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Feature: Blackburn Rovers – From rags to riches to riches to rags

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Blackburn Rovers Football Club are a founding member of the Football League.

They are a club that has won honours in the 19th, 20th and 21st century and are a member of the exclusive Premier League winners club.

The famous blue and white halves have been idolised in East Lancashire since 1875.

Blackburn, as a town, suffered with the decline of industry. Once a cotton mill town thriving with business it now has the unfortunate title of one of the most impoverished towns in England.

Yet throughout its decline Ewood Park always stood firm; a behemoth that thousands of loyal fans flocked to each week to watch their heroes play.

During the 1990s Blackburn reaped the rewards of benevolent owner Jack Walker. Mr Walker made his fortune in the steel industry and wished to ‘give something back to the town that gave so much to him’ and so took on the task of revolutionising Blackburn Rovers.

He turned Ewood Park into an all-seater 30,000 stadium, brought in Kenny Daglish and broke transfer records to bring players like Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer to the club – the infamous ‘SAS’ partnership.

For all of this the fans adored him. Affectionately named ‘Uncle Jack’ he became idolised in Blackburn.

His name rang from the terraces of Ewood Park and since his untimely death a statue has been erected in his honour, a stand named after him and a name still on the lips of every Blackburn Rovers supporter, man or boy.

All of this is so far removed from the current situation at Blackburn that one has to wonder: where did it all go wrong? Only 10 years ago Blackburn were still owned by the Walker Trust, set up by Jack Walker to ensure his cherished club continued to profit from his benevolence.

A Premier League outfit that were the scourge of other town clubs.

Ranked amongst the best run clubs in the country and chaired by John Williams you couldn’t help but think the future for BRFC was bright.

However, in 2010 that all seemed to change.

The optimism and belief in Blackburn turned to despair, embarrassment and antipathy. The Walkers Trust had sold the club to Indian poultry giants ‘Venkys’ for £23m. The move was originally supported by fans of BRFC – the Venky’s had passed the ‘fit and proper test’ by the FA and had promised to ‘absolutely respect the legacy of Jack Walker’.

Investment was promised and talk of Beckham, Ronaldinho and Maradonna rang around the drinking houses of Blackburn. All seemed good once more in the quiet mill town of Blackburn.

Fast forward to 22nd December 2010 and the news of Steve Kean’s appointment as the man to succeed Sam Allardyce is announced. All the talk of global superstars fell from the lips of supporters and talk of inevitable relegation rang true.

The experience and know-how of ‘Big Sam’ could hardly be replaced by a man with zero managerial experience, even if Sir Alex Ferguson did ‘highly rate’ the Scot.

The Blackburn fans remained patient and at first even supported their new appointment. As the losses began to mount up and the thought of relegation loomed large the supporters began to turn their fury on Kean.

Stories came out in the press highlighting the details surrounding Allardyce’s sackingthe agent Jerome Anderson kept cropping up and the involvement of Kentaro began to become apparent.

The unusual signings of several Portuguese players and the silly high wage contracts given to players such as Etuhu and Murphy became the catalyst for vociferous protests by the supporters.

The Venky’s no longer attended Ewood Park and the relationship between them and the fans was broken beyond repair. Steve Kean stood firm despite the hostile protests – the chicken being released onto the pitch, the fan sit-ins and the constant ‘Kean out, Venky’s out’ songs ringing from the stands.

On the 28th September 2012 Steve Kean finally left Blackburn Rovers.

A club that was once in the Premier League now languished tens of millions of pounds in debt in the Championship and was paying astronomical wages for ageing players.

It is hard to put a finger on exactly what went wrong at Blackburn Rovers.

The details surrounding Jerome Anderson have never been fully revealed and perhaps never will. Since the sacking of Steve Kean Blackburn have paid out millions in contract pay outs – terminating the contracts of Henning Berg and Michael Appleton after only months in charge.

And whilst the ferocity of the protests has seemed to calm the relationship between owner and supporter has still not improved, and like the details of the early years of Venky’s ownership, perhaps never will.

As of the present the club has 6 players out of contract, no manager and is going through a ‘senior management restructure’. Paul Lambert, who took over from Gary Bowyer, activated a release clause in his contract after just 6 months in charge, citing that ‘he and the club were heading in different directions’.

Such is the current situation at Blackburn the Rovers Trust have said the “2016-2017 season is shaping up to be one of the worst in living memory”.

All of this before the dust has even settled from last season. There was recent talk of a takeover by the ‘Seneca Partners’ headed by two life-long Blackburn fans Ian Currie and Ian Battersby.

Alarmingly this bid has been denied by the Venky’s, a claim refuted by Seneca that have stated they have had ‘no response despite repeated requests’.

Rather fittingly, the lack of communication between the Rao family in India and the UK base of Ewood Park is also cited as one of the reasons Paul Lambert decided to leave.

With talk of the takeover dead in the water Blackburn fans have turned their attention to who will be their next manager.

Recent reports of Manchester United’s U21 manager Warren Joyce have circulated in the media and has been met with some scepticism by fans.

The appointment seems reminiscent of 1998 when Brian Kidd was chosen to replace Roy Hodgson, a move which saw Blackburn Rovers relegated from the Premier League shortly after.

The other name mentioned is highly sought after manager Neil Warnock, an expert on getting teams promoted.

However, Warnock is also favourite for the Nottingham Forest job, a team that has also played victim to the Financial Fair Play rule and has a similarly controversial owner.

What is for certain is that next season is of upmost importance to Blackburn Rovers.

The level of debt currently stands at over £100m and the business interests of Venky’s outside of football also seem to faltering. With the parachute payments now coming to an end, and the patience of the ever-loyal fans at an end, the future of this great founding father rests in the hands of whoever is chosen to take on the responsibility of rebuilding an iconic fixture of East Lancashire back to its former glory.

Follow on Twitter: @Ben_AllenBRFC


ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Feature: Blackburn Rovers – From rags to riches to riches to rags

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