"Blackburn has no 'lads' " - From the Terraces: Crowd Trouble

Blackburn let's go.
Blackburn let's go.

Historical background: 1880s - 1960s.

I do not condone football violence whether spontanious or organised, nor do I seek to glorify it.

 

I am not a 'football casual' and never have been.

 

The information from this page has come from eye witness accounts, news paper reports, books and articles written by those in the know and my own observations.

 

All of the information on this page can be found very easily through simple internet searches, web sites, books, magazines, news papers, YouTube, DVD and documentaries. 

 

I see myself as engaging in a 'journalistic endevour' in order to plot some sort of historical acuaracy about an important part of football terrace culture connected to Blackburn Rovers, as it was to most football clubs big and small, particularly in the 1970's and 1980's.

 

If any of the information is incorrect and you are a genuine person who would like to advise me of any errors then I can be contacted through this web site.

 

I am interested in football hooliganism and casual culture as a social phenomina and (at the risk of sounding like a pretentious middle-class academic) I also posess a keen interest in the facts, rather than the myths so often spun, particularly by those who themselves are rarely, if ever, involved in the activities that they boast about.

 

Anyone unfortunate enough to have been drawn into an internet exchange with a Blackburn obsessed wierdo from Burnley who spends most of his or her time lurking around Blackburn Rovers message forums will know what I mean.

 

However unpleasant violence might be where ever it occurs, football violence in one form or another has been a part of the game since its earliest days.

 

Not only was Blackburn pivotal in bringing football to the masses, not only was the town, its clubs and its supporters influential in the formation of the football league and the game turning proffessional, Blackburn also has another less celebrated claim to fame: the invention of the football hooligan.

 

The game had been dominated for years by the Old Etonians, the Old Corinthians and such like. Then the industrial city clubs came of age with Blackburn winning the FA cup in 1884. Ever since, no gentlemen amateur team has ever won the competition, and the bourgeoisie took note of the danger the "northern" (i.e. working class) crowd posed. The football hooligan was invented when the Pall Mall Gazette reported, allbeit with somewhat racist and imperialist undertones on the Blackburn fans arrival for the final:

 

"A northern horde of uncouth garb and strange oaths - like a tribe of Sudanese Arabs let loose."

 

These fiercely partisan crowds were not what the bourgeoisie had intended. They were vociferous. They drank on the way to the match. They were unruly and they solidarised with each other. These were the very first "hooligans"

Blackburn Rovers have a number of local Lancashire rivalries, due to being the most successful of all the town clubs in Lancashire and England and due to the relative proximity of numerous other town clubs such as Burnley, Preston North End, Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, along with Lancashire city clubs such as Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United and Manchester City.


The local rivalry between Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End goes back over one hundred years. In 1888 Preston refused to play a match against Blackburn due to their reception by the Blackburn fans. Whether this was at Ewood Park or not is unclear as Rovers did not take up permanent residence at Ewood Park until 1890. 


On Christmas Day 1890 during Rovers first season at Ewood Park, Blackburn Rovers played local rivals Darwen. Rovers were due to play Wolverhampton Wandereres the following day and so fielded a weakened team. This infuriated the fans, particularly as ticket prices had been increased for the game. When the Darwen team appeared, the fans urged them to leave the pitch, which they did, later re-emerging with their second eleven. Eventually, Blackburn and Darwen fans invaded the pitch, pulling up the goal posts and threatening to wreck the press box. The police intervened and finally managed to control the situation.

Lancashire derbies can always be heated affairs and on 27.11.1926, during a Division 1 fixture, Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United saw ugly scenes of crowd trouble immediately after the final whistle was blown. Rovers player, 'our' Sid Puddefoot was seen by many Rovers fans to be lying on the ground after the final whistle. The Rovers fans believed he had been hit by a United player and began a pitch invasion. This led to a dangerous situation in which the Manchester United players were surrounded by hundreds of angry Rovers fans. The police intervened for the safety of the players and managed to clear a path to the player’s tunnel. However, hundreds of Rovers fans remained on the pitch and many efforts were made to attack the United players. Once inside their changing room, the United players locked the door in fear. Soon after, the police managed to disperse the crowd. Rovers won the game 2-1.

Blackburn Rovers did have an active hooligan following in the late 1960's to the late 1970's, seeing the town of Blackburn and Ewood Park develop a particularly fearsome reputation. From the mid 1960's to the late 1970's Rovers began to fall into decline, eventually being relegated to Division 3 at the end of the 1970-1971 season for the first time in their history, remaining there until promotion as Division 3 champions during their centenary year at the end of the 1974-1975 season. From the late 1970's onwards, Ewood Park began to lose its fearsome reputation.

As early as 1963 there were reports in the national media of fighting between Blackburn and Liverpool fans at Ewood Park. From the late 1960's to the early 1970's, Blackburn's hooligan following was led mainly by Hells Angel's from Darwen. In the 1970's, skin head gangs from the Little Harwood, Queens Park and Audley areas of Blackburn began to follow the club. During this period, there were hooligan mobs in the Darwen End, Blackburn End and Riverside terrace which occasionally resulted in serious out breaks of crowd trouble with Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers and Burnley hooligans both inside and outside Ewood Park.

 

Other early influential hooligan mobs that followed Blackburn Rovers came from the Mill Hill and Higher Croft areas of Blackburn, known as the Mill Hill Mob and H Division. However, there were often battles between these two rival gangs in Blackburn town centre. 

 

During a game against London club Queens Park Rangers, 17.09.1969 a Rovers fan ran onto the pitch from the Blackburn End and attacked the Queens Park Rangers Goal Keeper. He avoided police detection but was arrested some weeks later. Although incidences of individual fans encroaching the Ewood Park field of play and attacking or attempting to attack players, match officials or opposing fans is rare, this kind of incident has been known to happen; a fan ran on the pitch to attack the Burnley Goal Keeper in a fixture at Ewood Park during the 1965-1966 season before being intercepted and a fan ran onto the pitch, again from the Riverside Stand to remonstrate with the referee during a 1996-1997 season fixture. However, the QPR Goal Keeper attack is interesting, as it was one of the first, some believe to be the first incident in English football, were a fan ran onto the pitch and physically assaulted a player. Rovers lost the game 0-1.

 

In the Division 3 days of the 1970s, fans of other local bigger clubs would show just because Rovers' fans were in town; Manchester City fans at Oldham, Leeds United fans at Halifax.

 

At a lot of the smaller grounds that Rovers fans visited it kicked off - Oldham Athletic, Rochdale, Southport, Blackpool, Halifax, York City and Port Vale are just a few.

WHAT DO SOME OF THOSE INVOLVED HAVE TO SAY?

"Blackburn? Small firm, game as fuck." - Wolve's lad.

Blackburn Rovers badge

Blackburn v Burnley

by Alf (Blackburn).

"Been to all these since 1982. Never fail to impress if you fancy a bit of the old shoe leather-to-forehead action. If you are in the know then it's simple enough to find, like it is for any lads of any club looking for a bit.

Thing with these convictions (Blackburn v Burnley, October 2009) for me personally is the length of sentences for all concerned, including those fuck-wit dingles, when there was no violence committed between the lads involved. 

I wasn't at the Station (pub) after the match but by all accounts there were 'gentlemen' from the old Blackburn days there who hadn't been on the scene for a long time.

It was common knowledge that visitors were on their way. The locals knew it. The police knew it and both were waiting. 

The idiot Porter was taken from Burnley to Blackburn (13 miles) by cab but taken to the Station (train) instead of Station (pub) approx 3 miles off course. 

 

Never had any fisticuffs and he got 5 years. Fuckin' plum.

I know Blackburn lads who were nicked and banged up for 24-hours but not charged who were only having a drink that night and were seriously disturbed by what they were told they could get for simply having a pint in their local and gobbing off on the street when 30 knob-heads turned up from Burnley."

 

Oldham at Mumps Station early '80s

by Andy (Blackkburn).

It was early '80's, pre Youth. We were at home to Olham and expecting their boys around lunch time. We decided to take the early train to Oldham and surprise them on their own turf, we were about 40 strong all from Mill Hill, it worked a treat, we ran them off Mumps Station and picked off the slowest. A good mornings work.

 

Blackburn's got no football hooligans?

by AVFC (Aston Villa).

“Some young Blackburn have come to Birmingham a couple of times in the last few years and played up. Like most of the Northern mobs in that region you don't expect to see them then they will suddenly appear out of nowhere.”

 

Blackburn's got no football hooligans?

by X.

“I've seen 30 Blackburn give it a good go and I've seen 100 Burnley lock themselves in a pub while we were looking through the windows laughing at them. One of those things. Depends if the right people are around, only for Burnley that time it was not the right people.”

 

Blackburn

by Muster (Leeds United).

“A tight Blackburn mob came to Leeds in 2000. Remember some trouble outside the Away End. They also caused a bit of bother in Sheffield that season i got told, with one Sheffield getting put in hospital. “

 

Blackburn/Burnley

by London Red (Manchester United).

“Blackburn do have a mob and have been to Derby I know for a fact. I know one of their's very well and he’s mentioned it a couple of times about them having a coach down. I don’t think Blackburn have a massive mob but you do have to be on your metal up there though, I know a few firms have come unstuck in Blackburn over the years. He told me recently that they have had a lot of young lads from the surrounding satellite towns come through in the last 5 or 6 years and their mob has swelled to up to 200 for big games though it's very young. Burnley for me a much bigger and better mob who punch well above their weight for the size of the place.”

 

Old Blackburn Youth

by Avenue Dresser (Bradford City).

“Mill Hill Station was dedicated to killing Preston in the 80’s...you lot sure did surprise The Ointment (Bradford) at Leeds Rd season 85/86, Bradford played there a few times for obvious reasons. You didn't have large numbers but were game as fuck, if i remember rightly… chip style sunglasses and Farah slacks with them ADDIDAS Gazzeles. Your little lot sneaked into Bradford and tried to ambush The Ointment in the Queens, you had some ugly game beer monsters with you back then…mixed bunch with some coloured lads... back then we assumed you were racist as “Youth” were associated with Hitler.”

 

Blackburn's Firm?

by TrimTrab Casual (Nottingham Forrest).

Blackburn's a funny place. You can go there and nothing. It depends whether they want it or not. If they're out and they fancy a bit Blackburn can be a very tricky place, i know they have some handy lads up there but they're strange mob.

 

GAV (Blackburn).

“The ICU (Intensive Care Unit) was a small group formed towards the end of the 80's, not really a football firm. The football lads from that area (Blackburn Royal Infirmary area of the Blackburn) were the H-Division, from this group came a number of Blackburn terrace legends, one of which isn't seen in such a good light today, but his football exploits are legendary. Mill Hill also produced a large number of lads that used to follow the club, not members of Blackburn Youth but just lads from Mill Hill. You’re spot on about New Order, the Youth lads used to follow the band all over the place, and are recognised by the band in a number of books/interviews from the early to mid 80’s.”

 

levi (Blackburn).

“There was a New Order interview in the NME that had the headline "Blackburn flying the flag for New Order" or something along them lines and the band talked about Blackburn Youth following them around the country.”

 

Billinge End Blue (Blackburn).

“Smeth and Smyth were a couple of skinheads (from Blackburn) who gained notoriety by featuring on Granada's televisions World in Action documentary about the National Front (then appearing in the documentary's opening credits for a while after) back in the late 1970's. Think they had earned some 'recognition' by the Millwall Mob.”

 

The opening credits to World in Action 1978, below.

Smyth on the left, Smeth on the right at 0.20 secs.

White Identity: 1970s - 1980s.

The National Front (NF) had a presence at Ewood Park from the 1970's to the mid 1980's. The NF youth paper, ‘Bulldog’ was also occasionally on sale outside Ewood Park. One of the things that perhaps acted as the glue that that bound together hooligan mobs/organised casual's firms in the area was the NF.

 

On one occasion in 1978, White ethno-identity at Ewood Park was on display for Crystal Palace player Vince Hilaire, the first established black players in English football when he was subjected to monkey chants, this coupled with National Front support indicated that there was possibly also something more organised taking place

 

During the Manchester City game at Ewood Park on 02.03.1985 which ended 0-1 loss for Rovers, Alex Williams the Manchester City Goal Keeper was showered with bananas, apples and monkey chants at the beginning of the second half as he ran towards The Blackburn End to take up position in City's goal. 

 

A very large Union Flag with, "BLACKBURN NF" emblazoned along the middle was also highlighted on national TV news in the mid 1980's during a news report on "racism" at England matches. This kind of thing was not uncommon at football grounds in England at the time and Ewood Park in the late 1970s and early-mid 1980s was no different, it went with the experience of watching Rovers.

The Burnley rivalry: 1880s - 2010s.

Burnley's away mob, 1970's.
Burnley's away mob, 1970's.

                         What size boot do your bollocks take?

There’s always been a “healthy” rivalry between Blackburn and Burnley. Two sets of fans from essentially working-class backgrounds very proud of their traditions. Both Blackburn Rovers and Burnley have established a rivalry older than the likes of Everton and Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City, Newcastle United and Sunderland and Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers.

 

The pre-League rivalry sratred in 1882 when Burnley were threashed 0 - 10 by Blackburn Rovers.

 

The League rivalry started in 1888, the year the Football League was formed. It consisted of six clubs from Lancashire : Blackburn Rovers, Burnley, Preston North End, Accrington, Bolton Wanderers and Everton and six from the Midlands: Aston Villa, Derby County, Nott's County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

 

Therefore, when the towns and valleys of Lancashire played host to a revolution in sporting competition and the birth of league football, Blackburn Rovers and Burnley were both founding members of The Football League

 

The two East Lancashire towns of Blackburn and Burnley also played a key role in Britain’s industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century. Blackburn became one of the firstindustrialised towns in the world, while Burnley became one of the biggest producers of cotton in the world.

 

It is widely rumoured among Burnley fans that the animosity began in the 1890s, after Blackburn Rovers complained to the Football League about Burnley's illegal number of Scottish players. It is also rumoured that Blackburn won a large cotton contract ahead of Burnley meaning employment and wages in Blackburn and unemployment and semi-starvation in Burnley. This is not just a football rivalry, it is a town rivalry and it is ancient.

 

Anyone who disputes the antagonism surrounding this fixture should speak to former Blackburn striker Simon Garner. Garner once emerged from the Turf Moor dressing room having scored the winner only to be confronted by a Burnley fan brandishing a meat cleaver and asking where he was. One has to question why the Burnley fan did not recognise Simon Garner; posturing? Bluster? A meaningless gesture of bitterness and defiance? Who knows. Maybe read the autobiography of Stan Ternent, the former Burnley manager. Ternant remembers Accrington, the border town between Blackburn and Burnley, being “a Berlin wall of terraced houses, where petty comments can spark full-scale riots”.


Some feel that the rivalry between Blackburn and Burnley used to be lively but good natured with some cracking banter up until Rovers knocked Burnley out the FA Cup thus preventing a Burnley League and Cup Double in 1960.

In the 1959-60 season, when Burnley won the League Championship, Rovers played Burnley at Turf Moor in the 6th Round of the FA Cup. 0-0 at Half Time. Burnley scored 3 goals in a 15 minute period early in the 2nd half. Rovers were awarded a penalty and Blackburn boy Brian Douglas put the penalty away. Three min's later, Peter Dobbing scored a 25 yarder. With 4 min's remaining, MacGrath scored for Rovers sending their huge away following ballistic.

The replay at Ewood Park was played in front of another full house; Rovers totally outplayed Burnley to win 2-0 and went all the way to Wembley.

Blackburn - No one's coming through us: v Burnley, 1970s.

In 1971 Burnley fans arrived early at Ewood Park for a "friendly" fixture and hurried into the Darwen End. At this time the terracing at Ewood Park was un-sectioned from the Blackburn End all the way round to the Darwen End. At half-time the fans behind the goal would sometimes exchange ends.

 

For the 1971 "friendly" Burnley fixture, the Police forced some Rovers fans to enter the Blackburn End and then would not let them past the wall barrier next to Riverside terracing. With Rovers winning 2-0, Terry Eccles, a player who had progressed through Rovers youth ranks scoring both goals, the Blackburn End suddenly started to empty of a large mob of fans. They climbed the wall separating the Blackburn End from the Riverside terrace and made their way along The Riverside towards the Darwen End where the Burnley fans were standing.

Shortly later crowd trouble broke out in the Darwen End as the Blackburn End mob entered the Darwen End along with Rovers mobs from The Riverside joining in; fighting broke out with those Burnley fans that had not run out of the far side of the Darwen End. Eventually, the Burnley fans were routed and thrown over the wall at front of the Darwen End, which also collapsed. Also for this fixture, Rovers lads went in one's and two's into the middle of the Burnley fans in the Darwen End before the start of the game, approximately 30 then joined together as soon as the final whistle went before launching a surprising attack on the Burnley fans. The police later escorted Rovers fans out of the Darwen End and towards the Blackburn End. This incident made the front page of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph for several days.


Memories of a strong Rovers away support taking four sides of Turf Moor during a Boxing Day 1977 fixture after drinking heavily in Burnley town centre and Turf Moor pubs also burned in the collective memory of the Burnley support.

 

Boxing Day 1977, Burnley v Rovers, Turf Moor: Cricket Field Stand (Away End) gates shut at 1:15 - 1:30pm. The gatemen and police on the outside were extremely anxious as there were a lot of angry Rovers fans left outside to deal with. Given the Cricket Field stand was all ticket, that left 1.5 hours of Rovers fans on Boxing Day arriving and heading for the Burnley home sections.

 

On one half of Turf Moor’s Longside Stand (Home stand), it is estimated that there were approximately: 6 - 7,000 Rovers fans; the Open End had approximately 4,000 Rovers fans packed in; in the Bob Lord Stand there were approximately 250 Rovers fans and in the Cricket Field Stand: 5,500 Rovers fans.  Rovers fans where all over Turf Moor.

 

Estimates of Rovers Away following that day vary from 11,000 – 15,000. It was Burnley’s biggest gate for fifty years and the biggest ever Away following between the two clubs before or since.  

 

As one Rovers fan from the notorious Mill Hill area of Blackburn recalls, "There was a crew of about 25 of us all met up in the Navi (pub) about 10am. We had a couple of pints then headed down to Mill Hill station and caught a train just after 10.30, the plan being to get off at Burnley Barracks and call in every pub we passed on the way to the ground. What a bad idea that was, we practically had a battle at every pub we came across. I was only just turned 20 at the time and was with some of Mill Hill's handiest lads who were well up for it and while we weren't actually looking for trouble we found plenty, infact that was why we got of at the Burnly's Barracks station and not central because we thought there would be less chance of any trouble."

 

"Anyway when we got to the ground about 2.50pm, the police told us to go to the Bee Hole End as the Away sections were full (a copper said there were 8000 in those sections) anyway the queues for the Bee Hole End were horrendous and just as we got near the turnstiles there was a massive cheer we all thought "Oh shit were 1-0 down" then as we actually just got thought the turnstiles there was another almighty cheer went up, some of us looked at each other and we nearly said "Oh fuck it, go back to the pub" but as we climbed the steps to get to the terraces all we could hear was Rovers singing and the Dingles all cussing and swearing yes we were 2-0 up."

"When the 3rd went in I was amazed how many Rovers fans were on the Bee Hole End, that's when the skirmishing really got bad. I was actually glad when Burnley scored it took the heat of us a bit and more so when they got the second, after the game it was pretty much more of the same all the way back to Burnley Barracks but it was all worth it just for the 3 points but like I said, hopefully those days are well behind us now but as a 20 year old lad at the time it was one hell of a buzz.

 

The Bee Hole End did indeed erupt when Rovers scored their first goal with the Rovers fans wildly celebrating. The police then made a barrier between the Bee Hole End and the home section of the Longside Stand. Rovers were in the top two of Division 2 at the time. The game itself was played out in an electric atmosphere created by Rovers away following, with Rovers building up a 0-3 lead in the first half which could have been 0-4 but for a brilliant penalty save by Stevenson. Burnley then forced their way back with goals by Noble and Ingham, leaving Rovers clinging on for a 2 - 3 win, in seven minutes of injury time.

 

Outside the ground there were large scale disturbances involving many Rovers fans in running fights with Burnley fans and the police along with their dogs. Rovers’ fans scattered in packs all over the Burnley town centre and on the main roads out of Burnley back to Accrington and Blackburn. These were serious disturbances caused by the inadequate policing of an admittedly massive Rovers away following.

 

For the return fixture on 27.03.1978, Burnley did not bring that many to Ewood Park; approximately 5,000. There were disturbances in Blackburn town centre and more seriously after the game as a big Burnley contingent travelling by train were confronted by a Blackburn End/Riverside group on the way back to Mill Hill train station.  Blackburn lost the game 0 – 1.

 

In the late 1960's to late 1970's Ewood Park had a bad reputation for violence. The Rovers hooligans felt that they could take most grounds and most crews. Millwall’s notorious hooligans were beaten in 1977 at Ewood Park and admit it in an F-Troop documentary that can be seen on You Tube.


Memories of Turf Moor being ‘taken’ from all four corners by Celtic and Rovers hooligans during a Burnley versus Celtic, Anglo-Scottish Cup match  on 12.09.1978 still lingered too. There were 15,000 Burnley fans packed into Turf Moor with 10,000 Celtic and Rovers fans for the game. The main trouble started twelve minutes from the end of the game. The Celtic/Rovers fans in the away section of the Longside terrace broke through railings that had been used to create a ‘no-man’s land’ and began to take Turf Moor apart. Many claim to have never seen anything like it before or since and it is regarded by some hooligans from that era to be the quickest they have ever seen an entire away ground being ‘taken’.

 

It was incidents like the above, coupled with Rovers results on the pitch that would lead to a near terminal decline of Burnley FC and in turn to individual and small scale acts of vindictiveness by Burnley fans at Ewood Park and Turf Moor in the first part of the 1980's. As former Rovers Goal Keeper, the mild mannered Terry Gennoe  said, “I don't know how far back the rivalry goes and I don't know if it's more than just the closeness of the two towns but it's like gang warfare. It's been known for cars to be turned over and set on fire. There was the Lancs-Manx Cup game. The Blackburn bus was parked outside Turf Moor and a chunk of concrete came crashing through the window. It was a pre-season tournament.”

27th December 1982: Burnley 0 Rovers 1

For the December 1982 game at Turf Moor some Rovers fans arrived late and as the Rovers half of The Longside Stand was already full they went into the Bee Hole End.

 

Garner scored early and it was carnage as it quickly emerged from momentarily celebratory scenes that infact many Rovers fans had gone into the Beehole End with the inevitable terrace skirmishes commencing. 


A few Rovers fans were helped over the fence after celebrating and were marched round the pitch, taking full advantage of the the opportunity to abuse the Burnley bench before being squeezed back over The Longside wall and into the Rovers masses.

 

However, some Rovers fans stayed and celebrated and further punches were exchanged.

At the end of the game, Rovers' fans could be seen throwing their scarves at the Rovers players as they left the pitch with some clambering on to the pitch to mob the Rovers players.

The Burnley Division 3 jinx.

During the 1979-1980 season, Rovers were promoted from Division 3 - while Burnley were relegated to Division 3.

 

During the 1994-1995 season, Rovers won the Premier League title and were crowned Champions of England - while Burnley were relegated to Division 3.

The Burnley relegation jinx strikes again.


The Dingles have a habit of being relegated just as Rovers are being promoted.


Better still, when Rovers win a major trophy as was the case in 1995 when the hill moneys were relegated to League 1 just as Rovers were being crowned Champions of England at Anfield. Poetic symmetry. 


The Burnley myth is born: Easter 1983.

Rovers fans need to be held back by the police - and they are hiding behind police lines - Burnley fans need to be held back by the police - and its because Rovers fans need to be protected.

 

It is important to hold this narrative in mind when dealing with Dingles.

 

On 04.04.1983 during a Blackburn Rovers v Burnley Division 2 fixture, protected by the police and the recently erected perimeter fencing, two or three Burnley fans clambered onto the Darwen End roof, ripped 3 or 4 tiles off it, struggling to throw them onto the pitch and instead hitting their own supporters, huddled behind the goal. This was done in attempt to get the game abandoned. The game was stopped and the Burnley manager came onto the pitch to address the Burnley fans in an attempt to instill some calm. Order was restored and the game restarted.

 

Simon Garner stood to take a penalty and a brick was thrown from the Burnley fans that landed at his feet. Garner scored from the penalty. A coin and a whisky bottle were also thrown at Terry Gennoe.

 

A solitary Burnley fan had also taken the care to weld together two darts so that the weapon had a double-headed spike. It was smuggled into Ewood Park and hurled into the Blackburn Rovers penalty area. This particularly cowardly individual attack from the terraces on a lone Goal Keeper came when Terry Gennoe was the goalkeeper in a Blackburn Rovers side inflicting a defeat on Burnley that would help send them down from the Division 2 and into a spiral of decline whereby they would not play Blackburn Rovers again competitively in the league for 17 years.

 

This game was to be remembered by the Burnley fans for many years, developing into a legendary mythological totem around which these supporters could rally as their club descended into near oblivion, from which it has never fully recovered.

 

The game ending in a win for Blackburn Rovers; to the delight of the jubilant Rovers fans thoroughly enjoying another victory of their oldest foe, taking great pleasure in significantly contributing to Burnley's downfall and eventual demise that would last for more than two decades, though of course no one at the time realised just how significant that particular defeat at Ewood Park would be. Rovers won the game 2-1.

 

Interestingly, no photo's of this have ever surfaced on the internet.

Rovers scarfers respond: Late 1980s - early 1990s.

4,000 Rovers fans made the trip to Turf Moor on 08.08.1989 for a pre-season Lancashire Manx Cup game. Rovers won the game 0 – 2, taunting the Burnley fans throughout the game with a chant the reverberated along The Longside, “Where the fuck are Suicide?!” In reference to Burnley’s organized hooligan firm, Burnley Suicide Squad. 

 

On 22.05.1991, when Burnley lost a Fourth Division play-off semi-final to Torquay United and were consigned to another season of fighting for their league status, and financial survival as a result, a plane flew over Turf Moor carrying a banner that read, "Staying down forever luv Rovers Ha Ha Ha". Rovers’ fans also had T-shirt printed with an image of the plane and its banner with the legend, “Blackburn Rovers flying squad” emblazoned underneath.

 

Simon Garner, Blackburn Rovers legend and record goal scorer, is rumored to have been the money behind the prank that rubbed Burnley noses in the dirt. Garner scored in every game he ever played against Burnley. In Simon Garners book, “There's Only One Simon Garner: An Autobiography”, he says say that contrary to popular rumour, he was not wearing a Rovers shirt under his WBA shirt when he scored against Burnley; Garner is supposed to have lifted his WBA shirt to kiss it, revealing a Rovers shirt beneath. Garner moved to WBA in 1992 after twenty four loyal years as a Rovers lead scorer.

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
STAYING DOWN 4 EVER LUV ROVERS HA HA HA

Burnley's response came when Blackburn were beaten in Europe by part-timers Trelleborgs in 1994. A Burnley fan went to the boundary of Burnley and put up signs, "Twinned with Trelleborgs". He then rang the Blackburn local paper in mock outrage. This helped to make it front page news – otherwise, no one in Blackburn would really have heard of it, - or cared.

Hostilities with Burnley renewed: 2000s - 2010s.

Burnley have been Blackburn Rovers rivals for much of Rovers history but some fans, particularly newer, younger fans simply ignored Burnley in the 1990's, dismissing claims that Burnley have always been seen as Rovers main rivals.

 

In the 2000's hostilities renewed to some extent and now many fans believe they should be seen as Rovers main rivals once more. In The Championship on April fool’s Day, 01.04.2001, Rovers won convincingly against Burnley, 5 – 0. The score line flattered Burnley, Rovers had two blatant penalties turned down and hit the woodwork three times. For the previous game at Turf Moor on 17.12.2000, Rovers won 0 – 2. Kevin Ball was sent off for Burnley after a two footed lunge on Blackburn boy David Dunn. Kevin Ball was then paraded around Turf Moor as a hero before a game against Rovers on 28.03.2010, Rovers won the game 0 – 1, all but sealing Burnley’s fate to relegation, again. During that game, a Burnley fan ran onto the pitch to attack Robbie Savage, but soon cowered when Rovers players confronted him. Rovers fans also ripped up seats and smashed many of the facilities beneath the Cricket Field stand before during and after the game. In the FA Cup, 01.03.2005, Rovers comfortably knocked Burnley out of the FA Cup at Ewood Park after a tense 0 – 0 draw at Turf Moor on 20.02.2005. Rovers fans wore T-Shirts emblazoned with the 5 – 0 score line for the game in reference to the April fool’s day humiliation in 2001.

 

There have been minor disturbances inside Ewood Park with Manchester United, Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers fans during the 1990s and 2000s but the long awaited 19.10.2009 Ewood Park fixture with Burnley, the first in the top flight of English league football for 43 years, resulted in a major police operation mounted by the Lancashire constabulary similar to the kind seen in Scottish football at Glasgow Celtic v Glasgow Rangers matches; reinforcing the popular view amongst Rovers fans of Burnley as the, "Poor man’s Millwall of the North".


Many Burnley fans felt that the police operation put in place for the game was an overreaction as Burnley fans could only travel to the game from Turf Moor and could only travel on official transport provided by the club leaving Turf Moor at about 07:30 for a 13:00 early kick off. One example being of a Burnley fan having to leave Ewood Park, Blackburn for Turf Moor, Burnley, travelling back to Ewood Park, Blackburn for the game, then returning to Burnley after the game before making another return journey to his home in Blackburn later that evening; a journey of approximately twelve hours and forty miles when the supporter in question only lived a 5 minute walk from the Ewood Park.

However, the fear of serious crowd trouble was considered very real by the police; memories of the 1970's and Burnley hype from the 1980's still lingers on; Blackburn v Burnley is the oldest derby in English football and arguably the greatest rivalry in the game. There has been a long history of crowd trouble when these two clubs have met. It is the sort of game in which passions can become so intense that not only hooligan mobs or organised casuals but fans, nick named "scarfers" by casuals, can also become involved.

The view amongst some Rovers fans was that though unnecessary, the police operation was an inevitable outcome of a curious combination of decades of exaggeration, half truths and Burnley folk-lore. This was the culture of the Burnley bogey-man myth; involving dare-and-do invasions of Blackburn town centre, Ewood Park and attacks upon meek Rovers fans, which can be traced back to the pubs, school yards and terraced streets of Burnley. One theory to this phenomenon is that such tales of extravagance were the consequence of Burnley followers attempting to maintain their profile and that of Burnley FC as their club plummeted to new depths of lower league mediocrity during the 1980's, which began with their defeat to Rovers during the Easter, 1983 fixture at Ewood Park.


The feeling amongst Rovers fans was that this kind of bankrupt boasting had led to a self fulfilling prophecy in which Burnley fans and their Premier League era hangers on had talked themselves into their own awkward situation, to the obvious despair of the Burnley fans, although faint amusement of many Rovers fans.

Rovers fans also feel that as Burnley is a very small football club and as Blackburn Rovers has always historically been a far more successful football club than Burnley with a national and international profile befitting the historical stature of Blackburn Rovers, that the bitterness and resentment towards Rovers fans by Burnley fans may also be more intense for these same reasons; this resentment particularly inflamed by small club jealousy of Rovers' Premier League and League cup triumphs in 1995 and 2002 respectively.

As already mentioned, Burnley fans and mobs also took beatings in Blackburn and at Ewood Park (also in Burnley and at Turf Moor) during the 60's and 70's while thereafter very rarely having the opportunity to return to Ewood Park for more than a quarter of a century; anger and bitterness at such humiliations being passed from father to son, uncle to nephew.

Both clubs moved in opposite directions during the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's, with Blackburn Rovers, despite intense media hostility and professional snobbery coupled with the jealous hatred of neutral supporters, going on to make history and achieve glory with their Premier League triumph at the end of the 1994-1995 season; while Burnley very narrowly avoided relegation to non league football on the last day of the 1986-1987, only eight years previously.


For the long 43 year awaited top flight fixture with Burnley at Ewood Park, the Burnley fans were given half of the Darwen End, and a very heavy police and steward presence for the protection of the Burnley fans.

 

Despite a long history of loathing between the supporters the clubs have tried to maintain a friendly working relationship but even this was tested in the build-up to the game. Owen Coyle, the then Burnley manager, fed up having team talks drowned out by a stand full of away supporters, urged his chairman to get more Burnley followers into the Cricket Field stand which is the Away stand but where the Home and Away changing rooms are also located. Splitting the Cricket Field Stand in half to allow more home fans in a stadium with a limited 22,400 capacity and reducing away tickets to a couple of thousand probably sounds reasonable. Less so in the context of a derby game which usually sees Burnley given the entire 7,500 seats of Ewood Park's Darwen End and Rovers a reciprocal - if still derisory - 4,000.

As soon as Burnley chairman Barry Kilby announced the changes Blackburn fans bombarded Ewood Park with emails and phone calls demanding ticket parity, desperate for the chance to get to Turf Moor. Rovers, making positive strides at reclaiming lost supporters, were particularly sensitive to a fan backlash and desperate to be seen to be acting on their behalf. So, when it came to talks between the clubs and police over derby planning, a normally simple discussion turned as fractious as negotiations between two warring countries. After weeks of haggling the solution saw 3,000 Burnley in a split Darwen End restricted to season ticketed Rovers fans, with hundreds of empty seats and both sets of supporters unhappy. 

 

Before the game, Burnley fans snuck into Ewood Park and dressed up the statue of former Blackburn owner Jack Walker in a Burnley kit. This led to retaliation by Blackburn fans a few days later when they through blue and white paint on the walls of one of the Turf Moor stands and dressed a cone with a Blackburn shirt. Also, the Blackburn fans hung banners over motorway bridges, one reading “Your Mum’s Your Dad, Inbred Bastards”, when Burnley fans were travelling Ewood  Park.

 

The game ended without incident and a convincing 3-2 victory for Rovers, though flattering score line for Burnley.

 

After the game, in the Cherry Tree area of Blackburn, there were aapproximately 80 Blackburn Youth and supporters waiting in The Station and The Beehive pubs - the "chosen battleground" for violence between Blackburn and Burnley firms - having discreetly made their way to the pub in two's and three's so as not to alert the police.

 

The Burnley contingent finally arrived at a nearby petrol station at around 6pm and ran towards the two pubs, shouting and chanting "Suicide Squad", alerting the police. Most of the Burnley firm stopped when they saw the police horses approach.
 
A number of Blackburn Youth then turned their anger on the police, throwing bottles at officers and had to be locked inside one of the pubs until they could be dispersed.
 
Seven of the Blackburn firm were jailed for between six and 16 months at Preston Crown Court after admitting affray.

The Casuals, the Raves & the Blackburn Youth: 1980s -2000s.

Designer Gary Aspden names new Adidas range after Darwen, Hyndburn and legendary Blackburn acid house nightclub

Gary Aspden from Darwen, Lancashire is using his position as a consultant for Adidas to slip in names from his home county.

 

The German sports giant has released the Haslingden jacket, Hyndburn and Darwen SPZL sneakers and even two versions of the Settend tracksuit and trainers, which pays homage to the legendary acid house nightclub in Shadsworth Road, Blackburn.

 

 

“The range is inspired by the very odd but beautiful relationship between a very straight laced German sportswear brand and its adoption by the working class subcultures that are born out of the UK, particularly in the north west. I try to give a nod to that by choosing product names that relate to that part of the world.”

The former Blackburn Art College pupil studied for a degree in fashion promotion at the University of Central Lancashire and now lives in London.

 

He said he became a fan of the three-striped Adidas brand growing up.

 

He said: “I got my first adidas trainers from John Harrisons Sports in Darwen. As a teenager I would go to Gibson’s Sports, Mercers and JJB in Blackburn as well as Oasis, JD Sports, Gansgear and Olympus Sports in Manchester.

 

“There wasn’t a lot of money about in the North West in the 1980s, my father worked in a factory and my mother worked on the market. My first adidas trainers were Kick’s, and my first football boots were adidas Beckenbauer Super, both in the late 1970s. And I wore adidas Europa T-shirts from a very young age.”

 

Gary was approached to create a signature shoe by Japanese designer Kazuki Kuraishi.

 

Kazuki was on tour in the UK with mutual friend Ian Brown of band The Stone Roses and asked to include Gary’s ideas as part of his 2011 Originals By Originals collection.

 

Gary, 40, said: “He approached me to design a signature shoe, but I felt a bit uncomfortable about it having my name on.

 

“But I worked on a design, and said that if my name wasn’t to go on, I’d like the name of my home town instead.

 

“I’m very proud of my home town and it means that all my old friends can go and get a pair.”

 

To be launched this coming weekend, the shoe will cost £125 and will only be sold at a select number of independent retailers. Already Gary’s friend, former Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder, has got his hands on a promotional pair.

 

The trainer is part of the Adidas Originals retro collection with sees classic designs given an updated twist.

 

The Darwen’s sole is modelled on a running shoe, while the upper part in the style of a hiking boot.

 

They are intended to be casual streetwear.

 

Gary is famous for his vast personal collection of Adidas trainers that he takes with him around the world, and believes that the Darwen shoe will be a must-buy item for fellow enthusiasts.

 

The former Blackburn Art College pupil studied a degree in fashion promotion at the University of Central Lancashire and now lives in London.

 

He worked for Adidas for 12 years, becoming global head of Adidas's Entertainment Promotions before becoming self-employed.

 

Madonna, Jamiroquai and Liam and Noel Gallagher are just some of the many names in his bulging contact book, who seek his advice when it comes to being seen in the latest gear.

 

His relevance has been recognised by men's style-magazine The Face, which has placed him in the top 100 most influential people in the industry worldwide.

 

Gary has styled for numerous celebrities and when he married in 2006 the wedding guest list included Oasis’ Liam and Noel Gallagher and model Jade Jagger.

 

But he still has time for his roots.

He said: “I get there a bit more now as my eight-year-old son who is growing up in London also loves Lancashire."

 

"I try to time my visits with when the Rovers are at home.”

(Alan Burrows, Catherine Pye, Lancashire Telegraph)

Arte et Labore: Adidas consultant and Spezial exhibition curator Gary Aspdenon on skill, hard work and why Acid House changed football forever.

By: Huw Griffiths. Photography: Pelle Crépin. Styling: Jordan Schneider.

Young Blackburn lads on tour in Milan for the Atalanta vs Roma game.
Young Blackburn lads on tour in Milan for the Atalanta vs Roma game.
Blackburn Spezial banner at Bayer Leverkusen
Blackburn Spezial banner at Bayer Leverkusen

To suggest that the past few months have been fairly eventful for Gary Aspden would be like saying that Lionel Messi has a half-decent scoring record. Given the enormity of the task he faced in assembling the Spezial exhibition – —a collection of more than 650 pairs of rare, vintage and deadstock trainers from the adidas archives and the vaults of longtime collectors – —in its first incarnation at Hoxton Gallery, London in 2013, he could have been forgiven for leaving it there.

But for the man who cut his footballing teeth in Blackburn – —a former mill town in England’s North West – —standing in the rain on the terraces of the Riverside Stand at Ewood Park, taking the easy route was never going to be an option. The past few months have seen the exhibition land in Manchester and Paris, and the launch of a new range of clothing and footwear that sparked the type of lengthy camp-outs usually reserved for LA or Tokyo.

For Aspden, the Spezial project – —much like his relationship with adidas itself – —has been a long-term labour of love. His primary— – and encyclopaedic – —knowledge of his employer’s heritage has not been gleaned from trawling the Herzogenaurach archive. It’s more organic than that; a product of lived experience. “In the early Eighties, Samba was the shoe that everyone had. All we did was play football so Sambas were the shoe for every occasion. The Adidas S.T. rain jackets were also staples and they inspired the Climastorm St9 [one of the jackets in the new Spezial range].”

The attention to detail in the Spezial collection illustrates Aspden’s own life- long affinity with, and love for, the brand. It’s also a quality synonymous with Germany’s other proud export; its national football team. Ahead of last year’s World Cup, the German football federation, the DFB, took the unprecedented step of constructing a purpose-built base for the team in Santo Andre in a bold effort to bolster its chances of winning the tournament. A scheme that was considered vainglorious and excessive by many in the football fraternity proved to be as tactically astute as Joachim Löw himself.

“I am so glad that Germany won the World Cup. It felt like karma,” says Aspden. “The Bundesliga is setting the benchmark on so many levels; especially how football clubs should be run and how to treat their fans. Refreshingly, the powers-that-be in German football don’t appear to be looking upon the fans’ tribalism as something that makes them ripe for exploitation.”

It’s a glowing endorsement that stands in stark contrast to his own recent experiences as a Blackburn Rovers fan. “My dad is eighty years old and has followed Blackburn Rovers since he was a child, but after following them for over seventy years he may never set foot in Ewood Park again unless there is a change of ownership. He loves that club, but is adamant that he will not give Blackburn Rovers another penny until Venky’s are gone.”

Two years have passed since Wigan – —and, many would argue, the financial and strategic practices of Venky’s— – condemned Rovers to relegation from the Premier League. Aspden himself remains understandably aggrieved by that chapter in his club’s history. “After the dismantling of the club’s respected infrastructure, our fans protested about the way the club was being handled by the new owners. They [the fans] were very publicly criticised – —by TV pundits and some prominent faces in the football establishment— – for finding their voice. Despite being one of the oldest clubs in the Football League we have a relatively small fan base, which, I guess, made us an easy target for their negative comments. Watching how it all unfolded really disillusioned me, to be honest.”

Aspden’s disillusionment is perhaps inevitable, given the wealth of memories he continues to cherish from his early days at Ewood Park. Safe to say, the ground was a far cry from Germany’s palatial camp in tropical Santo Andre.

He’ll readily admit that he “didn’t especially want to be there, despite [being] in a duffle coat, during the winter months”. Nevertheless, he dutifully attended every game Rovers played during their spell in what was, once upon a time, the English Third Division.

“I was dragged along to Ewood Park by my dad and older brother and I would have to take the washing-up bowl out of the sink and carry it on the bus down to the game. I was so small at the time that the only way I could see the game was to put the washing-up bowl upside down by the wall and tip-toe on it to see over it.”

It is this time-served experience that gives Aspden and his work with adidas Originals an authenticity that blog-studying influencers and tastemakers can only dream of possessing. With more references than a Thomas Pynchon novel, Aspden can draw from all corners of modern culture, having forayed extensively into the worlds of music, sport and fashion. Arguably, it is the broadness of his interests that has allowed him to become the architect of several of the most iconic collaborations in the world of footwear.

And central to this are his early years at Ewood. Once he’d outgrown the washing-up bowl, of course.

“One of the most enduring images I have of that era would have been around 1986. Gary Watson, who works with me on the graphics for the adidas Originals x Spezial range, and a load of the older Blackburn lads were in the Riverside corner of the Blackburn End. It was a sea of ZX shoes, expensive leather jackets – a few with batwing sleeves! – baggy jeans, Armani knitwear, denim shirts untucked, Ball sweatshirts…”

“There was a lot of crossover between how hip-hop heads and football lads dressed —especially when everyone was into expensive European tracksuits.”

Aspden admits that the way they dressed wasn’t solely about football. “I knew some lads who dressed like us who had little interest in going to the game. There was a lot of crossover between how hip-hop heads and football lads dressed – especially when everyone was into expensive European tracksuits.”

Indeed, Aspden’s own growing interest and involvement in the North West’s music scene began slowly to supersede his love of the game. “Once the raves kicked off I paid very little attention to football. Most of us didn’t bother going to games. It was pre-Sky television and we were out partying when Match of the Day was on. Saturdays had become about the night rather than the afternoon. It was a communal experience that dissolved all that tribalism.”

Despite his sense of nostalgia, Aspden can’t be accused of blinkered sentimentality, especially in his reflections on Casual culture. “There is a lot of hindsight romanticism about Casuals; the clothes and haircuts were great and we had some laughs, but in truth there was a lot of nastiness that surrounded football back then. I remember Pink Floyd playing Maine Road on 8/8/88 [8th August, 1988] and it was like half of Liverpool were at the gig. At the end of it, I saw gangs of local lads mobbing up to look for Scousers. After everyone having witnessed this amazing show from a band that were essentially born out of Sixties psychedelia, the idea that people could look for trouble really made no sense whatsoever to me.”

With the advent of Acid House and raves run “for the people, by the people”, however, Aspden notes that “the Casual thing was never really the same after August 1988. That constant evolution of style and game of one-upmanship seemed to be less important once Acid House arrived. In Blackburn the hooliganism, violence and misguided right-wing politics—from certain quarters—were finished overnight.”

While football had provided a sense of fraternity and community prior to the mid-Eighties, Aspden had also seen that “[by] its very nature it could be socially divisive”. But 1988 seemed to be a watershed year; this time for the mar- riage of football and music. And where disparate tribes had once gone toe-to-toe outside, and in some cases inside grounds all over the North West, they were now united under the banner of Acid House: “I would see people from Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Stoke, Blackburn, Blackpool and even London freely mixing in the Hacienda in ’88.” Nor is Aspden under any illusion about the personal influence the period had on him: “I guess I became far more open-minded and a lot of the unspoken rules we had grown up with were thrown out the window. I would never have grown my hair long in 1985 and I didn’t really start going to football again until around ’94.”

“I would see people from Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Stoke, Blackburn, Blackpool and even London freely mixing in the Hacienda in ’88.”

It was a period during which the body became a generation’s primary vehicle for self-expression; skin as canvas, the human frame as a walking mannequin to be adorned with identity-affirming clothes, colours and accessories. Derek Ridgers’ much-celebrated pictorial tome, 78-87 London Youth— – “a salute to creative youth”— – is testament to as much. It’s an idea that Aspden holds dear; that younger generations should play a pivotal role in evolving the cultures that have gone before them. “Things can never be what they were then, nor should they be. But there is definitely now a big movement, especially outside London, of youths who have in their own way adopt- ed the style that was born out of that era, pre-Acid House. It’s great to see. If you lose your faith in youth then you’ve got nothing.”

SETTEND tracktop adidas Originals SPEZIAL — Photography Pelle Crépin
SETTEND tracktop adidas Originals SPEZIAL — Photography Pelle Crépin

Just as his own path has taken him from an Ewood-bound bus to distant climes such as Carlos Ruiz’s now infamous shoe shop in Buenos Aires, so his Spezial project has also reached heights he could never have imagined. Shortly after news of the range was released, the Spezial logo was adopted by Liverpool fans and subsequently draped from stadium balconies during this season’s Champions League campaign. “It was a massive compliment to see that. I support Blackburn but have nothing but admiration and respect for Liverpool fans. It’s a city that thrives on football and music; it definitely leans to the Left and the people there don’t suffer fools.”

 

2015 promises to be another busy year for Gary, and will see the next chapter in the ongoing revival of Spezial. Let’s hope that it also sees the return of Aspden Snr to his rightful place in the Riverside Stand at Ewood Park.

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Younger fans attempt to clamber out of the way and into The Riverside as Rovers and Chelsea fans clash in the Blackburn End, October 1980. Only a few years earlier, a scene like this would have been unthinkable.


Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
07/05/88 - Rovers away. Millwall crowned Champions despite losing 1-4. Millwall ran across the pitch to the Rovers fans expecting coins; they applauded Rovers fans at the final whistle.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
1980's.
Palace escort, Mill Hill, Blackburn about 85/86. Is that Aryton Senna?
Palace escort, Mill Hill, Blackburn about 85/86. Is that Aryton Senna?
Portsmouth on the way to Blackburn, 1980s.
Portsmouth on the way to Blackburn, 1980s.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
The Riverside hill, 1988. The demolition of the old Riverside well underway.

Blackburn is often derided for not having a consistantly active organised hooligan following; this is simplistic and it is worth exploring a far more complex demographic reality. 

 

During the 1979-1980 season, Rovers fans 'took' Chelsea in the Darwen End. 15 minutes before the end of the game the Blackburn End started emptying. The club used to open the gates 15 minutes before the end so people leave early - the Rovers mob took advantage of this to get in the Darwen End and launched a surprise attack on the Chelsea mob.

 
For the return fixture on 18.10.1980 which ended 1-1, there were brief crowd disturbances in The Blackburn End terracing as Chelsea fans attempted to ‘take’ The Blackburn End. Chelsea had been in The Blackburn End enclosure of the old Nuttall Street Stand and climbed the separating wall, many also came through The Blackburn End turnstiles completely surprising the Rovers fans. A few Rovers stood their ground, many of the youngsters fled and Chelsea took their revenge that day. 

 

Some of the young fans involved in the crowd trouble went on to form an organised hooligan firm, the Blackburn Youth, which emerged in 1982 as Blackburn Rovers first casuals firm. As Blackburn lies in East Lancashire just north of the major Lancashire cities of Liverpool and Manchester, Blackburn has historically been strongly influenced by their causal trends in music and clothes much earlier than other Lancashire towns.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Liverpool football club was conquering Europe. Liverpool fans, like an army of marauding Vikings traveled everywhere to follow their team and on these travels the opportunity came to literally smash, grab and steal whatever goods were available on the continent. This usually meant exclusive designer clothing. Liverpool fans would return to England wearing their newly 'aquired' designer sporting apparel on the football terraces, changing football fashion and turning the terraces into the working-class lads cat walk. 

Liverpool Casuals
Liverpool Casuals, early 1980s.

Meanwhile, up the East Lanc's Road in Manchester, the Manchester lads were developing their own 'casual' look, known as the 'Perry Boys'; Lois jeans and cords, semi-flares, kicker boots, Lacoste to name a few.

 

This was a largely underground thing until the 80's began. It wasn't until around '82 that the corporate media picked up on it and that was only because by then the London lads had belatedly started getting in on the act.

 

Even the Scot's were blazing a casual trail before the Cockneys. Aberdeen came down and played Liverpool in a pre-season 1977 friendly, saw what the Liverpool lads were wearing and started copying it, going on to form Scotland's first casuals firm, the Aberdeen Soccer Casuals. Aberdeen is further north of Liverpool than Liverpool is of London.

The London lads with the help of the wretched London media might have been successful in conning the world into believing that the northern lads were envious and resentful of these "flash Cockneys" and "southern poseurs" and that the Cockneys were charming cheeky chappies with sharp witt and an even sharper dress sense and that snidey cynical northerners resented them with jealous envy - but this is make-believe. The northern lads never said that nor saw it that way. In fact, if anything, the reverse was the truth and in the pits is their stomochs, southerners know this.

 

Films like "The Firm", "Cass" and "The Football Factory" have helped to cement this fiction of brave Cockney's out numbered two-to-one bravely battling against hoardes of dishonourable Northern thieves that fight with CS Gas and Stanley Knives. Of course there's always the obligitory Cockney Gangster films though I've alwyas thought crime thrillers set in Liverpool's, Manchester's, Leeds's, Newcastle's, Glasgow's or Belfast's underworld's would make for far more interesting viewing with a far more fertile tapestry of crime, characters and urban decay to explore.

 

Films like "Away Days", "24 Hour Party People" (Directed by Blackburn born and raised Michael Winterbottom) and "Control" have helped to redress the balance but it is an up hill slog.

 

Northerners generally have a quiet (if sometimes boisterous) inner sense of superiority over southerners, seeing the south as a place where the children are deprived and the parents are depraved. We see ourselves as genuine upland people who are the real heart and soul of England, probably having more in common with the Scot's and Irish than the southern English; two nations in one, the North and the South.

 

As Liverpool FC said in their 1988 FA Cup song, "He gives us stick about the north/south divide ...'Cause they got the jobs... Yeah, but we got the side." (Pity Wimbledon didn't read the script).

Blackburn Rovers Hooligans Casuals New Order Movement

New Order also had a strong following of lads in Blackburn and following New Order during the 1980's was an amazing experience. By most people's reckoning, an important element was the "Blackburn Youth", always present (normally in front of Hooky) and Hookey dedicated a number of songs to the Blackburn Youth following and there has always been a strong link between New Order and Blackburn. 

 

At Preston Guild Hall on 2/10/1985 New Order performed a gig that was well attended by a contingent of Blackburn Youth. However, the crowd consisted of a whole plethora of different types of people of all age groups, teens to middle aged. The play list from the gig was as follows; Ceremony, The Perfect Kiss, Love Vigilantes, As It Is When It Was, State of the Nation, Broken Promise, Subculture, 586, Sunrise, Your silent Face.

 

As the set progressed there was an increasing feeling that something was going to kick off in the audience, then a mob of Blackburn Youth bear chested started to brawl with the audience. The audience scattered to leave a core of Blackburn Youth stood in the middle, shouting abuse at the rest of the crowd. After a while the Preston lads decided to have a go and for about ten minutes a series of rucks occurred until it was all cleared.

 

By the end of the decade it was clear that the northern football fans and lads had it all; the numbers, the football clubs, the trophies, the fashion, the music and by the late 1980's even the night club and if one night club defined that decade it was Manchester’s Haçienda, a name synonymous with New Order - and for a while - Blackburn.

 

By late 1989 there were regular "Haçienda Nights" at Blackburn's Manhattan Heights night club every Thursday, with coaches of Mancinuan ravers making the trip to Blackburn to rave with their fellow Blackburnian dance, music and drug lovers.

 

Top DJs including 808 State, Together, Sasha, who went on to become Britain’s first superstar DJ, and the Chemical Brothers all played in the town.

 

 

It was around this time that the town of Blackburn acquired the moniker, "Home of the Rave". In 1989 major warehouse Raves were being held almost every Saturday night in the town. Blackburn had once been a centre of cotton production, less well known is that Blackburn had also been an engineering centre too. In Thatcher's Britain many of the buildings that had once housed Blackburn's cotton and engineering industry, making it one of the first industrialized towns in the world now lay empty, soon to be filled with Ravers from across the north of England and beyond.

 

Blackburn changed over night.

 

The Sett End Club on Shadsworth Road, Blackburn was the warm up club. Convoys involving hundereds of vehicles would park along Shadsworth Road before setting off for the Rave. This in the day's before mobile phones.

 

The drugs, the rave scene and the organised crime that went with it seriously impacted Rovers' hooligan following.

Blackburn Warehouse Parties 1989 - 1990 Original Video 

Hacienda, Manchester Blackburn Rave
Near Blackburn, 1989.
Near Blackburn, 1989.
Near Blackburn, 1989.
Near Blackburn, 1989.
Near Blackburn, 1990.
Near Blackburn, 1990.
Near Blackburn, 1990.
Near Blackburn, 1990.
February 1990: Police wait for ravers in Blackburn.
February 1990: Police wait for ravers in Blackburn.
1990: Blackburn station.
1990: Blackburn station.
1990: Whitebirk, Blackburn.
1990: Whitebirk, Blackburn.
1990: Convoy winds through Blackburn
1990: Convoy winds through Blackburn
Live the Dream rave in Tockholes, Blackburn.
Live the Dream rave in Tockholes, Blackburn.
Live the Dream rave in Tockholes, Blackburn.
Live the Dream rave in Tockholes, Blackburn.
Blackburn Rave
Blackburn. One of the most political things you could do in the late 80s was to dance all night & up to ten thousand people a week would head off after 2am in convoys to a field in Blackburn or a freshly opened closed down warehouse somewhere in the town.

Raw footage of Blackburn raves, 1989.

Blackburn Rave
Blackburn
Blackburn Rave
Blackburn
Blackburn Rave
Blackburn
Blackburn Rave
Ewood Mill, 1990. [click photo for Travelfox Five on soundcloud: What we were dancing to - Blackburn raves].
Blackburn Rave
Ewood Mill, 1990. [click photo for Travelfox Five on soundcloud: What we were dancing to - Blackburn raves].
March 1989.
March 1989.

It was during the early 1980's that gangs began to form throughout Blackburn. This led to tribal in-fighting from within the town itself, hindering attempts to organise a cohesive and fully active Blackburn Rovers firm.  There was usually trouble at the West End Youth Club on Friday nights. One week it would be full of the Mill Hill Mob, the next Johnson St, Little Harwood Mob, Wimberly Boot Boys (WBB), Daisyfield Riot Squad (DRS) or Blackburn Youth. Most of the trouble was centred around the Casual/New Order scene.

 

There was also a lot of racial tension too, with gangs of English and Pakistani youths clashing, sometimes knives were involved. The Pakistani's had their own little mob called the Blackburn Muslim Warriors (BMW - which were a follow on from a 1970's Pakistani gang called, The Warriors). 

 

Long and short of it - It was the north end of town against Mill Hill, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Highercroft Demolition Squad (HDS). 

 

In the 1980's a small, select group of officers were organised in response and the Group Disorder Team was set up to deal with the problem of gangs and public order and the sporadic fights that would occasionally break out all over the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights. 

  

The Wimberly Boot Boys (WBB) made up the majority of Blackburn Youth along with the Little Harwood Mob, Daisyfield Riot Squad (DRS), Intack and Shadworth along with a few lads from the more affluent suburbs of Lammack, Pleckgate, Wilpshire and out towards Clitheroe. WBB could pull a big crew together and often went in when the odds where against them, which meant that along with the other crews - on its day Blackburn could be formidible.

 

It was WBB lads in the main (and Youth) who went abroad grafting for designer clothes bringing them back by the bucket load, some lads had houses that would put "Pele" - one of the designer clothes shop in town that a lot of the lads and some Rovers players used to frequent - to shame - as they'd got that much for sale; a few Wimberly lads did time in Switzerland for their efforts.

 

There was a famous kick off at the Happy Mondays gig in King Georges Hall where Blackburn lads where fighting with the Manc's. There was also a well known incident at Star Skate in Daisyfield in the mid '80's (85-86ish) with out-of-towners; a few Wimberly and Daisyfield lads did time for that too. Also the incident with the Burnley train being ambushed was mainly Wimberly lads; a few did time for that as well.

 

Blackburn and it's neighbouring satellite towns also include small firms from the “bigger” clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Leeds United. The New Bank Road area of Revidge in Blackburn had a tight mob of lads that followed Manchester City in the '80's.

 

Back then, even though WBB, DRS etc were also classed as 'Blackburn Youth' they wouldnt always hang out with the lads that only saw themselves as and who olnly identified themselves as purely Blackburn Youth - Some would more than others, some new each other better than others - it was complex.

 

Added to this, out of town problems sometimes surfaced; Blackburn's catchment area includes Darwen, Accrington, Rishton, Great Harwood and Clitheroe and there has historically been an uneasy relationship between the firms/mobs from each of these places. This has included trouble between firms/mobs from Blackburn and Darwen and Clitheroe and Accrington; these tensions again explaining Blackburn's difficulty to sometimes organise a coherent and therefore consistently active hooligan firm.

 

Within Blackburn itself, towards the end of the '80's Acid House stopped the town's infghting and Blackburn pulls together as one now, but the town is now decimated; no pubs, no restaurants, no clubs, no music scene - it's dead - a far cry from its heyday of the 1960’s Northern Soul movement and the rave scene of the late 1980's. 


There used to be coach-loads of people coming to Blackburn from as far away as Cumberland. It was the place to go. Since then, a generation of recession-hit youth, who prefer to pre-load at home, rather than pay for drinks, a rise in the popularity of nearby towns for a boozy night out and a decline in Blackburn’s night-time reputation have been blamed for the town’s fall.

 

Taking the above into account it would probably be fair to say that although Blackburn had an active and organised 'casuals firm' before Burnley; Burnley later seized the initiative with a more cohesive and organised firm than Blackburn. 

 

However, despite the demographic complexities and obstacles outlined above, during the first half of the 1980's, the Blackburn Youth, Blackburn Rovers' first self-styled "official" casuals' hooligan following carved a reputation for themselves, three of the most high profile cases were: 

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans

Blackburn Youth 120 mob handed stopped in Burnley. 

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Iron bar wielding Blackburn Youth ambush train with 250 Burnley fans on board at Darwen train station. More bricks and bottles were thrown from the track side as the train with cowering Burnley fans limped towards Blackburn.


On 04.04.1988, Blackburn Youth ambushed a train full of Burnley fans returning from a Division 4 match at Bolton Wanderers, throwing bottles and bricks at it. The train momentarily stopped before continuing, at Blackburn train station the police ordered the train to continue straight through to Burnley. Rovers were playing at home that day against Shrewsbury Town and it was common knowledge in the Blackburn End that a train full of Burnley fans was to be ambushed. At the time Rovers were challenging for a place in the play-offs, drawing the game against Shrewsbury Town 2 – 2.

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Carlisle fan dies after clashes with Rovers fans


During a Division 2 Away game against Carlisle United on 23.12.1984 a Blackburn fan admitted throwing a brick which hit a rival supporter on the head, killing him. This came in the context of approximately one hundred Carlisle United fans charging a group of Blackburn Rovers fans. The Carlisle fan died in hospital four days after being struck by the brick. Rovers won the game 0 – 1. 

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans

Other incidents involving the Blackburn Youth during the 1980's:

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Blackburn Youth v Sheffield United (1)


Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Blackburn Youth v Sheffield United (2)


Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Blackburn Youth v Chorley and PNE

FA Cup game involving Chorley (classed as the home team) and Preston North End, 06.12.1986, Ewood Park.

 

It kicked off in The Blackburn End where the majority of Blackburn and Chorley where. 

 

Police arrested eight Blackburn people along with twenty four others from Chorley and Preston.

 

Organised elements of Blackburn, Chorley and Preston were involved in what police described as "three cornered clashes"; arrests came before, during and after the game. 

 

Most of the trouble came in Blackburn Town Centre, along Bolton Road as well as inside Ewood Park and outside the ground. 

Blackburn Youth, Chorley and PNE clash in The Blackburn End, 1986.

Youth 'Calling Card', 1986.
Youth 'Calling Card', 1986.
Blackburn Youth v PNE
Blackburn Youth v PNE
Blackburn Rovers hooligans Casuals
Blackburn Youth v PNE
Blackburn Hooligans Casuals
Blackburn Youth v PNE

The Blackburn Youth were also quite active between 1995 and 2005, these incidents below were reported by the BBC

17.11.2001, Blackburn Rovers v Liverpool, in the evening after the game around 30 Liverpool hooligans fought with about 30 from Blackburn in a town centre pub with glasses and stools used as weapons. The Liverpool group was put on a train but managed to return to Blackburn and there was further serious disorder in another pub. One of the Liverpool group suffered a severe glass wound.

 

09.02.2002, Wigan Athletic v Blackburn Rovers, about 20 fans from both clubs fought at the train station. Later, a man was injured after clashes between rival hooligans outside the Talbot Inn in Chester. The pub’s windows were smashed and one man, who was not involved in the incident, was injured by flying debris.

Blackburn's firm on the way to Burnley, 2005

The modern Ewood Park: 1990s and the new millennium.

Blackburn Rovers 1 v 1 Burnley, 17/03/2012.

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans

An anxious police and steward presence ensure Rovers ballistic celebrations don't spill over from The Riverside into The Brian Douglas Darwen End where the Burnley fans look nervously on before goading the Rovers fans with songs about the late Jack Walker.

 

Meanwhile, 10-15 Burnley fans make a half-hearted attempt to 'take' the empty lower Jack Walker Stand; watched by very amused Rovers fans in the upper Jack Walker Stand.

 

Some Rovers fans do hang back rather than exit the lower Jack Walker Stand, just in case Burnley make a break for it.

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Rovers fans in The Riverside held back by police and stewards as they try and reach the Burnley fans in The Brian Douglas Darwen End. 17/03/2013.
Anxious Burnley fans look on in silence before goading Rovers fans with songs about the late Jack Walker. 17/03/2013.
Anxious Burnley fans look on in silence before goading Rovers fans with songs about the late Jack Walker. 17/03/2013.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Rovers fans begin to gather at The Brian Douglas Darwen End section of The Riverside near to where the Burnley fans where located as Rovers' 35 years undefeated home record comes to an end. 17/03/2013.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans; Blackburn Rovers fans
Scarfers and Casuals shouting for the town.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Rovers lads.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
The filth at work.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Rovers lads.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Rovers lads.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Rovers lads.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Pyro.

Blackburn V Burnley, 09/03/2014: A proud 35 year undefeated home record comes to an end.

Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Blackburn v Burnley, 09/03/2014: Rovers lad leaves early.
Blackburn Rovers casuals; Blackburn Rovers hooligans
Blackburn v Burnley, 09/03/2014: Rovers take the lead on 24 min's (Jordan Rhodes) but eventually lose the game and their 35 year undefeated run thanks to two late goals from Burnley on 73 min's (Jason Shackell) and 79 min's (Danny Ings).

Football hooliganism inside Ewood Park slowly went into decline from the late 1970's onwards, Rovers gates had continued falling since the 1960’s and from the 1980s football hooliganism had become more organized and moved away from Ewood Park.

 

Blackburn Rovers also made increased efforts to defeat the problem and make Ewood Park and Blackburn Rovers more family oriented. One campaign in the early 1980’s revolved around encouraging the already passionate Rovers fans to keep up the vocal support but keep down the foul language. Blackburn Rovers also attempted to attract more of the sizeable local Asian population to Ewood Park in the 1980's with representatives of the club speaking on local radio about their desire for more Asian people to attend matches at Ewood Park. Sadly, this appears to have had little success.

 

During the 1980s, there was also an aggressive policing policy inside the ground which in itself could lead to minor disturbances and an iron perimeter fence was erected around the pitch in the early 1980s.

 

From the 1990s onwards, most of the mainly partisan pubs outside Ewood Park have been strictly for home supporters only.

As already pointed out, from the late 1970’s and early 1980s Rovers fortunes slowly progressed relative to their nearest Lancashire town rivals Burnley, Blackpool,  Preston North End, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, which gradually seems to have been reflected in the behavior of the fans inside Ewood Park, with the oraganised element, Blackburn Youth, mainly active away from Ewood Park.

 

Nationally and internationally the 1980s witnessed several events that were also to change football as a spectator sport: the Bradford City Fire Disaster (1985); the Hysell Stadium Tragedy (1985); The Hillsborough Disaster (1989) and the Taylor Report (1989) the latter resulting in standing terracing in England being phased out, replaced by all-seater stadiums, in some cases completely new stadiums being built.

During the 1990s, the face of football stadia in England began to change and with it the type of atmosphere inside the stadia and the type spectator clubs were now attempting to attract. This meant pricing policies that deliberately out priced and alienated working-class supporters; this was done in the belief that by attracting more women, families and middle-class consumers that football stadiums would become safer places. Setting aside the moral question of social prejudice through the deliberate policy of out pricing working-class supporters, it is not a sensible business measure for football clubs to out price working-class fans when those clubs represent working-class areas. However, there is no doubt that these measures had some success but how much, is open to debate.

 

Added to these measures local Blackburn born business man and life-long Rovers fan Jack Walker bought the club in 1991 and Rovers eventually gained promotion to the Premier League during the 1991-1992 season. Ewood Park was then rebuilt between between 1993-1994, with its official reopening in 1995.

 

The naughtiness of the good old bad old days of the 1970's when bricks and golf balls would rain down on the Rovers end of the Longside - but they went back over with a bit of top spin and the occasional beer glass that had been crapped in - along with abusive chants from Rovers fans with the suggestion that Steve Kindon's wife was rather promiscuous or the suggestion that the Welsh international Leighton James was a gay (or homosexual, in old money) are over.