As Blackburn Rovers’ under-pressure manager Steve Kean prepares to strengthen his wafer-thin squad in January, the much-maligned Scot will be aware of the growing interest in a number of his talented players from Premier League rivals. The struggling Lancashire outfit are currently sitting uncomfortably at the bottom of the table, which poses a problem for Kean in more than one way.
One of the trickiest issues the former first-team coach faces will be convincing quality players to join a side which has only managed to win two top-flight games all season. Worse still, the 44-year-old may find it increasingly difficult to persuade his current stars to stay put at Ewood Park. Events over the next four weeks could potentially make or break the rest of Rovers’ season.
Kean wants to bring in four new players as soon as possible, with a striker, a midfielder and two defenders thought to be on his wish-list. Injuries to key defenders including Ryan Nelsen, Scot Dann, Michel Salgado, Gael Givet and Martin Olsson have significantly weakened the squad, forcing the Rovers boss to place his faith in youngsters Jason Lowe, Grant Hanley and Adam Henley. And while the highly-rated trio have impressed in various games during the first half of the campaign, it is clear that Kean needs to strengthen a back-line which has shipped 39 goals in just 18 league games. Nottingham Forest full-back Chris Gunter has been linked with a move to Lancashire.
Injury-prone Fulham striker Andy Johnson is also on Rovers’ radar according to several national newspapers. The 30-year-old could seal a switch to Ewood Park for £2m, as Kean looks to ease the burden on in-form Nigerian forward Yakubu. An experienced central midfielder also remains a priority because Rovers have failed to find an adequate replacement for workhorse Jermaine Jones, whose short-term loan came to an end last summer.
While Kean remains confident that Venky’s will back him and part with their hard-earned cash, there are fears that any such spending spree will have to be funded by the departure of some of Rovers’ best players. And even if there is plenty of money available without having to sell any star names, the manager may find it difficult to convince the likes of Junior Hoilett and Congolese giant Samba that Ewood Park is the best place for them to showcase their talent.
Samba has been attracting the interest of north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham for some time now, while even promoted Queens Park Rangers and high-flying Newcastle believe they can lure the centre-back away from Lancashire. But it is essential that Rovers keep their towering skipper – at least until the end of the season. Samba has been an influential figure both at the front – with two goals and four assists – and the back – with 15 blocks and 61 clearances – for Blackburn and it can be argued that Rovers Premier League fate would already have been sealed had it not been for their captain.
The future of exciting winger Hoilett, who played a huge part in keeping the club up last season, also remains up in the air. Kean will have to use his positivity and powers of persuasion to convince his stars to stay. But before that, Rovers must travel to Old Trafford – where they were thumped 7-1 last term. It promises to be an interesting month at Ewood Park.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Man