Aynsley Pears has been rewarded for his fine second-half of the campaign, by committing his long-term future to the club.
Pears, who was signed in October 2020 by former manager, Tony Mowbray, was set to see his initial deal expire at the end of 2023-24, but Rovers have moved quickly to top-up the goalie’s contract until 2027.
The 25-year-old goalkeeper, formerly of Middlesbrough, initially came to Ewood Park to supplement Thomas Kaminski and has had to patiently wait for his opportunity to shine in the number 1 shirt, with new boss, Jon Dahl Tomasson showing faith in the shot-stopper who repaid that trust with a string of fine performances.
Prior to this campaign, Pears had only made eight appearances across 2020-21 & 2021-22, but took his chance with both hands in February 2023, after Thomas Kaminski was forced into surgery on his knee that ruled him out for around four to six weeks.
Despite playing in all of Rovers’ cup games this season, including the 10-9 Carabao Cup penalty victory away at West Ham United and the 2-1 away victory versus Leicester City in the FA Cup Fifth Round, Pears transformed his form for the league, keeping four clean-sheets in his opening seven league games, as Rovers went unbeaten through February and early March.
After displaying copious amounts of composure with the ball at his feet, Pears’ impressive performances saw him retain the shirt until the end of the season, including in the 3-2 FA Cup Quarter-Final defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, once Thomas Kaminski returned to fitness, yet Rovers were unable to continue their fine form overall as they fell out of the playoffs on the final day to finish 7th on goal-difference.
With two incredibly competent goalkeepers on the books, Jon Dahl Tomasson will continue to have a selection headache moving into 2023-24.
After signing on the dotted line, the goalkeeper sat down with RoverTV to reflect on his new four-year contract:
“I’m really happy here and happy to stay for another four years. I’ve got some game time and that’s all I’ve wanted since I joined the club.
“My future here is hopefully playing many more games and getting the club to where it wants to be. I didn’t get the games during my first couple of years, I was on the bench a lot but still worked hard and felt I was getting a lot better as a goalkeeper.
“You can only prove that with games and I think I have done over the last part of the season. I’m looking forward to what the future could bring.
“You improve with confidence when you’re playing regularly at the level and I’ve always felt that I am good enough.
“When you don’t play for a couple of years, you need to test yourself and you need to confirm in your head that you can do it.
“The proof’s in the pudding, I’ve felt I’ve performed well, I feel I need to keep getting better and I hope I will.
“I think I still have a lot to do and the aim next season is to play a full season, that’s what’s in my head.”