Opposition view: Rovers have fresh impetus ahead of clash with Canaries
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Ahead of tonight’s game Daniel Ainsworth from the Rovers Chat website and podcast is feeling optimistic about Blackburn’s future
Four wins on the spin, should Norwich fans be worried about Saturday?
A I wouldn’t say they should be worried as such, but I wouldn’t take us lightly. We seem a new side in the last four games after a very poor February and March. The confidence is back and we’re looking dangerous every time we attack. I think every supporter knows that we’re the underdogs for this match and most will be expecting Norwich to confirm promotion.
There were nine defeats in the 11 games prior to the winning streak, was Tony Mowbray’s future in doubt before this upturn in form?
Mowbray’s future was questioned by a section of our support during that terrible run, but plenty of our fans stuck by the manager. The run was concerning – of course it was – but we’re in a long-term project currently. It’s not a quick fix at Ewood. He came into the club with the supporters and players on bad terms, the feeling around Ewood was dreadful and it felt like we’d lost the club. We had no scouting setup, and we were in a big mess. He’s worked tirelessly to get the players playing for the club and the badge which is showing now. We might not be the best footballing wise, but we always put the effort in and always fight. He’s been building the scouting setup and we’re looking into the foreign markets now. If you compare the club from February 2017 to now, it’s a massive difference and now with the scouting setup, we’re built for when Mowbray does leave. The two recent wins have meant that the “Mowbray Out” people have quietened down a bit and focus is on next season under Tony.
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Would you have accepted a mid-table finish at the start of the season?
100 percent – I’m sure I predicted 17th for another website. It’s been a positive season and we’ve made the progress that I wanted to see. The only real disappointment of the season is that we had an excellent January – winning all four matches – and we’re on the brink of the play-offs. We went to Brentford and went 2-0 up inside 10 minutes and a play-off push looked a reality. Unfortunately, we crumbled and conceded five, which kick-started the aforementioned poor run we had.
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Which players have impressed and will Rovers struggle to keep those players this summer?
Danny Graham looks to be heading for the player of the season award, and rightly so. 33 years old and scoring 15 goals, plus his hold-up play, has made him our standout player. We won’t struggle to keep hold of him with his new contract and his age. There are a couple though that I’d be worried about losing over the summer. The well-known Bradley Dack is one of those, scoring 14 goals and bringing plenty of assists. He went off the boil like the rest of the team but he looks to be back to his best now. I’m sure there will be plenty of clubs after him, including Premier League clubs, and a big bid might be too much for us to turn down, especially with FFP regulations in mind. Darragh Lenihan has stood out defensively and will be our future captain if he stays at the club. He looks like a leader and he’s thrived without our current captain available. I would expect him to have plenty of teams after him in the summer. I can also see Lewis Travis attracting plenty of attention from other clubs. The 21 year old made his debut at Sheff United in December and has been in the team ever since. He’ll chase the ball and put a foot in, and he can also drive forward and cause problems.
How have former Canaries players Elliott Bennett and Harrison Reed been getting on?
Elliott Bennett has become a fans favourite at Ewood over the last two seasons. He’s not our best footballer but he gives his all with plenty of passion and effort. A portion of our supporter base have become a bit frustrated that he is played in basically any position, as long as he’s in the team, even playing at left wing-back when we had two players on the bench for that position. Harrison Reed has been brilliant for Rovers. He isn’t scared of putting a foot in and contributed three goals, including a beautiful strike away to West Brom. Unfortunately, it seems like he has played his last game for the club after picking up an injury in training. I’d love to see Reed return to the club next season, but I can’t see it happening.
Which areas of the team need improving for next season?
I wouldn’t complain at us improving any position really, I think we could use at least one in each position. Our priority has to be the defence for me. We’ll look for a new centre-back which is definitely needed, and I’d like to see another left-back come into the team because I’m not totally convinced by Amari’i Bell. Another centre midfielder wouldn’t go amiss either as Harrison Reed is unlikely to return and I expect us to ship out a few of the League One players we still have. I’d also expect a new keeper to come in with Championship experience to push on our current number one David Raya.
Do you think a promotion push is possible in 2019-20?
A With the right signings in the summer, if we can get off to a good start, I think we can push for the play-offs. It’s all about consistency, which has cost us this season, so I’m hoping we can go on a bit of a run at the start. The summer window is key. Bring in some players that will improve the team and push everyone on and we can push for the top six. Personally, I think we’re three transfer windows off mounting a serious challenge for promotion.
Have you been surprised to see Norwich doing so well?
Very surprised to say the least. I had them down as a mid-table side, one of those with little to play for with 10 games left. All credit to Daniel Farke, Stuart Webber and everyone involved for getting the club to where it is this season. The signings have impressed me such as Onel Hernandez and Marco Stiepermann. It’s Teemu Pukki that has shocked me though. I wouldn’t have liked us to bring him in and I expected little from the Finnish forward, but he’s proved me wrong and deserves player of the year. Full credit to the Canaries.
And finally, what is your prediction?
With Norwich only needing a point and Rovers with four wins in a row, I’ll go for an exciting 2-2 draw. Pukki and Dack each getting a brace. Congratulations on the imminent promotion, City fans!