If you asked the majority of Rovers fans who would be the first name on Tony Mowbray’s team sheet each week, then who would they say?
Mulgrew, Dack, Lenihan, Graham, Raya?
You may hear the answer Elliott Bennett given more than you think. If any of the current Rovers squad epitomise the ‘Arte et Labore’ motto then it is Benno. The recent game at home to Rotherham marked a 100th senior start in Rovers colours for our number 31.
A man for all occasions; Mr Versatile; a fans’ favourite; a player who bleeds blue and white; a fist pump that is greeted with as big as cheer as 3 points…. a massive part in helping Rovers on our way back.
Footballers often get bad press, being told they don’t care, having no connection with the fans and just taking home a wage. None of this could ever be said about Benno – the fans feel they know him, he appreciates the importance of the relationship with the fans (both in person and on social media), and is just an all-round good guy that cares. His passion on the pitch is clear but he equally shines off the pitch. Getting involved in the club’s social media activity through #AgentBenno was a masterstroke and just went to strengthen the relationship between the club and the fans. I’m sure I’m not alone in eagerly anticipating the #AskBenno Q&A session on the 20th November and seeing Benno answering the fans questions (when will Agent Benno be back is bound to feature…).
You could see that relegation to League One hurt him, it hurt him as much as it hurt the fans and from that point, it was clear he was going to do all he could to right the wrongs and take Rovers back to the Championship at the first attempt.
Commitment, desire, energy, distribution, versatility…. Just a few of Benno’s strengths and attributes that are backed up by his season’s stats so far. As of the 12th November1, Benno has played over 1450 minutes, made 26 clearances, 18 interceptions and 4 blocks. He has over a 60% tackle success rate winning 21 fouls, conceding 29 and walking the suspension tightrope at present with 4 yellow cards. He has made nearly 600 passes with a 72% success rate.
Showing his influence at the attacking end of the field, he has made 45 crosses, 19 key passes, recorded 2 assists and had 14 shots on goal though he is yet to score this season. But I’m confident this will change soon with being informed by Rovers staff Neil Yardley and Ryan Grant that Benno has scored in his last appearances against our next two opponents Preston and Wigan.
Whereas he may admit he doesn’t score as many as he would like when he does find the back of the net it’s normally a cracker – Reading at home on the final day on the 2015/16 season, 2016-17’s goal of the season against Blackpool in the FA cup or his screamer away at Wimbledon in February of this year.
Joining from Norwich City in January 2016, Benno is able to play on either flank, through the middle, at full-back or behind the striker; a “man for all occasions” as described by Rich Sharpe after the earlier season win at home to Brentford. Performances like the one against Brentford show to the fans what Benno is all about – covering every blade of grass, winning important tackles and getting the assist for Kasey Palmer’s winner.
His time at Rovers has not always been straightforward, out of the team (some may say frozen out) under Coyle; the thought of moving must have crossed his mind. During this period there are two things that spring to mind that show the character and professionalism that Benno oozes.
On Saturday 7th January 2017, Benno made his first start in a Rovers shirt for nearly 4 months (17 games) away at QPR and gave a man of the match performance in a rare win under Coyle in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. During this spell out of the team, we hosted Wolves on Sky Sports in a game (on the 29th October 2016) that became more known for the 18-75 walkout protest against Venky’s. My son was mascot for this game and led out the team with captain Jason Lowe. Benno was an unused substitute but as the teams lined up awaiting kick off Benno took the time to come over to Joshua and wish him well and to enjoy his experience – not just a top player & professional but a downright top human being.
You’d have to go a long way to find someone in the professional game that has a bad word to say about Benno and this can be seen by the reception he received at Carrow Road when Rovers faced Norwich in March 2017 and the fact that the Canaries’ local paper featured on their website the part the popular player had played in Rovers’ promotion last season.
To finish this article I’m going to pass over to my son Joshua (aged 10) who recently for his school homework was asked to write a poem about someone who inspires him…. Over to you Joshua.
He is lightning quick,
He has excellent control,
His passing is slick.
He started off at Norwich,
Then he moved to the blues,
Right from the beginning,
He never wanted to lose.
Since Benno has joined,
Blackburn Rovers made the jump,
He also has created,
The Benno fist pump.
Thanks for reading.
1: https://www.rovers.co.uk/teams/first-team/midfielder/elliott-bennett/ – taken on 12th November