Paul Wheelock column: Ignore the points, Blackburn Rovers are making progress (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Paul Wheelock column: Ignore the points, Blackburn Rovers are making progress
BLACKBURN Rovers’ position in the Championship at this stage last season? That would be eighth with 43 points after 30 matches.
Fast forward 12 months and their position now is? That would be 10th with exactly the same amount of points and having played exactly the same amount of games.
But do not think for one minute that progress has not been made.
Whereas this time last year Rovers were only four points away from the play-off places – as they are now – tellingly they were also just nine points above the drop spots and one bad run away from being dragged into a relegation scrap.
That bad run transpired, of course, and had results not improved after Gary Bowyer was placed in caretaker charge for a second time, the club would have suffered a disastrous second successive relegation.
With Bowyer now in permanent charge of Rovers, there is no danger of that happening this season given the gap to third-from-bottom Charlton Athletic going into the final third of the campaign is 19 points.
Bowyer deserves credit, then, for bringing the stability the club so desperately craved.
The challenge now facing the Rovers boss and his players is whether they can build on the solid foundations they have put down and go on to claim a top six spot.
But it is a huge challenge.
Rewind 12 months and all four play-off positions were up for grabs.
But one glance at the standings today and it becomes apparently clear that Leicester City, Burnley, QPR, Derby County and Nottingham Forest have the top five places sewn all but sewn up.
That leaves just sixth spot to play for.
And with teams of the experience and quality of Wigan Athletic and Brighton and Hove Albion also vying for it, the odds are against Rovers.
But even if they do not go up this season Bowyer has developed a side that has scope to improve next season.
And with Financial Fair Play penalties a very real prospect come January, this is the route that Rovers were right to go down – bringing in young, committed players, on sensible wages, with re-sale value.
Bowyer has excelled at this – think the acquisitions of Tom Cairney, Corry Evans, Ben Marshall, Tommy Spurr and Rudy Gestede – while the club itself is better run that it was a year ago as proven by its dealings in the January transfer window.
Yes, there is still a lot of work to do and yes, there are some testing times ahead.
But there is no doubt that progress has been made – no matter what the tables tell you.