Blackburn Club Focus – The curious case of Christopher Samba

Relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers managed to keep hold of star players Christopher Samba and Junior Hoilett as the January transfer window came to a close, but Venky’s decision to price their prized assets out of the market could well come back to haunt them. While interest in the creative Canadian midfielder Hoilett was not as high as expected, he is still likely to leave Ewood Park on a free transfer this summer. It is the skipper Samba however, who is causing the most concern.

Rovers rejected bids from Queens Park Rangers for the Congolese giant and made it clear to the 27-year-old that he would not be going anywhere. High-flying Newcastle and title-chasing Tottenham were also keen admirers, though the latter eventually signed Samba’s long-term centre-back partner – the ageing New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen – on deadline day.

This time last month, the majority of fans felt that keeping Samba was essential if the Lancashire outfit wanted to survive in the Premier League. While some may praise the owners for sticking to their guns and refusing to sell their star man, it is beginning to look like a poor decision. Samba has publicly spoken of his desire to leave Ewood Park and also recently claimed that he would not be able to give 100% if the club forced him to stay. Steve Kean ignored that threat, in the hope that the influential Samba would eventually get over the disappointment of being made to remain in the north-west. As things stand, the former Hertha Berlin defender is so unhappy, that he is being left out of the squad.

Indeed, Samba missed out on Rovers’ 2-0 loss to Newcastle on Wednesday night – a day after the transfer window had shut. Kean has also confirmed that, despite being fit, his skipper will not be part of the squad travelling to London to face Arsenal this weekend. Given Samba’s mood, many supporters are now asking why he was not allowed to leave. As good as the towering centre-back may be – and he has certainly been a key player for Rovers this season as A Different League explained last month – what is the point of keeping him if he is not being made available for these significant games? Surely Rovers would have been better off cashing in their prized asset and investing the money in more committed players?

There is every possibility that Samba will play for Rovers again this season and once he accepts that his immediate future lies at Ewood Park, he could well go on to become a key player for Kean once again. There also remains the slim chance however that Samba will never forgive the club for forcing him to stay and as a result, his performances may drop and the dressing room may be disrupted. It was a gamble for Rovers to keep hold of Samba, but only the coming weeks will tell whether it was a risk worth taking.

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