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Blackburn Rovers miss out on Baptiste
BLACKBURN Rovers have missed out to Bolton in the race to sign Alex Baptiste following further delays in the club’s attempts to confirm Gary Bowyer as manager.
Ewood Park officials were last night still waiting for the final go-ahead from Venky’s to appoint Bowyer as permanent boss – despite finalising a contract with the 41-year-old and preparing an official announcement more than 24 hours earlier.
And there was further frustration as the club received bad news in their bid to sign Blackpool defender Baptiste, who yesterday decided to join Bolton instead.
Rovers had held discussions with the 27-year-old, who can play at centre back or right back and is available on a free transfer as his Bloomfield Road deal comes to an end.
They had previously had a bid rejected for Baptiste in January during Michael Appleton’s time in charge, and reignited their interest despite Bowyer since replacing Appleton at the helm.
Bowyer’s second spell as caretaker manager only lasted until the end of the season but club officials have agreed a deal to install him as boss on a permanent basis, and he has already lined up the signings of Chris Taylor, Alan Judge and Simon Eastwood.
Indications from within Ewood Park had been that Bowyer would most likely be officially confirmed as boss on Tuesday, with Derek Shaw, Paul Agnew and Shebby Singh all expressing their support for the appointment in recent weeks.
But Venky’s have continued to drag their heels on giving the appointment the go-ahead, to the exasperation of people inside the club.
Other possible candidates for the manager’s job are understood to have been recommended to the owners in recent weeks, as was the case when Appleton was installed as boss in January.
It has been suggested that has caused a continuing confusion within the Rao family over the best way forward, with differing advice coming from different people.
The delays have seen the announcement of season ticket prices put on hold once more and the uncertainty also did not help in Rovers’ attempts to sign Baptiste.
The former Mansfield defender instead opted for the stability of Dougie Freedman’s Bolton after deciding to accept the offer of a three-year deal at the Reebok Stadium, subject to a medical.
Blackpool had been keen to tie Baptiste down to a new contract, but a number of other clubs – including Premier League Hull – were interested.
Rovers have also been linked with a move for Oldham striker Matt Smith, who made national headlines with his goals against Liverpool and Everton in the Latics’ remarkable FA Cup run earlier this year.
The 23-year-old is out of contract at Boundary Park and, although Oldham have offered him a new deal, they expect to lose the 6ft 6in target man on a free transfer this summer with a host of clubs said to be interested.
Like Baptiste, West Bromwich Albion wide man Jerome Thomas was another Rovers target in January.
Thomas was yesterday released by the West Midlands club at the end of his contract, but it is understood that Rovers have so far made no attempts to make contact with the 30-year-old and revive their interest this summer.
Rovers winger Josh King has been named in Norway’s squad for their World Cup qualifier in Albania on June 7.
King will then link up with the Norway under 21 squad at the European Under 21 Championships in Israel.
By then he will have missed Norway’s opening game at the tournament and may also miss their clash with Jason Lowe’s England on June 8, before their final group game against Italy on June 12.
Martin Olsson will join Sweden’s senior squad for training before the end of the month, but may not be ready to play in their summer fixtures as he makes his recovery from a knee injury.
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