IT has been the best part of a quarter of a century since Argyle last played at Ewood Park on a memorable day...for Blackburn Rovers.
The match on October 12, 1991 – at what is now Championship level – marked the real beginning of the Jack Walker era. The industrialist, a lifelong Rovers fan, had taken control of the club in January that year, and by the time the Pilgrims visited in October, the tens of millions of pounds that he was to invest in Rovers were beginning to make an impact.
The game saw Kenny Dalglish make his debut as Blackburn manager, having replaced fellow Scot Don Mackay. Dalglish was greeted by a stadium full of optimism that Rovers, who had only narrowly avoided relegation the previous season, could win promotion that season. They did, but only just.
Argyle – as cash-strapped as newly moneyed Rovers were cash-rich – did not stand a chance that afternoon in October, and they lost 5-2. Dwight Marshall and Martin Barlow scored for David Kemp’s side; Kevin Moran, David Speedie (2) and Simon Garner (2) netted for Rovers.
The Argyle team that day included Nicky Marker, who Dalglish would later sign for Blackburn, with Rovers’ players in opposition Keith Hill and Craig Skinner coming to Home Park as part of the deal. The full side was: Rhys Wilmot, Danis Salman, Andy Clement, Nicky Marker, Adrian Burrows, Steve Morgan, Martin Barlow, Dwight Marshall, Robbie Turner, Ryan Cross and Mark Fiore. Mark Quamina and a young Michael Evans were substitutes.
Dalglish later brought in players of the calibre of Tim Sherwood and Mike Newell as he began to turn Rovers’ fortunes around, but Blackburn still needed to win at Home Park on the final day of the season to be sure of a play-off spot. The kicker was that Argyle – now managed by Peter Shilton
– had to win to stay up.
A David Speedie hat-trick secured Rovers a place in the play-offs, which they won: three years later, thanks to Walker’s millions and the goals of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, they were Premier League champions; Argyle took 12 years to return to the Championship.