Blackburn Rovers produced a fantastic display to upset a strong Stoke City side in the fifth round of the FA Cup last Saturday. The 4-1 victory was even more impressive due to the fact several first team players were rested, suggesting the strength of depth in the squad at Ewood Park.
Josh King hasn’t been able to establish himself as a first team regular but scored a stunning hat-trick to stake his claim for a more permanent role in the side. He will have a tough job in removing one of the deadly duo up front, but with three quality strikers, Blackburn surely won’t struggle for goals.
This leaves Rovers just a game away from Wembley albeit an extremely difficult tie away to Liverpool. They will travel to Liverpool with fond memories. Anfield is where the club lifted the Premier League title in 1995.
But before that Rovers have crucial fixtures in the Championship – where they are in ninth place – ten points from a top six finish. Obviously ten points is a big deficit to overturn, but with 15 games left, perhaps the tremendous result against Stoke will finally jolt the club into life.
Since relegation to the Championship in 2012, the club have underperformed in the league with two seasons of indifferent results. The 2012/13 saw them finish in a disappointing 17th, where last season was an improvement in eighth – just two points off the play-off places. But for a club like Blackburn, they should be performing a lot better, especially when you consider the quality they have in attack.
The stand-out player at the club – and possibly in the league – is striker Jordan Rhodes. The 25-year-old Scottish international is a natural goalscorer and has an exceptional scoring record. He first burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old when he was signed by Huddersfield from Ipswich back in 2008. In his first season at the Yorkshire outfit, he netted 19 times in League One. In 2011/12 he managed an extraordinary return of 38 goals which helped Huddersfield secure promotion.
This brought about an £8 million to Blackburn at the end of the season where he has proven himself to be worth the fee. In his first campaign as a Blackburn player, he scored 27 times in a struggling team before adding 25 goals last season. This season he has scored 11 times which brings his overall tally in his career to 146 league goals at the tender age of 25. An exceptional talent, his goals can potentially help Blackburn make a late surge for a play-off place, otherwise his time at Ewood Park may be coming to an end with The Mirror reporting interest from Swansea.
A man who has outscored Rhodes is his strike partner Rudy Gestede. The 26-year-old French born Benin international has been in fantastic form this season that has seen him linked with a move to the Premier League. He was signed by Cardiff City in 2011 and made 55 appearences – despite 45 of those coming from the bench. He only managed seven goals at the Welsh club, although this was largely due to his limited game time.
Gestede moved to Blackburn in January 2014 and has been prolific ever since. Last season he scored 13 times for Blackburn in the Championship and has already reached that figure this season. Together with Rhodes, the pair are forming one of the most deadliest partnerships in the Championship.
Gary Bowyer has done a good job at stabilising Blackburn and building a team that are capable of fighting for a play-off place. More consistency is needed, but with two excellent strikers at this level, the Stoke victory shows what the club are capable off.