This season we're looking back on that memorable and historic achievement of 1994-95, 25 years on, with a member of that legendary squad.
Ian Pearce was next to take a trip down memory lane for our programme against Birmingham City to reflect on some magical times...
Ian, this season marks 25 years since we won the Premier League – does it feel like that long ago or can you remember it like it was yesterday?
It does make me feel very old, but I can get the balance of it does seem like a long time ago, but then I think it’s one of those if you close your eyes then you get the same smells and the same jubilation that we got in the changing room that day. I don’t think that will ever be forgotten, it was very special.
How did your move to Rovers from Chelsea initially come about?
I was in the England Under-19s or Under-20 squad that went to the World Cup. We went to Australia. I was made aware of the interest before. I’d been at Chelsea a long time, since I was 11 years old, so it was time for a change and when you find out that someone like Kenny Dalglish is interested in taking you, with Ray Harford, it just became a no-brainer, so I just jumped at the opportunity.
What were Kenny and Ray like to work with?
Unbelievable. Really, really good. But most importantly, just lovely people. Just being honest and very supportive. I was only a young kid going up there, 19, leaving down south, going up north, they made me feel part of it straight away. They looked after me. They demanded that you do well, but really all they demanded was the effort and everything else would come with it. So I was very, very lucky. as a 19-year-old, to be involved with such great a great management team.
Was it quite a daunting move and a daunting prospect, being such a young lad and especially when there were some big-name players arriving and some experienced senior professionals at the club?
Oh yeah. When you think about it, I was 19 and most of them were my heroes and the next minute you’re training with them. But the calibre of the people that were at the club, in the team and the staff, it just made it so easy. Some of the stuff that we were doing, we were training in a park and cleaning our own kit and all the superstars were doing it. I say superstars, they weren’t superstars, they didn’t act like superstars, they just acted like proper team-mates and made the transition really easy for me. I got my chance earlier than I thought I would and I managed to get in the team when I was 20, so that was really exciting. Like I say, I wouldn’t have been able to do it unless the people around it had been really good.
From an early stage, did you get a sense that something special was potentially building at the club?
Yeah. I think I came just after they’d finished fourth. You could tell there was a momentum going. Also, because of the way that the atmosphere was with the players. There were no prima donnas and you got told in the dressing room if something wasn’t going right or you weren’t playing as well as you should or putting the effort in, you were told. Some people get a bit precious, but there was none of that back then. It wasn’t personal. You were told if you didn’t meet the standards that everyone was after. The manager had this aura about him and a belief, and the players bought into that belief. And then the quality of the squad that we had, the quality of the players, I was just really very lucky to be involved in it.
What was the 1994-95 season like to be involved in?
Amazing! I was sub for most of the early part of the season and then I got my chance at Christmas and then I played the majority of games towards the back end. As a 20-year-old kid at the time, I was just excited to be honest. The thrill of doing it with such good people was brilliant. And managing to get over the line, I know we stuttered, but we still showed – as Tim Flowers put it – a load of bottle. Just because we’d never really seen it before and hadn’t been involved in a run-in. Manchester United had been in it year-in year-out, so it was just one of excitement the whole season.
What was Colin Hendry like to play a number of games alongside? Did he help you out a lot?
Yeah, amazing. The thing I always remember, in training if it was freezing, Colin would be out there in his t-shirt and shorts, blocking things, I would have about a million layers on. He was brilliant because he would just go and attack everything, he would drag us all through and I had the great job of just mopping up behind him. I had a bit of pace back then and we seemed to gel and work well together. You could say the same about Tony Gale as well. Galey had a good time with Colin and then I had a good time with Galey when I played. The players that we had, we could all get on and gel and I think that was the strength of the squad.
The day at Anfield itself and the celebrations, what was all that like?
Amazing. We were lucky because Liverpool don’t particularly like United and they love the gaffer, so they stayed and made such a big occasion of it. And with our fans as well. It was an amazing experience to get over the line and to get a title off United and share it with the people that had put in so much effort.
One of those people would be Jack Walker. What was Jack like and how much did it mean to him and the town that his dream had become a reality?
I think that was one of the best bits. When I watched it back and the camera panned to him in the crowd, for someone who had put in so much effort and so much work and so much time into the club that he loved, if it wasn’t for him then none of it would have happened. So that’s how big an impact he had. For me, when I was there as a young lad, he was always such a nice, warm man. He would come down and speak in the changing room, he always had a kind word to say and you knew that it just meant so much to him. Like I said, when the camera panned to him in the crowd and you could see him getting upset – and enjoying it – it just topped it off really. I was so happy that we could do that for him.
In terms of your career, does that rank right at the very top of everything you achieved in the game?
Premier League champions – not many people get the opportunity to say that. I always say, I was a bang average player, but I managed to be involved in a great squad, so it was an exciting time. I had a long career, a few injuries, one of the worst was when I hurt my ankle and I was told that my career was nearly over when I was at Blackburn. So there was the ups and downs of a sports person, but the up there, you couldn’t top that, it was amazing.
Will the club forever hold a very special place in your heart and do you always keep an eye on the club’s fortunes?
All the time. And with my job now, I get back sometimes to come and watch them, and you get all the old feelings coming back. Just great memories of the town, of the club and the players that were involved. Like I keep saying, and I really mean it, I was very lucky to be involved.