Douglas at 80: Blackburn Rovers have always meant everything to me

Bryan Douglas

Bryan Douglas

First published in Football
Last updated
Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

THE talk has turned to tactics and Bryan Douglas has risen from his settee.

It is clear in this moment, as if there was ever any doubt, that his passion for football is still as strong as ever.

Douglas turned 80 recently, but you would never know it.

He is demonstrating the method he once used to back into fearsome Liverpool defender Ron Yeats, flexing his neck muscles to illustrate a header.

"I was 5ft 2in and he was 7ft!" he jokes.

I am sat in Douglas’ living room, privileged to be talking football with a Blackburn Rovers great.

Every question sparks a memory or a tale, as Douglas is transported back to the football field where he scored 115 goals in 503 appearances for Rovers and played 36 times for England.

On the walls of his home are reminders of his glittering career, an impressive range of pictures that tell the story of one of the finest players of his generation.

At Rovers, only the late Ronnie Clayton can rank alongside Douglas.

Each home game, he watches on from the Premier Suite at Ewood Park.

To his left he sees the Ronnie Clayton Blackburn End, named in honour of his great friend, who passed away in 2010.

To his right he sees the Bryan Douglas Darwen End.

Even two years after the stand was renamed to mark his contribution to the club, he still could not be prouder.

"Ronnie’s name has been up for three or four years and it didn’t bother me, but I did think I’m a Blackburn lad and nobody’s bothered," Douglas admits.

"But I went to a dinner a couple of years ago and suddenly the lights went out, the curtains opened and the stand was lit up with my name there.

"I didn’t know anything about it. I had a lump in my throat."

As a youngster, Douglas lived just yards away from the stand now named after him.

"I was in the fortunate position to be able to play for my home town team all my career, it’s in my blood," he says.

"I was born within a golf shot of the ground, I was born in Ewood and lived in Ewood.

"At the end of the war I used to see the players there, because they all lived in the vicinity in those days. I got to know all of the players of that era.

"At the age of nine I found myself being picked to play in a final and in those days the finals were played at Ewood Park. I played there when I was nine, when I was 10, 12, 13 and 14.

"For us kids it was like it is for the professionals today playing at Wembley."

Douglas would progress from those schoolboy days to a glorious career at Rovers, spanning 17 years from 1952 to 1969.

On his 80th birthday last month, he received another reminder of how fondly he is regarded by so many.

"I lost my wife three years ago and I didn’t really feel that I wanted to go over the top celebrating my birthday," he says.

"But nevertheless a lot of people seemed to know it was my birthday. I had telephone calls and messages, and cards from family and friends.

"I got some from one or two ex-footballers and ex-footballer’s wives.

"Even though all that time has passed, I’m still in contact with most of the old players who are still living."

Douglas is currently spending time looking into his family tree.

"We’ve gone back to the 1700s, they’re all from Blackburn and you find out a lot of things, good things and a bit of how’s your father!" he chuckled.

His fame in Blackburn has not diminished, 45 years after his retirement.

Whenever Douglas visits town, he is still regularly approached by people keen to chat about the old days.

"My wife stopped coming with me," he says.

"When she went shopping she didn’t want me with her for that simple reason that she couldn’t get on with her shopping in Blackburn, we were stopping every two minutes.

"I’d see some old school chums and I’d made my mind up that I didn’t want them to think that I was getting big headed.

"I used to stop and say, ‘Hello Frank, hello Eric’. I still do that. A lot of people recognise me.

"I’ve always tried to oblige. I still get maybe seven or eight cards a month, not just from this country but from abroad as well.

"Sometimes it costs £1.50 to send it back to Japan or Romania, or somewhere like that!

"But I always try to do it because I remember when I used to be a kid, I used to be outside at about 12 years old and some of these well known players would be brush you aside, they’d with friends or they were going to get the bus.

"I thought they were heroes before and then I thought ‘You rotten so and so’.

"I used to write to clubs for autographs, although I didn’t always get them back."

Which autograph did Douglas hold most dearly?

"Stan Mortensen, I kept it for years," he says of the former Blackpool and England forward.

"I had a load of autographs, but years and years ago I gave them to somebody."

It seems incredible now that, back in his youth, Douglas actually had a decision to make about whether to become a footballer.

"When I left school the club wanted me to go on the ground staff at Ewood but my dad insisted I had a trade," he said.

"I went as a motor mechanic at what was then the tram depot. There were still a few trams running then.

"I spent 18 months learning to be a motor mechanic but I was asking for the time off every week because there used to be a Thursday league then for ground staff boys, part-time pros and first-team players who needed a run-out.

"The management at the depot got a bit annoyed with it.

"They called me in and said, ‘You’ve got to make your mind up what you want to be, son’."

Douglas did. He swiftly joined Rovers full time.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Comments (23)

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7:40pm Mon 30 Jun 14

BlueSkies says...

True legend, happy I was able to follow most of his career.

That'll be true about Rowdy Yeats, the Scousers hated Duggie, always a thorn in their side. I was at Anfield in 63 when we won 2-1, McEvoy got both, set up by Duggie.

Earlier that season, we beat Spurs (top team in England), 7-2. Only 3 of Rovers team that day cost a transfer fee. Remarkable.
True legend, happy I was able to follow most of his career. That'll be true about Rowdy Yeats, the Scousers hated Duggie, always a thorn in their side. I was at Anfield in 63 when we won 2-1, McEvoy got both, set up by Duggie. Earlier that season, we beat Spurs (top team in England), 7-2. Only 3 of Rovers team that day cost a transfer fee. Remarkable. BlueSkies
  • Score: 27

8:03pm Mon 30 Jun 14

peely says...

We,ll never have another like him , that's for certain!
We,ll never have another like him , that's for certain! peely
  • Score: 20

8:17pm Mon 30 Jun 14

onlyonesimongarner says...

Proper Bloke, my dad always talks about playing against him in Sunday leagues before he made it at Rovers . Always was something special . There must be a book to write about Dougie, and Ronnie. I for one would buy it. Happy Birthday Mr Douglas and many more of them.
Proper Bloke, my dad always talks about playing against him in Sunday leagues before he made it at Rovers . Always was something special . There must be a book to write about Dougie, and Ronnie. I for one would buy it. Happy Birthday Mr Douglas and many more of them. onlyonesimongarner
  • Score: 20

9:31pm Mon 30 Jun 14

mammamiauk says...

I was not even born when Mr Douglas played for Rovers but have had the privilege of meeting him a few times at Ewood. As for the late Ronnie Clayton, my other half and I had a private audience with him during a tour of Ewood a few years ago and it was interesting to hear his tales of his days at Rovers, anecdotes, etc. Top Rovers blokes.
I was not even born when Mr Douglas played for Rovers but have had the privilege of meeting him a few times at Ewood. As for the late Ronnie Clayton, my other half and I had a private audience with him during a tour of Ewood a few years ago and it was interesting to hear his tales of his days at Rovers, anecdotes, etc. Top Rovers blokes. mammamiauk
  • Score: 13

9:32pm Mon 30 Jun 14

roversammo says...

Happy birthday Mr Douglas, would have loved to watch you play. One of the few who deserves the title Blackburn Rovers legend.
Happy birthday Mr Douglas, would have loved to watch you play. One of the few who deserves the title Blackburn Rovers legend. roversammo
  • Score: 14

10:08pm Mon 30 Jun 14

Burnley59/60 says...

From a Claret Brian Douglas was grand player and I have seen him play many times a claret I maybe but the blues also had some wonderfull players we had Jimmy Mac Jimmy Adamson etc.You had Brian Douglas and the late grate Ronnie Clayton I was lucky enough to see all these greats play I hope he has a good birthday
From a Claret Brian Douglas was grand player and I have seen him play many times a claret I maybe but the blues also had some wonderfull players we had Jimmy Mac Jimmy Adamson etc.You had Brian Douglas and the late grate Ronnie Clayton I was lucky enough to see all these greats play I hope he has a good birthday Burnley59/60
  • Score: 25

10:34pm Mon 30 Jun 14

BlueSkies says...

Burnley59/60 wrote:
From a Claret Brian Douglas was grand player and I have seen him play many times a claret I maybe but the blues also had some wonderfull players we had Jimmy Mac Jimmy Adamson etc.You had Brian Douglas and the late grate Ronnie Clayton I was lucky enough to see all these greats play I hope he has a good birthday
Nice one. Makes a lovely change. Jimmy Mac, Adamson, Miller (educated in Bburn by the way), Elder, Pilkington.
My favourite was Lochead v England. What a contest, like a boxing match, never to be forgotten.
And Keith Newton, great for us, Mexico 1970, arguably even better for you guys.

If only the Trolls would allow sensible debate.

Thanx for the post tho.
[quote][p][bold]Burnley59/60[/bold] wrote: From a Claret Brian Douglas was grand player and I have seen him play many times a claret I maybe but the blues also had some wonderfull players we had Jimmy Mac Jimmy Adamson etc.You had Brian Douglas and the late grate Ronnie Clayton I was lucky enough to see all these greats play I hope he has a good birthday[/p][/quote]Nice one. Makes a lovely change. Jimmy Mac, Adamson, Miller (educated in Bburn by the way), Elder, Pilkington. My favourite was Lochead v England. What a contest, like a boxing match, never to be forgotten. And Keith Newton, great for us, Mexico 1970, arguably even better for you guys. If only the Trolls would allow sensible debate. Thanx for the post tho. BlueSkies
  • Score: 12

11:15pm Mon 30 Jun 14

dangerous dave says...

roversammo wrote:
Happy birthday Mr Douglas, would have loved to watch you play. One of the few who deserves the title Blackburn Rovers legend.
I was fortunate to watch Brian Douglas play and enjoyed so many magical moments when he was on the ball - many happy returns Brian and thanks for the privilege of being able to see you play!!!!
No cowboys or indians when he and his team mates were around just good honest Board of Directors and Manager and Players who put in a good days hard work for little reward other than serving the Club they loved - unlike many players of today!!!
[quote][p][bold]roversammo[/bold] wrote: Happy birthday Mr Douglas, would have loved to watch you play. One of the few who deserves the title Blackburn Rovers legend.[/p][/quote]I was fortunate to watch Brian Douglas play and enjoyed so many magical moments when he was on the ball - many happy returns Brian and thanks for the privilege of being able to see you play!!!! No cowboys or indians when he and his team mates were around just good honest Board of Directors and Manager and Players who put in a good days hard work for little reward other than serving the Club they loved - unlike many players of today!!! dangerous dave
  • Score: 7

11:40pm Mon 30 Jun 14

brypix says...

Dougie was always my favourite player. I can remember him playing for Blackburn schoolboys and Lancashire schoolboys, alongside a boy called Geoff Spink. I was at the Tech. and Dougie was at Blakey Moor. We shared the school yard and played football,50- a- side.I now live in Somerset, but first watched Rovers in1944 when Bob Pryde and Walter rook played. I was 78 last week. Happy Birthday, Dougie. Brian Walker.
Dougie was always my favourite player. I can remember him playing for Blackburn schoolboys and Lancashire schoolboys, alongside a boy called Geoff Spink. I was at the Tech. and Dougie was at Blakey Moor. We shared the school yard and played football,50- a- side.I now live in Somerset, but first watched Rovers in1944 when Bob Pryde and Walter rook played. I was 78 last week. Happy Birthday, Dougie. Brian Walker. brypix
  • Score: 10

11:49pm Mon 30 Jun 14

brypix says...

I meant Walter Crook
I meant Walter Crook brypix
  • Score: 4

7:05am Tue 1 Jul 14

j bee says...

did not win anything by staying ay rovers
did not win anything by staying ay rovers j bee
  • Score: -12

7:48am Tue 1 Jul 14

eddio says...

j bee wrote:
did not win anything by staying ay rovers
Cretin!
[quote][p][bold]j bee[/bold] wrote: did not win anything by staying ay rovers[/p][/quote]Cretin! eddio
  • Score: 9

7:59am Tue 1 Jul 14

hasslem hasslem says...

j bee wrote:
did not win anything by staying ay rovers
what an idiot
[quote][p][bold]j bee[/bold] wrote: did not win anything by staying ay rovers[/p][/quote]what an idiot hasslem hasslem
  • Score: 7

8:11am Tue 1 Jul 14

A Darener says...

He WON the respect of thousands of football fans, not just Blackburn fans but fans across the world.
I have a treasured picture of him with me teaching us football tactics, days before the FA cup in 1960, when he visited St Bartholomew's primary school to give our football team his wisdom.
He WON the respect of thousands of football fans, not just Blackburn fans but fans across the world. I have a treasured picture of him with me teaching us football tactics, days before the FA cup in 1960, when he visited St Bartholomew's primary school to give our football team his wisdom. A Darener
  • Score: 8

8:59am Tue 1 Jul 14

kfc yummy says...

A truly wonderful man,happy birthday ,a claret supporter .Stay away trolls.
A truly wonderful man,happy birthday ,a claret supporter .Stay away trolls. kfc yummy
  • Score: 5

9:37am Tue 1 Jul 14

Forever Blue says...

A true legend at Blackburn Rovers happy birthday Sir Bryan
A true legend at Blackburn Rovers happy birthday Sir Bryan Forever Blue
  • Score: 7

9:38am Tue 1 Jul 14

Forever Blue says...

j bee wrote:
did not win anything by staying ay rovers
Go away maggot brain
[quote][p][bold]j bee[/bold] wrote: did not win anything by staying ay rovers[/p][/quote]Go away maggot brain Forever Blue
  • Score: 9

10:34am Tue 1 Jul 14

digitusjonfred says...

j bee wrote:
did not win anything by staying ay rovers
RESPECT AND ENGLAND CAPS..plonker !!!
[quote][p][bold]j bee[/bold] wrote: did not win anything by staying ay rovers[/p][/quote]RESPECT AND ENGLAND CAPS..plonker !!! digitusjonfred
  • Score: 11

10:36am Tue 1 Jul 14

digitusjonfred says...

True Legend only saw him tail end of career.
True Legend only saw him tail end of career. digitusjonfred
  • Score: 6

10:51am Tue 1 Jul 14

Mike Ferguson says...

You had to have played with 'Duggie' to appreciate him,not only a great player a terrific friend,when great players say he was better than 'Mathews'you take note,like 'Finney' Duggie could adjust to play in different positions,he also never forgot were he came from,I remember when teams abroad wanted him
You had to have played with 'Duggie' to appreciate him,not only a great player a terrific friend,when great players say he was better than 'Mathews'you take note,like 'Finney' Duggie could adjust to play in different positions,he also never forgot were he came from,I remember when teams abroad wanted him Mike Ferguson
  • Score: 9

11:12am Tue 1 Jul 14

BlueSkies says...

Mike Ferguson wrote:
You had to have played with 'Duggie' to appreciate him,not only a great player a terrific friend,when great players say he was better than 'Mathews'you take note,like 'Finney' Duggie could adjust to play in different positions,he also never forgot were he came from,I remember when teams abroad wanted him
Been some fabulous players at Ewood and you were one of them, Mike.
Thanks for some great memories.
[quote][p][bold]Mike Ferguson[/bold] wrote: You had to have played with 'Duggie' to appreciate him,not only a great player a terrific friend,when great players say he was better than 'Mathews'you take note,like 'Finney' Duggie could adjust to play in different positions,he also never forgot were he came from,I remember when teams abroad wanted him[/p][/quote]Been some fabulous players at Ewood and you were one of them, Mike. Thanks for some great memories. BlueSkies
  • Score: 7

11:47am Tue 1 Jul 14

Mike Ferguson says...

he was never interested in moving abroad,he loved the 'Rovers'and the supporters,when I moved on I found out just how players at other clubs appreciated what a fantastic player 'Duggie' was,and would always asked what it was like playing in the same side as him,I use to say he made us better players,I played against Best,and Pele,and I think 'Duggie was the nearest to them in British football.

Regards to a true ledgend
he was never interested in moving abroad,he loved the 'Rovers'and the supporters,when I moved on I found out just how players at other clubs appreciated what a fantastic player 'Duggie' was,and would always asked what it was like playing in the same side as him,I use to say he made us better players,I played against Best,and Pele,and I think 'Duggie was the nearest to them in British football. Regards to a true ledgend Mike Ferguson
  • Score: 7

11:54pm Tue 1 Jul 14

taurus1530 says...

I can remember Brian Douglas running down the wing. He was only small but what a player. Congratulations on reaching 80. You kept me happy seeing you play as well as Ronnie Clayton, true Blackburn lads.
I can remember Brian Douglas running down the wing. He was only small but what a player. Congratulations on reaching 80. You kept me happy seeing you play as well as Ronnie Clayton, true Blackburn lads. taurus1530
  • Score: 1

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