Where are they now? The Rovers side that enjoyed cup success against Wigan in 2002


This afternoon sees high-flying Championship side Blackburn Rovers make the trip to high-flying League One side Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup third round. Pete Charnley looks back at a memorable meeting with the Latics and the squad that played that day.

Today’s meeting takes us back to December 2002, as then-holders Blackburn Rovers travelled to third tier side Wigan Athletic in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.

It was another successful cup night for Graeme Souness’ side as record signing Andy Cole scored twice to put Rovers into the semi-finals of the tournament for the second season running.

We take a look at the Rovers’ squad from that day and look at where they have ended up.

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Brad Friedel

A regular in most Rovers fans all-time starting 11, American ‘keeper Brad Friedel signed for Rovers on a free transfer from Liverpool.

One of Friedel’s most memorable games in a Rovers shirt was in the Worthington Cup final where he denied Tottenham’s strikers on a number of occasions.

Friedel left the club for Aston Villa after 290 league appearances, scoring one goal against Charlton.

He currently holds the Premiership record for consecutive appearances, and is exploring new business ventures after time in management.

You can check out our podcast with Brad Friedel, who discusses his time with the club: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XywEeHiHBlI

Lucas Neill

Australian defender Neill was signed from Millwall in the summer of 2001, and his aggressive performances on the field made him a firm fan favourite.

After 188 games and five goals, Neill left under a dark cloud citing financial reasons for leaving.

Following spells at nine different clubs after leaving Rovers, Neill retired in 2014, and has stayed out of the spotlight.

Craig Short

Signed from Everton in 1999, experienced defender Short went on to make 134 league appearances for Rovers, scoring four times including a strike (or two depending on who you ask!) against Burnley.

1 Apr 2001: David Dunn (right) congratulates team-mate Craig Short (left) of Blackburn Rovers goal during the Nationwide League Division One match against Burnley played at Ewood Park, in Blackburn, England. Blackburn Rovers won the match 5-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Jamie McDonald /Allsport

After leaving Rovers, Short joined Sheffield Utd for a short spell, ending his career at Hungarian side Ferencvaros who he later went on to manage.

He returned to Rovers under Gary Bowyer in a coaching role, and after time with Derby, he is currently amongst the coaching staff with League One side Oxford United.

You can check out our podcast with Craig Short, who discusses his time with the club: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0o0etH9E0Y

Martin Taylor

‘Tiny Taylor’ was a graduate of the Rovers academy, and the towering defender went on to play 88 games, scoring five times including two against his home town team Newcastle.

He left the club to join Birmingham in 2004, spending six years with the Blues, before time with Watford and he ended his career with Sheffield Wednesday in 2014.

Since retirement, Taylor spent time in office work, although his current circumstances are unknown.

Stig-Inge Bjornebye 

Norwegian left back Bjornebye was signed from Liverpool in 2000.

A reliable defender with great experience, he helped Rovers to promotion back to the Premiership in the memorable 2000-01 season.

Unfortunately, in this Wigan game, he suffered a serious ankle injury which forced him to retire later that season, after just one goal in 55 games.

Souness said upon Stig’s retirement: “It’s a very sad day. As far as I am concerned it could hardly be worse for Stig is the consummate dedicated professional. He is as good a professional as any I have worked with, I couldn’t name anybody better and he is [a] fine role model and a proper, proper human being. Stig has had a wonderful career, it’s a great shame that it has to end with a freak training-ground accident as he felt, quite rightly, that he could have played longer.”

Bjornebye is currently the Sporting Director at AGF Aarhus.

Garry Flitcroft

Signed from Man City in 1996, Flitcroft went on to play 248 times for Rovers, scoring 14 times.

He was sent off on his debut for the club, but quickly settled into the team, and he later became club captain.

Flitcroft retired in 2006 after a short spell at Sheffield United, and following management jobs with Leigh Genesis (2009-10) and a notably successful one with Chorley (2010-15), he now runs his own business.


Another signing from Rangers, Turkish delight Tugay was brought to the club in 2001, and along with Brad Friedel, he is one of the first names on any Rovers fan’s all time 11.

Tugay was a deep lying playmaker who made up for what he lacked in pace with his ability on the ball, along with his wonderful range of passing.

BLACKBURN, UNITED KINGDOM – OCTOBER 20: Tugay of Blackburn Rovers celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackburn Rovers and Portsmouth at Ewood Park on October 20, 2007 in Blackburn, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

He scored 11 times for the club in his 233 games, each one was a special goal in its own way and he is, without doubt, one of the most under rated players to play in Premier League history.

A Rovers legend, Tugay went on to win the Turkish version of MasterChef!

David Thompson

Signed for a bargain £1.5m, ‘Tommo’ was a fan’s favourite straight away with his all-action displays and spectacular goals.

He was called up to the England squad during his time at Ewood but unfortunately never made a senior appearance.

Suffering with injuries, Thompson left the club to join this week’s opponents after seven goals in 65 appearances.

He is currently combining his media work with a role with the Gibraltar team Europa FC.

Keith Gillespie

Signed in 1999 by Brian Kidd, Northern Irishman Gillespie was unable to prevent Rovers slipping into the second tier.

After a spell out on loan at this weekend’s opponents Wigan, he returned to help Rovers lift the 2002 Worthington Cup.

He left the club after scoring six times in 155 games, leaving for Leicester and then later Sheffield United.

Since retiring, Gillespie has supported the Gambling with Lives charity, which calls for tighter regulation of gambling and offers support for people with gambling problems.

Andy Cole

£8 million was splashed out when Souness made Cole the club’s record signing. Prolific at Newcastle and Man Utd, Cole didn’t take long to carry on where he left off.

Cole will be most remembered by Rovers fans for scoring the winner in the 2002 final, and hee left Rovers after 27 goals in 85 games.

After leaving he went on to play for seven clubs, ending his career at Nottingham Forest in 2008.

Nowadays, Cole can be seen on our screens analysing the televised games, whilst his son Devante plays for fellow Championship club Barnsley.

Dwight Yorke

Souness moved to sign Yorke from Manchester United, and the forward linked up with Andy Cole again after a very successful partnership at the Old Trafford side.

MANCHESTER – JANUARY 7: Dwight Yorke of Blackburn Rovers shields the ball from Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United during the Worthington Cup Semi-Final, first leg match between Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers held on January 7, 2003 at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

A fractious relationship with Souness led to him only making 60 appearances for the club, but managed 12 goals in his time.

He left the club for Birmingham in 2004, spending time in Sydney a year laster before ending his career at Sunderland.

He has worked on international TV covering various football matches, although he has not been in the limelight as much as his former teammate.

Subs: Alan Kelly, Nils-Eric Johansson (for Stig-Inge Bjornebye) Neil Danns, Egil Ostenstad (for Dwight Yorke), Matt Jansen (for Andy Cole)

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