The though behind Blackburn Rovers Football Club came from a gentleman named John Lewis who was born 1855 in Market Drayton. The gifts he brought to football began in his days as a player and later he came to be known as one of the best referees in the country, presiding over several FA Cup finals.
November the 5th, 1875, saw Lewis and other gentlemen, notably Author Constantine arrange a meeting at the Leger Hotel in Blackburn where they discussed and concluded that they would establish a Football Club with the title Blackburn Rovers. The city already had a strong association with the game with existing clubs such as Blackburn Park Road FC and Blackburn Olympic FC. Their games were initially played at a place called Church in Lancashire as they had no ground of their own. This changed in mid 1877 when the club leased farmland at Oozehead close to Preston New Road.
This new ground itself was simplistic with its make shift turf and wooden planks to cover the heavy water logged; almost a small pool, in the centre of the playing field but it did generate a small income for the club with the ability to be able to charge a fee for the pleasure of been a spectator. Later Rovers leased a more suitable ground from the East Lancashire Cricket Club. Their debut match at Alexandra Meadows was played against Partick Thistle which they won 2-1 partially thanks to the football gifts of Richard Birtwistle who scored both goals for Rovers.
Blackburn Rovers first entry to the FA Cup came in November 1879 and got to off to a great start when they beat Tyne Football Club 5-1 in their opening game. Later in the 3rd round they received a humiliating defeat at the hands of Nottingham Forrest losing 6-0. During these times Rovers had out-grew their present ground and certainly were the largest club in the area. With this they did seek a larger venue and settled on one in Leamington Street which they altered and refurbished to make way for extra seating needed to cope with the current demand on visitors to their games.
One that nearly made it in the history books for Blackburn Rovers FC came in 1882 when they reached the final of the FA Cup and were up against the Old Etonians. However, the football gifts of the Etonians proved just a little too strong and Rovers lost 1-0. The following year the club were in no such form and only managed the 2nd round before being knocked out by Darwen 1-0 and to rub salt in the wound local rivals Blackburn Olympic went on to win the FA Cup.
Under new manager Thomas Mitchell they were victorious the season after when the beat Queens Park FC in the final 2-1 and again the following year beating the same club 2-0. And in fine form they once more won the FA Cup the next year this time beating West Bromwich Albion and in doing so were awarded a Silver Shield from the FA for their treble success. Blackburn’s form did see a dip from the previous years and were subsequently knocked out of the FA Cup in the 2nd round by Renton the year after but they did win it again 1890 when the gifts of William Townley scored 3 and Rovers went on to crush Sheffield Wednesday 6-1 and also 1890/91 season with a 3-1 win over Notts County FC, bringing Rovers FA Cup tally to a staggering five. During this time Blackburn purchased Ewood Park and spent, in respect of today a massive £1000 on extras and alterations.
After WW2 Rovers time in Division 1 came to end and for the next decade the club remained in Division 2 until making their way back to Division 1 in 1958. The silverware that they had been accustomed to in the early part of the century no longer existed, however they did regularly finish mid table. 1960, with the gifts of Scotsman Dally Duncan in charge they once again came close to another FA Cup trophy but were denied it in the final by Wolverhampton Wanderers losing 3-0. The 1970’s were not really a good period in the history pages for Rovers, spending the majority of the time between Division 2 and 3.
Their turn around in fortunes came when a Mr Jack Walker took control of Rovers in 1990. Walker had made his millions in the steel industry that he inherited from his family. His biggest pay day came when British Steel paid him £360 million for his company in 1990. The manager of Blackburn at the time, Don Mackay was sacked when Walker persuaded the football gifts of Kenny Dalglish to come out of retirement and manage the club. Dalglish soon made new signings and improvements started to take shape and were becoming apparent as Rovers climbed the table.
At one stage they were the only clear winners of Division 2 but it ended slightly different as they had a disastrous losing run and only just managed to grab a play off place. Meeting Leicester in the final at Wembley they booked their place in the new Premiership League, beating Leicester 1-0. It had been 25 years since Blackburn Rovers FC had played in the top flight of English football.
Their largest pay out for a player that broke all English Football records at the time came when they brought the 22 year old gifts of Alan Shearer from Southampton in 1992. Other quality signings were made like Chelsea’s Graeme Le Saux and striker Kevin Gallacher from Coventry. The club enjoyed a fantastic Premiership season in 1993/94 when they managed to finish the table in 2nd place behind Manchester United. Their record transfer fee in 1992 would also be broken this season when they paid £5 million for striker Chris Sutton from Norwich City.
1994/95 season saw Rovers in close rivalry with Manchester United for the Premiership title. It was neck and neck towards the end of season and having lost to Liverpool the club thought United had taken the title but they only managed a 1-1 draw with West Ham which made Rovers Premiership Champions. Later Dalglish would become Director of Football for the club and Alan Shearer had proved he was worth every penny that Blackburn had paid for him by scoring over 30 goals in 3 consecutive seasons, a record in itself. In 1996 the football gifts of Shearer was sold to Newcastle United for a world record transfer fee of £15 million.
The good times for Rovers were soon becoming the bad times when they ended the 1998/99 bottom of the tables and found themselves in Division 1. Jack Walker sadly died in 2000 at the age of 71 and in remembrance a statue was placed at Ewood Park. Blackburn Rovers FC is still owned by the family. They did achieve promotion back to the Premiership in the 2000/01 season and dedicated it to the late Jack Walker.
The 2004/05 saw Mark Hughes take the managers post at Blackburn Rovers and with it a more secure solid club. Hughes signed gifts such as Aaron Mokoena and Newcastle United’s Craig Bellamy and steered Rovers to a 6th place finish in the 2005/06. In addition the club earned a place in the UEFA Cup the following year.
Hughes left for Manchester City in May 2008 giving Paul Ince a short spell in the job. With poor results and 11 games on the bounce without a win he was sacked on December 16th and to be replaced by Sam Allardyce on a 3 year contract. Blackburn Rovers FC still currently play in the Premiership.
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