IT’S at this point that you’re probably expecting a pre-season prediction.

But it is only after the transfer window closes that we will have a clearer idea of how Blackburn Rovers may fare this season.

When Owen Coyle took over the Ewood Park reins at the start of June he inherited a shell of a squad. One that contained no strikers and no left-backs. One that was short of guile and goals.

He moved swiftly and impressively with the captures of Stephen Hendrie, Liam Feeney, Jack Byrne, Anthony Stokes – and most importantly – Danny Graham.

But more are needed. Another left-back, another centre-back, another striker. At least.

Coyle knows this. He knows he has got the nucleus of a competitive starting XI. But he also knows you need more to succeed across nine months of relentless Championship football.

What he doesn’t need is to lose more key players.

From the moment that director Mike Cheston admitted in May that Rovers had to find £6m from somewhere to compensate for the loss of parachute payments a player sale was always a possibility. That’s why the departure of Grant Hanley, while nevertheless dispiriting, was not unsurprising.

But the guaranteed £5.5m Rovers will receive from Newcastle United for their captain, as well as the £1.25m sell-on fee they will bank for Ruben Rochina, should for now end the necessity for further departures.

Fans have grown wearingly accustomed to that over the last two years. Indeed, if you look at the side which started which started the 4-3 win over Wigan Athletic on the final day of the 2013-14 season, a result which meant Rovers fell just short of the play-offs and raised hope of better times to come, only two players remain.

Paul Robinson and Matt Kilgallon were released, and the club could not afford to keep Michael Keane, but Jordan Rhodes, Rudy Gestede, Tom Cairney, Josh King and Hanley have all been sold off.

That’s some quality drain. And that’s why it’s essential Rovers do everything to keep hold of Ben Marshall and Shane Duffy.

The two should have been offered contracts far earlier than now but they should soon have formal offers to mull over.

If they choose not to accept them then the club faces a difficult decision. With less than 12 months remaining on their contracts, the duo’s values will never be as high as they are now.

But whether Marshall and Duffy stay or go Coyle needs to be backed in the market. Given the club’s financial position, cuts have had to be made. There has to be a balance, though.

Should the manager get the additional players his squad needs, and should Duffy and Marshall remain, then an improvement on last season’s 15th-placed finish should be the minimum of Rovers’ ambition.

But, first things first, let’s see where we are come September 1.

*This article appears in our 16-page pre-season football supplement free inside today’s Lancashire Telegraph