Andy Cole is being looked upon as the saviour of Blackburn Rovers' season and his own team-mates are adding to the weight of expectation.
Cole's £8m arrival from Manchester United just after Christmas was hailed by supporters as the best piece of transfer business manager Graeme Souness had conducted since taking over at Ewood Park in March 2000. With goals drying up and Rovers sliding towards the Premiership relegation zone, Souness swooped for Cole after failing to sign Robbie Fowler from Liverpool.
Cole, fed up playing second fiddle to Ruud van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford and fully aware his chances of playing for England in the World Cup were fast disappearing, chose to move for the sake of his career. But the pressure to deliver is bearing down on Cole, although, in getting off the mark in Tuesday's 2-1 Worthington Cup semi-final first-leg victory over Sheffield Wednesday, Rovers are one step nearer to a trophy and a place in Europe.
While the competition has proved a welcome distraction for Souness, it is Premiership survival that takes priority, and Cole is seen as the man to keep Blackburn in the top flight.
After the game at Hillsborough Souness described Cole as "a predator," underlined by the fact his first goal for Rovers was one of the easiest of his career as Damien Duff's cross set him from a yard out.
The experienced Blackburn centre-back Craig Short said: "All the players are delighted for Andy. Whenever a striker signs for a new club he is always under pressure to score, so we're glad he is off the mark. Hopefully he can get us a few goals now and get us up the Premiership.
"We've been creating chances, with balls whizzing across the box, but we've had nobody on the end of them. I'd like to see him getting those kind of goals because it means we're going to get some points to help us pull away from the bottom of the table.
"We've needed a poacher, someone who is good in and around the six-yard box for, although we've dominated a lot of games, we've not made anything happen.
"Everybody was aware the boss was looking to bolster the frontline. It was always going to happen we would get someone, although we didn't think we would get someone of Andy's ability. Hopefully he is going to be the answer for us."
Blackburn will go into the return leg at Ewood Park in 13 days' time as the favourites to progress to the final on 24 February at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Short, though, knows he and the rest of the squad cannot approach the second leg thinking the hard work is over. "We would have settled for a one-goal lead before the game and hopefully now with a home game we can go through," he said. "But we have to be careful because it would be too easy to think we are already through. If they score in the first 10 minutes then who knows.
"You'd hope we've too many experienced professionals for us to be complacent, but shocks have happened in the past, and the boss will be making sure there isn't another that night."Reuse content