Damien Johnson feels Rovers have a responsibility to their young players to provide them with the best opportunities, even if they are away from Ewood.

Okera Simmonds and Willem Tomlinson both left the club by mutual consent on transfer deadline day but have since been fixed up at new clubs.

Simmonds signed for League One Accrington Stanley while League Two Mansfield Town snapped up Tomlinson, both on 18-month deals.

Their pair’s contracts at Rovers were due to expire in the summer and with regular first team action at Ewood looking unlikely, the decision was taken to allow them to seek pastures new.

The Rovers Under-23 squad has undergone a big change this year, with some players returning from loan deals and others moving out. Lewis Travis and Joe Nuttall have also progressed to the first team, and Johnson says development of players remains the key.

He said: “I am not trying to win games, I’m trying to develop players for our first team, that’s the priority, can we develop lads to go in to the first team and be an asset for the club.

“If they can’t, and we know they can’t all do that, can we get lads moves in to the league and be playing regularly?

“We’ve done that over the years, even from when I came through myself, lads who didn’t quite make it in the first team here but have gone on to have really good careers. You don’t need me to name them, there’s plenty of them. That’s still the aim.

“We hope Willem and Okera can impact at their respective clubs and that’s the responsibility we have.”

Tomlinson, who made 10 first team appearances for Rovers, had been at the club since the age of 10, while Simmonds arrived from Liverpool 12 months ago.

On the decision to let them leave, Johnson added: “They were two really good kids and it was difficult to lose them.

“They get to a point where if the manager doesn’t quite see a pathway for them, Willem is 21 now, they have to be a first team footballer at that point.

“They have both had really good moves and we wish them well.

“It has been a challenging month in terms of the transition and dealing with that.

“That was another positive from (the Leicester win), it’s not affected us in terms of the spirit and mentality within the group.”