Joining the club from fourth tier side Huddersfield Town back in February 2004, it was a ‘whirlwind’ for Jon Stead at Blackburn Rovers.
Stead was thrown straight in at the deep end for Rovers, starting in an away match at Middlesbrough. It turned out to be the dream debut for the forward, who scored the only goal of the game.
When asked about the debut, Stead said: “I didn’t imagine for one second I was going to be involved with the first team so soon, never mind starting straight away.”
“I came to watch a home game against Chelsea and met the manager and he asked me, do you think you can handle that? I said yes of course. Before I knew it Friday came along and I was starting! I was so excited!”
Stead went on to score six goals for Rovers in that season, including vital winners against Fulham and Manchester United.
“The two [Fulham and Manchester United] are both stand out games during my time with Rovers. The Fulham game was an incredible game and the fanzone commentary on it still makes me laugh.”
The goals from the forward are often credited with keeping Rovers in the Premiership that season but for Stead, his achievements didn’t really register with him at the time: “To play such a big part in the club retaining its Premiership status at the time didn’t really hit home.”
He added: “I think it’s only through the years that we realise how important Premier League status has become and I know I played a major part in that. It makes me very proud.”
This moment doesn’t go down as Stead’s highlight of his time at Ewood Park, however: “My highlight, apart from the Man United goal, was scoring in my first home game against Newcastle and sharing the pitch with one of my heroes, Alan Shearer.
“When I was a child, I wrote to him and he sent me back a signed picture. After the game, I managed to get his shirt and I still have it, unwashed and framed.”
The 2004-05 season saw Stead score two goals for the club in 34 appearances in all competitions, and with new forwards coming in like Craig Bellamy, Stead moved onto Sunderland for around £1.8 million in June 2005.
Although his time at Rovers was relatively brief, Stead only has fond memories of his spell at Ewood Park: “It was a whirlwind at the start, very unexpected and a dream come true to play in the Premier League.”
Stead adds, “Everyone was so welcoming to me and my family at the club, the staff at the training ground and stadium were amazing.”
Jon Stead will be endeared by Rovers fans for years to come for the considerable contribution he made in the 2003-04 season.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks to Jon Stead for taking time out to answer our questions for us. Jon has set up his striker academy which sessions will commence in July. You can find his academy on Twitter at @JonSteadSA or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JonSteadStrikerAcademy/
This interview was originally published in February 2019.