ON April 29, 1980, Blackburn Rovers beat Bury 2-1 at Gigg Lane to win promotion from the old Division Three.

Rovers have not looked back in the intervening 30 years and, here, club legend Simon Garner explains why that match proved a defining moment for Blackburn.

“IT was the first moment I believed Blackburn Rovers could be big again.

"It may not be as sexy as some of the times that followed but ask anyone who was there and they will tell you it was a defining point in the club’s history.”

Blackburn Rovers fans have been spoilt for memorable moments over the last 30 years – including play-off success, a major cup final and the ultimate Premier League success – but Ewood Park legend Simon Garner has no doubt which game really ‘started the ball rolling’.

Gigg Lane may be a world away from the venues Rovers were to grace and triumph at later on, but it was a balmy late April evening at Bury in 1980, 30 years ago yesterday, that Garner believes changed the club’s lot in life forever.

Rovers’ record goalscorer was still at Ewood 12 years later as Jack Walker and Kenny Dalglish masterminded their promotion to the Premier League – and was very much involved in the celebrations – but he admits winning promotion back into the old Division Two sticks in the mind just as much.

Striker Andy Crawford carved his name into club folklore by scoring both goals in the 2-1 win at Gigg Lane that secured Rovers’ promotion into the Second Division – but Garner believes everyone involved deserves ‘honourable mentions’ in the remarkable rise that was to follow.

Garner said: “What an evening that was. Some memories fade in time but anyone who was at the Bury’s rickety old ground that night will never, never forget it.

“Of course the club have gone from strength to strength over the last 30 years, with the massive high of the Premier League win in the middle, but for me it was that promotion that paved the way for what was to follow.

“Before that, the club had just been yo-yoing between the Third and Second Division and not really going anywhere.

"Howard Kendall came in and changed the culture of the club and I think that is still in evidence today.

“Howard brought this family atmosphere to the place.

"The team spirit was fantastic and he just brought a sense of belief to the place. We became a club just waiting for take off.

“I think I am right in saying the club has never dropped out of football’s top two divisions ever since. Howard, and the guys that followed him, got the club ready for investment.

"Without the job we did in the 80s, not even Jack would have wanted to invest in us and what followed may not have done.”

A 20-year-old Garner was just breaking into the first team at Ewood Park when Kendall arrived, with Rovers recently relegated into Division Three and in turmoil.

The 1979/80 season didn’t start as planned either but, with Garner eventually winning a regular place in the side, a dramatic climb up the table started as Rovers embarked on a record-breaking sequence of eight successive wins and by the time they visited Gigg Lane, Garner believed promotion was inevitable.

“You just don’t get scenes like that any more,” he said.

“We must have had more than 10,000 fans at Gigg Lane. They put the 2,000 odd home fans in the away end and then we had the rest.

“I don’t remember the actual game too much – although I’m sure I created both goals – but I certainly remember the celebrations.

"The pitch invasion was fantastic and the noise will live with me forever.

"It felt as though we were writing a bit of club history.

“I was the saviour. Seriously though, we had a good squad back then and we always believed we were capable of something very special.”

Throughout the 1980s, Rovers had to negotiate a delicate balancing act between ambition on the field and financial solvency off it - aims which Garner admits seemed incompatible at times.

They battled against the financial odds though as they continually threatened to challenge for promotion until Walker and his millions arrived, and their rise back to the top flight was complete.

Rovers now entertain Arsenal on Monday as an established Premier League club and one of only four ever to have won the trophy - but Garner insists the old days should never be forgotten.

He said: “It was difficult but there was always that belief things could happen.

"We will forever be in Jack Walker’s debt for what he did but I genuinely believe everyone involved in the 1980s made it possible.

“It would have been very easy to have sunk back into the lower leagues but after that promotion at Bury, there was no way we were going to let the club go backwards.

“It was hard work and there were bad times but there were a lot of loyal people during the 1980s who got Rovers in the position they were when Jack’s money came in.

“I think the fans enjoyed those days more. In my day we drank with the fans, we mixed with the fans and I believe that is why times like that night at Bury are thought of so findly by supporters even now.”