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Rob Burnett: Blackburn’s title win 20 years ago was a victory for all football fans

27 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Rob Burnett: Blackburn’s title win 20 years ago was a victory for all football fans

As Rovers prepare to host local rivals Bolton, the's Sports Editor reflects on the 20-year anniversary of the side Jack Walker built

Imagine for a moment that instead of getting relegated last season, Burnley finished fourth in the Premier League, then went on to finish as runners-up this season, and followed that up by winning the title the year after that.
Sound fanciful? Of course.

But exactly 20 years ago, Blackburn Rovers were reigning champions of England, having undergone just such a fairytale rise.
It was all made possible by local steel magnate, ‘Uncle’ Jack Walker, who funded the club’s remarkable rise, as well as paying for Ewood Park’s redevelopment.
This month marks 15 years since Walker passed away and the club now finds itself in the Championship, with debts of £80million and under a transfer embargo imposed after they failed to meet the new Financial Fair Play regulations.
Meanwhile, manager Gary Bowyer is on the brink being sacked, after no wins in their four opening games of the season.
This weekend they take on Bolton Wanderers – another storied club with more history than you can shake a Macron-sponsored stick at – but who also find themselves in the second division with crippling debts and little chance of promotion.

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As Rovers fans pay tribute to Walker this month, their current plight is a reminder of just how much the game has changed in England in 20 years.
Rovers winning the Premier League was not just a victory for the club and their fans, it was a victory for all the little guys, all the mid-sized clubs whose fans dreamed of glory.
Just think of all the ‘big’ clubs Blackburn bettered that year.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest (who finished third), Newcastle, Tottenham, Everton, Aston Villa, Manchester City.

Chelsea and Arsenal, meanwhile, were a distant 11th and 12th respectively that year.
That championship win made it seem possible for every fan that their club could do it. It was possible.

Yes, Walker was filthy rich, but every town had a local ‘boy done good’ who might decide to pump his cash into the club, get the right manager and take them on a similar ride.
Blackburn’s rise was the last of those romantic adventures that included Derby County and Nottingham Forest’s promotion and title wins under Brian Clough.
Of course, it could never happen now. It will never happen again. Not in the same way.
Now a local ‘boy done good’ is not ever going to be rich enough to pull it off.

Not unless he somehow inherits a swathe of middle-eastern oil fields in some sort of Adam Sandler, screwball comedy fashion.
Taking Manchester City to the top has cost Sheikh Mansour well over £1.2billion. Roman Abramovich has spent almost double that to turn Chelsea into regular trophy winners.
And don’t forget: both of these clubs were already established Premier League outfits.
And didn’t it feel a bit more special with Rovers, knowing that Walker was a lifelong fan, a working-class lad born in the town who lived every kick just as much as every supporter in the stands?
Of course, anything can happen in football.

I never thought I’d see Manchester City win the league. But it is so much harder now.

How do you beat a team bankrolled by a man whose family is said to be worth $1trillion?

So as Blackburn run out against Bolton in their second division, mid-table clash on Saturday, spare a thought for Uncle Jack, the man who allowed the dreamers to win for a change.

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