CRAIG Short cannot wait to unleash Blackburn Rovers striker Rudy Gestede on Championship defences again.
The 25-year-old finished last season in blistering form with nine goals in his final eight starts after making the permanent move from Cardiff City in January.
But Short reckons Gestede will be even stronger once he has reaped the benefits of a full pre-season working with the Rovers coaching team.
“We were very lucky to get him,” said Rovers first-team coach Short, a former defender for the club.
“As a centre half you know however poorly a big centre forward plays he will always bring a big physical presence.
“You also know that if you have a big centre forward in your team you always have the option of hitting his chest or playing the ball up to him to flick it on, as we saw at Huddersfield when Jordan Rhodes scored the first of his hat-trick.
“Sometimes Rudy can be his own worst critic and he accepts criticism when you give it to them – I’ve been really impressed with that side of him.
“He’s still young, he’s just had the most games he’s ever played in a season, and he’ll now have the benefit of a good pre-season with us as well.
“Once he gets that under his belt we’ll be looking to unleash him.
“He’ll be confident – and nothing beats a centre forward with confidence.”
Short lined-up alongside, and against, some top strikers during his playing career.
And he and fellow first-team coach Tony Grant believes Gestede is an even better header of a ball than their old Everton team-mate Duncan Ferguson.
The 6ft 4in targetman’s prowess in the air has also been a big help to talismanic top scorer Jordan Rhodes, according to Short.
He said: “Jordan’s game is not holding up the ball, it’s about getting behind defences and getting on the end of things.
“Jordan was having to back in and hold it up so Rudy’s arrival took a lot of pressure off him. Rudy is quick, athletic and he’s only going to get better.”
Gestede will face competition for a starting spot this season after the arrival of Chris Brown from Doncaster.
Ironically it was Brown’s performance in Doncaster’s 2-0 home win over Rovers in August that led Gary Bowyer and his staff to putting a big forward at the top of a shopping list that was headed by Gestede.
Both Brown and Gestede will be looking to benefit from the crossing ability of Craig Conway this season.
The winger created 12 goals and scored a further four in the second half of 2013-14 after following in the footsteps of Gestede from Cardiff.
And Short said: “Craig Conway’s delivery into the box was so consistent and so accurate.
“What we’ll be saying to Craig, Ben Marshall and Josh King is to throw the ball in the box because we’ve got forwards who will get on the end of things.”