Ewood Park clash is the big one for so many reasons
7:00am Sunday 17th March 2013 in Sport
BLACKBURN Rovers legend Bryan Douglas and Burnley great Willie Irvine give their lowdown on Sunday's East Lancashire derby at Ewood Park.
What is your East Lancashire derby highlight?
Bryan: That is easy. It has to be the FA Cup quarter final in 1960, when we were trailing 3-0 to go with 20 minutes to go and we ended up taking them to a replay, which we won, and went on to reach the final. I scored a penalty in the first game to give us a chance.
Willie: I’ll never forget the FA Cup replay when a fan jumped on Adam Blacklaw’s back and he just simply threw him back into the crowd, but the game that sticks out for me was when we beat them on New Year’s Day at Ewood Park 1966 and I scored the first.
Gordon ‘Bomber’ Harris got the other. It was always a ‘bodies on the line’ type of game and this was no different.
What is your East Lancashire derby lowlight?
Bryan: When we were knocked out of the FA Cup by Burnley in 1959, losing 2-1 at Ewood Park.
Another low point was scoring the only own goal of my career against Burnley in October 1959 in front of the Darwen End. Luckily we won the game 3-2 anyway.
Willie: Earlier in that 1965/66 season we had been beaten 4-1 at home. We went out on a glorious Saturday afternoon and got hammered. That was sad.
Who will win tomorrow?
Bryan: I would like to think Rovers will have too much for them but I have to admit I’m not confident.
In the last match Burnley showed a bit more passion than we did and that has to change for the Ewood match. Hopefully some of our players have learnt their lesson.
Willie: Burnley’s away form has been okay, Blackburn’s home form hasn’t been too clever – but form goes out of the window on occasions like this. It’s usually all about who wants it most on the day, and I think it could be Burnley’s day. Plus it’s St Patrick’s Day, so that would be double cause for celebration for me.
Has the East Lancashire derby changed over the years?
Bryan: I think it is just important now as it was then to the supporters and to the towns but maybe it doesn’t mean as much to the players. There are less local lads involved now and that means they don’t really get it.
Willie: From a supporters’ point of view, no. The derby is still significant in everyone’s minds.
I just don’t think the players have the same kind of affinity with it as they used to because, as Bryan says, when we were involved a lot of the lads were homegrown or had come through the club’s ranks.
There wasn’t a hatred between us, but we HAD to beat them. Plus, in our day, the crowds mixed together and it was wonderful because it made for a great atmosphere, with no trouble. I wish it could go back to that.
Who will the key players be?
Bryan: It has to be the two strikers. Jordan Rhodes and Charlie Austin have both had fantastic seasons in front of goal, despite not getting as good a service as they would like.
Both players need their team mates to perform on the night but don’t be surprised to see one of these two being the hero.
Willie: A lot will revolve around the two strikers. Charlie has the ability to conjure a goal out of nothing and he can lift Burnley.
He missed a great chance at the end of Tuesday’s game, but if he gets the service he will be a big threat to the Rovers’ defence. Jordan Rhodes is pretty well up in the goal charts two, so it could come down to both strikers.
One of them is going to be a hero on Sunday. I hope it’s Charlie.
Where does the East Lancashire derby atmosphere rank in terms of your career?
Bryan: There was nothing better domestically. Forget the matches against Blackpool, Bolton or Preston, it was the Burnley games everyone looked forward to.
The atmosphere is incredible and you can tell how much both sets of supporters want to win the game.
Willie: I’ve played for my country, and there is nothing quite like walking out in front of the Northern Ireland fans when they are all in full voice, until it came to the Burnley verus Blackburn derby.
It was amazing – home and away – the atmosphere was top drawer.
A lot of players on both sides had grown up through the ranks and knew each other on and off the pitch.
You knew you were going to be in for a really tough game but one that you were going to enjoy.
Who is the best Burnley player you have ever played against?
Bryan: That is a tough question because Burnley had a great team back them. You look at the likes of John Connelly, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Adamson, Alex Elder, Adam Blacklaw, but I would have to say Jimmy McIlroy. What a player he was. I only ever saw his backside in games, he was such a silky player.
Willie: There were quite a few. I liked Peter Dobing as a striker, while Derek Dougan was a complete showman. He was one of the first players to shave his hair off too.
I played with him at international level, and what a gentleman he was. But the best, for me, had to be Bryan Douglas.
He was tremendous, a great player. Alex Elder knew he had a job on his hands when Dougie was playing. He was very tricky, and made all the goals for Rovers.
Who will finish higher in the league?
Bryan: I expect it to be very close but Rovers should just pip them.
If you look at the two squads, Rovers have spent more money and have got a bit more quality and so I expect them to get their act together. There won’t be a lot in it though.
Willie: At the risk of upsetting my fellow Burnley fans, I fear Blackburn will. I think they will come on strong as the season draws to a close, while ours will probably just peter out.
What is your East Lancashire Derby record?
Bryan: Sadly I lost more than I won and there was a run in the 1960s where we didn’t beat them in six games – and that included five defeats. I played in 17 derby matches, won six and lost seven. I scored four goals against them.
Willie: I’ve only ever been on the losing side once. Even when I went to Preston and then on to Brighton whenever I played against them I always seemed to score and be on the winning side.
What does the derby mean to Blackburn/Burnley?
Bryan: It means everything to the town. It always has done and it always will do. It means bragging rights, local pride and there will be many people not looking forward to work the next day if their team does not win.
The East Lancashire derby has something very special about it that people would not realise until they were involved in it themselves.
Willie: For the fans it’s the game of the season – it’s the only one they think about. It’s a big one for the players too.
Every Burnley fan wants that wait for a win to be over. They want the bragging rights so that they can go into work on Monday with a big smile on their face.