IT is testament to how important a player Rudy Gestede has grown to become that you cannot imagine Gary Bowyer shedding a tear if the big striker fails to make it all the way to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Not that the Rovers boss would not want to see Gestede test himself against some of the top teams in the world.

Bowyer is forever banging the drum about the need for self-improvement.

But the prospect of losing Gestede for most of January must be of a concern.

There’s still a long way to go until that becomes a reality.

But should Benin come through their latest qualifier on Saturday week then there is a real possibility Gestede could be lining up in the finals in Morocco.

Can Rovers live without him?

Well opposition defences certainly could not live with him at the back of last season.

Gestede was unplayable, netting nine goals in his last eight starts and looking the type of dominant, bullying and towering target man that former Rovers boss Sam Allardyce just loves to have in his side.

The question is can Gestede, who previously had never been on such a hot streak in his career, kick on this season and show that type of form throughout a whole campaign?

All the indications are that he will.

Humble and grounded, it’s said that he is his own fiercest critic, which was evident after he was named the Championship’s player of the month for April, when he suggested he wasn’t entirely satisfied with his own form – despite hitting six goals in his previous six games.

And if there was any danger of Gestede resting on his laurels well then that has been blown away by the arrival of Chris Brown.

A niggly injury means Rovers fans have yet to see the strapping frontman in action.

But the reports coming out of the training ground are positive.

Time will tell whether Bowyer has unearthed another diamond.

But Gestede is proof positive that it will be best to reserve judgement until we have had proper chance to assess Brown’s talents.

As none of us could have believed that the Gestede who made those tentative first substitute appearances in December, after he initially joined on loan, would grow into the fearsome frontman that terrorised backlines up and down the country.

Here’s hope it continues this season.

But, for purely selfish reasons, in the blue and white of Rovers and not in the yellow of Benin.