Well here we are at the beginning of another New Year yet nothing appears to feel any different. Still as I always say at the end of the day today is just another day. Don`t get me wrong, it is good to bring in the New Year with hope and joy and wish for a better year than the last so HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone and all the best for this year. I hope there are not too many hangovers. With me myself I am fine but that`s because I barely drank, that might be due to feeling a bit poorly yet I have plenty of booze available in the garage and on the optics should I fancy a tipple!
Anyway today was yet another match day Click Here for Full Article and what a great result we had against Wigan who we appear to be trading places with. It was not that long ago in the season they were doing reasonably well and sitting pretty with us in their current predicament. Now we are heading in different directions which is fine with me. 3-0 was a great result Click Here for Full Article for us with our key man Benni McCarthy getting yet another goal this time from the penalty spot and good old Matt Derbyshire got his first goal for us. I felt sorry for Emile Heskey scoring an home goal and sorry for Wigan on the whole as they appeared to have thought hard but it was to be our day. Hughes rang the changes with Stephane Henchoz, Zurab Khizanishvili and Aaron Mokoena coming in for Andy Todd, Andre Ooijer and Tugay. During the match warm up Shabani Nonda injured his groin but was able to still partner McCarthy, at least until half time. Hopefully this is nothing to worry about as he is finding his form and the last thing we want is him out as another injury.
We have had a fine festive period with this latest win making it three on the trot. Things are looking up and it can only get better from now surely. Hughes believes that we can re-create last season and finish in the top six Click Here for Full Article to again get in Europe and I see no reason why we should not be able to do this. We are fast closing the gap on the European vacancies in eleventh place and are only eight points adrift of Portsmouth who are in sixth plus we also have that game in hand against Watford. Everyone at Rovers is brimming with confidence and hopefully this will be carried on into the second tier of the season. With key players back from injury soon and any additional signings this month I am looking forward to what lies ahead.
Tuesday 2nd January 07
Following our repeat 3-0 win against Wigan yesterday just like on New Years Eve last year Hughes is hoping that we can go on and emulate the season before by kick-starting a European push as when we did last season things took shape following the Wigan victory. The players all seem to want it as much as the fans so I see no reason why we can not again mix it up with the top six big boys.
I was very pleased for Matt Derbyshire when he got his first goal for us and he is more pleased than anyone Click Here for Full Article. Although it was only a tap in following Gamst Pedersen`s header he was still in the right place at the right time to stick the ball where it counts. He is delighted that it has happened for him and is very excited about the way things are shaping up for us with five wins in six. Blackburn is a good place to be playing at the moment and I look forward to seeing Derbyshire hopefully scoring many more goals and starting more games which should theoretically give him more chance to score. He has a good attitude about being on the bench but is pleased with the way Hughes is introducing him to the big stage and should he have to spend another twelve months on the bench then he seems happy to sit and learn.
Another of our New Years day scorers is Benni McCarthy and he is delighted with the way he has adapted to our league and the way he is playing. I had a feeling he would do well for us as he has always been a success and I never expected any different from him. He has done great during the festive period scoring in the last four games but he is all in favour of having it scrapped so that the players can spend the festive period with their families instead of hotels. He does acknowledge that the fans love it but I see his point as everyone wants to be with their loved ones; you could argue also though that they are paid a fortune so as long as they get mega money they should play.
Wednesday 3rd January 07
Saturday 13th will see us again face Arsenal just three weeks after the 6-2 away to the Emirates Stadium but hopefully this time should we win or lose, the scoreline will more accurately reflect the match which last time it did not as it was very close until three quick goals at the end. One person who will not be playing is ex-Gunner David Bentley who was one of five booked against Wigan recently so faces an automatic suspension Click Here for Full Article. Hughes believes we are victims to yellow cards and pick them up more readily than others. Lucas Neill will be another facing suspension when we take on Everton in the third round of the FA Cup. We do get disciplined a lot and obviously sometimes it can be for genuine reasons. We can also be very unfortunate and get them undeservedly.
A lot of the players as well as Hughes have been talking about the possibilities of a top six finish and again getting into Europe Click Here for Full Article. The latest person is Benni McCarthy who appears very pleased with the way things are currently smoothly running. He believes it is well within our capabilities as we are playing good football and I agree why not again this year! What I would prefer to see myself is not only a top six finish but to win the UEFA Cup to gain automatic promotion. The chances of Champions League are realistically slim but to win the UEFA Cup and gain automatic qualification as well as qualify for Champions League would be a dream.
Morten Gamst Pedersen did not get off to the best of starts this season leaving people to doubt whether he was still committed or had it in him to continue to succeed. But lately he has appeared to have picked up form and show us shades of the Gamst that we all grew to love Click Here for Full Article. We know he is a quality player, it`s just this year something has eluded him but now he appears to have got his mojo back. He is pleased with how he has been playing of late and has a few assists lately to his name. The most memorable over the Christmas period for me is that to set up McCarthy in the 1-0 win over Liverpool. The ball he received in the first place was from a masterful peace of play by the master Tugay and the whole move was text book. Long may he continue to play well.
It was only a matter of days and now it has been confirmed that we have received bids for Lucas Neill. Liverpool are thought to still be favourites and there is much interest from her and abroad including Barcelona and Milan. I`m sure it will all be resolved soon enough and we are linked with other potential talented suitors so I think its best get it out the way and let him go. Let`s challenge these clubs to put their money where there mouth is and see how high they will go!
Thursday 4th January 07
Another club that has today been drawn into the battle for Neill is West Ham. I`ve always thought West Ham are an okay team and well more worthy of where they are in the table yet if Neill was to go there I would be very very surprised as he gives the impression that he wants more success. Then again though with Mr Egghead footing a big transfer kitty in January to save the Hammers it would be interesting to see what kind of cash they have to offer.
It looks as though we are going to be getting David Dunn back as Birmingham look set to cut their losses and want us to pay £1m. However it is said that we want him on a pay as you play deal which is sensible I guess as he has been plagued with injuries. We are also being linked with Robert Earnshaw for a fee of £3m. He is not a bad player and Hughes knows him well enough from his days managing Wales so I am sure he will get the best out of him should we get him. I did however think that Norwich wanted £5m for Earnshaw but they would probably be lucky to get it as it is a lot of money for a lower league English striker.
Things are looking good for our missing trio of stars as Ryan Nelsen, Steven Reid and Jason Roberts are all on schedule to be back soon should all continue to go well. Ryan Nelsen is coming along great as he is doing the early morning training sessions and box work and as he is a very fit and healthy chap it should not be very long until we see him again. Steven Reid and Jason Roberts are doing well with physio so should hopefully not be far behind Nelsen. I think we have done not too bad so far this season considering Hughes wanted to build a squad around these injured players and hopefully with them back we can go from strength to strength.
Our away game against Bolton in March has been changed from 3rd March to 4th March with a 13.35 kick due to being aired on television. As already stated our Watford re-scheduled match is to be played on 23rd January at 19.45. Our UEFA Cup match against Bayer Leverkusen has been arranged for Wednesday 14th February at the Bay Arena with the second leg obviously at home on Thursday 22nd February and because of the date of this tie our weekend match for that week against Portsmouth will take place on the Sunday 25th February instead of the Saturday and I am hoping that we can obviously get a better result than our 3-0 hammering at the start of the season.
Recently we have been linked with Gamst Pedersen`s great mate Kristofer Haestad but as we all know he went on to join Wigan. Obviously he would have been joining a better club had he come to us yet he chose them and he has revealed he is happy with his decision. Pedersen tried to get him to change his mind but I respect the fact that Wigan were the first team to show interest and pursue him and that is quite loyal that he went to them because of this.
Friday 5th January 07
Those cheeky punks at Manchester United are said to be interested in making a move for David Bentley should they fail to lure Owen Hargreaves this January Click Here for Full Article. I am hoping that as Bentley is playing the best football of his career he will stay here and not be tempted by their power. Hopefully we can tie him to a new/improved contract to fend others away.
Robbie Savage is a believer that we can win some silverwear and why not Click Here for Full Article. We have a great chance this year in Europe and then there is the FA Cup. Savage is hopoing that during his new two and half year contract he can help us achieve this goal. I very much doubt we will get relegated as we are moving well clear of that and I think our position can only get better but Savage has revealed that he would still stick with us should that happens as he loves the club which is good to hear as we want loyal servants. Then once he`s past it he hopes to end his career with his home town Wrexham. Who knows he could live the dream with Wrexham and be giant killers in a cup competition and win with them but very much doubt it.
As expected Lucas Neill has been attracting interest from Liverpool, Newcastle and West Ham and it looks as though he will more than likely be gone come the end of January. But Hughes only plans to cash in on him should he find suitable replacement as although it would be considered a good piece of business, it would not be good for us should we become weaker with his departure Click Here for Full Article. But I`m sure we will be able to find someone to replace him as if we don`t now then we will have to come the summer; but I`m sure Hughes will do what is right for our club ahead of financial gain.
Yiannakis Okkas who was suppose to be joining us on trial this month is no longer coming as he is needed during a busy spell by his club Olympiakos. Should we want to re-schedule a trial then we will have to wait but should he be that good then hew will be worth the wait I guess.
Saturday 6th January 07
As I thought would happen we are thought to be offering David Bentley a contract extension on his two years that he has left Click Here for Full Article. Hughes has said that we have received no offers for him but he was looking to extend his deal anyway. He has done a great job playing for us and Hughes enjoys working with him and no doubt gets the best out of him and I see no reason why he would want to leave us as many have already said, this is a good place to be at the moment.
We have been having a fine run of games as of late winning our last three Premier League games and four of the last five in all competitions so like Hughes I hope we carry this on Click Here for Full Article against Everton tomorrow in our FA Cup third round match Click Here for Full Article. We are no doubt in better form than Everton who although had a better start to the season find themselves now only three points ahead of us having played a game more as well. Whilst we go from strength to strength Everton find themselves not doing as well as they had been and feel we can progress in the Cup and continue our fine run that we have put together.
Sunday 7th January 07
Hughes was looking forward to our FA Cup match today as during his playing days he won it three times with Manchester United and once with Chelsea. He believes that should you be doing well in the league it helps with playing in cup matches and also if you are not doing so well in the league it can sometimes give you a break from this and you can really go for it. Imagine how great it would be if we were to win the FA Cup and UEFA Cup. I don`t know the odds but should a wager be put on winning them both I bet it would give you a good pay out.
Hughes was not disappointed today by our cup performance as we sailed through with a 4-1 win Click Here for Full Article. It was good to see Matt Derbyshire score again and also Paul Gallacher scoring. Pedersen is starting to get back to scoring ways and Benni McCarthy netted which is no surprise. If we are able to defeat Everton in this manner then hopefully we will be able to overcome anyone should we need to. It was even better the fact that Hughes was able to rotate the squad and not start with players such as Robbie Savage, McCarthy and Brett Emerton. Great result and happy days all round.
Benni McCarthy has been a huge hit for us as he has already scored nine league goals which has attracted the attention of other top clubs. From things I have read I started to get the idea that he would leave us should someone come in for him and he would want to perhaps go but he has always said that he will be loyal to us and is now saying that he will do what we want as our wish is his command Click Here for Full Article. Hopefully he does not have a get out clause should anyone table a large bid. He will probably be interested in leaving us for a larger club but hopefully he will go nowhere.
We are being linked with Belgium international striker Emile Mpenza who is also attracting interest from Sheffield United and Portsmouth. I still don`t think we are in any need to add to our strike force as we are doing fine at the moment and have some quality players including Jason Roberts who will soon be back from injury but apparently he will be available on a free so should he be good then we do not have much to loose I guess.
We are also being linked with Feyenoord forward Ali Boussaboun as another alternative to Emile Mpenza as he is no longer wanted by Feyenoord. He is set to link up with us this week on trial and it will be interesting to see how he does and what comes of it. Should we sign one of these players then we will possibly have too many options up front which is a nice thing to have I guess but you then end up having players unsettled or unhappy as they might not play as you can`t play everyone and have to play your best team. All will become clear soon.