Football Features

Blackburn Rovers’ relegated 2012 side had a future World Cup winner & Bundesliga goal machine

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 13:15, 17 May 2020

Blackburn Rovers ended 11 consecutive seasons of Premier League football with the ignominy of relegation in 2012.

The Lancashire-based club, in a tumultuous campaign under Steve Kean, could only manage eight wins across 38 matches.

Understandably, the Glaswegian lost his job under controversial owners, Venky’s, who have since appointed their eighth different manager since taking over in November 2010.

His fate was sealed but what about his players?

Goalkeeper: Paul Robinson

Current club: Retired

Current age: 40

Fun fact since: Robinson only made three appearances for Burnley in 2016/17, conceding seven goals and keeping zero clean sheets.

The former England international goalkeeper joined Rovers from Tottenham Hotspur and would make over 180 league appearances for the Lancashire club before crossing the divide, joining arch-rivals Burnley before retiring in 2017.

Right-back: Jason Lowe

Current club: Bolton Wanderers

Current age: 28

Fun fact since: Lowe captained Rovers for the first time in a 4–1 defeat against Norwich City on August 6, 2016.

A graduate of Rovers’ academy, the defender-cum-midfielder briefly spent time on loan at Oldham Athletic in 2011. He has since signed for Bolton Wanderers, after having spent a season at Birmingham City.

Centre-back: Grant Hanley

Current club: Norwich City

Current age: 28

Fun fact since: Hanley joined Newcastle for £6m but made only five league appearances.

Hanley ended a six-year association with Rovers by joining Newcastle United in 2016 but was predominantly out of Rafael Benitez’s starting lineup. He has since signed for Norwich City, whom he captains, and helped the Canaries win the Championship title in 2018/19. However, his most famous moment to date is still that winning goal for Rovers in a 3-2 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2011.

Centre-back: Scott Dann

Current club: Crystal Palace

Current age: 33

Fun fact since: Dann is a boyhood Liverpool fan and has scored twice against the Toffees for Crystal Palace.

Dann previously worked under then-Rovers manager Kean at Coventry and was named club captain by his successor, Michael Appleton. But he would leave the club a year later to join Crystal Palace, where the Liverpudlian remains today.

Left-back: Martin Olsson

Current club: Helsingborgs IF

Current age: 32

Fun fact since: Olsson played every single minute in Sweden’s Euro 2012 and Euro 2016 campaigns.

The Swedish left-back joined Rovers’ academy from Högaborgs BK in 2006 and would go on to register 142 first-team appearances before signing for Norwich City and then, subsequently, Swansea City, where he scored twice in 55 league games. Olsson is now back in his homeland with Helsingborgs IF.

Central midfielder: Morten Gamst Pedersen

Current club: Alta

Current age: 38

Fun fact since: Pedersen scored seven goals from free-kicks in the Premier League — one-fifth of his total goals scored in the competition.

A fan favourite, the Norwegian winger, who could also play in central midfield, made over 340 official appearances between 2004 and 2013, becoming renowned for his long-range strikes and famed for his two goals in a 2-1 win over Manchester United in 2005. After two seasons with Tippeligaen powerhouses Rosenborg, the affectionately nicknamed “Van Gamsten” — thanks to an absolute rocket against Fulham in 2005 — returned to boyhood club Tromsø in February 2016 and made 96 appearances for the club across all competitions. Pedersen now turns out for third-tier side Alta.

Central midfielder: Steven N’Zonzi

Current club: Rennes (on loan from Roma)

Current age: 31

Fun fact since: N’Zonzi won the World Cup with France in 2018 and was thus awarded the Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur — the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits.

Signed by Sam Allardyce in 2009 from Amiens, where he began his footballing journey, the French midfielder would spend six seasons in England – the last three at Stoke City – before relocating to Sevilla where he gradually became one of the preeminent box-to-box midfielders in Europe. His form earned him a move to Italian giants AS Roma in 2018 — after winning the World Cup with France — where he made 39 appearances in all competitions during 2018/19. Nzonzi spent the first half of 2019/20 on loan at Galatasaray before making another temporary switch to Rennes.

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Right-winger: Mauro Formica

Current club: Newell’s Old Boys

Current age: 32

Fun fact since: Won the CONCACAF Champions League with Cruz Azul in 2014.

Formica’s time in England lasted for just two seasons, appearing 55 times for Rovers before going out on loan to Serie A outfit Palermo. He joined Mexican side Cruz Azul in 2013 and won the CONCACAF Champions League with them in 2014. He was then loaned him to his first club, Newell’s Old Boys, in his native Argentina before joining permanently last summer. But in July 2017, he returned to Mexican to sign for UNAM — before ultimately returning to Newell’s Old Boys once again.

Attacking midfielder: Junior Hoilett

Current club: Cardiff City

Current age: 29

Fun fact since: Earned his first international cap with Canada in a 1–1 draw against Ghana on October 13, 2015.

Hoilett joined Rovers’ youth set-up from Brampton SC in his native Canada in 2003 but would only make his first-team debut in the 2009/10 season due to an inability to gain a work permit. He spent time on loan at German sides SC Paderborn and FC St. Pauli in the meantime and left Rovers in 2012 – signing for QPR – after making 92 appearances in all competitions and scoring 14 goals. He is now at Cardiff City.

Left-winger: Marcus Olsson

Current club: Free agent

Current age: 32

Fun fact since: Olsson remains eligible to represent Kenya at international level.

Olsson joined his twin brother Martin at Rovers in 2012 and would go on to make over 100 league appearances before relocating to Derby County in the summer of 2016. He was released at the end of 2018/19 and remains a free agent.

Striker: Yakubu Aiyegbeni

Current club: Retired

Current age: 37

Fun fact since: Yakubu scored 25 goals in 45 matches for Guangzhou R&F.

Yakubu’s time at Rovers was brief, spending just one season and leaving after their relegation to the Championship in 2012. He has since played for five clubs in four different countries, including Guangzhou R&F in China and Al-Rayyan in Qatar. He left Coventry in April 2017 and retired three months later.

Notable others

Gael Givet

Current club: Retired

Current age: 38

Fun fact since: Givet left Evian TG in 2014 after they described his beard as “jihadist” and ordered him to shave it.

A Champions League runner-up with Monaco in 2004, the central defender joined Rovers in 2009 from Marseille before returning to his native France in 2013 with Arles-Avingon, moving on to Evian and later Tours, whom he left in July 2016. He’s called time on his playing career since.

David Dunn

Current club: Retired

Current age: 40

Fun fact since: Dunn took charge of 20 matches as Oldham manager, winning three matches and losing eight times.

Dunn joined Rovers’ academy in 1997 before debuting with the first-team in September 1998 and he’d go on to make 365 appearances before retiring at the end of the 2013/14. He’s since managed Oldham Athletic before returning to Blackburn to coach the Under-23s and has also had a brief spell as caretaker manager of Blackpool.

He’ll never live that Venky’s advert down, will he?

Anthony Modeste

Current club: 1. FC Köln

Current age: 32

Fun fact since: Only Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored more league goals than Modeste in the German top flight in 2016-17.

The former France Under-21 international joined Blackburn on loan in 2012 but made no impact in the English top-flight, registering a sum total of zero goals in nine appearances.

He continued his career with Bastia and 1899 Hoffenheim before arriving at 1. FC Köln where he made an eye-catching impact two season’s ago with 27 goals across all competitions.

But at the end of that season, he joined Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League for a reported transfer fee of €35.7m, before returning to 1. FC Köln in 2018.