Bradley Dack hoping to write new Rovers chapter after five years

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Bradley Dack celebrates during Rovers' League One promotion season
Bradley Dack celebrates during Rovers' League One promotion season

Bradley Dack today marks five years as a Rovers player – but also the start of another chapter in his Ewood career.

It has been a stay of two parts, the first two-and-a-half years couldn’t have gone any smoother, the next a real test of Dack’s mental strength.

In his own words, the 23-year-old who Rovers signed from Gillingham was a ‘naïve Jack-the-lead’.

While Dack hasn’t lost any of that youthful exuberance that makes him the player he is, there is a greater understanding of the game’s ups and downs after a rollercoaster period that has covered every emotion.

There have been tears of joy, yet pain, amazement but anguish, a player who has etched himself into the club’s history books and proven to be a bargain at £750,000.

So what has gone before?

2017/18: Rovers’ top scorer with 18 league goals, promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt and League One player of the year, it wasn’t a bad start to life at Ewood Park for a player who had an instant impact on the not only the team, but the club as a whole.

2018/19: 15 goals in 42 games in his first-ever Championship season, with three more in the cup competitions, Dack proved he could do it at the higher level, wiping away any question marks as the man-of-the-match awards and accolades kept coming.

2019: Double figures already chalked up before Christmas, but then he sustained the first of his two ACL injuries on December 23 against Wigan Athletic as his first long road to recovery began.

2020: Surgery soon followed, then came the difficulties of recovering during the Covid period, with his year-long absence ending on Boxing Day 2020, marked with the signing of a new contract.

2021: A year that started with great promise, a goal in a win at Birmingham City, Dack was just starting to hit his straps with back-to-back goals against Millwall and Swansea City before injury heartbreak struck again during the closing stages of the home defeat to Brentford on March 12, an injury that shook the football club.

2022: A hero’s welcome as Dack returned to the squad, and then the pitch against Bristol City. It was an emotional moment as he took to the pitch to loud cheers, exactly a year on since his previous injury, and more than two years since his last outing infront of fans. It wasn’t quite the fairytale, Dack seeing his spot-kick saved as Rovers lost to a 97th minute goal, but he did manage one in his nine cameo outings taking him to 50 in Rovers colours.

As for what lies ahead, the next chapter of Dack’s Rovers career will begin with the upcoming campaign which comes after nine cameo appearances last season. Dack himself, and previous boss Tony Mowbray, both accepted that it wouldn’t be until the 2022/23 season that he would be back to anywhere close to his best.

Before that comes a first pre-season since 2019 which will prove invaluable for Dack in his quest to get back to the highs of prior to ACL injury number one.

Dack at his best has the finishing qualities of a goal poacher, the hold-up skills of a target man, the workrate of a tenacious midfielder and a desire to win that separates the very best.

None of those attributes will have left him, the challenge for Dack is putting them all together allied to the ability to carry them out on the first-team stage.

‘Like a new signing’ is a well-worn phrase, and while Dack did feature towards the back end of last season, to have a fully-fit and firing version anywhere close to his best would be some boost to new head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson.

Without his two ACL injuries, it is unlikely that Dack would have been at Rovers to mark his five-year anniversary, with a Premier League move feeling inevitable with the performances he was putting in.

But such an anniversary gives us a chance to reflect on a fine player, and fantastic signing, and also excitement as to what the future may hold for a player held in the highest regard.

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