A quarter of a century ago today, Blackburn Rovers became the second side to be crowned Premier League Champions. It was a remarkable campaign and has gone down as one of the greatest stories in football.
Blackburn Rovers Champions – 25 years on
The story to Rovers’s success really begun in 1991. Local industrialist, Jack Walker became the owner of the club. Walker came with one intention, to make Blackburn England’s top side.
Dalglish guided Rovers to the top flight in 1992. In their first two seasons in the newly branded Premier League, they fared well, finishing 4th in 1993 and then runners up to Manchester United in 1994.
Rovers went into the 1994/95 season with an extremely strong side. It included the likes of goalkeeper, Tim Flowers, defenders Colin Hendry and Graeme Le Saux, skipper Tim Sherwood, and strikers, Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, who was the big summer signing from Norwich City.
Blackburn made an impressive start to the season. They won five of their opening seven games which included wins against Chelsea, and Aston Villa. A 3-0 victory over Leicester City and a 4-0 thumping of Coventry City, in which newcomer Sutton bagged a hattrick.
That opening month saw Rovers score 16 goals while only conceding three. It also staged the emergence of the new ‘SAS’ strike partnership between Shearer and Sutton who had each scored six goals.
A Good Start for Blackburn, but a Testing October Awaited Them
It was a mixed month for Rovers, the month started with dropped points. This included their first league defeat at Norwich and then a 1-1 draw at Newcastle. Tim Flowers conceded an own goal in the last few minutes at St. James’ Park.
Dalglish’s side did beat his old boys Liverpool 3-2 at Ewood Park, which set them up for the following fixture against United.
Rovers led twice, but a controversial sending off for Henning Berg were factors which helped United win 4-2 at Ewood Park. That defeat saw Blackburn fall eight points off the top spot
But despite the minor stutter, Blackburn would end the month with a 2-0 win at Forest thanks to a Chris Sutton brace.
A Shearer Inspired Unbeaten Run
The victory at the City Ground was the start of a 12 game unbeaten run for Rovers. 11 of those games were victories.
During this run, Blackburn oversaw Both Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 and QPR, 4-0 at Ewood Park. On the road, a 3-0 win against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park, and a 3-1 victory at Manchester City on Boxing Day.
On New Years’ Eve, Rovers returned to Selhurst Park to play Wimbledon’s landlords, Crystal Palace. They won 1-0 thanks to Tim Sherwood. This ensured Rovers went into the New Year as league leaders, three points clear of Manchester United, who had played a game more.
Chris Sutton’s early season form dried out during this run. His goal against QPR would prove to be the last in the League until April.
But Sutton’s strike partner, Alan Shearer continued his rich vein of form. He netted on 14 occasions. Including two hat-tricks, in the win over QPR and then in a 4-2 win against West Ham United.
Rovers’ unbeaten run started with Forest, and it would end with Forest in the reverse fixture at Ewood in a 3-0 victory in mid-January.
Blackburn were then beaten in their next match, a 1-0 away defeat at Manchester United thanks to an Eric Cantona winner ten minutes from time. Tim Sherwood had equalised, but his goal was disallowed due to a foul from Alan Shearer.
But Rovers would be given a major boost three days later. United lost their star man Cantona after he was suspended for a ‘kung-fu kick’ on a Palace fan.
Blackburn Bounce Back Following United loss
Following the defeat at Old Trafford, Blackburn would once again go another impressive run. Losing only one of their next 13 games which was a 3-1 defeat at White Hart Lane.
Dalglish’s side oversaw Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal at Ewood Park. They also picked up important results in the West Midlands too, a 1-0 victory at Aston Villa as well as a point at Coventry due to an Alan Shearer header in the dying minutes.
The draw at Highfield Road was followed by more close encounters. Firstly Blackburn defeated Chelsea 2-1 after going a goal behind after three minutes.
Then On April 1, Blackburn won 2-1 away at Everton. Chris Sutton opened the scoring in the opening seconds of the match, and that was followed by a second just five minutes later.
Sutton’s first goal in 18 games was then followed up with the winner at Loftus Road three days later. That result took them eight points clear at the top of the Premiership with six games remaining.
Title Race Wide Open Again
Many expected Blackburn to win their remaining games in April. But they suffered another dip in form.
Blackburn dropped points from winning positions over the Easter weekend. Firstly at Elland Road, in which Brian Deane scored a 90th-minute equaliser for Leeds United, and then at home to Manchester City, in which they lost 3-2.
Rovers would win their next fixture, a 2-1 win over Palace, thanks to Kevin Gallacher who had missed the majority of the season through injury. But ten days later they were beaten away at West Ham.
The league leaders slip in form allowed Manchester United to claw their way back into the title frame. Victories over Coventry and Sheffield Wednesday meant they found themselves only two points behind Rovers, going into the penultimate weekend.
But Blackburn would extend the gap to five points on VE Day. They defeated Newcastle 1-0 thanks to an Alan Shearer header, and the brilliance of keeper’ Tim Flowers. Flowers, who conceded an own goal on Tyneside back in October, had made sure there was no repeat at Ewood.
The win meant that if United slipped up at home to Southampton, Dalglish would return to Anfield on the final day as manager of the champions. But United won 2-1 meaning the title went to the last day.
An Unpredictable Finish to the Season.
Rovers went to Anfield with the league in their hands. United travelled to West Ham, waiting to pounce on any slips that the leaders would make.
The title looked a formality after 20 minutes after Alan Shearer slotted home Stuart Ripley’s cutback.
Blackburn’s lead was then strengthened by the fact Alex Ferguson’s men found themselves a goal down at Upton Park.
But it all changed in the last 45 minutes. Arguably one of the most dramatic finishes to a Premier League season.
Brian McClair equalised at Upton Park, just eight minutes after the break. Then, 11 minutes later, John Barnes equalised for Liverpool. The title was back in the balance.
Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton missed huge chances late on, that would have wrapped up the title. It would be one he would regret too, Jamie Redknapp slotted a free-kick away in the 90th minute, putting Liverpool 2-1 ahead.
But United could not find a way through, Andy Cole on many occasions was found one on one but was denied by West Ham’s keeper Ludek Mislkosko. The game at Upton Park finish 1-1.
The reaction of Blackburn players, coaches and fans instantly changed for despair to delight. The entire of Anfield began to cheer after news filtered through about the result at Upton Park.
United’s failure to win, meant Blackburn had been crowned League Champions on Kenny Dalglish’s old stomping ground.
It was a remarkable campaign for Rovers, their mixture of solidity at the back and the middle of the park, as well as the consistency of their two strikers, made them one of the greatest ever Premier League sides.