Rovers’ Greatest Heroes: Bob Crompton

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Bob Crompton achieved things that no other Rover has managed.

He led England as captain on 22 occasions, over half his international caps were as captain, and he used those leadership abilities to help guide Rovers to two league titles and he did all of this whilst maintaining the most refined and regimented moustache in all of the known world.

Born and bred in Blackburn, Crompton’s trade was plumbing. That seems quite apt for a man who spent most of his adult life trying to plug leaks in the defence of both Blackburn and England.

The previously favoured formation of 2-3-5

Of course, football was very different back then and the role of a full back, as Crompton was, is vastly different to what we think of today. As the name of the position actually suggests, the full-back was the defender closest to their own goal, the last line of defence as it were, usually in a 2-3-5 formation.

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It was in this position that Crompton won the league title with Rovers in 1912 and 1914, a just reward for a man who had joined the football club in 1896 and whom by this stage of his career had cemented his place in the England side as captain, having first been capped in 1902.

He represented England 41 times, wearing the armband on 22 occasions, both of which were records at the time, only surpassed by the great Billy Wright in the 1950s. When he finally retired from first-team action in 1920, he had played a record 530 times in the blue and white halves, scoring 14 goals.

But this was not to be the end of his story with Rovers as he returned to the club as manager, building a successful team in the league and winning the FA Cup in 1928, which remains the last time that we won that famous trophy.

There was a true poignancy at the very end of Crompton’s life as he passed away as a result of a cardiac arrest that took place only a few hours after he had watched Rovers beat Burnley at Ewood on 15th March 1941.

Bob Crompton truly was Blue and White through and through.

The 1911-12 League Table, where Rovers lifted the trophy for their first top-flight title.
The 1913-14 League Table, where Rovers claimed their second title in three years,

What was it like to watch him live?

Obviously, it hasn’t been possible to track down anyone who saw Crompton play. but there are a few quotes from fellow players and journalists that describe him in action;

Crompton was undoubtedly the outstanding full-back of his time. A commanding personality, he was the best kicker of a ball I ever ran across.” – Charlie Buchan, who played with Crompton for England in 1913.

His Legendary Moment

It has to be lifting the Football League trophy for the first time in the club’s history in 1912. Only Crompton and Tim Sherwood have ever had the honour of lifting a top-flight trophy for Rovers. Although, I actually have no idea whether they actually lifted a trophy in quite the same way back then.

“Bearing in mind there were only three regular international matches each year, then the odd tour in the summer, in modern terms [Crompton’s total of 41 caps] would have equated to something in the region of 120 caps. No wonder that in his time he was considered the greatest player in the world.” Unnamed commentator (referenced by Spartacus Educational)

His Legacy

Crompton left behind massive holes when he retired from playing, and when he stopped managing the club also. As Buchan says, he was clearly a massive personality and knew how to get the best from himself and his team. His records for both club and country lasted for years after he left, and until Kenny Dalglish came along, he was the last manager to win a major trophy with the club.

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