When Jack Walker bankrolled Blackburn as owner, many perceived he had bought the Premier League title back in 1995. Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, the strike force who proved the key for the unfancied Rovers to topple Manchester United at the top, cost a combined £8.3million (Dh53m). A lot of money back then, but a relatively meagre amount today.
Move ahead 14 years and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed is in the role of Walker, spending big in trying to take a Manchester City to the top of English football. Mark Hughes is also following a similar example to Kenny Dalglish, who guided Rovers to their only title triumph, by creating an expensive, but formidable frontline. Should they recover from heel and groin injuries respectively, Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor will form a £50m pairing at Ewood Park.
But, while Walker's major signings turned Rovers into almost instant title challengers, the £96m that City have spent might not even bring them Champions League qualification. Hughes is aware City's financial status and array of talent will make them notable scalps this season. "The challenge is here for ourselves, but the challenge for other clubs to stop our ambition is there too," he said. "Clubs aren't just going to step aside and allow us through. I'm sure managers will use our situation in their team talks, their thoughts and preparation. We have to be aware at times in the season there will be negative times we will have to deal with and it's how we respond to them as much as the success we hope to have.
"When questions are asked about us, sometimes it helps my job because it brings us together as a group. The players are aware of the pressure, but, in working with them, I have sensed that the focus is as high and as good as it has ever been here, for not only my time, but in times gone by." The trip to his old stamping ground at Ewood Park will put that to the test immediately. City won just twice on their travels last season.
Rovers, whose own financial and footballing fortunes have dipped since 1995, will be aggressive as they look to avoid last season's battle against relegation. Sam Allardyce would love City's spending power, but, for all the benefits, he says Hughes will be the manager under most pressure this season. "From a media and fans point of view the pressure will hit if results are not delivered straight away," he adds. "But that's what comes with the territory when you spend that sort of money. For us, it's about trying to spoil their party, being that they think that they can come to a place like Blackburn and beat us comfortably with that kind of spending."
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