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1935 - 1944: Relegation and promotion

13 May 2014

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.

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