When Blackburn Rovers played their first, and only, season in the Champions League the opening match of the campaign was at home against Spartak Moscow. The Russians had a very good squad that year. They won all 6 group matches, and many thought they could have taken the tournament – had they not sold half the team before the knock out stage.
Yet on that night in September 1995 at Ewoood Park, the combined might of Viktor Onopko, Yuri Nikiforov, Ilya Tsymbalar and Sergai Yuran was not what concerned Rovers fans. They had another score to settle. As the first half kicked off, a cry went around Ewood Park. “Are you watching, Burnley?”. They sang.
Blackburn were the Premier League Champions, Burnley were at that moment 14th in the third tier of the Football League. Their last game, played the previous night, was a 1 – 1 draw away at York City.
Now we can all laugh at this, but it shows one thing, that relatively speaking, when Blackburn and Burnley meet, it is a big game.
Not to most people, in fact, but it matters in East Lancashire.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche, soon realised the importance the East Lancashire Derby can have on a clubs season. Dyche remains un-defeated in four derby games. No doubt Rovers manager Paul Lambert, having experienced just one East Lancs derby, now also realises the importance of the game to the fans. And it is not just about bragging rights.
Big games are not always about excellence. They are about geography, history, rivalry that can last centuries or be inspired by events that have nothing to do with football.
The bitterness between Blackburn and Burnley dates back to 1890, when Blackburn reported their rivals for fielding a illegal number of Scottish players. It is not about the quality of the football. It does not have to be Ronaldo verses Messi to make it an event.
Blackburn v Burnley is one of Footballs oldest and most keenly contested derbies. Long may it continue.