For a while now it has seemed that Andy Todd`s future does not lie with our club but recently he has forced himself back into the squad and seemed to be doing quite well which led me to think that there may be a chance he should stay after all and could be useful. But it seems now that he will be going again as a host of clubs are interested in him, the latest being Fulham, along with Portsmouth and Wigan. If he does not go this month then he probably will during the summer.
It was great to see both youngsters Matt Derbyshire and Paul Gallagher scoring recently and this did not go unnoticed as Mark Hughes was full of praise for them Click Here for Full Article. For Derbyshire it was his second goal in two games and Gallagher scored his second of the season. Obviously they are both still young and will need to work on their game but scoring goals can only help them with their confidence. Hughes highly rates Gallagher and although perhaps he needs to be more forceful at times, he considers him one of the most technical players we have with a good touch. They both took knocks however against Everton and Gallagher looks to be sidelined for probably a couple of weeks but I`m sure he will be okay.
On the subject still of our recent FA Cup triumph against Everton it was good to see that Hughes gave some of the fringe players a run about, starting with stars such as Robbie Savage, Brett Emerton and Benni McCarthy on the bench. Some people might have taken this as Hughes taking the FA Cup lightly but as we all know he has the utmost respect for this cup like all tournaments and felt it was a good time to rest some of these players and show his faith in some of the others which paid dividends! We were also well aware of the difference in the FA Cup balls as our lads had been training with them all week and were well aware of the swerve they had which paid off with the two early goals.
Winning the FA Cup would be great for us as every team wants to win something. We have the UEFA Cup and FA Cup at our mercy and face just as good a chance as anyone else. Hughes has already got us to semi-finals in the FA Cup and Carling Cup so there is no reason why we can`t go better and I think we have a better team than then as well. Savage has revealed that his ambition is to win the FA Cup this season and following I think having good form and continuing the run in the league can help this as moral will be high for everyone. He said that player moral is high and he is actually going home now and talking to the wife which is definitely a good thing!
On Thursday 22nd February all you lucky season ticket holders will gain free entry into Ewood Park for the Bayer Leverkusen UEFA Cup match Click Here for Full Article and non-season ticket holders will get in for £15 with Senior Citizens and Club 16-21 Members paying £5 and juniors paying a measly £1 so it is definitely worth going and taking the kids if you have any or your friends/neighbours kids for the experience. The match will be played at a strange time of 18:00 which is due to German television wanting to show the match but it is a decent time for the match and hopefully we will have plenty of support there to egg on our lads and help them progress in their campaign to conquer Europe.
Tuesday 9th January 07
We are today being linked with West Ham full back Paul Konchesky who fell out with Alan Curbishley during his time at the Valley and as the former Charlton manager is now West Ham boss he will again probably not be wanted.
As usual we have a player that is doing well for us and then rumours start to appear that all the top guns are going to come after him. David Bentley is one example and the latest is Benni McCarthy being linked to teams such as Chelsea. Hughes has stressed that Benni is going nowhere and is tired with the fact that whenever we have a good player doing well people assume they will go on and leave Click Here for Full Article. I don`t know why either as we are a good team, obviously not the best but we are definitely capable of being a top half team year in year out in the best league in the world so why would a player not want to stay with us. If we keep them we can only get better and who knows what the future holds with our progress. Like Savage said McCarthy is doing well and has more than replaced Bellamy who we all liked but easily forget.
Jay McEveley has been unfortunate for us with injuries but now he is injury free he is hoping to nail down a regular starting place Click Here for Full Article following his display in our 4-1 win over Everton in the FA Cup. He wants to play weekly for us and feels a regular starting place is what he needs to achieve. I`m sure that if he keeps up the good work then he will be rewarded by Hughes and it is down to him to prove himself worthy which he is more than capable of.
Andy Todd is today being linked with Rangers Click Here for Full Article yet no approach is thought to have happened yet. He has featured heavily for us lately since getting back into the team yet his future is uncertain and I`m sure that if Hughes was to tell him that he was no longer needed and Rangers came in for him then he would possibly consider and maybe go there as they are a big club. Whatever happens as long as he keeps playing well I am happy to have him here.
There was talk last week of David Bentley being rewarded a contract extension to keep other clubs away and keep him and everyone happy and it now appears that talks are taking place. I like Bentley and he is in fine form which I am sure will continue and it appears that he is happy to be here which is probably why he is playing so well as he is getting regular action which keeps you happy and confident as a player. Hopefully he can remain injury free and be vital in our push up the table and in our cup competitions.
Wednesday 10th January 07
I was convinced that Lucas Neill would be leaving this month but I have recently learnt that should Liverpool want to sign him they will have to fork out £2 million which I am not sure they will as they only want to pay £500,000 and Neill is out of contract in the summer. It would be great if we could get that for him though but I am not sure we will as he is half a season away from being a freebie. Still should one of the giants want him that bad to be a key factor in the second half of their season, they might perhaps cave in. It would be good to get Stephen Warnock in exchange for Neill as he is a good player and that would be a fair swap but they are reluctant to let him have us. I just want something sorted sooner rather than later.
Local lad Matt Derbyshire who is starting to find himself has revealed that he turned down Manchester United and Everton as well as Burnley to join us as a promising seventeen year old. It was a good choice as far as I am concerned as he is a good footballer and I like him. David Moyes of Everton personally rang to ask about him but he chose to stick to his roots and sign for his local team which is the best move he could have made. Let`s hope there are more goals to come from youngster.
Our FA Cup fourth round match has been selected to be shown on television at 12:30 on Saturday 27th January on BBC. We will not find out who we play until QPR and Luton Click Here for Full Article have played their replay next Tuesday but we know it will be an away match. I remember Luton against Liverpool last year. They had a flying start in the first half scoring three goals in the first half. Although they lost they put in a good performance. Let`s hope they don`t do the same against us and that we are on our guard.
It has been said that Hughes has enquired via fax about getting Emile Mpenza's here on a trial and should all go through okay, his agent will immediately fly out to finalise the details. Hopefully we can fend off the likes of Portsmouth, Sheffield United and Birmingham to try him out and see what he has to offer. Feyenoord striker Ali Boussaboun is into his second day on loan here and it will be interesting to see how he does; I still feel we do not need another striker at the moment as we have plenty of gifted options available, with more available when all have recovered from injuries. But should we gain another quality striker that will fire us goals then I am all for that and I guess the competition could bring out the best in the other strikers.
Thursday 11th January 07
West Ham United are thought to be very much in the race to sign Lucas Neill despite Liverpool and Newcastle`s interest. We are keen on landing Paul Konchesky from West Ham and he could possibly feature as part of a deal and Liverpool`s Stephen Warnock is also still a possibility of a swap deal despite their reluctance to sell him; you always hear about clubs who do not want to sell so and so or do this and do that but they quite often change their minds or something different happens to what they say. Whatever happens, it is thought that all three clubs are set to table serious bids and that all are in discussions to try sorting something as soon as the weekend.
Derby County have put a bid in for our Jay McEveley thought to be in the region of £600,000. I would have thought this offer would not have been contemplated as Hughes would want to keep him but some are saying that we might cash in on him but we will see.
Hertha Berlin defender Christopher Samba is set to have a trial with us according to his club even though he is tied to the club until 2008. He has been told that he will find it hard to compete for a place in the starting line-up so in other words they don`t want him. He has left their training camp to join us and his team have said that they will not get in the way of him leaving so hopefully he will be good and we can benefit.
We have some great news with the fact that Ryan Nelsen, Steven Reid and Jason Roberts are nearing a return to action Click Here for Full Article, having behind closed doors games set up for them so they can be assessed with their recoveries and can build up their match fitness. It has been said for a while that they were all due back by January should all go okay and the signs are good and like Hughes said it is like bringing in three new players to the squad that has been doing well of late and with their quality back in the squad things can hopefully only get better.
Friday 12th January 07
We go into the match against Arsenal tomorrow with a positive squad to select from as we have a wealth of players that are finding their form and are injury free with the exception of long term casualties. It is not often that a manager finds themselves in this situation and hopefully everyone can stay fit and injury free. One player that will be missing is ex-Gunner David Bentley as he is suspended. Would have been nice to have him available aginst his old team but hopefully we can gain something from the match without him.
We are looking at signing Feyenoord midfielder Ali Boussaboun who has been here on a few days trial. We came up against him when we played Feyenoord back in November in the UEFA Cup and he seemed quite sprightly especially during the second half.
We are being linked with all these different players during the transfer window yet Hughes has said that he is in no rush to strengthen as he is happy with the squad depth. I think we have a good squad and proved this against Everton giving some of the fringe players a run about and whooping them 4-1. So should they be needed they are there and can hopefully always rise to the occasion should they be called upon.
One player we were being linked with for a while was ex-Rovers player David Dunn who left us a while back to join Birmingham. I thought we stood a good chance of signing him and he would have wanted to come back but it appears he has opted to join our local rivals Bolton instead Click Here for Full Article for a cut price fee of £1 million. If he does that will be a shame as should he manage to shake off his injury problems and recapture his form he would be a good signing as you don`t get many players like him anymore. Should he join our rivals, I hope he sorts out his family problems that are said to be and be happy with his family.
Saturday 13th January 07
Following our disappointing 6-2 loss to Arsenal a few weeks back that did not reflect the game at all, I was hoping for a little different this time around. Let`s not kid ourselves as it is Arsenal and on form they can be unbeatable and beat the best of them but if you give them a run for their money there is always a possibility that you can get something from them, especially playing at home. But I was not impressed with our performance especially with them a man down early on in the game when Gilberto Silva was sent off. We were very physical letting them know we meant business which in a way you could argue has undone some of our good work of late with our style of play and even moving a little away from that physical/bullying tag that we have. We did not do ourselves justice and played into their hands let them counter attack us and win 2-0. We did not take our chances and they were with no doubt the better team.
I think I agree with Hughes that felt Gilberto Silvers dismissal perhaps hindered us more than it did Arsenal. Usually with a player dismissed so early into the game you would think the eleven man team would have a clear advantage and the team short would be weakened and defending for their lives. This was not the case though as Arsenal were happy to sit back and absorb the pressure and then catch us on the counter and do what they do best. Henry showed this with his goal when he broke up the field ghosting through our players as if they weren`t there and playing a great one-two to sweetly net a wonder goal. We were poor there and should have closed him better. We did not create enough chances and when we did we did not capitalise hence not scoring. We have Manchester City next who I would hope to beat. They are a decent team who are having a slightly better season than us sitting in tenth and I would never underestimate them but if we want to be pushing for another European finish then we have achieve from these games.
There is more speculation about Andy Todd leaving and going to Rangers but Hughes has quickly moved to quash these rumours saying that there has been no contact at all from Rangers and he does not want to let him go as he needs the cover in central defence. He did not play today but Hughes has said that it was simply because he ws injured. Also it is said that Todd is unhappy and wants to leave but I always felt that he has no intention of going and wants to prove himself. We will have to see what happens.
Sunday 14th January 07
Ticket information has become available in regards to our next home game against Sheffield United at the beginning of February and tickets will be available from Monday. Our next three games are away from home as this includes the rescheduled away game against Watford. Adult tickets start from a reasonable £15, £14 for seniors/club 16-21 members and £7 for juniors. If you purchase tickets for this game you automatically get three Card Stickers which entitle you to £10 off any future home Premiership match which is a good enough reason alone to get tickets for this game. If I was closer and able to go to these games then I would definitely be there and I`d be like, count me in!
Arsene Wenger believes that as Gilberto Silva was sent off Robbie Savage should have followed for his aggressive tackle in the first place. I am not just saying this as he is a Rovers player but although Savage was rough tackling and edging us back to that bullying tag, it was merely more than a yellow card as it was not that bad. Silva was perhaps a little unfortunate to be sent off but he did retaliate with the kick-out at Savage which although Savage theatrically went down from does warrant a straight red. I did have a feeling though from early in the match that we could go on to lose a man as well but luckily we did not but easily could have done.
We had unfortunate news with Steven Reid as he collapsed during training which is the last thing you want when you have a key player on the verge of return from a long term injury. This is a fresh injury as he damaged his knee in a freak incident which makes it even worse. He immediately had a scan in Leeds and hopefully the results will come back showing that there is no ligament damage and he will be okay but should it be what is feared the worst then we will be lucky to see him for a while and he will go back to being bored at home whilst we continue to play on the best that we can. It will be frustrating for him should it be serious but we will have to keep our fingers and toes crossed.