GARY Bowyer insists he reflects on his time at Blackburn Rovers with great pride ahead of his first return to Ewood Park since being sacked 14 months ago.
Bowyer spent nearly 12 years at the club, including two-and-a-half as first-team boss, before being sacked in November 2015 with Rovers 16th in the Championship.
He returns to Ewood as manager of League Two side Blackpool in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.
And Bowyer, who led the club to eighth and ninth placed finishes in his two full seasons in charge, as well as guiding Rovers to safety in 2012/13, said he looks back at a ‘wonderful time’ at the club. “It will be my first time back at all,” Bowyer told the Lancashire Telegraph.
“I have not been to a game, or set foot in the building since I was sacked after going three games unbeaten and having lost two games out of 10.
“But I spent 11-and-a-half wonderful years there working with the youth team, and seeing the likes of Phil Jones, Grant Hanley and Jason Lowe progress through to the first-team and become first-team players in the Premier League, that gave me an enormous sense of pride “That was the same when I was fortunate enough to be reserve team coach and when I was given the chance to be caretaker.
“Me and the staff helped keep them up that year, having been in the bottom three at one stage, and that would have been back-to-back relegations had that been the case.
“I also had enormous pride when I was asked to take charge of the first-team because it is such a wonderful club, full of great history and tradition.
“I was very grateful for the opportunity to be the first-team manager of such a fantastic football club.”
Bowyer admits he was “disappointed” to lose his job at Ewood but was grateful for the reception he received in a pre-season friendly between the two sides at Bloomfield Road in July.
He added: “It will be good to go back and say thank you to the fans.
“I was able to thank the fans that came for the pre-season friendly as I got a wonderful reception from the fans who came.
“It was very much appreciated by myself and my family who were in the stands.
“It was quite emotional and I did not think that I would get that.
“So I am looking forward to going back there. I still have a lot of friends at the club who I still speak to on a regular basis.
“But once the whistle goes it will all be professional, it won’t be about Gary Bowyer, it will be about Blackburn Rovers v Blackpool.
“We will have an excellent travelling faithful, we have more than 1,000 fans making the journey who will be cheering us on, and we know that we will have to be right at it.”
Blackpool, 13th in League Two, go in to the game as underdogs, sitting 38 places below Rovers in the Football League pyramid.
But after knocking out Championship side Barnsley in the last round after a replay, Bowyer insists there is a belief that they can pull off another upset.
“Realistically, outside of our dressing room everyone will expect Blackburn Rovers to go through,” he added.
“But it will be up to us to go there and have a real good go.
“The message will be the same, to test themselves against a Championship side and see how good they are.”
With acknowledgement to Rich Sharpe LT
Comments from Rovers fans on LT forum.
I hope that you get a good reception back here Gary, and please don't fall off your seat laughing at us....
You are always welcome back to Ewood with open arms, Gary as you have done a tremendous job at Rovers under difficult circumstances and not to mention, proven to be a far much better Manager than that clown Owen! Still cannot fathom why OC has not been sacked when Rovers are second from bottom and you were sacked when Rovers were in 16th place.
I hope to see you before or after the match to say "hello".
Thanks for all the good work you did for us when we were in desperate straights Garry, talk about platting sawdust on a windy day.
I firmly believe that if it hadn't been for you the club wouldn't be here now, really is that simple.
I'm sure you will get a great reception from all Rover's fans but seeing they have closed the Riverside you will have to come out onto the pitch so we denizens of the Jack Walker can see you!
Then like you say it's down to business and game on.
Agree with every word BJ.
Monumental mistake sacking Bowyer. The club is now reaping the consequences for it's stupidity.
When Bowyer was sacked on the 5th November 2016, i said the club would go into free fall, and so it has.
We did not have the infrastructure to support a manager with Lambert's ambitions, not Lambert;s fault. But he should have realised it.
Bowyer was at the club 12 years, he understood it. He knew were Anderson and Kean had 'hid the bodies'. He worked with Allardyce and Williams, and before that with Ince and Souness.
He knew the club inside out.
He progressed from Youth to first team manager, and he was proud of it. He was one of us.
Bowyer was building towards a seriously good side, he gave the club the stability it now craves, then had the rug pulled from under him. Disgraceful.
Venky's and the fans got lucky with Bowyer. A unlikely escape from relegation 2012/13, then two top ten finishes. He built a team with bargain basement buys. He turned players bought on the cheap into million of £'s players.
Venky's thought the job was easy, "if Bowyer can do it some else will be able to do it better ". How wrong they were !
When Bowyer was sacked, he had suffered his first blip, we were 16th in the league, 4 points clear of the bottom 3 and recovering nicely, after just 16 games played.
At no stage this season has Coyle's record even matched those 16 games.
Fifteen months on are Rovers any better off for the sacking of Bowyer ?
I would suggest it has put us back almost 4 years to the relegation scap in 2012/13.
In football be very careful what you wish for !
Brockhall Bill Reg Rover
Good post. But what about the 12 months Bowyer worked miracles under stringent FFP rules and a transfer embargo ?
January 2015 until November 2015. The embargo was lifted January 2016, only after Bowyer/ Shaw's efforts to sell players and reduce the wages. Lambert reaped the benefits.
Bowyer kept us competitive and in the Championship.
Out standing achievment.
Coyle comes no where near Bowyer's expertise and man management skills.
Never mind protest against the owners, the only banners visable at Ewood on Saturday should be, BRING BACK BOWYER. / GARY COME BACK. Going to make mine now !
Brockhall Bill Ewood Eddie
Making mine tonight. How about.
COME BACK GARY. VENKY'S OUT.
A double whammy.
Just need a 2o ft banner and a plane to fly it over Ewood !
You can build from mid table mediocrity Bill, it takes patience and time but when you have a manager who cares about and understands the club in charge it can be done.
Bowyer came through the ranks at the club, Lambert and Coyle are like the majority of other managers, mercenaries with a job.