Ince pleased to put stop to Santa Cruz rumours

August 24, 2008

Blackburn boss Paul Ince was delighted to 'put to bed' all the 'rubbish' concerning Roque Santa Cruz after the striker signed a new four-year contract at Ewood Park.

Santa Cruz, 27, ended weeks of speculation over his future by putting pen to paper on a new deal, ending interest from the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City, who had a reported £12million bid rejected earlier in the week.

Rovers only signed the injury-plagued Paraguay international from Bayern Munich last summer for around £3.5million despite a history of serious knee problems, but the gamble paid off as Santa Cruz played 36 of 38 Barclays Premier League games last season and scored 23 goals in all competitions.

And, despite attracting interest from clubs who could dangle the carrot of European football, Santa Cruz decided his future lay at Blackburn, where he has quickly become a firm fans' favourite.

Santa Cruz was unable to build on his opening-day goal at Everton in the frustrating 1-1 draw with Hull yesterday, but his manager was keen to look at the bigger picture.

'I'm absolutely delighted,' Ince revealed. 'You guys have all seen the rubbish that's been written in the papers in the last couple of weeks, and it's nice to just put it to bed now.

'It's been unsettling for everyone, including Roque himself, and we're absolutely delighted at the club. And the players are as well because he is a talisman for us.

'I think we've spent the last two weeks worrying if he was going to go or if he was going to stay, and now we can put it to bed and concentrate on the Premier League.'

When asked whether Santa Cruz had always been happy at Rovers, Ince added: 'If he wasn't, he wouldn't have signed a four-year contract. So there you go.'

Santa Cruz endured a largely frustrating afternoon against the Tigers, firing just over the crossbar, seeing another shot blocked and heading narrowly wide of the post in the second half as the home side pushed for a winning goal.

Indeed it was Santa Cruz's strike partner Jason Roberts who was the major threat for the visitors on the day, scoring Blackburn's goal and being a constant danger - and his manager reserved special praise for the former Wigan hitman.

'I'm delighted for him,' Ince admitted. 'He deserved a goal last week against Everton and he got his just rewards today. He could probably have got two or three to be fair.

'I just thought it wasn't going to happen, and it got to the 75th minute and I thought maybe he'd had his time and it was time to throw on someone like Benni (McCarthy).

'But he was awesome, and the work he does in holding the ball up causes so much problems. I was pleased with his performance. For the last two or three weeks he has been different class.'

Hull's point, which they thoroughly merited for their workmanlike show, was secured by a looping header from Richard Garcia, who capped a marvellous week personally after making his debut for Australia against South Africa in midweek.

Garcia was a key figure in the battle against Rovers' physical midfield and Tigers manager Phil Brown, who left veteran Nick Barmby on the bench, believes the Perth-born ace can get better and better.

'Richard has come on leaps and bounds since he joined us,' Brown commented.

'He had to sort of take a step down from West Ham to Colchester to go back up, and he's proved he can do that.

'It was a tough decision to leave Nicky Barmby out from last week because he did a good hour's work against Fulham.

'But Nicky is a million per cent behind what we're trying to achieve at Hull, and he fully understood we needed to be physical against the combative midfield that Blackburn possess.

'Richard can do that - he can mix it and he can play - and he's played his part in a good performance both defensively and with the ball.'