NEW Doncaster Rovers signing Robbie Blake will be breaking new ground next season.
“I started off in what is now League Two and I’ve played in the Championship and the Premier League but I’ve never played in League One before,” he told The Star.
“I’ve got a few friends who play in League One so I’ve watched it a few times and it looks quite a tough league - but they are all tough to get out of.
“There are some quality teams in the league and some quality players. But we’ve got a good set of players and hopefully we’ll do well.”
Blake, whose previous clubs include Burnley, Birmingham and Leeds United, is pleased to be involved again with Saunders - one of his football heroes when growing up in the Middlesbrough area.
“I used to support Liverpool who at the time they were winning everything so Dean was a big hero of mine,” he said. “To actually play with him at Bradford was one of the highlights of my career.
“I was only about 21 at the time and he tried to encourage me and pass his experience on and it was vital at that stage of my career that I got that sort of information and over the years it has helped me along the way.”
He added: “Having played with him at the start of my career it is nice to be working with him again towards the back end of my career.
“He has been involved in the game a long time. and his enthusiasm and work ethic rub off on other people around him and I’m sure that will be beneficial this season.”
Blake spent the last two seasons with Bolton Wanderers, who paid Burnley £250,000 for his services in 2010.
“I didn’t play a lot of games but I was always in the squad,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to playing more games but first of all I’ve got to play well. I’m excited about the challenge and the start of pre-season training next Friday. I’ve been away on holiday but I’ve been ticking over since I’ve been back.”
Having played in the top flight at the age that Blake is now, Saunders says he has no worries about him being in his mid-30s.
“He’s only signed a one-year contract but if he proves himself I’ll give him another 12 month contract,” said Saunders. “Fitness coach Mal Purchase is renowned for his work with players in their 30s.”
Blake, who arrived on Wednesday along with David Cotterill, feels that he’s good for a couple of more years
“When Dean played at 37 it was probably regarded as being old at the time but that’s not the case now,” he said. “If you keep yourself in good shape you can play into your late 30s.”
Although he’s scored his fair share of goals over the years, particularly during his two spells at Burnley, Blake is keen to distance himself from the likes of Billy Sharp - Rovers’ top scorer for the last three seasons.
“I’m a totally different player to Billy,” he said. “Billy is an out and out goal-scorer - his goal-scoring record is fantastic He scored a lot of goals here and he scored a lot of goals for Southampton and helped them get promoted to the Premier League last season.
“I class myself as a different player.
“I can score goals but I also hold the ball up and bring people into the game.”
Looking ahead to the start of the club’s League One campaign, Blake said: “Walsall will be a tough start but I think every game is going to be tough; you are not going to get any easy games.
“I think every season it is vitally important to get off to a good start.”