Samba: Reputations don't matter
Chris Samba is not taking his place in the Blackburn team for granted this term because of the crop of exciting youngsters at Ewood Park. Samba has established himself as first choice at centre-half since joining Rovers in 2007, forming a mean partnership at the heart of the defence alongside club captain Ryan Nelsen. The 26-year-old rounded off 2009-10 by taking the skipper's armband from Nelsen and scored the winner in the final home game of the season against Arsenal - but he is expecting a battle for his place in the starting XI in the coming Premier League campaign. Several youngsters at Blackburn caught the eye having been given a run in Sam Allardyce's first team last season such as Martin Olsson, Junior Hoilett and 18-year-old central defender Phil Jones, who earned rave reviews after making his Premier League debut in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea in March. Allardyce has already tipped Jones for a future call-up to the senior England squad, and Samba believes there is now strong competition for starting spots throughout the Rovers team - which can only be a good thing for the club overall. "We have some really promising players," Samba said. "They showed last year they have got the potential and now they need to confirm that because the Premier League is a very hard place to play. "They still have to improve, like we all do, and stay progressing. "It does help us all though. Players coming through want to play and are hungry to play, but so are we. "We did well last year and we want to achieve more this season. I hope the young players will have a good go and will be successful. "If we can help them that will be good but they will also help us because we all know we have to be at the top of our game. "Every time you play you have to prove yourselves. It is not a case of experience and inexperience. Experience does help but we all have to prove to the manager and prove to yourself that you can go again. "If you want to win you have to play your best team, so reputations don't matter. The people who are playing well play, it is as simple as that." As well as notching the Arsenal and Chelsea results, Blackburn also held Manchester United at Ewood Park and won at Aston Villa towards the end of last term - a strong finish to the campaign which saw them claim 10th place. However, the late surge came after a slow start that had Allardyce's side worrying about the bottom end of the table for much of the season and Samba feels Rovers must hit the ground running in 2010-11. He said: "We have to look to improve. We know what we are capable of. We have some regrets from last season. The biggest is that we were in between two stools. "Every time we wanted to look up and see what position we could reach, but we had to be careful we didn't go on that spiral and get involved in a fight for survival. "Every time it is easier when we start well because then we have a starting point and if we do that, then we can keep doing what we are doing right and could surprise ourselves at the end."
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