Club Focus – Blackburn Rovers – Reasons to be cheerful on eve of new season

This week has been a relatively positive one for Blackburn Rovers thanks to the pre-season victory over Scottish giants Celtic, coupled with the exciting signing of Manchester United striker Mame Biram Diouf on a season-long loan. Although talks of a proposed takeover have cooled recently, fans can still look forward to seeing one or two new faces at Ewood Park before the campaign commences, according to Rovers boss Sam Allardyce.

Former Wigan striker Jason Roberts was left out of Blackburn’s trip to Scotland, casting doubts over his future at the club. The Grenadian target man managed to bag five league goals last season and Big Sam has made it clear that Roberts is available for transfer, with any prospective move freeing up some room on the wage bill. But, although any such sale could fetch around up to £1m, the potential transfer of Roberts will not be used fund a move for Nigel Reo-Coker, says Allardyce. The Aston Villa midfielder has been heavily linked with a move to the Lancashire club, but Big Sam has denied any interest in the 26 year-old.

Nevertheless, Allardyce has revealed that he is closing in on at least one signing before Rovers begin their Premier League season at home to Everton on Saturday. When asked about any possible transfer targets, Allardyce said: “We have one or two irons in the fire that have emerged over the last few days, which are exciting me a little bit more, but we’re still quite a way from securing any permanent signing.”

He could perhaps have been speaking about Fenerbahce forward Daniel Guiza, with the Daily Mail claiming the Spaniard could be on his way to Rovers, should the side make a bid for the £5m-rated striker. However, Allardyce would have to be pretty fast in his approach, with former club Getafe also interested in securing the services of the 29-year-old. With Senegalese forward Mame Diouf scoring in his first appearance for Rovers since his loan move from Man Utd, an attacking trio consisting of himself, Guiza and Croatian youngster Nikola Kalinic could result in a mouthwatering, menacing strikeforce. However, Fenerbahce’s asking price may well prove a major stumbling block in any attempted deal.

Whether the pursuit of Guiza is successful or not, Allardyce is already planning for the long-term future of the club. Having already tied down youngsters Grant Hanley, Martin Olsson and Phil Jones to new contracts this summer, Big Sam has now rewarded Frenchman Steven N’Zonzi with a new five-year deal. The defensive midfielder’s profile has risen hugely ever since his move to the Premier League from French minnows Amiens. N’Zonzi scooped the Rovers Player of the Season award last campaign and is a vital part of Allardyce’s plans this year. The commitment of these youngsters to the club means that Blackburn will remain competitive on the field for many years to come.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Paul Robinson has stunned England coach Fabio Capello by deciding to retire from international football. Robinson had been selected for the upcoming friendly against Hungary at Wembley this week, however he decided to snub the call-up. Having finished the previous campaign in excellent form, the former Tottenham stopper did not convince Capello enough to secure a seat on the plane to South Africa for the World Cup. In fact, the Italian coach put his trust in David James and Rob Green ahead of Blackburn’s number one, both of whom conceded several goals in their attempts to avoid relegation with Portsmouth and West Ham respectively.

At the time, Sam Allardyce criticised Capello’s decision to omit Robinson from the 23-man squad and now Robinson has seemingly indicated his unhappiness at the decision too. “I don’t see myself as a number three or four keeper and find that role very frustrating,” he said. To the pleasure of Rovers fans, Robinson added: “I feel it is in the best interest of myself and my club Blackburn Rovers that I concentrate solely on my club football.” Although a somewhat controversial decision, Robinson’s announcement is understandable and can only be good in terms of prolonging his Blackburn Rovers career.

These have been an interesting few days for Blackburn fans as they look ahead to yet another season in the Premier League. Having scored in his first Rovers appearance against Hearts, Mame Diouf will look to entertain the Ewood Park faithful with similar performances this season. With a new signing also on the horizon, these are exciting times for the Lancashire club.

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