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Blackburn Rovers Season Review 2006/07
"If Rovers can add some more quality back up men and keep their top players, 2007/08 may bring the push forward that was undermined by injury this season"
Blackburn Rovers ended 2006/07 in 10th place which appears a comfortable state of affairs except compared to last season- Rovers dropped 11 points from 2005/06 and fell 4 spots in the table.
The fans did have the interest generated by another run to the FA Cup semi-finals but as in 2005, the club came unstuck against one of the ‘Big 4’, this time Chelsea. In the UEFA Cup Rovers hurdled the group stage easily enough but Bayer Leverkusen eliminated them in the last 32.
The team could never quite get into the UEFA Cup places but did grab the English place in the Intertoto Cup, which hopefully should deliver a return to the UEFA Cup. It was that kind of season-one that never really ignited.
Blackburn fans must have feared this when it became clear that Craig Bellamy was on his way out of the club. However, Mark Hughes engineered the signing of a top class replacement in South African Benni McCarthy and he finished behind only Didier Drogba in the Premiership hot shots.
So Bellamy’s replacement delivered more goals (they bagged 52 to 51 last year) and yet Rovers slid down the table. The answer lay in the goals against column where the squad let in 12 more than 2005/06.
Part of the explanation didn’t lie with the defenders though. Stephen Reid was missing for nearly the whole campaign and Robbie Savage played in only just over half the League games. Without this pair the centre of Blackburn’s midfield could look tidy and composed but lacking vigour and power at times.
The defence also had to undergo some reorganisation. Lucas Neill finally did depart the club, although Hughes signing of Stephen Warnock to replace the Aussie looked a real winner from the off. Dutch international Andre Ooijer took time to settle in and then Blackburn lost him to serious injury in January.
When Rovers had their full squad available they looked a side well capable of a top 6 finish. David Bentley and Morten Gamst Pedersen looked as good as most wide players in the division and Matt Derbyshire showed great progress to back up McCarthy and Shabani Nonda.
Warnock and Brett Emerton are progressive in the full back berths and Brad Friedel is still a top class keeper. Injuries in central defence – Ryan Nelsen only became available just when Ooijer was out- provided chances for Chris Samba and he showed that he could become a very imposing centre back at this level.
In January Hughes was able to bring back a prodigal son. David Dunn returned to his local club and if he can get back anywhere near his old form, he’ll be a valuable addition. Unfortunately it’s by no means certain that Dunn can attain his old levels.
Rovers ended the season unbeaten in their last 6 League games to provide good heart for the campaign ahead. Before that though, they endured a miserable four game slump that put paid to automatic qualification for Europe.
Well before the end of the campaign this had become one of those seasons when the supporters are already looking forward to the next one. Everyone at the club just wanted to get a full squad back on the park- only then will we able to judge just how far this Rovers team can go.
The potential is there but the real question is whether Mark Hughes will be able to get them all together. The predators are circling to try and take McCarthy and Pedersen, two players who Rovers desperately need to hold on to.
The signing of Dutch under-21 star Maceo Rigters is an excellent sign. If Rovers can add some more quality back up men and keep their top players, 2007/08 may bring the push forward that was undermined by injury this season.
Latest article feedbackBert:
its MATT derbyshire and CHRIS samba
[Ed: Apologies, now amended.]
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