By the time I and the rest of my scout group arrived at Ewood Park on Saturday 27th April 1996 I assumed the highlight of my day had already passed. I wasn’t interested in watching Blackburn entertain Arsenal in any shape or form. I’d just finished a tour of my beloved Old Trafford and seen the footballing home of my heroes. I didn’t care for Blackburn or Arsenal. Little did I know that over the space of the impending game, I’d not only be in love with Manchester United but I’d also fall in love with football.
Growing up in Northern Ireland, live football wasn’t easily accessible so I had to peer through fuzzy reception to make out Manchester United playing games shown on delay. The Red Devils had wrapped me up but as I was shepherded into my seat in the Darwen Stand I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the sight in front of me. The television coverage I’d been used to would no longer be good enough.
I was cold and if I hadn’t of been so enthralled, I’d probably have wished for more layers but ultimately, there was football to watch. Colin Hendry was named the Rovers’ Player of the Year before the game and then with both teams competing for UEFA Cup places, things got underway.
Kevin Gallacher raced onto a long ball early on and lobbed the on rushing David Seaman to put Blackburn into the lead, just thirty yards away from me. He raced to the Riverside Stand to celebrate and my young ears were treated to a whole new range of vocabulary. Arsenal pressed for an equaliser for the rest of the half and that meant the ball spent much of the half at the other end of the pitch. In the second half, Arsenal pushed for a goal into the goal I was seated behind and with time running out, the most clear-cut penalty I have ever seen was conceded. Ian Wright dispatched the spot-kick to share the points.