Rest In Peace Uncle Jack
Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the passing of Blackburn Rovers Legend Jack Walker. May he continue to rest in peace.
I've dug into the archives to again share something I originally wrote over a decade ago.
Full Name: Jack Walker
Date of Birth: 19th May 1929 - 17th August 2000, Blackburn
Role: Former Blackburn Rovers Chairman
Arrived: Took over as Chairman in 1991
Jack Walker's money was made in the steel industry but his heart always did, and always will belong to Blackburn Rovers Football Club.
After leaving school at 14-years of age he began working as a sheet metal worker, before taking over the family business with his brother Fred. Together they transformed the company with Jack Walker selling the company to British Steel for £360 million in 1990.
Walker retreated to Jersey as a tax exile in the mid 1970's, and in 1986, at the request of the chairman at the time Bill Fox, Walker or Uncle Jack as he is fondly known to the Rovers fans donated funds for a new Stand at Ewood Park, known as The WalkerSteel Stand. Upon selling WalkerSteel to British Steel he purchased Jersey European Airlines also acquiring various property interests.
Walker then took over Blackburn Rovers, buying a 62% controlling stake in 1991 with them in the old Second Division and began ploughing millions into the club, £20 million of which would be used on redeveloping the stadium and millions more on funding the big money transfers of many footballers.
He would convince Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish out of his self-imposed retirement, having earlier resigned from his managerial post at Anfield. Under Dalglish, the money started to flow and promotion to the newly renamed Premier League would be achieved via the play-offs at the end of the 1991-1992 season.
More signings and high-profile signings at that would be made using Uncle Jack's money. The British transfer record was smashed to land Alan Shearer for £3.5 million from Southampton in 1992. These signings helped Rovers to finish fourth in the League, before finishing the following season as runners up to Manchester United.
Breaking the transfer record again to land Chris Sutton for £5 million for the 1994-1995 season would see Walker's ultimate achievement as his side, in only their third season back in the top flight won the 1995 Premiership Title on a dramatic final day of the season battle. Despite Rovers' defeat, ironically against Dalglish's former side Liverpool a Manchester United draw with West Ham United wouldn't be enough to deny the club their first Title in 81 years.
Not even Uncle Jack's millions could sustain Rovers' success. With the Premiership becoming big business top footballers from the continent were being attracted, but the lure of a small Lancashire town would not appeal to too many of them. Walker and Rovers had millions but they were not a big club, with their fan base small the ground would rarely be full.
The decline began under Roy Hodgson and then his successor Brian Kidd, with whom Rovers would be his first taste of sole responsibility for a team, having previously worked for many years under Sir Alex Ferguson's leadership, the club would be relegated. Not even a plea from an emotional Walker ahead of a crucial relegation match in 1999 could save the club.
The club Walker loved and had built up, vowing at any costs to bring the Title back to Ewood Park as he had, had been relegated at the end of the 1998-1999 season, just four years after winning the Premiership. The disappointment could not be hidden by the tearful man who as well as being the financial benefactor was also their biggest fan.
Jack Walker, a Blackburn Rovers fan through and through would never be afraid to dip his hand into his pocket for the club he'd always supported and loved yet sadly he would not be able to see this club return to the top flight as he passed away at the age of 71 after losing his battle against cancer early during the 2000-2001 season as Rovers finished as runners up in the old Division One thereby returning to the top flight where they have remained, and indeed again started moving forward.
Never once could Walkers commitment to the club be called into question, this is how he would once explain his love for the club, what it meant to him and why he was happy to be so committed to Blackburn Rovers Football Club:
"You have to get pleasure out of it.
"It has put Blackburn back on the up and shown that if you believe in things they can be done.
"If they don't win then I am bloody miserable on a Sunday."
As already said Uncle Jack's money was made in the steel industry but his heart always did, and always will belong to Blackburn Rovers Football Club...