25 years ago, Rovers found themselves struggling in 1998/99 after Roy Hodgson had guided the club to UEFA Cup qualification the previous season.
International Superstars XI Chelsea had also made an underwhelming start under Gianluca Vialli and so a televised Monday night match at Ewood on September 21st was ripe for entertainment as both teams tried to jump-start their seasons.
Rovers had already equalised twice with goals from Chris Sutton and Sébastien Pérez when the game’s controversial moment happened in the 66th minute. Right winger Pérez tussled for the ball with Graeme Le Saux close to the Riverside touchline and hot-head Le Saux shoved the Frenchman in the face. The ex-Rover was rightly given a straight red for violent conduct, but ref Peter Jones gave Pérez a second yellow card too.
Ewood was incensed. The usually calm and collected Roy Hodgson snapped and completely lost it on the touchline – ranting and raving towards the officials and kicking water bottles around. This was Hodgson like we’d never seen him before and it was the culmination of the tension which had been building for months after poor form and a mounting injury list.
However, the injustice inspired Rovers and Sutton’s penalty made it 3-2. Then Vialli threw on Tore Andre Flo and Brian Laudrup to expose the space created by the increasingly shaky Rovers defence in a 10 v 10 affair. Two late Flo goals won the match for Chelsea.
“Sébastien Pérez had the misfortune to put his nose in the way of someone else’s elbow,” Hodgson explained when he had slightly cooled down. “If this was Old Trafford, Arsenal or even Stamford Bridge, the referee wouldn’t get out of the ground. But our crowd are nice people and don’t have a lynch mob.”
During the peak era of Soccer AM, Hodgson’s infamous rant featured regularly on the weekly ‘Soccer Locker’ quiz segment of the show, with the impersonator furiously shouting “IT’S A DISGRACE!!” and “Did you not see it? DID YOU NOT SEE IT?!!”
The incredible drama of the Chelsea match meant that it eventually became a staple of midweek daytime Sky Sports schedules, with the highlights being broadcast no fewer than FORTY-TWO times in the space of six months in 2014.
If you've made it down to this point…. the above is an excerpt from the forthcoming ‘Nineties Special’ of 4,000 Holes, which will be released later this season. The issue takes a look back at 99 shocking moments from the decade and is a sequel to the similar specials released in the last two years.
Subscriptions and individual issues of the fanzine are available to buy here: https://roversfanzine.bigcartel.com/