A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to do write something on Blackburn Rovers for the Indian community, especially given the club was getting some exposure in India and the surrounding world because of their owners, the Venky’s Group. Starting it and deciding on what to talk about is always the hardest part as anyone who has done this sort of thing will know. But let’s give it a shot.
Who are Blackburn Rovers?
Blackburn Rovers was formed in 1875, and represents the industrial town of Blackburn in the North-West of England. (Current population as of 2001 – 105,000.) Their stadium, Ewood Park, is a high-tech open-roof stadium which was upgraded in the mid-90’s located on Bolton Road and seats 31,000 people. We are a family club, which basically means we don’t partake in football violence, we have the cheapest tickets in the Premier League and most of England, and also have been said to be the most entertaining club in the league by a leading National newspaper, with Manchester United and Arsenal coming below us.
Our home strip is blue and white, and those colors have always been ours, since 1875. Sometimes our shorts are blue, sometimes white, but they are always those colors. Our away kit usually changes season on season, but we are known for frequently having red and black away kits every few years.
Accomplishments and achievements
Their accomplishments are few and far between, however are in no way small. Not only has the club won the Football League twice (1912, 1914) but was the second team to win the English Premier League, accumulating more points than Manchester United in the 1994/5 season. They also still remain the only club to have won the FA Cup THREE times in a row – 1884, 1885 and 1886. The football teams now considered the best in England, and even the world, have yet to achieve this accomplishment. (Chelsea are the most recent team to come close, but they did not get to the final of this seasons competition, and thus, Blackburn’s record will remain intact until 2013 at the earliest.) Our last achievement was in 2002, where Blackburn won the League Cup, beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in Cardiff. On the way to Cardiff, Blackburn beat Arsenal 4-0 at Ewood Park, with Matt Jansen scoring three and Mark Hughes, formerly of Manchester United and FC Barcelona, scoring once.
Influence on English football
In 1888, Blackburn Rovers founded the Football League along with 11 other clubs, after William McGregor, a director at Aston Villa, wrote a format where football clubs would no longer arrange their own fixtures and would compete in a league with the winner being the team finishing top. The other clubs along with Blackburn were Accrington Stanley, Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Without the Football League, it is of my opinion that football in England wouldn’t be the global phenomenon it is today.
Blackburn has had many star player and big names come through Ewood Park. There are just too many to name. Currently, the biggest name is probably Michel Salgado, who won many trophies at Real Madrid in Spain. Our current squad is full of youthful talent of the highest quality. However, in the past, we have had the likes of Manchester United stars Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke at our club. We signed Roque Santa Cruz from Bayern Munich, and he scored many goals for us in his first season. But the ultimate name in Blackburn Rovers history is Alan Shearer – considered one of the greatest, if not THE greatest England striker. Without him, Blackburn wouldn’t have won the title in 1995.
Jack Walker, or “Uncle Jack” as he is still affectionately known, was the owner of Blackburn Rovers from the early 90’s onwards. He was a businessman who had a hugely successful steel business and also owned a flight company now called FlyBe. Jack loved Blackburn Rovers, and spent millions of pounds on the club, the stadium and on signing players to make Blackburn successful. He also did wonders for the community. However, in 2000, Jack lost his fight with cancer, and died. The whole town of Blackburn was in shock at the news. A local newspaper summed it up perfectly with the headline, “Uncle Jack: Town in tears.” His name is still chanted in the stands by thousands of Rovers fans at every match, home and away. The work, effort and money he put into the club will never be forgotten by anyone associated with the club. There is a statue of him outside the Blackburn End and club shop, with the phrase “Rovers Biggest Supporter.”
In 2010, Venky’s successfully took over at Blackburn Rovers, after being advised by two agencies in England that Blackburn is an excellent club to purchase and is very cheap for an English Premier League club. They paid around £30m for the club, stadium and all the land associated with Blackburn Rovers. They also took on £20m of debt. Since their takeover, they have spent around £3m on players, one of which is a young Spanish man called Ruben Rochina. He came from FC Barcelona, and is considered an excellent prospect for the future. They fired our manager, Sam Allardyce, in November, and appointed our current manager, Steve Kean. In one of his first games in charge, Blackburn beat Liverpool 3-1 at Ewood Park. Since then, our club has seen a massive decline, and battled to stay in the Premier League; but the owners have promised that they will be investing wisely in the club and will be making decisions to benefit the club’s future.
The owners were very vocal when they first took over at the club. They wanted to sign very big names to the club, but failed to do so. Now they seem to be a little quieter, but still occasionally come out in the media talking about the club and their plans. Unfortunately, there are lots of people in England that don’t like Blackburn Rovers – from people in the media to fans of other clubs. Our history has been of a club that plays physical but successful football, which is something opposing managers and players hate. Under Steve Kean and Venky’s, our tactics have changed. Our football is much more entertaining now, even though the results have been underwhelming.
The end of the 2010/11 Season
In the final two games of the season, Blackburn Rovers faced Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively. Against Manchester United, Blackburn were very unfortunate not to win, after the linesman and referee gave Manchester United a very dubious penalty decision, resulting in a 1-1 draw and winning United the Premier League title. It also meant that Blackburn’s survival in the Premier League would be decided the following week when they faced Wolves. With the bottom of the League very tight, Blackburn had to take matters in their own hands. They did so superbly, scoring three goals in the first half to lead 3-0 at half time. With this result, Blackburn would comfortably survive and play in the Premier League again next season. However, Wolves mounted a comeback in the second half, and scored two goals. Results from elsewhere in the country also guaranteed that Wolves would be safe as the score stood, and so the two celebrated the result, even though Wolves lost. In the end, Birmingham City and Blackpool were relegated, along with West Ham United.
So you have a rather brief idea of what Blackburn Rovers is. I’m sure that if our owners decide to stay at the club for a long time, you will hear our name more and more in India and other countries around Asia, as Venky’s not only hope to have our players play games there, but also to set up a football academy and hopefully nurture Asian footballers to become much better and maybe even get into the Premier League!
We are a traditional, family club with a proud history and a bright future under Venky’s. Join us for the ride, won’t you?
– Mark Ashworth
Follow the author on twitter @he6rt6gr6m