Blackburn Rovers hold a few football records, but here is one of their funniest.
Rovers may hold the unique distinction of hosting England international matches on three different home grounds in the 19th century. These were at East Lancs Cricket Club’s Alexandra Meadows, Leamington Road, round the corner and of course our beloved current home ground of Ewood Park.
But the international match which causes most merriment was the first one at the Meadows. On the 21st of February 1881 a crowd of 4,200 gathered at Alexandra Meadows, temporary home of Blackburn Rovers, to watch England play Wales in a friendly international. Both Hargreaves brothers and James Brown from Rovers were in the England team.
The ground was covered in snow and slush, a factor which was the main reason blamed for the Welsh gaining an unexpected 1-0 victory. No doubt many disappointed England supporters would have vented their ire at the match officials, keeping up a tradition we see all the time these days.
But the match referee would have been used to the usual insult shouted in his direction. His was the wonderfully named Segar Richard Bastard, who hailed from Bow in London.
It probably wasn’t a good idea to question Segar’s parentage, he was a practising solicitor when not playing football and other sports. He also played the beautiful game at international level himself – just once for England – before refereeing. He was also in appropriate surroundings at the East Lancs ground, having played for Essex at county cricket level. Segar also liked a flutter and would be in good company with today’s footballers as he was one of the first to have owned a racehorse.
At least we can dispel the popular myth of Segar being the inspiration behind some of the chants directed towards referees. These didn’t start until well after his death in 1921. But we can say the referee of the first ever England international home match, held outside London, really was a Bastard.