Blackburn Rovers showed Joe Rothwell transfer fix as Tony Mowbray era ended in style

Blackburn Rovers ended the 2021/22 season in style with victory in Tony Mowbray’s final game. Criers of John Buckley and Ben Brereton Diaz helped them beat Birmingham City 2-1 and finish eighth in the Championship.

The sun was shining at St Andrew’s as Mowbray pulled back the curtain on five years at Ewood Park with victory. Without a doubt, Rovers’ two best goals of the campaign were a fitting tribute to their outgoing boss.

Attention now turns to the summer with plenty to decide, including the next manager. Right here, Live throws brings you the highs and lows of the season finale against Birmingham City.

READ MORE: Every word Tony Mowbray said on Blackburn Rovers exit, future and Ben Brereton Diaz investment

UPS

Sign for Mowbray

It was a fitting way to end the Mowbray era, with a packed ending taking advantage of the season finale in the sun. The Blackburn Rovers boss has reiterated his intention to leave despite a scheduled phone call with the owner next week.

The goals were of sublime quality. Buckley’s strike from range was an arrow destined for the top corner from the moment it left his boot.

Brereton Diaz tried to outshine it with his own impression of a Cristiano Ronaldo knuckleball, which deflected and dived under Neil Etheridge’s crossbar.

A glimpse of the future?

Have we taken a look at the Blackburn Rovers midfielder for next season? The second-half introduction of Bradley Dack saw Buckley fall next to Lewis Travis in a deeper midfield role and he caught the eye.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a breakout season and his composure in possession was evident in the second half at St Andrew’s. With the game ahead of him, Buckley has shown maturity on the ball, which could suggest he is capable of being Joe Rothwell’s replacement.

While the game was not played at a ferocious pace in Birmingham, Buckey auditioned alongside Travis and when complemented by a fully fit Dack could be a tasty option. Technically, they could compete with most midfielders in the Championship, although this combination might be a bit lacking in physicality and height.

Nonetheless, with Rovers needing to sign at least two midfielders, Buckley has shown they can have their replacement Rothwell ready for the club.

The intelligence of Ryan Hedges

It was another eye-catching performance from Ryan Hedges after struggling against Bournemouth last weekend. He showed variety in his game which offers food for thought.

Against Preston, his work rate was particularly evident. At St Andrew’s he was a constant threat, drifting into pockets of space from the right.

Birmingham couldn’t handle his move. While a simple pass for Buckley’s goal, it was his run as number 10 that created the angle for Ben Brereton Diaz’s pass, who was then laid off for the strike.



Ryan Hedges exploits the space in front of the Birmingham City defense with an outside-in run.


Hedges' run allows him to win the ball back and drop Buckley, who has filled the space created by his smart run.
Hedges’ run allows him to win the ball back and drop Buckley, who has filled the space created by his smart run.

In the second half he was more worthy of a No.10 than a right winger, exploiting huge holes in front of the Blues defense and linking play with wide forwards. With a full pre-season, it’s exciting to think about what Hedges could become as he continues to add more strings to his bow.

Reasons to be optimistic

Look, it’s not what everyone expected in February, but eighth place is progress. The team has exceeded pre-season expectations and there are reasons to be positive.

Undoubtedly, there will be some big additions to be made this summer, but the core of this squad is cause for excitement. Tyrhys Dolan, Scott Wharton and Buckley have continued their development and will be part of the backbone next season.

Hedges and Dack will only contribute after a full pre-season, as will Dilan Markanday, who returned from injury as a substitute on Saturday. It’s exciting to see what they can offer the team next season with hopefully some reinforcements.

Stockings

The pressure is on

While listing all the exciting prospects above, there are also risks if Blackburn Rovers are not proactive this summer. With even less time to prepare, time is running out.

The season restarts at the end of July. Acquiring a new manager and being forward-thinking in the transfer market will be essential.

It is likely that all the most attractive free agents will be signed very early. There could then be a wait for loan deals as Premier League clubs finalize their squads for the next campaign.

With very little money circulating in the league transfer market after COVID-19, smart and early recruitment is essential. For that to happen, the club needs to know who their manager will be.

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