Finally all this transfer talk is starting to fall into place. Lucas Neill has finally joined West Ham and his awaiting big fat weekly pay cheques for a fee thought to be in the region of £1.5 million and the same day has seen Stephen Warnock finally join us from Liverpool after pursuing him for some time. For a while I thought that perhaps we would not get him as Neill shunned Liverpool for what only seems a more financially rewarding package as before he wanted to be a winner which he more likely would have been with Liverpool. Yet Liverpool have reluctantly let Warnock come to us as a replacement and as he is left footed he will provide a better all round balance at the back as Neill did not have that presence. I like Warnock and think he will be good for us and is also good that he is still quite young and English at that.
Hughes seems pleased with the signing of Warnock and has focused on it to soften the blow of finally loosing Lucas Neill which we all know he did not want. Fair play to Neill he has done well for us and kept on going but as he did not want to be with us anymore, he is better off going elsewhere. We have a really good signing in the form of Warnock and I think he will fit straight in and his style of play and pressure he puts on players will suit the bill as Hughes puts it. He finally got his man and hopefully he will more than replace Neill just like Benni McCarthy did that other chap that went Liverpool…what`s his name again!
Tuesday 23rd January 07
Tonight saw the rescheduled match against bottom of the table strugglers Watford Click Here for Full Article and despite our great form and there terrible position Hughes did not at all underestimate them and their ability. Having already lost to West Ham and Charlton who make up the rest of the bottom three Hughes was aware of what could happen but believed as they are a wounded animal as he was to put it we would have the upper hand due to our form of seven wins in nine games.
Well he was right on the first count not to underestimate them and wrong with the second being that we would win with the upper hand. Twice we were behind and the second time we could not find a way back. It started bad with a Brett Emerton own goal and a fourteenth goal of the season from McCarthy was not enough to stop us slipping 2-1 Click Here for Full Article. Hughes was far from impressed with the performance and I feel the same. We knew what to expect yet did not deal with them. To make it worse Mr influential Savage broke his leg Click Here for Full Article and is going to be out for the rest of the season so we now need to find another stand-in captain. The challenge went unpunished and if it was Savage committing the crime then he would surely have seen yellow. We looked to be getting the shape of our squad back then Steven Reid again gets injured, Andre Ooijer breaks his ankle and now Savage with this, hopefully we will now get a break and have something good happen like Ryan Nelsen and Jason Roberts returning soon.
Lucas Neill has hit back at the critics who say he joined West Ham instead of Liverpool because of the double the money offer and alleged they are well off the mark. He has a good argument that he wants to play regular football and if the club was good enough for such World Cup winning greats as Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst then it is good enough for him. This is fair enough but to be honest I don't really care. I liked him while he was here but now he has gone and what he does and says at West Ham is irrelevant to us now. He's moved on and so will we. Thanks for your services and good luck.
During December we had Dinamo Kiev defender Andrei Nesmachny here on a trial as well as undertaking and successfully passing a medical and Hughes appeared to be pleased with him and interested. However according to Kiev President Igor Surkis we appear to have left them in the dark over what we want to do about a deal. They say they faxed us on Saturday and we have not replied and have until today to do so else a deal will fall through. If Hughes was impressed and he is only going to cost £770,000 then I think we should take him on board. I know we have to add him to the wage structure and Hughes has already said that Ooijer's injury might not even be enough to tempt him into buying more cover, but I think he is worth a gamble. If not then we should at least be decent enough to give them an answer as if we do not then that is not very professional.
Perhaps the reasoning for us not appearing to pursue the signing of Andrei Nesmachny is due to Hertha Berlin revealing that they are willing to sell us DR Congo international Christopher Samba Click Here for Full Article. He impressed during a recent trial and it is thought that a two and a half year deal has been agreed. They seem happy to let him go and we happily take him as he will cover for Ooijer who we all know will be out for the rest of the season and hopefully he will fill the vacant role just as good and make the position his own.
Wednesday 24th January 07
Recently the Premier League clinched a £625m overseas rights deal roughly bumping up each clubs TV income to £40m per year. Over the months we have seen schemes where our generous Chairman John Williams has given us special reduced matches and he believes that this boost in money should be rewarded back to the fans Click Here for Full Article and I think that is a very good idea indeed. He believes this should be returned to us in the admission prices which should hopefully get more of you people out there supporting each week. Our average attendance in our 31,000 capacity Ewood Park is 10,000 short of being full and like many of the clubs we fail to fill it as people either do not have the money to keep paying or do not want to pay it. Should ticket prices fall hopefully attendances will increase and hopefully this higher attendance would spur our lads on just that little more.
It was great to see Jason Roberts, Ryan Nelsen and Franny-boy Jeffers getting a runabout today for the Reserves against Bolton Reserves even though they were on the end of a 1-0 defeat Click Here for Full Article. Roberts was not able to do much on the night but it would have been ideal for his fitness and to finally get some action. Nelsen got a decent seventy minute run-out last week in the reserves against Rangers' and tonight got just over another seventy, almost scrambling in a goal and Jeffers played a full ninety and having the best chance of scoring. As he played a whole game theoretically he should return first but things are looking good with the trio and hopefully all can now be good and no more major injuries looming in the near future.
Thursday 25th January 07
For a while now people have been aware of the quality Hughes possesses as a manager and is being highly recognised for this just like he was as a fantastic player. We all love Blackburn and know he does a great job for us but there is only so far he could realistically take us as we are a small club in comparison to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. The grand job he has done with us has often seen him being linked with the latter of these teams and United skipper Gary Neville believes that he is the ideal candidate to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson when he finally calls it a day. The likes of Brian Robson and Steve Bruce have gone on to manage as well as Sparky and in the past have been thought of as possible successors. The least likely of the three to go on to management was Hughes yet he appears to be naturally the best of the bunch and should he one day leave us which I hope is not for a very long time, I feel he would definitely be a United success, especially taking over a team with the likes of the players they will already have.
Today we signed our third player of this transfer window being that of Hertha Berlin's DR Congo international Christopher Samba Click Here for Full Article. As most people will know he has been here on trial and has done enough to impress and earn himself a three and a half year contract which no doubt Hughes would not have awarded him with had he felt he was not up to the challenge. I look forward to seeing him play and welcome him to the squad.
Another player we currently have here on trial is Feyenoord forward Ali Boussaboun and it is not yet clear what our intentions are with him. It is thought that we want him on loan until the end of the season with a view to buy should he impress. They are willing to do a deal but only if terms suit them but they also feel that we are taking too long to make a decision. Should we take him on loan would he actually play? We have many strikers in the frame with Roberts and Jeffers soon to return and as well as Benni we have youngsters such as Derbyshire showing their desire and ability and Nonda who is also on loan that I hope we will sign and he is beginning to find himself
Robbie Savage's broken leg was a huge blow to us and it looks almost certain he is out for the season. He has had a successful operation having a pin inserted into his broken leg and Hughes has since commented on the tackle stating that he felt it was a bit high up above the ankle and a poor challenge, stating that only Al Bangura could say if it was deliberate and with intent. It did look nasty but I would like to believe personally that it was just a rash challenge with no intent and that no player would be cruel enough to intentionally inflict pain and suffering on another player/human being.
Friday 26th January 07
No one can deny that David Bentley has been in fine form this season and it is no surprise that there have been whispers of a possible England call-up Click Here for Full Article. I'm sure a lot of people saw his departure from Arsenal to us in 2005 as another young potential English player heading for the scrap heap but to be fair to Bentley it was probably the best move he could have made as he is now rejuvenated and under the wing of a fine manager who has brought the best out in him, giving him encouragement and belief and helping him prove people wrong. Should he get an England call up for next month it would be a great achievement and fine reward for a fine season. If selected then it would definitely give hope to many other young talents who would not usually get a look-in into the usual group and hopefully we could go on to produce many more youngsters as well as other teams getting theirs in the England set up such as Portsmouth's Matthew Taylor or Aston Villa's Gareth Barry. We may be rivals in the league but we all want the best for our country no matter what team they come from.
Despite our recent injury setbacks things are starting to shape up with the squad and a big boost for us is the possibility of the Admiral Ryan Nelsen returning on Saturday for our FA Cup match against Luton Click Here for Full Article. He has come a long way and featured in friendly matches and is finally on the verge of playing his first game during the season and no doubt he will go straight in as captain again which will be a boost to the players. Stephen Warnock and Christopher Samba could both make their Rovers debuts, I fancy Warnock to start and play the whole match; not so sure about Samba though, perhaps he'll play some from the start or come on as a sub. I look forward to seeing him in action though as he is a beast of a player, looking very menacing. Franny Jeffers should be available if needed which is another bonus but Tugay is still out with injury. David Dunn will not be in the set-up but apparently he is doing really well and is in great physical shape and just needs that match fitness. I look forward to his return and our pass through to the FA Cups next round Click Here for Full Article.
Following Robbie Savages broken leg I thought perhaps the incident might have been looked into yet nothing has come of it. This has lead Hughes to believe that it has been swept under the table and I guess basically ignored Click Here for Full Article. Had it been Robbie committing the foul then you would never have heard the last of it and people would be getting at him saying what a reckless thug he is. I agree with Hughes that whenever there is an incident with Savage, be it guilty or not, he is always cast as the guilty party; I bet some people have even gone on to think that he deserved what happened. I think there should definitely be an enquiry into why it went unpunished and unnoticed by the referee.
I thought that perhaps with the new additions to our squad Hughes would be happy to settle for who we have and be happy with that. But then again as long as the transfer window is open clubs are always being linked to someone right up until the closing date. Our latest link according to Spanish resources is Villarreal's midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi who is on loan from Juventus but is not holding down a regular spot and will not be staying. Hughes is thought to be watching him as well as being interested in Lee Hendrie who I am not so sure about but then who am I to question the Great Mark Hughes as he knows his stuff and after all he`s the man or should I say Hughes da man.
Saturday 27th January 07
I always feel that when Hughes has an opinion upon something that he more often than not argues a good case. The latest view he has is about using the newly invested TV cash of next season to reduce ticket prices. Even Sports Minister Richard Caborn is backing Hughes' suggestions saying that the money should not just go towards lining the pockets of players and agents and should follow Hughes' lead in the idea that the fans should be at the centre of the club and have reduced tickets which should see falling crowds rise following lower attendances. I am all for it and I am sure the majority of fans are as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed today's FA Cup outing which was made all the better with a convincing 4-0 final result Click Here for Full Article. It was good to see the Admiral return and put in a good first performance even though he did get that head injury. Stephen Warnock made a great debut and Christopher Samba made his debut coming on for the Admiral later on. It was another fantastic outing by youngster Matt Derbyshire scoring another two goals making it five in seven games; the lad had his chance and has well and truly grasped it so well done. Obviously with four goals scored, McCarthy had to be amongst them and the great Gamst Pedersen's goal was as sweet as a nut as you would expect as he does not know the meaning of an average goal. Things are shaping up nicely for us in both the FA Cup and UEFA Cup and as long as we continue doing what we do the rest of the season will also be very interesting.
I think our squad and its shape are starting to look quite good now and we have strength and quality all throughout. Warnock made a great debut, which was easily noticed by Hughes leading him to believe that our left sided weakness could be a thing of the past. Obviously though without a doubt, Hughes` key man was Derbyshire Click Here for Full Article who has risen above everyone's expectations. He was on loan in League one to Wrexham last season and Hughes was expecting him to move on to the next level with a Championship loan yet Derbyshire obviously had other ideas and did not want to waste himself another season being elsewhere scoring plenty more goals at another level.
This has obviously given Hughes a pleasant headache when it comes to forwards as I doubt Derbyshire was in his long-term plans for this season. Obviously he will want to be playing McCarthy and as Derbyshire is playing well and scoring he will have to keep going with him as long as he continues to do so. With Roberts coming back soon and Franny on the scene as well it has got me wondering how Nonda will fit in the plans and doubting if he will be here next season. I like him and would like him to stay but perhaps the way things are going with the squad, he might not have done enough and might not get the chance to do so!
Sunday 28th January 07
Hughes was more than pleased with Ryan Nelsen's return and praised how well he played. He looked solid throughout his seventy-minute run out and did not want to come out. Now he is back he will provide us with that cover which we have so much missed so far and hopefully with him back and Warnock successfully covering the left we will be a whole lot more solid in defence and things can only get better. Samba got a warm reception when he came on for the Admiral and Hughes believes that people have warmed to him already before he even played and hopefully he will also be solid at the back. We will miss Andre Ooijer obviously whilst he is out but I feel we now have sufficient cover and on the whole can now be stronger.
The fifth round of the FA Cup is to be drawn on Monday at 13.30pm. We have just short of a fifty percent chance that we will play a lower league team, which will theoretically make our chances of progressing that little bit easier. Then again though there is no easy FA Cup match as no team can ever be written off; still I hope we do get that lower league team as we have been playing some great football. The last two rounds reflected this with eight goals, four of which against seventh placed Everton who before the match probably questioned the squad which Hughes would not have put out if he felt they were not capable of doing the job.
Despite being linked with Aston Villa's Lee Hendrie and Alessio Tacchinardi of Villarreal it is thought that we will not be signing another midfielder this month despite Savage and Reid being long-term casualties. Hughes has the view that Dunn was brought in to play a part and not to sit about twiddling his thumbs and he is thought to only be match fitness away from a return and will no doubt once again be a big hit should he reproduce what we know he is capable of so the squad we have should be of satisfaction and again Hughes knows what he is doing.