Can Blackburn Rovers Justify Favouritism for the League One Title Next Season?
It’s just over 20 years since Blackburn unexpectedly became Premier League champions, but how times change! Rovers will begin the forthcoming campaign in the English third tier and have been priced up as favourites for the League One title under manager Tony Mowbray. Can the Lancashire side return to the Championship at the first time of asking?
Blackburn almost saved themselves from the drop at the end of last season but just fell short despite an impressive looking 3-1 victory over Brentford on the final weekend. Tony Mowbray had been in charge of the club for just 72 days but his efforts were in vain as Rovers joined Rotherham and Wigan in League One ahead of the 2017-18 season.
The Saltburn-born gaffer took over following the tumultuous stewardship of Owen Coyle with the Scot leaving the club three points adrift with just 15 games left to play. Mowbray lifted spirits around Ewood Park and picked up 22 points in his short time at the club, but it proved to be academic.
The former Middlesbrough boss remains in charge and is tasked with guiding the fallen giants back to the Championship. They’ve been installed as 9/2 favourites to clinch the League One title and if you’re thinking of backing Rovers for glory, Oddschecker have details on to get a £30 free bet when signing up for a Ladbrokes account to use on ante-post bets ahead of the forthcoming campaign. Fellow relegated outfit Wigan have been priced up as second favourites whilst last year’s losing play-off finalists Bradford are fourth in the betting.
Blackburn’s transfer business has certainly caught the eye this summer with Cardiff’s Peter Whittingham joining the club on a two-year deal. The 32-year-old has been a mainstay in the Cardiff squad and netted seven times in 37 appearances last season. He played a total of 450 times for the Welsh outfit.
‘He wants to play’#CardiffCity boss Neil Warnock explains Peter Whittingham’s reasons for leaving the club
— BBC Wales Sport (@BBCWalesSport) June 14, 2017
A flurry of midfield players have joined Whittingham, with Richie Smallwood, Ben Gladwin and the impressive Bradley Dack all arriving at the club ahead of pre-season. Mowbray has made no secret of his desire to add a powerful frontman to his squad with the need for a “Plan B” as Blackburn aim to fight their way out of a competitive division. Danny Graham and Anthony Stokes are the only two forwards currently under contract at the club.
Rovers began their pre-season campaign with a battling victory over non-league Barrow, fielding two different starting XIs in the process. Former Birmingham full-back Paul Caddis was amongst a number of trialists who featured in the game.
Tony Mowbray’s side will need to get off to the best possible start if they are to lay down their promotion credentials and they begin their campaign with a difficult 257-mile trip to Roots Hall. Southend have added Michael Kightly and Michael Turner to their side this summer and collecting three points in Essex may be difficult for the visitors. Rovers then face all three of last year’s beaten play-off sides in their first seven games.
Danny Graham found the net during pre-season, and the former Sunderland striker will be key to Rovers’ chances of an instant return to the Championship. He netted 13 times last season despite a stop-start campaign and is likely to terrorise many a League One back-line. Blackburn’s midfield looks well-stocked and their defence looks solid enough. Derrick Williams, Elliott Ward and the highly rated Darragh Lenihan should all play a big part next season but another addition is likely before the transfer window slams shut.
Elliott Ward – keep. Been a revelation since he’s come into the side, working really well beside CM and Leni. Passionate, leader and calm. pic.twitter.com/HVEcXD0K4F
— Talk Of Ewood (@TalkOfEwood) May 7, 2017
If Mowbray’s side can pick up points on their long arduous away trips, they should easily be in the mix come the end of the season. Visits to Fratton Park, Home Park and The Priestfield are far from ideal but Blackburn were defeated just twice on the road under Mowbray at the end of last season.
The Lancashire outfit are assembling an impressive side ahead of the new season and they are aiming to bounce back at the first attempt. Sheffield United justified favouritism last year under boss Chris Wilder and Blackburn will be aiming to emulate the Blades’ success. The South Yorkshire club won 17 times at home during their title winning campaign and Rovers must ensure Ewood Park becomes a fortress again for the next ten months as they look to justify their short-price for promotion.