FOOTBALL: GOAL-DEN DAVIES KEVIN SENT FOR ROVERS; Rookie Striker Can Stake His England Claims at Ewood; ANDY DUNN on Blackburn's Bid to Get Back to the Top

Article excerpt

GEORGE

BEST

SAYS ...

ROY HODGSON is the epitome of the cosmopolitan coach - but he is pinning his Premiership hopes on a raw-boned 21-year-old from South Yorkshire.

Hopes ... and over pounds 7million of Jack Walker's hard-earned cash.

With his experience in Scandinavia, Switzerland and Serie A, Blackburn fans might have expected something more exotic of Hodgson.

Instead it falls to the feet of Kevin Davies to supply the goals that left with Alan Shearer's move to Newcastle.

Alongside Chris Sutton - with Kevin Gallacher slotting in behind - Hodgson believes Davies can provide the extra fire power that was missing when Rovers' bright start faded in the second half of last season.

The Ewood Park coach says: "Last year we worked with a small squad and, with the extra games next year, we need to improve.

"A top-class striker was our main priority and Kevin has the kind of footballing profile we are looking for. Being a record signing is hard for a player to carry around but you've got to put the fee into perspective.

"We have signed a young player with a great career ahead of him and we are paying for the privilege of having him work with us. But, at the same time, we could be paying pounds 5m for a 32-year-old."

Davies was touted as a teenage sensation when he made his first team debut for Chesterfield over four years ago.

But most top clubs had doubts about his game until Graeme Souness took the plunge and signed him for Southampton at a cost of pounds 750,000.

Davies banished any doubts with a string of stirring performances studded with quality goals.

And after becoming the most expensive player in Ewood Park history, he is determined to tread the Shearer path to fame and fortune.

He says: "I am very ambitious and I hope that playing with Blackburn might also improve my chances of playing for England as I want to prove myself as a genuine candidate for the next World Cup.

"I'm looking forward to playing with top-class players and a top-class manager at Blackburn. I am here to be successful - both for myself and the club. Hopefully, over seven years, I'll pick up a few medals."

The direct style of Davies should dovetail nicely with the more cultured approach of Chris Sutton. If Hodgson can find room for Gallacher as well, the trio should cause a fair amount of mayhem around the Premiership.

And then, of course, there is Damien Duff. Michael Owen apart, the 19- year-old Irishman is one of the hottest young talents around.

The start of his season could be delayed because of a hernia problem but he is sure to play a big part for Rovers - especially in their UEFA Cup campaign. In fact, you can find little fault with Blackburn's first- choice eleven. They have a top-class keeper in Tim Flowers and an under- rated midfield organiser in Tim Sherwood.

Colin Hendry - so long Rovers' defensive inspiration - has moved on to Glasgow Rangers but Hodgson will be looking to Darren Peacock, signed on a free from Newcastle - to plug that gap in the back four.

The build-up play may be a touch unimaginative at times and the full- backs uninspiring but, in general, they are a quality outfit.

And that is why they made a blistering start to their first season under Hodgson. The problems arose when the suspensions and injuries kicked in. Like so many teams in the Premiership, Blackburn's lack of strength in depth was exposed.

Hodgson has turned his mind to that issue during the summer with the likes of Jim Corbett and Sebastian Perez arriving to bolster the squad.

That should give them strength in depth but it remains to be seen whether or not they have quality in depth.

One thing is for certain - Blackburn will not be short of preparation or physical fitness.

Hodgson is a deep thinker, but also a hard taskmaster. …