We talk to former Rovers player and Premier League winner Mark Atkins about his time at Rovers, working with BBC Radio Lancashire and more.
With an eight-year spell, and making 257 league appearances with 35 goals, Mark Atkins is a well-known name in Rovers’ club history.
Atkins joined in 1988 from Scunthorpe United for £45,000 and was part of the famous Premier League winning squad. The midfielder’s contribution has often been understated in the Premier League winning season.
We talked to the former Rovers player about his time at Ewood, his current role with BBC Radio Lancashire and more…
What are your fondest memories of playing for Blackburn Rovers?
“I signed from Scunthorpe United in 1988 and couldn’t have dreamed of what happened to the club in my time there.
“From my first home game, the attendance was around 6,000 to my last home game being 32,000 in the Premier League so to see the club grow while I was being part of it was a fantastic feeling.
“I have lots of really fond memories of my time at Blackburn, but the two that stand out are the promotion in 1992 and winning the Premier League in 1995. To win promotion in the play-off final at Wembley is a dream come true but we ended up doing it the hard way after being top of the league until about the last 10 games.
“There was a lot of pressure on us to get promoted because of who the club had brought in, not only players but the management team as well, so to finally win the final was a great feeling for everyone.
“The 1994/95 season was just on another level. We had recruited top players and had a squad we thought could win the league and as soon as we got on a winning run we never looked back. I was a big part of the team which, when I look back was a massive achievement for myself. The season as a whole was just unbelievable and lifting the trophy is a moment I will never forget. It was just great to see Blackburn fans enjoying the football so much and getting our rewards.”
How was it to play under Kenny Dalglish and Don Mackay?
“Don was a good manager of players always bubbly and I really liked him. He did a wonderful job for Blackburn but couldn’t attract the top players when the money was made available. So I think it was inevitable that for the club to progress the way they wanted they had to get a big name manager.
“There was no bigger name than Kenny so to see him turn up at the club gave everyone a lift and the top players soon started arriving. Kenny, with Ray Harford, were brilliant to work for, training was good and match days we all knew our jobs.
“Kenny instantly had everyone’s respect for being such a great player but he showed he was also a great manager and I couldn’t speak highly enough of both him and Ray.”
What happened in the 1994/95 season wouldn’t have happened without the Great Jack Walker. What was your relationship like with him and how important was he in your time at Rovers?
“I had a great relationship with Jack having met him a few times before he took over the club. He would be at most games in the changing rooms, gambling with us all about anything that moves, but he was a calming figure round us all.
“Win, lose or draw he would shake everyone’s hand before the game wishing good luck and again after – I never saw him be angry to any of the players we were all like 1 big family with Jack being the father figure. Without Jack, the Premier League dream would never have been realised so we owe it all to Jack.”
What are your thoughts on what has happened over the last few years at Rovers?
“It has not been nice to see what has been happening at Rovers since winning the league, but at the end of the day, results haven’t been good enough to keep the club up where they belong.
“The investment from the owners hasn’t been enough to challenge and the money that has been spent hasn’t brought in enough good signings for the club and that’s why Rovers are in League One now. Hopefully, it is now on an upward surge but time will tell.”
What are your thoughts on this summer for Ewood and your predictions for the season?
“I was pleased Tony stayed as I think he did a good job after taking over in difficult circumstances last season, and has made some good signings so I think they have a great chance of getting promotion at the first attempt. The players will have to get to grips with this league quickly but if they can do that there are positive signs.”
You had a spell as a caretaker manager at Doncaster Rovers and Shrewsbury Town, as well as managing Matlock Town. Did you enjoy management and would you be interested in it again if the chance came up?
“I did enjoy managing but after doing it for 10 years at non league level, I needed a break from it and was lucky to be asked by Radio Lancashire to do some summarising for them on the Rovers games.
“I would like to go back to managing or coaching at some stage but at the minute, I am enjoying the summarising so we will see what happens in the future.”
Who is the best player you played with at Rovers?
“I played with some great players at Blackburn from Terry Gennoe, Simon Garner, Scott Sellers to players like Tim Sherwood, Chris Sutton, David Batty, etc. There are too many to name but the best would have to be Alan Shearer for the impact he had on the club and our team. We knew if we got him chances, he would take them but his presence on and off the pitch and was immense. “
Many Rovers fans suggested you should have played for England. Are you disappointed you didn’t get the chance?
“It would have been nice to get selected but I never once thought about it I was just happy being at Blackburn doing my job and winning games so not really disappointing about it.”
This interview was initially published in September 2017.