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Allardyce plays down Inter and Real remarks

Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce says he was taken aback by the response to his "tongue-in-cheek'' comments about winning titles every year with Inter Milan or Real Madrid.

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Allardyce's comments, made before Saturday's game against Fulham at Ewood Park, caused quite a stir with many questioning the claim given his reputation for a direct style of football.

Now Allardyce has confirmed he was only responding in jest to a question at a press conference and did not expect it to get such a high level of publicity.

"I didn't think it would create quite as big a stir as it has done,'' Allardyce said. "It was a tongue-in-cheek comment. Somebody asked me if I had found my level and was comfortable as manager at Blackburn Rovers.

"I'm never comfortable as a manager because I am always looking to improve, and my terms of wanting to improve is about having a burning ambition to always get better than I am. Obviously, in the end, that would always be to try and get to the very, very top of the industry that I am working in.

"I believe in my own ability, that is the bottom line. At the moment it is with Blackburn Rovers, which I am very pleased about.''

Allardyce admits that although the Premier League has to be Blackburn's priority this season, he is more excited by the prospect of a cup final than that of playing in Europe. Blackburn play Aston Villa in the Carling Cup on Wednesday.

"My priority every year is about finishing as high as we can - Premier League first, those are my instructions from my bosses,'' Allardyce said. "Anything else over and above that is a bonus, but I've always said from an ambition point of view and just from a pure football point of view, everybody wants to get to a cup final.

"For me, it's probably more exciting getting to a cup final than it is competing in Europe. If you get to a cup final you could be up there on the rostrum picking the trophy up and that stays with you for the rest of your life.''

Steven Nzonzi could feature at Villa Park having been left out of the Rovers starting line-up in recent weeks. Nzonzi has struggled to replicate the form which won him the club's Player of the Year Award last season but Allardyce is confident he will bounce back.

"Perhaps he got a little bit too much praise last year, but he has to just get his feet back on the ground and get back down to basics, reproducing the sort of game that we didn't expect last season for as long as we got it,'' Allardyce said. "He overachieved last year and that brought him many plaudits which he deserved, but this year he has found it a little difficult to get back there.

"It is all about your mental strength. He probably thought it was going to be a little easier this year, but this league is never easy and if you take it a little bit easier, unfortunately, you get found out. He needs to just kick back into the mode he was in last season.

"We were all expecting him to improve - he has had a little dip at the moment as many youngsters do, but I'm sure he'll be back very soon.''

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