Decisions have been reached regarding the futures of a number of Rovers players whose extended contracts with the club expired at midnight last night.
Danny Graham, Richie Smallwood, Dominic Samuel, Jayson Leutwiler and Sam Hart have all been informed that they will not be offered new contracts by the club, whilst Tosin Adarabioyo and Christian Walton will return to Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion respectively after spending the season on loan at Ewood Park.
Discussions continue to be held with Stewart Downing, who is free to talk to other clubs, about extending his stay with Rovers for the 2020-21 season.
The former England midfielder, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Wednesday, joined from Middlesbrough last summer and came third in Rovers’ Player of the Year poll this season after showcasing his class, composure and versatility throughout the campaign, in which he featured 41 times in the league, starting 38, and scoring goals against Barnsley and Nottingham Forest.
Graham, who made his 600th career appearance in Wednesday’s final league fixture away to Luton Town, initially joined Rovers on loan in January 2016, before putting pen-to-paper on a permanent deal after scoring seven goals in 18 games.
A top professional and big personality both on and off the pitch, the striker went on to become a firm favourite and fantastic servant to the club, scoring 57 goals in 191 appearances, as well as winning Rovers’ Player of the Year award in 2018-19.
The 34-year-old has provided the club and its supporters with many memorable moments over the past four-and-a-half years, including a special strike against Manchester United in the FA Cup, a hat-trick at home to Sheffield Wednesday, the finishing touch to a terrific team goal away to Derby County, as well as 14 league goals in our promotion-winning season.
Smallwood, who joined on a free transfer from Rotherham United in July 2017, was the only member of the squad to start all 46 games in our League One promotion campaign, netting a memorable and crucial late winner away to Fleetwood in January 2018.
The 29-year-old, who has featured just twice in the League Cup this season, leaves the club having made 87 appearances in Rovers colours, scoring three goals.
Samuel, who joined from Reading in July 2017, got his Rovers career off to an impressive start, netting eight times in the first half of the promotion-winning season, which included winning goals against Bradford, Gillingham and Bristol Rovers.
However, a serious knee injury sustained against his old club in August 2018 saw him ruled out for over 13 months. In total, the 26-year-old netted 10 times in 59 appearances for the club.
Canadian international Leutwiler joined from Shrewsbury Town in August 2017, but has predominantly been Rovers’ second-choice keeper over the past three years, making just 13 appearances for the club, three of which came in the cup competitions this season.
Former Liverpool left-back Hart, who also joined in August 2017, has found first team opportunities hard to come by at Ewood Park, making just seven appearances and no starts in the league, however the 23-year-old has gained valuable experience during loan spells with Rochdale, Southend and Shrewsbury.
Rovers would like to place on record its sincere thanks and gratitude to all of the players leaving the club this summer for their dedication, contribution and the memories they have provided and we wish them well in their future careers.