1994-1995: Blackburn complete Walker’s dream
|Champions||Blackburn Rovers||Biggest Win||Manchester United 9-0 Ipswich Town|
|Runners-Up||Manchester United||Highest Scoring Game||Manchester United 9-0 Ipswich Town|
|Third Place||Nottingham Forest||Top Goalscorer||Alan Shearer (34)|
|Relegated||Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Leicester City, Ipswich Town||Goals Scored||1195|
Blackburn Rovers were a run-of-the-mill club in the lower divisions when steel magnet and local businessman Jack Walker bought the club in 1991. He transformed the Ewood Park club into one of England’s powerhouses in the mid-90s. Kenny Dalglish was hired as manager and money was spent to buy the likes of Alan Shearer, Tim Flowers and Stuart Ripley.
On an emotional afternoon at Anfield in May 1995, Walker struggled to hold back the tears as he saw his beloved Blackburn side end their 81-year drought for a league championship and it was achieved in spectacular fashion. Blackburn only needed a point to secure the championship at Dalglish’s former club and looked set to achieve this with the scoreline at 1-1 in the 90th minute.
Then, Jamie Redknapp produced a sting in the tail as his free-kick evaded Flowers’ grasp and put Liverpool FC 2-1 infront. Shock amongst the Blackburn fans though turned to jubilation just a few moments later. The final whistle had blown at Upton Park where Manchester United had failed to beat West Ham United. Their 1-1 draw meant Blackburn’s result was academic. The Lancastrians were Premier League champions.
Manchester United’s failure to defend their title wasn’t helped by Eric Cantona’s spectacular exit from the campaign in January. His kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter at Selhurst Park following a red card earned him an eight-month suspension and he was ordered to do community service. Cantona’s moment of madness came in a season where the authorities sadly took many of the headlines over the exciting on-field action.
Paul Merson admitted his addictions to drugs and drink, George Graham was sacked by Arsenal and banned for a year after accepting illegal transfer bungs. Chris Armstrong failed a drugs test, Dennis Wise was convicted of assault and match-fixing allegations were made against goalkeepers Bruce Grobbelaar and Hans Segers, along with forward John Fashanu. All three were later acquitted.
Manchester United did break the British transfer record to sign Andy Cole in a shock transfer move from Newcastle United in January 1995. His £7m deal was aimed to help the Red Devils towards a third successive league title. It didn’t quite work out like that, but he did score five goals in a game as hapless Ipswich Town lost 9-0 at Old Trafford; still a Premier League record defeat.
With the league being reduced to 20 teams from 22, it meant four clubs would be relegated and more pressure on managers. No fewer than nine clubs changed managers during the campaign and another three sides switched boss in the off-season. Ultimately, it was Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Leicester City and Ipswich who would lose their Premier League status. Norwich’s cataclysmic run of one win in 19 matches saw them slip from 7th in the table on Boxing Day towards the First Division.
1994-1995 was Blackburn Rovers’ moment of glory in an era where Manchester United were the main figurehead in the English game.