Throughout this special anniversary season, we have been looking back on the memorable and historic achievement of the 1994-95 Premiership title triumph.
Former Rovers manager Sir Kenny Dalglish, who guided the club to its first league championship in 81 years by securing the Premiership crown at Anfield 25 years ago today, is the next in line to take us on a trip down memory lane …
Kenny, you recently attended the Hall of Fame dinner at Ewood Park – did it bring so many memories flooding back of what was undoubtedly a brilliant time in the history of this football club?
Yes, but being selfish, it was always a brilliant time for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it. When Bill Fox came to the house to ask if I would be interested in being in charge of Rovers, he was a really pleasant man and I said I need to consider it. There's a lot of thought that goes into it and I need to know that it’s genuine and I needed to know that Tony Parkes was going to stay and I will bring my own fella in beside us, so if you can show me that you're genuine then I'd be prepared to have a go. So, they were really genuine and I spoke to the Board of Directors and I said if this kicks off and we’re successful, do yourself a favour and just remain the people that you are, because it's not going to be worth it for you. They'll be digging deep into your private life and you could end up front page rather than back page, so just leave it with us, because everything that you do for the football club and everything that Uncle Jack does for the club, we’ll fully appreciate it and we’ll try our best and we won't be squandering the money that he gives us. I don't know if the second bit was achieved, but I hope we put the pride back in the club for a wee while.
Is it fair to say that yourself, Ray Harford and Tony Parkes just hit it off working together?
The three individuals were different. But Tony and Ray, the contributions they made and the help they gave during my time there, on and off the pitch, they were brilliant. Tony’s help and advice on the players that were here, when we were coming in, and I trusted Tony with my life. No one of us made any more of a contribution than the other. We all had our roles to play and if somebody else needed some help, then you would help. Everybody in the dressing was totally committed to what we were trying to do. At times, some may have been a wee bit disappointed that they never got to play as often as they could, but it didn’t undermine their involvement and their help to move the club forward. It was a dream come true. It was a fairytale for me. The evolution was unbelievable and it was an absolute pleasure to be here. I’m really glad that I made a positive decision when Jack asked me. I was fortunate that he asked and I was really grateful that he did ask.
When Jack Walker first came to your house to meet you and talk to you about being serious about bringing you in, were you pretty clear in your mind that once you met Jack Walker, a hugely successful man, that he meant what he was saying?
Well his first words were ‘jeez you couldn't have done that well, it's not much of a house you've got’! He was brilliant. I think the thing people find most difficult to understand, he was 100% genuine. His love and devotion for Blackburn as a town and also Rovers as a club, it was 100%. He wanted them to be successful and I think he’d rather give the club the money to bring in decent players and trust me to do it, along with the backroom staff, than give it the taxman. It was 100% genuine. He was never trying to be clever and more often than not, he never tried to undermine you. He let you get on with it. If it hadn’t been for Uncle Jack, none of us would be here. This stadium wouldn’t be here, the stand wouldn't be here, we never even had a training ground. When we came in first, we used to go to QEGS or Pleckgate and there was two pitches and I used to go on Ray’s shoulders to put the goals up. But that was part of the evolution. We were just normal people that would hopefully do well at our job and do well for the club. The dressing room was fantastic, the whole environment, coming to work you really enjoyed it. The first season we got into the premiership, the lads were turning up and asking ‘what do we do with our training gear’ and I said ‘you need to take it home’. Shearer was taking his training gear home for his wife to wash. If he could do it, so could everybody else.
Tell us about the story of the group of fans who used to come and watch you train?
Ray and I used to join in on a Friday with Tony – we always won! It was a bit icy at Pleasington and the ball went out for a throw-in and the punters were around the pitch, and Ray went for the ball and he put one foot down and then when he tried to lift his other foot to kick the ball, he went straight up in the air and he took one of the punters out! They stopped coming after that!
Looking back on the promotion season in 1991-92, we were top of the league and then we went down a few places, were you ever nervous about if we were going to do it?
I suppose you're always a bit doubtful in your mind and even if the results go against you, but the players that got us into the Premiership they were fantastic. David Speedie was fantastic. He got 20-odd goals for us and when we got promoted, we had to try and bring in other players and one of them was Shearer and Southampton said we want Speedy. So I said to the wee man ‘I'm sorry, you're not going to get a game next year, we're going to sign Shearer. I totally respect everything you've done for us and I’ve got a whole load of gratitude towards you, but unfortunately you're not going to get a game here’. He said he thought he could drop back and play in midfield and obviously I said … ‘I don't think so’. His goals were really instrumental. We went to Plymouth in the last game of the season and he scored a hat-trick. He was brilliant for us, but you have to move onwards and upwards and he got a good move to rekindle his partnership with Kerry Dixon. Fortunately for us Alan came to us and unfortunately we lost the wee man. When we went through the bad run, I think Jack got a bit nervous as well. He wanted to have a discussion about what was going on, but we were well on our way with our Thursday signings. The first one was Alan Wright and the secretary, John Howarth, who was a great wee man, and I said to him ‘we've got a player coming in’ and he said ‘but it’s Thursday’ and I said ‘you've got 24 hours, it doesn’t need to be done until the Friday’, and he said ‘no, it’s got to be done by 5 o’clock Thursday’, so I said ‘you better hurry up then’! He was very nervous about Thursdays and then eventually he would say ‘who are we signing this week?’ Everybody bought into it and for us, it was a really homely, friendly and, fortunately, successful part of our lives.
What were the reasons behind handing Tim Sherwood the captain’s armband?
You need somebody who’s streetwise. There’s no point having someone in there who hasn’t got any idea what’s going on or doesn’t know the world or how the football world works. Alan Shearer is a captain in himself anyway. He doesn’t need an armband. There were people who didn’t need the armband to set an example to other players. You can do it in different ways. For me, I needed somebody who was a wee bit wise and who would talk to the other players who weren’t as outgoing. He did a fantastic job as a captain.
What are your memories of the Everton game towards the end of that season, when Alan Shearer booted the ball out of the stadium late on to relieve some pressure?
It’s the first ball I’ve ever seen go over that stand, deliberately! A few Evertonians have done it beforehand, but it wasn’t deliberate! We scored two early goals and that was a great result for us, to go to Goodison and win 2-1. That was a great example of how much it meant to the players, because they put their bodies on the line in the second half when we were getting pummelled. And we came out on top, so it was worth it.
The Newcastle game here at Ewood, just before we went to Anfield, what an incredible night that was and your goalkeeper was incredible as well, wasn’t he?
He had a quiet season, so it was about time he did something! Before that, we played at Leeds, we were 1-0 up and John Lukic, their keeper, wiped Shearer’s legs out and they never gave us a penalty kick! They then went down the other end, got a corner and they scored to make it 1-1. At Old Trafford, Shearer knocked one back across, Sherwood put it in and the referee chalked it off for a push! So there was maybe a few people against us, but we used that as a good selling point, because look at how gutted they’ll be when we win.
Talk to us about the celebrations after Anfield?
The first thing I said when I got into the dressing room was ‘phone Bistro French!’ So I phoned Dean at Bistro French in Preston and he said ‘this is the phone call I’ve been waiting for!’ I said ‘have you got any room?’ He said ‘no, but come along!’ And everybody went there. The players, their wives, their families, there was hundreds of us in there! Health and safety didn’t apply!
After the day at Anfield, did it just seem the perfect time for you to decide not to carry on managing the club?
You make decisions all the time in your life. For me, I thought it was the right time to move up a wee bit and let Ray have a go and give Ray as much help as I could. I was caught between helping Ray – I never went on pre-season training, because I thought they need to get used to Ray being the manager, so I stayed away – and I should have been closer to Ray to try and help, but I didn’t want to offer in case he thought I was trying to belittle him, even though I don’t think he would have. So maybe I was little bit stupid, but if he needed me, I was always there to give help, but maybe he thought he couldn’t ask or didn’t want to. It was stupid really, both decisions. My decision to move up and then when I was in there, I could have done more to help Ray and be a greater help to him I think. But it was a fairytale story and it always will be. And people can say whatever they want about the quality of the league at the time, but we were the best team in the league.