The title-winners that Cotton built, the story of Rovers heroes of 1914

This Is Lancashire: The title-winners that Cotton built, the story of Rovers heroes of 1914 The title-winners that Cotton built, the story of Rovers heroes of 1914

ONE hundred years ago today Blackburn Rovers rounded off their title-winning Division One campaign with a 0-0 draw at Manchester United.

Rovers’ second championship success in three seasons should have marked a sustained period of domination for the club, one to rival its run of three successive FA Cup victories in the 1880s.

However it would prove to be Rovers’ last top-flight crown until 1995.

But although 81 years separate the two title triumphs, the genesis behind both were almost identical.

For Lawrence Cotton in 1913-14, read Jack Walker in 1994-95.

Cotton, like Walker, was a Blackburn-born businessmen whose wealth and ambition transformed Rovers on and off the pitch.

Both redeveloped Ewood Park and both built teams that proved to be the finest in the land.

Cotton, like Walker, was not afraid to break British transfer records and his £2,000 capture of West Ham United’s Danny Shea in January 1913 proved crucial in Rovers reclaiming the First Division championship they had first won in 1911-12.

Just over 79 years later and Walker did the same to sign Alan Shearer from Southampton for £3.3m – to similarly devastating effect.

But whereas Shearer was your archetypal, swashbuckling striker, the same could not be said of Shea.

In fact, Mike Jackman, author of Blackburn Rovers: The Complete Record, believes the 1911-12 and 1913-14 title wins are notable as they were achieved without what he calls ‘an orthodox centre-forward’ in the Shearer mould.

“It does make them interesting,” said Jackman, who has been watching Rovers since 1961.

“It was sort of make do and mend with what they had.

“Cotton had spent a huge amount of money on building the ground and to a certain extent the team came second while he was doing that.

“But when he got the ground to how he wanted it, he started to invest in players, breaking the British record quite a lot – very much in the same way as Jack Walker went on to do.

“The 1913-14 team was more-or-less the same team as the 1911-12 team, which was built on a strong defence. Yes it scored goals but the defence was the key element.

“But what the Rovers had in that second season was a lad called Danny Shea.

“He was the architect of the 13-14 team, he was the leading goalscorer, but he was an inside-right, with Eddie Latheron the established inside-left.

“The Rovers used two players at centre-forward, both of who you might call utility players, in George Chapman and Wattie Aitkenhead.

“They’d been with the Rovers for a while and for most of the season they were the two they employed in the position, even though at the start of the 13-14 campaign Cotton had said the club needed to buy a proper centre-forward after spending a lot of money redeveloping the Riverside Stand, which remained in place right up until the 1980s.

“Money was no object but it was not until February 1914 that they signed Percy Dawson from Hearts for a British record fee of £2,500.

“He actually didn’t contribute a great deal, scoring three goals in eight games, as the championship was more or less nailed on when he arrived.

“He was signed with a view to the future. Sadly, the First World War put a stop to that.”

The Great War also ended Rovers’ chances of dominating English football.

Jackman added: “The following season the team finished third.

“But then the Rovers closed down completely as the directors took the view it would be unpatriotic to encourage people to play and watch football when they should be at the front fighting.

“At the end of that season the directors had a rethink and decided to put out a team again.

“But a lot of the players had joined other clubs or had gone into the services by that stage and, by the end of the war, John Simpson had got injured and never played seriously again while age had caught up with the likes of Robert Crompton, Arthur Cowell, William Bradshaw, Chapman and Aitkenhead.

"And most tragically Latheron, who was young enough to go on, was killed in the war.”

It marked the tragic end of a golden period for Rovers.

But under Walker, a man cut from the same cloth as Cotton, the club would rise again to the summit of English football 81 years later.

Comments (12)

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2:17pm Fri 25 Apr 14

noddy57 says...

what a brilliant piece of Blackburn Rovers football history-most of it l already knew but all the more interesting for the bits l did not,we should commemorate this event over the coming weeks because this proud old Lancashire club deserves it,ARTE ET Labore 1875,,god bless you MR Cotton & MR Walker.
what a brilliant piece of Blackburn Rovers football history-most of it l already knew but all the more interesting for the bits l did not,we should commemorate this event over the coming weeks because this proud old Lancashire club deserves it,ARTE ET Labore 1875,,god bless you MR Cotton & MR Walker. noddy57
  • Score: 8

2:29pm Fri 25 Apr 14

FCBurnley says...

oh dear
oh dear FCBurnley
  • Score: -4

3:01pm Fri 25 Apr 14

cruzy_cruz says...

For once and interesting and well researced article.

Are you reading Mr Clough?
For once and interesting and well researced article. Are you reading Mr Clough? cruzy_cruz
  • Score: -1

3:02pm Fri 25 Apr 14

cruzy_cruz says...

For once and interesting and well researched article.

Are you reading Mr Clough?
For once and interesting and well researched article. Are you reading Mr Clough? cruzy_cruz
  • Score: -1

3:03pm Fri 25 Apr 14

cruzy_cruz says...

For once an interesting and well researched article.

Are you reading Mr Clough?
For once an interesting and well researched article. Are you reading Mr Clough? cruzy_cruz
  • Score: -2

3:44pm Fri 25 Apr 14

McClaret says...

Interesting read, certainly a good year for East Lancs football. Perhaps your team should wear a commemorative shirt?
Interesting read, certainly a good year for East Lancs football. Perhaps your team should wear a commemorative shirt? McClaret
  • Score: 2

3:46pm Fri 25 Apr 14

McClaret says...

Don't worry, at the present rate some sugar daddy should buy you another one in 2076.
Don't worry, at the present rate some sugar daddy should buy you another one in 2076. McClaret
  • Score: -2

5:25pm Fri 25 Apr 14

RobH2O says...

A cracking article. Splendid achievement by Rovers. A great year for North East Lancashire, brought home the title and "the English Cup" as it was then known.
A cracking article. Splendid achievement by Rovers. A great year for North East Lancashire, brought home the title and "the English Cup" as it was then known. RobH2O
  • Score: 3

8:00pm Fri 25 Apr 14

whittaker0 says...

Well it is not often that an article such as this is written about the history of Blackburn Rovers. I wish to commend Paul Wheelock for going to such trouble in telling the story of Lawrence Cotton and his impact on both Association Football and the town of Blackburn. I have to declare an interest; Lawrence Cotton is my great grandfather and Wattie Aitkenhead my grandfather.
Well it is not often that an article such as this is written about the history of Blackburn Rovers. I wish to commend Paul Wheelock for going to such trouble in telling the story of Lawrence Cotton and his impact on both Association Football and the town of Blackburn. I have to declare an interest; Lawrence Cotton is my great grandfather and Wattie Aitkenhead my grandfather. whittaker0
  • Score: 5

8:00pm Fri 25 Apr 14

jimluftas says...

cruzy_cruz wrote:
For once and interesting and well researced article.

Are you reading Mr Clough?
You had to write it 3 times just in case he wasn't?!
[quote][p][bold]cruzy_cruz[/bold] wrote: For once and interesting and well researced article. Are you reading Mr Clough?[/p][/quote]You had to write it 3 times just in case he wasn't?! jimluftas
  • Score: 2

8:21pm Fri 25 Apr 14

owd nick says...

Excellent article.
Excellent article. owd nick
  • Score: 2

3:45pm Sat 26 Apr 14

noddy57 says...

McClaret wrote:
Interesting read, certainly a good year for East Lancs football. Perhaps your team should wear a commemorative shirt?
good shout. just goes to show there are some sensible posts from the other side so to speak.
[quote][p][bold]McClaret[/bold] wrote: Interesting read, certainly a good year for East Lancs football. Perhaps your team should wear a commemorative shirt?[/p][/quote]good shout. just goes to show there are some sensible posts from the other side so to speak. noddy57
  • Score: 0

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