MICHAEL Appleton has warned Blackburn Rovers fans not to expect too much too soon from Leon Best – as he renews his bid to bring West Brom winger Jerome Thomas to Ewood on loan.
Best scored in yesterday’s reserve 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough and, while tonight’s trip to Leicester City will come too soon, he is now being considered for a place on the bench for Saturday’s visit of Peterborough.
Best’s return would be a timely boost to Rovers’ play-off hopes, with Colin Kazim-Richards now feared to be out for a couple of months with an ankle injury, but Appleton insists the striker won’t be rushed.
Rovers were waiting on the results of a scan on Kazim-Richards’ ankle but the Turkish international is expected to join Martin Olsson, Dickson Etuhu and Lee Williamson for a hefty spell on the sidelines.
Appleton is desperate to bring in at least two new signings on loan this week and he will step up his efforts to land former target Thomas.
The Baggies winger was all set to put pen to paper on a permanent Rovers switch at the end of January but paperwork problems saw the deal unable to go through in time.
The Midlanders have since blocked Rovers’ attempts to land him on a temporary basis but Appleton will try again in the next few days.
Best, who played almost 80 minutes yesterday, has missed all the season so far with a cruciate knee ligament injury, having signed from Newcastle in the summer, and Appleton admits he won’t be at his best until next season.
Appleton said: “In an ideal world I would have been thinking solely about Leon Best for next season and nothing else, but we don’t live in an ideal world.
“If you asked Leon, he is chomping at the bit and will probably expect to start on Saturday, because of the type of character he is.
“Realistically he has been out for a long, long time. He has not played that many games because he had the injury previously to his cruciate. He has not played a lot of football in the last 12 to 18 months.
“So we have to be slightly cautious with him, make sure we look after his best interests not just the football club’s.
“He is going to be an asset to this club. Hopefully he can be a bit of an asset from now to the end of the season but ultimately we have to be thinking of him fully fit, steaming into defenders and being that talisman we know he can be, and surely the start of next season has to be the most important thing.
“If we start games well and give ourselves a platform maybe I can turn around after 65 minutes and all of a sudden I have this big man to come in and give 25 minutes to make a difference. That would be good for us.”
The Rovers boss has appealed for owners Venky’s to give him the green light to make more additions to his squad, having already added DJ Campbell, David Bentley, Karim Rekik and Lee Williamson in the past few weeks.
“Colin is a bit of a blow,” said Appleton. “If you go through the five or six injured, you could argue every one of them would be in the starting 11. That is the size of the task for the rest of the players.
“From a sensible point of view, even if it is just for a month, I would be very surprised if I was not able to bring players in. I don’t make those decisions but certainly I will be knocking on the door making sure the owners and the management know who we need to bring in.
“It could make the difference. You need options. At the moment we are okay in terms of a starting 11 and are just about getting a squad together.
“If I said I wasn’t interested in Jerome (Thomas), you would not believe me. We will work very hard to see what we can do, people have to comply and want to do it.
“Everyone knows what I think of Jerome. He is a top talent. It is crying out for pace. What Bents (Bentley) has done though is give us that quality and composure on the ball but if we can mix that up with real pace on one side then it will be a good balance.”