Me and Blackburn Rovers
On 6th May 2000, 17 years ago, Burnley won promotion from what is now called League One with a 2-1 win at Scunthorpe. On the same date this year, yesterday, we all but ensured we would be playing Premier League football again next season and just one day later, today, we saw our local rivals Blackburn Rovers drop into that League One place we left all those years ago at Scunthorpe.
When I was a youngster, still finding my feet on the Turf Moor terraces, I was walking past the ground one day. Back then they used to have posters on the wall advertising the next game and the next game was against Blackburn Rovers.
I rushed home. “Are they a good team?” I asked my dad. “Will they beat us?” I added. My dad was an easy going sort of bloke who never called anyone but his reply was: “No, they won’t beat us, they’re rubbish.”
That was the day I learned my dad didn’t care for them too much and I have to say I have continued the family tradition. I don’t hate them, I just don’t like them and I do enjoy those occasions when they lose.
For information, they actually got a point against us that first time I saw them at Burnley but it was only five years or so later that they were relegated and for some years we never saw them again. However, the dark years came from 1980 for probably almost thirty years, when they spent most of the time at least one division above us, and some two ahead.
It was hard to take. In the 1970s, for a couple of years, we’d been two divisions above them, and that was the time of the birth of The Wild Rover but the 1979/80 season was dreadful. We were relegated to the third tier for the first time with Blackburn, under the management of Howard Kendall, replacing us.
For the next decade or so the gap widened with much of it due to mismanagement at Burnley. They’d no money, they had the phone cut off at least twice as I know of, but under some astute management they were knocking on the door of the old First Division while we were dropping and dropping.
I recall Crystal Palace, with Ian Wright and Mark Bright up front, beating them one year in the play-offs and I thought maybe their last chance had gone at a time when we were floundering in the Fourth Division.
Then, despite us finally wakening from our slumbers, they got Jack Walker and he took them to a level that was way beyond anything we could achieve. He was outbidding Manchester United for players, buying his way to the Premier League title.
It cost him a fortune but, to an extent, I could understand it. He was from the town and although he chose to live in tax exile he was supporting his club. I would have done the same for Burnley had I had that sort of money although it would not have included the tax exile bit, I enjoy watching all our games too much.
We did get closer and played them in the Premier League in 2009/10, but they still beat us twice, aided and abetted with some cheating, and we were still, in reality, some way behind them.
But help was on hand. On Walker’s death, the club was placed in the hands of a trust who had spent some time trying to sell it. In November 2010 they finally did, to Indian poultry giants Venky’s and that’s when the fun started for Burnley fans. At 1 p.m. on 10th November, 2010, the following statement was issued.
“The Board of Blackburn Rovers Football and Athletic plc (BRF&A) announces the sale by BRFC Investments Limited of its 99.9 per cent shareholding to Venky’s London Limited.”
Venky’s came with big promises. They said manager Sam Allardyce would be given substantial money in January to spend in the transfer market and they were targeting the signings of ‘Beckham or Ronaldinho’. That’s three words, they got the middle one although the spelling was different, it was Orr.
On 13th December, just a month after taking over, they sacked Allardyce. Now, love or loathe Big Sam, he had them in mid-table with 21 points from 16 games. Under new manager Steven Kean they were back in the Championship a season and a half later.
That was enjoyable. Mrs Desai and her two brothers were becoming firm favourites but the best was still to come with two appointments, one in the summer of 2012 and another four years later.
2012 saw the introduction of a global advisor by the name of Shebby Singh. This motor mouth couldn’t help but become a favourite with Burnley fans. He sacked Kean and on the same day as we confirmed the appointment of Sean Dyche as manager, they did likewise with Henning Berg.
Dyche is still at Burnley, Berg didn’t last five minutes and neither did his replacement Michael Appleton. Shebby spent a year making ridiculous comments, even more ridiculous decisions, and we got two draws against them, one when their equaliser came with a goal that was so far offside it was hard to imagine.
Singh sadly departed but their record against Burnley worsened. We’ve now beaten them on the last three occasions we’ve met and I can boast, over the years, having seen us win league games at Ewood twice as often as I’ve seen us lose.
The one sensible thing they had done was stabilise on the playing side with the appointment of Gary Bowyer, as manager but as we headed for promotion last year they sacked him and gave the job to Paul Lambert who soon found out what a complete joke the place was and upped and left at the end of the season.
Who would they get next? I couldn’t believe our luck when in stepped yet another motor mouth. It was only the lying Scotsman Owen Coyle. He brought in his team of losers and kicked off the season with a big home defeat against Norwich. By the time those running the club realised how poor Coyle and his disciples were most of the damage had been done.
Tony Mowbray got a honeymoon period which gave them a chance but this afternoon they travelled to Brentford knowing they had to do as well as Nottingham Forest but with a better goal difference of one on the day while an eye had to be kept on Birmingham who had two points more.
They went 1-0 up, I didn’t like that. They went 2-0 up and I feared the whole day was going to be a mess. But then it changed. Forest scored, Birmingham scored, Forest scored again and again and then Brentford pulled one back.
Blackburn did get another goal but the writing was on the wall. Their fans didn’t look as though they were enjoying Griffin Park as much as we had done in January last year but even at the final whistle we had to nervously wait for Birmingham to hang on at Bristol City. They did, and the party started.
I don’t do jelly and ice cream due to my diabetes but had I gone shopping today I’m sure some might have dropped into my trolly.
We’re having a party because they’ve gone down I believe. Count me in. I dislike them just as much as I did all those years ago. I can still hear their gloating fans from back in the Walker days when they thought this day would never happen. Well it has, they’ve got what they deserve and I’m enjoying every single minute of it.
I wondered how they would announce their relegation to the masses – it was just one quiet tweet which I found quite amusing.
Results elsewhere mean that Rovers have been relegated to League One.
— Blackburn Rovers (@Rovers) 7 May 2017
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