slough_rover Posted December 27, 2009 Share Posted December 27, 2009 Heres an interesting article from the Guardian section called "On second thoughts" regarding how our Kenny was more successful at Ewood than Jose was at Stamford Bridge. An interesting read... Blackburn Rovers' class of '95 - the very mention of them usually elicits dismissive snorts, quickly followed by righteous jibes about "Jack Walker's millions", "buying the league" and "bloody diabolical football". Compare and contrast that reaction to the respect, albeit often begrudging, accorded to Jose Mourinho's Chelsea. Perhaps Kenny Dalglish should have worn a trendier trenchcoat? Though he may never have led cops on a wild goose chase to protect a fugitive dog, Dalglish achieved more at Ewood Park than Mourinho did in fashionable London. Mourinho took over Champions League semi-finalists who already boasted world-class players and a pristine stadium - and after massive investment he shunted them up a few places in the league. Dalglish inherited a ramshackle outfit writhing at the foot of Division Two in front of home crowds of less than 10,000 - and after sizeable investment catapulted them back into the top flight for the first time in 26 years before turning them into national champions for the first time in 81. All in less than half a decade. That incredible rise should be celebrated more than Chelsea's. They may have been relegated four years later, and were rarely anything other than embarrassing in Europe, but Blackburn were undoubtedly deserving champions in 1995. Yes, their win justified Walker's expenditure, but most of all it was reward for eternal qualities such as speed, power, discipline, determination, intelligence, organisation, skill and goals - 80 goals, to be precise, more than any other team in the league (and, at a rate of 1.90 per game, more than Chelsea ever mustered under Mourinho). Most of those goals came from Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, both of whom had been bought for record fees. But so what? Almost all successful sides spend heavily and they're usually applauded for it - why reserve ridicule for a club who built sensibly after buying wisely when there are so many who've splurged stupidly and flopped? Newcastle, for instance, also set a record when they bought Shearer and what did they win? Nothing, because they were a defensive disaster. And how many goals did Sutton score at Chelsea after being lured there for £10m, double what Blackburn had paid for him? Sod all, because Chelsea didn't deliver any crosses. Any jackass can buy good players; it takes a shrewd eye to know which ones can be compatible, and canny work to ensure that potential is consistently fulfilled. Blackburn had balance. In Stuart Ripley and Jason Wilcox they had wingers who usually raced to the by-line, occasionally cut inside, but, unlike more celebrated widemen, almost always produced a telling pass. As did Tim Sherwood, who marshalled the middle in a way Spurs never managed to make him do, tackling imperiously and probing smartly. Mark Atkins was a competent, cheap stand-in for the crocked David Batty. They were far from long-ball merchants - indeed, Shearer's strike at Newcastle in the FA Cup, for example, was the culmination of a free-flowing move from back to front and a strong candidate for goal of the season; not hit-and-hope, then, but generally fast, powerful and direct, like the Liverpool side of the mid-70s, who, as Dalglish obviously knew, used a similar approach to establish national dominance. Blackburn's defence perhaps represented Dalglish's finest achievement. Here there were no bejewelled recruits - in fact, despite Walker's money, Blackburn had been unable to cling on to David May, who defected to the swisher surrounds of Old Trafford in the summer of '94, which is also when Rovers lost erstwhile stalwart Kevin Moran to retirement. So the back line included Colin Hendry, who had missed much of the 1993-94 season through injury after being bought from Manchester City for £700,000 (exactly what City had paid for him two years earlier); Henning Berg, a bargain buy from Lillestrom; and Graeme Le Saux, salvaged from a see-saw spell at Chelsea, who would be so impressed by his transformation at Ewood Park that they would buy him back four years later for 10 times the price they'd sold him for. That trio formed a formidable understanding, and the fourth member of the back four - until the £1.5m signing of Jeff Kenna in March - tended to be Tony Gale, a freebie from mighty Wealdstone; Robbie Slater, an unheralded Australian; or Ian Pearce, another cut-price Chelsea cast-off. In short, the defensive foundation on which Blackburn's title triumph was built cost roughly the same as Newcastle had paid for Darren Peacock a year previously, and far less than Liverpool had just forked out for Phil Babb and John Scales. There was, of course, another reason why Blackburn had the second-best defensive record in the league: Tim Flowers. The £2.4m goalkeeper was phenomenal all campaign, never more so than in the crucial 1-0 win over Newcastle in May, a result that meant Blackburn could afford to lose at Anfield on the last day if United failed to beat West Ham. People still carp about that Newcastle match - it is, you see, one of football's most enduring, most foolish falsehoods that if you win a game after your goalkeeper makes a string of super saves, you were lucky. Goalkeepers are part of the team; they are there for a reason. If you don't get wet when it rains because you bought an umbrella, are you jammy? Luck was not a significant factor in Blackburn's title triumph. For a start, two of their most expensive signings - Batty and Kevin Gallacher - missed virtually the entire season through injury and another, Paul Warhurst, broke his leg before the run-in. Also, the fact that an unprecedented four teams were to be relegated to accommodate the reduction from 22 to 20 teams meant this was perhaps the most intense season in Premiership history as sides fought for their futures. Blackburn's consistency was all the more impressive for that. What's more, refereeing decisions always seemed to go against Rovers: in the Newcastle game in which they were supposedly fluky, for example, Sutton had a fine goal ruled out for an imaginary offside. In October they travelled to second-placed Nottingham Forest (Blackburn were third) and won 2-0 despite Wilcox being sent off for dropping the ball before a throw-in, a heinous act that the incredibly pernickety referee deemed worthy of a second yellow card ... though earlier Stuart Pearce had escaped a second booking after bulldozing Berg and then taunting his prostrate victim. And in both games against Manchester United, Blackburn were thwarted by injustice. They were reduced to 10 men at Ewood Park after Berg was wrongly sent off for winning the ball cleanly off Lee Sharpe - Eric Cantona scored the resultant penalty and United went on to win 4-2. And at Old Trafford, where United won 1-0, Sherwood had a goal chalked off because Shearer brushed against Roy Keane in the build-up. Despite such setbacks and regular sniping from the media, rival fans and, most of all, Alex Ferguson that Blackburn would do a Devon Loch in the final straight, Dalglish's men remained wonderfully resilient. This team, as Flowers memorably ranted after the win over Newcastle, had bottle. United, who had sought to bolster their bid by forking out £6m on Andy Cole in January (more than Blackburn had paid for Sutton), did not. And not one Blackburn player got himself banned for launching a crazed kung-fu attack on a Crystal Palace lout. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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