BLACKBURN Rovers will renew an historic rivalry with neighbours AFC Darwen tonight when they send a team to the WEC Anchor Ground for a pre-season friendly (7.45pm).

And a man with a foot in both camps will be Kevin Gallacher.

The former Rovers striker, who was part of the club’s Premiership-winning squad in 1995, is now director of football at the reformed AFC Darwen.

And Gallacher said: “We’re hoping a good crowd will turn up for the match.

“If that happens it will be a big help to us on the financial side of things because we an amateur club.

“But the chance to take on a Blackburn XI is also a great opportunity for our lads.

“Most of them are locally based and they’re excited about taking on professional lads who play at a far higher level than them.

“Blackburn’s players will be training every day, up to 14 hours a week, as well as playing matches, whereas we’re getting one hour a week in training and playing one match.

“The two clubs go back a long way and it would be absolutely fantastic if year in year out Blackburn could send a select XI to help out a grassroots club.”

When football was in its infancy in the late 19th century, East Lancashire was a pioneer of the professional game.

Clashes between Darwen FC and Rovers were fiercely contested, not least following the sale of Fergus Suter to the latter in 1880.

There had been a great deal of controversy the previous year when Suter transferred from Partick Thistle to Darwen FC and gave up his role as a stonemason.

In the days when football was an amateur sport, the idea of paid professionals was frowned upon.

Suter’s move from Darwen FC to Rovers – then playing at Alexandra Meadows – added extra spice to an already heated rivalry.

In those days, Darwen FC attracted large crowds, partly due to their success in the FA Cup, reaching the semi-finals in 1881.

But as Rovers went on to taste FA Cup and then Football League glory in the years to follow, Darwen FC struggled, dropping out of the Football League in 1899 after losing 18 consecutive league games and conceding 141 goals – both records which still stand.

Darwen FC folded in May 2009.

Almost immediately, however, AFC Darwen formed in its wake.

Entry tonight costs £7 for adults and £4 for children. Parking is free.

* Darwen are not the only side in friendly action tonight with Nelson travelling to Coppull United (7pm) and Clitheroe hosting FC United of Manchester (7.45pm).