Ben Brereton has made ‘huge progress’ this season, according to Tony Mowbray, a year on from the loan interest in him that could have seen him leave Ewood Park.

It has been a breakthrough campaign for the 22-year-old in terms of appearances, featuring 38 times this season, including 28 from the start, contributing six goals and five assists.

He started the opening 15 games, the longest ever-present record, which was ended by injury against Millwall in November, ruling him out for six matches.

His goal against Huddersfield Town was his first since the end of the February, and while his starts have dried up of late, he has got on the pitch in all of the 39 Championship games he’s been involved in.

It’s a far cry from last season, starting just seven times, four of those coming in the Project Restart fixtures, and scoring once, and leading to interest from Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag in January 2020, then managed by Alan Pardew.

Many felt it would have been a good move for the development of the attacker, signed for £6m from Nottingham Forest in 2018, having struggled to make an impact at first-team level, even having spells in the Under-23s.

Mowbray has maintained his strong faith that Brereton would develop into a key player for the side, and a sellable asset down the line, and that has been rewarded to a greater extent this season.

The manager knows his progress will be judged based upon his goals and assists, but feels a greater maturity to the attacker, who turned 22 earlier this month, has been key.

Yet there was a push for Brereton to leave on loan 16 months ago from his agent, according to Mowbray.

“Ben has made huge progress throughout this campaign,” he told the club website.

“His agent was on the phone, literally every second day last year, because he thought that he wasn’t getting enough game time and they wanted him to go out on loan.

“I signed Ben because I felt his quality, which is there. I’ve talked about his maturity and we need to remember that he’s still a young lad. I would be inclined to think that Ben is only going to get better at this point. He still has to find more maturity, but I think he can dribble and run with the ball past people.

“You see him running past people and running away from them, leaving them in his wake.

“He has got attributes that can help teams, we just have to keep polishing them and try to add the goals and assists and keep getting him into areas, where we can get the best out of his undoubted capacity, in order to affect a game.”

Brereton now has six for the season, the same as Harvey Elliott, and having netted just once in each of the last two seasons.

Should he feature in the remaining two matches, against Rotherham United and Birmingham City, then he will have equalled the 40 appearances he had made in the previous two seasons.

Sam Gallagher too has had an improved season infront of goal, two in his last three taking him to eight, and second in the club’s goalscoring charts to Adam Armstrong.

Their combined £11m transfer fees have added an extra scrutiny to their displays, so too has the positions in which they have played, more often than not in the wide attacking positions.

Against Huddersfield it was Brereton the right and Gallagher on the left, the pair both contributed a goal and an assist each, and Mowbray says that doesn’t have to act as a barrier to their goalscoring potential.

He feels there is plenty more development in the pair, and there will need to be if Rovers are to progress up the Championship standings next season.

“Brereton is a young boy, just 22, he’s a young boy and he needs supporting,” Mowbray said.

“He wants to be a footballer, to have a good career and our job as coaches is to help them along the way in their career.

“Sam Gallagher is a totally different animal, different attributes, 6’4, fast, powerful, and yet he has to get between the sticks more.

“I know I play him in a slightly wider area but there’s no-one not telling him to get narrow when the ball is on the other side, he has to be the centre forward right in the middle of the goal.

“He scored a really good goal doing just that, it got cut-back and he finished it, one touch.”

The hope was that they could reach double figures for goals this season, a mark which only Armstrong has hit.

Mowbray added: “The numbers next to their name haven’t been as high as I want. I know I’ve played them wide, generally, which some could argue impacts that, I still want them to get in the box.”