An honour to wear the number one shirt

In the rich 142 year old history of Blackburn Rovers Football Club, there have been so many great players to play for this great football club & some not so great!

There has been some making a name for themselves wearing the number 5, number 8, number 9 & number 10 shirts but what about the #1 shirt?

I’ll be looking at a few Goalkeepers that have played at Ewood Park over the decades, from the 60’s to the present moment.

Fred Else: 1961- 1966

Other clubs: Preston North End & Barrow

Fred Else is often seen by many players, managers & supporters as arguably the best goalkeeper of his generation never to represent the England national team at senior international level.

Else started his football career down the road at local rivals Preston North End. During his eight season stay at Deepdale, he made 238 appearances for PNE as they were Division One runners up in 1958 & relegated to Division Two in 1961.

Following PNE’s demotion, Else made the decision to make the move across Lancashire & join Blackburn Rovers for a £20,000 fee, a fee that proved to be money well spent as Else became first choice straight away proving to be a mainstay in the team & producing consistent performances.

The final two seasons however proved to be difficult ones for Else as he missed the majority of the 1964/65 season with a collarbone injury & even though he regained his place in the side he the following season, Else was part of the Rovers side that was relegated to Division Two & he was released as a result.

Else ended his career with Barrow making 148 appearances in four seasons, winning Promotion from Division Four in his first season, he made a career total of 607 appearances after retiring in 1970, Fred Else died in 2015 aged 82.

Roger Jones: 1970-1976

Other clubs: Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Newcastle United, Stoke City, Derby County, Birmingham City (Loan) & York City.

Roger Jones enjoyed a football career spanning twenty years, a career that started at Portsmouth & the place where he gained his only England Under 23s cap, AFC Bournemouth.

After making 177 appearances for the Cherries, Jones moved north to Blackburn Rovers in 1970. His first season, however, saw the club relegated to the Third Division. Despite being relegated in his first season, Jones remained a fixture in the team that made numerous attempts of a return to Division Two, finally securing promotion at the fourth attempt in 1974/75 & winning the Third Division title in process.

Jones stayed on for one more season, making 277 appearances in all competitions for Rovers before heading to Newcastle United. After an unhappy spell, he left Newcastle for Stoke City in 1976, winning promotion to the top flight with the Potters in 1979.

Jones ended his career with spells at Derby County, Birmingham City (loan) & York City, where he helped the Minstermen achieve promotion as Fourth Division Champions in 1983/84.

Terry Gennoe: 1981-1991

Other clubs: Bury, Halifax Town (who folded in 2008), Southampton, Crystal Palace.

Terry Gennoe went on represent Rovers for a decade, but before that he had a tough start to his career with Bury.

He only managed three appearances for the Shakers in two seasons before he left Gigg Lane. In 1974, he moved to Halifax Town (not to be confused with FC Halifax Town who where formed in 2008) where he made 78 appearances in three seasons before a transfer to Southampton. In his time at the Dell he made 36 appearances & won a runners up medal in the 1979 League Cup Final.

After a loan spell with Crystal Palace Gennoe would sign for the club where he would end his career, Blackburn Rovers.

In his stay at Ewood Park, Terry would become one of Rovers’ most valued performers of the team as Rovers became a fixture of the Second Division & mounted numerous promotion challenges in the 80’s as Rovers challenged for the Playoffs.

In his time as a player he would make the most appearances for a Rovers goalkeeper, 289 in total. After ending his playing career in 1991, Gennoe would remain with Rovers as a Goalkeeping Coach, but that sixteen year association with the club would end in 1997 when he quit the club over a contract dispute.

Terry is still active in the game today having recently been the Goalkeeping Coach of Aston Villa until March 2016.

Bobby Mimms: 1987 (loan) and 1990-1996

Other clubs: Halifax Town (who folded in 2008), Rotherham United (twice), Everton, Notts County (loan), Sunderland (loan), Man City (loan), Tottenham Hotspur, Aberdeen (loan), Crystal Palace, Preston North End, York City (loan and then permanently) & Mansfield Town.

In my eyes, when it comes to unsung heroes someone who comes to mind is Bobby Mimms, never spectacular but was always did a job when he was called upon.

Bobby started his twenty year career in 1981 at Halifax Town (now folded) but moved to Rotherham United that same year. In four seasons with the Millers, he made 83 appearances before a move to Everton followed. In his time on Merseyside, Mimms was sent out on loan to numerous clubs including Rovers, but he did play for the Toffees in the 1986 FA Cup Final, a game Everton lost to bitter rivals Liverpool.

Following a two year spell at Spurs, then Rovers manager Don Mackay splashed out £250,000 to bring Bobby Mimms to Ewood on a permanent basis in December 1990.

Mimms played a key part in helping Rovers secure their second division status that season & would be instrumental in Rovers rise under Jack Walker.

Mimms played a key role as Rovers reached the 1992 second division play off final & kept a clean sheet as Rovers beat Leicester City 1-0 at Wembley to reach the top flight for the first time in 26 years.

In the 1992/93 season, Mimms once again proved to be a real presence in goal as Rovers finished fourth & missing out on a European spot. The 1993/94 season saw Mimms lose his place to England Goalkeeper Tim Flowers & despite playing four games in the 94/95 Championship winning season, that wasn’t enough for a winners medal & Bobby Mimms was gone not long after.

Following his departure from Ewood Park, Mimms briefly joined Crystal Palace before ending his career in the lower leagues with Preston North End, Rotherham United (again), York City & finally Mansfield Town.

In 2001, Mimms became a Goalkeeping Coach at Wolverhampton Wanderers. 7 years later, he joined Rovers a third time from Wolves, this time as a Goalkeeping Coach. Since being sacked on 27th December 2012. Mimms has been Goalkeeping Coach at various clubs & the Bahrain national football team.

Tim Flowers: 1993-99

Other clubs: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton, Swindon Town (loan), Leicester City, Stockport County (loan), Coventry City (loan) & Manchester City (loan). 

Tim Flowers enjoyed a nineteen year career that was filled with more ups & downs than most footballers.

Starting his career at Wolves in 1984, he was a bright spark in a dark time for the Molineux club as they suffered relegation to the fourth tier & he was sold to Southampton in 1986. In his seven years at the south coast club, Flowers began to make a name for himself. He was part of the side that knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Penalties in 1992.

In the 1993/94 season, Tim Flowers was sold for a British record transfer fee at the time when Blackburn Rovers paid £2.4 million for his services in November – and he would make his debut in a 1-0 defeat away at Queens Park Rangers.

Flowers made 29 appearances in his debut season as Rovers qualified for Europe for the first time in the clubs history, finishing runners up in the Premier League title race. The following season proved to be the best of his career, as Flowers produced many great performances as Rovers secured the Premier League title, the most notable producing a man of the match display at Highbury.

Flowers also single handedly keeping Newcastle United at bay in the final home game of the season as Rovers won 1-0, and he also delivered the infamous “Bottle” interview after the game.

In the following seasons Flowers continued to be the number 1 despite Rovers decline in fortunes. Unfortunately, his final season was hampered by injuries restricting Flowers to just fifteen appearences as Rovers suffered relegation to Division One in 1999.

In the summer of 1999, Flowers was sold to Leicester & won a League Cup winners medal in his first season. In the following seasons however, he struggled for form and fitness, while being loaned out to various clubs before hanging up his gloves in 2003.

Today Tim is still active in football – having been managing in non-league with Stafford Rangers & Kidderminster Harriers as well as a caretaker role at Northampton Town.

Brad Friedel: 2000-2008

Friedel

Other clubs: USSF, Newcastle United (Loan), Brondby (Loan), Galatasaray, Columbus Crew, Liverpool, Aston Villa & Tottenham Hotspur. 

In my opinion, the greatest goalkeeper in Rovers history. The only keeper in history to score a goal for the club, who left the club after eight years – only three appearances short of the record appearances for a Rovers Goalkeeper. There was only one Brad Friedel.

Brad began his his career after leaving college in the United States, after failed attempts to sign for Nottingham Forest & Celtic,

Friedel played exclusively for the U.S. national team in the ’94 World Cup. He would sign for Newcastle but was denied a work permit. After spells in Denmark, Turkey & back home in America, Brad finally signed for an English club in 1998 when he joined Liverpool.

Finding opportunities hard to come at Anfield, Brad joined Rovers in November 2000 & kept a clean sheet on his debut in a 1-0 win over Wolves – the game marked the clubs 125 year anniversary.

Seven months after his arrival, Friedel played 33 times as Rovers sealed promotion back to the Premier League & helping the club record their highest ever points total with 91.

In the 2001/02 season, Brad proved instrumental in Rovers’ first season back in the top flight since 1999 as they finished tenth & also qualified for Europe by winning the League Cup – for the only time in Rovers history to date.

In 2002/03, Brad won Rovers’ player of the year award & was selected into the Premier League Starting 11 at the end of the season keeping fifteen clean sheets as Rovers again qualified for Europe.

The following season, Friedel made the history at the Valley by becoming the first Goalkeeper to score for the club against Charlton Athletic – unfortunately the Addicks scored seconds later to win 3-2.

In the following seasons, under Mark Hughes, the American would become an ever present in the side on route to creating a Premier League record of starting 310 successive Premier League games (he also played for Aston Villa & Spurs during this run) & help the club qualify for Europe for successive seasons.

After 287 appearances, three short of the all time record for a Rovers keeper & seven and a half years, Brad Friedel departed Ewood Park for Aston Villa for £2m.

Brad would end his career with spells @ Aston Villa & Tottenham Hotspur making history once again as he became Villa’s oldest ever player aged 40  & becoming the Premier League’s oldest ever player whilst @ Spurs in the 2011/12 campaign.

Since retiring in 2015, Brad has worked in the media both in England & America & he is now the coach of the USA Under 19’s football team.

The Present

GK David Raya

Those are just some keepers who have represented the club well over the years, despite some relegations.

How will the current number 1 David Raya cope with wearing the number 1 shirt?

Since taking over the number 1 position from Jason Steele in the summer of 2017, David Raya has recovered well from his shaky performance against Doncaster early on in the season to cement himself as a fixture in the team, and providing difficult to beat in between the sticks with a series of clean sheets.

David still needs improvement on his kicking & commandment from his penalty area but at 22, he has time to improve those attributes & can only improve his best attribute, his shot stopping ability.

As long David Raya improves, not only will he has a bright future as the #1, but it could lead to a brighter future for Blackburn Rovers football club.

Until next time.