The first ever competitive league match between these two former English football champions and founder members of the Football League, took place at Turf Moor on 3 November 1888, Blackburn won the game 7–1. Blackburn also won the return fixture at Ewood Park 4–2. From a town standpoint there is an obvious geographical reason for the rivalry as the two Lancashire towns only lie 11 miles (18 km) apart. Accrington Stanley F.C. stands in the middle, but is not taken seriously as a rival by either. Another alleged reason for the increased hostilities is that Blackburn complained to the Football League about Burnley's illegal number of Scottish players in the 1890s.
Blackburn Rovers were founded in 1875 and in the following years, many other clubs were formed in the region such as Accrington F.C. in 1886 and Clitheroe Central in 1877, due to football being passionately taken up by the area. Another such club was Burnley Rovers, who started out as a rugby club until changing codes in 1882.
The two clubs met for the first time at Turf Moor on 27 September in front of a 5,000 crowd, Rovers emerging as 4–2 winners. Burnley quickly gained revenge when they won 5–1 on the same ground the following March. Their first meeting in Blackburn took place at Leamington Road and ended all square at 2–2.
These early pre-league ‘friendlies’ were keenly contested affairs, with considerable pride at stake, and there was a refreshing informality in the way they were played and covered by the press. Rovers’ goalscorer in the next match against Burnley was ‘unknown’, some matches were conducted with 10 men and as much as 10 years later in the league itself, two Burnley goals in successive season against Blackburn were credited to ‘Scrimmage’.
The total number of pre-league meetings between the clubs was 13, with Burnley winning seven, Blackburn four and the other two being drawn.
Blackburn Rovers and Burnley were among the original 12 members of the Football league and took their places in the inaugural season, which was to be dominated by fellow Lancashire side Preston North End, who completed the league and cup double.
As far as Blackburn and Burnley were concerned there was only one dominant force, as over the first four seasons, before the league was split into two divisions, Blackburn performed the double over the Clarets in each of the initial three seasons scoring plenty of goals in the process. Their first league match against each other was at Turf Moor and produced a 7–1 win for Blackburn and the very next season they won the home fixture by the same margin; Burnley remain the only team Blackburn have beaten home and away by this score line to this day.
The next season of 1890–91 was not much better for Burnley as Rovers managed to score both five and a six in the fixture. The main figure in these defeats was Jack Southworth, who scored 12 goals in his 10 appearances against Burnley, including Rovers’ first ever hat-trick in the league which came in the 7–1 away win of 1888–89. To this day, no-one in official fixtures between the clubs has matched his goal tally.
Burnley finally recorded their first league victory over Rovers on 12 December 1891. However, it was in circumstances that were controversial to say the least.
In driving snow and wind, Burnley had stormed to a three-goal interval lead at Turf Moor. Emerging for the second half, the Rovers players seemed disinclined to proceed with the contest and their lack of enthusiasm increased considerably when Lofthouse was sent off along with Burnley’s Stewart after a brief altercation, and the rest of the Rovers outfield players went with him! This left the entire Burnley side against Herbie Arthur, Rovers’ goalkeeper who appealed for offside as Burnley bore down on his goal. The referee wisely abandoned the farce and the points were awarded to Burnley.
The next season saw the start of the old First Division and their first meeting in it was goalless: the first of only six matches that have ended that way between them in 89 league and cup pairings. Rovers continued to have the better of their scrapes with the Clarets, registering five consecutive wins at Ewood between 1892–97, which still stands as the record number of straight wins on one ground between the clubs. Burnley’s brightest moment against the old enemy came at Turf Moor in 1895–96 when they won the season’s final game 6–0 with Nicol scoring a hat-trick, the first and last by a Burnley player against Rovers in official competition.
The clubs were temporarily parted by Burnley’s relegation in 1896–97 which was assisted by Rovers completing the double over them, something they have done nine times to Burnley’s seven.
Their next meetings were destined to be in the notorious Test match series at the end of 1897–98 season. The forerunner of the current play-offs, these were used to determine the composition of the First Division for the next season.
Rovers had finished next to bottom while Burnley had won the Second Division at the first time of asking. They beat Rovers twice in these matches, Wilf Toman scoring in both with a hat-trick in the first. The controversy arose when Burnley met Stoke for the second time as both sides needed to draw to ensure First Division football.
The resultant 0–0 draw was known as the ‘game without a shot’ and questions were asked about each side’s commitment to winning the match. The powers-that-be decided to extend the First Division anyway and so that Test match series proved meaningless and Blackburn, along with Newcastle United, survived.
Burnley won three of the next four games between the clubs before their relegation at the turn of the century meant that it was to be 13 years before the rivals met again in official competition.
Between 1915 and 1919 the league was suspended due to the First World War. When the War ended, the Blackburn v Burnley fixture would enjoy 11 uninterrupted years in the top flight.
Burnley experienced initial dominance, winning the league in 1920–21 and doing the double over Rovers in successive seasons before Rovers returned the favour in 1921–22. The mid-20s saw three hat-tricks in two seasons by Rovers players against the old foe; those were from John McIntyre, Arthur Rigby and Ted Harper in his record-breaking season of 1925–26 when he found the net 43 times in 37 league games, a Rovers record that still stands today.
The meetings came to an end in the 1929–30 season when Burnley were relegated to Division 2. The two clubs would not meet again until Blackburn joined them in the second tier in 1935–36.
The teams met for the first time in the Second Division on 24 October 1936 in a rare goalless draw. Rovers won the return 3–1 and Jack Bruton scored against his old club in that game and at Ewood again in the next season. He remains the only man to have scored for both clubs against the other, having netted twice for Burnley against Rovers in the 1920s back in the Division One. Rovers won the Second Division Championship in 1938–39 and honours had ended even in their three-year sojourn of Second Division football when the Second World War arrived and the league was suspended between the 1939–40 seasons and 1945–46.
Burnley won promotion when the league was restarted in 1946–47, when they also reached the FA Cup final, to give another season of First Division matches between the clubs. Burnley taking three of the four points was indicative of differing fortunes to come, with the Clarets consolidating their arrival in Division One by finishing third while Rovers were relegated.
It was to be another 11 years before Rovers last-gasp promotion bid in 1957–58 brought another unbroken eight years of competition in the top flight.
By this time a Burnley side, patiently developed on defensive principles, was beginning to find an attacking flair too and they won eight and drew three of the 16 meetings between the clubs in this period. It was particularly galling for the Ewood faithful to lose four years in a row at home, especially as it culminated in Rovers relegation in 1965–66.
When Burnley were relegated in 1970–71 another meeting might have been on the cards, but Rovers went down to the Third Division in the same season and avoided the possibility. Burnley returned to the First Division two years later but upon relegation in 1975–76 they rejoined Rovers who had been promoted in 1974–75, in the Second Division for three years of matches.
Burnley definitely had the edge, winning four of the six matches, the popular midfielder Peter Noble scoring in four of the games. Rovers went down again at the end of the 1978–79 season, but bounced straight back while Burnley moved into the opposite direction entering the Third Division for the first time at the end of 1979–80.
Burnley won promotion at the second time of asking in 1981–82 to set up a renewal of the fixture. The games in 1982–83 would ultimately prove to be the last between them in the 20th century.
Rovers did the double over Burnley; Simon Garner was to play the part of hero/villain by scoring all Rovers three goals in the two games, two of which came from the penalty spot. It was left to Derek Scott to register the last league goal Burnley scored against Rovers for the next 26 years.
In the following 27 years both clubs had very different fortunes. Burnley were relegated to the Third division at the end of the 1982–83 season quickly followed by relegation to the Fourth division in the 1984–85 season. Both clubs would stay in their respective divisions until 1991–92 when Blackburn were promoted to the newly formed Premier league and Burnley were promoted to the third tier of English football which had been renamed Division 2. Burnley were promoted again in the 1993–94 season to the First Division but were relegated the following year. This season also saw Blackburn win the Premier League to further confound the Burnley fans misery.
Blackburn became the first and to this day only, Premier League winners to be relegated in the 1998–99 season and were joined by Burnley in Division One when they were promoted at the end of the 1999–2000 season.
The league meetings between the clubs occurred in the 2000–01 season when Rovers did the double over Burnley on their way to promotion to the Premiership.
The first meeting of the new millennium between them was at Turf Moor on 16 December. A very predictably bitter encounter went the way of Rovers with goals from Jason McAteer and Marcus Bent, Burnley’s chances ending with the sending off of Kevin Ball. There were a few unpleasant scenes after the game, which some media observers deemed a ‘riot’ and a throwback to earlier scenes of football violence 20 years ago or more.
Rovers made short work of Burnley, in the game at Ewood where the Clarets were cast as April fools, going down 5–0. Craig Short coming towards the end of his career, opened the scoring for Rovers and it was his cross that enabled them to double the advantage when Steve Davis turned the ball into his own net. Two second-half goals from Matt Jansen and a late Craig Hignett strike completed the scoring in the last league game between the clubs until 2009.
Following Burnley's Play-off success in 2009 they were promoted to the Premiership for the first time in their history. This meant that the two teams would meet in the top division of English football for the first time since January 1966. The match was built up in the press.
The police and security arrangements on the day of both games told its own story about the fierce rivalry between the two clubs. For the trip to Ewood Park, Burnley fans could only purchase match day tickets if they also bought coach ticket; they were forced to travel on designated buses which set off at 9am on the morning of the game for the 1 o'clock kickoff for only a 15 mile journey. The same arrangements were made for Rovers fans on their way to turf moor with fans being forced to travel on designated buses. The commentator for game which was shown live on Sky Sports 1 quoted — "I have never ever in my time of attending football matches seen such a large police presence for a football match". Police cars, police vans, riot vans, riot police, helicopters, mounted police, police dogs, and many more were sent out to ensure the minimum amount of trouble possible. However, despite all these arrangements there was a violent outbreak at the Cherry Tree pub after the game had finished.
Robbie Blake gave Burnley an early lead but goals from David Dunn, Franco Di Santo and Pascal Chimbonda gave them a 3–1 half time lead. Chris Eagles got a very late consolation for Burnley but the bragging rights remain at Ewood. After the match there was a violent outbreak in a nearby pub. After the lunchtime game,fans from both clubs made their way to a pub named the station hotel as a planned clash was made between the two sets of hooligans. A large police presence including mounted officers, dog units and riot officers made a total of 30 arrests on the scene as violence erupted inside and outside the pub, adding up to the total figure of 55 arrests in the day, sealing the premises off in a bid to prevent the planned violence further erupting. Police described the violence as one of the worst cases of violence they had ever seen. After the game, football intelligence officers noticed fans moving in ones and twos away from the town centre, towards the Cherry Tree pub. As police resources were directed to the Station Hotel they allegedly came under attack from bottles and cans thrown from the beer garden. Some fans were told to leave the area and others were arrested at the time.
Blackburn completed a double over their rivals when the two sides meet again in April 2010. David Dunn scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after Martin Olsson was judged to have been fouled, despite minimal contact with the Burnley player.
In the build up to the match at Turf Moor, Blackburn player David Dunn said in the local newspaper that he hopes "Rovers thump Burnley 10–0", by then going on to say "I hope they stay up" this implying that he would like to keep the derby alive. After the game 150 seats in the away end were ripped up and the sinks in the toilets smashed with 42 arrests made involving both Rovers and Clarets fans, in and around the ground. Police were forced to use batons as fans from both sides tried to get at each other, this was not helped as rovers fans were allowed to drink in the stands due to a crush in the concourse causing bottles to be thrown at Burnley fans and vice versa, an episode that has become too familiar with this fixture in recent times.
Blackburn Rovers 0–1 win over Burnley continues a 31 year run of Rovers dominance in the area. Burnley were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season putting the East Lancashire Derby on hold until Blackburn's relegation to the Championship at the end of the 2011-12 season.
As Blackburn Rovers were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2011-12 season, the East Lancashire derby will take place in the Football League Championship for the first time since the name change (from First Division).
Jack Bruton is the only man to score for both sides against the other. At Burnley, he managed to land 44 goals himself in 176 matches before Rovers broke their transfer record by paying £6,500 in December 1929. He did not take long repaying it, making 344 appearances for Blackburn, scoring 115 goals and also ending up managing the club for a short period after the war. His loss to the Turf Moor side could be glimpsed by the fact that they were relegated that season yet were in mid-table when he departed to Ewood. Bruton played 250 games in total for both clubs.
Keith Newton, a left-back and a product of Rovers FA Youth Cup winning side of 1959 played 357 times for Blackburn before joining Everton in time to win a Championship medal in 1970. However, Burnley pounced in 1972 to obtain his services and it proved a very successful move into the transfer market as he was an ever-present in his first season which saw Burnley promoted to Division One. In all, he turned out in either a Rovers or Burnley shirt on a record number of 593 occasions in the league and cup.
Another fullback to make the move from Turf Moor to Ewood via another club, Leeds this time, was Kevin Hird. Converted to a midfielder at Burnley, Hird – a lifelong Clarets supporter – was forgiven the Boxing Day goal he scored for Rovers against Burnley in 1978. He found the net 29 times at Burnley from midfield and appeared in 94 games for them to add to his 145 matches for Rovers.
Three Burnley stalwarts of the 1950s and 60s, who all eventually found themselves down the road at Blackburn, were goalkeeper Adam Blacklaw, defender Walter Joyce and winger John Connelly. Blacklaw, a Scottish international, played 110 games for Rovers. Previously he had been a popular figure at Turf Moor where his figure of 374 league and cup games was bettered only by Alan Stevenson and Jerry Dawson, as far as goalkeepers were concerned. Connelly was bought by Rovers in 1960 when he joined them from Manchester United after obtaining another Championship winners medal to go with the one he secured at Turf Moor in 1960. In those earlier times he had often been the thorn in Rovers’ side, scoring five times against them in League and Cup in his total of 103 in 260 games for Burnley. His Rovers record was 39 goals in 163 matches. At his peak he played 20 times for England and was a member of Englands World Cup squad in 1966.
In recent years a couple of Blackburn players have had loan spells at Burnley, these being Jay McEveley and Andy Todd. Ex Blackburn player Alan Mahon joined Burnley in 2006 although he had a spell at Wigan in between. Mahon's Blackburn debut came as an 89th Minute substitute in the Derby match at Turf Moor on 17 December 2000.David May who played for Blackburn between 1988 and 1994, captained Burnley in his one season there in the 2003–04 season. Whilst Andy Cole who signed for Blackburn for a club record £8 million in 2001 spent six months on loan from Sunderland at Turf Moor towards the end of his career in 2008.
As far as appearances in local derbies go, the honours are shared between two highly respected players from each side.
The Burnley player with the most appearances is goalkeeper Jerry Dawson, who played between the Clarets sticks until past the age of 40, finally bowing out on Christmas Day 1928 at Turf Moor. Between 1913 and 1926 he faced the Rovers forwards on 19 occasions (18 league and one FA Cup).
The leading Blackburn player on the same score is Ronnie Clayton who amassed his total during the 1950s and 1960s playing 15 times in the League and four in the FA Cup.
The FA Cup figure is a record held between the clubs that he shares with his old adversary, Jimmy Adamson of Burnley.
Behind Dawson and Clayton comes Bryan Douglas with 17 (14 League and 3 FA Cup) and he is followed home by Burnley's Brian Miller with 16 (13 + 3).
In the 1990–91 season Burnley lost in the Division 4 play offs to Torquay consigning them to another season in the lowest league in English football. After the match a plane flew over Turf Moor with a banner saying "Staying down forever luv Rovers Ha Ha Ha". This prank has largely been attributed to former Blackburn striker Simon Garner although he denies this, but does claim to know who was responsible.
Burnley fans gained some revenge after Blackburn Rovers were beaten by the semi-pro Swedish team Trelleborgs FF in the UEFA Cup 1994, where Burnley fans changed a road sign to 'twin' Burnley with Trelleborg.
Prior to the meeting in the Premier League in the 2009-10 season, Burnley fans snuck into Ewood Park and dressed up the statue of former Blackburn owner Jack Walker in a Burnley kit. This led to retaliation by Blackburn fans a few days later when they scrawled graffiti and dressed a cone with a Blackburn shirt. Also, the Blackburn fans hung banners over motorway bridges, one reading “Your Mum’s Your Dad, Inbred Bastards”, when Burnley fans were coached to Ewood.
Also at the match at Burnley 09-10 season Blackburn Rovers fans decided to wear Owen Coyle masks to wind the Burnley fans up as they called him the 'messiah' then change to 'judas' when he left to go Bolton.
In the lead up to the corresponding fixture in March 2010, police allegedly foiled a plot by Burnley fans to paint Blackburn midfielder David Dunn's house Claret & Blue. On 7 May 2012 during Blackburn vs Wigan at Ewood Park, Burnley supporters arranged a plane to fly over Ewood Park which read - In Venky's we trust-Burnley SU. Blackburn lost this fixture 1-0 and were subsequently relegated from the Premier League.