Blackburn Rovers’ Premier League title win in 1995 was undoubtedly the high point for a club now happy to enjoy life in the second tier of English football. Still, while the Venky’s ownership of the Lancashire outfit has rightly been almost wholly derided until last season’s promotion back to the Championship, the club’s relative incompetence has been costing them for years.
After Jack Walker spent millions to provide Kenny Dalglish with the kind of ammunition to challenge Manchester United and Liverpool at the top of the league in the mid-1990s, the club’s failure to truly capitalise on that cost them dearly. It should have been the start of a dynasty, yet even the steel magnate Walker couldn’t build a framework from which to grow.
Yes, there was the title win (a nervy one at that), yet had certain deals come off, perhaps we’d be talking about Rovers as a footballing giant right now.
Incompetence, particularly on the transfer front has cost Rovers for years. So, in our One that got away series, we’re going to delve further into that very narrative.
Blackburn Rovers – Roy Keane, 1993
At the time, not even Manchester United could battle their North West neighbours in Blackburn Rovers. Alan Shearer had opted to move to Ewood Park instead of Old Trafford and, while Sir Alex Ferguson had just won the first Premier League title, it looked as if things were changing.
Long before Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers could have been considered the Red Devils’ noisy neighbours. Just over 20 miles away from Sir Alex as he tried to restore former glories at the Theatre of Dreams, Walker was building dreams at his boyhood club and, in his attempts, launched an attempt to lure Nottingham Forest’s Roy Keane to Ewood Park.
The combative Irish midfielder, who had just been included in the PFA Team of the Year, was to leave the City Ground following the club’s relegation from the Premier League and chatted with Dalglish about the prospect of a move to Blackburn.
Indeed, the deal is widely thought to have been agreed after positive talks with the iconic Scotsman and the prospect of building a team including both him and Shearer must have been hugely exciting. Considering the physical nature of England’s top flight back then, it’s hard not to see that working.
However, with the talks having taken place between the pair on a Friday afternoon, Dalglish’s attempts to phone back to the club’s offices proved unsuccessful after workers had clocked off for the weekend. The Friday feeling pretty much all of us experience had seemingly swept those working up and the pair agreed to conclude the transfer on the following Monday.
Well, Sir Alex had other ideas. After reading about the talks in the paper, the United legend is understood to have called Keane at home in Cork and tempted him to Old Trafford instead, ensuring United would be the ones to benefit from his all-action, battling style for the years to come.
It seems that, even in the club’s heyday, Rovers knew how to mess things up in the most epic of ways.