Leicester City are seemingly on the threshold of a shock Premier League title win.
Today came the news that manager Claudio Ranieri would be willing to relinquish star midfielder N’Golo Kanté. Since the beginning of Leicester’s serious title challenge fans and pundits have feared a mass clear out of players to bigger clubs. Ranieri’s comments could well be the first sign of this prophecy.
An exodus of star players is something Blackburn Rovers fans know all to well. Having won the league in 1995, much to the shock of many, Blackburn’s form worsened year on year having slipped to 7th in 1996, 13th in 1997 and finally being relegated in 1999.
So what happened to the team that played on the final day of the season in 1995?
Goalkeeper – Tim Flowers
Flowers joined Blackburn in November 1993 from Southampton. His transfer fee of £2.4 million made him the most expensive goalkeeper in Britain. Flowers was instrumental in Blackburns’ 2nd place finish that season and was a standout performer in their title winning team. He stayed at Ewood Park until Blackburn were relegated in 1999.
Flowers has since spent brief periods in management, the last of which, with Kidderminster Harriers F.C. lasted just 14 days.
Defender – Graeme Le Saux
Le Saux arrived at Blackburn as part of a plan by manager Kenny Daglish and businessman Jack Walker to elevate the club to the elite in English football. Le Saux played nearly every game of the 1995 title winning season. Yet the two years following the success were plagued with injury and Le Saux returned to Chelsea in 1997.
One of Le Saux’s most memorable moments at Blackburn came when he was involved in an on-field fight with team mate David Batty. The fight, which came during an away Champions League game at Spartak Moscow, was broken up by Tim Sherwood before it could truly begin.
Le Saux currently plies his trade as a television analyst with NBC.
Defender – Colin Hendry
The Scot spent a period of 9 years at Ewood Park, spread out over 2 spells. In 1998 he returned to Scotland to play for Rangers under manager Dick Advocat. Despite domestic success at Rangers, Hendry was unhappy and left the club in 2000.
Since his retirement from football in 2003, Hendry has gone through a series of personal struggles including declaring bankruptcy in 2010 and a charge of assault and harassment against an ex-girlfriend in May 2015.
Defender – Jeff Kenna
The Dubliner joined the Riversiders late during their successful Premier League campaign. Kenna arrived in March 1995 and remained at the club for 7 more years before joining Birmingham City in 2002.
The former Irish international went on to finish his career in the League of Ireland and has more recently been working as an academy coach in the United States.
Defender – Henning Berg
The Norwegian defender arrived in 1992 at the beginning of the first ever Premier League season. 2 years after the Premier League win, Berg left Lancashire and joined Manchester United in 1997. The £5 million transfer fee was a British record for a defender. Berg won 2 more league titles with United, one of which came as part of the 1999 treble win.
Berg returned to Ewood Park as manager in 2012. His reign lasted just 57 days and consisted of just one win.
Defender – Ian Pearce
Pearce joined Blackburn from Chelsea in 1993. His centre half partnership with Colin Hendry was among the most formidable in England and was key in the 1995 success. Pearce departed the club, along with Berg and Le Saux, in 1997 for West Ham. His career thereafter was often plagued by injury.
He retired in 2012 after a 2 game spell with Kingstonian.
Midfielder – David Batty
Batty played just 5 games of the 1994-95 season. A broken foot ruled him out for the majority of the title winning campaign. After his fracas in Moscow with Le Saux, he requested a transfer to Newcastle. In 1996 he joined the Tynesiders for £3.75 million. The Leeds native would return to his home club for a second spell in 1998 and remain there until 2004.
Batty’s international career will perhaps be best remembered for his missed penalty in the 1998 World Cup penalty shootout loss to Argentina.
Midfielder – Tim Sherwood
Before he was hurling gilets around White Hart Lane and Villa Park, Tim Sherwood was Blackburn’s club captain. Sherwood was one of Kenny Daglish’s first signings as manager of the club in 1992. Having failed to make a significant impact in his debut season at Ewood Park he would go on to make 246 appearances, scoring 25 goals.
Allegedly Daglish was keen on signing Zinedine Zidane from Bordeaux with the financial help of Jack Walker. When approached about the idea Walker reportedly said: “why do you want Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?”.
Sherwood ultimately fell out of love with Blackburn and was brought to White Hart Lane by Spurs manager George Graham for £3 million in 1999.
Midfielder – Stuart Ripley
Perhaps the least well known of Blackburns midfield, Ripley was in fact Blackburn’s record signing prior to the arrival of Alan Shearer. Ripley also holds the accolade of scoring Blackburn’s first ever Premier League goal in a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace. Ripley departed Blackburn for the South Coast of England in 1998, joining Southampton.
He retired from football in 2002 and currently works as a solicitor.
Striker – Chris Sutton
Prior to his stint as Neil Lennon’s assistant manager and personal bodyguard, Chris Sutton was once the most expensive player in English football. The £5 million transfer fee paid by Blackburn in 1994 drew him away from Norwich City and North to Lancashire. Sutton’s strike partnership with Alan Shearer, nicknamed the SAS, resulted in 49 goals (34 for Shearer, 15 for Sutton).
Following the Premier League triumph, Sutton fell out of the first team though injury and loss of form, but returned as the Premier League’s joint-top goal scorer in the 1997-1998 season.
Sutton left Blackburn after their relegation in 1999 and joined Chelsea. After just one solitary season at Stamford Bridge, Sutton moved to Celtic where he remained for 6 years. Sutton also spent time as assistant manager at Celtic Park alongside Neil Lennon.
He currently works on BBC Radio 5 Live as a pundit.
Striker – Alan Shearer
Shearer is perhaps the best known of the 11 men who started the day Blackburn won the Premier League. Shearer scored Blackburn’s only goal that day in their 2-1 loss to Liverpool. In his 4 years at Blackburn, Shearer made 138 appearances and scored 112 goals.
After impressing at Euro 1996, Shearer rejected a move to Old Trafford in favour of returning to his boyhood club, Newcastle United. Shearer’s transfer fee of £15 million was a world record at the time. His 260 Premier League goals ranks his as the all time top goal scorer in the competition, some 48 goals ahead of 2nd place Wayne Rooney.
Shearer has worked as a television pundit for the BBC since his retirement, excluding his brief journey into management in 2009. With 8 games remaining in the season Shearer was charged with keeping Newcastle United in the Premier League, a task which he ultimately failed to deliver.
Since then Shearer has remained on TV screens.
The fallout from Blackburn’s league success was largely not a happy one. Increased expectations were not met with increases in performance. The carcass of Blackburn was systematically pulled apart by bigger clubs who could afford to repeatedly break transfer records to lure star players away from Ewood Park.
The fear for Leicester fans should be that, come next season, their impressive squad could have been carried off by vultures in the form of Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.