Bradley Dack has revealed his ‘Dream XI’ – with a number of his current Rovers team-mates featuring prominently.
Speaking on the latest episode of 'In The Box' podcast, the Rovers ace ran through the best players he has played with in his career so far, during his spells at both Gillingham and Ewood Park, in a 4-3-3 formation.
He’s moved on now, he got a move in the summer to Brentford. I think it really suits him at Brentford, with the way they play. He’s a Spanish goalie. He’s only young, he’s younger than me, he’s 24 I think. When I first arrived, my first two weeks, it was Jason Steele who was the number one and then he left and went to Brighton, so David came in and the gaffer gave him the number one shirt. Technically he is unbelievable, as you’d expect from a Spanish goalkeeper. He’s not the biggest, but really agile. The best shot-stopper I’ve played with by far. Some of the saves he used to make in training were ridiculous. His kicking’s a joke. Because he’s quite young, he made a few silly mistakes, but you always expect that with a goalie. To be 24 and to have played the amount of games he has. I think he is one who could easily move on to the Premier League.
It’s a bit of a weird one, because I never played in a professional game with Baz. I played Reserve games and pre-season in my first season, he was still at Gills, so I played a few pre-season games with him, but it was more coming up from the youth team, he was coming back from injury and I remember watching him in the stands. I remember looking at him and thinking ‘no-one goes past him, ever’. I never saw anyone run past him or out-strength him. I obviously play with Ryan Nyambe now, who will be the best right-back I’ve played with in the end. He’s top class, but he is still learning. He’s still young. He will go on to play in the Prem, 1000%! But Baz is the one who comes to my mind, especially as a kid, he was the best.
Centre-half was tough to be fair, because I’ve played with some decent centre-halves. I just remember when John first came, in the first pre-season. Peter Taylor was in charge and we played in a game against Bromley and he kept wrapping it through the lines to me and I was thinking ‘who is this and where’s he come from?’. We became really, really good friends. He came out of Sunderland and he was just brilliant. He’s a leader as well. He would probably be my skipper. A great talker, good on the ball, maybe he lacked a little bit of pace, but whatever he lacked in that, he has a football brain that never allows him to be in a position where he’s going to get out-paced by a centre forward or a winger. He was the best player I played with at Gills.
What a player. What a man first of all. He’s looked after me since I went to Blackburn. He’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life and he’s just an all-round nice guy. Football wise, his left foot is unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. An absolute wand. I remember watching him play for Celtic in holding midfield and for Celtic I think that’s perfect for him, because they would have all of the possession. He always wants it, he’s good on the ball, good touch, his passing is a joke. For us, centre half. Since I went to Blackburn, he’s only played centre-half and I think that’s perfect for him, because he reads the game so well. He’s just brilliant, set-pieces, he’s a leader, he’s club captain at Blackburn, he speaks a lot in the meetings, speaks a lot on the pitch and he helps out with the goings-on at the club. As a player, just top class and a really good professional as well.
He made a massive impression. When he arrived, he came straight into the team and his first couple of games, I remember speaking to Danny Graham, we were saying he was quality. He’s an 8/10 every week, he doesn’t get run past, he’s always in the right position and, most of all for me, just good on the ball. He’s always got pictures, he knows where the next pass is. For him to get in the team having not played that many games with him tells you everything you need to know.
I have only played with him this season. He’s a good man to have around the place, good banter and I get along with him really well. Since he came in, he’s been brilliant. He’s a leader, he’s had a top career, played for some big clubs and it’s nice to speak to him about that. A talk to him quite a lot about that. The same with Charlie. It’s nice to get little nuggets of information from them going forward in my career. You can tell he’s come from a non-league background. He shows a lot of grit in the middle of midfield and that’s why he would be in my team. I think he’s one of those players that if you don’t play with him, you don’t understand how good he is. Maybe the fans don’t appreciate him enough. I remember playing against him against Derby and coming off the pitch and thinking ‘that was tough’. He was strong, good in the air, always got tight to you, always in the right position, it was hard to get it off him.
Stewy D. What a player. From the first session, you could tell. It’s his brain more than anything I think. His football brain is incredible. Some of the passes and things you see him do in training, for someone who’s 35, when he was 25, he must have been some player. He just doesn’t give the ball away, ever, and I think that’s the main difference. Speaking to Stewy and Charlie, who’s played for Scotland, they say that at the top level everyone makes less mistakes and the mistakes you make are punished more and that sums up how Stewy plays. He just doesn’t make mistakes and that’s why he’s played at the top level for such a long time. I can’t give him enough credit for that. He’s a top professional, he does everything right, he’s played for England, Liverpool and West Ham, and he’s a top man.
I had doubts since I got released from Charlton, it put that nagging doubt in my head ‘would I ever be good enough?’. I bounced back from that, got into the youth team at Gillingham and then getting into the first team. The first start I had was Wycombe away in League Two. I played central midfield in a three and I remember thinking ‘these are too good for me, too quick, too strong’ and Martin Allen took me off at half-time. I remember going back and saying to my dad ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be good enough to play at this level’. I got over that because of the people around me and the players that were in that team at the time, which was lucky for me, because a lot of the players were older. It was an old group and they guided me through that first season and we ended up winning League Two. And from then, it was a confidence thing. The more games I played, the more confident I got, the more experienced I got, the more mature I got, and I think that’s why the top players that came through at 17 or 18, they have that belief. Nothing fazes them. Over time, I feel like I’ve got that, but at the start I didn’t have that at all. I’d say to young players now ‘don’t ever doubt yourself’. I think that was a mistake I made. I wish I had never doubted myself. You have to believe in your own ability, like I do now.
I’d play him on the left of my front three. He won’t thank me for that, because he wants to play centre forward. I came across Arma the first time I won the League One Player of the Year at Gillingham. He was at Coventry under Tony Mowbray. They had some team, Armstrong, Jacob Murphy, Ryan Kent, James Maddison, and Arma was the one who stood out the most, playing against him. I think he scored 16 goals before Christmas and he had already made his debut for Newcastle at 16 in the Premier League. I’m not sure why it didn’t really work out for him at Newcastle. He ended up coming to Blackburn on loan in League One and he was brilliant, just so sharp. The first day in training, he gave Ryan (Nyambe) a torrid time in training. He’s rapid, so quick, and the other thing I thought he is brilliant at is he is just a natural finisher. The way he touches the ball and finishes it. Both feet, top corner, bottom corner, a really good finisher. And this season, since I got injured, he’s been the one that’s scored all the goals and long may that continue. He’s been brilliant and I think he could definitely make his way back to the top level.
The most frustrating player I’ve ever played with! He was the best I’ve seen at coming inside on his left foot and putting it in the far corner. He was the best at that. The first 10 games at Gills, he was unplayable. Absolutely unplayable. Just incredible some of the things he did. I used to sit back and say ‘how is he not playing in the Premier League?’. I didn’t understand how and I think I found that out over the season that I spent with him, but to watch him in those 10 games, and in training, he was the best player. Every day. You couldn’t get the ball off him in a 5-a-side and his finishing was a joke, but we went through a bad patch as a team and he went through a bad patch as a player and he never really came through it.
First of all, I owe him a lot. He winds me up about it from time to time, but I do honestly owe him a hell of a lot. Since the first day I walked in, I remember the first conversation we ever had. I hadn’t signed yet and I was walking through the training ground doors and he was walking out. I’d never met him before and he said ‘make sure you sign because I’ll get you 15 goals this season’. We ended up not playing that much in the first two months of the season and then we just struck up this partnership that doesn’t really happen that often, where you don’t work on it, it just clicks. And I ended up getting 18 goals and he got 17 in that first season. He’s a brilliant player. He just knows the game so well. He knows exactly where to be. When the ball is in certain positions, he knows where he should be and I fed off that. It just worked and we had that connection where we’d know where each other would be. He’s the best centre forward I’ve played with by a long way. And off the pitch, he’s been massive for me as well. I had a tough time when I first joined, but he really helped me with that, he made me mature and grow up, and he’s just a top guy.