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The John Williams Years

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Published: Friday, 4 February 2011

The John Williams Years

by Kamy

John Williams arrived at Ewood Park in 1997 and the next thirteen years would see him become not only a highly respected chairman within the game but also an overwhelmingly very popular one.

John's tenure and role at Ewood Park has been split into two periods defined by the death of Jack Walker. While Jack was still at the helm, his role was very much one of taking the club forward and making sure that it challenged for honours, although these early years were indeed difficult. The club was in transition after winning the championship, key figures like Dalglish and Shearer had left and Rovers were no longer challenging for the title. The money was still there but the club was not producing results on the pitch. During this period Ray Harford was sacked and Roy Hodgson appointed, but after initially being successful he was sacked the following season to be replaced by Brian Kidd. However, the club was still relegated in May 1999. Back in the Championship there were no immediate worries about finance as Jack continued to bankroll the club. The first season, however, was a disaster as the club never looked like getting promoted. Brian Kidd was sacked and Graeme Souness was brought in. At the start of the following season the club was then rocked by the death of Rovers' number one fan, Jack Walker. Almost overnight John Williams' role changed.

After Jack's death, Rovers were effectively run by The Jack Walker Settlement Trust. John's role was now to oversee the running of the club in consultation with the Trust, who would initially provide finance. Rovers managed to get promoted back to the Premiership at the end of the 2000-2001 season. Back in the Premiership, John set about ensuring that the club could compete at English football's top table by running the club in an extremely professional manner that maximised opportunities. Working together with the Trust, the club set about securing their Premier League status. In came players like Andrew Cole and Dwight Yorke, while the academy products such as Martin Taylor, David Dunn and Damien Duff flourished. Rovers not only survived in the Premier League in the immediate post-Jack era, they qualifed for Europe and won the League Cup - the Trust, John and Graeme Souness all working as one towards a common objective.

Since then, John has presided over the appointments of Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Sam Allardyce, and during that time the way the club came to be financed changed as the Trust decided that they could not invest in the club to the extent that they had done in the past. John's brief changed again but, like he has always done, he adapted with the same air of professionalism that he has shown throughout his time at Ewood and took the club forward on extremely limited resources. Up until the recent sale of the club it was viewed by the Premier League as a "model" club in terms of the way it was run. Operated in a highly professional manner, it was not only commended by the Premier League but also by former managers such as Graeme Souness and Mark Hughes, who when having moved on to other clubs looked back at their time at Ewood and gave due recognition that the club was run to professional standards that were matched by few other clubs at the top level.

It is truly a sad day when a person of such integrity as John Williams leaves a club of our standing in the game. He has well and truly become part of the Blackburn Rovers family. There are very few chairmen who are respected and trusted by their fans, but at the Rovers John Williams has the genuine admiration of fans, most of whom know the debt of gratitude that we owe to him. Throughout his time at Ewood his name has been a byword for professionalism and stability. Through happy times and difficult times he has remained as the one constant. Under his stewardship the club off the field has been transformed, key functions such as marketing have won awards and our management practices have become the envy of most other Premier League clubs. John has also ensured through season ticket offers and matchday ticket offers that Jack Walker's promise of providing top class football at affordable prices for the public of Blackburn was achieved.

Given his standing in the game and his achievements, it is difficult to appreciate that the new owners, Venky's, seem not to want to tap into the huge wealth of knowledge and experience that he possesses. However, we also have to respect that Venky's are now the owners of the club and are entitled to run the club as they see fit.

John Williams' time at the club ends today, and I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank him for all the help and support that he has offered over the years and, on behalf of BRFCS.com, say to him that I believe the vast majority of our fans owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Jack left his own legacy at our club, but over the last thirteen years you also have built your own very different legacy. History will remember John Williams as one of the greatest servants of Blackburn Rovers Football Club.

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