A PLACE in the play-offs should be the very least of Blackburn Rovers’ ambitions for next season.

That is the verdict of Derek Fazackerley who firmly believes his former club can improve upon the eighth place they achieved in Gary Bowyer’s first full campaign in charge.

But Fazackerley reckons Bowyer will need to make two key signings and retain the services of top scorer Jordan Rhodes if they are to win promotion from what he predicts will be one of the toughest Championships yet.

“I think Gary Bowyer and his staff have certainly brought stability to the club after a time in which people were pulling in different directions,” said Fazackerley, who remains Rovers’ record appearance holder after playing 674 times for the club between 1971 and 1986.

“Gary has been able to establish himself as a manager and he helped the club have a reasonable season.

“You can always look back on a season and ask ‘what if this’ and ‘what if that’ but at the end of the day they just fell shy of the play-offs.

“It was only two points and next season, at the very least, they should be looking to make the play-offs.

“But it gets more difficult every year. The parachute payments for the clubs coming down from the Premier League are enormous and there are some big clubs already in the Championship.

“You’ve got the likes of Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City, who Blackburn finished above, the three clubs who have just come down, and then the other clubs, like Derby County, who just missed out.

“It will be a very, very competitive division again.”

Rovers boss Bowyer will bid to bolster a squad which went within of whisker of finishing in the top six with his top target being a right back.

But Fazackerley also feels Bowyer needs to strengthen in other areas.

“From what I’ve seen of them I think they’ll have to try and find a dominant centre half and probably a creative midfield player,” said Fazackerley.

“But even without them I would expect them to be competitive again.

“I thought the signings they made toward the end of the season, when Craig Conway came in and Rudy Gestede, were excellent.

“But the caveat to that is that they also have to keep people like Jordan Rhodes because if you’re going to go up you’re going to need to have someone who can get you get 20 goals a season.”

Rovers, meanwhile, have been seeded in the northern section of the draw for the Capital One Cup first round.