CRAIG Short believes keeping a settled defence is going to be crucial to Blackburn Rovers’ bid for promotion.
Rovers were forced to chop and change at the back last season because of a combination of injuries, departures and loss of form.
But, thanks to a storming 12-game unbeaten at the end of the campaign, they finished just two points shy of the play-offs.
That has given Rovers supporters real hope their revitalised side can improve upon their eighth place finish and break into the top six next season.
But first-team coach and former centre back Short knows there will have to be more consistency in selection in the first third of the pitch if Rovers are to follow in the footsteps of Leicester City, QPR and rivals Burnley and make it back to the Premier League.
“You look at Burnley’s back four and Leicester’s back four and they hardly ever changed,” said Short, who was a key member of the Rovers team which won promotion from the old First Division in 2001.
“It would be nice to get that settled next year as we didn’t really get the opportunity to do that this year. Not just for us as coaches but for the players as well.
“Don’t get me wrong, if you are losing you may have to make changes.
“But I think it’s really important you can maintain it at the back.”
Only captain and centre back Grant Hanley and left Tommy Spurr featured throughout the whole of the 2013-14 campaign.
First-choice goalkeeper Paul Robinson was sidelined until the new year while young right backs Adam Henley and Todd Kane suffered injuries and dips in form.
Rovers also lost Scott Dann, Hanley’s predecessor as skipper, to Crystal Palace on the last day of the January transfer window.
But Short was impressed with the performances Matt Kilgallon produced after taking the place of Dann.
He said: “Matt had to wait his turn but he always knew when he got it he would get his chance and I thought he did very well.
“I think centre halves get better as they get older and I’m sure he’ll have another good season.”
Kilgallon, Hanley and Spurr are set to form three quarters of Rovers’ back four next season.
But with Gary Bowyer choosing not to bring Todd Kane back for another loan spell from Chelsea, a new right back will be required to challenge Henley.
Leeds United’s Lee Peltier has been heavily linked with a move to Rovers.
But, as things stand, it is understood Peltier will not be arriving at Ewood Park.
Rovers boss Bowyer, who is back from a break in Croatia, is on the lookout for a right back who can also cover at centre back.