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Through The Years

The Blackburn Rovers club was formed in 1875...

The Blackburn Rovers club was formed in 1875 following a meeting on November 5th in the St. Leger Hotel on King William Street. The meeting was organised by two old boys of Shrewsbury school, John Lewis and Arthur Constantine. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of forming a football club to play under Association rules. Seventeen people attended the meeting, the majority of whom were Blackburn Grammar School old boys.
 
This patronage of the club by the educated middle classes was of vital importance. These men were at the heart of Blackburn's commercial life. Through their education and business acumen they were well placed to exploit the opportunities presented by the expansion of the fledgling game.
 
Rovers' first game, which took place at Church on December 11th 1875, was reported as follows in the December 18th edition of the Blackburn Times.
 
'On Saturday afternoon a football match was played at Church between members of the Rovers club, Blackburn and the Church club.
 
The ball was kicked off by the Blackburn captain at three o'clock and after some fine play lasting about thirty minutes, a goal was scored by Birtwistle, of the Blackburn club.
 
With a hard struggle the Church club succeeded in scoring the next goal and the game resulted in a tie.'
 
For many years Blackburn and the cotton trade were virtually synonymous. The town's abundant cotton mills and allied trades provided a wealthy educated middle class to form and administer the club. They also provided a vast pool of customers who were drawn in growing numbers to watch the increasingly popular game of association football. After their formation Rovers became one of a small number of clubs formed in the industrial north and midlands who provided a challenge to the more aristocratic amateur southern clubs. 
 
The club's colours were influenced by the fact that several influential club members were Old Malvernians. Thankfully the green and white quartered shirts became light blue and white under the influence of the Cambridge educated members of the club.In the beginning finance was something of a problem. Because they had no ground of their own the only income came from players subscriptions and in the first year these amounted to £2..8s.0d (£2.40p). This was spent on items such as a set of goalposts at 8/10d (44p) and a football for 15/- (75p). 
 
The early playing style adopted by the fledgling club was similar to that used by the gentlemanly southern clubs, a method that became known as the Corinthian style. It was a method that relied more on brute force than sophisticated ball skills, more Wimbledon than Manchester United.
 
Such was the growing interest in the game there were several other noteworthy clubs in the Blackburn district at this time. Clubs such as Cob Wall, St. Marks, Park Road, Darwen , Church and Blackburn Olympic. 
 
The club's first ground was located at Oozehead, a name that conjures up visions of a debilitating acne attack rather than a venue for top class football. Amongst its more quaint features the ground featured a cow pit (watering hole) near the centre circle. This minor difficulty was overcome by the strategic placing of timber boards and turf over the offending hole for the duration of a match. Not surprisingly, their stay at this venue was short lived. They moved firstly to the Pleasington Cricket Ground and then on to the Alexandra Meadows where on January 2nd 1878 they met the renowned Partick Thistle team. Two goals from Dick Birtwistle brought a famous victory.
 
Although the club was formed in 1875 details of the early days are very sketchy and it was not until the 1878-79 season that they were covered in detail by the local press. The progress made by the club in the early days can be gauged by the fact that by 1879 they were ready to enter the English Cup for the first time. After defeating Tyne Association and Darwen Rovers they crashed out of the competition following a 0-6 thrashing at Nottingham Forest. At the time Rovers supremacy in Blackburn was under threat from the Blackburn Olympic club that was formed from the amalgamation of the James Street and Black Star teams.
 
As a result of the need to improve the playing standards of the club Rovers began to look northwards to Scotland for re-enforcements. Friendly defeats at the hands of teams such as Glasgow Rangers had made them aware of the superior ball skills and greater tactical awareness possessed by Scottish players. The capture of the Rangers captain Hughie McIntyre had an enormous influence on the club both on and off the pitch.
 
The influx of Scots into the game was to cause problems at a later date however when allegations and rumours of professionalism became rife. The first club to seek re-enforcement's from Scotland was Darwen. Their successful recruiting policy established them as a major club and bitter rivals to Rovers. One of their most famous imports was Fergie Suter, a man who was later to become a Rovers stalwart. A stonemason by trade he joined the Darwen club for the 1879-80 season although there is no record of his ever having plied his trade locally. He is said to have found the local stone too hard to work. With no visible means of support the only conclusion people could reach was that Suter was paid to play. 
 
A Lancashire Cup game between Rovers and Darwen on 27th November 1880 revealed the depth of feeling between the two clubs. Bad behaviour on the field was more than matched by bad behaviour off it with the crowd invading the pitch on more than one occasion forcing the referee to abandon the game at half-time. The subsequent loss of Suter to Rovers only aggravated Darwen's feeling of injustice. 
 
For the 1881-82 season the club acquired a new ground at Leamington Street and proceeded to spend £500 providing facilities for the spectators. This move coincided with Rovers best effort in the FA Cup to that date. The 3rd round draw paired them with Darwen. Darwen's fortunes were now in terminal decline following the loss of their Scottish mercenaries and Blackburn enjoyed an emphatic 5-1 victory. As the cup run gathered momentum the town was gripped by cup fever. A semi-final replay victory over the Wednesday increased the temperature still further. 
 
In the Final at Kennington Oval their opponents were the Old Etonians. Despite the backing of many enthusiastic Rovers fans Blackburn lost to the only goal of the game. The defeated team were welcomed back to Blackburn as heroes and they enjoyed some measure of compensation when they defeated Accrington at Burnley Cricket Club to lift the Lancashire Senior Cup.
 
Rovers love affair with the FA Cup had begun and for the first three decades of the club's existence at least it should be noted that Cup success was of paramount importance to both players and fans alike. The pain of an early Cup exit in the 1882-83 season was not lessened by the feat of Blackburn Olympic who brought the trophy to Blackburn for the first time. In fact they were the first northern team to win the Cup. 
 
Not to be outdone Rovers went all out to emulate Olympic's success the following season. They defeated Southport, South Shields, Padiham, Stavely, Upton Park and Notts County, conceding only one goal in the process before meeting famous Scottish club Queen's Park in the Final. The Final turned out to be full of controversy as the differing interpretations of the off-side rule in England and Scotland resulted in confusion on the pitch.
 
Rovers ended up winning the Cup for the first time with goals from Brown and Forrest. Unfortunately Queen's Park left the ground complaining they had been robbed by the officials. 
 
Having acquired a taste for the glory a Cup victory brought Rovers proceeded to retain the trophy in 1884-85, beating Queen's Park once again in the final, this time by two goals to nil.

A hat trick of Cup victories was achieved in 1885-86

A hat trick of Cup victories was achieved in 1885-86 when Rovers retained the trophy once more following a 2-0 victory over West Bromwich in the final.
 
It might be worth noting here that England's foremost club Corinthians refused to play in the FA Cup, a fact that undoubtedly aided Blackburn's cause. To commemorate Rovers achievement the FA presented the club with a silver shield. Whilst Rovers were garnering success on the field football was undergoing change off the pitch as professionalism was finally accepted by the FA after considerable pressure was exerted on it by the clubs.
 
Rovers run of success come to an abrupt end in 1886-87 when they were dismissed in the 2nd round of the FA Cup by Scottish side Renton. The team was undergoing a period of change and despite reaching the semi-finals in 1887-88 Rovers were not felt to be as strong as they had once been.
 
Their refusal to increase the number of professional players on their staff meant that they were falling behind clubs such as Bolton who had embarked upon an aggressive recruitment campaign. Indeed if it wasn't for the fact that Rovers were able to plunder Blackburn Olympic for players, as the latter steadily declined in influence, they would have been in serious difficulties.
 
A struggle to a narrow victory over local club Witton, in a match billed as being for the championship of Blackburn, underlined the falling off of their playing standards.
 
It was at this point that a benefactor, in the form of William McGregor, rode to the rescue. His newly formed Football League issued an invitation to Rovers to become founder members in 1888 thus cementing their position in the upper echelons of the game. Even so Rovers still regarded the FA Cup as being of paramount importance and league fixtures were played in amongst a series of lucrative friendly matches.
 
Rovers first league game took place on 15th September 1888 when they shared ten goals in an exciting encounter with Accrington. The scorers on that auspicious day were Jack Southworth, Beresford, Townley 2 and Fecitt. In a bid to strengthen the side for their new adventure Rovers had signed several new players, amongst them John Forbes, the Vale of Leven captain, who was recruited from Scotland. His subsequent success encouraged Rovers to send secretary Tom Mitchell back to Scotland to scout for more players.
 
The first league season brought a respectable fourth place finish, which was bettered the following year when Rovers finished third, scoring 78 goals in 22 games.
 
The Cup was still the priority however and in the 1889-90 season Rovers once more reached the final. After defeating Wolves by the only goal in the semi-final at Derby and thus gaining revenge for their defeat at the same stage the previous year, Rovers went on to annihilate a nervous Sheffield Wednesday team by a six goals to one.
 
1890 saw a further piece in the jigsaw fall into place when Rovers moved ground once more. The move was prompted by the landlord of the Leamington Street ground raising their rent by an exorbitant amount. This led Rovers to cast their eyes around the town for a suitable alternative venue. Ewood Park was the site chosen. At the time Ewood was an all purpose sports ground which hosted football, athletics, dog racing and trotting. It had been built in 1882 by four local entrepreneurs. The club leased the ground for ten years to begin with, at an annual rent of £60 for the first five years and £70 for the remainder.
 
Firmly settled in their new home the club began to concentrate on playing matters once more. As holders of the Cup Rovers were amongst the favourites to take the trophy when the 1890-91 season began. They did not disappoint their followers although it could be argued that their obsession with Cup success deprived them of a first league title, for as they progressed in the Cup they put less effort into their league fixtures. Victories over Middlesborough Ironopolis, Chester and Wolves brought a semi-final tie against West Brom which was played at Stoke.
 
After a hard fought, end to end battle Rovers ran out victors by three goals to two. Their opponents in the Final were Notts County, a team that had beaten them 7-1 at home some weeks earlier. There were suspicions at the time however that Rovers had allowed County to win in an effort to inspire a fatal dose of overconfidence.
 
In the event it was the real Rovers who turned up at the Kennington Oval to give County a footballing lesson as first half goals from Dewar, Southworth and Townley underlined their superiority. At the end of the match Rovers had retained the trophy following their 3-1 victory. Rovers were the new Cup kings having captured the trophy five times in eight years. Unfortunately they had already reached the zenith of their cup career.
 
The following seasons brought mid table finishes and relative failure in the FA Cup with semi-final defeats in 1892-93 and 1893-94. The situation wasn't helped by the financial fall out from their move to Ewood. The move had cost the club around £2,700 and with admittance only costing 6d (2½ p) and gates of around 10,000 Rovers had to generate extra income by undertaking a series of friendlies.
 
The decision to spend £2,500 purchasing the freehold of the ground, although making good sense, only added to the burden. It was a theme that was to recur with increasing regularity as financial worries off the pitch held back progress on it.

The late 1890's brought a decline in Rovers performances in both league and cup.

In 1896-97 the club slumped to 14th place in the league and followed this up by finishing 15th in the next season. Because automatic promotion and relegation had not been introduced in those days Rovers were involved in the end of season Test matches to determine their future status.
 
Their opponents were Burnley, Newcastle United and Stoke City. Three defeats seemed to doom Rovers to relegation but deliverance was at hand from an unlikely source. 
 
Burnley, who were now safe, suggested that the Division should be increased from 16 to 18 teams and that neither Rovers nor Newcastle should be relegated. This proposal was accepted and Rovers were safe for the time being. Ironically Rovers' John Lewis voted against the expansion of the league because he believed that the increase in fixtures would interfere with the industrial life of the nation as spectators sought more time off work to attend matches. 'Football' he declared, ' should play only a minor part in their (spectators) lives and in the affairs of the nation.'
 
The shock of their narrow escape galvanised the club and the Blackburn public. Fate also played its part with the arrival on the scene of the legendary Bob Crompton, who made his debut against Stoke City as a seventeen year old, on 10th April 1897.
 
The 1898-99 season brought an immediate improvement with Rovers rising to a creditable 6th place although they were knocked out of the Cup by Liverpool at the first hurdle. Rovers were entering a transitional period and in the following season they dropped to 14th. Even so there were bright spots such as the recruitment of one of Rovers favourite sons, Sammy McClure. A robust, vital man his enthusiasm shone through during the season that followed. The continued improvement of Bob Crompton until he became an England regular and his recognition as a prince amongst defenders was the cause of quiet satisfaction.
 
The 1900-01 season saw Rovers finish 9th and the 1901-02 season brought another improvement when they finished fourth. The game of the season was against eventual champions Sunderland at Ewood. A hard fought battle, in which Rovers enjoyed the majority of the play was eventually settled by a goal from Sunderland's Gemmell. At the end of that season Rovers lost the newly capped 'Kelly' Houlker to Portsmouth of the Southern League who offered him more money, a fact the fans took to mean that Rovers were not prepared to pay the going rate for success. In addition to this the loss of several of their Scottish players meant the side was breaking up. 
 
The 1902-03 season was not a good one and the team entered the last part of the season facing a real threat of relegation. Amazingly Blackburn put together a run of good form in their final five games, taking seven points from a possible ten to save themselves. 
 
More lean years followed as the club concentrated on improving facilities at the ground. In 1905 cover for 12,000 spectators, at a cost of £1,680 was provided at one end of the ground. A year later a 395-foot long stand was erected along Nuttall Street , underneath which new changing rooms and offices were constructed. In a period of ten years £23,000 had been spent on ground improvements.

Rovers dominate pre-war football.

Once these projects had been completed funds were released to recruit new players. Amongst the new blood that arrived was Jimmy Ashcroft, the England international goalkeeper from Arsenal and centre-half George Chapman from Hearts.
 
The transformation was startling as Rovers ended the 1908-09 season in fourth place. Other players who were beginning to make a name for themselves included Eddie Latheron who had been signed from Grangetown in 1906. The 1909-10 season brought a further improvement to third place as Rovers accumulated forty five points, their highest ever total up to that point
 
For a period of three months between October and January Blackburn topped the table until defeats by Newcastle and champions elect Aston Villa cost them their place. Even so their improved form was a foretaste of the good times to come. 
 
There was a hiccup during the 1910-11 season when an atrocious start to the season meant that Rovers spent the season playing catch up. A final position of 12th was better than at one time seemed likely. 
 
With success in the league out of the question a Cup run was of vital importance. In an effort to improve their chances when Rovers were drawn away to Southend a £400 inducement was offered to the Essex side to play the tie at Ewood A 5-1 home win was ample compensation. The next match was a home tie with Tottenham but before this could be played Rovers astounded the football world by signing the great John Simpson in February 1911.
 
After a goalless draw at Ewood, Rovers travelled South to Spurs for the replay where goals from Bradshaw and Davies eased Blackburn through to the next round. The next two matches were both away. The first brought a 3-0 victory at Middlesborough and the second saw West Ham pipped by 3 goals to two at Upton Park.
 
A semi-final fixture against Bradford City at Bramall Lane was Rovers reward. As overwhelming favourites Blackburn went into the game full of confidence. Four thousand fans left on special trains bound for Sheffield. Unfortunately many Rovers players suffered a dose of first night nerves and failed to play to their potential. The result was a dismal 0-3 defeat.
 
Rovers were now on the verge of the greatest period in their league history. When the 1911-12 season began with two defeats in the first three games no one could have suspected what was to follow. Although the team's form improved, it was not until George Chapman was played at centre-forward and scored in nine successive games, that they began to climb up the table. An undefeated run that lasted three months brought the leadership of the division with it. Following a defeat by Bolton Rovers went on another run accumulating nine points from the next five games and a 4-1 defeat of West Bromwich brought the Division One championship to Ewood for the first time.
 
At the same time Rovers were enjoying another good cup run. A fourth round replay victory over Manchester United brought a semi final against West Brom and the prospect of doing the 'Double' loomed ever larger. It was not to be however for after a goalless draw at Liverpool the replay at Sheffield saw Rovers lose by the only goal of the game. For some fans winning the league still did not compensate for defeat in the FA Cup. 
 
Every effort was made to retain the title and both Danny Shea and Joe Hodkinson were signed with that aim in mind. Unfortunately the team could not repeat their form of the previous year and they eventually finished in fifth place.
 
The 1913-14 season began with the team hitting top form from day one. They began with five straight wins and never looked back, remaining undefeated until the eleventh game. With the defence in supreme form and Danny Shea hitting twenty-eight goals Rovers were able to successfully overcome deficiencies in other areas. Such was their dominance of the division they secured the title with four games remaining.
 
War broke out during the following season and as a consequence the importance of football in the eyes of the nation diminished. Although the team finished third in that first year it meant little except as a pointer to what might have been achieved had the war not intervened. Sadly Rovers have never recovered the pre-eminence they enjoyed in those bygone days.

The resumption of football after World War I

It wasn't until 1919 that normal service was re-introduced following the end of World War I.
 
The recommencement of the Football League and the return to normality it signposted was welcomed by the public at large.
 
For Rovers it was a time of transition as the great pre-war side had to be replaced. Initial signs were not good as the team struggled at the foot of the division.
 
Indeed it soon became obvious that unless action was taken Rovers were bound for the Second Division. Despite the signings of David Rollo, Frank Reilly, Ronnie Sewell and Levy Thorpe it took the arrival of Norman Rodgers from Stockport to spark a recovery.
 
Even so with four games left Rovers looked like they were down and out. The first match against Aston Villa ended in a 5-1 victory for Rovers.
 
Two games against Manchester United followed from which Rovers gleaned three valuable points. The final game found them a point behind Notts County.
 
However whilst Rovers were beating Sheffield United by four goals to nil, County were losing by a similar margin to Manchester United and so Rovers escaped by the skin of their teeth.
 
The following season brought a much-improved effort as the club climbed to eleventh place. In February 1922 the Rovers appointed their first full-time manager. The highly regarded Jack Carr was the man chosen. However despite the signing of quality players such as Harper and Puddefoot success proved elusive.
 
Embarrassing Cup defeats at the hands of amateur sides Corinthians and South Shields brought Carr's reign to a premature end even though he did lead the club to another Cup semi-final in 1925. On that occasion they lost 1-3 to Cardiff City at Meadow Lane. Their league form meanwhile, remained disappointing.

Mr. Blackburn - Bob Crompton rescues Rovers.

The man Rovers turned to, to rescue them from the doldrums, was non other than the original Mr Blackburn himself, Bob Crompton. 
 
Gradually Crompton's influence as unofficial manager, began to permeate the club and slowly but surely fortunes on the field improved as the club finished 12th, 7th and 6th during the first three years of his reign. Even though league form improved considerably the highlight of these years was the cup run of 1927-28.
 
Blackburn's second goal at Wembley in 1928, scored by inside-left Tommy McLean. Rovers are in the dark shirts.
 
The third round brought a home tie against Newcastle United. Almost twenty eight thousand spectators turned out to witness an excellent Blackburn performance as two goals from Mitchell, added to strikes from Puddefoot and Thomewell, resulted in a 4-1 victory. 
 
In the next round Rovers were drawn away to Exeter City. This was the biggest day in the Grecians history and they were not about to give Blackburn an easy passage. Even so Rovers took a two goal lead following efforts from Roscamp and Rigby.
 
Exeter, however fought back spiritedly and as the pitch turned into a mud bath they were awarded a controversial penalty kick which they converted. Scenes of jubilation soon followed when Mason equalised for the Devon club. Indeed it required all the courage and vigour that Rankin and Hutton possessed to enable Rovers to escape with a draw.
 
The replay was equally hard fought with the tie going to extra time after Exeter had taken an early lead. Roscamp tied the game in normal time and further goals from Mitchell and Puddefoot finally saw off the dogged Third Division side. 
 
The fifth round brought Port Vale to Ewood and goals from Roscamp and Mitchell sent Rovers safely through to a quarter-final tie at Ewood with Manchester United.
 
With the town in the grip of cup fever it was fully expected that a new record attendance figure would be set. In the event a rumour swept round the town on match day saying that the gates had been closed early in the afternoon.
 
This persuaded many fans to remain at home and so only 42,312 people turned up, less than the number who watched the Port Vale game. 
 
The stayaways missed a fierce contest with United's brutal tackling causing much offence in the crowd. Rovers had the final laugh however when two late goals from Puddefoot brought a deserved victory. 
 
Blackburn travelled to Filbert Street for the semi-final against Arsenal as underdogs. They were given so little chance by their own supporters that only 3,000 fans journeyed to the game.
 
Overcoming early Arsenal pressure Rovers fought their way back into the game and then took the lead with a break away goal from Roscamp as the Gunners defence stood appealing for offside, Tony Adams style.
 
After this setback Arsenal redoubled their efforts and laid siege to Rovers goal in a vain attempt to equalize. The final whistle brought an overwhelming sense of relief mixed with delight at the thought of Rovers playing their first Wembley final. 
 
Blackburn's opponents in the final were Huddersfield Town, a team considered by many good judges to be the finest side in England. Amongst the stars who played for Huddersfield were Alex Jackson, former Burnley star Bob Kelly and Clem Stephenson. Despite Huddersfield's formidable reputation Blackburn were not overawed by their opponents and went straight onto the attack. Roscamp sliced a centre towards the keeper but, in keeping with the times, he sped after the ball.
 
Arriving just after Mercer had caught the ball he launched himself at the keeper knocking the ball from his grasp and into the unguarded net. 
 
After twenty-two minutes Blackburn scored again when Tommy McLean netted from eighteen yards. 
 
A second half goal from Jackson brought the Terriers back into the match but it was not to be their day for five minutes from time Roscamp scored his second and Blackburn's third to seal victory for the Lancastrians. On their return home the team was greeted by a crowd over 100,000 strong as the town celebrated their success in style. 
 
In the long term Rovers were unable to build on their Wembley win. Bolton knocked them out of the cup after a replay the following season and they were too inconsistent to mount a championship challenge although they remained a top side in 1928-29 and 1929-30.
 
The town itself was not immune to the problems brought about by the effects of the Great Depression and the mass unemployment that ensued. With money in the town tight it was inevitable that crowds would decline.
 
Rovers found it increasingly difficult to compete financially with larger, city clubs. Players began to be sold in an effort to balance the books. The sale of Arthur Cunliffe and Ronnie Dix to Aston Villa caused a storm of protest amongst the fans.
 
Adding to the ill feeling surrounding the club was their treatment of loyal servants such as trainer Moy Atherton who was unceremoniously sacked without explanation. The exit of Bob Crompton in February 1931 was equally damaging. Not a man to suffer fools gladly Crompton was subject to a mutiny by the team who objected to his strict methods.
 
On hearing about this Crompton agreed to stay away from the club. He then failed to gain re-election to the board and 34 years unbroken service ended.
 
All in all Rovers found themselves on a downward spiral from which they found it impossible to extricate themselves. The net result was that apart from 1933-34 when they finished eighth the club struggled more often than not to make an impact.

Rovers experience a decade of ups and downs.

Relegation to Division Two was the end result of this turmoil, following the disastrous 1935-36 season.
 
A good start that brought four wins in five games merely papered over the cracks and as their form deserted them Rovers only managed four more wins in their last 23 games.
 
Life in the Second Division was no easier.The best players left, not always for their true worth as shown when Ernie Thompson moved to Manchester United for a paltry £4,500.
 
The F.A. Cup brought further humiliation in 1937 when local rivals Accrington Stanley knocked them out after a replay. In fact after their 16th place finish in 1937-38 it seemed Rovers were more likely to enter Division Three than Division One. Then just as the war clouds began to gather in Europe Rovers put together a side worthy of their fine traditions. The catalyst for this startling transformation was the re-appointment of Bob Crompton as team manager, in all but name on April 2nd 1938. After saving the club from relegation Crompton spent the 1938 close season seeking new talent.
 
He eventually signed four players, Hardy from Aston Villa, Jack Weddle from Portsmouth, Billy Rogers from Preston plus Nobby Clarke.
 
The new season got off to a blistering start with wins over Tranmere, West Ham and Chesterfield. After losing the next match 0-3 to Sheffield Wednesday, Crompton tinkered with the team formation and added Bobby Langton from Burscough to the side. The result was another three wins and a vast improvement in the method of victory.
 
The all round improvement in the side was underlined by the best cup run for many years. Rovers reached the sixth round before losing a home replay to Huddersfield in front of 54,400 spectators.
 
The disappointment of this defeat was soon dissipated by Rovers 1-0 victory away to Coventry, one of their main challengers for promotion. Eleven points from the next twelve put them in the driving seat and by the time they faced Sheffield United in the last game of the season they were already promoted.
 
The Championship was still undecided however as Rovers had 54 points, Sheffield United 53 and Sheffield Wednesday 51. A goalless draw at Bramall Lane meant Rovers had the point they required to become Champions. 
 
Their return to Division One did not start well but after only three matches normal league games were suspended and remained so until the Second World War had ended.
 
The 1939-40 season did bring one noteworthy achievement as Rovers won their way through the War Cup Final at Wembley where they slipped to a one goal defeat against West Ham.
 
The War period also brought to an end Crompton's association with the club. Only hours after supervising the team in a match against Burnley he collapsed and died.

Rovers struggle after the resumption of league football.

After World War II the Football League began again in earnest for the 1946-47 season. The man charged with leading Rovers back to the promised land was Eddie Hapgood, the former Arsenal player.
 
The situation was somewhat different to that encountered after the First World War in that Rovers were no longer the wealthy, influential club they had been then. Money was now scarce and team building had to be done on a shoe string budget. The side was a mixture of veterans from the 1939 promotion side and youngsters who had emerged during the war years.
 
The team began well winning three of their first four games. It was however a false dawn and Rovers slowly slid down the table. By Christmas it had become obvious that First Division survival would be the main aim, the situation was so worrying that the club embarked on an unprecedented panic buying spree. £26,000 was spent bringing Jock Weir, Jack Oakes and Francis McGorrighan to the club. 
 
Amazingly Hapgood always maintained that none of these players were his choice. In any event the boost provided by the new players allied to the signing of Alec Venters, brought an upsurge in form and with it a narrow escape from relegation.
 
Meanwhile relations between the board and Hapgood had become strained and on February 19th 1947 it was announced that Eddie Hapgood had resigned. 
 
His immediate successor was Will Scott but a spell of ill-health meant that Jack Bruton was soon in charge. If the 1946-47 season had been poor the following one was even worse. The team was in a state of flux and lacked experience. Even so it appeared that Rovers might escape their fate until a run of one win in the last ten games brought relegation. It was not all doom and gloom, however, for a young player who made his debut on the final day of the season went on to become one of the Rovers all time greats, it was none other than Bill Eckersley. 
 
The first two seasons in the 2nd Division brought mid-table finishes and provided mediocre fare for the fans. The only highlight was the form of Bill Eckersley whose continued improvement brought him international honours.
 
Other youngsters were also beginning to make their mark in the team. Ronnie Clayton for example, who would go on to become a household name, made his debut in the last game of the 1950-51 season. In 1950-51 the club improved to sixth place in the league and in the following year they enjoyed their best cup run for 24 seasons. 
 
After outplaying Burnley at Ewood in the quarter-final and registering a resounding 3-1 victory Rovers approached the semi-final against Newcastle United full of confidence. The first game at Hillsborough resulted in a drab goalless stalemate. The second game saw Rovers on the wrong end of some controversial refereeing decisions and a penalty goal from Mitchell, five minutes from the end, ensured a 2-1 defeat. 
 
The appointment of Johnny Carey as manager in 1953 was the harbinger of a golden period for the club. Although one or two shrewd signings were made such as Frank Mooney and the return of former player Bobby Langton, it was Carey's ability to draw performances from his players that even they didn't know they were capable of, that brought a great improvement.
 
The emphasis was placed firmly on attacking football and the success of Tommy Briggs in scoring 32 goals, 33, 30 and 32 goals in successive seasons was symptomatic of this new swashbuckling style. 
 
The crowds flocked to Ewood to watch Carey's team and although promotion remained tantalisingly out of reach following finishes of 3rd and 6th in successive seasons the future looked rosier than it had done for a long time.

Young guns make their mark

Two more promotion near misses, in 1955-56 and 1956-57, when the team finished fourth on each occasion only served to underline the depth of talent at the club.
 
The gradual strengthening of the team as young players such as Ronnie Clayton, Bryan Douglas Roy Vernon and Peter Dobing were introduced and gained experience allied to the signing of men such as Matt Woods and Ally McLeod meant that Rovers were not to be denied a promotion spot much longer.
 
The 1957-58 season began with confidence high at Ewood for the team was now peppered with stars in the making. After a slow start the team started to show promotion form from the end of September onwards. At the turn of the year Rovers went on a cup run that brought famous victories over both Everton and Liverpool leading to an eventual semi-final meeting with Bolton Wanderers at Maine Road.
 
Blackburn took the field wearing black and white stripes and played the better football in the first half, opening the scoring through Peter Dobing. Two goals from Gubbins reversed the score line and yet again Rovers had lost a semi-final. 
 
Rovers did not have time to feel sorry for themselves as they were pitched back into the promotion race. Four goals from Peter Dobing went a long way towards securing a 5-0 victory against Bristol City. Whilst April brought a run of five successive victories.
 
By the time of their penultimate match at Craven Cottage Rovers could not afford to be defeated and a controversial last minute equaliser from McLeod meant that they went into the final game against Charlton at the Valley still in with a chance.
 
Charlton only needed a draw to go up with West Ham, Blackburn had to win. 
 
The Cup was a different matter however. Victories over Sunderland and Blackpool after replays brought the reward of a fifth round tie at Tottenham. On a poor pitch they overcame the home side by three goals to one. Next up in the sixth round were deadly rivals Burnley.
 
At Turf Moor it seemed the Cup dream was dying when the Clarets took a 3-0 lead. A controversial penalty, converted by Douglas, seemed no more than a consolation goal until a Dobing goal was added a minute later.
 
Rovers then went on all out attack and four minutes from time McGrath poached an equaliser to crown one of the greatest comebacks in the club's history. The replay at Ewood Park was not quite as nerve jangling as Rovers took a firm grip on the game from the outset running out comfortable winners with goals from Dobing and McLeod.
 
Maine Road, Manchester was the venue for the semi-final game against Sheffield Wednesday.
 
Over seventy-four thousand people saw two goals from Dougan overcome a dour hard working Wednesday side.
 
After a gap of over thirty years Rovers were back at Wembley for an FA Cup Final. Their opponents were the formidable Wolves team. 
 
Unfortunately the occasion was marred for Blackburn by off the field squabbles. Loyal fans were unable to purchase tickets, Derek Dougan asked for transfer on the eve of the big game, rumours around the town accused the players of selling tickets on the black market. A tetchy atmosphere enveloped the team.
 
As to the game itself Rovers just did not perform on the day. Once Stobart had given Wolves the lead they never released their grip on the game and two further goals from Deeley only served to underline their superiority. Rovers chances were not helped by their having to play much of the match with ten men following Dave Whelan's departure with a broken leg. This was in the days before substitutes were allowed.
 
Despite legend having made the Wembley defeat a major turning point in the club's history the facts do not support such an interpretation. The 1960-61 season brought a very respectable 8th place finish in Division 1 under the capable managership of Jack Marshall.
 
Men such as Keith Newton, Andy McEvoy and Fred Pickering began to win regular places in the first team. 
 
Off the field, the 1961 close season brought the end of the maximum wage. It was one of the defining moments in modern football. To a club like Blackburn it manifested itself in an increased inability to match the wages offered by larger clubs and a lack of quality reserve players. A real handicap when first team stars were injured. After a close season of hard bargaining Dobing and Dougan left the club although most players accepted the new terms on offer.
 
New stars began to emerge. Fred Pickering, converted from nondescript full-back to dashing centre-forward, scored 23 goals in 36 games in 1962-63. Mike England fought his way into the team instead of Matt Woods. The team was also strengthened by signings such as Mike Ferguson who was rescued from the debacle of Accrington Stanley's demise.
 
The net result of all these factors was a team capable of finishing in the top half of Division One several years running, 11th in 1962-63, 7th in 1963-64 and 10th in 1964-65. A forward line that contained men such as Ferguson, Douglas, Harrison and Pickering couldn't help but score goals.
 
Witness the 7-1 thrashing of Tottenham early in the 1963-64 season. 
 
That season saw Rovers emerge as championship challengers with an 8-2 defeat of West Ham on Boxing Day lifting them to the summit. Unfortunately injuries to key men such as Douglas and Newton and the transfer of Pickering to Everton after he became unsettled undermined their efforts. 
 
With John Byrom replacing Pickering and scoring 25 goals in 40 games the 1964-65 season was another good one for the club.

Unfortunately the 1965-66 season proved to be an absolute disaster.

The club began their season later than everyone else because of a polio outbreak in the town which meant they were already bottom of the table before they kicked a ball.

Injuries and loss of form led to inconsistant performances. A paltry total of only eight wins in the whole season meant that relegation was unavoidable.

The descent into the Second Division brought the departure of several players; Mike England was sold to Tottenham for £95,000, John Byrom went to Bolton and Fred Else was given a free transfer. On the plus side Welsh International Barrie Hole was signed from Cardiff for a fee of £40,000.

Three consecutive wins at the beginning of the season established them as promotion contenders. A further boost came with the signing of John Connelly.

Off the field former player Eddie Quigley rejoined the club as assistant manager and immediately began to put his tactical nous to good use. Indeed it wasn't long before Quigley was placed in sole charge of the club's playing affairs.

An Easter Saturday defeat at home to Coventry ended Rovers' promotion hopes but a final position of fourth was highly creditable. The 1967-68 season ended with Blackburn in eighth place, as did the 1969-70 season.

Sandwiched in between was the 1968-69 season, which saw the club slump to 19th position. That season also brought an end to the careers of Douglas and Clayton. Ferguson and Hole also departed for pastures new. In the meantime Johnny Carey rejoined the club, as administrative manager in January 1969. Putting their financial worries to one side the club invested heavily in fresh faces for the 1969-70 season. They signed Ken Knighton, Alan Hunter and Brian Hill for a combined total of £100,000.

The sale of Keith Newton to Everton in an effort to reduce the club's debt however showed which way the wind was blowing.

During the previous seasons Rovers had started their season well before fading away towards the end, in 1970-71 they began poorly and went from bad to worse. They paid a club record fee of £60,000 for Jimmy Kerr, who only played eleven games for the club before injury ended his career.

Poor form on the pitch allied to wrangles off the field didn't help the situation. When the club did enjoy a run of good form it was brought to an abrupt end when Ken Knighton was sold to Hull City for £60,000 in an effort to ease their torrid financial situation and so Blackburn slipped quietly into the Third Division.

In an effort to come to terms with their new found position the club appointed Ken Furphy as their new manager. A man who had considerable knowledge of the lower leagues. A poor start to the new season ushered in a period of frenzied transfer activity during September and October during which time the playing staff was revamped. Players who left included Alan Hunter, Bobby Bell (he was bought and sold within 14 days for a £30,000 profit) and Graham Moseley. Incoming players included Tony Field, Barry Endean and Johnny Price amongst others.

The final piece in the jigsaw was the signing of John McNamee, a tough defender who was brought in to add physical presence to the team.

As the new team gelled the club rose to a final position of tenth. The following year brought continued improvement in the guise of a promotion challenge. On October 21st they took a point from Swansea and embarked on a nineteen game unbeaten run. Despite this run Rovers had too much to do to catch Notts County and the season ended anti-climatically with Rovers in third place.

The 1973-74 season was hugely disappointing. Ken Furphy left to manage Sheffield United to be replaced by Gordon Lee and the team could only manage 18th place as the new manager took time to evaluate the players under his control.

Lee used the 1974 close season as an opportunity to restructure his side. He already had a hard core of talented players in Parkes, Heaton, Fazackerley and Metcalfe. He added to this by signing Ken Beamish, Graham Hawkins and Graham Oates. Blackburn began the new season with an excellent 2-1 victory at Grimsby and that set the tone for the whole season. Their improved form meant that it wasn't long before Rovers found themselves at the top of the table where they remained, apart from one brief period until well into the new year.

The Boxing Day match against Preston brought an enthusiastic crowd of over twenty-four thousand spectators to Ewood.

Two goals from Don Martin and a third from Tony Parkes meant that the majority of the festive crowd went home happy. A 2-1 defeat away to Plymouth saw the Devon side leapfrog the Lancastrians at the top of the table. The return match two weeks later proved to be a classic. To the dismay of the home fans Argyle raced into two-goal lead. Rovers however were not daunted and even a penalty miss by Don Martin didn't cause Blackburn's heads to drop. Five minutes from half time Rovers found themselves back in the game when Beamish pulled a goal back.

The second half began with wave after wave of Rovers' attacks. After suffering a scare or two themselves Martin equalised from close range. Almost immediately a goal from Hickman gave Blackburn the lead. Two more goals from Martin and Hickman capped a fantastic fight back by the team.

A steady accumulation of points in the following matches meant that by the time of the final game at home to Wrexham only a five goal defeat could deprive them of the title. Twenty one thousand fans turned up to see them crowned Champions. The game itself did not match the occasion but a goalless draw couldn't dampen the celebrations that followed.

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. 
 
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.
 
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.

At the beginning of the 1985-86 season Saxton was the manager of an ageing team which struggled to find any semblance of form.

Things were so bleak during that season that it needed a 3-1 win over Grimsby in the final match of the season to bring a last minute reprieve from relegation.
 
By Christmas 1986 the club were once again bottom of the division and this time the board reluctantly decided to dispense with Saxton's services. 
 
After an upturn in form under caretaker manager Tony Parkes, the first of many such interludes, new manager Don Mackay was able to maintain the improvement and a respectable 12th position was finally attained. 
 
The season was memorable for the club's run in the Full Members' Cup. Victory over Chelsea in the semi-final meant a first trip to Wembley for over a quarter of a century. Almost 30,000 supporters followed the team to Wembley to watch Rovers defeat Charlton Athletic by the only goal of the gamescored by Colin Hendry.
Fortunes on the field were turned round as Rovers finished 5th in Mackay's first full season. The manager's signing of big name players such as Steve Archibald, Ossie Ardiles and Frank Stapleton boosted the club's public image and restored some of their credibility. 
 
Even so promotion to the top division always seemed to lie tantalisingly just out of reach. Three consecutive fifth place finishes led the fans to question whether the club really wanted promotion.
 
Failure to strengthen the team during the latter stages of these seasons upset the fans and the controversial tactic of playing only one out and out forward during the home play off game with Swindon in 1990 only served to increase the number of dissenting voices. Rovers reacted badly to their 1990 play-off defeat finishing only 19th in 1990-91.
 
The arrival on the scene of one man, Jack Walker, was the catalyst for a change in Rovers fortunes on a seismic scale. With the team once again struggling in the league Don Mackay was shown the door and Kenny Dalglish was appointed in his place. The Scot, who had left Liverpool several months earlier, was charged with leading Rovers back to the promised land and this time a lack of resources would not handicap the Blackburn manager.
 
Dalglish's reign began with a 5-2 victory over Plymouth Argyle and his first four games in charge brought eight points.Taking advantage of Rovers new found wealth Dalglish was soon active in the transfer market. Alan Wright was signed from Blackpool and Colin Hendry brought 'home' from Maine Road.
 
A first ever seven figure fee secured the services of Mike Newell from Everton. Newell announced his arrival by scoring the third goal in a 3-0 win over Barnsley and he went on to form a deadly strike partnership with David Speedie. 
 
By mid December Rovers had risen to third place in the division. The untimely death of chairman Bill Fox was the low point of the season, a sad reminder that there are more important things than football.
 
As the New Year progressed Rovers appeared promotion certainties until an injury to Newell was followed by a catastrophic run of six consecutive defeats. For a time it looked as if they had missed the boat. Onthe final weekend of the season Rovers had to beat Plymouth in order to qualify for the play-offs. A 3-1 victory thanks to a David Speedie hat-trick saw them scrape into the top six.
 
In the play-off semi-final they were pitted against Derby County. Confidence was high but two Derby goals in the first 15 minutes at Ewood Park meant Rovers were on the brink of failure. A Scott Sellars goal around the half hour mark brought Blackburn back into the game and just before the half time interval a Mike Newell strike squared the match at 2-2. In the second half Rovers took command of the game and two goals from David Speedie meant that Blackburn travelled to the Baseball ground with a two goal lead. Although Derby cut the deficit in half a 2-1 defeat was not enough to deprive Rovers of a place in the final. 
 
Only Leicester City now stood between Blackburn and a return to the top division. A hard fought match was ultimately decided by Mike Newell's first half penalty, awarded following a Steve Walsh challenge on David Speedie.
 
Rovers were now able to take their place as founder members of the brand new Premier League. The signing of Alan Shearer underlined the scale of the club's ambitions, they were not there just to make up the numbers.
 
Their first season was a triumph as Blackburn finished in a highly commendable fourth place thirteen points behind champions Manchester United. The following season saw Rovers reduce this gap to eight points as United were again crowned Champions with Blackburn runners-up. It was their highest league position for almost eighty years.
 
Rovers did not rest on their laurels however and Chris Sutton was signed from Norwich to boost the attack. The star studded team now included England regulars such as Shearer, Batty and Le Saux.
 
At the start of the 1994-95 season the question oneveryone's lips was who, if anyone, could stop Manchester United from completing a hat-trick of Premier League wins? A 0-2 defeat by United in the Charity Shield suggested that Blackburn still lagged behind United. 
 
The league season itself began in fine style as the SAS strikeforce of Shearer and Sutton lived up to expectation. A single Shearer goal brought victory in the first game against Southampton whilst Sutton scored his first goal for the club during a 3-0 victory over Leicester City at Ewood Park. A goalless draw against Arsenal was sandwiched between a 4-0 thrashing of Coventry and an emphatic 3-0 victory over Everton.
 
A first league defeat of the season at Norwich was balanced by a thrilling 3-2 victory over Liverpool. 
 
When Manchester United visited Ewood Park the game was already being billed as a championship decider. Paul Warhurst gave Rovers an early lead but to their consternation a controversial penalty and sending off decision against Henning Berg, subsequent replays showed Berg had played the ball first, allowed Eric Cantona to equalise.
 
Rovers regained the lead through Colin Hendry but the ten men were unable to hold United at bay and three late United goals sealed a 4-2 victory for the away side.
 
Blackburn bounced back from this disappointment in tremendous style, a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest began a run of eight successive victories. The return game with Manchester United turned out to be another tense, hard fought affair decided by a single Eric Cantona goal. Home wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Wimbledon kept Blackburn in front at the top of the table.
 
A sudden dip in form resulted in a 2-3 home defeat against Man City, followed by a two goal defeat at Upton Park. With the end of the season fast approaching Blackburn were struggling to overcome their nerves.
 
An Alan Shearer goal in the final home game of the season was enough to see off a dogged Newcastle side and so everything hinged on the final game of the season. Rovers, with a two point advantage, travelled to Anfield to face Liverpool while United were away to West Ham.
 
An early goal from Shearer put Rovers in the driving seat and news of an early goal for West Ham had the Blackburn fans dancing with delight. Liverpool with only pride to play for began to take control of the match. Barnes equalised for the home side as news filtered through that United too had equalised
 
A late Jamie Redknapp strike piled on the agony for the Rovers fans. However United couldn't force a winner against West Ham and so Blackburn's defeat became academic. Rovers were crowned Champions of England for the first time in 81 years.

They were in the European Cup for the first time and had regained their position as England's premier club.

 

 

Almost inevitably the following season was an anti-climax, a serious injury to Alan Shearer cut off the goal supply and Rovers eventually finished 7th.

In keeping with their other continental adventures the European Cup campaign was not a success. The very public dispute between Batty and Le Saux, when they came to blows on the pitch, summed up their effort perfectly. 
 
The sale of Alan Shearer to Newcastle during the 1996 close season came as a bombshell to the fans and was indicative of the break up of the championship team. During the 1996-97 season itself Blackburn slumped to a disappointing 14th position.
 
The appointment of the highly regarded Roy Hodgson as manager halted the slide as the 1997-98 season ended with Rovers in sixth place and back in Europe. New players were recruited during the 1998 close season with Rovers paying a club record fee of over £7,000,000 for Kevin Davies.
 
The 1998-99 season began with the club full of optimism, afterall Man Utd and Blackburn were the only two clubs to have accumulated over 400 Premier League points. Nobody forsaw what was to come. The Davies signing was not a success however and as the club's form on the field declined Roy Hodgson's position came under increasing threat.
 
Eventually he was sacked and replaced by Brian Kidd. His arrival brought a short lived respite from the poor run but the revival could not be sustained and Rovers' stint in the Premier League had come to an end.
 
The new season began as the old one ended with Rovers unable to produce the goods on the field. As they plummeted down the First Division Brian Kidd was relieved of his post and Tony Parkes was again installed as caretaker manager. 
 
Tony Parkes magic touch didn't fail him and the team immediately went on an eight match unbeaten run. With Parkes finally declaring an interest in taking the managers job on a full-time basis it was decided to confirm him in that position until the end of the season.
 
Thus as we enter the new millennium Rovers fans are left wondering how long it will be before Blackburn regain their place amongst the country's elite.
 
Although Tony Parkes was appointed as manager until the end of the 1999-2000 season events, or rather a run of poor results, dictated otherwise. At the time of Parkes' appointment Jack Walker said  "As soon as Tony made it clear he was interested in the job, the Board considered his candidacy along with the other short-listed names and Tony came out on top."
 
"He is a true Blue and White has always given us outstanding service and I have every reason to believe he will again be successful this time." 
 
During his short stay as manager Parkes did enjoy one memorable night when Rovers travelled to Anfield for a 4th round FA Cup tie and proceeded to turn the form book upside down when a Nathan Blake goal secured a shock win for Blackburn.
In the next round Rovers were drawn to meet Newcastle at Ewood and to the surprise of no one it was a brace of goals from ex-Rovers idol Alan Shearer that ended Blackburn's interest in the competition. 
 
In the League, results continued to disappoint as Rovers underperformed on many occasions. After a home defeat against Crewe in March speculation arose that Graeme Souness was about to replace Tony Parkes as manager.
 
On Tuesday 14th March Blackburn officially announced that Mr Souness was to be their new manager with Tony Parkes reverting back to the assistant manager position. At the time Souness was quoted as saying:
 
"This is a wonderful opportunity and just the sort of challenge I relish. I am delighted to be back in day-to-day management, particularly as the chance has come at a club as ambitious as Blackburn Rovers.
 
"This club is geared for top level football and has a proven record. My job is to help bring back the good times to Ewood Park and I cannot wait to get started." 
 
The club's reasons for its actions were put forward by Ewood chief executive John Williams who said: "The Board met last week and, in parallel discussions with Mr Walker, it was decided to appoint a new manager as soon as possible rather than wait until the end of the season. 
 
"The compelling logic is not just to give a boost for our remaining games but, more importantly, to provide time for a thorough assessment of the football situation at the club. This will help to ensure that we hit the ground running next season whichever league we find ourselves playing in."
 
A major breaking story in April was the news that owner Jack Walker was suffering health problems. An official statement released on 18th April stated that Mr Walker had left hospital and was recuperating at home. In June the story re-surfaced after another bout of newspaper speculation.
 
On the playing front the season ended in disappointing style as Rovers became bit part players at Manchester City's promotion party, held at Ewood Park on 7th May.
 
During the close season Souness strove to revamp his playing squad signing Craig Hignett from Barnsley for £2.7m. Other newcomers included Stig Bjornebye, signed from Souness' old club Liverpool. His team rebuilding continued after the season proper had started with the capture of the highly promising young forward Marcus Bent from Sheffield United. 
 
Shortly after the start of the new season came the news that all Rovers fans had been dreading as the death of Jack Walker was announced on 18th August 2000. The following statement was released by the club in tribute to the man who had guided Rovers back to the big time...
 
"No tribute from us, no matter how long or how detailed, could ever do justice to Mr Walker's achievements here at Ewood Park.
 
"Jack Walker was this football club's number one supporter in every possible sense. His love for Rovers knew no boundaries and his loyalty and commitment could never be brought into question.
 
"His remarkable drive and determination changed the face and fortune of the club, culminating in the ultimate prize in the spring of 1995 when we were crowned champions of the Premier League. 
 
"It was always his goal to take Rovers to the very top and, quite understandably, the title feat brought him immense joy, pride and satisfaction.
 
"Although residing in Jersey, Mr Walker played a hands-on role until recent months when illness curtailed that involvement in day-to-day affairs and left him unable to attend matches. However, he remained in regular contact and has, in conjunction with our Board and his advisers, set out a strategy to guarantee Blackburn Rovers a secure future over both the short and long term.
 
"It goes without saying just how much we will all miss Jack Walker, but he has left us with some fantastic memories.
 
"He always invested with great foresight and wisdom and his legacy is there for all to see - not least a superb stadium at Ewood Park and a top-class training complex at Brockhall together with a state-of-the-art youth Academy. 
 
"Throughout his illness Mr Walker was always adamant that Blackburn Rovers should regain a place in the top flight this season and we will do everything within our power to turn that into reality over the coming months."
The night of Rovers' Worthington Cup tie against Rochdale at Spotland gave a touching glimpse of how ordinary football fans felt about Jack Walker. After an impeccably observed minutes silence the fans of both clubs gave a prolonged standing ovation in his memory. Football fans everywhere recognised that Mr Walker was a true fan at heart.
 
Rovers 2000-01 League season didn't really take off until Craig Hignett made a belated debut for the club after suffering injury problems. In an attempt to add more grit to his team Souness signed the veteran Mark Hughes from Everton. The Welsh international coach enjoying a dream debut scoring twice in a 3-2 victory over Tranmere Rovers. 
 
Hignett's presence galvanised Rovers into a run of six consecutive league victories as they moved into the play-off places and closed the gap on the automatic promotion positions.
 
By the time of their 125th anniversary fixture against Wolves Rovers fortunes were on the up and up and a return to the Premier League no longer appeared to be beyond the bounds of possibility.
 
The current season has provided many highlights such as the crushing of arch rivals Burnley in the league fixture at Ewood Park; the emergence of Matt Jansen as a consistent goal scorer and the continued development of David Dunn into a goal scoring midfielder of rare quality.
 
Fittingly it was top scorer Matt Jansen who headed the winning goal at Preston to finally confirm Rovers' promotion back to the Premiership.
The net result has been to raise the spirits of Rovers fans everywhere as Graeme Souness has gone about the task of producing a side not only to win promotion but which can hold its own in the rarified atmosphere of the Premiership. 
 
In Rovers' first season back in the Premiership, finished a healthy tenth place, but the major achievement of the 2001/02 season was lifting the Worthington Cup at the Milennium Stadium, Cardiff.
 
Record signing Andy Cole and Matt Jansen scored the goals that gave Rovers a memorable 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
 
 
The 2002/03 season saw Rovers embark on another UEFA Cup campaign, they were drawn against Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia in the first round. Rovers were disappointing in the first leg at Ewood Park, only managing a 1-1 draw. But in the return leg at the Army Stadium, Rovers roared into a 3-0 lead through goals from David Thompson, Damien Duff and Egil Ostenstad.
 
But in true Rovers fashion, they gave the fans the fright of their lives to concede three goals in the final twenty minutes of the game. But held on to reach the second round of the competition for the first time in their history.
 
Fans eagerly awaited the draw, checking their European maps for far flung destinations, but Rovers were drawn against Glasgow Celtic! Tickets for the first leg at Parkhead were snapped up in record time, and Rovers put in an excellent performance against the hoops, but despite all their domination, they couldn't find the goals their performance deserved. It looked to be heading for a goalless draw until Henrick Larson scored an undeserved winner for the home side.
 
Rovers were disappointing in the return leg at Ewood Park, crashing out 3-0 on aggregate. Celtic went on to reach the final of the competition.
 
Meanwhile in the league, Rovers were ticking along nicely, a 2-1 victory at Highbury over Arsenal at the end of October saw them rise to seventh in the table.
 
Two defeats at the end of January saw Rovers slip to 12th in the division, but six wins out of seven matches, saw them back into the top half of the table, and as the season drew to a close, they were back in contention for a European place. 
 
Going into the final game of the season saw Rovers in 7th place, a win over Tottenham was vital to have any chance of reach 6th and a coveted UEFA cup place. The Rovers ran out 4-0 winners at White Hart Lane, whilst at Goodison Everton were defeated by Champions Manchester United, to see Rovers end the season with an excellent sixth place.
 
The following season, Rovers disappointed. The sales of Damien Duff and David Dunn left positions hard to fill, and with a shocking run of injuries, Graeme Souness's side struggled to maintain their Premiership status. Often flirting with the relegation places, the inclusion in the UEFA Cup ended up being a hinderance as Rovers lost heavily 3-1 away to Genclerbirligi of Turkey, and could only draw in the corresponding home tie.
 
It was only when Rovers put in a run of four consecutive victories in April that saw them finally put daylight between themselves and the bottom three, ending the 03/04 season in 15th place.
 
It was all change at Ewood Park a month into the 2004/05 season with, much to everyone's surprise, Graeme Souness taking over the reigns up at Newcastle United. The hunt was on for his replacement with fans favourite Mark Hughes being appointed. The former Welsh boss made an immediate impact, with Rovers' first win of the season coming just two days later at home to Portsmouth.
 
But after a poor start to the season, it took some time before Mark Hughes was able to influence the players, by the time November was reached Rovers were rock bottom, but slowly and surely the tide turned as Rovers pulled away from the bottom places.
 
During the January transfer window Hughes brought in three captains of their respective country, Ryan Nelsen of New Zealand, Aaron Mokoena of South Africa and Robbie Savage from Wales all joining, which shored up the Rovers defence.
 
But it was the lack of goals that was still the concern, they ended their league campaign in 15th place, despite scoring just 32 league goals.
 
The highlight of the 2004/05 season was unoubtedly the FA Cup run that saw Rovers reach the semi final stage, bowing out at the Millennium Stadium losing 3-0 to eventual winners Arsenal, though they did defeat Burnley along the way!

2005-06 saw Rovers maintain their fine form in cup competitions with a run to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.

2005-06 saw Rovers maintain their fine form in cup competitions with a run to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.
 
After defeating Huddersfield Town, Leeds United, Charlton Athletic and Middlesbrough on their way to the last four of the competition, they were eventually knocked out by Manchester United 3-2 on aggregate over two legs.
 
On the league front a strong spell of results over the Christmas period saw Rovers move steadily up the table, summer signing Craig Bellamy making his mark in front of goal.
 
With an eye on a place in Europe, Rovers ended the campaign well, and a 1-0 home win over Chelsea in the penultimate game of the season ensured a top-six finish for Mark Hughes' side.
 
Rovers were slow starters on the league front at the beginning of the 2006-07 season, the better results coming on the European stage.
 
After defeating Red Bull Salzburg 4-2 on aggregate in the opening round, Rovers progressed through the group stage unbeaten thanks to wins over Wisla Krakow, Basel, and AS Nancy and an away draw at Feyenoord.
 
Those UEFA Cup results helped with the league form as they slowly climbed the table, again the Christmas and New Year period proved vital as Rovers pulled away from the sides at the bottom of the table.
 
February saw their Euro adventure end at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen. After losing the first leg in Germany 3-2, they were unable to get the key goal in the 2nd leg at Ewood as the match finished 0-0.
 
Despite that disappointment, Rovers also had their attentions on another cup competition - The FA Cup. Impressive wins over Everton and Arsenal suddenly saw them in the semi-finals and a Old Trafford match-up with Chelsea.
 
Frank Lampard gave Chelsea an early lead but a first Rovers goal for Jason Roberts saw them draw level.
 
Rovers had opportunties to win the match in 90 minutes, but it was German international Michael Ballack who denied them a final appearance with a winner 11 minutes from time.
 
With Benni McCarthy finding the back of the net with regularity, Rovers ended the season unbeaten, their 10th place finish enough to see them back in Europe via the much-maligned Intertoto Cup.
 
2007/08 saw their campaign get underway in the middle of July as they resumed their Euro adventures. Victorious trips to Lithuania and Finland saw Mark Hughes' side reach the UEFA Cup, but they were surprisingly defeated over two legs by Greek outfit Larissa.
 
A steady season in the league saw Rovers maintain their top ten position throughout the campaign, but they failed to reach a coveted top-six place - and UEFA qualification - on the final day of the season.
 
That summer saw Mark Hughes leave his position as manager to take up the top position at Manchester City. Rovers replacing the Welshman with former England international Paul Ince.
 
His tenure started off well with five wins in the first eight games, but a run of just one victory in the following 13 matches saw Ince relieved of his duties following a 3-0 away loss at Wigan in December 2007.
 
With Rovers at the foot of the table, Sam Allardyce was brought in to rescue the situation and with a run of just one loss in the following 11 games, the former Bolton man steered the Blue and Whites to relative safety.
Allardyce's first full season in charge saw them finish a very respectable 10th place in the league as the cups once again took centre stage.
 
It was a season when Rovers met Aston Villa no fewer than five times as the Birmingham club knocked Rovers out of the FA Cup and then at the semi-final stage of the Carling Cup 7-4 on aggregate after two sensational cup ties.
 
The following campaign saw Rovers change ownership with Indian conglomerate Venky's taking over the club.
 
The new owners decided on a new manager with Sam Allardyce replaced by Steve Kean who had been first team coach at Ewood.
 
However, as the season wore on a run of games without a win saw Rovers slip closer to the relegation places, but a point against Manchester United at Ewood Park on the penultimate weekend saw Rovers all but assured of their place in the Premier League, which was confirmed on the final day with a win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
 
Rovers were back at Molineux for the opening day of the 2011-12 season, but suffered a 2-1 away loss to set the tone for the campaign.
 
The opening half of the season saw Rovers win just three times as the team struggled at the wrong end of the table.
 
Rovers improved as the season progressed but they had left themselves with too much to do. A 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Wigan Athletic saw fears realised as they were relegated to the Championship for the first time in ten years.
 
Life in the new division started well. With record signing Jordan Rhodes firing in the goals, Rovers were amongst the early runners at the top of the table.
 
However on the eve of their away game against Charlton Athletic at the end of September, manager Steve Kean announced he was resigning from the football club.
 
Assistant boss Eric Black stood in as caretaker manager until former title-winner Henning Berg was confirmed as the new manager at the beginning of November.
 
But aside from a 4-1 away win at Peterborough United, results under the Norwegian were not what was required and he was relieved of his duties following an away loss at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day. Reserve-team boss Gary Bowyer given the task of taking charge.
 
Bowyer won three and drew one of his four games in temporary charge before former Blackpool boss Michael Appleton was appointed as manager.
 
But aside from an impressive 1-0 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup, results in the league didn't follow suit as they slipped down the table. Not long after Millwall knocked Rovers out of the competition at the quarter-final stage Appleton soon followed out of the door.
 
Bowyer was again handed the reins, his task to ensure the team retained their Championship status. He steadied the ship with one defeat in Rovers' final six games to keep their place in the second tier of English football.
 
After the scare of 2012-13, stability was very much the watch-word for the following season.
 
Handed the job on a permanent basis, Gary Bowyer went about rebuilding a squad more suited to life in the division with a host of new arrivals and departures.
 
After a steady first half of the campaign in which Rovers were hovering around the top ten, it wasn't until the final three months of the season that they started to hit their stride.
 
Rovers ended the campaign 12-matches unbeaten and although they challenged late on for a top-six finish, the season probably ended just a match too soon as they missed out by just two points.