Hughes asks Blackburn supporters to back Neill

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The Independent Football

The Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes, has urged his club's fans to be more appreciative of Lucas Neill as speculation over the defender's future intensifies.

Hughes has admitted that Neill could leave during next month's transfer window, although he has stressed that the Australian will only be allowed to depart if it is in the best interests of Blackburn. The 28-year-old's contract expires in the summer and the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, is thought to be poised with another offer after being rebuffed before the season began. Barcelona are also believed to be monitoring Neill's progress.

Yet Neill has quietly and professionally maintained a high level of performance. "Since we knocked back the Liverpool bid, he got his head down and continued to play well even though some people have tried to drum up some anti-Lucas feelings in recent weeks," the Rovers manager said.

"It is important the fans understand that. We don't want to put Lucas in a position where his form is likely to be affected."

* Wigan are expected to complete the six-month loan signing of the Norwegian midfielder Kristofer Haestad, 23, from VG Starts this weekend.