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14.12.06

Savage tells Rovers fans to show Neill respect

Savage tells Rovers fans to show Neill respect
By Graham Chase
Published: 15 December 2006

Robbie Savage has told the Ewood Park crowd to respect the Blackburn Rovers captain Lucas Neill. The 28-year-old, who was close to a switch to Liverpool in August and is out of contract at the end of the season, has made it clear he wants to leave Rovers next month.

His stance, coupled with Blackburn's miserable recent fortunes, led to him being barracked during the 3-1 win over Newcastle at the weekend and question marks being raised over his captaincy. Neill was again booed when his name was read out before the 1-0 Uefa Cup win over Nancy on Wednesday. And when he scored an injury-time winner, he ran the length of the pitch with his ear cupped to Ewood's Blackburn End.

Despite the uneasy situation, Savage has backed his captain: "Lucas has been a great servant to this club," he said. "In this day and age the modern-day footballer has every right to keep his options open.

"I think the club bought him for £1m, he's been a great servant and while he's still a Blackburn player, if that's for another month or six months, the fans should get behind him. It's not right booing your own players, like when his name was read out at the beginning, and he answered them in the best way possible with the goal.

"Lucas isn't the first player to let his contract run down and he won't be the last and we hope he stays, but he's keeping his options open and that's up to him. Lucas is his own person. The lads want him to stay because he's a great character, a leader. Whatever he decides to do it's his choice."

Neill's strike meant Rovers that progress to the knockout phase as group winners and they will be drawn against one of the third-placed sides in today's draw.

Savage maintains the priority is the Premiership, where six defeats in eight matches have left Rovers a place and two points above the drop zone. "Whoever, we play at this stage it's going to be difficult and the knockout stage is exciting," he said. "It was important to win the group. It's not been a distraction, it's been great but Premiership status is more important.

"At this club we don't harp on about injuries but if you take Ryan Nelsen, Stephen Reid and Jason Roberts out long-term and add Brett Emerton and Zurab Khizanishvili, that's five first-team regulars. If we can hang in there and stay out of the bottom three until we get those players back and maybe get a couple of players in January, I'm sure we'll be fine."




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