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Paul Wheelock column: Rovers must look to move on returning loanees
ROVERS’ squad will be swelled by the return of eight first-team players this summer once their loans end.
I use the word ‘swelled’ and not ‘boosted’ as the brutal truth is seven of the eight are disposable.
Admittedly that is harsh on Josh Morris, Yann Songo’o and Jordan Slew, youngsters who have enjoyed impressive stints away from Ewood Park this season.
But in all honesty are they going to challenge for a place in Gary Bowyer’s starting XI?
Morris has been excellent for Fleetwood and is just 90 minutes away from helping the Cod Army to Wembley and a place in the League Two play-off final.
But if Markus Olsson is handed a new contract – and he certainly went the right way about getting one with his form at the back end of the campaign – Rovers will have back-up for their undisputed first choice left back Tommy Spurr.
Morris would prefer to play further upfield anyway.
But he will be hard pressed to win a place on the left wing given Bowyer has the likes of Ben Marshall, Craig Conway, Josh King and, possibly, Liam Feeney to call on.
Rovers do need cover at centre back now that Michael Keane has gone back to Manchester United.
But with the highly thought of Jack O’Connell set to be given a chance to stake his claim in pre-season, that could leave Songo’o even further down the pecking order.
The same could apply to Slew if Rovers sign the versatile Luke Varney to provide competition for fearsome front two Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede.
It therefore would be better for Slew, Songo’o and Morris to move on and get the first-team football they need to fulfil their potential.
The same could be said of Alex Marrow who worryingly has made absolutely no impact at Fleetwood, unlike Morris.
Alan Judge, meanwhile, has already stated his desire to sign permanently for Brentford.
And if the Bees stump up the cash the winger will surely get his way as Marshall, Conway and King are all ahead of him in Bowyer’s thinking.
It’s an open secret that Rovers would also happily sell Leon Best and David Goodwillie.
But whether there are buyers in the market willing to pick up the tab for the strikers – Best’s eye-watering £32,000-a-week wages in particular – is another matter.
So of the eight returnees that leaves Ruben Rochina.
While he is a player whose reputation seems to grow stronger the longer he does not play for Rovers, the Spaniard is an undoubted talent who has the ability to light up the Championship.
It is a talent which has seen Rochina play regularly for a Rayo Vallecano side in one of the best, if not the best, leagues in Europe.
Would he come back to Rovers and be happy to battle for his place when, if reports are to believed, his performances in La Liga have attracted the interest of several potential suitors?
It is ironic, then, that the one player Rovers should be looking to keep out of their returning loanees is the one player they could have the most trouble keeping hold of.
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