Stephane Henchoz has had the remainder of his contract extended by another year and will now be with us at least until the summer of 2008 Click Here for Full Article. He has featured heavily for us since his return and has played quite well. Following missing last weeks game due to an ankle knock, he should be available to play Saturday against Everton…a game that I am hoping we will win, following knocking them out of the FA Cup with that 4-1 thumping.
Tuesday 6th February 07
Michael Gray's future at Blackburn has become clouded due to the arrival of Stephan Warnock, who lets face will continue to keep the likes of Gray out should he remain injury free and does not dip in form and Bruno Berner. Gray has been subject to interest from clubs during the transfer window and is again receiving interest from clubs in the Championship who hope to try and take him on loan when the loan market re-opens later in the week. Gray has stated that he has no desire to once again go out on loan and wants to stay and fight for his place which no doubt brought a grin to Hughes face as that is the kind of spirit he likes to see. I also like a player who is willing to fight for the cause and commit, rather than give in if it does not go their way and bugger off to another club.
We had three of our lads representing their countries tonight with David Bentley representing our beloved England at Under-21's which shows his efforts have been noticed, but I still think he should be on the senior radar as he has had a great season so far. He showed what he is capable of by having a fantastic game, getting man of the match and setting up the first goal by David Nugent from a free kick. Hopefully he will be taken more notice of now at senior level!? I am use to having two of our lads playing for Australia, being Brett Emerton and Lucas Neill but as we know Neill went elsewhere so we have the one Aussie being Emerton in the match against Denmark. He scored a goal towards the end but it was not enough to stop them losing 3-1. Shabani Nonda was also set to captain country for Democratic Republic of Congo but I am not sure if this match took place as I have not seen anything about any result; if only I could ask Nonda himself but I don't think that will be happening.
Wednesday 7th February 07
It was good to see that Bentley put in a great performance for the England Under-21 team. He played the whole match and looked good and creative all throughout. We all know what he is capable of and as he is now 22, he won't be able to represent at that level any longer so hopefully he will be able to break into the senior level plans. If he keeps playing the way he is and does enough at under-21 I can not see why he should not be considered for one of the future England squads, especially following today's 1-0 defeat to Spain Click Here for Full Article. There were some positive signs occasionally during the England game but on the whole it was disappointing. We know what a lot of the players are capable of that played and these friendlies are meant to be a time where they ring the changes and see what the likes of people like Bentley are capable of, but this does not appear to happen enough and it tends to be the same old story and disappointment; being man of the match yesterday, he must have been that difference that was needed and perhaps he could have been that today had he been playing, who knows?!
Next Wednesday will see us take on Bayer Leverkusen in our first leg of the UEFA Cup last-32 and the players as well as the fans are starting to get a taste for European football, so much so that Brett Emerton has said that they have been bitten by the European bug and want it again next season. We are back in the top half now and our form is far better than that earlier in the season so there is no reason why we can not push for top six again this year and then progress from there. Should we not get top six, there is every possibility that should we continue to play well in Europe, we could go on to win and gain automatic entry which will be superb.
Thursday 8th February 07
Morten Gamst Pedersen is another player along with David Bentley who has been in fine form as of late. He had a slow start to the season but is now probably one of our most prolific players at the moment. Unfortunately though the international duty curse struck and whilst representing Norway against Croatia yesterday he had to limp off after thirty-nine minutes. It is not thought to be bad but he is set to miss our weekend game against Everton as well as probably being out on Wednesday when we face Bayer Leverkusen, which would be a huge blow as we need our best players in these kinds of games.
Elsewhere Zurab Khizanishvili represented Croatia in defence against fellow Rovers team mate Tugay when Croatia beat Turkey 1-0. Tugay played seventy-nine minutes of the match where as Khizanishvili played the full game. Peter Enckelman got to play a full game for Finland as they drew 2-2 against Scotland in the B international.
Everton striker James Beattie has not been having the best of seasons for Everton and as Andy Johnson has pushed him down the order with Beattie now even falling behind youngster Victor Anichebe it is thought that he will probably be on his way in the summer. He had previously been linked with Tottenham during the recent transfer window and it is thought that they will move for him in the summer, as well as us being interested. When he plays well he can be very good but on the whole I don't think he is that impressive and as we are moving forward having qualified and progressed in Europe following a great term last year and want to push on from there, I think that there are better options out there for us to push forward with than Beattie.
As the loan market is set to open, Jason Roberts has become a target for Stoke City Click Here for Full Article who want to take him for probably the rest of the season and team him up with former Portsmouth striker Ricardo Fuller to help fire them to promotion to the Premiership. I thought as he is now back from injury, he would be an important addition to the squad as Hughes rates him highly and has eagerly awaited his return. Perhaps if he did go out on loan it could be short term so that he can regain match fitness and get back to his best. We will have to watch and see what happens.
Andre Ooijer has set a rough date for his return from injury. Since breaking his fibular and sustaining ankle ligament damage last month during our 3-0 victory over Manchester City it has ruled him out for the rest of the season. But he hopes to be back for pre-season and be ready and raring to go for the new season. He encountered a similar injury during 1999 when he broke the same fibular but this time it is twice as tough as he has the ligament damage on the other side of the leg so it sounds very nasty. He has recently had his stitches out and hopefully he can soon go about getting off his butt and start doing his rehab and all will hopefully go well. We all know he had a rocky Ewood start but he has since settled nicely and become a regular and a solid favourite; long may that continue when he returns!
Friday 9th February 07
It is great seeing Ryan Nelsen back in action even though he is as he would say still a little rusty. He has spoke of his delight and how he is loving every minute of being back. It's no surprise he is not quite at the top of his game as he had not played this season so he needs to settle but he still looks good to me. He has now played a few times in the short time he has been back and all seems to be okay. The squad has changed a little since he last played but he is impressed with his new defensive partners Stephen Warnock who he feels will show his best with us and the beastly Christopher Samba who he thinks will have a great career with us; he says that Samba is a nice guy and smiles all the time so we should call him something like Big smiley! He was also full of praise for Brett Emerton saying that he appears to have had a new lease of life this season playing well in both defence and midfield. He is playing some good football and it is handy to have that versatility should we need it.
Following his injury during mid-week whilst representing his beloved Norway, it has now been revealed that our Gamst has been written out of the next three games being Everton, Bayern Leverkusen and the FA Cup fifth round. This is a major blow as he is in fine form and we will definitely miss him and Hughes knows this. Still, we will have to battle on and if we are good enough to win these games then we will obviously have to do it without him as well as any other players that will be missing.
Tomorrows match against Everton Click Here for Full Article is surely going to be a tough encounter as I very much doubt we will be able to go there again like we did in the FA Cup and give them another hammering. Hughes has warned our boys of this and knows that we are going to be in for a fight as they will be aiming to seek revenge. We played some brilliant football in the FA Cup and if we were to play to that same level again then I think we will get a result; but we will have to be very good as it is never easy going there, especially as they are also pushing for a European place sitting eighth in the table.
We have a busy week ahead of us with Everton in the league tomorrow, Bayer Leverkusen in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup and Bolton or Arsenal in the FA Cup next Saturday, with all fixtures being away ties. They are all going to be important matches which will be shaping what lays ahead but Hughes is confident that we can come out of the week in good shape Click Here for Full Article and of the twelve remaining league games he believes that we have a realistic chance of winning the majority of them. That would be great if we could as we will be near the points we amassed last season. But it is best to take it one game at a time staring with Everton tomorrow and hope for the best.
Saturday 10th February 07
Many of you might remember Lorenzo Amoruso who left us in the summer when his contract expired following three injury plagued years. He made a mere twenty-one appearances for us during that time and since leaving us he had ventured into many different business interests including starting his own agency. Anyway, he is now in talks of a return to football playing in Italy for Serie B side Bari which I guess would suit him fine as he said he wanted to finish his football in that country. Judging by what he showed when he was here it is just as well he did not set his targets too high, especially at the age of thirty-five.
Hughes was right to warn his men of Everton's attempts at revenge as they had today's last laugh courtesy of an Andy Johnson goal in the opening ten minutes Click Here for Full Article. It could not have been a worse start with us coming out the blocks terribly and looking a shade of the team that beat them 4-1 and that of what we know we are capable of. To make matters worse local boy David Dunn's first start since returning to us last month lasted only fourteen minutes when he came off with a suspected thigh strain which we all dreaded…what will it take to keep him on that pitch and is it meant to be I find myself asking; hopefully it will be a nothing injury but you never know with Dunn. Jason Roberts came on in the first half but this did not appear to make much difference as we were short of chances. The second half was better and we seemed to apply much more pressure but they were able to keep us out even if it was scrappy.
Should we have managed to beat Everton we would have had their eighth position and would have been trailing Reading who are in sixth by only six points. We now have that little more ground to make up should we stand any chance of that much wanted top six European place but I still believe we are capable should we get a decent run going and not lose momentum and lose our way due to focus on the cups that we are in. Obviously the cups are important and we have worked hard to get where we are, especially with the UEFA Cup but we still want to do well in the league.
Sunday 11th February 07
As we know we are doing well in the FA Cup reaching the fifth round and the match that lays ahead on Saturday is no doubt going to be a very tough encounter, especially if we end up playing Arsenal. Saying that though Bolton have already beaten Arsenal in the league this year so should they win their FA Cup fourth-round replay then that will also be a tough game as they have beaten us in the league as well and are flying high in the top five. If we are to continue marching on we will have to emulate the women's recent FA Cup success where they produced a shock defeat to beat last years runners-up Leeds 2-1 in the quarter final with a winning goal by Katie Anderton. If they can do it then I believe we can despite yesterdays loss as we have a good team and have been impressive with our FA cup run so far scoring eight goals and only conceding one in the two games. Come on girls and come on boys, lets do an FA Cup double!