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West Brom Preview.


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Like the majority of Premiership teams, Blackburn Rovers will finish the 2002-2003 season, with no silverware in the trophy cupboard. However manager Graeme Souness has more than achieved his pre-season objective of steering the club to Premiership survival, to finish, barring a major disaster, in at least 7th position in the Premier League. Whilst on the way to premiership survival the club once again ventured in to Europe, reached the semi-finals of the Worthington Cup and have entertaining their supporters to a brand of attacking entertaining football, with notable wins against the league leaders.

All this has been achieved with the lack of resources, with star players such as Damian Duff who gained world recognition with his exploits for the Republic of Ireland during the World Cup, England Under 21 captain David Dunn, midfield dynamo David Thompson and senior professionals, Cole, Yorke, Berg, and Short having missed numerous games during the season due to injuries. As a result of a close season accident Rovers lost the services of last seasons top scorer Matt Jansen for most of the season and the unfortunate retirement of Stig Inge Bjornebye; to compound their injury problems further Turkish striker Hakan Sukur broke his leg shortly after joining the club and Vratislav Gresko broke his foot last weekend.

As a result of these injuries and the implementation of the transfer window the club have successfully blooded some academy players, notably Jay McEveley, who made the left back position his own until the on loan signing of the experienced Slovakian International Vratislav Gresko.

As the curtain comes down on Ewood Park tomorrow, once again Graeme Souness will be hampered in his team selection, as Rovers strive to gain points in order to achieve European qualification, against the already relegated West Bromwich Albion.

With Craig Short and Vratislav Gresko out for the remainder of the season and Henning Berg and Jay McEveley doubtfull it is expected that Martin Taylor and Andy Todd will line up in the centre with Nils Eric Johanssen filling in at left back and Lucas Niell retaining the right back spot.

In midfield there is concern regarding David Dunn and Keith Gillespie, however Damian Duff has returned from international duty free from injury, so it is expected that the midfield will consist of Flitcroft Tugay and Duff with either Dunn or Gillespie taking up the right sided midfield position.

With the alleged press reports that Hakan Sukur does not wish to extend his contract with the Rovers, Graeme Souness may opt for the Cole and Yorke partnership up front, with academy star striker Paul Gallagher claiming a seat on the bench.

West Brom themselves have injury worries, and are   expected to select from.

Hoult, Balis, Sigurdsson,Wallwork, Gregan, Clement, Kumas, McInnes, Johnson, Roberts Dichio, Murphy, Chambers, Udeze, Lyttle, Dobie.

It is well documented that West Brom intend to attend Ewood Park in fancy dress, the theme being Men in Black, as a protest against Referees decisions, or lack of decisions that have gone their way.  

Not an atmosphere may I suggest that tomorrow’s referee Rob Styles will be looking forward to.

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