LUKE Varney has revealed an end-of-season chat with Gary Bowyer has led him to work harder than ever before in a bid to force his way into Blackburn Rovers’ first team.

Rovers boss Bowyer pulled the versatile striker to one side following the final game of the 2013-14 campaign to thank him for his efforts during his three-month loan spell from Leeds United.

The talks did much to lift the spirits of Varney who felt he had achieved little after failing to score in his three starts and nine substitute appearances.

And, knowing Bowyer wanted him to sign a permanent deal after his contract from Leeds expired, the 31-year-old took a week off before heading into the gym to get in premium shape ahead of the return to training.

“What Gary said really kept me going over the summer,” said former Blackpool frontman Varney, who has penned a one-year deal at Ewood Park.

“He said I’d pushed Jordan (Rhodes) and Rudy (Gestede) all the way and it motivated me to work really hard, probably harder than I ever have done in my career, to try and really make an impression on the squad.

“The chat really helped and hopefully I can repay the faith he has shown in me.

“It’s important to speak to the lads who aren’t playing and keep them in the loop and I think Gary is the best I’ve had in my career for that.”

Now Varney is aiming to dislodge Rhodes and Gestede from Bowyer’s starting line up. The first-choice frontmen scored 17 goals between them in the final 12 games of last season.

Varney could only sit and watch saying: “It was great but hard,” as Rhodes and Gestede impressed.

And, with Chris Brown arriving from Doncaster, the competition up front is only going to get fiercer.

But Varney said: “You may think, ‘oh no, here we go’, but that’s not the feeling here.

“There’s a great togetherness and spirit – we showed that at the back end of last season.

“If I’m fourth-choice striker I’ll be doing all I can to force my way higher up the order.

“But if the lads are knocking the goals in there’s nothing you can do.

“The ultimate aim is promotion and we’re all pulling in the same direction to try and achieve that.

“We’ve come back for pre-season and everything has been positive. It’s been a great first few days and it bodes well.”

Rovers get their pre-season programme under way with a trip to AFC Telford United on Saturday (3pm).