20 of the Best Players to Play for Blackburn Rovers

alan shearer at blackburn rovers

A founding member of the Football League, Blackburn Rovers have been crowned English champions six times and won the FA Cup on six occasions. This makes them the 12th most successful team in the country. Much of their success can be attributed to a number of immensely talented footballers who have worn the clubs blue and white halves in the past. In no particular order, check out our list of the best former Blackburn Rovers players to represent the club below:

Alan Shearer 

Premier League Appearances: 138

Premier League Goals: 112

Signed from Southampton for a record £3.6 million Alan Shearer helped fire Rovers to the Premier League title in 1995. He forged a prolific partnership with compatriot Chris Sutton, and the duo would famously be referred to as the ‘SAS’.

Ask any Rovers fan who is the best striker to don the famous blue and white halves, and they’ll tell you, Shearer. Without doubt. Left foot, right foot, headers. He scored all types of goals. Simply put he was world-class and I dread to think how much he’d cost in today’s day and age. 

David Dunn

Premier League appearances: 204

Premier League goals: 31 

Born and raised in Blackburn, David Dunn bleeds blue and white. He turned down an approach from fierce rivals Burnley as a kid to join the Rovers Academy and went on to become a club legend. Two stints at the club either side of a few years at Birmingham saw him amass over 200 league appearances for the club. He is by far one of the most naturally gifted players the Rovers Academy has ever produced. On his day he was different class.

Rovers fans love Dunny and Dunny loves Rovers. It was a match made in heaven. After finishing his playing career, Dunn was appointed youth team coach before being promoted to the first team.

Simon Garner

League appearances: 474

League goals: 168

Garner joined Rovers as an apprentice in 1978, and over the course of the next 14 years he’d go on to become the club’s all-time leading goal scorer with a total of 192 goals in all competitions. He was part of the squad that won promotion to the inaugural Premier League and was idolised by fans.

Tugay

Premier League Appearances: 233

Premier League Goals: 10

Blackburn’s Turkish delight. Tugay was unbelievable, and the Ewood faithful absolutely loved him. Signed from Rangers for £1.3 million in 2001, the midfield maestro took the Premier League by storm. He didn’t run much, but then he didn’t need to with Robbie Savage alongside him. His range of passing, touch and vision was simply world-class. He scored goals too, very good goals. Like the two volleys against Fulham and Tottenham, both outstanding strikes. Give him time and space on the edge of the box and he would punish you.

Tugay was like a fine wine, matured with age and just kept on getting better and better. What a player. 

Ronnie Clayton

League appearances: 581

League goals: 15

Few will have heard of the great Ronnie Clayton, but in Lancashire, especially Blackburn, the man is a hero. He made almost 600 league appearances for Rovers over 19 years and holds the club record for the most FA Cup appearances (56). Clayton sadly passed away in 2010, and as a mark of respect, the club announced the Blackburn End would be renamed the Ronnie Clayton End. In 2019 he was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame. A true Rovers legend.

Tim Sherwood

Premier League Appearances: 235

Premier League Goals: 25

Despite struggling to make the first team in his first few seasons at Ewood Park, Tim Sherwood went on to become a vital player for Kenny Dalglish. He was captain for Blackburn’s 1994/95 Premier League title triumph, and his performances on the field were simply outstanding. So much so that Blackburn’s owner at the time, Jack Walker, famously responded to speculation that Rovers were interested in signing Zidane with “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?” – a phrase that highlights the love and admiration the Blackburn owner had for his captain at the time. That admiration was mirrored by the fans too. 

Colin Hendry

Premier League Appearances: 204 

Premier League Goals: 8

“Big Col show us your ass. Big Col, Big Col show us your ass.” Yep, that’s a chant Rovers fans would sing week in week out for their Scottish centre half Colin Hendry. He was a rock at the back. Often referred to as Braveheart, he showed bags of fight, hunger and determination during Blackburn’s 94/95 title-winning season. The fans loved him. He was a grafter. Hard as nails. Exactly what you want from a centre half. No messing about.

Hendry had two stints at Rovers, resulting in nine successful years at the club. Now retired from professional football Hendry still lives in the Blackburn area where he’s adored by fans. 

Brad Friedel

Premier League Appearances: 299

Clean Sheets: 101

Signed from Liverpool on a free transfer Brad Friedel is one of Blackburn’s greatest signings of all time. He spent eight years at the club winning the Worthing Cup in 2002, during which he was named Man of the Match for his excellent display. He’s also one of only a handful of goalkeepers to score in the Premier League. The goal came against Charlton in 2004 to level the scores. Despite his goalscoring heroics, Rovers went on to lose the game. 

Friedel is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in Premier League history and doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves. Ask any Blackburn fan and they’ll tell you just how good he was. He was commanding, agile and an excellent shot-stopper. He was up there with the best. He’s a Rovers legend, and always will be.

Ryan Nelsen

Premier League Appearances: 172

Premier League Goals: 8

When Ryan Nelsen left Ewood Park in 2012 things soon went downhill for the East Lancashire side. His presence in the heart of Blackburn’s defence for seven years was massively underrated. He was an honest player who gave his all. And the fans loved that. You don’t need to be the best technically to be loved by the Ewood Park faithful, but if you give your all for the shirt, then you’ll be loved. 

Nelsen joined Rovers on a free transfer in 2005. He turned Blackburn’s leaky defence into one of the sturdiest in the league. Subsequently, Rovers qualified for Europe a few years later, and the New Zealand captain played a huge role in getting them there.

David Bentley

Premier League Appearances: 160

Premier League Goals: 19

Initially signed on loan from Arsenal, David Bentley went on to make over 150 Premier League appearances for Blackburn Rovers. Many will argue he played the best football of his career at Ewood Park and to be honest, it’s hard to dispute that statement. He was magnificent.

He scored a famous hat-trick against Manchester United in 2006, one that will live long in the memory of all Blackburn Rovers fans. His influence on the team that season was huge as Blackburn finished 6th and qualified for Europe. He maintained his excellent form the following season, and it wasn’t long before bigger clubs came sniffing. 

Despite leaving in 2008, Bentley will always be loved by Blackburn fans. Some of the goals he scored were unbelievable. He’s definitely one of the most creative players to wear the blue and white halves. 

Morten Gamst Pedersen

Premier League Appearances: 260

Premier League Goals: 34

The greatest left foot to grace the Premier League. When Morten Gamst Pedersen hit a ball, it stayed hit. His left peg was like a wand, and for nine seasons he lit up Ewood Park with stunning strikes, inch-perfect crosses and deadly set-pieces. On his day he was one of the best wingers in the league.

He turned down the chance to join Manchester United – the team he famously scored twice against in 2005 – midway through his Rovers career to remain at Ewood Park. He loved the club and the fans, and they adored him too. They still do.

Over the last few years Pedersen, who still plays in his homeland Norway, has been welcomed to train with the club on numerous occasions during his offseason. 

Kevin Gallacher

Premier League Appearances: 139

Premier League Goals: 52

Of all the former Blackburn Rovers players on the list, only Alan Shearer has scored more Premier League goals for the club than Kevin Gallacher. The Scotsman joined the club from Coventry in 1993 but was made to bide his time with the partnership of ‘SAS’ flourishing.

When Shearer left Gallacher stepped up to the mark. He bagged 26 goals in two seasons after breaking into the first team for good and became an instant fan favourite. Today Gallacher works for local radio as a Blackburn pundit for the majority of their Championship games. Gallacher is an ex-player that few will forget in a hurry.

Matt Jansen

Premier League Appearances: 83 

Premier League Goals: 16

With Matt Jansen, it’s what might have been. He spent seven years at Blackburn and played a massive role in the club’s success in the early 2000s. First, he helped fire the club back to the Premier League in 2001 following relegation to the Championship. And the following season he scored in the League Cup Final as the club secured a famous win over Tottenham at the Millennium Stadium.

Unfortunately, things went downhill after that. Jansen was involved in a near-fatal moped crash whilst on holiday in Rome. He spent several days in a coma before making a full recovery some months later. 

Doctors were insistent he’d never play football again, but they were proven wrong. Jansen returned to the Rovers team later that year, but he was unable to recapture the fantastic goal scoring form he’d shown earlier in his career. As a result, he departed Ewood in 2006 looking for a fresh start. 

His statistics won’t turn any heads, but you’ll do well to find a Blackburn fan who doesn’t think Jansen was set to hit the big time before his crash. 

Benni McCarthy

Premier League Appearances: 109

Premier League Goals: 37

The greatest South African to play in the Premier League, Benni McCarthy was a goalscoring machine. Signed from Porto in 2006, McCarthy was an instant hit at Rovers scoring on his Ewood Park debut. He finished the 2006/07 season as the Premier League’s second top scorer with 18 league goals. 

McCarthy ended his Rovers career with 37 Premier League goals making him the club’s 4th top scorer in the competition.

Damien Duff

Premier League Appearances: 113

Premier League Goals: 21

A product of the Blackburn Rovers academy Damien Duff was a fan favourite from the off. He played a vital role in helping the club gain promotion back to the Premier League in 2001 before winning the League Cup in 2002.

Duff had pace to burn. He was the type of player that got you out of your seat. He’d tear defences apart in the blink of an eye. Following an excellent 2002/03 season, it was no surprise to see Duff move onto bigger and better things as Chelsea came sniffing. It was a move he thoroughly deserved and one that no Rovers fan begrudged him.

Chris Sutton 

Premier League Appearances: 130

Premier League Goals: 47

Disliked by many football fans for his controversial opinions, Chris Sutton is and forever will be a Blackburn Rovers legend. Part of the famous title-winning side in 1995 Sutton forged a prolific partnership with Alan Shearer.

With 47 goals Sutton is Blackburn’s third top Premier League scorer. He bagged 15 goals in their title-winning campaign and for that reason will always be loved by the Blackburn faithful.

Chris Samba 

Premier League Appearances: 161

Premier League Goals: 16

A man mountain at the back Chris Samba was signed for less than half a million from Hertha BSC and he proved to be a class signing. Standing at 6’4 tall, he was dominant in the air at both ends of the pitch. Predominantly a centre half Samba was occasionally deployed as a striker.

Throughout his five year stint at the club Samba became a fan favourite and in 2010 was appointed club captain. But following the appointment of Steve Kean things soon turned sour and he was stripped of the armband. A decision that did not go down well with the Blackburn supporters.

Brett Emerton

Premier League Appearances: 247

Premier League Goals: 13

One of the club’s most underrated players Brett Emerton enjoyed 10 years at the Lancashire club making almost 250 Premier League appearances. 

What he lacked in technical ability he more than made up for with his courage and determination. Of all the ex-Blackburn Rovers players on the list, you’d struggle to find one with his engine – he could run all day. These attributes saw him give everything for the shirt, and as a result, he was absolutely adored by Blackburn fans.

His versatility was crucial for the team. Whether he played right wing, right back or centre mid one thing you could always guarantee is he’d always give his all. What a player. 

Lucas Neil 

Premier League Appearances: 223

Premier League Goals: 6

Signed from Millwall in 2001, Lucas Neil was well regarded by Blackburn fans for most of his stay with the club. His passion and willingness to give everything for the shirt was a huge factor. As was his committed style of play.

Over the course of six years at Ewood Park, Neil was a regular in the side, making the right-back position his own. Unfortunately, Neil left the club on poor terms. Once a cult hero, he’s now disliked by a large number of Blackburn fans. His commitment and performances, though, for the Lancashire club should not be forgotten.

Michel Salgado 

Premier League Appearances: 66

Premier League Clean Sheets: 10

“Salgado whoa. Salgado whoa. He came from Real Madrid. He didn’t cost a quid.” Between the years of 2009 and 2011 this chant could be heard week in week out at Ewood Park as the Spaniard, aged 34, showed he still had it. Salgado oozed class. His pace had gone, but everything else remained the same. He was magical to watch and endeared himself to Blackburn fans almost immediately. The only regret is not having him for longer.

If you enjoyed our list of ex-Blackburn Rovers players, check out our other articles about the club here.