Le Saux relives Blackburn’s miraculous Premier League title triumph 25 years on
It remains one of the greatest achievements in Premier League history.
Against all the odds, Blackburn Rovers were crowned champions, pipping Manchester United on a dramatic final afternoon of the season on May 14, 1995 – 25 years ago on Thursday.
Who can forget the picture of Blackburn manager Kenny Dalglish celebrating wildly at Anfield after his team lost 2-1 to Liverpool, but still won the title because United slipped up at West Ham?
Dalglish is a legend at Anfield, but rarely showed much emotion even when winning everything as a player and manager with Liverpool.
Yet, here he was, back at his spiritual home enjoying arguably his finest-ever success.
“Was it Kenny Dalglish’s greatest achievement?” asks Graeme Le Saux, the Blackburn left-back from their historic side.
“Well, it’s a bit like Pep Guardiola when people say, ‘But could he do it with a Championship team, bring them up without the resources?’ Kenny didn’t have huge funds, brought Blackburn up and did it.
“I’d love to ask Kenny whether he sees it as his biggest achievement. What I know is that his passion and his love of the game, in training and being part of the dressing room was remarkable.
“He loved joining in and even in his 40s he was still incredible on the training pitch. His celebrations said everything. Kenny never shows much emotion, but if you look at him after we won the league at Anfield, you see the way he reacts and I’ve never seen him like that before or since.
“I saw him earlier this year at Anfield, I was commentating for TV, I saw him pitch side and spontaneously I gave him what you might call ‘a modern man hug’. He just froze, arms by his side and I could tell he was so uncomfortable.
“His daughter Kelly was working for Sky, she saw it and said, ‘Did you just hug my dad?’ I said, ‘Yeah’. She went, ‘I don’t think even I’ve hugged my dad!’ I hadn’t seen him for ages, I’ve got so much love for him and looking back, it was so funny. So to see him celebrate like he did that day at Anfield shows just what it meant.
“The other thing about him is that he would never and I mean literally never, talk about himself. When you consider what he achieved, he was just so modest.”
Just to put their achievement into context, in the first 12 years of the Premier League they were the only team other than United and Arsenal to win it. Two factors really stand out from that remarkable season.
The famous SAS strike partnership of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton provided the goals to fire them to the title, but also the notion that Blackburn bought the title thanks to late owner Jack Walker’s millions.
“We’re always really defensive about the comparison of other clubs when it comes to big pockets, spending loads of money and buying success because it was far more sophisticated than that,” said Le Saux.
“The group, the culture that Kenny and his No.2 Ray Harford set was so important.
“There was no hierarchy, nothing flash and when I got there in 1993, they paid £600,000 for me and Chelsea paid £5.5million to buy me back and they made a £40m profit on that team.
"You had people like Ian Pearce, Jeff Kenna, Jason Wilcox, Henning Berg, Stuart Ripley, all for not a huge amount of money and yet where we had an identity was our work ethic, no-one was bigger than anyone else and it was a really good and fair dressing room.”
Shearer was the star, scoring 34 goals, as Sutton got 15 and they were the perfect partnership. But it makes Le Saux laugh now to see them as two of football’s best-known media pundits.
He added: “If I’d have said back then that Alan Shearer would be on Match of the Day, Chris Sutton would be on the BBC, BT Sport and the radio they’d have thrown me off the bus thinking I’d gone mad.
“Neither of them liked doing the media at the time.
"Alan would take penalties calmly, score from ridiculous distances and he was so good that if he received the ball in a certain area then you’d see him winding up for a shot and I promise you that I’d start walking back to my position for kick-off before he struck it. You just knew.
“Chris and Alan together were phenomenal. They brought something different.
“Alan held the ball up and Chris would do that brilliantly, he’d take heavy punishment with defenders coming in from behind and yet he could finish, used his body brilliantly and he was so effective.
“Alan was incredible. Taking him out of our team was like taking Michael Jordan out of the Chicago Bulls. But it was also an incredible team.”
How the most dramatic final day unfolded…
Blackburn clinched the title in 1995 on one of the most nail-biting final days of all time.
Heading to Anfield, Rovers were top by two points from defending champions Manchester United, who were away at West Ham.
It started so well for Blackburn as Alan Shearer put them in front after 20 minutes against Liverpool and, 10 minutes later, Michael Hughes nudged the Hammers ahead at Upton Park. But then…drama.
First Brian McClair equalised for United and then John Barnes hauled Liverpool level. Suddenly, a United winner would give them the title (unless Blackburn scored again), but Sir Alex Ferguson’s men just could not find a way past keeper Ludek Miklosko.
The nerves were shredded even more when, in the last minute at Anfield, Jamie Redknapp curled home a free-kick to put Liverpool 2-1 up.
But at Upton Park it ended all-square at 1-1 and so Blackburn, despite defeat at Anfield, had won their first title in 81 years – the longest-ever wait between English top-flight titles.
Blackburn defender Graeme Le Saux recalled: “I watched the game again recently and my hands were sweating! I kept thinking: ‘I wonder if this time Man United beat West Ham?’ They actually battered them but couldn’t win.
“The emotions were indescribable. Liverpool players were congratulating us and, when we picked the trophy up at Anfield, it was just surreal.”
Picture perfect for Le Saux and Co
Graeme Le Saux cherishes the picture of him handing over the Premier League trophy to late Blackburn owner Jack Walker.
It is one of the most iconic pictures from that remarkable season when lifelong Blackburn fan Walker achieved his dream of winning the title.
Le Saux, now a director with Real Mallorca and successful TV pundit, said: “There’s a lovely photo of me handing the Premier League trophy to Jack and for me to be the lucky one to hand him that trophy was so special. He had tears in his eyes.
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