Blackburn Rovers v West Bromwich Albion; Ewood Park, Sunday 14th August 2022, 3pm
Having opened their league campaign with matches against two of the pre-season promotion favourites, Albion now face the side that sit top of the early Championship table. Blackburn Rovers are the only Championship side to have won their opening two fixtures following up a narrow 1-0 win at home to QPR on the opening day with a comfortable 3-0 win at Swansea City last weekend.
Having also beaten Hartlepool United 4-0 in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening, it is a very promising start to Jon Dahl Tomasson’s reign at the club. The Dane replaced former Baggies boss, Tony Mowbray, who stepped down at the end of last season. After a successful playing career in which he won the Eredivisie and UEFA Cup with Feyenoord, plus all the Italian domestic trophies and the Champions League with AC Milan, Tomasson moved into coaching with the Dutch club, Excelsior, in 2011, taking over as head coach two years later. Before moving to Blackburn, he spent two years as head coach of Swedish giants, Malmö, winning the league in both of his seasons in charge and taking them to the group stage of the Champions League last season. He stepped down at the end of the Swedish season in December 2021.
Tomasson has brought in three new players to the club over the summer. Attacking midfielder, Sammie Szmodics, made the move from Peterborough United and scored on his debut in the 3-0 win at Swansea while Tyler Morton has joined on loan from Liverpool and registered an assist on his first appearance off the bench against Hartlepool in mid-week. Barnsley full back, Callum Brittain, also made the move to Ewood Park and has started both their league games in a defence that is yet to concede a goal this season.
While free agent, Darragh Lenihan, has joined Middlesbrough, last season’s top scorer Ben Brereton Díaz remains at the club for the time being with a number of Premier League clubs reportedly interested in the Chile international. Bradley Dack, who was once linked with a move to Albion, is also still at the club having returned from a year out with injury in March. He is yet to start a league game for Rovers since his return to fitness, but he did start and scored against Hartlepool on Wednesday.
For Steve Bruce, he will hope to be able to play a similar side to the one that performed so well against Watford on Monday, although he may be tempted to start with Okay in place of Livermore following another impressive display in the Carabao Cup tie on Thursday. However, on the back of the news that Darryl Dike will be out for at least two months, Karlan Grant left the field on Thursday night with a sore back and the Bruce will be hoping that he will be fit to play on Sunday.
It only makes the club’s search for a striker more urgent. Reyes Cleary was surprisingly given a start in the win over Sheffield United in the Carabao Cup and, by all reports, didn’t disgrace himself and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. If Grant isn’t able to play at Ewood Park, the 18-year-old will certainly be in contention.
Albion travelled to Blackburn at a similar time of the year last season. It was the fourth game of the campaign and Ismaël’s team made it ten points from a possible twelve with a 2-1 victory memorable for a wonderful goal from Alex Mowatt. The former Barnsley man is struggling to get into the starting line up this season but he played 90 minutes on Thursday, his first full game since the drab 1-0 defeat at St Andrew’s in early April and his first start since the 4-0 defeat at Forest later that month. There have been suggestions that Middlesbrough are interested in taking him on loan – personally, I would like to see him stay and be challenging Molumby, Livermore and Okay for the central midfield spots. He had surgery at the back end of the campaign and is likely to still be building back his full match fitness – he was in Bruce’s starting eleven until the decision was made about surgery, so I’m sure he remains firmly in the boss’s thoughts. Moreover, Albion will need a strong squad throughout this compacted season, and loaning him out to a potential promotion rival would be, in my opinion, a huge mistake.
Rovers’ early season form is impressive, but neither of their opponents look capable of challenging for promotion and this is a game that Albion should be looking to win. After recording a first victory on Thursday night, earning three points on Sunday will properly kick start their league campaign.
Sunday’s match will be the 132nd match between the two sides with the first meeting taking place more than 130 years ago in the quarter final of the FA Cup in 1885 at Albion’s Four Acres ground. Rovers won that match 2-0 and also beat Albion in their first FA Cup Final the following year in a replay at the Racecourse Ground, Derby, which also finished 2-0, after the initial match at the Kennington Oval finished goalless.
The first league meeting came at Blackburn’s Leamington Road ground in September 1888 with the hosts winning 6-2. Albion’s goalscorers were Tom Pearson and Jem Bayliss. Rovers moved to Ewood Park in 1890 and six years later, in February 1896, the Baggies finally recorded their first win in Blackburn in an FA Cup first round tie – the game finished 2-1 thanks to goals by Billy Richards and the unrelated John Richards. Albion’s first league win at Ewood Park came later the same year – it was another 2-1 win and Billy Richards was on the scoresheet once again with Roddie McLeod scoring the other goal.
The Baggies’ biggest win in that particular part of Lancashire was some 95 years later in February 1991. It was a few weeks after the Woking disaster that put paid to Brian Talbot’s tenure at the club and his ultimate replacement, Bobby Gould, had not yet been appointed leaving caretaker boss, Stuart Pearson, in charge for half a dozen games, one of which was at Ewood Park. A goal from Gary Robson and a brace from Don Goodman saw Albion win 3-0 to lift them to the heady heights of 15th in Division Two. They would win only two more games before the end of the season and were relegated to the third tier for the first (and only) time.
The Rovers side that day included future Baggies, Nicky Reid and Simon Garner, former Arsenal legend, Frank Stapleton, and future Premier League winner, Jason Wilcox. They won promotion via the play-offs the following season and won the Premier League just three years after that.
The 6-2 win that Blackburn secured in the first league meeting between the sides is the only time they have scored six against the Baggies, but their biggest win was achieved in the following season when they won 5-0 in November 1889.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
14 Feb 2022 – League Championship
West Brom 0
Blackburn Rovers 0
Last meeting at Blackburn Rovers
21 Aug 2021 – League Championship
Blackburn Rovers 1 (Brereton Díaz)
West Brom 2 (Mowatt, Phillips)
Albion’s Record against Blackburn Rovers
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