This season we're looking back on that memorable and historic achievement of 1994-95, 25 years on, with a member of that team.
Rob Coar was Rovers' Chairman at the time, and he was next to take a trip down memory lane for our programme against Stoke City to reflect on some magical times...
Rob, what are your standout memories from Rovers’ historic Premiership title win 25 years ago?
The last few games towards the end of the season, we never seemed to play our games at the same time – and sometimes not even on the same day – as Manchester United. I suppose that added to the drama, but when you’re involved, it’s makes things more difficult. Do you watch the other games on TV or do you go for a walk? I actually took the dog for a walk, because I couldn’t watch the other game, and when I came back, if the family weren’t at the gate waiting for me then I knew United had won. Kenny was certainly, outwardly, the calmest man around. We stuttered a little bit and then we beat Newcastle 1-0 and then we had to go to Anfield, and everybody knows what that day was like. We were up, we were down, everybody was listening to the radio and I remember Steve Curry, who was sat in the Press Box to our right, came and tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Rob, you’ve won. United’s finished’. Jack (Walker) was on my right and we were thrilled! There was a great moment when the players beckoned Jack onto the pitch and he had to climb over the front. The Liverpool fans were the first ones to help him over, because they just thought it was wonderful – whether that was as much to congratulate us for winning it or to congratulate Manchester United for coming second, I’m not sure! The Liverpool directors were great hosts on the day. They got the champagne out and we probably stayed for about an hour and a half, and then we all – the directors and Jack – went back to Northcote, where we stayed for about an hour, and then we all moved on to various parties with our families. I got to the Bonny Inn at about 10.30pm and left at about 2.30am! And it was still buzzing then! It was just a wonderful night. We then had the parade around the town the next day, which Ken Beamish organised. I remember going under Darwen Street bridge and because we were on an open top bus, Jack was stood up at the front and I remember thinking ‘crikey, I don’t know if he needs to duck here’, so I told him to get his head down! That was then the start of the great summer, with the anticipation of Champions League football the next season.
What were the sequence of events leading up to you becoming Chairman of the football club?
Jack had assumed control in early 1991 and Bill Fox was the Chairman. Bill died pretty suddenly in December 1991 and I was vice-chairman. I was the last to have joined the Board, but Bill Fox said he would only be Chairman if I would be vice-chairman. I’d always said to Jack that I didn’t really want to be Chairman, because I still had my own business to run. And then when Bill died, I rang Jack up on a Monday morning and broke the sad news. He then rang me back at 4pm and we took it on from there. He said ‘you’re the one person who can do it, so you’ll have to do it and we’ll help you with the business’, which he did. Jack and I got on pretty well. I used to send him a fax three nights a week, saying what had been going on and if there were contract negotiations. As we went on, I had certain parameters which I could work with and the parameters got a bit bigger, because we were both experienced enough to know what we needed the other for. We then started building the ground in September 1992 and we built it all in 20 months.
You oversaw a number of club record signings, including the likes of Alan Shearer from Southampton and Chris Sutton from Norwich City. What was that like to be involved in?
Between 1991 and 1998, I did the lot. I remember coming back from Blackpool Victoria Hospital and I got a telephone call from Kenny (Dalglish) asking if I could be at Charnock Richard at 6pm that night, because he thought he’d got the Shearer deal sorted out. I’d been dealing with the Southampton Chairman, Guy Askham, all summer and they agreed to £3m, but they wanted David Speedie as well in return, which made it up to £3.3m. Then there was the Chris Sutton saga. We’d been after Chris for a while and we knew he wanted to come to us. I was at a Test Match at Old Trafford on July 1st and I knew that once it had gone past June 30th, they might be more interested in receiving a bid, because it would be in their new year, rather than their old year. So I got through to their Chairman and he said ‘now that you’ve rung me about Mr Sutton, I suppose I’d better put a bit of a deal together’. That immediately told me that he knew that Chris wanted to come to us. So he flew up the following day and he had a piece of paper with it all typed out and he said ‘those are the conditions of the sale, that’s the condition of the contract, everything must be agreed otherwise we have no deal, because I have Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle all interested, but he wants to come to you, which you obviously know about’. Jack was in New York, so I rang him when I got home and he agreed to do it. I then sent a confirmation fax at 6.30am the next morning, accepting the conditions, and asking for permission to speak to Chris Sutton. Chris and his father came up to my house, we thrashed out the deal, dotted the Is and crossed the Ts, and then the bombshell came when we were told we couldn’t announce it for five days because they were going to go through the whole exercise again with those five other clubs!
What was Kenny Dalglish like to work with?
Kenny was very good to work with. It wasn’t easy, because Kenny very rarely spoke to Jack. We had a set routine with Jack. In the early days, he would fly over from Jersey in the morning and at 12 o’clock we would go through any things that needed doing. He’d agreed with Kenny that we would go into the dressing room between 2.35pm and at 2.45pm, because that was the only contact Jack ever had with the players. Jack liked to do the personal bit with all the players, which he did extremely well. As far as Kenny was concerned, I used to go down to the training ground at least three lunchtimes a week and I’d sit on the staff table with Kenny, Ray Harford and Tony Parkes, have a bowl of soup and a roll, and I’d ask Kenny if he needed me for anything or if he had any problems and then we’d go into his office for a chat. Sometimes it would involve Jack, but he never wanted to speak to him on a Saturday, because I was his go-between. So Kenny used me to give bits of news to Jack. He’d rather be running the football club than spending hours on a telephone and Jack understood that, so I was always the face of the Board.
Finally, how proud are you of what the club achieved, bringing all those good times to Blackburn, during your reign as Chairman?
We all have great pride in what happened. I think we were extremely fortunate that we had somebody like Jack Walker who could actually make it happen, because without Jack we would never have had any chance. It was always Bill Fox’s idea to get in the First Division, but the way football moved on, led by Jack, we were extremely fortunate that we had him, but everybody grafted and everybody did their job to make it work.