HE was just like any other Blackburn youngster dreaming of one day pulling on the famous blue and white halved shirts. Ewood Park was his Wembley and the likes of Langton and Pryde were his gods.

From being chased off the pitch with his mates by the groundsman to playing on the ‘hallowed turf’ as a starry-eyed schoolboy, Bryan Douglas could never have imagined the life-long love affair with Blackburn Rovers that was to follow.

Fast-forward 70 years and Douglas can lay claim to more than emulating his childhood heroes after building a Rovers legacy that will last for ever.

The boy who grew up in the shadows of Ewood Park established himself as one of the country’s most feared dribblers during the 1950s and 1960s and, even to this day, Douglas is held in awe among half of East Lancashire.

Born in 1934, Douglas was brought up as the youngest of five brothers and one sister but, unlike his siblings, Blackburn Rovers immediately became his main passion.

From there, Rovers have remained the one constant, through the death of his mum Annie when he was just 10, to his marriage to wife Joyce and subsequent birth of sons Graham and Steve.

His Rovers journey may have been something of a rollercoaster, from the joys of promotion, to the pain of cup final defeat, to celebrating Premier League glory. But for Douglas, he was just living the dream.

He said: “I have been coming to Ewood Park for as long as I can remember, From an early age right through to now. I was born and brought up at Ewood and attended the school that has just been knocked down, St Bartholomews, behind the ground. I played at Ewood as young as a nine-year-old for that school. We played twice on it in two years.

“Of course when I was young it was near the end of the war and they used to have an ammunition box at the side of the Darwen End and, to the groundsman’s frustration, we used to crawl onto the ground and run about here. He was always chasing us off.

“So I have known Ewood Park ever since I was really young. It was certainly different to how it is now but it was still a very good ground even in those days.

“To us youngsters it was the Wembley of our dreams. I carried on playing for the school and when I went to secondary school, Blakey Moor School, they played the finals there.

“This club is everything to me, it always has been and always will be. Looking back I can’t believe how fortunate I have been to have the memories I do.”

His progression through the ranks at Ewood was almost inevitable, after catching the eye for Blackburn Schoolboys, and regular appearances for the club’s B team and various other young sides meant a first-team debut was never going to be far away.

It was never going to be that simple though as he was forced to combine his footballing education with a spell in the workplace as his dad Herbert ensured he kept in tune with ‘the real world’.

“When I left school my father insisted that I had a job,” he said. “I went to Blackburn Corporation Transport, the bus depot - in fact there were one or two trams still running.

“I was there for about 18 months but I kept asking for time off to play for various teams. In those days, Rovers used to have a Thursday afternoon league.

“But I was asking for that much time off, my employers said I had to make my mind up what I wanted to be. Jackie Bestall was the manager here and he invited me to join the ground staff. That is when I really got to know Ronnie Clayton “I didn’t think twice about leaving the bus depot when faced with a choice. I was still here playing in the B teams and played for the reserves.

“In 1951 I could have signed professional but the manager wanted me to stay amateur so I could play for the B team. So it was agreed I would stay on the ground staff but I would get the wages I would have done if I had signed as young professional.”

It was during his time with the bus depot that Douglas picked up his ‘most memorable’ honour - a bold claim considering he went on to represent both Blackburn and England at the highest level.

But it is his ‘Thomas’ Medals’ winners medal that takes pride of his place in his trophy cabinet after helping the bus depot to victory over some of the biggest amateur sides in the county - well worth the wrath of Douglas senior.

He said: “My dad supported me, I knew that secretly. Even when I was at the bus depot, they used to play in the Thomas’ Medals, which was a big competition.

“All the big firms used to play and all the big teams. The transport had a team. We got through a couple of rounds and then we met Rishton, one of the top combination teams and we were lucky to draw the game.

“The people on the committee told me I was playing in the replay, you did what you were told in those days. So I told my dad and he said ‘no you are not you are at night school’. He confiscated my boots, so i had to play in borrowed boots.

“Anyway at the time us winning would be like Accrington Stanley winning the FA Cup. But we went on to win the whole thing. The winners medal still sits in my house as my proudest achievement.”

Douglas finally signed professional forms in 1952 but, due to being sent on national service to an RAF base in Grimsby, he was made to wait until September 1954 for his first-team debut, away at Notts County.

Even then, following a 3-1 defeat, it was another 12 months before his second senior appearance when he was able to at last build the platform for the career that was to follow.

“While I was doing my national service, the management changed. Bestall left and Johnny Carey came in as manager,” he said.

“Of course I was doing my national service so I wasn’t at the ground and he couldn’t get to know me. I spent my service playing for the reserves. Just at the end I got a chance to play for the first team - just one game.

“Two years may not sound long but in that profession it was a long time.

“I remember getting a phone call from the officer saying I had been picked to make my debut for Rovers and had to meet up with the team.

“I think we lost 3-1. I played instead of Eddie Crossan. I didn’t do anything special but I had to wait 12 months until I came out of the RAF to play again for them.”

Douglas’ Rovers debut in 1952 may have ended in defeat but, for him, it was the culmination of 18 years of dreams and hopes of turning out for ‘his team’.

Even now, he remembers his senior debut as though it was yesterday and admits it was the one thing he had spent his whole childhood aspiring to. Life couldn’t get better. Could it?

He said: “I used to see the players of Blackburn all the time when I was growing up. Football was everything. Every minute we used to play in the street corners, so football was in the blood.

“Like thousands of others you started coming here. It was in the early 1950s when there was not all those other distractions..

“I remember when I started playing football I didn’t have a pair of football boots, I had to borrow them. It was not until 11 I got my first pair. It was a way of life.

“My mum died when I was 10, Annie. My mum never really saw me play, probably just once, and of course there is a huge sadness about that.”