FIRED-UP captain Grant Hanley has issued a rallying call to his Blackburn Rovers team-mates ahead of tonight’s big season opener with title favourites Cardiff City (7.45pm).
Hopes are high among supporters that Rovers can end their exile from the top flight and Hanley backs the idea that they now have the players capable of mounting a sustained promotion push.
But the 22-year-old insists the only way Gary Bowyer’s side are going to make it back to the Premier League is if they replicate the consistency they showed at the end of last season.
Before then Rovers, after a massive upheaval of their squad, blew hot and cold. And Scotland star Hanley, who is set to embark on his first full season as skipper, is determined to ensure there will be no repeat of that fluctuating form.
The top centre back said: “The one thing the manager has done since he came in is get a settled squad.
“We’ve got a group of players here now who we think are capable of challenging this season.
“But we need to find that level of consistency that we finished last season in.”
Rovers finished the 2013-14 campaign unbeaten in 12 matches and just two points outside of the play-off places.
That has given supporters real belief that their side can secure a top-six spot in 2014-15. Hanley admits that has to be the aim.
But he is not looking any further ahead than tonight’s hotly anticipated visit of the relegated Cardiff to Ewood Park.
Hanley said: “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves.
“We’ve just got to keep concentrating week in and week out and take each game as it comes and see where we are at the end of the season.
“The Championship is long and hard, and the games come thick and fast, so you’ve just got to hang on in there and hopefully come the back end of the season you have put yourself in a position where you can push for promotion.”
Winger Ben Marshall and former Cardiff striker Gestede are set to be named in Rovers boss Bowyer’s squad for tonight’s Sky Sports live showdown. But there remains a doubt over summer signing Chris Brown whose knee problems prevented the forward from playing a minute of pre-season.
Marshall, meanwhile, has been linked with a move to league rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
The 23-year-old, who arrived at Rovers in August last year, enjoyed a successful loan spell at Hillsborough earlier in his career and, during another loan, played under current Owls boss Stuart Gray when he was in charge at Northampton Town.
Yesterday Gray, who is looking for a new winger after selling Michail Antonio to Nottingham Forest for £1.5m, said: “Ben’s a good player and I’m always going to be interested in good players.
“But I’ve not made any contact with the Blackburn manager regarding him..”