Date:Thursday August 17 2006
The 2006/2007 Season kicks off at 3pm on Saturday afternoon with Rovers travelling to Portsmouth's Fratton Park for the opening Premiership fixture. But what does the coming season have in store for Blackburn Rovers? One thing Mark Hughes will certainly demand will be the continued improvement made under his leadership so far.
With the UEFA Cup added to the FA and League Cup competitions this season Rovers will be looking for extended runs in all three, and ideally latter stage progress on all three fronts, ultimately looking to bring Rovers their first silverware since the 2002 Worthington Cup victory, with Hughes himself a playing member of the squad that day.
Last season's achievement itself would have been more than most would have expected, but with the vast majority of the squad remaining intact (the notable loss of Craig Bellamy has been more than compensated with the arrivals of Jason Roberts and Benni McCarthy, not to mention Francis Jeffers, a player with a point to prove) consolidation of the superb 6th place finish of last season will be the first, and arguably most important target.
Although the Premiership title is out of reach for the 1994/1995 Champions, goals from the new arrivals, a continuation of Brad Friedel's fine goalkeeping form, backed up by a mean defensive back four and hardworking midfield with players that will also score goals, along with good results against the teams in and around the top half a dozen could leave Rovers in with a chance of securing a return to Europe's premier cup competition, the Champions League in 2007/2008.
Anything less than a top half finish will be a failure for the club, a top 10 place though not assured will surely happen, although I still feel the top 6 has to be the target, and will indeed be achieved. We would hope for, and probably even expect Quarter-Final places at least in the FA and League Cups with the group stages of the UEFA Cup the minimum the club should settle for. Progress through the groups of the UEFA Cup into the two legged knockout games and anything would be possible.
Although the league is the priority, again I stress top six consolidation important, returning Rovers to their rightful status the main aim, the cup competitions will give Rovers more than a good chance of winning only their third piece of major silverware (after the 1994/1995 Premiership and 2002 League Cup) since the old Division Three Championship (current League One) more than 30 years ago, in the 1974/1975 season.
The Mark Hughes adventure is set to continue, and long may it do so...
Date:Thursday August 17 2006
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