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Champions: Stuart Ripley

We're marking the 25-year anniversary of our club's greatest ever season

3 September 2019

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.

Stuart Ripley was next to take a trip down memory lane for our programme against Middlesbrough, to reflect on some magical times...

Stuart, you will always be remembered for your time at Rovers, where you won the Premier League, but being a Middlesbrough lad, what was it like getting to play so many games for your hometown club?

I played for two big teams, in terms of the 1986-87 Middlesbrough side and obviously the championship-winning side for Blackburn Rovers. I’m a Middlesbrough lad, so it’s a big deal to play for your hometown team and the club that you supported all your life, so it was great and I loved every minute of my days at Middlesbrough.

What was the 1986-97 Third Division promotion-winning season like?

It was very strange actually because the club went into liquidation and they’d shut the gates. All the experienced players left and we were left with a squad of about 13 or 14 players who had nowhere to go really. It turned out that they were a good bunch of lads and we formed a good side that got back-to-back promotions.

And a certain Tony Mowbray was part of that team as well, is that right?

Yes, Tony was there. I’ve known Tony ever since I joined the club. I think he’s a couple of years older than me, but we spent a lot of years together. He’s a lovely guy and a brilliant coach, but just a nice fella.

Any good stories from your time together at Middlesbrough?

He was always sensible, even when he was a young kid! We were all daft as brushes, but he was pretty sensible. He was always a leader from the off, even at the age of 19 or 20, he was always captain material, coach material and manager material. So it’s no surprise to me that he’s done so well post his playing career.

You were also part of the 1991-92 promotion-winning team. What was that like?

That was a brilliant season and I enjoyed that because I was injury-free and I played a lot of games and we had a good side. Middlesbrough obviously got promoted that season and I’d made the decision to leave at that point, because I wanted to leave my hometown club on a high and that was the reason I asked to leave at that point and it was a good decision because whenever I go back to Middlesbrough I’m remembered by the fans in a positive way.

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You joined Rovers that summer – how did that move come about?

Strangely enough, Rovers played Leicester in the play-off final and Brian Little was the manager of Leicester and Brain had rung me up prior to that game being played and said ‘if we get into the Premier League, I’d like you to come to Leicester’. So I was hoping that Leicester would win that game! When they lost, I thought well that’s that chance gone to play in the Premier League. And then about a week later, Kenny Dalglish rang me up and asked me to come down to Blackburn, so it’s strange how things turn out!

Can you believe that this season marks 25 years since that historic Premiership title-winning campaign?

It feels like yesterday to be honest! I’m not sure how it feels for other people, but it’s incredible that 25 years have passed.

What was it like to play such a big part in that incredible season?

It was amazing really because we knew we had a good side. We finished fourth and then second and I think in the season we finished second, we started to believe in ourselves and realise that it was a possibility that we could win it. We fell over the line in the end, but we deserved to win that year.

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What are your standout moments from that season?

I don’t think there’s one moment in particular. The thing that I remember is lining up in the tunnel before the game, looking around me at the standard of player I was playing with and just believing we could beat anyone. Lining up against Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea – these types of teams – and just thinking ‘we are going to win, we’re going to beat you’. Just that general feeling of invincibility really.

For you and Jason Wilcox, what was it like having the likes of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in attack, to supply the chances for them to score all the goals?

Obviously Alan and Chris get a lot of the plaudits, and rightly so, but you’ve got to remember that we had Kevin Gallacher and Mike Newell as well, who were tremendous centre forwards. So that quartet of players were fantastic to play with. Clearly Alan stands out as the star player and when you’ve got players who get on the end of crosses, it just encourages you as a winger to put the ball in the right area, knowing that there’s a fair chance that Alan will nod it in the back of the net or Chris will get on the end of it.

What was Kenny Dalglish like to work under and how special was it for Jack Walker to see his dream become a reality?

Jack was a great guy. He put his money where his mouth is and invested in his hometown club and he got the benefits of that. Clearly, a time like Blackburn Rovers wouldn’t have been able to win the Premier League without Jack Walker. In terms of Kenny, he was a fantastic coach. His knowledge of football was immense and every game that I played, he would give me a snippet of information that would help me in terms of the full-back that I was going to come up against or the details on players that would give you that little bit of an edge on the day and at that level of football it is the details that make the difference.

Was there a good team spirit and togetherness within the group and do you still keep in touch with many of your former Rovers team-mates today?

Football is a transient world and people come from different areas of the country. The players from that team have drifted into different areas of life and different areas of the country, but you do meet up with people now and again, and when you do it’s just like yesterday and we can chat about those great days.

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Tony Mowbray is obviously our manager here now. You must still hold Blackburn Rovers very close to your heart and want Tony to do well here?

Yes, of course. I’ve lived in the North West now for 26 years and so I’m quite split really. Middlesbrough is obviously my hometown team and I’ve always been a Middlesbrough supporter, but the success that I had at Blackburn Rovers obviously gives me great affinity with that club, so I’m split really. I love both clubs.


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