Allardyce: Cup final would be more exciting than Europe

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Sam Allardyce admits that although the Premier League has to be Blackburn's priority this season, he is more excited by the prospect of a cup final than that of playing in Europe.

A push for European football may not be beyond Rovers this term if they can improve upon their 10th-placed finish in the 2009-10 campaign.

Allardyce's side also reached the Carling Cup semi-finals last season, where they were beaten over two legs by Aston Villa, their opponents in tonight's third-round tie.

The manager knows that progress in the League must be the club's main objective, but Allardyce would love to go one better in the cup and earn a trip to Wembley which he feels would potentially be more special than any journey across the continent.

"My priority every year is about finishing as high as we can – Premier League first, those are my instructions from my bosses," Allardyce said.

"Anything else over and above that is a bonus, but I've always said from an ambition point of view and just from a pure football point of view, everybody wants to get to a cup final.

"For me, it's probably more exciting getting to a cup final than it is competing in Europe.

"If you get to a cup final you could be up there on the rostrum picking the trophy up and that stays with you for the rest of your life."

Steven Nzonzi could feature at Villa Park having been left out of the Rovers starting line-up in recent weeks. The Frenchman has struggled to replicate the form which won him the club's player of the year award last season but Allardyce is confident that the defensive midfielder will bounce back.

"Perhaps he got a little bit too much praise last year, but he has to just get his feet back on the ground and get back down to basics, reproducing the sort of game that we didn't expect last season for as long as we got it," Allardyce said.

"He overachieved last year and that brought him many plaudits which he deserved, but this year he has found it a little difficult to get back there.

"It is all about your mental strength. He probably thought it was going to be a little easier this year, but this league is never easy and if you take it a little bit easier, unfortunately, you get found out.

"He needs to just kick back into the mode he was in last season. We were all expecting him to improve – he has had a little dip at the moment as many youngsters do, but I'm sure he'll be back very soon."

Meanwhile, Allardyce says his comments about winning titles every year with Real Madrid or Manchester United were "tongue-in-cheek".

Last week the 55-year-old said he was "not suited" to Rovers or his former club Bolton and would "win the double or the League every time" at the likes of Real, United, Internazionale or Chelsea.

But yesterday Allardyce insisted that although he was a very ambitious manager, his comments had not been meant to be taken seriously and he was pleased to be continuing to work at Ewood Park. "I didn't think it would create quite as big a stir as it has done," Allardyce said.

"It was a tongue-in-cheek comment. Somebody asked me if I had found my level and was comfortable as manager at Blackburn Rovers.

"I'm never comfortable as a manager because I am always looking to improve, and my terms of wanting to improve is about having a burning ambition to always get better than I am.

"Obviously, in the end, that would always be to try and get to the very, very top of the industry that I am working in."

He added: "I believe in my own ability, that is the bottom line. At the moment it is with Blackburn Rovers, which I am very pleased about."