Tugay key to Rovers' fortunes

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The Independent Football

Andy Cole may have captured the headlines since his move to Blackburn, but there is another of Graeme Souness's signings who may prove even more valuable to the fortunes of Rovers this season.

Tugay Kerimoglu, the Turkish international, has established himself as one of the best central midfielders in the Premiership this season. With Cole ineligible for tonight's FA Cup third-round replay against Barnsley at Ewood Park, it will be left to the likes of Tugay to shoulder the responsibility once more.

Souness first encountered Tugay when he was the coach of Istanbul side Galatasaray, and could scarcely believe his luck when he was able to bring the midfielder to Blackburn for a mere £1.2m. This season, Tugay has probably been Blackburn's most consistent player and the controlling figure in midfield who instigates moves and sprays passes around the pitch. As Charlton found out to their cost on Saturday, he is dangerous from long range too.

Souness said: "I always said that pound-for-pound the best signing I ever made was when I brought Ray Wilkins to Rangers from Paris St-Germain for £250,000. He did an incredible job for a couple of years there and I think Tugay can be as equally a good deal for this club as Ray was for Rangers.

"Until you work with someone you don't really know what you have got. I had the experience of working with him for a year at Galatasaray and that's why I was very keen to get him here. I think people who have seen him play have realised he's a top player."

Cole will be able to play in the fourth round at Millwall if Blackburn overcome Barnsley, but Souness has been on the wrong end of too many cup upsets to take that for granted. Under manager Steve Parkin, Barnsley have put together an eight-match unbeaten run. "We have a very difficult tie, it's the FA Cup, they will be looking to come and frustrate us, nick a goal and win the game.

"This cup is about shocks but we have to make sure we are not one of those shocks. I was involved when Bristol City beat Liverpool, but they deserved to win that day.

"The one that sticks in my throat the most was when Rangers lost to Hamilton when I was playing and managing. We lost 1-0 at Ibrox in a game we absolutely dominated. They had one chance, a header, scored, we had chance after chance and ended up losing 1-0 and that can happen in the cup."

The Italian striker Corrado Grabbi has been recalled to the squad and may start against Barnsley, but his future is still in doubt, and he may yet head to Napoli at the end of the season.