballer to television presenter, much more recognised in Dubai as the guy off the telly than a Celt, but he did say there’s no such thing as being a former Celt- once you’ve been at Celtic it’s a tattoo for life that never leaves!

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