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Blackburn Benefit From Summer Of Stability

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Cody Strunk

Although Cody Strunk may have a name more in keeping with those who don low-quality knitwear on USA golf courses, his passion is very much for the beautiful game...
[full biography]
01/11/2007 09:00:00.
read: 259 times.

It was a relatively quiet summer transfer window at Ewood Park for Blackburn Rovers, with manager Mark Hughes not only succeeding in retaining all his key players, but also managing to bolster his striking options with the signings of Roque Santa Cruz and the Dutch youngster, Maceo Rigters. The stability within the squad certainly seems to be serving the club well as things stand, with Blackburn currently sitting fifth in the Premiership table with just one defeat in 10-league games to date.

Although their reputation as a physical outfit is not without some substance (Rovers are again amongst those propping up the Premiership disciplinary table, even at this relatively early stage of the campaign), they are far more than just a tough uncompromising outfit these days, with the club being particularly well served in terms of striking options.

Hughes’ eye for a bargain has certainly served Blackburn well, with the current first choice strike-pairing of Benni McCarthy and Roque Santa Cruz having been snapped up for peanuts when compared to the going rate for Premiership strikers of similar ability. There is also good back-up in the likes of Jason Roberts and Rigters, while Matt Derbyshire looks as good a prospect as any young English striker.

Hughes has been Blackburn’s boss for just over four years and he has gradually built a squad that now looks capable of not only establishing themselves in the top-half of the table, but pushing on to challenge regularly for European competitions. The midfield is well stocked with the likes of David Bentley, Morten Gamst Pedersen, David Dunn and Tugay providing the creativity that is the equal of just about any of their Premiership peers, while the imminent return of Steven Reid after a year out is another major boost. The defence is also fairly formidable, with Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba being as tough as they come, while the veteran Brad Friedel remains an ever-reliable last line of defence.

With Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League aspirations seemingly in tatters, Blackburn look as well placed as any to be the main challengers to the “Big Four” this term. In retrospect the early elimination from Europe this season could actually even help them in their quest, with the team likely to benefit from not having to deal with the fixture pile-up caused by a UEFA Cup group game on a Thursday followed by a Premiership fixture the following Sunday.

The biggest threat to Blackburn’s continued improvement would appear to be the growing reputation of their manager, with his name now coming up on a regular basis whenever there is a vacancy at a Premiership rival. In reality there are few jobs that look to offer better prospects than the one that Hughes currently holds at Ewood Park.

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