Blackburn Rovers' title triumph: 25 years on from a dramatic final day
Sky Sports News' Ben Ransom looks back at Blackburn Rovers' 1995 triumph, one of the closest Premier League finishes in history
By Ben Ransom, Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 14/05/20 1:21pm
In other circumstances the Premier League trophy could have been lifted at Anfield this weekend, and on this day 25 years ago exactly that happened as Blackburn Rovers won the title by the narrowest of margins on a final day of drama.
Sky Sports News' North West Reporter Ben Ransom got three members of that squad together to look back at what remains one of the closest Premier League finishes in history...
A nervy run-in had gone down to the wire, with Blackburn's relatively comfortable six-point lead over Manchester United whittled down to just two by the time each side went into their final matches of the season on May 14, 1995.
Despite knowing a win would guarantee them top spot, Rovers were struggling under the pressure having only won two of their previous five matches.
By contrast, Sir Alex Ferguson's reigning champions were flying up on the rails by winning three in a row and overturning Blackburn's superior goal difference.
Fergie had playfully suggested in the build-up that Blackburn could falter right at the very end like the infamous horse Devon Loch, who fell when leading inside the final 50 yards of the 1956 Grand National.
United went to West Ham confident of victory, while Kenny Dalglish took his Blackburn side to his beloved Liverpool where he had won the title himself in 1990.
Whether it was down to poor form or the mind-games from his rival, Blackburn defender Colin Hendry remembers Dalglish making changes for the trip.
"It was quite a long weekend, we went to a different hotel, a hotel we hadn't stayed in before," he says.
"The thing about it is if we go and win the game there is no problem. Any team going to Anfield at any time, irrespective of how Liverpool are playing or doing or where they are in the league, that's a hard, hard game.
"The pressure was really on us as you'd have expected United to go to West Ham and get a result but it was very surreal."
Mark Atkins says all of the players were under extreme mental pressure going into that final day.
"There wasn't a lot of sleeping them last two weeks of the season for me personally, every time you're doing something you're thinking about what's going to happen," he says.
"I was at the training ground about 7 o'clock in the morning just to get it out the way! We'd never been in it before so who knows, we didn't know what we were going into, we didn't know how pressure would get us as a group.
"Like Colin says, we went to St Helens to a hotel there for some reason where we'd never ever been before, which seemed a bit strange."
Atkins was due to be among the substitutes until winger Stuart Ripley reported a slight groin problem on the morning of the game. That meant that Dalglish had to give his place on the bench to Robbie Slater who was a like-for-like replacement should Ripley have to come off.
"It was horrendous for that 90 minutes," he says. "Watching, sat there knowing you can't, you want to be out on that pitch helping.
"I think if you can get onto the pitch and put your input in it makes it a lot easier. Myself and Kev [Gallacher] were sat there behind Kenny and it was horrendous. You know Kenny told us to go and have a few pints before the game."
If the pre-match beers were suggested to calm the nerves, Alan Shearer's 37th goal of the season was probably more effective as he put Blackburn 1-0 up midway through the first half. West Ham also took the lead at Upton Park to further help their cause.
Colin Hendry was on the pitch but was looking to his team-mates on the sidelines for news of what might be happening with United in the other game.
"I tell you something, it didn't make any difference being out there, it made it actually worse for me if I'm being really honest," Hendry says.
"Because when things were happening on the pitch, and you were looking at the sidelines and Kev you were there, I could see you and Mimmsy [Bobby Mimms] and Newelly [Mike Newell] and Kenny and Ray [Harford], and then you're trying to work out what's going on."
Blackburn failed to add to their lead, and despite having nothing to play for Liverpool came back into the game after the break. Hendry recalls not knowing whether to push for the second goal or try to sit back and hold on.
"It was just mad, it was surreal," he says. "And even if Sutton had scored the chance he had at the beginning of the second half when we were 1-0 up then we could've maybe took our foot off the gas a wee bit, put bodies behind the ball but it was a bit of nip and tuck, do we go and get the second goal? Do we rely on what we've got at 1-0 up?
"They could come out at any point. They didn't seem too bothered about it, but at the end of the day they're professionals and they play for Liverpool Football Club.
"John Barnes and Jamie Redknapp scored the goals, we were in total bewilderment as to what's going to happen next."
Meanwhile, United had levelled at West Ham through Brian McClair and with Blackburn now losing 2-1 it meant that one more goal for United and the title would once again be theirs. For Atkins and Gallacher it was an excruciating period.
"We were sat right next to the dugout as you came up the tunnel, and on the opposite side of the tunnel was the Sky people with a monitor there watching the West Ham-Man Utd game," says Atkins.
"Every time anything happened they were going 'Oooh' and we were like 'what's going on now?'. So it was definitely worse sat there weren't it Kev?"
"Definitely," says Gallacher. "Especially when you've had a couple or three pints before the game and were desperate to go to the toilet, and you can't walk in front of the manager and you're sort of dancing with your legs through the nerves and you need a wee!"
The unsung hero
The unsung hero for Blackburn on the final day turned out to be West Ham goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko, who thwarted Manchester United, and in particular striker Andy Cole on a number of occasions with some fine saves to keep the score at 1-1.
It meant that despite the defeat Blackburn had completed their remarkable three-season rise from the old Second Division to Premier League champions. Gallacher says it was everything owner Jack Walker had wanted to achieve.
"To think it was all built-up through someone's dream, that's unbelievable," Gallacher says. "To think it's happened and we done it.
"We probably done it two years too early than what they'd planned and I think to do that just shows the achievement of everybody who worked at Blackburn Rovers at that time. How everybody was in it together.
"That dream you were getting told about through Kenny and through Jack about what they wanted to do, you could actually see it happening. We couldn't have asked for a better squad of lads to get on together, to go and work and get that title and that's what we were there to do.
"We were paid to go and get a title and bring it to Blackburn. To get it two years too early was a fantastic achievement for everybody."
Hendry says celebrations went on long into the night, and it was special for everyone in the town.
"I can quite vividly remember on the night after we'd won the league and we'd gone to Ewood Park and we'd celebrated, then went out in the town of Blackburn with some friends and Denise my wife and I'd met someone and he said 'listen Colin, even if it doesn't happen ever again in my life I will die a happy man'," he says.
"And the probability is that they won't win the league again, you never ever know, but they probably won't but it was just something that can't be taken away from any of us."
Cole: "I'm not quite sure how we didn't win it"
Miklosko denied Andy Cole on a number of occasions, including two good chances in the final few minutes, and even 25 years on the United striker still can't believe he didn't find a way to score the goal that would have secured his first Premier League winners' medal.
"Still now I'm not quite sure how we didn't win it!" he says. "Ludo Miklosko was un-be-lievable, I think possibly the best game he's ever had in his career. Bitterly, bitterly disappointed that we didn't go on to win it.
"I don't think what happened on that day was never going to change, it was one of those days where it wasn't meant to be. For Manchester United that day, for me personally for my team-mates, it wasn't meant to be."
They ended up missing out on the title by one point and looking back, Cole admits it was the lowest point of his career.
"Sometimes we have to go through things like that to come out the other side and then go on to be very very fortunate, to go on to win, achieve the things that I did do many years after for Manchester United," he says.
"The hard knocks of football, the ups and downs, that was definitely a down part of my United career."
United did successfully come from behind in the title race the following season when they famously pegged back Kevin Keegan's Newcastle to lift the trophy, but it was only in the Treble winning year of 1999 that Cole finally got over the hurt of the missed chances at West Ham.
Cole scored the winning goal against Tottenham on the final day to ensure United were on the right side of a one-point gap at the top of the table.
"I talk about the Tottenham one at Old Trafford, when we won the league there," he says. "I enjoyed that one so much due to what happened in '95 against West Ham at Upton Park.
"Not going on to win the league that season I was bitterly disappointed, but you know football and the world in general always goes round in circles. So what happened then and what happened in '99 has put me in peace a little bit."