Category: Blackburn Rovers

Rovers Fanzine 4000 Holes Returns After Four Years

Blackburn Rovers fanzine, 4000 Holes, is back.  This follows a four year dormant period.

The fanzine started in 1989 when Rovers fans, mainly at Brockhall and Calderstones mental hospitals, set up the publication.  In its early beginnings Rovers were struggling financially and FTH even coughed up its own money and sponsored at least one match.  But it wasn’t long before things changed radically at Rovers when a certain Jack Walker decided to get involved.

Most football fanzines were a thorn in the side to many clubs, but not 4000 Holes!  Instead of slagging off the club’s directors and campaigning for change, our fanzine became a purveyor of humour and positivity.  After all, what did we have to complain about during those heady days?  This was like a dream come true for most of us.

When this fanzine started, they must have had a lot of material sent to them.  When I bought my first issue, its seller asked me to write articles and send copy to them.  He asked everybody else who brought a copy from him that day to follow suit.  By the time I wrote my first article for them, around of a year later, FTH had already reached issue number 13.  In my case, they received a couple of submissions and published both of them in this issue – unlucky for some!

For nearly 25 years the fanzine came out regularly, though not on a similar kind of scale as when it first started.  As is usually the case, publication and writing of FTH eventually became the domain of a few writers and backroom staff.  Fortunately it was in Brendan Searson’s safe pair of hands.  His dogged determination made sure our fanzine came out on a regular basis each season.  For many years Brendan could be seen with his boys standing on the River Darwen bridge, next to the Aqueduct pub, selling fanzine issues whenever it came out.

Brendan eventually retired and passed his baton on to journalist Danny Clough and the fanzine carried on.  Unfortunately technical and other problems began to occur and a four year period of dormancy followed.

Now 4000 Holes fanzine has returned.  Freelance journalist, Scott Sumner, is at its helm.  During these turbulent times at Blackburn Rovers, it is nice to see a part of our culture, like the cover of this latest issue, come back from the dead.  Hopefully we might be able to say something similar about our football club one day.

When Blackburn Rovers Did Win A Raffle

How many times have you heard people say Rovers couldn’t win a raffle?  Many years ago they cleared all their debts with one.

New Bank Road to the left, Revidge Road at the top.

Rovers’ lost Leamington Street ground

Before Blackburn Rovers moved to Ewood Park they played their home games in the Revidge district of Blackburn.  These were at East Lancs’ Alexandra Meadows cricket ground, before moving round the corner to their own Leamington Street football ground.

Despite Rovers probably being the most successful football club in the world at the time – they won the FA Cup, or English Cup as it was known then, for the third time in a row in 1886 – there was still the perennial problem then, as now, of paying for it all.

The ingenuity of football fans was as powerful over 130 years ago as it is now and one of the most novel ways ever of raising money for Rovers was put into action.  This was raffling a house on New Bank Road, near their Leamington Street ground, in 1886.  It became known as The Rovers Cottage and was said to be worth £140.

Tickets would go on sale at 6d each but this was very expensive for some fans.  Sixpence 130 years ago would be worth around £25 in today’s money.  Supporters would often create their own syndicates to buy tickets.  Normally six people would put in a penny each and then hold a draw amongst themselves to decide who would be holder of their raffle entry ticket.

On this occasion five men from Blackburn clubbed together to do this.  They had difficulty in persuading a sixth; a 24 year old Blackburn Corporation gas meter inspector from Johnston Street, called John Thomas Barker, to join in with their syndicate.  Finally he reluctantly handed over his penny and then won their raffle to hold the ticket.

The draw was made on Wednesday 17 March 1886 at Culleen’s Circus, Blakey Moor, from the same cylinder Blackburn Olympic had used for their prize draw the previous Saturday, ironically the day Rovers beat the Swifts to book their place in their third Cup Final in a row.  No doubt the boys from the top of East Park Road would have had some decent prizes, but nothing compared to what was on offer from those boys at the top of West Park Road.  The Rovers Cottage was a sensation and created enormous interest, with 4,000 people turning up to watch the draw.

Mr Barker found out that he had won the raffle.  This prize was a fortune for most working men at the time.  He said he had received two offers for the house of £115 and £120.  At today’s prices, these figures could be multiplied nearly a thousand fold.

The Rovers Cottage wasn’t just a great success for its raffle winner, it also helped pay off all of Rovers’ outstanding debts.  The icing on their cake came a few weeks later with them winning the FA Cup for a third time in a row.  Known as the ‘Thrice’, this is a feat no club has since been able to achieve and means Rovers still hold the longest unbeaten run in the world’s oldest club competition.

Venkoids From Space Invade Blackburn Rovers

Can you imagine alien creatures from a far off galaxy invading Earth?  Well, maybe they have already.  Could the Venkoids be those creatures?

They came from the Planet Lune – which sounds like Pune.  Three alien siblings: Captain Balaji Blob, his brother Commander V and sister Lieutenant Annie Uhura.  These space invaders were on a mission to take over Blackburn Rovers and their planetary station.  Their spacecraft had managed to get under the obsolete FA radar and orbit Ewood Park.  Now they wanted to assimilate every Rovers fan – resistance was futile, or so they thought!

The Venkoids’ plan was to turn Ewood Park into a giant fast-food outlet, forcing Rovers fans into eating space burgers and fries, then watching chicken-feed.  But they failed to assess resistance from these intrepid local Earthlings.  A dissident movement was set up and protests took place, as did a boycott campaign.  This prompted the Venkoids to commit acts of reprisal against those brave dissidents.

Their first action was to replace our manager with an out of spacer called Kean.  This brought plague and pestilence upon our world.  Deluded Kean’s disastrous reign of terror even managed to upset two of the Venkoids, though he still had support from the lieutenant.  She acted like a proper little madam.  More spaced out leaders were put on the bridge, but further disasters followed.

The final humiliation came when our penultimate leader steered us into a black hole and we landed in a time warp.  In spite of heroic efforts from our new man at the helm, relegation was inevitable.  This took us back to a period of our history called the third dimension – somewhere we thought we would never visit again.

But while our world was still under attack, strange things were happening to the Venkoids.  Just when they thought their destruction of our world was complete, they began to lose their power and started succumbing to some kind of mysterious sickness, similar to amnesia.  It was said pursuing creatures from their own world had finally caught up with them.  Now they were exacting a fitting and painful retribution upon them for not paying their dues.

Or was it not malignant greed at all to which they had succumbed, but their visit to a children’s chicken pox party in Blackburn.  Could this be what created their demise?  Nobody will ever know – we still couldn’t get any communication from the Venkoids, even at the bitter end!

Venky’s Knocked Down By A Feather

Venky’s have not been seen at Blackburn Rovers games for ages.  Rumours in India say the family is suffering from some kind of bizarre disease, possibly a side-effect following DNA research into poultry production.

The Incredible Feathered Venky

As one of the world’s leading avian research institutions, based in India, Venky’s have always boasted of having technology to even create new species of life.  One unusual challenge they recently received was to bring the extinct Dodo back to life.  They say it could be possible using 3D bio-printing.

Venky’s claim this kind of technology was right up their street.  They believe they could also solve the age old riddle of which came first: the chicken or the egg?  They say they could manage to create an egg before a Dodo in this case.  After all, they are a hatchery and their matriarch – Mrs Desai – is known as ‘Madam’, which means Mother Hen in some Indian dialects.  Her brother Balaji is even more fearsome and is known to rule their company with a rod of iron.  No doubt they can see opportunities for feathering their nests, should these experiments succeed.

Unfortunately for the Venky’s, theory and practice do not always go like a bird in the hand and their chickens may have come home to roost on this occasion.  The Rao family have spent all their life amongst chickens and this may have made them more susceptible than most people to airborne avian infections.  Reports of the Venky’s having facial disfigurements resembling a coating of feathers have been mentioned by sources in India.

There is also a theory Venky’s’ buying Blackburn Rovers may have triggered some kind of ironic scourge upon the Rao family.  In 1965 Blackburn was hit by a polio epidemic.  This led to other football clubs refusing to play Rovers and they started their season later than everybody else.  Their backlog of matches didn’t help and led to them being relegated at the end of the 1965-66 Season.  Perhaps some kind of throwback to those troubled times has come back to haunt Venky’s.  It may become known as the Rovers’ Revenge.

While Venky’s own us, there is more chance of them bringing the Dodo back to life than Blackburn Rovers.  At least we can look forward to a day when Venky’s ownership of our club, like the life of the Dodo, will also become extinct and consigned to the history books.  Nobody will ever want to see their disastrous stewardship of Blackburn Rovers occur again.  They have taken us to the brink of extinction.  But 3D bio-printing won’t be necessary and like the fabled phoenix, Rovers will one day rise again.

What happened to Ronaldinho?

What happened to Ronaldinho? by Mick Pickup

Answer by Mick Pickup:

Venky's tried to bring Ronaldhino to Blackburn Rovers.  But no Rovers fan took it seriously.  It was seen as 'Marquee Signing', when we needed players who wanted to put a proper shift in.  The player was well past his best and seen as yet another football mercenary, only wanting to come to the club for one last big payday. 

Venky's even hired the Flash to be his bodyguard.  Sadly he was nowhere near as fast as the Flash and the deal fell through.

What happened to Ronaldinho?

Venky’s Say Stuff Rovers

Venky’s say they are sick of Blackburn Rovers fans making their lives a misery, so have come up with a scheme which almost makes death pleasurable. 

Roving Mick

Taken by Sylvia Larkin, courtesy of Blackburn Museum


They have decided to take their animal products empire forward to its logical conclusion.  From their origins as an egg hatchery, they now want to get involved in the other end of this process and set up their ultimate disposal solution of man’s best friend – pet funerals.

This idea came to the Venky’s following a recent visit they made to Blackburn Museum.  What caught the family’s imagination was a stuffed greyhound on display.  It was called ‘Bed of Stone’, a champion hare courser, who won the Waterloo Cup in 1872.  It was left to the people of Blackburn by a brother of William Briggs, who was a cotton magnate and one of Blackburn’s former MP’s.

Venky’s didn’t really understand the meaning of hare coursing, but liked the idea of creating a hare restorer – especially Balaji.  It made them want to pursue this issue further.  Someone also suggested stuffing animals – like they already do with chickens – would be a brilliant business opportunity for them.  Why bury or cremate your beloved Rover when you could keep a stuffed reminder of him in your house or garden for perpetuity?

It is also rumoured Venky’s had their first ever egg-laying hen stuffed in more ways than one.  It was freeze-dried and preserved out of gratitude for the start it gave them when they set up their own hatchery.

After their disastrous tenure at Blackburn Rovers, man’s best friend is the last thing anybody thinks of when it comes to our Indian owners.  ‘Johnny No Mates’ is probably a more appropriate label for Rovers’ absentee landlords.  Their description of our club as their ‘baby’ has also gone down badly with Rovers fans.  Many say Venky’s would be facing child abuse charges if Rovers was a real baby.  Some kind of FA Social Services is needed to take our club off them and put it up for adoption.

Venky’s have not ruled out building their own pet cemetary either.  After giving up on their plans to sell Rovers’ Brockhall training ground, other uses for it are now being explored.  Now they have almost killed off their pet football team, it looks like they might just as well leave us dead and buried in our own resting place.  Blackburn Rovers will then be well and truly stuffed.

Rovers Fans Set Up Venky’s Out Camp

Blackburn Rovers fans are trying all sorts of weird and wonderful ways of persuading Indian owners, the Venky’s to sell up and leave their beloved football club.  One of their strangest ventures has been the setting up of a protest camp on land high above Rovers’ Ewood Park football ground.camp1

This protest camp is a mixture of tents, including native American style teepees.  Chief of the protest camp and spokesman for the newly formed ‘Ewood First Nations’ is Blue Owl.  He told me he is really called Fred Grimshaw and lives on the nearby Higher Croft estate.  But for now he and his tribe have devoted themselves to the growing campaign to get rid of that other tribe of renegade Indians – the Venky’s from faraway Pune.

Blue Owl said:  “Our tribe belongs to Rovers, but they do not belong to us.  This cannot be said of current so-called owners, the Venky’s.  They may have temporary possession of our sacred club, but they do not belong and like the demons they are, their possession will one day be exorcised”.

Protest tactics to be used by the Ewood First Nations will include banging drums and doing a war dance during matches.  They will also be producing smoke signals using their barbecues.  Of course Venky’s chickens will be nowhere to be found when these barbecues are put into action.  This is one signal they don’t want to send out to the rest of the nations.

These gallant braves will also be taking part in the ritual of waiting for when the sun reaches its zenith in the sky at high noon.  When this happens they will try shining sunlight from handheld mirrors into the Ewood Park stadium.  This latter tactic is also meant to symbolically reflect back the evil medicine emanating from Venky’s, as well as sending sunlight  into their eyes and dazzling them, should they ever turn up for a Rovers match.  No doubt this act will probably remain just symbolic.

Blue Owl is expecting a long campaign before Rovers return to the happy hunting ground.  Driving the Venky’s invaders from our ancient ancestral lands will take a heap of big medicine.  But, as with the endless flow of the River Darwen below the camp, separating it from Ewood Park, their determination to take back what it theirs is like that of the salmon leaping and the hooves of the thundering herd – never ending.

Venky’s – Time To Go!

With the news that Paul Lambert is quitting Blackburn Rovers at the end of the season, where does this leave the club and its owners, the Venky’s?

Draining the lifeblood from Rovers

Draining the lifeblood from Rovers

Our Indian owners’ tenure at the club has created one disaster after another.  Their first action was to sack Sam Allardyce and replace him with the hated Steve Kean.  Further managerial appointments led to even more failures.  Now their latest one has created the unusual situation where a manager has sacked the football club.

Losses at Rovers have put the club in over £100M of debt.  Venky’s have absorbed these debts, but for how long will they keep bailing out the club?  Their shares in India have taken a pounding and the last thing they need is to keep pumping money into a loss-making football club halfway across the world.

Yet Venky’s have shown they have no interest in football.  So what is the point of them owning Blackburn Rovers?  Very few people in India care whether Rovers win the Premier League or go to the wall.  Sadly the way things are going at the club, the latter option is becoming more than just a possibility.

Nobody is really sure why Paul Lambert decided to quit Rovers, apart from the man himself and Venky’s.  Our owners’ indecision is thought to be one of the main reasons.  This may be coupled with what Lambert experienced during his tenure at Aston Villa and the probability of a similar outcome waiting round the corner at Blackburn Rovers.

There also remains the question as to what Venky’s hope to achieve from destroying Blackburn Rovers.  Fortunately for them, our club is just a small component of their business empire.  But the way we are haemorrhaging money to the tune of several millions a year, even Venky’s, with their billions, have to realise this situation can’t go on forever.  Rovers are not a bottomless pit and sooner or later the tap has got to be turned off.

Unfortunately for Rovers, we seem to be dealing with a bunch of spoilt rich kids who haven’t invested their inherited wealth very wisely in our football club.  This is confounded by a culture where being seen not to lose face means everything – regardless of what stupid decisions have been made in the past.  Sadly for the Venky’s, they don’t appear to have heard of the old British saying:  ‘When you’re in a hole – stop digging’.

Skimmy Southworth – Rovers’ Musical Goal Machine

Who was Blackburn Rovers’ greatest goalscorer? Was it Shearer, Sutton, Tommy Briggs, Simon Garner, or present day poacher, Jordan Rhodes?

Skimmy knew how to blow his own trumpet

Skimmy knew how to blow his own trumpet

Believe it or not, one former player, actually born and bred in Blackburn, is up there with the best of them when it comes to his record of scoring goals for Rovers. His strike rate is even higher than Alan Shearer’s!

Jack Southworth was born on Ainsworth Street in 1866 and baptised in what became Blackburn Cathedral. He came from a musical family and would go on to become a professional musician when his football career was ended by injury.

His brother Jim, also a musician, played alongside his sibling for Rovers. Both of them started playing with Rovers’ town rivals, Blackburn Olympic. But after earlier rejections, they were eventually lured across Corporation Park from Shear Brow to Leamington Road.

Jack quickly became a favourite with the Rovers fans, who nicknamed him ‘Skimmy’, due to his speed. He became a deadly striker, dubbed the ‘Prince of Dribblers’ and was popping them in at an important time in our history.

We become founder members of the Football League in 1888. Next came our move to Ewood Park. There was also a small matter of Rovers winning two FA Cups in 1890 & 1891. The first of these while still playing at Leamington Road and our next after the move to our current home. Jack scored in both victories. He also played three times for England, inevitably scoring in all three games.

Although we are taking about those early days of organised football, Southworth’s goals record is still incredible. He played 132 Football League and FA Cup matches for Rovers, scoring 121 goals. He scored Rovers’ first ever goal in the Football League and he still holds Blackburn Rovers’ record for the most individual hat-tricks in a season, with five in 1890–91, and the record for the aggregate individual hat-tricks with thirteen.

Sadly, Skimmy and the Rovers fell out over football’s perennial curse – money. Although Southworth had a good point in his argument about wishing to move to Everton to further his musical career. The Toffees had just moved into their new Goodison Park ground and were splashing the cash. They paid Rovers £400 and took away our first prolific goal scorer – no doubt some former fans of the then recently defunct ‘Lympic would have had a laugh at their fellow townsfolk’s loss.

The real reason for his transfer was Rovers’ developing financial problems due to the Ewood Park move and joining the Football League. But Jack was still pilloried by the local press and Rovers fans for jumping ship. At least he was given his say in a letter which they published. He explained his reasons candidly, for both financially and musically, wanting away. The latter was obviously his first love. Even at the height of his powers at Rovers, the 1891 census has him living in Inkerman Street and his occupation listed as a musician.

At Everton he was a sensation in his first season, scoring 27 goals in 22 games. It looked more of the same in his second season, with nine goals in as many games. But then he was struck by a leg injury which ended his football career. Fortunately, he had other strings to his bow in more ways than one and became a professional violinist with the Halle Orchestra. He went on to play different instruments in various famous orchestras across the north for several years.

Jack Southworth died in in Liverpool in 1956. He was nearly 90. He may not have been Rovers’ greatest striker, but he was certainly our most artistic.

You’re a Bast**d Referee!

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.

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