This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Rewind’ series, this content strand is where we rewind back to a particular moment at a club, assess the initial reaction from the fans, and then proceed to evaluate and reflect on whether fans were right to react in that way…
It’s probably fair to say that ever since his arrival at Ewood Park, Bradley Dack has been a key-figure for Blackburn Rovers.
Dack’s debut season with Blackburn, after a £750,000 transfer from Gillingham in the summer of 2017, saw him top score for Rovers with 18 goals, winning him both the club and League One player of the year awards, as Tony Mowbray’s side won promotion from the third-tier of English football at the first time of asking.
The following season would be Dack’s first at Championship level, although the step up he made didn’t seem to phase the attacking midfielder one bit.
That 2018/19 campaign saw Dack once again finish as Rovers’ top scorer with 18 goals in total, including 15 in the league, as the Lancashire club quickly re-established themselves in English football’s second-tier.
This season, it had looked as though Blackburn’s talisman was on track to beat his record for the club from the past two campaigns, as he netted ten goals in all competitions during the first half of the footballing year.
All that would change however, when in a goalless draw with Wigan Athletic on the 23rd December, Dack went in for a challenge with Latics midfielder Sam Morsy, and was left on the ground in clear pain, having seemingly landed awkwardly following that collision.
After several minutes of treatment on the pitch, Dack was stretchered off with his right leg in a brace, to an understandable amount of concern from all those of a Blackburn persuasion.
Those fears would then be realised just a few days later when, after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City on Boxing Day, Mowbray confirmed that Dack had suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament, meaning the attacker was now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Reacting to that news about their talisman, plenty of Blackburn fans were not surprisingly left hugely disappointed by Mowbray’s revelation, although some were still confident that the rest of the club’s squad would be able to cope even in the absence of such a key figure.
Sad to hear this, but let’s stay positive. We have a decent, deep squad and Rothwell and Holtby now how a chance to thrive in the hole left by Dack. Our win at Bristol illustrated this. 🔵⚪️
— Rob Young (@robjyoung) December 26, 2019
Wish Dack the best. But it is not like we dont have an abundance of attacking players who can step into his role. Time for others to step up.
— Ben Bignell (@BenBignell12) December 26, 2019
This is the piece of news that @Rovers supporters have feared hearing. Here's to wishing Bradley a successful operation and a speedy recovery and recuperation 🔵⚪
— Elaine (@elainerovers06) December 26, 2019
He’s out for some time then! Not good at all
— Joe Cullen (@JoeCullen__) December 26, 2019
Thanks for keeping fans updated. Big miss for the team all the best in your recovery @BradDacks40
— Daymo FX (@DaymoFX) December 26, 2019
Hopefully the owners of ours will see this and put some money into buying/loaning a replacement for him whose just as good
— Rovers Fan (@BlackburnRove15) December 26, 2019
Will be missed. Hopping for a speedy recovery and come back even better Dack.
— Marcus_RTID 🇸🇪 (@Marcus1875) December 26, 2019
That’s not good. Without Dack we aren’t even half the outfit we are with him.
— Shown 🕷🇪🇺 (@northernlad18) December 26, 2019
Indeed, it does seem as though those concerns about the impact of Dack’s loss on the side amongst those Blackburn’s fans has been proven to some extent.
Having picked 34 points from the 22 games that Dack was available for during the first half of the season – including that draw with Wigan were he was injured – at an average of 1.54 points per game, Rovers have since gone on to collect 18 points from their 14 league games subsequent to Dack’s injury, an average of 1.28 points per game.
Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, it seems as though the absence of one of if not their most influential players of the past few seasons is indeed having a negative impact on Blackburn’s push for a play-off place in the second half of this season.
That is something that is unlikely to have been helped by the extended injury absences of fellow attacking midfielders Joe Rothwell and Lewis Holtby, the latter of whom has yet to return to action since limping out of a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough on the 1st February.
It could also be argued that the club haven’t exactly helped themselves here, given they were the only team in the Championship not to make any form of signing in the January transfer window, preventing them from recruiting an outside replacement for Dack.
As a result, it certainly seems as though that injury to Dack was indeed something of a turning point in Rovers season, and considering what has gone on since that setback, you have to feel that if Blackburn are able to force their way into the Championship’s top-six in what remains of their season without their attacking catalyst, it will be nothing short of a remarkable achievement.