Monday 19 February 2018

King's hat-trick puts Rovers in spotlight for right reasons

Blackburn 4 Stoke City 1

Joshua King celebrates scoring Blackburn's teams second goal
Joshua King celebrates scoring Blackburn's teams second goal
Stoke City's Peter Crouch celebrates scoring the opening goal of the match
Blackburn Rovers Josh King scores against Stoke City during their FA Cup fifth round match at Ewood Park
Blackburn Rovers Rudy Gestede scores past Stoke City goalie Jack Butland
Stoke City's Geoff Cameron is sent off during the FA Cup fifth round match at Ewood Park

Tim Rich

It says something for the chaos into which he walked that one of Gary Bowyer's priorities when he became manager of Blackburn Rovers in 2013 was "to keep out of the papers".

On Saturday evening, this quietly spoken, modest man failed spectacularly to keep to his brief.

Since they passed from the family of Jack Walker, a man who loved the club to its bones, Blackburn have been many things, but never until now have they been thought of as heroic.

Mostly, under the ownership of an Indian poultry conglomerate, the headlines have been derisive.

To run the club, they put their faith in a football agent, Jerome Anderson, - "a man who could not pick his nose", according to Alex Ferguson. They stuck by Steve Kean, who promptly relegated the club, and then got through four managers in a calendar year.

When they kicked off against Stoke for a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals, the club was £80m in debt. Within 10 minutes, they were a goal down, Peter Crouch scoring.

But it all changed as Josh King, a 23-year-old brought up in Norway and signed by Ferguson for Manchester United, scored a hat-trick and won a penalty, converted by Rudy Gestede, to create the kind of headlines Blackburn have not known since Mark Hughes took them to League and FA Cup semi-finals.


That Hughes was on the touchline watching his Stoke side, which had seemed a good outside bet to win the competition, disintegrate before him, only added to the moment.

"When I took over, the main aim was to keep out of the papers because the headlines were for all the wrong reasons," said Bowyer, who had run Blackburn's U-18s when Hughes was in charge at Ewood Park.

"This has to be the proudest moment of my time here because, hopefully, we are going to get some positive reports for our football." Asked how he would celebrate, Bowyer said: "My daughter climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last week and celebrated with a Mars bar, so I might try that.

"I think the owners understand that they have made mistakes, but they are learning and, if you look into the money they still pump into this club, without them we would be struggling."

Blackburn have been one of the stories of this season's FA Cup, but have now eliminated Swansea and Stoke at Ewood Park in front of a combined audience of less than 20,000. That is the problem with keeping out of the papers - people forget who you are. (© Independent News Service)

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