In my near 30 years of watching Rovers, I have been privileged to watch some great, very good talented players at Ewood Park. One of the players that sticks out in my mind is Matt Jansen, writes Mark Whittle.
When Jansen signed from Crystal Palace for £4.1m back in 1999, I knew he was an exciting young prospect and was very happy with the signing. Being in my teens at the time, I loved footballers with skill and flair and Jansen truly had that in abundance. I was at the match against Tottenham Hotspur where he made his debut and scored an absolutely cracking goal. From there, I knew he was going to be some player and go on to be a true Rovers legend.
Unfortunately, in the season he signed, Rovers went on to be relegated from the Premier League. The following season he was in and out of the side in what was another frustrating season for Rovers. It was only when Graeme Souness was appointed manager at the back end of the 1999/2000 season that his career at Ewood really took off. The following 2000/01 campaign went on to be a memorable one for Jansen and Rovers as he scored 24 league goals as we secured promotion back to the Premier League. One of the most memorable games and nights in our club’s history to this day when, on 2 May 2001, Jansen scored the 74th-minute winning goal away at Deepdale, Preston that secured promotion back to the promised land.
Everything looked promising and during the following season, he made a massive impact in the Premier League. This led to the then England manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson monitoring his progress as the season developed. Things got even better that season for Jansen and Rovers, when in February 2002, he scored one of the two goals as we beat Spurs 2-1 in the final to win the then Worthington Cup (League Cup) at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. What a day that was!
Things could not be getting any better for Jansen – in a season where there was to be a World Cup. He was then suddenly not included in the squad to travel, as Eriksson, persuaded by his then assistant – Tord Grip – decided to go with an extra defender and take Martin Keown to the finals instead! This was a huge blow for Jansen, but he still had years left ahead of him – or so he and we thought.
Then in the summer of 2002 when Jansen should have been in Japan/Korea, tragedy struck after he was seriously injured in a road accident whilst on holiday in Italy. He later returned to playing football but sadly he was never to regain the form and promise he had shown previously and became troubled with depression and anxiety.
He now has an autobiography called ‘What Was, What Is and What Might Have Been.’ This is a must-read for any Rovers fan.
Matt Jansen will forever be a Rovers legend and ‘My Hero’ as one of my all-time favourite players to pull on the famous blue and white halves.
Thanks for reading.