Amidst the turmoil of the past seven days (make that seven years) at Blackburn Rovers, one thing is for absolute certain.
Tonight’s game at Burton Albion is a must-win.
Yes, we may have two games at hand but they’re six points ahead of us and I don’t really relying on travelling down to Fulham or entertaining Derby expecting two wins.
With a new manager in the dugout – Owen Coyle was the wrong choice from the start – there may be a bit of optimism amongst those of us travelling down to the Midlands this evening.
And if it’s Friday inspiration Rovers need, look no further than sixteen years ago and a trip down the road to the Reebok Stadium.
Friday 23 February 2001.
Graeme Souness’s Rovers side had been on some sensational runs over the season and were firmly in the promotion push albeit seven points off the automatic spots.
Standing in their way for the second automatic spot were Big Sam’s Bolton, rugged, organised, committed (everything we’ve not been for much of the season to be honest.)
Backed by a vocal army of travelling supporters, Rovers began the game carefully – the skill and speed of Matt Jansen and Damien Duff giving Allardyce’s battle-hardened defence plenty to think about, even if Dean Holdsworth went the closest for the hosts with a shot that battered against the upright.
And then it happened. Rovers took control and in the process seized the initiative in the promotion race.
Marcus Bent, sometimes derided for lack of workrate, scored one of his many key goals in the run-in, latching onto a typical Jansen flick and firing home on the stroke of half-time.
Little Irish wizard Alan Mahon went close twice with good strikes before Rovers ran away with it in the last quarter of the match. First, David Dunn followed up a saved Jansen shot to put the visitors 2-0 up. Shortly afterwards, the tireless Jansen got himself on the scoresheet when he clipped in number three and sent us fans into dreamland.
Forgotten man Michael Ricketts pulled one back for Bolton but the win was sealed when Craig Hignett buried a screamer into the top corner of the Wanderers’ net in the final minute.
The 4-1 win set Rovers on course for a memorable run-in which culminated in a return to the big time that May. (As if to underline the superiority, we then beat them 3-0 again in a FA Cup replay in early March!).
Fast-forward a year and on today’s date 24 February, Rovers were again in memorable form, dismissing highly-fancied (by themselves) Spurs in the Worthington Cup Final at Cardiff and bringing home our most recent piece of silverware. Stunning stuff.
And so to tonight, parties on the pitch at Pirelli? I’d settle for three precious points and a kickstart in our battle against relegation.