x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rovers will be let off the leash

He has a reputation for moulding tough-tackling teams and long-ball tactics, but maybe the Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce has had a change of heart.

He has a reputation for moulding tough-tackling teams and long-ball tactics, but maybe the Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce has had a change of heart. He says he is so impressed with the talent of his squad that he is prepared to let his players have more freedom to express themselves. When the former Bolton and Newcastle manager took over from the sacked Paul Ince in December 2008, Rovers were mired in relegation trouble and his sole priority was to guide them to safety.

With that in mind he implemented a survival plan which involved playing a certain way to maximise their points return. "They hadn't had the sort of direction they were wanting and had lost their way a little bit," said Allardyce, referring to how he found the squad when he took over. "It was a difficult situation so I was determined to get the players used to playing one way as playing in that way consistently would get them out of trouble.

"Now we are more flexible, we are not in a position of being threatened by relegation and we want to be more expressive and showing the ability we have in our locker. "We have some very clever and creative players." Blackburn find themselves in the unusual position of being above today's opponents Everton in the table, with David Moyes' side having won just once in four games. Everton beat AEK Athens 4-0 on Thursday in the Europa League, but Leighton Baines expects a completely different test.

"It is different when you play in a European game as you get a bit more time on the ball and we played some decent football. We had a professional attitude," the Everton full-back said. "The match will be much more physical but one we are looking forward to after such a good win." * PA Sport Everton v Blackburn, KO 6pm, Showsports Extra