Yesterday’s defeat against Wigan confirmed that the 1995 Premier League champions have once again been relegated to the second tier of English football, after 11 years back in the top flight.
So where did it all go wrong for Rovers? I think it is fair to say that neither the owners Venky’s nor manager Steve Kean have been fans’ favourites since they took over at the end of 2010 and the plight has been clear for all to see. Star names Ronaldinho and David Beckham were linked with the Lancashire club as chicken meat processing Indians, Venky’s, claimed Rovers could soon be playing Champions League football.
Instead they have Championship football, something it is rumoured the owners didn’t even know was a possibility until recently as they thought the Premier League was akin to that of the NFL franchise system.
Let’s take a look back at the few highs and many lows from this season.
August 13th – Blackburn 1-2 Wolves
We may as well start at the very beginning. The season kicked off at Ewood Park with speculation still rife about the futures key defenders Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen and neither took part against Wolves. Mauro Formica, making his Premier League debut, did put Rovers in front but the lead quickly evaporated for Fletcher and Ward netted for Mick McCarthy’s men. These two can renew rivalries next season in the Championship after being confirmed as the Premier League’s bottom two this time around.
September 17th – Blackburn 4-3 Arsenal
Under pressure Kean, who had seen his side lose the opening three games of the season, earned a reprieve as Blackburn picked up a shock win over Arsenal. After Gervinho put Arsenal in front, Rovers debutant Yakubu stole the show as he caused mass problems for the Gunners defence all afternoon. He equalised before Arteta struck to give the visitors a half time lead, following up from his last minute winner for Everton against Rovers just two weeks earlier. But two own goals with a Yakubu goal sandwiched in between meant Rovers netted three goals in 18 second half minutes to swing the game back in their favour. Chamakh struck what has turned out to be his only Arsenal goal of the season late on but Kean’s men held on.
December 11th – Sunderland 2-1 Blackburn
Only a couple of weeks on from being dumped out the Carling Cup by Championship Cardiff, Kean’s men threw away key points in their battle to beat the drop at the Stadium of Light. Simon Vukcevic’s first half strike looked to be enough for three massive points for much of the game before David Vaughan equalised on 84 minutes. Things got worse however, as Seb Larsson stepped up in stoppage time as the Black Cats inflicted more bad luck on Blackburn to leave them stuck in the bottom three.
December 26th – Liverpool 1-1 Blackburn
A Mark Bunn inspired Blackburn to pick up a vital point at Anfield. Rovers did again throw away points from a leading position after Charlie Adam skewed into his own net before Maxi Rodriguez levelled matters. But they weren’t downhearted come the final whistle as stand-in stopper Bunn produced a string of fine stops to earn Rovers a point.
December 31st – Man Utd 2-3 Blackburn
The ultimate high point in the season. Rovers ended 2011 on a high with a stunning victory at Old Trafford against all the odds. Some bookies had Blackburn down as 14/1 shots to pick up the win but the really upset the applecart with a great display to earn Steve Kean a reprieve from the “Kean Out” chants. Yakubu was again a key player, netting twice, only for Dimitar Berbatov to find a brace of his own to send the match into the final ten minutes at 2-2. But Grant Hanley changed that with a bullet header to give Blackburn three priceless points which moved them off the foot of the table.
February 4th – Arsenal 7-1 Blackburn
Arsenal got serious revenge for their defeat at Ewood Park by smashing Rovers for seven. No need to go too deep into the detail as a hat-trick for Robin van Persie, two for Oxlade-Chamberlain, one for Arteta (again) and a goal on his Emirates return for Thierry Henry did the damage. Blackburn remarkably equalised at 1-1 with Gamst Pedersen’s strike but the Gunners ran riot after a red card for Gael Givet.
March 20th – Blackburn 2-0 Sunderland
A Junior Hoilett brace fired Blackburn to back-to-back wins which seemingly took them clear of relegation trouble. With just nine games to go Rovers sat six points ahead of the dreaded drop zone after this win and many expected them to stay up, but a terrible run of form followed…
April 10th – Blackburn 2-3 Liverpool
After sliding back into the drop zone with three straight defeats, Rovers almost took more points off Liverpool to ease their worries. But Andy Carroll’s 90th minute header put paid to their chances after a Yakubu brace had cancelled out an early double from Maxi Rodriguez following a red card for keeper Doni.
April 29th – Tottenham 2-0 Blackburn
It is no disgrace for most teams to lose at White Hart Lane but the way Blackburn went about this match was woeful. Kean’s men failed to muster a single shot on Brad Friedel’s goal as goals from van der Vaart and Walker helped Spurs run out comfortable winners leaving Rovers needing to win their final two games to stand any chance.
May 7th – Blackburn 0-1 Wigan
Premier League relegation was confirmed after another home defeat, this time to follow relegation battlers Wigan. Even a chicken managed to stop play after dancing around the Wigan penalty area giving the tabloids a field day in chicken related jokes, considering the roots of the owners. But the serious business came in the shape of Antolin Alcaraz’s late goal which kept Wigan up and sent Rovers down.