Blackburn Rovers have just appointed Paul Lambert as their new manager. This came after a run of disappointing results that led to the sacking of Gary Bowyer.
It’s a far cry from the Blackburn of old. Twenty years ago, they were the Premier League champions! Ten years ago, they were in the UEFA Cup. Now, they languish in the bottom half of the Championship.
We at Shoot thought it might be a nice idea to take a look back at Blackburn’s Premier League heroes – from the league’s inception through to Blackburn’s relegation in 2012. Where are they now?
Striker: Alan Shearer (1992-1996)
Then: While at Blackburn, Alan Shearer became one of the deadliest strikers in world football. The Blackburn striker scored a remarkable total of 37 goals in 49 games during the club’s title-winning season and, subsequently, attracted interest from the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona. He had signed for the club in 1992, after Blackburn’s owner, Jack Walker, decided to smash the British transfer record. Shearer’s £3.5 million move from Southampton proved to be a steal. By 1996, Shearer was not only the top scorer in the Premier League, but had taken his talents onto the international scene – top scoring at the 1996 European Championships.
Now: Shearer currently works for the BBC as a leading pundit on the Match of the Day programme. After the European Championships in 1996, he did move on from Blackburn Rovers but not to the expected destination. To the shock of the footballing world, Shearer decided to make the move back to boyhood favourites Newcastle United for a record fee of £15 million. While he never won anything at the club, he eventually became the all-time Premier League top scorer and became one of the club’s greatest ever players in the process. After retiring, Shearer had a brief time managing Newcastle – however, his time at the club was less favourable than his playing days as they were relegated into the Championship. Internationally, Shearer surprisingly retired after the Euro 2000 campaign. He finished as England’s joint-fifth highest scorer of all time.
Striker: Chris Sutton (1994-1999)
Then: Before Sturridge and Suarez, the SAS had a whole different meaning. Shearer and Sutton were the original lethal duo and were at the forefront of everything good Blackburn produced during their 1994-1995 title-winning campaign. Without their combined total of 49 goals, the club would have netted less than bottom of the table, Ipswich Town. Sutton had joined the club in the summer of 1994 for a British record fee of £5 million – a fee justified by a sensational campaign at Norwich. During that season, Sutton netted an impressive 25 times and had helped the club famously eliminate German giants, Bayern Munich. After Shearer left Blackburn in 1996, Sutton was expected to follow. However, at that time, Sutton had been suffering from recurrent injuries and suitors were hard to come by. He would prove his doubters wrong. In the 1997-1998 season, Sutton rediscovered his form and netted a league high of 18 goals. A season later, Chelsea offered the £10 million needed to prize Blackburn’s star man to the bridge.
Now: In May 2014, Sutton was declared bankrupt after falling foul of a betting scam. Before this, he was last in the spotlight when, in the build up to the 2009-2010 season, he was appointed manager of Lincoln City. In terms of his post Blackburn career, Sutton struggled to adapt to life at Chelsea and was quickly moved onto Celtic in the Scottish Premier League. During his time with the club, he arguably played some of the best football of his career, lifting three titles in the process. In the 2003-2004 season, Sutton was named Scottish Player of the Year. Sutton left Celtic for Birmingham City in 2006. He finished his career just down the road at Aston Villa a year later.
Midfielder: Damien Duff (1996-2003)
Then: No player sparked more excitement than Damien Duff in the early 2000s. In 2002, in particular, the young Irish international was named alongside the likes of Thierry Henry, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane in the UEFA “Team of the Year”. This was an unusual accolade for someone who had yet to feature in the Champions League. In just two seasons in the Premier League top-flight, 24-year-old Duff, and his teammates, had taken Blackburn to both League Cup victory and UEFA Cup qualification. And, despite injury problems in the 2002-2003 season, Duff maintained his global profile by chipping in with nine Premier League goals from the wing. The ‘next George Best’ could do no wrong. Money-bags Chelsea decided Duff’s talents were worthy of a record bid – they signed him for a club record £17 million in July 2003.
Now: The 36-year-old is now playing in the Irish Premier Division for Shamrock Rovers. After leaving Blackburn, his career went from strength to strength. He formed a distinctive partnership with Arjen Robben under Jose Mourinho’s tutorship and, in the process, helped Chelsea to back-to-back Premier League titles. After three years at Stamford Bridge, Duff made a £5 million move to Newcastle United. However, due to successive knee injuries, he struggled to replicate his previously blistering form. Duff had a brief resurgence during a subsequent spell with Fulham – where he played a major part in the club’s 2009-2010 Europa League campaign. In 2014, Duff moved to Melbourne City in the Australian top division. For his national side, the Republic of Ireland, Duff managed to collect a century of caps. He is regarded as one of the finest players in Irish history. His partnership with Arjen Robben arguably inspired a whole generation of ‘inverted’ wingers to develop.
Striker: Matt Jansen (1999-2006)
Then: After impressing in Division One with Crystal Palace during the 1998-1999 season, Matt Jansen got a big-money move to Premier League side, Blackburn Rovers. The £4.1 million signing showed his intent early on as he netted on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur. And, despite Blackburn’s relegation to from the top division in Jansen’s first season, he had been the star attraction. Back in the lower divisions, Jansen flourished – finishing the 2000-2001 season with 23 goals. He continued to impress the following season, netting 10 Premier League goals and earning an England call-up. However, this wasn’t quite enough to earn Jansen’s place in the World Cup squad. In the summer of 2002, tragedy struck. While on holiday in Italy, Jansen was nearly killed after being involved in a motorcycle incident. He spent a whole six days in a coma and spent a long time out of the game.
Now: 38-year-old Jansen is currently the manager of non-league Chorley FC. In a recent interview with the BBC, he said that, although football is his main passion, he also trades in foreign currencies. He hopes to one day be remembered as a successful coach or manager. Unfortunately, Jansen never managed to properly recover from the injuries and struggled to replicate the form of his early career. He made several comebacks before being released in 2006. Jansen’s story is an extremely unfortunate one – in an interview with the Mirror, he revealed that his omission from the 2002 World Cup was a difficult experience to take after being measured for a suit and invited to David Beckham’s send-off party. Ultimately, it might have changed the whole course of his career, and maybe even life.
Midfielder: David Dunn (1998-2003; 2007-2015)
Then: Blackburn Rovers’ fans will forever lament David Dunn’s falling out with then manager, Graeme Souness, during the 2002-2003 season. Their midfield maestro had been one of the side’s top performers during an impressive return to the Premier League. Souness insisted that the attacking midfielder would be best suited on the right of midfield – Dunn disagreed. He had just won his place in the England squad and believed Souness was restricting his progression by playing him out of position. Just months after the fall out, Dunn would sign for Premier League rivals, Birmingham City, in a deal worth £5.5 million.
Now: 35-year-old Dunn is currently the manager of League One side, Oldham United. He had originally joined the club in a playing capacity. Before this, Dunn had been back at his stomping ground; Blackburn Rovers. His time at Birmingham City was marked by injury and questions of overall fitness. Some in the media claimed that Dunn enjoyed the good-life too much to ever make it to the top of the game. In 2007, he left his nightmare and rejoined Blackburn for a fee of £2 million. He remained with the club until 2015. By this point, he was a cult hero.