Last season's lacklustre campaign is only just fading from the minds of Blackburn Rovers fans. It will only be eradicated with the arrival of a top striker to Ewood Park.
Sam Allardyce has warned he is not afraid of blowing his entire transfer kitty—built up by selling Matt Derbyshire (£3m) and Roque Santa Cruz (£18m)—on just one player. This has opened up the market massively for Allardyce to fund potential striking recruitments.
The problem is prices have gone through the roof, giving Allardyce a headache. Was it a good idea for Sam to open his mouth, telling chief executives across the footballing world that Blackburn have a relatively large amount of dough to play with?
Maybe, but Allardyce is known for his ‘bargain basement’ purchases of high calibre yet aging players. Except for the purchases of Kevin Davies and Nicholas Anelka, Sam has struggled to bring in strikers who prove to be a success.
His next striking acquisition must pay-off for Blackburn’s sake, as well as his own. Rovers season ticket sales are growing steadily for the coming season—however, with having the lowest season ticket prices in the league by some way, and being at the cheapest they have been in more than a decade—they had to rise!
Losing Santa Cruz wasn’t such a massive blow for Rovers. He was injured for large periods, and when he did play, he wasted far too many opportunities to make a difference. His heart had already left Blackburn before the season kicked-off.
Rovers fans crave a big name to fill the void left by Santa Cruz. They need someone to idolise, and boost anticipation for the forthcoming season.
Since their return to the top flight in 2001, Blackburn have always had at least one striker a season that would carry the burden of scoring the majority of goals at the club. Whether that is Cruz himself, Benni McCarthy, Craig Bellamy, Andy Cole or Matt Jansen—Rovers have always punched above their weight with relatively high league positions.
Now Sam has more money than Blackburn have been used to for some time, spending this on one player would put a massive amount of pressure on the acquisition. They will need broad shoulders, and will be expected to almost single handily score the goals Rovers need to have a successful season.
The last time Rovers spent big was in 2003, when Graeme Souness parted with £7.5m to bring Scotland and Rangers captain, Barry Ferguson, south of the border. The move didn’t work out, as Ferguson suffered a horrendous injury and failed to rediscover the form he showed in the SPL. A poor Rovers team that season did not help his cause.
This mistake cannot afford to be repeated, or Blackburn Chairman John Williams will find it hard to trust Big Sam with future transfer funds, as he did after Souness spent big on Ferguson. Williams ultimately failed to provide the funds to keep Mark Hughes happy at Ewood Park.
Nevertheless, Rovers need to spend big on a striker in order to improve on last seasons position, which was too close to relegation for comfort. This was due mainly to the disastrous efforts of former manger Paul Ince, who was in charge of the side at the start of the '08-'09 season.
It is thought that Allardyce will be spending more than the £7.5m spent on Ferguson, and the £8m club transfer record fee, spent to bring Andy Cole to the club in 2001—in a bid to secure the services of a prolific striker.
Names mentioned include: Kenwyne Jones, Darren Bent, Kevin Davies (which I’m certain will be a horrifying thought for most Rovers fans), Red Bull Salzburg’s Marc Janko, Benfica’s Oscar Cardozom, Toulouse’s Andre-Pierre Gignac, and now seemingly favourite—Nikola Zigic from Valencia.
Whoever Big Sam decides to bring in, Rovers fans will be hoping that he has a greater impact than Sam’s last big spend, that being the £10m forked out to bring Obafemi Martins to St. James’s Park in 2006.
And look where that got them.