John Buckley spent an hour in Tony Mowbray’s office last week and has built a close bond with the outgoing manager.

Mowbray watched Buckley’s development closely, from the Under-23s matches at Leyland to his first-team debut in March 2019 and then him flourishing on the first-team season.

Indeed, it was Mowbray who was on hand to present Buckley with his young player of the year award for 2021/22 after a breakthrough campaign in which he featured 44 times.

The midfielder is now up to 99 appearances for Rovers, but his century will be reached under a new manager, with Mowbray’s departure now confirmed by the club.

Having handed him his debut, and been in charge for all of his 99 senior matches to date, Buckley will have to adjust to adapt to life without Mowbray as much as anyone.

Speaking of the outgoing manager, the 22-year-old said: “I have a lot of respect for the gaffer, he gave me my debut. I’m thankful for everything the gaffer has done.

“He’s helped me massively over the years I’ve been in the first time and I can’t thank him enough.

“But it happens at every club, it’s part and parcel of football.

“A new manager will come in and we’ll have to try and impress him.”

Academy graduate Buckley had been a peripheral figure until the start of this season when he became a mainstay, featuring in all but four league matches, with his form earning him a nomination for the Championship player of the month award for December.

Buckley worked hard to gain the trust of Mowbray so to become a regular in the side, and always knew that his performance would improve with an extended run of games.

He ended the season in fine style, with long-range strikes in away wins at Preston North End and Birmingham City, but will return for pre-season with the rest of the squad to work under a new manager.

“I’ve enjoyed my time with him. I’ve gained his trust this year and I’m sure it’d have been better next year,” Buckley added.

“The gaffer is the only manager I’ve had, but it’s about keep learning and growing as a player.

“A new manager might teach me a new things.

“I’m pleased with how it’s gone, that I gained the gaffer’s trust, and I’ve had a good season myself.

“Plenty of assists and a few goals and the fans seem to like me, so I’m happy.”

Buckley steered clear of getting into any discussion about the profile of manager he would like to see replace Mowbray, leaving that to those ‘higher up’ at the club and will instead maintain his focus on coming back for pre-season in the best shape possible.

He will do also aiming to become a key part of the new manager’s plans and build on his form in 2021/22 to help the team make the next step and finish in the top six after seeing their hopes drift away in the second half of the campaign.

Rovers finished the season in eighth position, their best league position since 2013/14, but short of the second placed they found themselves in February when they sat second in the league.

On wanting to push on again next season, Buckley said: “That will be our goal. Every team in the Championship will want to be in the top six and get promoted, otherwise there’s no point being in the Championship and just settling for mid-table.

“There’s bumps in the road each season but hopefully we can competitive again.”

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