4000 Holes


Saturday, 11 May 2024

I'm an American. I follow my local club, and I follow Blackburn. The thing about my local club is, it has a great history. What that club doesn't have though, is any remaining footage of that history. And that's where I'm thankful for that lost tradition of yesteryear, the Blackburn Rovers Season Review VHS tape (and later DVD). And it's not just season reviews, there are so many random video releases; it's amazing how much is out there for our beloved club. Anything I refer to in this I consider an “official” release, meaning it's not just some fan who taped it at home, but it seems like a few were not actually released by the club.

I came to the team long after the glory days of the Premier League winning side; after even the beloved Rovers of the last few decades like Tugay and Pedersen. It's been a costly venture, but there can be few of you out there who still love these tapes as much as I do. I bought the 1994-95 Season Review on eBay, not knowing what I was getting into, and the hole it would lead me down. 

Next, I had to import a VCR from another continent, and let me tell you, shipping is not cheap. Then, it requires a power converter... and a signal converter... and a cable converter. These are all easy; the problem is, most people have long forgotten about these yearly treasures, and they seldom show up on eBay. I've never once had to bid against someone else, but I also see them so rarely, it'll be impossible to ever complete a collection. Thankfully though, as my collection has grown, commentators from previous years and the narrators of these videos is what I think of when I think about our history. I may not know their names, but their voices have given me a history lesson.

What is there to love about these extinct relics on dead formats? It's not just that I can learn the history of the club, but I can see things long gone. 1991-92 is a season that features Blackburn getting promoted, but that isn't the highlight for me. To me, the highlight of that tape is actually seeing Hull's goal that knocks us out of the League Cup. Hundreds of Hull fans in terrace standing room erupt into cheers, and it's sad to me that stadiums have had to go to all-seaters. Speaking of crowds, there is nothing that gives me chills so much as Jamie Redknapp scoring in 1995 to deflate the crowd for mere seconds before it turns to jubilation. I will never have personal memories of these games, but at least I can live them vicariously still.

The tapes themselves hold a fascination to me. It drives me insane that some videos have the title going one way on the spine, then the next year it goes the other, then the next it's back. Over the decades, I'm surely not the only person this has infuriated. It's understandable that the 1991-92 tape is called The Rovers Return as it featured our promotion. But why was 1996-97 called The Road Back? We started and finished the season in the same division. While the title may confuse me, at least I can watch multiple interviews with one of the legends of the club, Tony Parkes.  

And some of these are just so nineties. The player interviews are filmed at ridiculous angles in the 1994-95 tape. The 1993-94 tape seems to have just given the players a microphone at a party and told them to interview each other. The results are better than you'd expect, but the premise is just strange.

These things must have sold like hotcakes back in the day. 1992-93 has at least three different official releases. The full Season Review makes sense, but Kenny's Blackburn Magic was released before the season was even halfway completed. It includes lots of interviews with Kenny Dalglish and every goal to that point, so I guess it was good enough to tide fans over halfway through the year. 

However, then there's also Rovers On the Road, which is a recap of the first half of the season, but only the away games. So it's covering the same period as Kenny's Blackburn Magic, but without the interviews with our coach, and only half the games. Either fans really couldn't get enough of these (and I don't blame them) or even back then clubs would do anything to make a pound.

The tapes that hold little interest to me are the full-match releases. Who doesn't like watching Burnley lose, but are interviews about the game enough to make a tape of a 2-0 win in 2000 worth having? At least a 1995 tape showing the match against Nottingham Forest is a seven-goal rout. The 2002 Worthington Cup got a nice two-tape set, with all the lead-up on one tape and the final on the other, and this is one of the few that then got a second release on DVD. 

The 1987 Full Members’ Cup final is a nice game to own, but the highlight of owning that is the Official Matchday Programme, which is slipped into the clear plastic to serve as the tape's label. That final also saw an even more interesting and rare release – a cassette tape featuring two documentaries, one leading up to, and one after winning the final. As far as my collecting has found, this was the only cassette release.

As for what's on the tapes and DVDs themselves, what are some highlights on the field? There are releases that just can't be missed. The Golden Goals collection is the 100 best goals scored between 1981 and 1993. A similar thing was done again on DVD with 100 Great Goals of the Last Decade in 2009. 

The highlight of goals compilations though is on the tape just titled The Best, and it's because it compiles Alan Shearer's first 50 Rovers goals in a row. That is a wonderful compilation to sit through. And speaking of Shearer, there's Shearer on Shearer (released in May 1996). Can you imagine nowadays a player having an entire documentary made about themselves, and ending it walking along a beach and throwing sand for their dog to chase? 

When Tugay left Ewood Park in 2009, thankfully there was a season review DVD release and we got a wonderful eight-minute Turkish Delight Tribute. DVD releases weren't heavy on the “special features” outside of the season reviews themselves, so that makes this tribute to surely one of the most loved players we've had all the more special. 

I say thankfully there was a release that year, because Blackburn's fortunes also determined whether a video was released. 1998-99 had a release halfway through the season, but then because of relegation, there was no video for the full season. There wouldn't be one the following year either after a mediocre season back in the second tier. 

Nowadays the rarest tapes must be 1989-90 and 1990-91, but even thinking about the two 1990-91 releases makes me furious, as someone online offered up both for almost nothing recently. When I took him up on it and asked him to quote me on the postage, he said sending to the US would be too expensive for me and donated it to a charity shop. Two of the rarest, possibly gone forever, because he didn't realize my club and love of preserving these tapes is worth that much. 

Another rarity, the DVD (without a proper case) in 2004-05 was only given to season ticket holders who renewed their tickets, so that wasn't even offered on general sale. After 2011 there has only been one more release, the League One promotion season of 2017-18. Until we get to the Premier League, that will surely be the last one. While the same company that made all of these tapes and DVDs still produces “the website and video content... sadly, DVDs are no longer commercially viable” as I was told via email. Please Rovers, win promotion, so I can finally have another video to add to my collection.

So what's my favourite thing on any of these videos? It's my favourite goal that I've ever seen watching a Blackburn game. And it wasn't a goal we scored. I'm sure there will be someone reading this that was there and remembers the match, but I can't remember what year or tape it's on. It must be old, as the pitch was a complete disaster. Our keeper kneels down to pick up an easy rolling ball, and it jumps right over his head after hitting a bump in the pitch. Looking back 20-30 years later, I literally laughed out loud, and rewound that tape a few times to watch us get scored on three or four times in a row. The good thing about knowing I loved a ridiculous goal against us, but not knowing what release it's on... I'm going to have to watch my whole collection again to find it.

If you want to watch any of these for yourself, they're all available unedited on archive.org/details/@sandimas1988 or in copyright edited form on my YouTube. If you have any you want to give a good home, my collection is not complete, and some of these need archiving in better condition, so I'll always be looking for new or duplicates.

*The above article was originally published in Issue 106 of 4,000 Holes. Plenty of back issues are available to purchase here.

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