ROVERS boss Steve Kean has backed Jordan Rhodes to bring the good times back to Ewood Park, and sit alongside Alan Shearer and Simon Garner as one of the club’s striking stars.
The record signing is set for his home debut against Barnsley tonight (kick-off 7.45pm), fresh from scoring twice in Saturday’s 5-3 win at Bristol City – his first goals for his new club.
And Kean believes the man who became a number one target after firing 40 goals in Huddersfield’s promotion season, is already establishing himself as a fans’ favourite.
“I think when you’ve got a number nine, a genuine striker that scores, the fans right away can identify with him,” he said.
“He’s got the knack of scoring goals, but I think he can do the lot.
“He can hold the ball up, he can score, he can bring other people into the game.
“I think he’s got an unbelievable chance of being a top, top player.
“He’s looked immaculate since his first game.
“Fans love strikers because ultimately they score goals that win you games.
“There’s no reason why he can’t be one of the most famous strikers we’ve had, and there have been some class ones down the years.”
But while Kean accepts it’s natural for people to compare him to formidable forwards from down the years, he feels the 22-year-old will make a name for himself in his own right.
“He’s always going to get the tags of famous number nines we’ve had here but I think he’s the type of boy that would like to be his own man,” said the Blackburn manager, who insists Rhodes is already proving he has what it takes to handle the pressure of the price tag.
“He’s very level-headed, I think that’s credit to his parents. I’ve spoken to his dad (former goalkeeper Andy Rhodes) since he signed.
“He's come from a footballing background so that's really helped. The times when everybody's getting carried away, his mum and a dad are there to tell him to do his stuff, go into the place and be humble, and he's certainly been that.”
Kean named him among the most natural finishers he has worked with in his career, including Luis Saha, Brian McBride and Karl Heinz Reidle during his time on the backroom staff at Fulham “I've worked with a few naturals over the years, guys that could finish very easily, but I think at such a young age he's probably got the oldest head for such a young man,” he said.
“He seems to be a lot older than he is, which I think is a very good thing for him because he can take everything in his stride. Five or six years from now he could be unbelievable.”
Kean has set his sights on promotion much sooner than that - an immediate return in fact following relegation last season - and sees Rhodes as a key figure in their bid to reclaim their Premier League place, making their £8million a sound investment.
“I said when some of the Press said it was a massive fee I think he'll score at least 20 goals for us this season, I think we'll get promoted, and then all of a sudden you're thinking if you've scored that amount of goals and you're going up into the next division and you're such a young man it will prove it's been a good bit of business for us,” he said.
“If you can secure your Premier League funding by getting the goals – he's not only scoring them but providing them – I think he can score double figures before Christmas, you're on track then to get his 20-plus goals.
“Then what's he going to be valued at?”
But the Rovers boss knows their defensive work is just as vital, after shipping six goals in their last two games.
“It puts pressure on everybody, but I wouldn't say it's defensive mistakes as in defenders,” he continued.
“Some of the goals we conceded on Saturday, it's the knock on effect to when it hits the back of the net. Higher up the pitch it might be a striker, it might be a midfield player that's not put enough pressure on the ball, the ball comes into the box too easily.
“I think we've got to accept the goals we conceded are as a team. We defend as a team. If we don't defend as a team in some situations we leave ourselves an uphill struggle because you've got to score so many goals to get the points.”
But despite putting more emphasis on boosting his attacking options in the transfer market, Kean insists he will work with the squad he’s got rather than look for reinforcements in the loan window.
“We feel we've got a good enough group that we can work with them on the training ground and improve them, keep the goals coming in and try to minimise the goals against column,” said the Scot, who is without Gael Givet tonight after the Frenchman suffered a deadleg on Saturday.
Marcus Olsson was also a first-half casualty at Ashton Gate and has been ruled out for seven to 10 days with a slight hamstring tear, but is expecting to have Jason Lowe available following injury.