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Monday 18th December 06
Today has seen our young defenders Andy Taylor and Tony Kane return from Crewe Alexandra and Stockport County. They were wanted as cover for our thinning squad, but I doubt they`ll play much, if at all this season?

It was not a good evening for our reserve team youngsters as they lost 2-1 to Shrewsbury Town. Joe Garner gave us an early lead and it looked as though things were going to go our way until half hour into the game when Stephen Thomson got sent of for a foul due to being the last man. Shrewsbury soon used this to their advantage to draw level after a few minutes and then stole it after fifty minutes. We had our fair share of chances to get back into it but it was not to be. It sounds as though despite the defeat, we had a good game and if we can get some of them putting in good performances this can only improve their game and give us potential options in the first team should we need them. At least the seniors result was the other way round when we deservedly beat Reading 2-1.

Tuesday 19th December 06
We had some positive news today about Ryan Nelsen as he has returned to full training with the rest of the squad Click Here for Full Article. He is not able to do sprinting and run flat out but it appears he can do the rest and Hughes has said he is once again starting to look like a footballer and is working on building up his hamstrings. Hopefully he can be back next month and Hughes would be very happy to have him back come the end of January as we have obviously missed his services but the last thing we want him doing is overdoing it and making it worse/re-injuring as these things take time and it would be by far better to have him out a while longer than for him to come back just to pull out again. Still, all sounds good so he will hopefully be back before we know it.

Less than a week until Christmas now and the club are looking for us to get festive. The club want us to come up with Christmas chants they can use over the busy festive period to help boost our players. They want us to either record the songs onto our phones or computers with the file being no larger than 2mb and then send it to where fellow supporters will be able to hear them or you can send the lyrics and the tune you want it sang with to the sales marketing team. It will be worth doing even if just for a laugh and if that is not incentive enough then should you compete and win, you can win a set of tickets for any one of our fixtures in the New Year. We need some good songs to out-sing Liverpool and Middlesbrough and we are expecting a big turn out as tickets are at a bargain £15.

Benni McCarthy has reflected on his thoughts of his time here playing in England so far and how he has found it harder than expected to adjust to our English game Click Here for Full Article. He has said it is nothing like Holland Spain, or Portugal where he had previously played. It is so much faster here and powerful and unlike in these other countries you are pushed in every game, not just against the top teams. It looks as though he is getting there though and his six league goals he has scored have been important, especially the weekend. It`s a shame he had three disallowed on Saturday as he could have been on nine goals and a hat-trick would have gone down a treat. He has also spoke of that racial incident he had against Wisla Krakow and is pleased with the way it was dealt with. He is right in the fact that the sport should unite people and I think we do not need these trouble makers. Hopefully people will now think about the consequences of their actions.

Recent weeks have seen us being linked with our former Midfielder David Dunn who left us in 2003 to join Birmingham. He has struggled with injuries during his time away but is soon set to make a return to first team football. It would be good to have him back should he be at full fitness and can regain his form as he was a handy player to have at the time. The fact that he is a life-long Rovers fan and his family and little girl are up this way could lead him back here. I wouldn`t think he would cost too much as he is out of contract in the summer so at the right price I will welcome him back.

We have also seen ourselves linked with Dynamo Kiev`s Andri Nesmachniy Click Here for Full Article and Kiev assistant coach Oleg Luzhny thinks that he will be well suited to the English game as he has spirit, fight and speed and he is aware of what is expected of him. Should we sign him hopefully he will be a good coup.

Wednesday 20th December 06
Since Andy Todd managed to get his chance back in the squad I have noticed that he has stepped in well and risen to the challenge firmly. He was always looking like he was going to be heading elsewhere but with his recent performances I thought to myself if he carries on this way it will be silly to let him go. I know things were rocky with him and Hughes earlier in the season yet he has done fantastic playing for us recently especially against Reading and it now looks as though Hughes is going to give him another chance and keep hold of him turning away the interested parties Click Here for Full Article. Keep up the good work Todd and it will definitely be noticed.

I enjoyed watching David Bentley`s wonder goal and if we can continue to do what we did against Reading then things can only get better. We have some tough games coming up though with Arsenal, Liverpool and Middlesbrough so it will definitely be a challenge. However we have to go in to all games with a positive attitude if we wish to be taken seriously and get the results we need. Bentley is right though in saying it is too early for alarm bells to start ringing as we are only half way through the season and as long as we continue to get points we will be fine. We should not go getting too excited from the weekend win though as we are still only two points clear of the drop zone despite Saturday`s win and we need to be consistent in getting maximum points if we want to move up the table and try get something from the season.

Ukraine international Andriy Nesmachniy has finally joined us for a short trial Click Here for Full Article. Hughes speaks very highly of him and it seems as though he has a very good footballing brain. He plays at left back and can also play in the wing position which is a plus. He is well capped internationally with sixty odd caps and it appears you could not ask for much more in a player. So far though it is no more than checking him out but should he be as good as he has been for Kiev and could adapt and impress on trial then it can only all be good surely. Hughes likes the fact that he can see him up close and in person rather than watch from a stand or on video as you get a better insight into the player and the same was done with Ryan Nelsen and Aaron Mokoena and that all worked out nicely. Lets see if it can be three out of three?!

Midfielder Academy youngster Mamadi Keita has signed his first professional contract with us. The poor lad who turned 17 last month had a terrible first year due to injuries which is the last thing you want when you are trying to make it at a young age but this season he has managed to feature regularly. Perhaps he will be another one to watch out for in the future, you can never have too much young talent.

Thursday 21st December 06
Mark Hughes appears to be happy and in good spirits following our well deserved Reading victory. He is obviously pleased that we won our group in Europe and that hopefully we can build upon the weekend win. People are talking about our slow start this season but should we manage to capitalise on some of the festive games I believe we will soon be moving forward come part two of the season. Hughes does not appear worried by the fact we are a bit slow off the mark in the games as it is better to start slow and pick up than to start bright and then fade which would highlight fitness issues. The fitness levels of our squad are good and hopefully when we welcome back the key players from injuries we can slowly work them back in and get them match fit quickly.

It looks as though sneaky Tottenham are going to try and snatch Andriy Nesmachniy's from our grasp to strengthen the rest of their season. As far as I know we are taking him on trial and he appears content to come here and we will gladly try him. It happens every time though when you are linked with a player, you catch sight of someone good and then other big clubs come in to try and get them. Hopefully we can tie something up soon.

We have finally found out when we play our last 32 UEFA Cup match. It is to be played away at the Bay Arena on Wednesday February 14 next year (obviously) with a kick off in the region of 18.00. Tickets will cost £17 and for those of you that want to make the trip there are 1,125 allocated to us so not many so get in there quick before they are all snapped up. There will also be VIP tickets with hospitality but the prices for those are yet to be revealed. People that have travelled to the three previous away UEFA matches will get priority with tickets with season ticket holders getting further priority where need be so it goes to show that being a season ticket holder does pay.

Friday 22nd December 06
It is good to see that we will have some key players back and available for our Arsenal trip on Saturday Click Here for Full Article. Brett Emerton and Zurab Khizanishvili will return from injury and Stephan Henchoz is back from his suspension. It looks as though Andy Todd has done enough though to maybe keep his place and demote them to the bench which is a further sign that he will be going nowhere come January. It is not definite who will definitely be starting but Hughes is full of praise for Todd and how he has come back into the fold in such a professional manner and played well. It`s a shame that Benni will be missing up front though due to that petty yellow getting him suspended. Still if we are going to crack on as a team and get away from danger, we have to be able to do it with or without certain players sometimes.

David Bentley is relishing our challenge against Arsenal when we make our first visit to their new stadium. It would be good if we could get a positive result and Bentley could somehow impact the game and stick it to them. Obviously like most players he is looking forward to returning to his old club and believes there is hope we could come away with a positive result. He is aware that as they have such a young team on the whole now that they can be inconsistent but acknowledges that they play some great football, possibly the best around. Hughes is also aware of this but again knows that although they have had great results they have had to come back from behind so why should it be any different for us and why could we not win as someone has to eventually break their pattern and beat them at home.

Come Saturday our lads are going to be very busy over Christmas just like all the other teams and will be playing four games in ten days. This will no doubt be quite strenuous and quite a few managers like always are dreading so many games due to injuries etc. Hughes believes that they should rethink the festive programme and perhaps scrap the traditional Boxing Day fixture to give the players a rest and a bit of time with their families as other countries do in Europe. I understand where he is coming from as it is a family time and everyone should be able to enjoy it with the ones that they love. I do however as a fan like the fact that there is so much football played so soon as it is exciting and you do not have to wait so long between games.

We are now being linked with a move for James Beattie who started his career with us playing eight games before moving on to Southampton and becoming a star. Hughes is said to be looking to get him for about £2.5m as he probably will be sold due to Andy Johnson keeping him out the starting team. I am not sure if this is a good move though or not as although he can be a good player he is not always consistent. On one of his good days he can arguably play a great game but other times I think he can be quite poor. There are other targets I think we should possibly consider first before making a move for him. Then again under the leadership of Hughes we might find that he will get the best out of him and have him playing well consistently.

We have now been given a rescheduled date for the match against Watford that was cancelled in November. It will now be played 19.45 on Tuesday 23rd January. The club are not at all pleased with this new date as they feel the date could have been chosen at least after the FA Cup third round draw as there could have been other dates available including Saturdays. It will be quite a journey for the travelling fans especially as a lot of them will have to go work the next morning after getting back late. Still it has to be played so we have to get on with it and be professional.

Saturday 23rd December 06
Robbie Savage looks set to sign a new and improved contract with us as he only has eighteen months left of his contract Click Here for Full Article. In fact they are to offer him what is thought to be known as a golden handcuffs deal which basically means he is signed to us for life. Wigan are said to be sniffing around again but they can keep their hands off as he is ours and has a big part to play.

David Bentley has been playing well as of late and he appears to be more than happy with the progress he has made since joining us permanently from Arsenal in January. He thinks he can eventually gain a place in the England set up but playing for us makes it harder to gain attention Click Here for Full Article. His hat trick against United got him noticed and recently his goal against Reading with his solo effort. I think that he should at least be considered as he has been playing well and is capable of producing something just as much as some that have been in the England set up of late.

Today`s scoreline does not look good for us as 6-2 makes it appear as though you have been walked over Click Here for Full Article. But we know differently as we had pulled them back to 3-2 until the last five minutes. Pedersen almost levelled us but was denied by a fine save and then come the last five minutes they caught us on the counter and then twice again. Hughes was right in saying there was some positives to come out of the game. Bentley again had a good performance and the most positive for me was the fact that Nonda got two goals. He has not been getting the goals that we thought he would have but this might have kick started him for the second half of the season and the goals will hopefully flow. We now have Liverpool on Boxing Day and I have a feeling that will be a totally different story…watch this space.

Sunday 24th December 06
David Bentley was the star attraction as the Rovers' Education Department celebrated receiving a Community Chest grant by Kick It Out to work with local partners on the 'My Home Town' project at Ewood Park. Bentley was available for the question and answers section which was filmed to feature on Match of the Day 2. The event involved forty year 10/11 students and the event was basically to do with ethnic minorities and cultural mixes. Events like this are good to see as we are trying to put a stop to racism in football and what better way to spread the word than to the youngsters and bring them up in a better community. It is always good to see our favourite players getting involved in community work and doing their bit to help as you get some that are not interested and do not want to know.

Anyway it`s Christmas tomorrow so get to have a lay in and as its Christmas I doubt anything exciting will happen with Rovers. Will get to have a lay in and enjoy the day of rest and have a few drinks. So take it easy everyone and Merry Christmas.

Date:Wednesday December 27 2006
Time: 10:46PM

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