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By ESPN Staff

Kean braced for player exits

Blackburn boss Steve Kean is bracing himself for other clubs attempting to "pick off'' the best players from his relegated team this summer.

Rovers were condemned to the drop on Monday when they lost 1-0 at home against Wigan, a game they needed to win to have any chance of preserving their Premier League status going into Sunday's final day clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

It has been a generally miserable season for the Ewood Park outfit, but there have been some notable performers in the side, including 17-goal striker Ayegbeni Yakubu and dynamic forward Junior Hoilett.

That duo, along with former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, are among the players at Blackburn likely to be the subject of interest from top-flight clubs when the transfer window opens and Kean is ready for the overtures.

The Scot - who insists he is staying with Rovers long term - has been eager to focus on the forthcoming mission of getting the club back into the Premier League and he is determined to try to keep hold of most of the playing squad.

"We know there is going to be interest, as there always is at times like this when a team gets relegated,'' Kean said.

"You have other clubs that will try to pick off the best of your players. There is going to be that interest, but we are attempting to keep the majority of the squad together and build a squad that can bounce back.''

Kean is under no illusion that quality players will be content in the second tier for long and has stressed the importance of making a swift return to the big time.

"We know that we have to bounce back quick like clubs have done in the past,'' Kean said. "If you can keep the majority of your squad, you can probably only keep thatfor one or two seasons and if you don't get back up as quickly as possible, then your players are attracted to playing back at the highest level. We want to make sure it is us back playing at the highest level.''

It has been a tumultuous week for 19th-placed Blackburn, with relegation being followed by the leaking of a letter written by deputy chief executive Paul Hunt to the club's owners Venky's in December calling for Kean to be sacked.

Rovers subsequently confirmed on Thursday that Hunt had left his position, although according to Venky's - who are adamant the club is not for sale - his departure was down to cost-cutting rather than the letter.

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