Blackburn had waited 81 years for another league title and led Manchester United by two points going into the final day of the 1994-95 season. Rovers went to Anfield on 14 May but ended up losing 2-1 against Liverpool and, with their game finishing earlier than United’s, faced a nail-biting wait to see how Alex Ferguson’s side got on at West Ham.
The game at Upton Park ended in a draw to hand Rovers the title in one of the most dramatic finishes to a season in the English top flight. The triumph completed the transformation, led by Jack Walker – a local businessman who bankrolled the club – and manager Kenny Dalglish, from small-town club to champions of England.
Twenty-five years since the historic triumph we speak to some of those who were at Anfield that historic day and one who wasn’t.
Tim Flowers, Blackburn goalkeeper
Kenny Dalglish was meticulous in everything he did, recruitment, tactics, scouting the opposition. He personally rang about 10 different people about my character and temperament before signing me. He would sometimes join in at training and at 44 he was still sometimes the best player we had!
When I first arrived we used to train at Pleasington, which were basically Sunday League pitches that had dog mess on them, next to a crematorium. Training would often have to stop as the hearses rolled past. On my first day Kenny was on [his assistant] Ray Harford’s shoulders, masking tape to the crossbar. The wind was horrendous so they used some breeze blocks to hold down the net. Some days we just used corner flags for goalposts. We would go back to Ewood for lunch where they would just cook spare ribs and sausages. Everyone just got on with it. But then Jack Walker bought the new training ground for a quid. It used to be an asylum, so we fitted in all right there.
The team spirit was great, if anyone got too big-time they’d be smashed down in the dressing room. We’d stay in London before matches and players would get fire extinguishers through the door. For the 1995 Charity Shield everyone got a new suit and shirt but somebody cut the sleeves off mine and Chris Sutton’s. We got on the bus to go to Wembley, everyone was silent, nobody said a word. I never found out who it was but [David] Batty and Jason [Wilcox] were a couple of wrong ’uns.
At Anfield it was such a weird atmosphere. I remember being at the Kop end when Alan Shearer scored in the first half and all the Liverpool fans cheered as they didn’t want United to win the league. When things went silent in the second half I thought we had blown it. When Jamie Redknapp scored the winner and I landed on the deck I thought we’d lost it. But within a few seconds our fans got news from West Ham. Kenny was so superstitious he didn’t even organise a party. We didn’t want to go out in Manchester so we went to somewhere called “Bistro French” in Preston. They cleared the tables and a band came on playing Buddy Holly tunes.
Jack Walker put on a parade around Blackburn the next day. He was the most down-to-earth geezer. You would never know he was worth anything. I called him Mr Walker the first time I met him and he said: “Don’t call me that. Call me Jack.” He would come in the dressing room every single match, before and after, win, lose or draw to talk to us and would never get the hump. He would play “Penny Up the Wall” with all the players for £20 a pop and would never lose.
Jason Wilcox Blackburn winger, now Manchester City academy director
That Rovers team was full of leaders. There was an edge, all the time, people would get angry if mistakes were made. The training sessions were immensely physical and there was no hiding place. It was sometimes harder than the games, even on a Friday. The winning mentality was there for all to see.
My cruciate injury in April was devastating. Now the recovery is routine but back then these injuries were finishing careers. I was 23 and in a knee brace at Anfield but had travelled on the team bus and was in the dressing room beforehand. I watched the game from the dugout, which is really tight at Liverpool and my leg was all squashed. All the Liverpool fans were keeping us updated on the United score. We tried to block it all out but it was impossible. When the final whistle finally blew it took forever for me to get on the pitch but I threw my crutches away and managed it.
With Kenny as manager, being the legend he was, winning it at Anfield was surreal. The way the Liverpool fans were was special but it was a mixed day for me because of the injury: I felt angry, sorry for myself but also delighted and proud. I nearly didn’t pick up a medal as I didn’t think I deserved one but Kenny and Tim Sherwood gave me a bit of a rollicking and made me pick one up.
Tim was fundamental to us winning it, especially after David Batty’s injury. He was a hard guy, a brutally honest, understated, undervalued player, despite being captain. But he also had real courage on the ball in tight situations,was a tough tackler and got into the box, often got beyond the strikers. Him and Mark Atkins were superb in central midfield, another player who never gets mentioned but scored some really important goals.
Matt Smith, actor and lifelong Rovers fan
My dad is from Darwen and the reason I support Rovers. I have loads of family who still live up on Blackburn Road. We went to Wembley to watch them beat Leicester to get promoted to the Premier League in 1992 but this was on a different level. I’ll never, ever forget watching on TV. I was in the lounge with my best friend, my dad and another friend, who was a United fan. I remember watching Kenny Dalglish looking completely lost on the sidelines, like he was standing on the side of a motorway. We all felt the same.
At the final whistle my dad went absolutely nuts. He threw and smashed the Sky remote against the wall in excitement. My mum stormed in to tell him off because my other mate was upset, the United fan. But he wasn’t having it and screamed: “Lynne, I don’t fucking care. Rovers have won the league!” That is etched into my memory and will be until the day I die. Football has been the greatest thing I share with my dad and our team winning the league is one of the high points of my life.
Martin Tyler, Sky Sports lead commentator
The last day of that season was a huge day for Sky Sports. It was the first time we had two games broadcast simultaneously but our Anfield buildup was completely ruined by the live FA Trophy final overrunning by about 45 minutes, with extra time causing chaos. It was my team, Woking, that scored the winner, so I was hopping around on the gantry when the Liverpool and Blackburn teams were read out.
It was a massive day for Blackburn and for Dalglish, who had only left Liverpool in 1991. When Redknapp scored I hadn’t heard about the United result but the Blackburn supporters’ reaction told us something. I had a moment to ponder the consequences and Andy Gray took the lead. He was always spot-on in those situations.
Our reporter Nick Collins spoke to Kenny after the match. All season, Kenny had given Nick cautious answers about taking it one game at a time. So after the match they swapped roles and Kenny played the interviewer to Nick, who gave him drab answers, even though both were laughing. It was a lovely moment. I can’t imagine what the whole day must have meant to Kenny, the only Premier League title ceremony there has been at Anfield.
Bob Mason, Rovers season-ticket holder
I went with a friend. Everyone in the town wanted a ticket and we managed to get some tickets off a brewery that was a sponsor. We parked off Stanley Park and walked over to the stadium an hour before kick-off and the atmosphere was electric. There were Liverpool fans with Rovers scarves on and everyone wanted us to win. There were balloons everywhere, it was party time. A carnival day. Lots of Rovers fans had transistor radios and the whole ground erupted when news came that West Ham had scored and again when the final whistle went [at Upton Park]. Liverpool won the day and we won the league. It was perfect.
I’m 83 and first started going to watch Rovers in 1946. I’ve been a season-ticket holder for decades. We believed Jack Walker was putting Blackburn back where they should be. Shearer was magic, wasn’t he? And Sherwood held the thing together. We’ve been down a bit since Jack died but we’re on the up again and don’t need too much more to get us back in the Premier League.