Blackburn Rovers v Burnley
Sunday 18 October 2009
Ewood Park, Premier League
Kickoff: 13:00 BST
Since football official restarted back in 1992, a team called Blackburn Rovers have always been there, with the exception of two seasons in the wilderness.
Burnley back then were a team not at all known to the casual football fan, flirting between divisions 2 and 3 and not really making a mark in the football world.
THE PRIDE OF LANCASHIRE
Rovers were the original Chelsea (or Man City), paying big bucks to build their team around Alan Shearer (a mindblowing £3.6million) and Chris Sutton (another record breaking £5mill). After years of running Manchester United close in the title race, they finally achieved the big one in the 1994/95 league season, becoming the second of only four teams to win the (then Carling) premiership.
After the triumph of the Premier League in 1995, Rovers could be accused of becoming complacent. The title victory was quickly followed by the departure of Kenny Dalglish, the man who led them to that triumph, and Rovers faltered badly. Finishing bottom of their group in their solitary champions League campaign, within months it got to the point were they were unable to hold onto their best players, first David Batty, followed by the all-time Premier League goalscoring holder Alan Shearer. For a team that had been the best team in England 1 year previously, the signs weren’t good.
After a brief false hope of recapturing their reputation as one of England’s giants, the unthinkable happened. They were relegated in 1999, and still remain the only title winning team to achieve this in the current era.
For Claret’s fans, Christmas had come early. For years the butt of many Blackburn jokes, they would now compete at the same level as their more illustrious Lancashire rivals. Still reeling from their loss in the top tree, they would have to be ready for a battle from their bemused neighbours.
Within two years however, Rover’s fans were able to turn to their old ways. Out of the championship and back to where they belong, they know longer had to care about Burnley as rivals. And they didn’t.
This was a new era though, and Jack Walker’s passing on and a new heavily financed playing field meant it was hard for Rovers to pick up where they believed they should be. Their first season back was a bright one, full of enthusiasm for a club that still believed, a top 10 finish and another trophy, the worthington cup. However, that would be the height of their achievements.
While Burnley struggled in the lower tiers, Rovers likewise stuggled at the top. An uninspired Graeme Souness led Blackburn found it hard to cope shorn of resources and quality players.
A brief sojourn under Mark Hughes improved their fortunes however. In the 4 years he led the club, he led them from the perilous position that second season syndrome inevitably drags those rare survivors into, getting bargains for top of the range players (Benni McCarthy, Roque Santa Cruz) and finding un-nurtured gems and complete unknowns (David Bentley, Morten Gaamst Pedersen and the titanesque Ryan Nelsen), and firmly establishing Blackburn as a top 10 club.
Blackburn though, shorn of the financial clout of the early Premiership era, were more or less a selling club now. Big money was made, Bentley earning the club £17million and Santa Cruz likewise. Even the new big kahuna’s on the block Madchester City took Hughes, who had obviously done all he could.
Post-Hughes, Blackburn struggled without their leader. A lack of funds to compete with an ever expanding wage packet in the league and, at first, an inexperienced and doomed management operation headed by Paul Ince, led to Sam Allardyce’s appointment. He has done well so far, but Rovers are still tagged as “relegation candidates”.
THE GOD OF TURF MOOR
A rare thing happened last season, Burnley, never high profile, became the focus of Lancashire. Progression past titans like Arsenal and Chelsea in the Carling Cup already served as “season-to-remember” material. An agonisingly close exit to Tottenham in the semi-finals of that competition had won them plenty of admirers. A little club like that making Wembley is the stuff dreams are made of!
Burnley’s progress can be linked to great club fundamentals and the appointment of their own Hughes, undoubtedly the messiah at Turf Moor, Owen Coyle.
The club had been well run for years, but a little short on pride. Previously knocking Liverpool out of the FA Cup in 2005, they could boast that they knocked out the eventual European Champions. However, nothing much happened for too long.
Then, just around the same time Hughes left their rivals, Coyle strode into Turf Moor. Never as big a name as Hughes ever was, he could go about his business without that glaring light shining on him.
What Coyle did was immense. His team that missed out on Wembley actually made it after all. A well deserved fifth place finish in the league coupled with that great cup run gave them some valuable momentum. A fresh, workmanlike but attacking philosophy payed dividends and Burnley ran out winners, and the newest of the premier league faces.
He took yet another step to building his legendary status, rejecting a club as huge as Celtic to continue his revival of the Lancashire club.
There is surely no doubt, had Coyle deserted them, they would be finished already!
THE NEW BOYS
The team with the tightest budget and the smallest squad in the championship would now come up to the big league’s just hoping they wouldn’t do a Derby County, but probably would. They just spent £3million on their new record signing Steven Fletcher, have the smallest stadium in the League (therefore not packing in as much moolah as the financial savvy of the rest) and still a squad to envy the likes of Rochdale and Darlington.
Big surprise then, that not only do they lead their bitter rivals in the league standings, but they have also guaranteed they won’t do a Derby County, as they have reached the 12 points to avoid that unwanted record.
Their away record is dismal, but their home record is fantastic. Turf Moor has become a fortress, and not only can Burnley not lose, they can’t drop points. Every performance has been a special one, particularly their first ever home game in this division when they defeated the present champion’s Man Utd with that Robbie Blake (notorious journeyman) stunner!
THE RIVALRY REIGNITES
When these two teams kick off at Ewood Park on Sunday, expect the atmosphere to be absolutely electric. For the first time in years Blackburn have that proper rival they have always lacked, and Burnley will be dying to wipe the smug face off the Rovers faithful.
Can Blackburn retain superiority and get some well accepted points, or can the clarets break their away day hoodoo and gain some long overdue bragging rights. Let’s see on Sunday!
Ps. The head to head is Blackburn 39 – Burnley 38. Competitive Isn’t it?
Glad I got to mention it before Richard Keys 🙂
Watch Blackburn Rovers v Burnley live online here.