A Visit to Blackburn's Ewood Park
Visiting Blackburn for their recent match against Spurs, I was intent on stepping back into history. Rovers, after all, was one of the founding members of the football league in 1888 (along with nearby clubs Accrington, Burnley and Preston).Even on the train ride from Liverpool to Blackburn via Manchester, I found myself suddenly realizing the sense of footballing history in the region. For example, when the train stopped along its journey at Darwen, I immediately remembered that the team had played in the football league. Only later did I recall that Darwen F.C., who played in league football from 1891 to 1899, was the first club to install electric floodlights as well as employing football’s first two professional players.After arriving at Blackburn’s railway station, I took the bus for the 2-3 mile trip to Ewood Park arriving a couple of hours before kick-off. The free time allowed me to stroll around Ewood Park and the area. The ground, which is situated between a busy main road and a canal, is far more modern than its drab surroundings. Jack Walker’s money was well spent rebuilding Ewood Park and transforming it into an appealing ground. Three of the four sides are modern, while the one stand to remain from the past is the CIS Stand which, unfortunately, is the one that everyone sees most often when watching Blackburn on TV.Outside the ground before the match, I walked around the stands and mingled with the supporters. As I’ve noted on the EPL Talk Podcast episode from Blackburn and in the pictures from Ewood Park, I was surprised at the throngs of Spurs supporters who were walking around the ground without being segregated by the police. Many of the Tottenham fans had made the long journey from London to the match.When I walked inside Ewood Park to my seat in the Blackburn End, I was immediately impressed by the jumbotron screen in the corner of the ground. With 30 minutes to go before kickoff, the screen displayed plenty of content to keep the football fans content on a cold evening in Lancashire. In addition to player interviews, you could watch live coverage of the players in the tunnel.To the sounds of “The Final Countdown,” the Blackburn and Tottenham players walked on to the pitch. The home support was boisterous, especially in the Blackburn End where I was sitting. Sitting next to a young Lancashire lad, his voice raspy from cigarette smoking, I was soon introduced to unique Blackburn chants such as “Small Town In Europe,” and the “No, Nay, Never” (which took me a while to figure out what he was singing).The match itself was quite memorable with Phil Dowd being the center of controversy after a couple of interesting decisions (and non-decisions, especially a handball by Mido). The final result was 1-1.What I remember most about Blackburn is the warmth of its support, the interesting characters who were proud to be northern, the quality ground and the long walk back to the railway station through the pouring rain.To read two articles I wrote for BBC Lancashire regarding my trip, go here and here.