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Dan Clough column: The future looks bright for Rovers
SEVENTY points, 70 goals, plus-eight goal difference, 12 games unbeaten, three consecutive wins, two points behind sixth place and 26 clear of relegation.
As the curtains were drawn on Rovers’ 2013/14 season, there was a degree of ‘what if?’.
But I think we need to concentrate more on ‘what used to be’ and ‘what is still to come’.
We finished the season 12 points better off than the last and having scored 15 more goals. We were also nine places higher up the league table.
The progress made since then is incredible if you look at what this club has gone through in the past three years.
And for the first time since that Premier League relegation season, there is a sense of real optimism about the club and in the stands.
The fans were on their feet as they applauded the achievement of a group of players on which the foundations of the Rovers of the future will hopefully be built.
Since being given the manager’s job full-time, Gary Bowyer has been given the unenviable task of turning the club’s fortunes around on the pitch while slashing the wage budget.
And to his enormous credit, he has done both. Now the focus has to be on maintaining the core of the current squad while continuing to trim the fat.
Players like DJ Campbell, David Goodwillie and Leon Best are clearly not in the first-team plan and will most likely be sold or loaned out for the whole of next season.
Hopefully Michael Keane will be available for us to sign permanently as he has been very good and we have returning loanees Josh Morris and Jack O’Connell who have impressed in League Two and may be ready to step up to the Championship.
We could probably do with further strengthening in defence, especially with Todd Kane returning to Chelsea, so we will be short of cover in the full back positions.
One big question is the future of Ruben Rochina, who is still well thought of by Rovers fans and whose flair could surely make a difference at this level?
He has been playing in Spain’s top flight and could add that bit of extra creativity from midfield or fill in as a cover striker when required.
I think the future looks bright, certainly moreso than in recent seasons, and I am confident if things continue as they are now we will be a solid top six side next season.
In other news, congratulations to midfielder Tom Cairney after winning the player of the season award.
Cairney has been a revelation since signing from Hull and it is unfortunate he wasn’t involved more this season because of the injury that kept him out for a while.
He is yet another of Gary Bowyer’s shrewd signings and he summed up a great campaign with a superb solo goal against Wigan on Saturday.
Have a great summer and bring on next season. For me it can’t start soon enough!
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