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1965 - 1974: The decline and fall

10 May 2014

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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. 

Ken Beamish starts the fightback from 0-2 down against Port Vale at Ewood with this headed goal.

Sandwiched in between was the1968-69 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. 

Don Martin slides the ball home for the first goal against Aldershot at Ewood.

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.

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