Rovers’ Greatest Heroes: Derek Fazackerley

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A Preston-born central defender who didn’t tower over his opponents, was only 5’11 in height, but was always consistent and read the game well.

Fazackerley was trusted by a whole series of managers at Ewood Park, including Jim Smith, Howard Kendall, and Bobby Saxton, after being given his debut by Ken Furphy against Hull City in 1969, but he never played top-flight football.

Fazackerley still holds the appearance record for Rovers, playing 671 times for the club across the old Second Division and Third Division. The relegation into the third tier happened in his first season in the first team and he isn’t ashamed to admit that it brought him to tears.

I’m sure that the emotions were at the complete opposite end of the spectrum as he was an ever-present in Gordon Lee’s title-winning campaign in 1974/75, Rovers’ last divisional title until 20 years later. This ended a five-year stay in the third tier of English football, our first spell outside the top two divisions, but unfortunately not our last.

Fazackerley spent much of his Rovers career alongside Glenn Keeley, forming a really solid base throughout the late 1970s and 80s as Rovers attempted to build a promotion challenge.  He won the player of the year award in 1982/83 but the signing of Colin Hendry from Dundee in 1987 spelled the end for Fazackerley’s long tenure at centre-back for the blue and white halves.

Not quite the one-club man, a postscript to his playing career took in Chester City, York City and Bury in player/coach roles and an interesting period in Finland as a player/manager, all roles that would prepare him for what has been a stellar career in coaching that continues to this day.

Fazackerley returned to Rovers as a member of Ray Harford’s coaching staff just after the title win in 1995, staying with the club until Brian Kidd decided to bring in his own staff in 1999. He has since worked with Kevin Keegan with England and at Manchester City, Sven-Goran Eriksson at City and Leicester and Lee Clark at Huddersfield and Birmingham. He has worked at Oxford United since 2014 and had a brief spell in caretaker charge after Pep Clotet was sacked in 2018, winning two matches in League One from eight matches in charge.

What was it like to watch him live? 

I spoke to David Rewaj, Ewood attender since 1975 and a season ticket holder in the Blackburn End since the early 1980s, about Fazackerley:

“He is just a legend at Ewood Park. He wasn’t the most dominant of centre-backs but he was just so consistent. It was a shame that he never got to play top-level football for Blackburn but when Colin Hendry was signed he was just that bit better than Fazackerley so his time in the team had to come to an end, but what a nice guy!”

His Legendary Moment

Again, words from David Rewaj:

“It is hard to pick out a particular game of Fazackerley’s because he’s just so consistent, but he was immense in our promotion season back to the old Division 2, and in many of our promotion attempts in the 80s”.

His Legacy

Fazackerley’s efforts in the blue and white halves meant that by the late 1980s, Blackburn Rovers were established as a high-ranking Second Division side and were ripe for taking the next step. That Fazackerley wasn’t able to be part of that is a shame but his appearance record for the club may never be beaten and he will always be remembered by the club as a great servant.

Thanks for reading.

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