WHILE the first-team squad were out in Austria in July, and all the talk about Rovers’ pursuit of £500,000 man Dominic Samuel, a lesser known centre forward was about to announce himself.

Joe Nuttall. A quick search showed the striker, formerly of Manchester City, had previously spent three games on trial at Rovers in the summer of 2015. Then, for the Under-18s, he failed to find the net in three games.

At AFC Darwen, on his first outing for the Under-23s after leaving Aberdeen, he netted a hat-trick, quickly following that up with a brace at Ramsbottom United.

So later that month, after two first-team outings, including one at Morecambe when the chant of ‘Feed The Nutt’ was first aired, Rovers snapped him up on an initial one-year deal. At that time, there was still little fanfare, no-one wanting to put too much pressure on a player who had previously missed a whole year of his development in 2013/14 because of a spinal fracture.

Nuttall used that year to work on his game, studying clips and analysing his strengths and weaknesses and admitted that helped give him a more rounded view on his game. For a player who loves scoring goals, and had previously relied heavily on his physical attributes, there was a brain to go with the brawn.

The goals in a Rovers shirt kept coming. Eight Premier League 2 games, 10 goals, as well as two in the Premier League Cup. Then the first major step-up. Just 13 minutes in to his senior Rovers debut came his first goal, bravely firing home to give his side a 1-0 win over Stoke City Under-21s.

Tony Mowbray has always talked up the raw attributes of Nuttall. “He’s pretty direct, he’s fast, he’s strong, he’s big. He wants to run in behind, he can head it and he scores goals.”

The boss questioned then what was holding Nuttall back. As the goals continued to flow in the Under-23s, aligned with the first-team struggling to find the net with any great regularity, the clamour for Nuttall’s inclusion heightened.

And so a week which started with a poacher’s finish on his league debut against Fleetwood Town was followed up by a match-changing performance, and goal, in the FA Cup win over Barnet and ended with a well taken volley in the Checkatrade Trophy tie at Rochdale.

But just what has clicked for Nuttall at Ewood Park? Leaving City in 2015, where he had been for some 10 years won’t have been easy. Two years with Aberdeen, including loan spells at Stranraer and Dunbarton appeared to do little for his development.

However, Nuttall’s story doesn’t look to be one of wasted talent or a player failing to find his feet in the lower leagues after leaving a Premier League giant.  What will have helped will be the surroundings at Rovers, not such a far cry from those he experienced at City. But key too has been his attitude, mixed in with a feeling of being wanted, and valued.

As Under-23s boss Damien Johnson pointed out: “When you are at a big club like that, sometimes kids lose their way and can fall out of the game. He lost his way a little bit, we just gave him an opportunity and he was outstanding in terms of how he went about it and his attitude.”

His return south of the border has seen him crack Under-23s football and his start to life at senior level hasn’t started too badly.

So how far can he go? Spend time in the company of the imposing yet mild-mannered 20-year-old and you wouldn’t bet against him achieving his goals.