Exclusive - Shebby Singh talks to Vital Blackburn
Yesterday I met up with the new Global Director at Rovers, Shebby Singh, in his modest office at Ewood Park to ask him about himself and his plans and vision for the club. I am pleased to say we were granted an exclusive interview with Shebby who took time out to talk to us...
Rover23 - There seems to be a level of uncertainty with your role. The term 'Global Advisor' is not something you hear much of in football. What are your exact duties?
Shebby - There are certain rules in football, you are either a player, part of the medical staff, part of the coaching staff, or you are a manager, CEO or Managing Director.
Global advisor is a term which was coined by Madam Anuradha (Mrs Desai) because I had been working with the Venkys since August 2011.
I was head of football development Asia. That was a specific role, and now I find myself given a role where, simply put, I am the owners' representative; and then come the employees, so I try to smooth out the way for everything from administration to the technical teams, just to make sure that there is no divide and no delay in what has to happen from the day to day running of the club. Also my second responsibility is to oversee the present and the future of the club.
It is not restricted. If you are the MD or the financial director, those are responsibilities with borders. It is fair to say that I oversee the running of the club.
Rover23 - In the past Steve Kean has been flying off to India to meet the owners. Will he now be meeting you, or will he carry on going over to India?
Shebby - That is interesting. Since I have been tasked with a certain responsibility, being the owners' representative, you talk to me.
What happened last season was possibly a different arrangement.
This season it is a different arrangement. Now I don`t see the need for Steve to have to fly to India. We will work together here; whatever needs to be done will be done.
Rover23 - The people of the UK know you more as a TV personality. What skills do you bring to this newer role?
Shebby -Most people don`t know that I played football for 18 years, including 9 for my country, Malaysia. Yes there will be people who say 'Oh Malaysia', well the game all over the world is 11 v 11 played with one ball and two sets of goals. The standard of play will definitely be different, but it is still the same game.
Eighteen years of experience at working with coaches at all levels; Frank Lord and Trevor Hartley are two Englishmen who were among my coaches who I learnt a lot from. Being on television for 15 years as a football pundit, you look at football differently. I am not here to bang my drum or tell people who I am. I am here because I have a responsibility.
Football is not rocket science as most people like to believe. It is a very simple game, and it is a beautiful game. I am not here to justify what I am. Something needs to be done at this club, and needs to be done quickly, and I am doing it.
Rover23 - What are your priorities now you are in this new role?
Shebby - Most important is to make sure that we put out a very, very competitive team that has to include the present and the future of the club.
It is to build a club, not just build a team; something which I think has been long neglected at this club. Take the Germans, they went back to the drawing board and started with young people; they were patient and now they are starting to reap the rewards.
At club football you cannot afford to just do that, you have got certain targets to achieve such as promotion. You can build a team to get promoted, but if you build a club, you can have a team that gets you promoted and sustain yourself at the next level, so that is my priority. Most importantly is that come the 18th of August, we are ready for the long hall.
Rover23 - Obviously this season the target is promotion, but where do you see the club in 3 to 5 years time?
Shebby - Football in its own beauty has got its own pitfalls as well, and like I said, we want to achieve sustainability, so 3 to 5 years we hope that we will have a crop of players, a generation of players, whether they are home grown or supplemented with players from outside, that we can remain to be competitive. I think we want to be ambitious, but at the end of the day we have to keep expectations within our control.
Rover23 - We've had figures of authority at Blackburn Rovers make promises and assurances to us before which have gone unfulfilled - What do you say to the fans who have the same doubts this time around?
Shebby - For me, what happens on the football pitch should be speaking for itself, not individuals, because as individuals you open your mouth, but can you justify your words? And on what basis do you do that? For me it is the football team.
Once the referee blows his whistle, there should be an indication of what the future is going to be, and what levels of expectation that can be derived from watching that group of players in action. Words are cheap, they don`t mean anything.
Rover23 - Have you seen much change at Ewood Park since your appointment?
Shebby - I don`t know what it used to be like, but I think I have come in here and there is a better atmosphere, there are more smiles, more laughter, everybody seems to be enjoying work, I think the majority of the staff at Ewood are buzzing! - to borrow an English word.
Rover23 - How have you found the likes of the BRFC Action Group and the BRSIT? Have you had many dealings with them?
Shebby - I am a fan myself, and I think what has been very interesting about meeting the various groups is that they all share one thing in common, and that is a passion for the club.
They want to see some clear direction. It is not like somebody is going to beat somebody up or there is violence, it is just the people's club, and now in a short space of time, with open dialogue, they understand where the club is coming from, and the club now understands where the fans are coming from. It is certainly helping in building bridges.
The relationship should be that the fans are happy and the club has a clear sense of direction, and together we can turn a 0-1 into a 1-1 or a 1-1 into a 2-1, but it has to be done together.
Rover23 - Rovers seem to have been quite active in the transfer market... Is that something you wanted to make sure of when you came here?
Shebby - There are two things that I looked at when I came here. Number 1 is to look at what we have, and number 2 is to look at what we need. I think this has been working well, for example Danny Murphy and Nuno Gomes.
We needed that senior experience and characters. Not big name players who play for themselves, but players who can bring extra qualities to a team. Apart from what they do on the pitch, they are mentors off it as well. Nuno quite possibly has the more specific group, with our Spanish and Portuguese speaking contingent, young players who have been here like Mauro Formica, Ruben Rochina, and then the young ones who have come in, Paulo Jorge, Fabio Nunes and Edinho Junior.
Danny generally looks after everybody else, so it is good to know there are responsible people out there
Rover23 - Last season we suffered relegation, something which many fans think could have been avoided with a change of management. If it does not look as though we will get promoted this season, will the necessary changes be made? And do you have the authority to make these changes?
Shebby -If we find that we are not competitive at the start of the season, no stone will be left unturned to rectify that. It`s as simple as that. I cannot put it in more words. Produce or get out.
At the end of this interview I was left with the impression that Shebby Singh is passionate about Blackburn Rovers, their promotion in the short term, but more importantly the long term future of the club, and it seems that nobody would stop him in achieving this.
I would like to say thank you to Shebby for agreeing to this meeting, and to the people who helped make it happen.