Blackburn Rovers lifeline for striker Benjani
By Andy Cryer
Blackburn Rovers reporter
Steve Kean has thrown Benjani an Ewood Park lifeline after seeing the striker help guide Blackburn Rovers to within touching distance of Premier League safety.
The Zimbabwean will hope to continue in attack for Rovers’ crucial trip to West Ham tomorrow afternoon, knowing victory would virtually guarantee their top flight status for another season.
Benjani’s Rovers future was looking bleak after his limited early season appearances left him unable to reach the mark needed to automatically earn himself another season at the club.
But after appearing in four of the last five games boss Kean admits the striker, who signed until the end of the season at the end of August, is doing his chances of earning a new deal no harm at all.
Kean said: “Benjani is playing for his future and I think he has shown that in his performances. He is lively and I would not like to play against him as a centre half.
“I spoke to him because he had a clause in his contract that he was never going to reach. He had to have so many starts and by the time he got to Christmas he was never going to do it. He wasn’t going to automatically activate the second year in his contract.
“What we said was ‘go out, be yourself and relax. You are playing for a contract here or somewhere else so just relax and play and we will sit down at the end of the season and see if there is anything to offer’.
“He has given us something to think about now because he has performed really well.”
Rovers will be going head-to-head with one of Kean’s January striking targets tomorrow, with Demba Ba eventually joining West Ham on a three-and-a-half year deal.
The Senegalese striker has impressed since signing for the Hammers and has been linked with a move to Ewood should the Londoner get relegated. Kean though insists transfer targets are not on the agenda at the moment as he focused on securing top flight survival as soon as possible.
He said: “Demba Ba was on a list that was offered to us in January and then he joined West Ham. We have had all our scouting networks out over the last five or six weeks, sharpening up all the targets.
“What we have tried to do at the training ground is make sure that is the scouting department. The coaching staff and myself have made sure we stay focused on getting results.
“He has done very well for them. No matter where he plays, whether it be out wide or through the middle, he is one on form and has goals in him. In the end we pursued other targets. We went after Roque instead of Demba Ba.
“I see some magazine linked us with Freiburg’s Pappe Cisse but then they did a retraction, saying we had not made an offer for him, which we certainly haven’t.
“We have had scouts at that game alongside other games in that country. As soon as they the club headed paper come in for tickets, they assume we are watching their highest scorer.
“Our scouts were at a game with the likes of Harry Redknapp and Moyesy. People tend to end up at the same games but not necessarily always watching the same player.”
Meanwhile Rovers’ co-owners Balaji and Venkatesh Rao were at the Brockhall training ground yesterday and could be at Upton Park on Saturday.
Junior Hoilett and David Dunn are expected to have recovered from injuries to be involved but Michel Salgado remains a doubt with a knee injury. Lancashire Telegraph