DEPARTING Socceroo midfielder Brett Emerton is confident Blackburn will avoid relegation from the Barclays Premier League despite leaving the club without a point to start the new season.
Rovers wasted a glorious chance to get off the mark, and give Emerton a winning send off, after slipping to a 1-0 defeat at home to Everton yesterday.
Junior Hoilett and Mauro Formica both failed to convert second-half penalties and they were made to pay in injury time, when Everton won a spot-kick of their own and Mikel Arteta displayed the necessary cool to score from 12 yards.
It was a bitter end to a match that had begun as a celebration to Australia international Emerton, who was afforded the captaincy and a warm welcome from the home fans in his swansong appearance.
The 32-year-old announced in midweek he was returning home for "family reasons" to join Sydney FC and end an eight-year stay at Ewood Park.
Emerton spent every one of those seasons in the top flight with Rovers and, while boss Steve Kean has admitted his departure is a major loss after he played a key role in keeping the club up last term, the Australian believes they will retain their status.
"It's important to get off to a good start in the Premier League and we've been unable to do that, but there have been encouraging signs this week," Emerton said.
"We got a win (in the Carling Cup) against Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 in midweek and we controlled the game in the second half before their late penalty, which in my view was never a penalty.
"That's football. When you're having a bad run everything seems to go against you.
"As far as the performance is concerned I think we should have definitely got the three points but like I say things just didn't fall our way.
"The players have to take the positives from the game, keep their heads up and hopefully the points will come in the future.
"We have some players coming back now. Chris Samba and Gael Givet are back in defence and that they're more solid at the back - with them we have a team that will start winning Premier League games.
"I think we have a strong group of characters and they'll stick together. They can get themselves out of it."
Emerton has had little time to say his goodbyes after he flew back to Australia this morning to meet up with his national team ahead of the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign.
After matches against Thailand and Saudi Arabia he will, however, return back to the club next week to bid his final farewells.
Until then he thanked the club and fans for the send off he received yesterday, adding: "They were outstanding. I couldn't ask for anything more.
"It's been a fantastic eight years and apart from the result it's been a fantastic way to leave my career here.
"It was an honour to captain the team. I think that was a nice touch by the manager to enable me to do that, so I thank him for that.
"When I come back to the UK after the World Cup qualifiers I'll probably have a quiet drink with a few people to say goodbye, pack my things up and then I'll go back to Sydney to start my new career there."
While Emerton's departure was tinged with the disappointment of defeat, Everton boss David Moyes was happy to reflect on a barely-deserved success to kick-start his team's campaign.
After losing their opener at home to QPR last week, Moyes' side rode their luck before winning the controversial late penalty that decided the game.
Referee Lee Mason judged that Samba had climbed on the back of Marouane Fellaini - a decision that seemed harsh as he made a clearing header.
While Moyes was adamant his team did deserve the penalty, he admitted their performance had not warranted the three points.
"I think we know we can play an awful lot better. We have to play better than that," he said.
"I'm very happy to take three points though. If you look at Blackburn's home record over recent years it's hard to win here.
"I don't know if luck comes into it, I am sure we deserved the late penalty because Samba puts his hands on Fellaini's shoulders.
"You take what you can get and today we got the points. That's what was important."