As the January transfer window slowly but surely moves into view, many clubs will be thinking about exactly the players they want to add to their squad when the market opens.
For Blackburn Rovers however you imagine that just as much thought will be being given to the futures of players who are currently at the club.
With around six weeks until the window opens again, there are five players who are first-team regulars in Tony Mowbray’s side, who are well into the final year of their current contract at Ewood Park.
That, of course, would put pressure on Rovers should any interest in those individuals emerge, not least due to the fact that clubs from abroad will be able to secure pre-contract agreements for those players come January.
Admittedly, Rovers do have some protection in the form of club options to extend the contracts of top scorer Ben Brereton and first-choice goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski.
However, that is not the case with those other out of contract players, meaning one man Rovers may be particularly worried about heading into the January window, is club captain Darragh Lenihan.
The centre back is one of those who is out of contract come the end of this season, and there can be no denying that missing out on extending his deal to keep him at Ewood Park, would be a major blow for Rovers.
Having come up through the academy at Rovers, Lenihan has emerged as a key figure at the heart of the club’s defence, both with his defensive capabilities, and the presence he offers as a leader at the heart of that backline.
Last season alone, Lenihan played alongside now fewer than six central defensive partners in a back two for Rovers (Daniel Ayala, Derrick Williams, Scott Wharton, Bradley Johnson, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Jarrad Branthwaite).
That alone emphasises how much of a mainstay he has become in the club’s defence, and it would be a big setback for Rovers to lose such a consistent and commanding influence, especially when – with the exception of Ayala – all of the club’s central defensive options are at the early stages of their career.
Indeed, you only have to look at Blackburn’s record without the Irishman to see how important he is to this side.
Since their return to the Championship in 2018, Blackburn have won just four of the 28 games that Lenihan has not started, losing 18 and keeping just two clean sheets in those outings.
The importance of keeping Lenihan to Blackburn is therefore clear to see, but if the centre back elects not to extend his contract at Ewood Park, then that is something that may well be out of their hands.
Even so, those of a Rovers persuasion can at least take heart from the fact that recent transfer links in the lead-up to the January window, suggest the club are prepared to explore other options if they lose their skipper.
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As exclusively revealed by Football League World earlier this month, Blackburn are linking into the prospect of bringing Phil Jones back to the club from Manchester United.
Meanwhile, the Ewood Park side are one of several Championship clubs to have also been linked with a move for Hearts defender John Souttar, who himself is out of contract at the end of this season.
With those links to two established and experienced centre backs, who both have the ability to be reliable options at Championship level, it seems that Rovers are not resting on their laurels with regards to Lenihan’s future.
While the club will no doubt remain keen to retain the services of Lenihan if at all possible, this interest in other senior central defensive options shows there is an acceptance at the club that that may not happen.
As a result, if Rovers were to see their captain leave once the market reopens, then the fact that the club already have targets identified, means they would be able to move quickly to fill the void of a player who it would be absolutely essential to replace.
That, of course, is a role that both Souttar and Jones would be viable candidates to fill given their experience in the game, and the leadership they could offer to those younger members of Rovers’ defence, even if there may admittedly be some concerns over the fitness of the latter.
It seems therefore that while Blackburn and those associated with the club will be keen to see Lenihan commit his future to the Ewood Park club, if that does not happen, then the foundations are already in place for Rovers to cope with that blow in the best possible manner.