Appleton: 'Derby must be a spark for Blackburn Rovers'
MICHAEL Appleton believes the Championship finale gives Blackburn Rovers the chance to change their ‘entire mentality’ – as he calls for bravery in Sunday’s East Lancashire derby.
The Rovers boss was devastated by Wednesday night’s FA Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Millwall and knows drastic changes are needed to move the club forward.
Just six points clear of the drop zone, Appleton admits wins are needed quickly to attempt to finish a disappointing season on a high, starting with the visit of Burnley on Sunday.
Appleton said: “We will be giving it absolutely everything on Sunday to make sure we go into the end of the season on a high. I said to the players ‘we have 10 massive games now, there is an opportunity to change the mentality of the whole football club’.
“For two or three seasons there has been a feeling that it is acceptable to lose and it is not too much of a bad thing. That is the hardest thing for me to take.
“For some of the players it doesn’t hurt enough. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt but it doesn’t hurt as much as it should do.
“It is important you win two or three games as soon as we possibly can.
“We have to finish the season on a high and that means winning games of football.”
Rovers have not lost to their bitter Claret rivals for 34 years but go into Sunday’s clash three points behind them in the table after a six-match winless league run, knowing a two-goal win would lift them back above Sean Dyche’s men.
Wednesday’s defeat was the latest in a string of disappointing results for Rovers fans to contend with and Appleton knows Sunday is a good opportunity to start putting things right.
He said: “Some of the fans probably think it is more important to beat Burnley than it was to win on Wednesday night, that is a bit difficult to take. But I understand the fierce rivalry and I respect that.
“The next two games are going to be tough because they are against local rivals and on our own patch. We have to be brave.
“Sometimes where the fans might want the ball to go forward quicker, we have to be brave and patient and get the ball into wide areas before we get the ball into the box.
“You can feel disappointed and feel sorry for yourself but you can only do it for so long. No one else is going to feel sorry for us. We are where we are. We look forward to the next game.”
A crowd of a little more than 8,500 were at Ewood on Wednesday to see Rovers’ Wembley dreams shattered, but Appleton knows the stadium will be fuller come Sunday.
He said: “If we won the game on Wednesday, I am sure we would have 40,000 going to Wembley. I am sure there will be a few more here on Sunday.
“From our point of view we knew it was a big game and the people who did turn up did try to get behind the players. It does make a massive difference to you as a team, we found that out on Sunday. The crowd at the Den got right behind Millwall and it was a great atmosphere to be involved in.”
David Bentley is expected to miss the visit of Burnley with a medial knee ligament injury, while Markus Olsson and Josh King will be assessed after feeling their hamstrings. DJ Campbell is set to be ruled out with an ankle problem.