ROY Hodgson has not yet closed the door on a potential escape route if all else fails in Blackburn Rovers' bid for a European place - the much-maligned InterToto Cup!

And they are still reasonabally well placed to qualify for a tournament which starts in mid-summer and can lead to a lucrative UEFA Cup spot.

Rovers have yet to discuss the matter in depth and there would also be fears about such an early start.

But it clearly remains a possibility, as it does for several other Premiership sides - with the club finishing highest being the one who will get the vote.

"I don't know whether we could put a team together so early," said the Rovers boss.

"And it is not something we have yet discussed in detail.

"But I would not rule it out completely at this stage."

A July 18 start for the English club which enters might not be too bad - and, if nothing else, it would provide good pre-season practice games.

A great deal of confusion has surrounded the InterToto but UEFA have issued a statement to clear the air.

When the Premier League asked in December for volunteers to enter the competition only Crystal Palace expressed an interest and therefore only one place was requested, when two were on offer.

But Aston Villa have since put themselves forward. There have also been reports that Coventry are considering a late bid for entry into a competition which would require clubs to win three two-legged pre-season matches to make it into the UEFA Cup first round.

The Premier League were in favour of Palace - even if they are relegated - as they had come forward first.

But a UEFA spokeswoman said: "The English club which will enter the tournament out of any that are interested will be the one finishing highest in the Premier League."

The English football authorities had considered making a late bid for a second place, but UEFA confirmed that they had, in the end decided not to do so.

The third round stage, at which the English club would enter as they are seeded, takes place on July 18 and July 25.

Meanwhile, Hodgson put his recent comments about striker Martin Dahlin into context and expressed some sympathy for the Swede, who has not had it easy in his first season of English football. Dahlin has been plagued by injuries and coming into a team that started to struggle badly was another handicap as he tried to impress.

"Basically for the best part of the season he has been lying out injured and, when he's got fit enough to come back, he has come into a team that started losing," said Hodgson. "He came here with high hopes and we had high hopes for him. He played very few games at the start when we were doing well and then got injured.

"Now, when his chance has come, the team isn't playing well and he hasn't been able to take it.

"That is a disastrous season in my view. But that could go for a lot of us - we are currently in the throes of catching him up on it!"

Dahlin has started 11 Premiership games for Rovers this season, plus two more in the Coca-Cola Cup and has scored six goals. He has also made a number of substitute appearances.

"That's not a bad record and he's not done that badly in some of the games he's played, but he's suffered with the rest of us," added Hodgson.

"Martin is disappointed too. He's a proud man and he wants to do well."

Anders Andersson was set for his first Premiership start for Rovers this afternoon and admitted the season has been very frustrating for him. At one stage, in fact, it was considered whether he should go out on loan. But that fell through and suspensions have given him a late chance to make an impression.

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