Rovers recruitment: An Adam Armstrong repeat must be avoided

·6-min read
Adam Armstrong featured in pre-season for Rovers prior to his sale
Adam Armstrong featured in pre-season for Rovers prior to his sale

For the second successive summer Rovers are anticipating interest in their top scorer.

There are many similarities, with Ben Brereton having taken on the goalscoring mantle in the same way that Adam Armstrong did following the injury to Bradley Dack.

Armstrong was sold when heading into the final year of his contract, and with Rovers having taken up the 12-month option in the contract of Brereton, he is likewise.

And Rovers too are in a similar position with their hand not a strong one at the negotiation table with either player or interested clubs, and look set to be left holding out for what they can.

Armstrong eventually moved to Southampton for £15m, rising to £20m, the figure that Rovers initially had in mind after his 29-goal season.

Rovers will want a minimum of £20m to part ways with Brereton, but that will again be dependant on interest.

While there was no shortage of speculation around Armstrong, when it came to the bidding, it was only Southampton doing so. Their first offer of £8m didn’t take much consideration, though things moved quickly after they sanctioned the sale of Danny Ings to Aston Villa.

Brereton has interest at home and overseas, but as yet no bids, leaving Rovers playing a waiting game to see what happens. However, they don’t have to worry about a hefty sell-on clause in the same way they did with Armstrong, given 45 per cent of the profit went to his former club Newcastle United.

It seems unlikely, unless a new deal could be struck, that Brereton will be playing for Rovers next season.

If that is the case, then reinvestment will be key. It was something stressed by Tony Mowbray in his parting words before leaving the club.

While Rovers were under a registration embargo for a spell last summer, there had been no agreed figure from the eventual sale of Armstrong that could be reinvested into the first-team.

In the end, the two attacking signings, Reda Khadra and Ian Poveda, both arrived on loan, with Tayo Edun, a left back from Lincoln City, the only permanent addition at £450,000.

Rovers did have a deal done with Bordeaux for Josh Maja, with everything agreed ready for him to sign on the dotted line, only for that to fall through due to a medical. Aaron Connolly of Brighton was another who Rovers looked at last summer, but that failed to materialise.

There were eventually attacking signings made, Dilan Markanday and Ryan Hedges joining from Tottenham Hotspur and Aberdeen respectively, as Rovers took their spending for the season above £1m.

A budget of around £1m had been earmarked for the January window, but not for the first time in Mowbray’s tenure, that wasn't fully spent, with no move for a No.9 which could be argued cost Rovers dear following the injury to Ben Brereton.

Ryan Longman was one player identified, only for him to turn his loan move at Hull City permanent.

Mowbray put his side’s troubles in the second half of the season to a lack of goals, and reviewing the transfer business during his time at the club, said: “I don’t want to get wrapped up in that.

“I do know what the budget was when I arrived and what it is now, I won’t give you the figures, but it’s hugely lower.

“I’m putting that down to Covid because there was time when I had a budget that enabled me to spend £6m on Ben Brereton.

“Now the budget is genuinely that I can spend it on wages and get loads of free transfers, or buy a footballer and give him a wage.

“I chose to buy Ben Brereton, but we could have signed five or six players with that money.

“I put it down to Covid that the investment stopped, it dropped off, and we haven’t been able to invest.”

It would be hard to see without reinvestment how Rovers could fill the void of Brereton’s goal, though Sam Gallagher showed promising signs towards the end of the season to finish with nine, but any guarantees of more will come at a cost.

Should Bradley Dack get back close to his best after an injury-hit two seasons, then Rovers will be able to count on him for goals, while Markanday and Hedges will be eyeing a much bigger impact next season than they were able to have after their January moves.

Tyrhys Dolan didn’t have the end to the season he would have wanted, with Khadra often preferred over him, and after an injury-hit time, the 20-year-old will be keen to re-establish himself as a regular in the side.

Dan Butterworth faces a pivotal season, his loan at Fleetwood Town not working out as hoped, though Rovers did take up the option in his contract, and a decision over whether he will be part of the first-team picture next season, or loaned out, will come after pre-season.

Jack Vale finished the season with 13 goals in 12 Premier League 2 appearances, earning himself a third senior appearance on the final day at Birmingham City, and the 21-year-old, heading into the final year of his deal, will want to make his mark on the first-team scene.

There have certainly been promising signs, the Wales Under-21 international looking physical stronger, and having matured, following a loan spell in the National League with FC Halifax.

Below him, Harry Leonard looks a first-team regular in the making, the striker passing 20 goals at Academy level for both the Under-18s and Under-23s to earn himself a professional contract.

A full season with the Under-23s appears likely for him, while Sam Burns, who spent part of the season with Scunthorpe United, will likely be eyeing another loan after penning a one-year contract extension.

An addition to the Under-23s attacking ranks is being finalised, yet the main focus will be on the senior team’s business, and the planning for life without Brereton will be well under way.

The spending largely sanctioned by owners Venky’s has been predominantly on forwards, Brereton, Gallagher and Armstrong arriving within two summers of each other for a combined £14m, while £8m was splashed out on Jordan Rhodes in 2012, with Dominic Samuel and Dack the big buys of the League One summer.

As a result, Rovers have rarely struggled for goals since relegation from the Premier League, but reinvestment in that part of the team, should Brereton be sold, will likely hold the key for that to continue.

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