After Tony Mowbray’s final game as Blackburn Rovers manager saw the boss bow out on a high, after his Rovers side beat Birmingham City, 2-1, away from home, the boss spoke to the press for the final time.
“Today felt like its own ‘Goal of the Season’ competition, didn’t it? I’m so happy for John Buckley that he got his goal. He works so hard at his finishing and we as a coaching staff, and Damien Johnson in particular, spends a lot of time with him, showing him the data of how he needs to get more touches and shot in and around the opposition’s box. If he’s going to play as a ten or as a false nine, he has to score more goals, otherwise we’ll be wasting a forward position with a midfielder. It was a brilliant strike from him, but I thought we deserved the three points, overall. The changes didn’t necessarily help the team, today, but it was important for the likes of Jack Vale to get minutes and he did well. Dilan Marakanday arguably should have had a goal to his name after such a long injury layoff.
“There were a lot of positives from today and a lot of efforts towards their goal that threatened. We looked solid enough, today. I’m pleased for Daniel Ayala, that he came through 90 minutes. He looks like a man, playing at the back, which is why we signed him, but unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to play as much as we all would have liked. It was a good three points, it just feels a little bit too late and we’re all so disappointed. We should have come here today, with the playoffs banked in our hands. We shouldn’t have needed to come here desperate for a win, or anything like that, we should have come here with our place secured weeks ago and yet, we fell short, and we have to accept that. Hopefully the club can try and push on from this point and make the playoffs a prerequisite, where we have to aim for those spots, and aim to finish towards the top end of the table and potentially in the top two, when setting the objectives at the start of every season.
“I hope this summer is enough for the players to get over the disappointment of this campaign. I hope the players can come back for pre-season and have a real positive mindset about their expectations. It’s not easy to come to a big club like Birmingham City, generally dominate and come away with a comfortable win that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests, in my opinion. The experience of this season should give the players a positive mindset, yet I understand how football is. We have all that confidence and belief, and then you can go and lose to a team like Peterborough United, with all due respect. I feel that these young players need to find consistency, because at their best, they can beat anybody in this league. The inconsistencies appear when things aren’t going our way, or things go against the players for whatever reason, and they lead to poor performances or results.
“The team I picked today didn’t have any loan players in it. Everybody who started and came on today, will be here next season. I know Ben Brereton Díaz might not feature next season, if the club receive the right offer for him, but he also might stay if the club don’t get the right offer and they might want to see if he can grab another 20-odd goal season, like he did this season in the 37 league games he’s played. His return this year of 22 goals has been spectacular and if he stays, he needs to try and keep that going next year. However, the other option, is that the club sell Ben and reinvest the money into the team to keep growing the squad.
“The goal Ben scored today was a fitting end to a brilliant personal campaign. I would have been happy if Sam (Gallagher) managed to hit double figures, because he works so hard and puts his body on the line every game for us. Sam, I suppose, has to learn to get into more killer zones. Similarly, to how John needs to adapt his game, they both need to get into the killer zones more often. I think they looked quite strong and the team that started looked relatively strong and they got into a comfortable position in the game.
“The lads are growing. I think it’s a team that’s on the up and I can feel that they want to keep improving and get better. They want training sessions that makes them better. Football is changing so much that, we’ve spent all week preparing for Birmingham City to play a back-three, because they’ve played that over their last five or six games and yet, they played with a back-four, today. All of the detailed work that we did in the week, as a result, was thrown out the window and I spoke to them around an hour towards kick-off and adjusted how we were going to play. I made it clear to them where the spaces were going to be, how we had to move the ball and how we had to approach the game, because everything changed. However, at that moment, they ended up playing off their individual talents, rather than off the game preparation that we did. That was just an example of what I think they need to do to grow, to develop. Lots of teams are switching formations, mid-game, nowadays and you have to adapt and be good enough as a footballer to realise that you’re getting overrun in midfield, for example, so you have to stick an extra man in midfield and take him out of the backline. As a result, they have to adapt and adjust. I think they’re getting there, but we’re not the finished article, yet.
“Getting the victory was a fitting way to end the season. They deserved it as a group. The performance level of the team, overall, was good. We’re very disappointed with the goal that we conceded. We came here wanting a clean-sheet and yet their left-back ended up dancing around three or four of our players and put one into the bottom corner, but it’s still a good win. The points tally has improved on what we achieved last season and the club have to keep targeting gradual improvement every year and keep aiming for 70s and 80s in points, so that this team are always towards the top of this division.”