Blackburn Rovers celebrated 20 years since winning the Premiership in 1995. Rovers success never lay easily with the bigger clubs and the National Football Press.
The achievement has, over the years, been belittled by many out of jealousy and annoyance that such a small town club beat the big boys.
Now it is about to probably happen again with Leicester City. And the big boys are not happy on losing out on one of the coveted Championship League places. Veiled threats of a breakaway Champions League have been suggested. Pathetic.
I offer no apologies in reproducing the following article by a correspondent known as Twoblackdogs.
His article appeared in the Lancashire Telegraph social media comments section. And puts everything into perspective.
My thanks to Twoblackdogs for his permission in reproducing his excellent article.
Here it is, no matter how hard he tries, it still keeps on turning up. No sleep tonight for one poster on here as this memory comes flooding back. Enjoy reading it and don't forget. IT WILL NEVER EVER HAPPEN AGAIN.
Ask anyone to summarise how Blackburn managed to win their first League title for 81 years and they will undoubtedly recall Jack Walker's wealth, Alan Shearer's goals and his SAS partnership with Chris Sutton – probably in that order.
A quick internet search generates season reviews which invariably but frustratingly convey the message that "moneybags" Blackburn "bought their way to the title". While Rovers owe a huge debt of gratitude to their generous benefactor, which their fans continue to vociferously acknowledge, the emphasis on money is unjust and the assertion that they only won the league because of it is ignorant of the facts and holds no weight.
To win a league, a team must invest in playing staff. Rovers admittedly spent a considerable amount on their strike force, twice breaking the British transfer record and parting with £8.3 million, while also signing Tim Flowers in a record deal for a goalkeeper. However, in terms of financial outlay on the first team that won the league, that is just about it.
There is a mistaken assumption that the club also spent heavily on Graeme Le Saux, Colin Hendry and captain Tim Sherwood, perhaps because they became indispensable so quickly and were sold on for big profit. In fact, all three were acquired on the cheap: Hendry for £700,000, the same price the club sold him for two years earlier; Le Saux, who was out of favour at Chelsea, for around the same and Sherwood from Norwich City for a mere £400,000.
However, based on calculations of the reported transfer fees for the roughly first choice starting XIs of both clubs in the 1994-95 season (taking into account injuries and long-term suspension), Rovers spent far less than the incumbent champions, Manchester United. Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Andrei Kanchelskis, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Brian McClair, Mark Hughes and Andy Cole cost £19.33m.
Whereas Flowers, Henning Berg, Hendry, Ian Pearce, Le Saux, Stuart Ripley, Mark Atkins, Sherwood, Jason Wilcox, Shearer and Sutton set Rovers back a comparatively low £14.7m. Given that these squads – in particular United's – took years to assemble, perhaps a fairer assessment would be to look at the 1994-95 spend in isolation. Even on this basis, United's outlay exceeded their rivals'.
Comparisons with other clubs are also favourable. Blackburn's entire back four cost less than Newcastle paid for Darren Peacock and less than half of the sum required to bring Phil Babb and John Scales to Liverpool. In Carlton Palmer, Leeds United spent more on a single midfielder than Rovers did across their starting midfield four – illustrating that Rovers' spending was largely limited to their front two and not wasted unlike so many others.
How Blackburn happened to accidentally hoodwink so many into believing this "bought the league" fallacy is partly because of their wilful blindness to some of Kenny Dalglish's shrewd forays in the transfer market and abundance of unsung heroes. Take Atkins, for example. Signed from Scunthorpe United for £45,000 as a right-back, he filled in for the injured David Batty in central midfield and made 30 league appearances during the title-winning campaign, scoring six times – the well timed volley at home to Southampton being the pick of a number of sweet strikes.
Other astute additions to play major roles included Berg, who was a relatively unknown 23-year-old at the time of his move from Lillestrom for under half a million, and the largely forgotten Pearce, who had only made four senior appearances before he joined the club for £300,000 – both insignificant sums even then.
Also fundamental to Rovers' success was the organisation and desire instilled in the side and, pivotally, the width provided by Wilcox (who incidentally came through the ranks as a trainee) and Ripley. Despite lacking natural pace, they both had the knack of being able to create the half a yard required to deliver crosses into areas where Shearer and Sutton thrived, scoring 49 of Rovers' 80 league goals.
Rovers' rise was remarkable. Dalglish took over an unfashionable club lying in the bottom half of the old Second Division and won promotion to the new Premier League at his first attempt. The following two seasons saw the club finish fourth and then runners-up, before being crowned Champions of England.
It is not disputed that the club were able to offer substantial wages to attract players, but they bought wisely rather than overly and deserved nothing less than the success they achieved. It is a story that is unlikely to happen again and one that should be celebrated with respect and admiration, rather than viewed as the 1990's version of Roman Abramovich's Chelsea or present day Manchester City.
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.
The more you speak to Blackburn Rovers followers, and read their comments on social media sites, the more you ask the question, are they in denial.
With the general euphoria greeting the arrival of new manager Paul Lambert (pic above), it would appear some fans want to rewrite history.
It is as though the previous three years under the management of Gary Bowyer never existed.
Bowyers departure has, by some, been greeted with general approval, whilst others have misgivings. Let us not forget what Bowyer did for Rovers under very difficult circumstances. Well documented on this site and highlighted recently in article “Thank you Gary Bowyer” posted 25th November 2015.
Now all of a sudden, Bowyers hard work and achievements have been brushed aside and forgotten. Rovers fans should never forget how close the club has come to oblivion. And only prevented in doing so by Bowyer and Derek Shaw’s amazing work in cleaning up the mess left by Anderson / Kean. The club are saddled by a £92m debt and rising. Largely accumulated by the negligence of the Anderson / Kean regime.
It is as though Paul Lambert has a magic wand that he will wave and everything will be ok again. Im sorry, it is not that simple. One can understand to a certain degree the fans euphoria.
Rovers have not really had a manager of repute since Allardyce was sacked in 2010.
A succession of inadequate managerial appointments, Kean / Berg / and Appleton left Rovers floundering. Until along came Bowyer, promoted from within the coaching ranks.
Even Allardyce is derided by some, as not being up to the job. Let us remind ourselves of Sam’s two years at Ewood. Appointed in 2008 to succeed Paul Ince. Allardyce arrived after the season was seventeen games old and Rovers in the bottom three, in 19th position with 13 points. He quickly accumulated seven points from 3 games over the Christmas / New year period. Eventually leading Rovers to safety and finishing 15th in the Premiership.
The following season he had Rovers finish in the Premiership’s top ten. And brought players into the club such as Micheal Salgardo from Real Madrid. In November 2010, Venky’s bought the club and sacked Allardyce 4 weeks later on 13th December 2010, with Rovers 11th in the Premiership and 6 points from the top 5.
A decision that has been described by some leading football analyst as the worst ever decision taken by any Premiership club in the leagues 25 years’ existence.
It is quite possible many generations of Rovers followers to come will never ever witness Rovers in such a high position in the football ladder again.
But to listen to some Rovers followers, Sam’s brief tenure was a disaster. WHY ?. The mind boggles. The same is now being said of the Bowyers years. BAFFLING ?.
Rovers supporters should be very careful what they wish for.
In November 2015 Venky’s, took advice from their ‘Advisor’. Believed to be Gandhi Babu, who has had a watching brief at Ewood Park for several years.
It was becoming apparent to the owners financial advisors that their target of return to the Premiership for 2016 - 17, was not going to be achieved, and had to be realised at all costs.
Manager Gary Bowyer had steadied their sinking ship for over three seasons. And was working with one hand firmly tied behind his back. To compound matters a transfer embargo was in place for the club having fallen foul of FFP. But that embargo was about to be lifted. Due to the excellent work behind the scenes of financial Director Mike Cheston, Chief Executive Derek Shaw and Bowyer himself. The embargo would be lifted in time for the January 2016 transfer window.
On November 7th 2015 Bowyer had only accumulated 3 wins from the Rovers opening 16 games. They were perilously close to the divisions bottom three, lying in 16th position.
Having learned a bitter lesson in foolishly sacking Sam Allardyce, Venky’s were advised to act and change their Manager. The players were good enough, they were told, they just need a more experienced manager to guide them up the table they were told.
Balaji Rao (pic above) was particularly keen on the idea. £105 Million was at stake, for promotion to the Premiership. That is the minimum amount what each club will receive in season 2016 -17 from the new Sky TV deal. Venky’s badly need that money to clear mounting debts of £92 Million and rising.
Football agents hovered like vultures. Trying to push forward claims for their out of work clients. Rovers ‘advisor’ opted for former Aston Villa and Norwich boss Paul Lambert. Having been convinced he was the man to take Rovers back to the “land of milk and honey”.
19 games later, under Lambert, Rovers are no nearer. They lay 16th in the Championship table, the same position Bowyer left them in. Promotion this season is now an impossibility. In fact, at this moment in time, Rovers have a battle on their hands to keep out of the relegation dog fight.
During Lamberts tenure Rovers went 9 league games without a win, their worse run for 5 years, the alarm bells sounded as this is what the owners had not foreseen or hope for.
Lambert is confident however, that Rovers can mount a promotion challenge next season, if he is given the financial backing, and to his credit results and performances of late have been good.
But have the owners got the stomach for it? Are they prepared to spend good money after bad?
Their venture into English football has been a disaster. Thanks mainly to very bad decisions, sacking good men and putting their faith in unscrupulous ones.
A lot of Football clubs are for sale, Aston Villa, Leeds United, Morecombe, Crawley, and Everton, to mention but a few.
Are Blackburn Rovers about to join them ?.
In the summer 2011, Gary Bowyer, then Blackburn Rovers U/21 manager / coach. Recommended to the then Rovers manager Steve Kean, that they sign Jamie Vardy (pic above) from neighbouring Fleetwood Town.
Vardy had arrived at Fleetwood from none league Halifax Town for £15,000 three seasons earlier.
He was scoring for fun in division two as Fleetwood soared up the league table. Fleetwood’s asking price was £800,000. A fortune to Fleetwood and much needed revenue.
Rovers were awash with the Venky’s money at the time. Agent / advisor, Jerome Anderson, was certainly spending it for them. Bowyer saw the potential that was in Vardy and told Kean so.
Swansea, Peterborough and Crewe all made bids for Vardy, but would not meet the asking price. Swansea then did bid £800,000. Kean / Anderson were not interested. But along came Nigel Pearson and Leicester City and snatched Vardy from under Swansea’s nose for £1m.
A punt, as Pearson described it at the time.
Rovers never made a bid. Instead Kean / Anderson paid Newcastle £4m for Leon Best. The more the fee, the higher the players wages, the longer the contract, the more the fee for the agent.
Draw your own conclusions.
Kean, like Pearson also had a £1m punt. For Jordan Slew from Barnsley!
The rest is history, Jamie Vardy is now valued at £40m and rising.
Gary Bowyers advice was dismissed. Although Bowyer did go on to do some pieces of business for his employer. Notably the signing of Rudy Gestede from Cardiff for £300,000. Rovers sold him for £6m. Then sacked Bowyer !
Some people never learn.