EFL Player in Focus: Lewis Travis

Tony Mowbray Blackburn

Strong academy

Blackburn Rovers possess one of the most impressive academies in the country at present.

We have seen Joe Rankin-Costello, Tyler Magloire, Daniel Butterworth, John Buckley and Joe Grayson all catch the eye after coming through the youth setup – those players have an opportunity to make a name for themselves in the Championship and possibly beyond over the next few years.

Rovers though have a manager in Tony Mowbray who, while open-minded about introducing young players, is not directly youth-orientated – he tends to like players who have done well for him at senior level previously.

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Travis establishing himself

It says a lot, therefore, that Lewis Travis has been able to establish himself as a first-team regular – he featured in more league games than he didn’t last season with 26 Championship appearances, before starting each of the first four encounters this term.

Of course, when Travis starred in the 2018 pre-season, the club was going up a division from League One to the Championship.

He therefore had to be good enough to better not just what the club produced in central midfield in 2017-18, when Richie Smallwood often partnered Corry Evans as the double-pivot in Mowbray’s 4-2-3-1, but also prove he could thrive in the second-tier.

Travis did so with aplomb.

Tireless tenacity

Enjoying a wonderful break-through campaign in 2018-19, Travis showed discipline out of possession when needed but also tenacity and the kind of tough tackling that endears himself to natives.

In January 2019, he had the strength of character to play at the Den – which can be an intimidating place – and be one of the stand-out players in a 2-0 win for Blackburn.

Travis’ ability to support the press is vital not just in a defensive sense, but also in terms of catching their opponents out of their natural defensive shape and thus finding those pockets of space in which Bradley Dack can do damage.

Travis appears to be building on that strong campaign this term, guided by Damien Johnson – last season’s Under-23s manager who has been promoted this summer to the first team coaching staff and must, surely, see parallels with how he once was as a player for Blackburn and Birmingham.

Even before Rovers secured back-to-back 1-0 wins over Middlesbrough and Hull, he had been one of the bright spots; he was the home side’s best player in the 2-1 opening day loss to Charlton.

At Hull, Travis showed a willingness to put his body on the line to block Jarrod Bowen’s shot at a crucial stage.

He picked up a minor injury in the process yet battled on gallantly, which is testament to his commitment to the cause.

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Mowbray’s praise

After the game, Mowbray described the 21-year-old as “a warrior and a trojan”, said he had been “amazing for this football club with his drive and endeavour”.

Whenever Travis gets the ball, his first thought is always a positive movement – can he play a forward pass early? Can he get a strike at goal?

Can he improve?

Still, the former West Brom boss wants Travis to improve other aspects of his game.

There is still room for the midfielder to up his goal tally – just one so far for Rovers coming in April’s 2-1 loss at Norwich – but continue at his current rate and Rovers have a real gem.

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