Tomasson explains Sam Szmodics’ Blackburn Rovers absence

Sam Szmodics was left out of Rovers’ matchday squad for the win over Watford, a case of the growing strength in numbers in the squad, according to Jon Dahl Tomasson.

Tayo Edun and Jack Vale dropped out of the squad to accommodate the returns of fit-again Daniel Ayala and Scott Wharton who both returned to the starting line-up.

While Vale is struggling with a calf problem, Tomasson reported no injury to either Edun or Szmodics who failed to make the matchday 18.

Rovers’ bench included summer signings Clinton Mola and George Hirst, who made substitute appearances in injury time, with Adam Wharton and Bradley Dack dropping out of the side that started against Bristol City.

Aynsley Pears, Ash Phillips and John Buckley completed the Rovers bench but there was no room for summer signing Szmodics which was something of a surprise.

The 26-year-old enjoyed a dream start to his Rovers career, scoring on his debut at Swansea City, but has found things tougher since.

Szmodics was replaced at half-time in the defeat at Reading, just after the hour against Sheffield United before being forced off through concussion only 22 minutes into the Stoke City defeat last month.

The concussion protocol saw him miss the Blackpool win, while he wasn’t deemed ready for the Bristol City defeat after only one training session with the squad.

Yet despite being fully-fit Szmodics did not make the squad against Watford, something Tomasson says his squad will have to get used to.

The head coach is keen to create a mindset where it is about the good of the team, rather than a focus on individuals, and says his disappointing players is something he will have to get used to.

Tomasson felt, for the first time this season, he had choices to make with his team selection, having previously been hampered by injuries.

But as players start to return, with Callum Brittain and Sam Gallagher due back after the international break, there will be more competition for not only the starting XI, but the bench as well.

Tomasson said: “As a human being you don’t want to disappoint players but you have to because it’s about the team.

“Each player should work hard every day because it’s a good opportunity to catch my eye in that way.

“Sam will be working hard to get back in the team and I’ve said to the boys, many times, that now we have numbers we have the opportunity to make changes, sometimes you will be starting, sometimes you will be on the bench , sometimes you will not be involved, sometimes you will be with the Under-21s and the whole team have to think about that because it’s about the whole team, it’s about Rovers and not just one player.

“We have to get that mindset because there are a lot of games and we have to use the squad.”

Tomasson said prior to the Watford game that he would be happy to speak with players individually, should they wish, about being left out of the side, given there would always be a reason behind his decision.

Joe Rankin-Costello and Dilan Markanday were involved for the Under-21s against Brentford in the Premier League Cup on the same night that Rovers beat Watford, with Tomasson keen to ensure that players don’t miss out on minutes if they don’t make the matchday squad.

“I’m very open with communication. Very direct,” he added.

“If you’re not in then there’s a reason you’re not in and there’s a reason for that.

“If you need it, it’s a quick conversation, but it depends on the person, on the situation.

“If players need an answer it’s always respectful, the right way, and communication is key.”

The returns of Ayala and Wharton saw Rovers go with a back three, with Tyrhys Dolan recalled in attack, as Tomasson moved to a 5-2-3 formation.

With Hayden Carter as a wing-back there was no shortage of height in the Rovers side, something they exploited from a second half set play as Dom Hyam scored his first for the club.

That capped an excellent night for Rovers against Watford as they returned to winning ways after back-to-back defeats at Ewood.

“It was an extremely good performance against a side with a lot of talented players,” the head coach added.

“When you play in a game like that then the boys did an excellent job and you’ve done something right.

“It was good to see the things that we’ve been working on.

“It was good to see from set pieces, it’s the first time we’ve had some height in the team and being solid in defending, keeping a clean sheet, I know the defenders love that, the ‘keeper love that, I love it not well.

“It was a good performance.”