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Blackburn Rovers Football Club History

Founded: 1875 League: English Premier League
Nickname(s): Rovers League Position 2009-10: 10th (Premier League)
Stadium: Ewood Park Manager: Steve Kean
Capacity 31,367 Chairman: John Williams

Early Days

Blackburn Rovers was formed on the 5th November 1875. They played their first match on 18th December 1875 in a 1-1 draw. The club first played their home games at Oozehead, then moved to Alexandra Meadows. The first game there was against Partick Thistle, the most prestigious game Rovers had played. Rovers won 2-1. They were one of 23 clubs to form the Lancashire Football Association. On the 1st November 1879, the club played their first F.A. Cup match, beating Tyne Association Football Club 5-1. They eventually went out at the third round after suffering a heavy 6-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest.

In 1882, Blackburn were the first provincial team to reach the final of the F.A Cup but lost 1-0 to Old Etonians. The club’s local rivals, Blackburn Olympic, became the first provincial team to win the F.A Cup. However, under the management of Thomas Mitchell in 1884, Blackburn Rovers beat Scottish team Queen’s Park 2-1 in the F.A Cup Final. If Rovers had lost this, the club would have folded. The same two teams played the year after, with the same result, Blackburn winning 2-0. The next year Blackburn achieved the impressive feat of winning the F.A Cup three times in a row, beating West Bromwich Albion in the final. This meant they were only the second club to win three F.A cups in a row, after The Wanderers, and were the last club to achieve this feat. For this feat, the club was given special privileges (including a silver shield and the prestigious honour of having the club’s crescent on the corner flag. Blackburn should technically be the only club that is allowed this honour, but recently other clubs have copied this). In 1885 was the birth of the professional footballer, and Rovers spent £615 on wages. In 1888, Blackburn were one of only twelve clubs to play in the first Football League. In 1890 Rovers moved to Ewood Park: where they still play to this day.

Rovers won the F.A Cup in the 1890-91 season, beating Notts County in the final. However, this success was the last Blackburn fans would experience for many years. They won the league in 1912, and 1914, and the F.A. Cup in 1928. Bob Crompton, who eventually would have a 45- year association will the club, was manager at the time of this triumph. In 1936, they suffered their first relegation. However, they also dragged Aston Villa down, who were the only other team from the original founders of the league who hadn’t been relegated. They won the Second Division title in the final season before the war.

Post War to the late 80s

After the war, the league resumed, in 1948, Blackburn got relegated again in their second season back in the top flight. They remained here for the next ten years. They got promoted in 1958 and were runners-up in the F.A. Cup Final in 1960, losing to Wolves 3-0. Many Rovers players won international caps for their countries in the 1960’s.

Hope that Rovers would recover their early form were ignited when they beat West Ham 8-2 away, but those hopes were extinguished when they finished in the usual mid-table place. During the 70’s, Rovers fluctuated between the second and the third divisions. In 1989, the club reached the second division play off final but lost to Crystal Palace. A year later they lost in the play-off semi finals, causing much frustration to fans of the Ewood Park team. However, the following year, local steel worker and lifelong supporter Jack Walker bought the club, eventually changing the fans’ entire outlook.

1990s - Premier League Champions

Blackburn suffered shortly after Jack’s arrival, but the following season, despite being favourites for the title, they got promoted via the play offs, beating Leicester City 1-0, thanks to a goal by former Leicester striker Mike Newell.

In the summer of 1992 Rovers made headlines by paying a then English record £3.5 million for Southampton striker Alan Shearer, 22 years old at the time. They had also brought in a new manager; the esteemed Kenny Dalglish, who had famously won lots of trophies at Liverpool. Blackburn finished fourth the next season, just missing out on a UEFA Cup place. Blackburn had signed many players: Graeme Le Saux, Kevin Gallacher and Stuart Ripley just some examples. The following year they finished as runners up to Manchester United. Dalglish then broke the British record again, this time by buying 21 year old striker Chris Sutton. His prolific goalscoring record alongside Alan Shearer famously led to their partnership being abbreviated to ‘SAS’. In 1994-1995, Blackburn exited the cups very early, but focused on winning the league. Rovers led the campaign for most of the season but a 2-1 defeat at Anfield on the last day of the season could have spelled disaster for the club. However, Manchester United couldn’t win at Upton Park, only drawing 1-1 against West Ham United, meaning Rovers were champions by one point. Jack Walker’s dream was finally a reality.

However, Blackburn struggled after this. Kenny Dalglish, feeling he had taken the club as far as he could, handed the reins to Ray Harford. Dalglish moved to a Director of Football role. They finished bottom of their Champions League group, and had a frustrating time on the Premiership, remaining in the bottom half for most of the season. Mike Newell scoring a nine minute hat-trick in the Champions League (which is still a record to this day) and Rovers beating Nottingham Forest 7-0 were highlights of a disappointing season. Rovers improved to finish seventh. The following season was a disaster: many players were injured or performed badly, however Shearer was the first player to score 30 goals in three successive seasons. Shearer was sold in 1996 for a then world record fee of £15million to his boyhood club Newcastle United. He was never properly replaced. Harford was sacked and Sven Goran Ericsson was linked up as his replacement. He signed a contract, but pulled out at the last minute and the job went to Roy Hodgson. He started well, securing European football with a sixth place finish. However, he had a poor start to following season, and despite Brian Kidd’s installation as manager, Rovers were relegated in 1999, just four years after winning the league.

2000 to Present

Rovers had a very hard time in Division One, finishing just above the relegation zone. However, Graeme Souness replaced Tony Parkes as manager and things began to improve. They finished second to Fulham, and dedicated their promotion to Jack Walker, who had died on 17th August 2000. Souness made some good signings, including breaking the club record to sign Andy Cole for £8million. Tugay Kerimoglu and Lucas Neill were also signed. The season was a great one – Rovers won the League Cup at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, beating Spurs 2-1. The following season Blackburn finished sixth, putting them into Europe for the second consecutive season. They had lost to eventual finalists Celtic in the UEFA Cup, but nevertheless the fans were buoyant about the season ahead. Despite this, things did not start well with the sale of fans’ favourites Damien Duff and David Dunn. Rovers struggled and only survived relegation thanks to Jon Stead’s flurry of goals towards the end of the season, including one in a famous win against Man United.

After Souness left for Newcastle, Rovers appointed former player Mark Hughes. They were in the relegation zone when Souness left, but under Hughes things went from strength to strength. Rovers finished fifteenth again, but got to the F.A. Cup semi-finals. Hughes made the team hard to beat. The following season they finished sixth, thus qualifying for Europe again. The season after that they finished tenth, again getting to the semi finals, losing in extra time to Chelsea. The 2007-2008 season ended in disappointment, they failed to reach Europe but still finished a respectable seventh place.

The fans were jubilant after a run of success under Hughes, but suffered a shock at the start of the 2008-2009 season. Hughes left for Manchester City, being replaced by the inexperienced Paul Ince. Despite a flying start, grabbing a 94-minute winner against Everton courtesy of Andre Ooijer on the opening day of the season, Ince struggled and after a run of eleven game without a win, he was sacked just before Christmas.

With the club in dire straits, their bid to survive relegation seemed impossible. Unlike with Hughes, Ince’s inexperience nearly proved fatal. Luckily the club appointed Sam Allardyce, who had been overlooked originally in favour of Ince, Big Sam completely turned the club around with the club finishing outside the relegation zone. The following season, Rovers completed a famous double over bitter rivals Burnley, winning 3-2 at home and 1-0 away. Despite being in the bottom half for most of the season, Rovers secured a top place finish, thanks to a fantastic away win at Villa last game of the season. They finished tenth. Allardyce completed a remarkable record over the so-called ‘Big Four’, drawing with Liverpool , Man United (0-0), Chelsea (1-1) at home, and pulling off a famous win against Arsenal at Ewood Park, the last home game of the season, with goals frm Dunn (his 50th for the club after resigning in 2007) and Chris Samba hitting the winner.

With the 2010-11 season about to start, who knows what the future holds for Blackburn? With takeover rumours confirmed by chairman John Williams, this could be very exciting times indeed!

Written by Katy Burr

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