Tomorrow sees Rovers head to Roots Hall, the home of Southend United, to start their first League One campaign in 37 years. RoversChat and the team previews the season ahead.
Rovers have a tough season ahead, with at least 51 games this season, and Mowbray and his staff will need to manage this to make sure that they are at the best they can be. Mowbray’s men will take to four competitions – League One, FA Cup, EFL Cup and the Checkatrade Trophy – and this causes fatigue and injuries. Over the season, the Blue and White team will travel 3,148 miles next season.
The paper-thin squad is a concern for Rovers, and Mowbray will need to add to this so that when the fatigue and injuries take hold, we can rotate our squad and still compete with other teams.
So, what does the season hold? Well, Rovers begin their campaign away at Southend, a team that finished 7th in the league last year, and can cause problems. Like the opening match, Rovers’ first 7 games are tough and will test the boys. Further testing away trips to Bradford, Rochdale and Scunthorpe coupled in with Doncaster, MK Dons and Fleetwood provide Rovers with a realistic experience of what the league can be like.
After, 3 home games face Rovers in the space of 2 weeks in September, with Shrewsbury away between Wimbledon and Rotherham – giving Rovers chance to make Ewood a fortress.
October starts with a Checkatrade Trophy game at home to Bury, followed by 5 games – 3 of them vs local teams, all away – with 2 being Plymouth and Portsmouth in the space of 4 days.
Rovers have a further 5 games in November scheduled, with a FA Cup 1st round tie on the first Saturday. The toughest game of the month probably lies with Oxford United away on what is likely to be a cold and wet night – where the players will need to dig in hard to come away with all three points.
Then, Tony Mowbray’s men face three games up to Christmas (4 with a FA Cup 2nd round game) with two lengthy trips to Peterborough and Northampton.
The Blue and White army then face 4 games in 16 days. It begins with two games at home, Rochdale on Boxing Day and then Scunthorpe 4 days later. This is followed by two away trips, a New Year’s Day game at Rotherham and then AFC Wimbledon 5 days later (unless Rovers or AFC Wimbledon reach the 3rd round of the FA Cup!). Rovers then continue January, with the highlight being a local derby at Fleetwood.
February sees Rovers make two mammoth trips – Plymouth on a Saturday and Portsmouth on a Tuesday night – meaning in the space of 10 days, Rovers will have travelled over 1000 miles!
March provides Rovers with Wigan Athletic and Blackpool in the space on 6 days, as well as a long trip to Gillingham – which is likely to be a large month for Rovers.
April then sees Rovers travel to MK Dons, Bristol Rovers and Charlton, whilst Southend and Peterborough come to Ewood. This month will be essential to Rovers, as picking up near to or maximum points will, as long as Rovers are in the running for promotion, almost guarantee promotion.
The season ends on the 5th May, when Pep Clotet’s Oxford United come to Ewood, and Rovers fans will be hoping to see the team celebrating for the right reasons on the last day.
Overall, Rovers’ fixtures give them tough sections, as well as easier – but not to be underestimated – sections. If Mowbray can add further to his squad and keep his main players (like Mulgrew and Lenihan), Rovers should have something to celebrate in May.
I truly believe Rovers will be first come the end of the season, and I believe the player of the year will go to a player who’s name will not be one of the first to be given when thinking of the player of the year – Richard Smallwood. The ex-Rotherham man has potential to be the tough tackling midfielder who gives Rovers the extra push they need to get over the line.
We also asked the entire team on their thoughts for the season:
@camydeaks21 (Twitter – @RoversReports21)
The 2017/18 season will be one of mixed emotions and a new experience for many after entering in a realm where Rovers haven't been for 37 years. Away days will be different, teams will be different and fan expectancy will be different. For the past few years, we have been happy to consolidate and just survive in the Championship but now the emphasis is all on the push for promotion. The minimum that Rovers should achieve is top 2 but the fact is the title should be ours. I hope that we do go on a cup run, the EFL Trophy is an experience that we have never had before and considering last year's winners got relegated to League 2, whose to say that by April we shouldn't be on our way to new Wembley for the first time.
Player of the year: Bradley Dack
Predicted finish: 1st
@braith23 (Twitter – @Braith69)
I maybe setting myself up for devastating disappointment but, optimism has got the better of me. As long as there isn't a last minute exodus of players I honestly think we will steamroll this league. We have too much quality for this league. Our starting 11 is good enough to challenge in the Championship. We still lack numbers though. Hopefully, come September, we will have kept Mulgrew and Lenihan as well as made a few additions. League 1 is a poor standard of football – I went to go and watch Bury on a regular basis. So if we can get the ball down and play to our strengths it's going to be an enjoyable season.
Player of the year prediction – I'll go for Dack. I'm hearing good things about him and he knows this league. On a personal note I think Smallwood will be an unsung hero this season. On a cold wet Tuesday night down Portsmouth when things aren't going our way, I can see him thriving and dragging everyone into the trenches with him.
Predicted finish: 1st
@jkeybrfc (Twitter – @jkeybrfc)
I think you've got to be optimistic ahead of the new season. There's a feeling of positivity around the club that simply hasn't been there for years. A good manager, some excellent players for this level and a small feeling that the fans might stop arguing with each other for a while and focus their energy on getting behind the team. If we avoid injuries, then we should be top 2 but our depth isn't great. A few injuries, particularly at the back, could derail us but we've just got to hope we survive injury-wise.
Predicted Player of the year– Elliott Bennett- loves the club, always interacting with the fans, not to mention he's an excellent player and has the potential to turn defences inside out weekly at this level.
Predicted finish: 3rd (promoted in play-offs)- we never live up to expectations and Blackburn couldn't possibly do things the easy way.
@matthewj122 (Twitter – @matthewj122)
After relegation from the Championship last season, I believe that Rovers will bounce straight back and will be promoted. Automatic promotion is highly likely, however we will be contending with teams such as Bradford and Wigan. Personally, I think that the opening weeks of the season could be challenging with away trips to Southend and Bradford while hosting newly promoted Doncaster and MK Dons. But Mowbray's summer additions; Richie Smallwood, Bradley Dack, Peter Whittingham, Dominic Samuel, Paul Caddis, Jason Luitweiler and Ben Gladwin; adds to squad members from last year to form a very strong side to challenge in League One. One of the contributing factors that led to relegation last year was being weak in central midfield. Over the course of the summer, Mowbray has resolved this issue by replacing Hope Akpan, Jason Lowe and Danny Guthrie with Dack, Smallwood and Whittingham. Corry Evans who played a very little part last season will be vital if he remains injury free for the season.
Predicted player of the year– Bradley Dack
From glimpses of Dack's performances in the pre season fixtures I think that Dack will be this season's player of the year. The ex Gillingham man will certainly add goals and assists from midfield. Since the departure of Tom Cairney to Fulham, Rovers have missed an attacking midfielder who adds flare and creativity to the lineup. Although Dack's attributes mainly lie in the offensive side, the 23 year old likes to get stuck into challenges and Rovers fans will see many midfield battles across the course of the season.
The other potential contenders for player of the year could be Danny Graham or Peter Whittingham. Graham's goals will be vital for Blackburn's bid to return to the Championship. Likewise to Dack, Whittingham's creativity for midfield will be key. However, you can't underestimate Derek Williams who won last season's award for consistent performances across the year. But in a season where Rovers are expected to score plenty of goals, my bet will be to go with an attacking player.
Predicted finish – 1st
With the quality of the players in the squad I think that Rovers will finish 1st. For me I believe that it'll be Rovers and Bradford who will finish in the automatic positions. If Mowbray's men get off to a flyer, I can't see many teams strong enough to catch up with Blackburn.
@barryshoz82 (Twitter – @BarryShorrock)
I expect Rovers first stint in the 3rd tier of English football to be tougher than most fans believe. Tony Mowbray is fully expecting a tough year and will treat it professionally, but at the same time he will expect to gain promotion at the first attempt. With no stand out candidates for promotion, and no one splashing the cash in the division, I believe it is wide open. The next 30 days are crucial, both getting off to a good start, and more importantly trying to keep both Lenihan and Mulgrew. If this is not possible, we need to replace them with quality, as well as bolstering the strikeforce and the wings. If Rovers get off to a good start, and crucially Danny Graham is fit and scoring goals, I expect us to be the team to beat.
One slight worry is the fact we go into the season having not played anyone from higher or the same divisions. Most League 1 teams have played Championship and Premier League teams, and I hope this doesn't mean we are caught cold at the start of the season. It is all about momentum.
Predicted player of the Year: Bradley Dack – I fully expect him to rediscover the form of two seasons ago and in a stronger team flourish to take Rovers to the title.
Predicted Finish: 1st (but close)
@tomrover (Twitter – @Tom_Schoey)
The only goal has to be promotion. For me, anything less than top 2 has to be considered a failure. I’m not so foolish to suggest that it will be an easy ride, Rovers will have some incredibly tough fixtures and Southend, who I’m tipping for the play offs, will be stern opposition on the opening day of the season. With money spent however, if Rovers were to fail in their quest for an immediate return to the Championship then serious questions must be asked. So far, some fantastic business has been done, and if we can continue to keep hold of the likes of Lenihan and Mulgrew, then come May, I expect us to be celebrating promotion back to the Championship.
Predicted Player of the year: Elliott Bennett
Predicted finish: 1st
@maxmcloughlin (Twitter – @MaxiMcloughlin)
In Rovers' 2017/2018 League One campaign, I am optimistic - mainly because of the signings we have brought into the team and how strong the squad looks for the season ahead under manager Tony Mowbray. I am exceptionally pleased with the signings of attacking midfielder, Bradley Dack and experienced Welshman Peter Whittingham. I think their abilities will be a key asset to the squad. Also, our new number 10 Danny Graham has been outstanding in pre-season scoring numerous goals in games. To conclude , making sure Ryan Nyambe stayed with the Blues is also key to me as he has great potential and can really progress in the years to come
Predicted player of the year: Danny Graham
Predicted finish: 2nd
@callumscott1999 (Twitter – @cxllumscott)
After looking at the players we have signed for the forthcoming season, I can only see one thing and that is promotion. Keeping Lenihan and Mulgrew will be the 2 main pieces of business this summer and arguably the most important. Not going up will be a disaster and could mean more cut backs and multiple player sales. Mowbray can obviously see this and that's why we have invested in experience and young talent to try and bounce back first time of asking. You blueeeeeees.
Predicted Player of the Year: Ryan Nyambe
Predicted finish: 1st
@aidangoudie (Twitter – @AidanGoudie)
Rovers are favourites this year and rightly so with the staff, players and the signings we have made this year. However, it’s going to be a lot more difficult than it seems. Every team knows we are one of the favourites therefore, they will try that extra bit harder to beat us. Saying that though, we should still beat most teams in this league and hopefully we don’t sell any of our key players between now and end of August. With the likes of Mulgrew, Lenihan, Bennett, Graham, Dack and the rest of our new signings, we should have too much quality in our squad in comparison to other teams in League 1. I can see it being close between us and second place, but hopefully we go back into the Championship as champions!
Predicted Player of the Year: Mulgrew (if he goes, then Dack)
Predicted finish: 1st
Pete Charnley (Twitter – @sirpetecharnley)
So the new season is just around the corner and there seems to be a sense of positivity in the air. Tony Mowbray remains in charge, some astute signings and even Venkys opened the tightest purse strings and made some signings!
Lots of big earners have been taken off the books, Lowe, Henley, Akpan, Steele, all replaced by better players. Bradley Dack and Richie Smallwood, two of the soldiers and artists who will have such a big influence this year when we need to grind out a 1-0 win on a cold Tuesday night, Gladwin whose versatility will be invaluable, and Whittingham who's composure on the ball and ability at set pieces make our midfield a lot better than last season already.
Paul Caddis will provide last season's bright spark, Ryan Nyambe, great competition down the right flank, Dominic Samuel brings a different dimension to the attack and 1 or 2 more players coming in, biting at the heels of the first teamers, will make us a real force next season. Keeping players like Raya, Mulgrew, Lenihan and Evans was vital. Positive performances in pre season from the likes of Tomlinson, Doyle, Hardcastle provides a lot of competition for the current squad and i hope some of these lads can push the first teamers all the way. Back in May at Brentford I felt numb, 37 years of playing in the top 2 tiers of English football came to an end. It didn't really sink in until the fixtures came out. Looking at it now, it might be a small blessing in disguise. What we need is the players to get their shovels out and dig deep to get us back into the championship, it will be no walk in the park but come May i expect us to have a gold 'C' next to our name. I believe the top scorer will be Danny Graham
Predicted Player of the Year: Bradley Dack
Predicted Position: 1st
We also asked you, the readers and Twitter followers of RoversChat, how you thought the season would go. We asked where you thought we'd finish in the table, and the results were pretty clear!
60% of you said Rovers would finish in the automatic positions – about 155 of you!
Here's to a new season! Let's all hope that we'll be celebrating in May!
For more articles like this, follow RoversChat on Twitter – @rovers_chat. We will post all new articles there so make sure you follow us! Make sure you follow us on all social media, details can be found here.