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1925 - 1934: The cup that cheers

14 May 2014

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.

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