On the 18th August 1992, I remember being sat in the old Nuttall Street stand with my Dad and Gag (Grandad) as Blackburn Rovers played their first home game in the newly formed Premier League.
Most people will remember that game for Shearer’s only goal of the game, where he showed pace and strength of someone older than 22 years of age. His deflected goal was the only goal of the game. I remember it well.
What else stands out from that game was my Gag turning to me and saying ‘Who the bloody hell is that blonde lad on the wing that runs like his ass is on fire?’ That comment has always stayed with me and still makes me chuckle 25 years later.
Ripley signed from his hometown club Middlesbrough for £1.3m where he had achieved promotion to the Premier League, and he was briefly Rovers’ record signing until the signing of Alan Shearer a few weeks later.
Ironically, prior to the 91/92 play-off final between Leicester and Rovers, Brian Little (Leicester’s manager) contacted Ripley to ask if he’d be interested in a move should they get promoted. Once Rovers beat Leicester, Ripley thought that was it until he received a phone call from Kenny Dalglish.
Ripley was Rovers’ first scorer in the Premier League with his debut goal away at Crystal Palace in a game that finished 3-3.
A direct winger who liked to get to the byline and whip a cross in. A striker’s dream in the words of Alan Shearer who credits Ripley and Jason Wilcox as the reason for the majority of his Rovers goals.
Ripley was also versatile, playing the odd game as a centre-forward for Rovers. One particular game that has always stuck with me is Bournemouth at home in the cup – which was Ripley’s first game at centre-forward, and he made an instant impact, scoring 2 goals.
In his six seasons with the club, Ripley would be part of the squad that got into Europe twice, won the Premier League and played in the Champions League.
Added to this, Ripley has two England caps to his name. Ripley was part of the infamous England side that beat San Marino 1-7 having gone 1 down after just 9 seconds. England failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. His second cap case 4 years later, against Moldova.
After his successful stint at Rovers, Ripley moved to Southampton in 1998 where he would finish his career 4 years later, having spent time on loan at Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday.
Following retirement, Ripley set up the Castleford Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic providing physio for Rugby League and local football teams.
In 2007, he graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a first class honours degree in Law and French. Three years later, in 2010, he became a qualified solicitor. He is also a member of the FA’s judicial panel. This role involves matters such as agent activity, doping, safeguarding and discrimination.
Football seems to run in Stuart’s family.
Ripley’s son Connor has followed his father’s footsteps in becoming a professional footballer with Middlesbrough (currently on loan at Burton). However, instead of racing up and down the wing, Connor is an aspiring goalkeeper. He’s spent time on loan in the lower leagues.
Stuart has stated he enjoys watching his son in the lower leagues as the majority of grounds are older which brings back good memories from when he was starting out.
Overall, you’ve got to appreciate just how good Ripley was. For, arguably, the Premier League’s greatest ever striker to credit him for the assists for a lot of his Rovers’ goals, it just shows how good he was.
Thanks for reading.
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