IF BLACKBURN Rovers look leggy in tonight’s pre-season friendly at neighbours Accrington Stanley (7.45pm) then you will not find Gary Bowyer complaining.
That will only confirm to the Rovers boss that his decision to take his players back to the Algarve for seven days of intense training in searing heat was the correct one.
The travelling party returned home on Sunday after a week in Portugal – and they evidently brought the sun back with them.
Temperatures at a resplendent Brockhall hit 28 degrees yesterday and Bowyer believes the benefit of warm-weather training will have long-term if not immediately apparent benefits.
He said: “We went to Portugal and had a fantastic week.
“The lads did an unbelievable amount of physical work as well as football work.
“The warm weather training makes it harder for the players – and fortunately we’ve brought it back with us.
“We worked them hard again today and we know that in the games coming up they might be a bit leggy.
“But that’s all part of their preparation and it’s a mental challenge for them to take on.”
Rovers will take a strong squad to the Store First Stadium tonight.
It is Bowyer’s intention to give a number of players 70 minutes before introducing some of the young guns hoping to force their way into his plans this season.
One player out to impress is John O’Sullivan.
The 20-year-old made his first-team debut in the final game of the 2012-13 campaign and was a regular throughout pre-season last summer before injury hampered his progress.
But after spending the second half of last season on loan in the Conference Premier with Southport – a spell which ‘made him a man’ – he is determined to catch Bowyer’s eye.
O’Sullivan, who played in Rovers’ opening pre-season encounter against AFC Telford United, said: “It’s a big season for me. I’m not a young kid now, it’s time for me to push on and I’m going to fight for my place.
“Gary gave me a chance against Telford and hopefully I impressed him.
“I’m not here to make up the numbers, I’m going to fight for my place, show Gary what I can do and if he gives me a chance I’m ready to take it.”
Another player of promise in the Rovers squad is Connor Mahoney, the 17-year-old winger signed from tonight’s opponents in December.
Mahoney will definitely play some part in the clash against his former club Stanley.
But left back Tommy Spurr and new striker Chris Brown, despite recovering from injury, as well as forward Rudy Gestede, having just returned from international duty, will not feature.
David Dunn and Markus Olsson, however, will make their first appearances of pre-season.
The duo returned to training later than the rest of the Rovers squad as they waited for their new contracts to be signed off.
And Bowyer said: “They won’t play as many minutes as the rest as they are just a touch behind although nothing more than that.
“But they’ll be playing and getting on with their game time.”
Supporters can pay on the gate tonight.
Entry costs £15 for adults, £10 for over 65s and students, and £5 for under 17s.
* A trio of Blackburn Rovers first team players will make a special appearance at the club shop at Ewood Park tomorrow afternoon.
Jordan Rhodes, Craig Conway and Tom Cairney will be at Roverstore from 1-2.30pm to celebrate the launch of the 2014-15 home kit.
Launched last week, the kit has proved to be a hit with supporters, with sales the best recorded on an opening day for the past six seasons.
The new home shirt is available at £34.99 in juniors sizes and £49.99 for adults.