WHEN Jake Kean made his Blackburn Rovers league debut at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League last May, the pressure was off.
Rovers had already been relegated and few were that bothered whether Rovers signed off in the top flight in style or not.
It was the perfect opportunity for a rookie keeper to be handed his chance.
The Rovers academy product let no-one down either in the 2-1 defeat as he produced a string of saves to suggest he has a bright future ahead in the game.
Fast forward seven months though and Kean’s next league chance came in very different circumstances.
The 21-year-old was a shock name in Saturday’s starting line-up for the Lancashire derby at Blackpool as former England number one Paul Robinson was axed.
It was a bold move from under pressure boss Henning Berg – throwing the youngster into a crucial game – with many eyebrows raised about Robinson’s exclusion. Ninety minutes later and Kean was one of the few bright points of another disappointing 2-0 defeat.
Blackpool’s win could certainly not be put at Kean’s door as he produced several second half saves to stop the damage from being any worse.
Kean said: “I did not have long to prepare. I found out not long before the game and the manager just said ‘go and do what you can do and enjoy the game’.
“It was not a complete shock because there had been inklings during the week but nothing had been said so I wasn’t getting my hopes up.
“I had the nerves when I played at Chelsea and made my debut.
“For me I want it to become the norm so I didn’t have any nerves against Blackpool.
“It is very important as a goalkeeper to do what you have to do as well as you can. You are the last line of defence, if you do make a mistake the ball is going in so whatever you do, you have to be calm and collected and you have to make sure you are doing your job right.”
Kean moved to Rovers’ academy towards the end of the 2008/09 season after being released by Derby County.
In 2010/11 he spent time on loan at League One Hartlepool and followed that up with a temporary spell at Rochdale the next season.
Contracted to the club until the summer of 2014, Kean is now determined to make the most of his long-awaited opportunity.
“It was brilliant to start,” he told Roversplayer. “Obviously losing 2-0 wasn’t what anyone connected to Blackburn Rovers wanted but it was a chance for me to play and show the new manager what I could do.
“It is massive for me. I got my league debut at 19 and had to wait a little bit to play at Blackburn.
“Now I am playing I want to keep playing and keep going week in and week out.”
A start between the posts against Brighton tomorrow would be Kean’s first senior appearance at Ewood Park and he knows the importance of a win.
Rovers have won just once in Henning Berg’s nine games in charge, leaving them in 15th in the Championship.
He said: “It would be brilliant to start a game at Ewood Park. What is the point of playing for Blackburn if you don’t want to play in front of your own fans at your own stadium?
“If I can be involved and play and help us get three points and move us up the table then that would be brilliant as well.
“It was a smack in the mouth when we came in 1-0 down at half time at Blackpool after all the good chances and good play we had.
“It is something to build on and take into next week where we want three points.
“I think a good 90 minutes is the key for anyone to get the three points. We are nearly there, we just need to keep working at it.”
If Kean continues in the team over the coming weeks, a lot of the talk will be about Robinson’s future.
But the promising keeper will know that now is his perfect opportunity.