After another weekend of bitter twists at the foot of the Premier League, I'm trying to work out how many points will keep a team safe this season. As far as Blackburn Rovers are concerned, wins in their last three home games – starting with Liverpool's visit to Ewood Park tonight – would put them on 37. Might that be enough?
As I sit at Blackburn's Brockhall training ground, my desperate arithmetic is interrupted by Jason Lowe: "I don't think you can say a certain number of points will keep us up. That'd just be guessing."
Of course, he is right. As his manager, Steve Kean, points out later, Lowe has a wise head on young shoulders. Just 20 and in his first season as a first-team regular at Ewood Park, he has a fierce enthusiasm. "Morale's up, team spirit's good. And we're going to need that going into these last six games. It's why we're still in it," Lowe says.
Perhaps he learnt how to deal with football's disappointments earlier than most. Born in Wigan, he was released by Manchester City aged 10, but after a year back at Eastleigh Junior Football Club the offer from Blackburn came. He has been at Ewood ever since.
Getting his chance so early goes some way to explaining Lowe's lavish praise of the Blackburn set-up. "From as soon as I came here, everybody was fantastic. The staff were great all the way through: teaching you the game, teaching you principles on and off the pitch."
There have been some pretty harsh lessons during his first full season. "This is a game you have to grow up fast in," he observes, with the ease of one who already has. "The sooner you can learn, the sooner you've got a chance of becoming a player."
Before Christmas, Lowe had to look on as Kean became a lightning rod for fans' anger. "There's things been said and written and have happened when sometimes it's been the gaffer taking the flak for what we've been doing," Lowe says. "He's always been ready to take the pressure off us and I can't believe how well he's handled some of what's been thrown at him.
"The last couple of months, the crowd have been fantastic, backed us up the whole way. Whatever's gone on, the team and the staff have stuck together and tried not to dwell on things. It feels like the fans are part of that now."Reuse content