Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Blackburn Rovers F.C.
2.1 19th century: The early years
In the early 1990s Jack Walker, a local boy and life-long supporter who made millions in the steel industry, invested heavily in the club. He lured former Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish as manager and a number of shrewd player purchases followed, most notably Alan Shearer. This lifted the club back into the first division, just before it became the F.A. Premier League — making Blackburn one of only a handful of clubs to be founders of both the Football League and the Premier League. After finishing runners-up to Manchester United in 1993/1994, Rovers won the championship the following year. A slump followed in the late 1990s, with relegation to League Division One. The team returned to form in 2000 and secured promotion back into the Premier League and in 2002 won the League Cup, beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Blackburn Rovers is still the only team to win the F.A. Cup three years in succession. In recognition of the achievement, the club was awarded a special trophy in 1886.
19th century: The early years
The club Blackburn Rovers was the idea of John Lewis and Arthur Constantine during a seventeen-man meeting at the Leger Hotel , Blackburn in November 1875. The club's first secretary was Walter Duckworth, and Lewis was its first treasurer. Many of the inital members were wealthy and well-connected, and this helped the club survive and rise beyond the large number of other local teams around at the time.
The first match played by Blackburn Rovers took place in Church, Lancashire on 18 December, 1875 -- and was a 1-1 draw. Although the make-up of the team was not recorded it is generally thought to be: Thomas Greenwood (goal), Jack Baldwin, Fred Birtwistle, (full-backs), Arthur Thomas, J. T. Sycelmore (half-backs), Walter Duckworth, John Lewis, Thomas Dean, Arthur Constantine, Harry Greenwood, Richard Birtwistle (forwards), in a 2-2-6 formation.
At the time, the club had no ground of its own and no gate receipts. The only income came from members' subscriptions, which totalled £2 8s 0d during the first season.
During the 1876-1877 season, Rovers finally gained a ground of its own by renting a piece of farmland at Oozehead, on the west side of town facing Preston New Road. The ground was little more than a meadow with a pool in the middle that had to be covered with planks and turf when playing, but it did allow the club to collect gate receipts totalling 6s 6d for the season. Occasional games were also played at Pleasington cricket ground.
Subsequently Blackburn Rovers rented Alexandra Meadows, the home of the East Lancashire Cricket Club , for their matches. The inaugural game at Alexandra Meadows was played against Partick Thistle, the most prestigious club Rovers had played until then. The result was a 2-1 win for Blackburn, with two goals from Richard Birtwistle.
On 28 September, 1878, Blackburn Rovers became one of 23 clubs to form the Lancashire Football Association. On 1 November, 1879 the club played in the F.A. Cup for the first time, beating the Tyne Association Football Club 5-1. Rovers would eventually be put out of the competition in the third round after suffering a heavy 6-0 defeat by Nottingham Forest.
Controversy erupted during 1880 when the club used players not from Blackburn to fill in for unavailable team members — this violated what, at the time, was considered an important principle of the LFA. The situation became worse at the start of the 1881 season when a Darwen, Lancashire player transferred to Blackburn Rovers. The move caused a great deal of bitterness between the clubs and local populations. Accusations of professionalism began to fly, with Darwen accusing Blackburn Rovers of offering the player in question, Fergie Suter, improved terms. However, Suter had intially moved to Darwin from Scotland and given up his trade as as stonemason to play for the club. So the professional/amateur divide was somewhat blurry already. Nevertheless, subsequent matches between Blackburn Rovers and Darwen were fractious affairs both on and off the pitch. The teams were drawn against each other in the fourth round of the Lancashire Cup, and the clubs refused to agree on a date for the match. As a result the LFA ejected both teams from the competition. This type of controversy would only be resolved five years later in 1885 with the legalisation of professionalism.
During 1881-1882 season, the club continued to rent the facilities at Alexandra Meadows, but began to look towards a move elsewhere. As the leading club in the area, it was felt that Rovers needed its own ground. A ground was leased at Leamington Street and £500 was spent on a new grandstand capable of seating 600-700 spectators. Boards were placed around the pitch to help prevent a repeat of the crowd troubles with Darwen, and a large ornate entrance arch was erected bearing the name of the club and ground.
On 25 March, 1882 the club won through to the final of the F.A. Cup against the Old Etonians. Blackburn Rovers was the first provincial team to reach the final, but the result was a 1-0 defeat by the Old Etonians. There would be no repeat of the success during the 1882-1883 season. Rovers suffered a bitter defeat 1-0 at the hands of Darwen in the second-round, and local rivals Blackburn Olympic would go on to be the first provincial team to actually win the F.A. Cup. Rovers would finally win the F.A. Cup on 29 March, 1884 at the Kennington Oval, with a 2-1 victory over the Scottish team Queen's Park F.C.. The same teams would play the F.A. Cup final again then next season, with Blackburn Rovers again emerging victorious, but with a 2-0 score. Rovers repeated this success yet again the next season, winning the final against West Bromwich Albion. For this three-in-a-row of F.A. Cup victories, the club was awarded a specially commissioned silver shield.
The 1885-1886 season was the birth of the legal professional footballer, and it would see Blackburn Rovers spending £615 on player wages for the season. Despite the new professionalism, it was a disappointing season for the club — an unusually high number of defeats would culminate in Rovers losing its three-year grip on the F.A. Cup when it lost 2-0 in the second round to the Scottish club Renton on 4 December, 1886 at the Leamington Street ground. Further defeats followed in the other major cups that season.
19th century: The Football League and Ewood Park
On 2 March, 1888, William McGregor, a Birmingham shopkeeper and a committee member of Aston Villa Football Club, sent a letter five clubs — one of them Blackburn Rovers — suggesting that twelve of the leading clubs should organise a series of home and away matches between themselves. With the introduction of professional players, it seemed only natural that better organisation should be brought to the complex and chaotic system of friendly and competitive matches. On 22 March, 1888 John Birtwistle represented Blackburn Rovers at a meeting of a number of clubs at the Anderton Hotel in London. This meeting, and subsequent ones, would lead to the creation of the Football League, with Blackburn Rovers taking a place it. Rovers would finish the inaugural season of the league in fourth place, and unbeaten at home.
The 1889-1890 season would see Rovers again reach the F.A. Cup final on 29 March, 1890, and again win the cup. This time beating Sheffield Wednesday a sizeable 6-1 at the Kennington Oval. The summer of 1890 brought yet another significant event in the history of Blackburn Rovers with the decision to move again. The choice of new home was Ewood Park, and it would remain the club's home for the next century or more.
Early 20th century
During the first three decades of the 20th century, Blackburn Rovers were still considered to be a top side in the English league. They were league champions in 1912 and 1914, and F.A Cup winners in 1928. But the F.A Cup win of 1928 was to be their last major trophy for nearly 70 years.
Mid 20th century
Blackburn Rovers spent the next four decades bouncing between the top two divisions, without ever making a serious challenge for a major trophy despite fielding several players who made it into the England team. They were finally relegated from the First Division in 1966 and began a 26-year exile from the top division.
1970's and 1980's: More frustration
During the 1970's, Blackburn Rovers bounced between the Second and Third Divisions and never mounted a challenge for promotion to the First Division despite the efforts of successive managers to put the club back on track. They won the Third Division title in 1980 and have remained in the upper tier of the English league ever since. In 1988-89 they mounted their first serious promotion challenge for many years, and reached the Second Division playoff final in its last-ever season of the home-away two-legged format - but lost to Crystal Palace. A defeat in the 1989-90 Second Division playoff semi-finals brought more frustration to Ewood Park, but the following season saw the club taken over by local steelworks owner and lifelong supporter Jack Walker (1929-2000).
1990's: The Jack Walker revolution
Jack Walker's takeover was too late to save Blackburn from finishing a dismal 19th in the Second Division at the end of the 1990-91 season, but the new owner had made millions of pounds available to spend on new players. Blackburn began the 1991-92 season with Don McKay still manager, but he was soon sacked to make way for Kenny Dalglish - who had resigned as Liverpool manager some months earlier, after a six-year spell in charge had yielded five major trophies. Dalglish made several substantial signings during the season and Blackburn reached the playoff final where they beat Leicester City 1-0 thanks to a Mike Newell penalty. Newell, a former Leicester striker, had missed most of the 1991-92 season due to a broken leg, but his stylish comeback was enough to book Blackburn's place in the new Premier League for 1992-93.
Blackburn made headlines in the summer of 1992 by paying an English record fee of £3.5million for the 22-year-old Southampton and England centre forward Alan Shearer. Other expensive signings during the 1992-93 season included Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux, QPR striker Roy Wegerle and Norwich midfielder Tim Sherwood. An impressive Blackburn side remained in the title challenge for most of the season before finishing fourth in the final table, that season not quite enough for UEFA Cup place. Still, it was a remarkable comeback in the top flight after an absence of almost 30 years. Middlesbrough winger Stuart Ripley and Coventry striker Kevin Gallagher were two key signings who helped Blackburn progress in 1993-94 and finish Premiership runners-up to Manchester United. Blackburn broke the English transfer fee record again a few weeks later when paying Norwich City £5million for 21-year-old striker Chris Sutton.
Early exits from the UEFA Cup, F.A Cup and League Cup were frustrating for Blackburn in 1994-95, but turned out for the best as they often had games in hand over Manchester United in the challenge for the Premiership title. Blackburn led for most of the season but a 2-1 defeat at Dalglish's old club Liverpool on the final day of the season looked to have blown the club's dreams to pieces. But the news came through that their nearest rivals Manchester United could only manage a 1-1 draw at West Ham United and the league title was back at Blackburn Rovers for the first time since 1914. Jack Walker's dream had come true: within five years of buying the club, he had taken them from strugglers in the old Second Division to champions of the Premier League.
Kenny Dalglish moved upstairs to the position of Director of Football at the end of the championship season, and handed over the reins to his assistant Ray Harford (1945-2003). Blackburn made a poor start to the 1995-96 season, bowing out on the Champions League in the group stages, losing their first three Premiership fixtures, and being without key players like Graeme Le Saux and Chris Sutton due to long term injuries. But Alan Shearer was instrumental again, becoming the first striker to score 30+ Premiership goals in three successive season. Blackburn improved as the season went on, finishing seventh in the Premiership and narrowly missing out on a UEFA Cup place. Shearer was sold to hometown club Newcastle United for a then world record fee of £15million in the summer of 1996, and Blackburn were unable to find a suitable replacement. A terrible start to the 1996-97 Premiership campaign saw Harford resign in late October with the club bottom of the division, having failed to win any of their first ten games. Relegation looked a real possibility, just two seasons after winning the league. But caretaker manager Tony Parkes turned the club's fortunes around and they finished in a secure 13th place in the final table.
Roy Hodgson was named as Blackburn's new manager in the summer of 1997, and appeared to have had a positive effect on the club as they qualified for the UEFA Cup at the end of his first season in charge. But he was sacked the following December with Rovers struggling near the foot of the Premiership. Bryan Kidd, the hugely successful Manchester United assistant manager, was named as his replacement but was unable to stave off relegation and their fate was confirmed in the penultimate game of the season - they drew 0-0 at home to Kidd's old club and did United a favour in their treble glory.
The new millennium
1999-2000 was a difficult season for Blackburn, who began the season as promotion favourites. Brian Kidd was sacked in October with the club hovering just above the Division One relegation zone, and first-team coach Tony Parkes was named caretaker manager once again. He remained in charge until March, when the club appointed Graeme Souness as their new manager. Jack Walker died just after the start of the 2000-01 season, and the club dedicated its promotion challenge in memory of their benefactor. Promotion was achieved at the end of 2000-01, as Division One runners-up, and the club marked their first season back in the Premiership with a tenth-place finish and a first-ever League Cup victory. Blackburn's progress under Souness continued in 2002-03 when they finished sixth to qualify for the UEFA Cup for the second season running, but Souness's job was put on the line by a disappointing 15th-place finish in 2003-04. He left just after the start of the following season to take charge at Newcastle, and handed over the reins to Welsh national coach Mark Hughes - who had been a key player in the club's promotion and League Cup successes a few seasons earlier. He now looks to have secured Blackburn's Premiership survival for the 2004-05 season, and is hoping to mount a challenge for a European place in the 2005-06 season.
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|1877-78||Pleasington Cricket Ground|
|1884,1885,1886,1890,1891,1928||F.A. Cup winners|
|1882,1960||F.A. Cup runners-up|
|2002||Worthington (League) Cup winners|
|1987||Full Members Cup winners|
|1994-95||Premier League champions|
|1993-94||Premier League runners-up|
|1911-12, 1913-1914||League division 1 champions|
|1938-39||League division 2 champions|
|1957-58||League division 2 runners-up|
|1974-75||League division 3 champions|
|1979-80||League division 3 runners-up|
Performance in the top division
Blackburn Rovers has spent a total of sixty-four seasons in the national top division, finishing in these positions:
|1903-1925||R B Middleton|
- Blackburn Rovers official website
- BBC Sport: Blackburn news/results
- Blackburn Rovers Active fansite
- BRFCS fansite
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