This season, we will be gathering the views from our opponents’ local media on their team, progress and hopes for the season. As we prepare to face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, we spoke to the Lancashire Telegraph Rovers reporter, Rich Sharpe.
What was your view on last season at Blackburn Rovers?
A brilliant one both on and off the pitch. Fans who had become disenchanted with the club after years of decline and relegation to the third tier for the first time in 37 years became re-connected. Much of that was down to the work of boss Tony Mowbray who has been a breath of fresh air since taking charge in February 2017. They suffered just six defeats all season, played some excellent football and built a young team with a great bond which hopefully bodes well for the future.
How would you assess the summer at the club/business so far?
Improved with every signing. Rovers didn’t need any great number of new signings having tied seven first-team players down to new deals this summer. Adam Armstrong is a popular addition, returning after a successful loan spell last season, while Kasey Palmer is an exciting loan addition from Chelsea. They will hope for a couple more through the door before the end of the month to really ramp up the optimism.
What are the club’s hopes for the season ahead?
There won’t be a bar set on what they can achieve this season, but certainly stabilising in this division will be the first priority. They have players who are enjoying their first taste of the Championship so will need time to acclimatise. But a season where they are looking up rather than over their shoulders will be the main aim.
Who would you describe as Rovers’ key men?
Bradley Dack scored 18 goals last season and is twice a League One player of the year. He is up and running already this season and likely to be a key man once again as he makes the step up to the Championship. Darragh Lenihan is an imposing figure in the heart of the defence and destined for a bright future, while the experience of Danny Graham up front is a key asset and one they look to in each game.
What do you make of Tony Mowbray’s progress with the team?
Mightily impressive. He has built a youthful team, signed them on long-term contracts and there is an optimistic outlook on the future for the first time in many years. The fans have faith and trust in him which is the most important thing. He delivered promotion in his first full season and will look to continue the club’s upward trajectory this year.
Like Millwall, Rovers have only recently come out of League One. How important is it that the club establish themselves as a Championship side?
Relegated in 2016/17, they also didn’t enjoy the greatest of campaigns in 2015/16. So, finding their feet once again will be key, but this group of players is arguably better than those previously mentioned. The gap in quality is big, but as Sheffield United and Millwall showed last season, it’s not an impossible one.
Your score prediction for Saturday’s game?
Rovers had strong home form last season – losing just twice, and the last of those came in September 2017. So, I can see them edging this one 2-0.