Leon Best in frame for Blackburn Rovers cup start
MICHAEL Appleton expects Leon Best to be ‘banging his door down’ in pursuit of an FA Cup quarter final start – as the Rovers boss considers turning to him to fire them to Wembley.
Rovers’ powerful striker made his long-awaited debut for the club as a second half substitute in Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat at Bolton and is now pushing for his first start for the club after spending the season on the sidelines.
Hopes were high following Best’s circa £3million move to Ewood Park from Newcastle United in the summer but, after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in pre-season, the 26-year-old has been left frustrated.
Now, back in the frame, Best will be bidding for a place alongside Jordan Rhodes in attack for Sunday’s trip to Millwall, with QPR loanee DJ Campbell cup-tied for the clash.
Appleton said: “You look at the situation we are in, in terms of people being cup-tied for the weekend, and it is one of them. I have no doubts whatsoever he will be banging on my door, trying to get a place in the starting line up.
“Obviously that is a decision between myself and the staff. If it is right to start him and he is up for it and ready for it then we will do.
“If not, then it will be a gradual thing from our point of view.”
Best came on with 10 minutes in Tuesday night’s late defeat at the Reebok Stadium, having played in two reserve matches since his injury.
And Appleton admits the sight of Best in a Blackburn Rovers shirt was a huge boost to the club.
He said: “It will be massive – not just for him, but for the whole squad and supporters. To see him with his shirt on and on the pitch is a good feeling from my point of view.
“The thought of having him available week-in and week-out certainly whets the appetite, gives me options, and he is a player opposition players and managers won’t fancy coming up against.”
Meanwhile, the Rovers boss praised his side’s display in Tuesday night’s defeat to Bolton, despite seeing Chris Eagles’ injury time strike inflict their fourth league defeat in six games.
He said: “I asked the players to be true to themselves more than anything. I am glad I got the performance I got tonight because that is what I am like as a person. What you see is what you get.
“We were 100 per cent committed, never say die and never gave in and the players showed that tonight. I think we will need that on Sunday.
“They could have taken my criticism of them on Saturday the wrong way, but if they did take it the wrong way they are kidding themselves and cheating everyone.
“Luckily for me I got the response I wanted and they look a group of people who are going to be good to work with in the coming months and years. The more honest performances we have like that the better.
“It is going to be one hell of a cup tie against Millwall on their own patch.”
Meanwhile, Millwall have been dealt a blow ahead of Sunday’s game with Blackburn Rovers after winger James Henry was ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.