"I love Lewis Travis, yet he has to be a better footballer and I’ve told him that.” The words of Rovers boss Tony Mowbray.

Of course, for any player at the end of a first full season in the Championship there will be areas to improve. Travis isn’t the finished product, and he’s learned on the job somewhat, not easy in the cut-and-thrust of the Championship.

But he’s become one of the first names on the Rovers teamsheet, and for that alone, he deserves great credit.

And so too he does for his ability on the ball which has often been used as something to knock him down with. It’s criticism the man himself has taken objection to.

Travis’ play is so much more than what the stats show, his importance to Rovers more than percentages and numbers.

There are no statistics for heart and bravery, for fearlessness or attitude. Only Christian Walton and Adam Armstrong played more than his 3,467, a testament to his undoubted fitness levels.

Only Tosin Adarabioyo (64) made more than Travis’ 46 interceptions, no-one blocked more than his 39 passes, while only Adarabioyo (36) and Darragh Lenihan (41) blocked more shots.

His 180 attempted tackles were almost double his nearest challenger Elliott Bennett (96) and no-one came close to his 110 successful tackles.

But those are what we could come to expect from someone who is in the side to spoil, to break up play, and do the hard yards.

However, is he a better player on the ball than he gets credit for.

“I keep showing him clips of Jorginho at Chelsea, how he plays around the corner one touch, you have to know when to take a touch and when to play forward,” said Mowbray, of course followed by lavish praise on his other qualities.

On the ball, however, his numbers are good. Only Hayden Carter (2 starts) and Jacob Davenport (nine sub appearances) have a better pass completion rate than Travis (84.8).

That’s made more impressive by the fact that only central defenders Lenihan and Adarabioyo, plus Stewart Downing, have attempted more.

He averages more passes per game (40) than either Bradley Johnson (37.2) or Corry Evans (33.8) and whose passes completion rates are 76.5 and 82.5 respectively.

Of his 16 shots, two found the back of the net, a third hitting the post and going in off the back of Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Cameron Dawson, and his three assists are bettered only by Lewis Holtby, Bennett, Downing and Armstrong.

Only Sam Gallagher (27), Joe Rothwell (31), Armstrong (42) and Downing (89) had more ‘key passes’ to their names. 

His halfway line spin and sumptuous through-ball to Dominic Samuel at Cardiff was one of the standout bits of skill this season. 

While Rovers are looking to become more possession-orientated, responsibility will be placed on the shoulders of their central midfielders. Travis was dispossessed 41 times, and has at times been guilty of taking too many touches, goals conceded against Leeds and Reading spring to mind, but that is to be expected given what Mowbray is asking.

“He’s been poor with his distribution and was getting caught on the ball,” Mowbray said after a rare occasion of leaving him out. 

Travis has towed the line on occasion, with 14 bookings across the season, but has held his discipline well when on a yellow card.

Another area for development that Mowbray sees in Travis is taking on more leadership, which to even suggest at 22, and early in his career, shows how much faith the manager has in him.

While many thought he could have been blooded in the team earlier than he was, since that December 2018 defeat at Sheffield United, when fit, Travis has been left out of the side, when fit, just twice. Rather oddly, they have both come in defeat at Preston North End.

On his midfield general, Mowbray said: “Lewis Travis epitomises that (spirit).

“Hopefully Trav will have a career in the Premier League and hopefully it will be with Blackburn Rovers for a long time.

“There’s not many players that have that drive that Lewis Travis has in the pit of his belly.

“He doesn’t want to come second at anything and he has to become a leader for our team, that’s development and a growth area for him to know that he’s a good player and a leader on the pitch and he’s allowed to snarl at one or two if they don’t reach the levels and standards the team should set itself.”

Travis’ wind-up merchant antics, which have made him a pantomime villain at away grounds on occasion, have led to comparisons with former Rover midfielder Robbie Savage. However, BBC Lancashire’s Andy Bayes said on that topic, that Travis possesses more quality.

Moving back to Preston, a comparison often made on social media is between Travis and North End’s Ben Pearson, rated, rightly, as one of the best holding midfielder’s in the division.

Their statistics are very similar, Travis attempts slightly fewer passes per match, but has a slightly higher pass completion rate. Pearson had one more key pass, but also failed to score, or register an assist.

So the stats back up the eyes, Rovers have a fine midfield talent on their hands. He’s a loveable rogue on the pitch, a nuisance for the opposition, which is a great compliment to pay.