'Fit and available' Chris Samba to miss Blackburn's weekend game reveals Steve Kean


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The Independent Football

Blackburn captain Christopher Samba is fit and available but will not be in the squad for Saturday's trip to Arsenal, Rovers boss Steve Kean said today.

The defender has not played since handing in a transfer request last month, which was rejected, and Kean said after last night's 2-0 defeat by Newcastle he did not feel Samba had been in the right frame of mind to return to the side.

The manager had stated his intention to sit down with his skipper today and was hopeful they could put the matter behind them, but at a press conference this afternoon the media were told questions about Samba were off limits.

Kean said: "I'm prepared to say he's fit and he's available but he's not in the squad for the Arsenal game.

"I'd rather speak about people who are available to play against Arsenal. Chris has trained well today but he's not going to be in this squad."

Samba is a huge figure for Blackburn both in defence and attack and Kean's reluctance to discuss the situation is sure to cast more doubt on the centre-back's future at the club.

Samba's long-time defensive partner Ryan Nelsen was allowed to leave Ewood Park after having his contract cancelled by mutual consent and this morning he joined Tottenham on a short-term deal.

Spurs assistant manager Kevin Bond revealed Nelsen would go straight into the squad for Monday's meeting with Liverpool, despite playing only one Premier League game this season because of knee trouble.

Rovers had expected Nelsen to go to Major League Soccer in the US before Tottenham's last-minute interest changed his mind, and Blackburn fans are sure to question his release if he does go on to play a part for Spurs this season.

Kean said: "He was having a lot of problems with his knee. Right at the last minute he got the call (from Tottenham) and he's decided to go with it.

"We understand the pain he was in and I hope their medics can look at it and get him back on the pitch because he's found it difficult. He's only played one game in eight months."

Last night's result was a difficult one to swallow for Blackburn, who had the lion's share of the chances but simply could not find the net, even missing a first-half penalty.

But for Newcastle it was a fourth win from six league games that saw them climb to fifth place, and things could get even better for boss Alan Pardew with leading scorer Demba Ba due to make his return after African Nations Cup duty against Aston Villa on Sunday.

His Senegal team-mate Papiss Demba Cisse could also make his debut, and Pardew said: "That's just going to bolster us for Sunday.

"We've done brilliantly. When the guys went away everybody thought it was going to be difficult for us, and we've had games where it hasn't gone well.

"But we've had two big victories, QPR and this one, and both those victories have been about resolve and diligence and grit, and I think we can attack the second half of the season.

"We find ourselves fifth above Arsenal and Liverpool. It's incredible really but we're safe as well, and that's the big barrier.

"We must never get away from that, the type of club we are, get that under your belt first, which we have, so now we have the games we've got left to let our hair down and see what we can do."

Pardew was quick to acknowledge the contribution of keeper Tim Krul, who saved David Dunn's penalty last night among a number of important stops.

"I thought his body language and demeanour on the pitch suggested confidence and it was no surprise he saved the penalty," Pardew said of the Dutchman.

"In the second half, when the balls were coming in the box, he punched at the right time, he caught at the right time to relieve the pressure. He was a key player in our victory."