My Rovers Hero: Roque Santa Cruz

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Being born in 1999, I wasn’t fortunate to see the likes of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, but there was one forward who helped to properly ignite my love for Rovers, writes Daniel Ainsworth.

I briefly recall my first match being in April 2005 against Manchester City – a 0-0 home draw if my memory serves me right – and Jon Stead started up front in that match, one of his last matches in a Rovers shirt.

There was then Craig Bellamy scoring plenty in the 2005-06 season and Benni McCarthy in the following campaign before Mark Hughes moved for another forward in pre-season of the 2007-08 season and that truly kicked off my love for the club.

In came Roque Santa Cruz, signing from German giants Bayern Munich for a fee of around £3.5 million. He arrived at Ewood with just four goals in his previous Bundesliga season.

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I attended the unveiling at Ewood Park and remember shaking his and Hughes’ hand, full of excitement as a seven-year-old football fanatic. He went straight onto my away shirt that I got for my birthday just days later.

He scored within three touches on his debut after coming off the bench, and although I didn’t attend the match with it being at Middlesbrough, I remember being delighted when I found out. Roque continued to score goals through the season, and with each goal, my love for the Paraguayan grew and grew.

Ending the first season in England with 23 goals in 43 appearances (all competitions) meant clubs were always going to be after him, but Roque stuck with Rovers for the 2008-09 season.

His second season saw him score just six times, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for Roque, and so I was devastated when I was told he’d been sold to Manchester City. It felt like my world had almost come crashing down as a nine-year-old.

Of course, as I’ve grown older, I’ve learnt that players come and go, but some still sit in your heart for a long time, and Roque will always be one of those.

My dream interview or podcast for Rovers Chat would be Roque Santa Cruz, and I hope that – one day – I can get that.

Thanks for reading.

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