In: Chris Brown (Doncaster Rovers), Luke Varney (Leeds United), Alex Baptiste (Bolton Wanderers, Loan), Shane Duffy (Everton, Undisclosed), Ryan Tunnicliffe (Fulham, Loan), Jason Steele (Middlesborough, Loan)
Out: Alan Judge (Brentford, Undisclosed), Ruben Rochina (Granada, Undisclosed), Ryan Edwards (Morecambe), David Goodwillie (Aberdeen), David Carson (Ashington), Josh Morris (Fleetwood Town, Loan), Anthony O’Connor (Plymouth Argyle, Loan), Leon Best (Derby County, Loan), Jordan Slew (Port Vale, Loan).
Released: William Beesley, Robbie Cotton, Ryan Edwards, Huge Fernandez Molina, Deniz Pero, Aaron Tumwa, Matthew Unwin, Timothy Payne, Dickson Etuhu, DJ Campbell.
As some of you may have noticed (if you’ve read my previous posts) I have a massive soft spot for Blackburn. They have an immensely talented front 6 but a really dodgy back 5 (though looking at the signings, this is an area which is being addressed, with the signings of Baptiste, Duffy and Jason Steele)
The trio of Cairney, Conway and Gestede, coupled with the goalscoring nous of ex-Ipswich academy product Jordan Rhodes, Rovers have an immensely talented forward line – and Cairney, Gestede and Rhodes are a good age to compete in this league and vie for promotion. Keeping Rhodes saved manager Gary Bowyer a headache of not only replacing him, but also his goals.
I maintain that had they shipped less goals, they really should have done better last term and reached the play offs. It’s no fault of their own, but keeping the core of the team and strengthening certain areas means that Rovers are ready to launch a solid assault at the top 6 this term.
The young and talented Jason Lowe provided cover for Tom Cairney to create further forward, with Tommy Spurr and Craig Conway the left-hand pairing. Rhodes was virtually ever present last term, with a solid scoring contribution of 0.584, scoring 21 non-penalty goals and providing 5 assists. Conway boasted 17 assists and 5 goals, as Rovers were boosted by his prowess from set piece situations. Grant Hanley was also a regular, with 10.238 defensive actions per 90, slightly lower than an average centre-back – though almost 2.6 interceptions per 90 and below average in clearances, perhaps his footballing mind is underrated. Scott Dann, Matthew Kilgallon and Michael Keane rotated as Hanley’s partner at the back, whilst Todd Kane put a good shift in at RB.
Judge joined from Notts County, returning to the club where he was a trainee but made just 11 appearances for Blackburn before being shipped out on loan to Brentford. After helping them to promotion, Judge signed on a permanent deal. Making 22 appearances, Judge scored 7 times and made 3 assists, with a scoring contribution per 90 of 0.446 – an admirable figure and clearly did enough to convince the manager that he should stay on. Judge’s versatility meant that he appeared in a number of positions at Brentford, on both wings, as a number 10 and also as a central midfielder. Letting him go may have been a mistake by Blackburn, but as a squad player, he is bound to get a lot more games at Brentford.
Ruben Rochina + David Goodwillie + DJ Campbell
Rochina was signed to much pomp and course from Barcelona – scored one storming goal in the Premier League and sort’ve dropped off since. Goodwillie was signed as a goalscorer, and to my knowledge was largely injured and seemed homesick outside the SPL. Campbell I remember excellently as a saviour at ITFC, which subsequently lead to his move to Blackburn originally – but he wasn’t able to replicate the same form for Blackburn and he’s just been let go – possibly some internal affairs.
And now to the signings.
Luke Varney + Chris Brown
Varney is now 31, and signed on a free from Leeds, along with Brown from Leeds. Two experienced (31 ad 29) players who know the league, and on frees, they are great replacements for Campbell and Best. Varney joined on loan from January, and made a few cameos – last season in total he got 2 non-pen goals and 3 assists. Which isn’t too shabby, especially with roughly 1 key pass per 90. He’ll be a squad player, and good foil for the first choice 2 of Gestede (monster) and Rhodes. Chris Brown was ranked 23rd in my other post of the top 50 Championship strikers (though 6 non-pen goals and 1 assist isn’t exactly prolific) His passing isn’t THAT great, but he’s a solid back up option, like Varney to partner either one of the goal machines that are Rhodes and Gestede. And, to be fair, the amount of chances Brown will have will increase at Blackburn than at a often lacklustre Doncaster side.
Shane Duffy + Alex Baptiste
Duffy and Baptiste played quite a few games at their respective Championship clubs, Yeovil and Bolton, last term. But looking at their stats, one is significantly better than the other. Baptiste is a distinctly average full-back (this is where I wish I’d taken the aerial duels won into account when putting this document/database together) who scored 4G and got 2A last season. He played quite a bit, but just 1.211 Intp90 and around 8 def actions per 90 are both below that of an average FB in the league. His passing isn’t great and essentially is a good squad player to have (though he turned out at Bolton quite a bit last term, possibly due to his versatility..)
Duffy is a different sort of player. An out and out CB, scored just once and assisted 2 last year – but his interceptions are good as is his defensive actions per 90, though that’s partially to his 562 clearances – hoof. Still, he completed essentially a full season at Yeovil, and is just 22 years old so could be a class signing at Blackburn.
Essentially, I think that Blackburn have strengthened in the right areas, signing Jason Steele is a good move forward for the future, as Paul Robinson is inevitably getting older. They will be able to compete this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them at Wembley as a Play-Off candidate come May 2015. Cairney, Conway, Rhodes and Gestede will be key, as will Duffy and Hanley at the back.