The Curious Case Of Rovers’ Number 9 Shirt

The number 9 shirt has had mixed fortunes over the years, from Alan Shearer to Ashley Ward, and now it’s the turn of Dominic Samuel.

Number 9
Rovers have had their fair share of great, and not so great, players to wear the number 9 shirt.

Dominic Samuel, our current number 9, now has four goals in six games (two substitute appearances).

Already, he’s made more of a positive impact than 4 players to recently wear it. Chris Brown, 0 goals in 37 appearances; Leon Best, 2 goals in 13 appearances (a player known for spending more time in Nando’s than in a Rovers shirt); Anthony Stokes, 3 goals in 14 appearances and Anthony Modeste, 0 goals in 9 appearances.

I always thought the Rovers number 9 shirt was prestigious. like the number 7 shirt at Liverpool and Man United, or the number 9 shirt at Newcastle but, it hasn’t been for quite some time. In fact it’s been very hit and miss by the players that have been lucky enough to wear it.

This really got me thinking about players that have worn it and what impact they had on our once over achieving club.

Although I could go all through Blackburn Rovers’ history to see which players have wore this particular number, the logical place to start seemed to be when squad numbers first came into effect. The start of the second season of the Premier League (93/94) but, not before I mention David Speedie’s 23 goals in 36 games during our playoff winning season of 1991-1992. Ok, it wasn’t his official number but, he wore it more often than not.

Speedie’s replacement. Alan Shearer. What is there left to say about arguably Rovers greatest ever striker? Everything has been said. There is no doubt in my mind, had he stayed longer than his 4 wonderful years and not suffered a career threatening injury in his first season, he would have gone on to smash Simon Garner’s long standing record. 260 Premier League goals. 112 coming in 138 appearances for the Blue and Whites. Alan Shearer was a machine. I feel very blessed to have been able to watch him every other week for 4 seasons.

Alan Shearer

Next up was Chris Sutton. Chris actually acquired the number 9 shirt under unusual circumstances. As far as I am aware, he’s still the only player in Premier League history to change his squad number mid season whilst remaining with the same club.

After Shearer departed for Newcastle just before the start of the 96/97 season. All squad numbers had been announced, obviously leaving Rovers without a number 9. Mid way through the season, Rovers requested that Sutton be allowed to change from number 16 to number 9 which was accepted. In his 5 years with the club, Sutton scored 47 times in 130 appearances..

Obviously, he’s known as being one half of the “SAS” in Rovers’ title winning season but, he also struck up a great partnership with Kevin Gallacher in the 97/98 season, finishing joint top scorer in the Premiership with 18 goals and firing Rovers into the UEFA cup. I truly believe Chris would have scored a lot more goals for us were it not for injuries in his final season for us (3 goals in 17 appearances) as we were relegated. Plus, falling out of favour under Ray Harford in the 95/96 season, making fewer appearances. Many of which came at centre back. I still consider Chris Sutton to be a hit.

I won’t bang on about every number 9 over the last 25 years but, will briefly mention each player. Next up we have Ashley Ward, Kaba Diawara, Mark Hughes and Marcus Bent.

Ashley Ward

For me, personally Ashley Ward was the original Leon Best. Rubbish and way overpaid. The guy has a very successful construction business after investing his unearned wages very wisely. Fair play you’d think but, I can’t forgive that sitter he missed against United at 0-0 in a game we had to win in order to avoid relegation.

Fans would be forgiven for forgetting Kaba Diawara was on loan to us from PSG in 00/01 season. 0 goals in 5 league appearances ended his loan spell and he was replaced by Mark Hughes. 6 goals in 50 appearances for Sparky at the end of his career may not scream out the greatest of stats but, we don’t judge every sports person on stats. I think everyone would agree Sparky was a success at a time when our young squad needed some experience. A debut goal against Tranmere particularly stands out with that season ending in promotion. A change in squad numbers in our return to top flight football meant Hughes would change to number 12 with Marcus Bent taking on the number 9 shirt. This maybe where you start to wonder about this number 9 shirt of Rovers. Bent will go down as a legend for me solely for scoring against THEM from down the M65. He scored other important goals on our march to promotion whilst wearing 17. Once he changed to 9 his career at rovers was all down hill like another player I will get to shortly.

Andy Cole was signed for a club record fee in 2001 from Man United. 27 goals in 83 league appearances (37 goals in 100 appearances in all competitions) may not scream out as him being a hit, but, his goals when first signed steered us away from the threat of relegation as well as scoring the winner in the Worthington Cup final. Cole signed to get games under his belt and try and force his way into the England squad for the 2002 World Cup. The signing of Andy Cole brought the best out of Matt Jansen who was on the verge of making the England squad himself following the arrival of Cole and his own performances benefiting from playing alongside the Premier League legend.

Andy Cole

Unfortunately, Cole’s relationship with Manager Graeme Souness soured in his final year with Rovers yet he still managed 11 goals whilst taking a young striker signed from Huddersfield under his wing.

Jon Stead went on to score 6 league goals including winning goals against Middlesbrough on his debut as well as Fulham, Man United and Everton. Stead probably didn’t want the 03/04 season to end as he forced his way into the England U21 set up and seemed to have everything going for him.

A switch in squad numbers again at the start of the 04/05 season meant Stead took over the number 9 shirt from the departed Andy Cole. Unfortunately, he couldn’t rediscover the form of the previous season scoring just 1 league goal. In Stead’s defence, there was a lot going on within the club that season that included a change in manager after a poor start to the season.

Unfortunately, Stead had one of those season where he worked his socks off but, his hard work seemed to result in him becoming the “nearly man”. He seemed to be denied by the frame of the goal, clearance off the line or it going just the wrong side of the post in every game. Stead was sold to Sunderland at the end of 04/05 season. Mark Hughes went on record to say he would have liked to have kept Stead but, need to create finances to bring in Craig Bellamy. No one can complain about that move.

Andy Cole

Shefki Kuqi, Shabani Nonda and Roque Santa Cruz are next up. Kuqi was more famous for his swan dive goal celebration than his actual goals. Although he scored some important goals I still to this day have no idea how he made it as a professional footballer. We then went on to make a profit of over £2m. The board must have Howled with laughter when they received the bid.

Nonda was a decent enough player and scored 7 goals in 26 appearances for us whilst on loan but, no one was really surprised we didn’t pursue him on a permanent basis. Especially when we signed his replacement for less than £4m from Bayern Munich.

Roque Santa Cruz might be our last marquee signing. 19 league goals in his first season with the club, finishing 4th in the Premiership scoring charts behind Ronaldo, Torres and Adebayor. Following Mark Hughes’ departure to Manchester City, there were links that he would return to Rovers in an attempt to take Roque with him. Rovers held strong and Santa Cruz remained at the club. Unfortunately, his second season was not as productive as his first as he suffered from niggling injuries and a loss of form. He would eventually join up with Sparky at Man City for £17.5m, after 23 league goals in 57 appearances. Roque made a brief return to Rovers on loan but, failed to make an impact.

Lastly, we have Nikola Kalinic. Brought in by big Sam for £6m and dubbed the future of Croatian football by Slaven Bilic, ‘Niko’ scored 7 league goals in 44 appearances over 2 seasons before being dubbed not good enough by Voldemort…I mean Steve Kean. Kalinic was another player to change squad number during his time with the club from 22 to 9. Unlike Bent and Stead who seemed to have a loss of form, the Croatian started well in his second season with his new squad number. He scored the only goal in the opening day win over Everton.

Nikola Kalinic

As the season went on, Big Sam was replaced by Kean following the takeover of the club. Kalinic fell out of favour with Steve Kean and was sold to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk for an undisclosed fee.

As previously stated, Kalinic was deemed not good enough by Steve Kean. He went on to score 37 goals in 86 appearances for Dnipro before a big money move to Fiorentina where he scored 27 goals in 68 appearances. At the start of this season he was loaned to AC Milan with an obligation to buy for €25m. Not bad for a player deemed not good enough for little old Blackburn.

Our season is now underway. 6 points from a possible 12. After an opening 2 defeats. Samuel has taken over Danny Graham as our current first choice striker. Hopefully, Samuel will continue with the way he has started as Rovers latest number 9 and bring a bit of pride back to that particular shirt. It’d be nice for the younger fans to have a Rovers icon to look up to like I did in the days of Speedie and then Shearer

Samuel Bradford.