Blackburn Rovers recruitment: possibility of moving the goalkeeper

Compared to the summers of 2019 and 2020, things have been more serene on the Rovers goalkeeping front lately. This theme is expected to continue into 2022.

Thomas Kaminski has been Rovers’ undisputed No.1 since joining from KAA Gent in 2020 and signing a new three-year deal, which is likely to be for some time.

He has received foreign interest before, but any worries about leaving have been allayed with the signing of a new contract, with Kaminski declaring himself settled and happy at Ewood Park.

The Belgian has missed just six games since signing, three per season, with Aynsley Pears as a substitute.

Pears, who has two more years to run on the four-year deal signed in 2020, had a difficult first year at the club but impressed with clean sheets in wins over Preston North End and Bournemouth in 2020/21, only for making mistakes in Rovers’ FA Cup defeat at Wigan.

Both Kaminski and Pears joined in 2020, with Antonis Stergiakis a third goalkeeper to join that summer, as Rovers were left without a permanent addition in 2019 following the departure of David Raya.

Jordan Eastham had the option in his deal included in last week’s shortlist, meaning the 20-year-old, who has been on the first-team bench including the final day, is under contract for 12 additional months.

Stergiakis is under contract for another two years, while Joe Hilton, who spent the 2021/22 season with Hamilton Academical, has one year left on his contract.

The club have also offered professional terms to Under-18 goalkeeper Felix Goddard.

While Kaminski is expected to take the No.1 jersey and build on performances from his first two seasons, the headlines in the goalkeeping department will likely be further down the pecking order.

Pears, now 24, has played just eight times for Rovers since signing from Middlesbrough for an undisclosed fee but still has two years left on his contract.

A loan deal was mooted last season, and while he is unlikely to turn down regular football, he would see the need for another backup goalkeeper, most likely on a short-term or temporary basis.

There would be the possibility of promoting Jordan Eastham to second choice if that happens, but the 20-year-old, who has played 27 times for the Under-23s, would most likely be given a loan spell as well.

Eastham have a great cast but being challenged by men’s football would be a step in the right direction for their development.

That’s what Eastham’s two-year elder Joe Hilton has been doing lately, with 23 appearances for Hamilton Academical in 2021/22, with his last appearance for Rovers Under-23 in February 2020 after also spent time with Ross County.

Hilton has indicated that he would be open to a return to Hamilton, and that may well materialize.

Greek goalkeeper Stergiakis is now 23, just a year younger than Pears, but is still awaiting his first senior appearance for the club.

He has the experience of 78 appearances for Slavia Sofia to his name, but his form has been spotty for Rovers Under-23s in his 16 appearances meaning he hasn’t been able to take the next step.

While Goddard is expected to sign a new contract, he too will be looking for Under-23 minutes, with 19-year-old Aidan Dowling also to add to the mix.

Rovers have considered Everton’s Jak Stewart on trial in a bid to add more to their goalkeeping department, but calls will soon have to be made over who the club are considering as long-term options.

Stergiakis has fallen behind Eastham in the pecking order, the latter seemingly third choice, but with so few minutes to split Rovers have to decide how to distribute them.

The loan market offers an opportunity, but so far the majority of them have not been in the league, and Rovers would ideally want them to play at a higher level.

Goalkeeping coach Ben Benson remains in place following the sacking of Tony Mowbray and has been a regular figure on the Rovers touchline since his promotion from the Academy in 2017.

The composition of Rovers’ coaching staff will be discussed during the series of interviews with the leadership candidates, but it seems very likely that Benson will stay.

He’s a popular figure with the goalkeeping fraternity, Kaminski regularly speaks highly of him and the Belgian hopes that relationship continues.

As for the 29-year-old, he will be looking to continue building a reputation as one of the top stoppers in the division.

Areas for improvement will be his distribution, with his long-range kicks no doubt offering room for improvement, as he hasn’t taken kindly to the physical pressure around his six-yard box from games arrested, something he will probably have to deal with more moves. before.

But with Kaminski between the sticks, Rovers are unlikely to give much thought to the goalkeeper position this summer.

The life of a No. 2 keeper may seem among the easiest from the outside, but it’s a thankless task, training as hard as the No. 1 to be ready when called, but also to know his place as a second choice, something Pears had to get used to.

He’s at least had the chance to show what he can offer and could look for more opportunities next season, and with those unlikely to come to Rovers, a loan move could well be in sight.

If so, it would create an opening and perhaps see the need for some recruitment in this area and upset what would otherwise be a quiet summer.

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