Blackburn stand firm on Santa Cruz

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The Independent Football

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce's stance on the future of wantaway striker Roque Santa Cruz appears to be hardening.

Having rejected a second bid, believed to be around £16m, from Manchester City last week, the Rovers boss has now intimated he will hang on to the player as there are no suitable replacements available.

Santa Cruz is set to be included in the squad for tomorrow's match at home to Newcastle for the first time since Allardyce took over from the sacked Paul Ince in December.

The Paraguay international has recovered from a calf injury and is likely to be named on the bench, with midfielder David Dunn also coming back after two matches out with hamstring trouble.

City have yet to return with an improved offer but Allardyce, who last week said the bid would have to "blow them out of the water", now seems to be taking a harder line.

It may, of course, all be part of the transfer negotiations but with just over a fortnight remaining of the window, the former Bolton and Newcastle manager knows his chances of replacing like-for-like are limited.

"I think the overall scenario is we value him more and we also can't find a replacement, so the bid was turned down," said Allardyce.

"Generally it's about player availability throughout the world. We would prefer to look first in this country and there is no-one available that we would like.

"I came here with the understanding we didn't have to sell Roque so that is why I don't particularly want to sell him."

Allardyce also stressed he expected the player, who has publicly stated he wants to leave, to give his all should he be involved against Newcastle.

"He is a professional, he has a contract, he gets paid very well and whatever shirt he puts on that pays him, it commands he gives 100% to that football club," he said.

Blackburn's match at Fulham last weekend fell victim to a frozen pitch but fortunately it did not mean they lost much ground on their fellow relegation rivals, and it also gave them added time to get Santa Cruz and Dunn fit.

Much has been made of Allardyce wanting to prove a point tomorrow against the club who sacked him 12 months ago but he insisted personal feelings did not come into it.

However, he did admit he would enjoy a win over his former club slightly more than other opposition.

"It is about me and the staff getting everyone in tip-top condition and the players bursting at the seams to get a game played," said Allardyce, whose side are still second-bottom of the Barclays Premier League despite a win and two draws from his three games in charge.

"It seems so long ago since the Manchester City game (on 28 December) and we are looking forward to getting out there and continuing our good run of results.

"That is going to be very important against a Newcastle side close to the bottom three (and just five points above Rovers).

"If we get a victory we get closer to them and that is a critical thing.

"If I were to beat anyone it would give me satisfaction, particularly the position we are in, but I'm like everyone else, when you play against a former club you want to beat them.

"As a manager and a player I've always been the same and that will be the case on Saturday."

New loan signing Gael Givet will not be included against Newcastle as he will have to prove his match fitness having not played for Marseille this season.

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