Paul Wheelock column: Rovers showing necessary character
A PICTURE can be worth a thousand words and the one on the back of Monday’s Lancashire Telegraph says all you need to know about the team spirit coursing through the Blackburn Rovers camp right now.
Craig Conway, after scoring what proved to be the winner at Reading on Saturday, is mobbed by his team-mates.
Moments later the ones not pictured – goalkeeper Paul Robinson aside – arrived quickly to congratulate Conway on what could prove to be a priceless strike.
The scenes after the goal and the way that Rovers defended it, as if their lives were on the line, was further evidence of the tremendous togetherness that exists within the squad.
And it is not like boss Gary Bowyer has spent big money on constructing it.
While Rovers may have one of the largest wage bills in the Championship – the reckless and damaging overspending of the summer of 2012 overseen by Shebby Singh made sure of that – Bowyer has been canny in creating virtually an entire new team while attempting to shift out the expensive deadwood.
The make-up of the Rovers side at Reading on Saturday was proof of that.
Take away the £3.5m Robinson – signed pre-Venky’s, back in 2008 – and £8m club record buy Jordan Rhodes – the only success of the signings made at the start of the disastrous 2012-13 season – and the value of the other 11 Rovers players who took to the field at the Madejeski Stadium was just £900,000.
That’s £600,000 for Tom Cairney, £200,000 for Rudy Gestede and £100,000 for match-winner Conway.
The others – Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Matt Kilgallon, Tommy Spurr, Jason Lowe, Lee Williamson, Chris Taylor and Luke Varney – either came through the ranks or were free transfers.
What happened before he arrived in the Ewood Park hotseat may have necessitated Bowyer’s more frugal approach.
But given Rovers hold genuine play-off aspirations going into the final third of the campaign it makes what he has achieved so far no less impressive.
Now the challenge – and it is a massive challenge – Bowyer and his players face is to take the club into the play-offs and a shot at the Premier League return which would go a long way to solving its financial problems.
On paper the likes of Wigan Athletic and Reading have more talented squads.
But character and resilience can take a team a long way – just look at last season’s champions Cardiff City, of the 25 victories they recorded on their way to claiming the title 17 were by a single goal – and Rovers are beginning to show they have both in spades.