Skip to main content

1975 - 1984: The bald eagle has landed

Posted: Sat 21 Jan 2012
Author:

Image by:

Following the departure of Gordon Lee to Newcastle, Rovers spent a difficult first season back in the Second Division under the stewardship of Jim Smith.

A disappointing total of 38 points was an accurate reflection of a season spent in the lower reaches of the table.

An improvement to a mid table finish in 1976-77 was followed by a promotion push in 1977-78. Until the end of March the entertaining, attack minded fare served up by players such as Kevin Hird, Dave Wagstaffe and John Bailey harvested a rich reward.

The highlight of the season was probably the 3-2 Boxing Day victory at Turf Moor. A much more emphatic win than the score suggests. Unfortunately they were prone to inconsistency and a dismal end of season run brought just three points from eight games and a final placing of 5th. 

75-84a John Butcher
Rovers' 'keeper John Butcher foils Brighton's Gerry Ryan at the Goldstone Ground.

During this run Rovers lost their manager when Jim Smith decided that Birmingham City offered better career prospects. Jim Iley was appointed manager in his place. Iley's turbulent reign lasted for only 172 days but that was long enough to brew a lethal cocktail of poor results, unhappy players and disgruntled fans.

John Pickering was the man given the unenviable task of picking up the pieces. Unhappily, despite ending the season with three straight wins Rovers were already doomed to return to Division Three.

The club then made a masterful appointment when Howard Kendall became their first ever player manager. Rovers made a slow start to the 1979-80 season and at Christmas their fans could not have imagined what was to follow.

After winning 2-1 at Grimsby on January 12th Blackburn proceeded to win thirteen of their next fourteen games. A defeat at Exeter on April 12th brought the run to an end but the Rovers bandwagon rolled on to the runners-up spot and with it promotion back to Division Two.

75-84b Promotion Party
Goalkeeper John Butcher, Noel Brotherston and Derek Fazackerley (holding scarf aloft) join in the celebrations following Blackburn's promotion to the Second Division at the end of the 1979-80 season. Duncan McKenzie is the man without a shirt.

The following season was equally exciting as Rovers stormed through the division, only losing out on a second successive promotion by virtue of an inferior goal difference.

In the summer of 1980 Rovers lost yet another ambitious young manager when Kendall left to join Everton.

He was replaced by Bobby Saxton as the club reverted to their old policy of appointing a man with a proven track record in the lower divisions. After re-organising his backroom staff Saxton strengthened the playing squad by signing Ian Miller and Terry Gennoe amongst others. Financial problems at the club during the early eighties meant that Saxton's room for manoeuvre was strictly limited. 

After two seasons of mid table obscurity the 1983-84 season brought an improvement to 6th. A serious promotion challenge was finally mounted in 1984-85. By Christmas Rovers were leading the table only to falter, as in previous years, when players lost form. Saxton's refusal to sign new blood as the promotion push petered out only served to antagonise the fans.

In the same manner that Saxton was loyal to his players the board continued to back the manager.