MICHAEL Appleton has warned Blackburn Rovers are ‘nowhere near’ being the finished product after admitting more disappointments along the way are inevitable.
Rovers earned the performance of the week award for their shock FA Cup triumph at Arsenal on Saturday, as they went six games unbeaten.
But they were brought back down to earth with a bump in Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat at Hull and Appleton admits the squad is still a work in progress.
Appleton’s men entertain Leeds United this afternoon still seven points adrift of the Championship play-off places, despite a marked upturn in fortunes since Henning Berg’s departure as manager.
But, with many now dreaming of a spot in the end of season play-offs, Appleton insists it is important no-one gets carried away.
He said: “I don’t think we are anywhere near where I want to be as a side and as a club. What we are is a work in progress.
“We are certainly going in the right direction but there are going to be a few more disappointments between now and the end of the season, that is inevitable.
“We just hope there are enough triumphs and victories to overcome the disappointment.
“If you do something properly you can’t do it very, very quickly.
“If you do something properly it has to be done at the right pace and in the right way.
“Then eventually when you end up where you want to be, you end up staying there, rather than paying the price and coming straight back down and getting punished for it.
“There have been plenty of examples of that over the years and I am well aware of one of them having managed one of them. It is a work in progress.
“People have got to be patient, it is not a quick fix, and little results like the one at Arsenal, if we can keep getting ones like that now and again, then we will keep the imagination of the fans.”
While Appleton remains reluctant to discuss Rovers’ chances of making the top six this campaign, he does believe now is the perfect time for anyone in the league to hit top form.
“There are always one or two sides who have been there all season who slip up and there are always sides from 12th to sixth hoping that happens,” he said.
“There is no better time to go on a run than now, this is the best time.
“Because you take it into April and May and the side in the best form is usually the one that gets promoted.”
Rovers’ mini revival under Appleton’s stewardship has been largely based on making the team hard to beat, with the manager stressing the importance of building from the back.
Before Tuesday’s defeat at Hull, Rovers had not conceded from open play for more than nine hours, but Appleton admits there are improvements to make as an attacking outfit.
He said: “There is more to come as an attacking unit but it is down to personnel.
“It is one thing drumming the mentality and getting them in the right frame of mind and being organised and, with the greatest respect to everyone who has played so far, if I can get that and improve the personnel and quality on the pitch then you get that.
“As long as we can keep the mentality I am sure the quality of certain players that come into the side over the coming weeks will improve what we do offensively.
“This week to remind myself, I have watched bits from the Brighton, Bristol City and Ipswich game and we have shown the players, some of the stuff at times was magnificent. It is chalk and cheese sometimes when you actually go in front.
“When a game is quite tight, the quality players will play under any pressure, but on Saturday the first goal is going to be crucial.
“If we are lucky enough to get the first goal, I think you will see a very, very good performance.
“My biggest disappointment was how we reacted to going behind on Tuesday.
“Things happen in games, how you deal with disappointment is the difference between an average team and a good team.
“We want to be making sure people have an opinion of us as a good team and to do that we need to deal with those types of disappointment.”
David Bentley is pushing for his first start since returning to Rovers on loan from Spurs, while DJ Campbell is also hoping for a run.
Leon Best is being pencilled in for a first team return next weekend against Peterborough at home, but will first make a second appearance for the reserves at Middlesbrough on Monday afternoon.
Appleton said: “Leon is getting closer, he has been training for two weeks now.
“He had 70 minutes in the reserves and will play in another fixture on Monday.
“I will get myself up there and I’m sure if he comes through fine, knowing Leon like I do, he will be desperate to be involved next Saturday.
“DJ has had a disruptive time since coming here.
“He has had a family bereavement and has not been able to train as much as we would have liked.
“But he is back up here now, training, in the squad and I'm sure it won’t be long before we see him start a game.
“David Bentley has also shown he is ready.”