Blackburn Rovers usurped as derby rivalry has been reversed

Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Margaret Thatcher, Lee Mack, Jim Bowen, James Beattie, Jack Straw, Phil Jones, Robbie Savage, Jack Walker, Gary Bowyer and David Dunn – your boys took one hell of a beating!

By Dan Black
Tuesday, 11th March 2014, 10:00 am
DERBY DELIGHT: Ross Wallace at the final whistle and (below) a Burnley fan enjoys his day out
DERBY DELIGHT: Ross Wallace at the final whistle and (below) a Burnley fan enjoys his day out

Remember the date – Sunday, March 9th 2014. Treasure it, savour it and store that episodic memory indelibly in the mind. Nobody can touch it. Nobody can take it away.

Remember the unison of 4,500-plus fans housed within the Bryan Douglas Darwen End. Remember reactions, interactions and celebrations. Remember the joy and elation shared by supporters, players and staff alike. Remember captain Jason Shackell’s primal scream and the despondency on the faces of the opposition. Remember how that triumph made us more than just record-breakers. It embodied our progression, ambition and just how together we are as a club.

It was a moment that ranked among our two Wembley visits, that night at Stamford Bridge, the Carling Cup semi-final tie with Spurs, and an unprecedented triumph over Manchester United. It was reward for our patience, our perseverance, our endeavour. It was a privilege to witness such a comeback – not just in terms of the result, but in the fortunes of the respective clubs.

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And now Rovers’ only hold over Burnley – that had stretched close to 35 years – has gone up in smoke. Which antiquated claims of superiority will be regurgitated by those at Ewood Park now? Premier League champions of 1995? Who cares. We’ve been champions of England twice and we didn’t buy it once!

The performance at Turf Moor earlier in the season suggested that the margins were tightening, but now that tangible string of hope which Rovers had been desperately clinging on to has finally thawed. The East Lancashire rivalry has seen a reverse, and Rovers have been usurped.

For a club that was a single game from oblivion in 1987 – competing against neighbours who would go on to enjoy a lucrative two-decade spree of splashing the cash courtesy of Walker’s riches – it’s a phenomenal achievement.

That dominance has been vented so vehemently by those just 15 miles down the M65 for years – ever since the club inherited the fortune to make £5m striker Chris Sutton the first £10,000 per week footballer.

But those halcyon days, where Rovers were once cast in Burnley’s overbearing shadow, could be set to make a return. A huge gulf separated the clubs when the Clarets returned to England’s top tier as Second Division champions in 1972/73, with Rovers glued to the hierarchy’s Third Division following relegation in 1970/71.

That’s where, folklore suggests, the phrase “No Nay Never” was coined and popularised. And that historic expression could soon have renewed meaning in the current clime.

Talk of a return to the Premier League could still be premature, but promotion could postpone one of the country’s fiercest and most passionate derbies for some period. Or at least negate that competitive edge. This group has shown no fear and, Michael Duff aside, they don’t know how it feels to lose a derby. That’s enhanced the trepidation down the road.

While Burnley’s books are balanced – though promotion would rocket those numbers well in to the “black” – the accounts at Ewood are seemingly less assured, hence why Rovers’ managing director Derek Shaw has slammed the Football League’s Financial Fair Play rulings.

The club had gambled on making a Premier League return, and that’s not going to happen. The accounts revealed a £36.5m loss for last season and it’s highly unlikely that the club will cut its losses to the necessary £8m limit for this term that the FFP guidelines specify. A failure to do so could result in a transfer embargo that would come in to force in January 2015.

That could spell the sales of £8m leading scorer Rhodes – who cost nearly three times the amount of Burnley’s starting XI at the weekend – as well as skipper Grant Hanley. They either sell to survive, or face the consequent penalties.

For the Clarets, however, it’s now four years and four games since they last endured defeat to their arch nemesis, while the 23-point gap manifests the significant shift between the two. Memories of the 5-0 loss in April 2001, the FA Cup defeat, Martin Olsson’s dive in the Premier League, David Dunn’s controversial leveller last term, and Rhodes’s fortuitous equaliser at Turf Moor earlier this season have been eradicated.

It’s all about the here. It’s all about the now. No Nay Never!