Bob Crompton. Player, Manager, Clubman... Immortal
International Caps: 41
2 x Division One Champion (1912, 1914 - Captain)
FA Cup Winner (1928 - Manager)
Division Two/Promotion winner (1939 - Manager)
Bob Crompton is perhaps the greatest figure in 134 years of Blackburn Rovers history. Such is his legend that even 68 years after his death, Crompton is still considered one of the greatest players, managers and clubman of all time.
Why? Because he did it not for money or fame, but for the love of his club.
The beginnings of Bob Crompton were simple enough. Born into a Lancashire family on the 26th September 1879, there was little to suggest he would become one of the immortals of the game. Crompton however, rose quickly through the ranks and in 1896 (aged only 17) he made the move from Blackburn Trinity to First Division Blackburn Rovers. On the 10th of April the following year, Crompton made a successful first team debut at Centre Forward. After three games he was moved to Left Back and finally, to Right Back. It was here Crompton would solidify his reputation and build a dynasty at Rovers.
At the age of 21, Crompton's football and leadership quality saw him become Rovers Captain. He did not shrink from his new responsibilities, continuing his form and ensuring Blackburn steadily rose in the First Division. As a player, Crompton was both physically and mentally strong. His positioning was second to none and his solid ground game was complimented by his aerial supremacy. But Crompton did not let his formidable size and strength overrule his gamesmanship and he became well respected as one of the true gentleman of the game.
While his meteoric rise at Rovers continued, Bob Crompton was recognised by his country. On the 3rd March 1902, Crompton made his debut for England at Right Back, soon becoming the first professional player to ever Captain them. Crompton held this position until the outbreak of the First World War, captaining 22 matches and earning a total of 41 caps.
Crompton went from strength to strength with Blackburn and in 1912, his persistence and tactical leadership were recognised with the ultimate; the Division One title. Two years later, Crompton's Rovers emulated this feat, cementing themselves as the greatest side of the pre-war era. However, Rovers never managed to win an FA cup with Crompton as a player, despite reaching the final in the premiership winning 1911-1912 season.
After the First World War Crompton retired, playing the last of his 608 games in 1920.
Six years after finishing his playing career, Crompton stepped up from club director to the position of 'honorary manager'. Crompton was honorary by title only, as he coached the club out of the relegation zone in 1926-27 and into sixth position by 1929-1930. Crompton's crowing glory however, was the FA cup title in 1928. This held particular significance for Crompton as the FA cup was the one major trophy that eluded him throughout his playing career. All this was achieved with a modest budget that saw great talent coming in and overrated players going out.
Being a master tactician and student of the game, Crompton soon realised that if Rovers were to ever regain their status as the top club in England, then a new style of play needed to be adopted. A faster and more accurate game was what Crompton wanted, but this clashed with his current crop of ageing players, who subsequently revolted against him.
It was a sad moment in Rovers history when in February 1931, Crompton lost his role as 'honorary manager'. It was sadder still the following month when he was unceremoniously dumped off the board of directors. But being the great man that he was, Crompton did not react as one would expect. He left quietly and watched as his still beloved Rovers fell on their own sword, being relegated for the first time in history during the 1935-36 season.
Under huge pressure from fans and staff alike, the Rovers board soon invited Crompton back to the club. With Blackburn in danger of being relegated to Third Division North, Crompton's genius helped the Rovers survive and stay in the Second Division. In 1938, Crompton was officially appointed manager and by the end of the season, he had won the Rovers promotion to the First Division. He had done this in classic Crompton style; by winning the Second Division championship. Hopes were high for a strong showing now the club was back in the top flight. But with the outbreak of World War Two only three games into the 1939-40 season, league play was suspended.
Tragically, Bob Crompton did not make it through the war. On the 15th March 1941, Crompton passed away after watching his beloved Rovers win 3-2 against Burnley.
After establishing himself as one of the greatest players of all time, Crompton remained loyal to the club he had served so well. Returning as Manager, Crompton reinvented Blackburn and made it into something special. Even when cast aside, Crompton saw beyond the boardroom politics and again stood up for the benefit of his club. Such selflessness is only seen in true legends and Bob Crompton is undoubtedly one of them.
Perhaps the greatest figure in Rovers history has gone, but his legacy will last forever.
By Jarrad Goold (retroflair31)
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