Blackburn Rovers hanging on to past to cover cracks of present

Defiant Claret: A Burnley fan mocks the Rovers support
Defiant Claret: A Burnley fan mocks the Rovers support

The 100th East Lancashire derby spoke volumes of one of the fiercest, most passionate and vehement rivalries in football.

The reaction from the visiting fans housed inside Turf Moor’s David Fishwick Stand on the sound of Craig Pawson’s full-time whistle said even more.

Actions certainly speak louder than words, and those specific celebratory reactions from 2,500-plus Rovers fans suggested an oxymoronic set of emotions – mainly satisfaction and relief.

Satisfaction in preserving an unbeaten stretch against the Clarets spanning 34 years – or more precisely 11 fixtures in all competitions – and relief in salvaging a point from a game where defeat seemed the only plausible outcome.

The scale is certainly tipping and you can sense the fear and trepidation mounting just 15 miles down the M65. Their verbal gestures of superiority are becoming tediously antiquated, but it’s all they have to hold on to at a time where they’re being comfortably outplayed by their neighbours.

While the profile of Blackburn Rovers was perpetuated through the inheritance of Jack Walker’s riches, governance at boardroom level for the Clarets has proven intelligent methodical and astute.

Almost 20 years ago, the fortunes of the two founder members of the Football League were the complete antithesis of each other.

While Rovers effectively ploughed millions in to the Premier League vending machine to purchase the championship trophy, Clarets chairman Frank Teasdale’s modest treasure chest had allowed manager Jimmy Mullen to top spend on Bristol City’s Liam Robinson for £250,000 in a season where the club stumbled back to the third tier.

And years later, in the aftermath of the Millennium, with Rovers sitting back comfortably among England’s elite, Burnley Football Club endured the financial instability that the collapse of ITV Digital brought. But, unreliant on a ‘sugar daddy’, everyone involved with the Clarets over the past decade and beyond has worked arduously to re-stabalise the club and help it flourish.

We’ve never had the luxury of a swimming pool of cash, instead we’ve had to tread water precariously. However, it means that all our endeavors ventures and achievements - a maiden Premier League season and Carling Cup semi-final - have been self generated.

The recent history of Rovers has been one of a cushioned, sugar-coated existence.

It’s hardly surprising that they’ve boasted supremacy. They were the benefactors of a huge financial injection after all. Would they be where we are today without it? I highly doubt it.

To be competing at this level, against Rovers, is a credit to all who have contributed at Turf Moor.

But that dominance - that those Rovers fans so eagerly proclaim - isn’t even as impressive as it sounds. Yes it’s been more than three decades since the Clarets defeated their arch rivals, but the sides haven’t competed against each other in 29 of those campaigns.

The statistic is nothing more than a frangible, thawing string of hope that Rovers fans clutch on to for comfort. They’re hanging on to the past to cloud the realities of their present.

On Saturday, in the early SkyBet Championship kick-off, a young, inexperienced Rovers side were second best and weathered a first half storm before prospering from another instance of unbelievable fortune.

It’s a sequence that both sets of supporters are starting to become accustomed to. Martin Olsson’s dive, Ben Mee’s dismissal, David Dunn’s highly controversial equaliser last term, Jordan Rhodes’s incredibly lucky leveler at the weekend and Lee Williamson’s professional foul have all been factors contributing to Burnley’s harsh misfortune.

But the tables are slowly turning and the balance is being redressed.

Not even the wealth of the Venky’s can help them at the moment, though the club is currently undergoing a transitional period.

Anxiety, sleepless nights and loss of appetite were once symptomatic of the derby. Not anymore. The Clarets have come a long way from that 5-0 drubbing at Ewood Park on April Fools’ Day in 2001.

The club has managed to remain competitive on a restricted budget. Now we’re approaching games against our nemesis with hope, belief and endeavour.

We’re beginning to become expectant of victory. While Rovers fans walked away ecstatic with a stalemate, their opposite numbers responded to the 1-1 draw like it was a defeat. That’s how the ambition at both clubs has changed.

But it’s about time we were able to taste the ecstasy without the sour after taste of despair. It happened when Dunn cancelled out Jason Shackell’s opener at Ewood in March last season and it happened again as Rhodes, somehow, wiped out a sensational 79th minute strike from substitute Junior Stanislas.

The margins are tightening, and it’s only a matter of time before those of a claret and blue persuasion are able to celebrate the victory that has eluded them for so long.

Burnley are back!

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