“It was a magnificent performance in tough circumstances.”

“It was a magnificent performance in tough circumstances.”

After Blackburn Rovers secured their Championship status on the final day of the 2023-24 season, with an emphatic 2-0 victory away at Champions, Leicester City, John Eustace reflected on a magnificent afternoon with RoversTV.

“What an amazing day! The group I’ve been working with over the last three months have been sensational. I think a lot of people doubted their commitment and desire, before we can in as staff, but to lose only five of the last 18 games is great credit to the boys. We’ve been working hard in training, and we knew that we had to improve in the final third, but today, we showed a great resilience and togetherness, that I’ve asked for all season. They’ve certainly shown that resilience and to amass five clean-sheets from the past nine games is an amazing achievement. Had we been a bit more clinical, things wouldn’t have come down to the last day, but it’s important that everyone realises that we’ve stayed up because we’ve stuck together.

“That dressing room is very tight, the players have been amazing, as have the fans throughout my time here. We had 2,000 fans down here backing us. We’re okay, we’re safe now. We’re a good group and we’re going to continue to build together.

“It was a magnificent performance in tough circumstances. Leicester City were right at it, on a day of celebration for them. They took the game very seriously, but the defensive organisation from the back five was outstanding. Kyle McFadzean has been a sensational rock for us and showing all the qualities of a true leader, he looked after everyone and organised those around him. We lost Dom (Hyam) to illness, yesterday, but we drafted Pixie (Harry Pickering) at centre-back and Ben (Chrisene) at left-wing-back and they were fantastic in an atmosphere like this. The midfield four were sensational and we capped it off with two top goals from Sammie Szmodics.

“Sammie’s clinical moments are why he’s a top player. We’ve spoken about capitalising on moments, and I thought we’ve been doing that well, during my time here, so far. We’ve stayed in most of the games we’ve played, apart from that one disappointing evening in Bristol and the second-half at home to Sheffield Wednesday, but overall, we’ve been really competitive. Had we taken more of the chances we created and been more clinical, we would have ended up with more points than the 53 we’ve got, but again, everyone should be proud of the five losses in 18 games, which gives us a platform to build off.

“This result eclipses the win against Leeds United at Elland Road. To come to the Championship’s champions, with our Championship status on the line, stay in the game and come away with the victory and clean-sheet, shows the boys can deal with enormous pressure. Even when we had to change personnel in the last minute, the boys stood up to those alterations with no problems at all. I’ve always said it’s been about the squad. We’ve suffered crucial injuries at vital times, and we’ve asked players to play through pain. Every vital point that we’ve picked up against the likes of Millwall and Plymouth Argyle, have helped us hit our target.

“Sammie has been outstanding; a true leader who plays for the team. He has an exceptional work-rate, and not only does he score goals, but he works hard for the team, off the ball. He always makes sure it’s about the team, not about him. The way he fills in and tracks back off the ball, is sensational and that’s why he gets his rewards, because he showcases all of his attributes, including his sensational finishing.

“The fans have been very good and all I ask for is for them to feel connected to the players, because the players deserve that. I remember we drew 0-0 away at Cardiff City, midweek, and we had 600-700-odd backing us, which was amazing. Even through the difficult moments, the fans will back the players and that’s all I ask for, which is what ultimately gets you through.

“Now the season’s over, we have to start again, particularly from a recruitment perspective. When we came in, we were on our way down. There was a lot of disappointment and low confidence, but to come in and lift that spirit has been a huge effort from everyone. The staff at the club have been amazing and every single one of them have played a big part in helping us get to where we are and staying in the Championship, which is what it’s all about.

“It’s very important that we realise that we don’t have to change a lot of things in order to improve on where we are in the table. Two or three really good additions to this group will be fantastic. We’ve lacked a bit of leadership at times, but Kyle (McFadzean) has made a huge difference as everyone can see. It’s not about changing everything, because the culture and togetherness is there. If we can just add a couple of really good players, hopefully we’ll be looking higher up the league.

“I’m very proud of the players and the staff. I never doubted that we’d stay in the league. I thought 50 points would be enough, when I came in, but we had to tackle many challenges along the way, including the Champions, today. That togetherness gets you through and because we do things properly every day, you get your rewards. Being doubted is not a problem, because I know that the staff at the training ground and the players are all fully focussed and together and that’s what helps you get through difficult moments.”