- Associated Press - Sunday, May 7, 2017

Blackburn’s slide down the English soccer league plunged further on Sunday when the former Premier League champion was relegated to the third tier, intensifying the club’s woes under its Indian owners.

Blackburn lifted the biggest prize in the English game in 1995, with the goals of England striker Alan Shearer helping a team owned by wealthy businessman Jack Walker win the Premier League title.

Fast forward 22 years and the northwest team, now in the hands of Asian poultry giant Venky’s, failed to survive in the second tier after a dramatic final day of the League Championship season.

Blackburn started the day in the relegation zone and needing to better the result of at least one of two other teams, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham.

Blackburn beat Brentford 3-1, but Forest and Birmingham also won.

Venky’s bought Blackburn for 46 million pounds (then $73 million) in November 2010, but its time in charge has been chaotic from the moment the new owners decided to fire Sam Allardyce as manager after just a month.

Blackburn is now on its eighth manager of the Venky’s era, which has been marked by broken promises, poor recruitment and a lack of investment.

“Devastated for Rovers and for the fans,” Shearer posted on Twitter. “The owners deserve it.”

The club will be in the third tier for the first time since 1980. No Premier League winner has fallen so far.

“Ideally, we’ll start this journey with it being as low as this club gets,” Blackburn manager Tony Mowbray said, “and move forward.”

“We want our Rovers back” and “There’s only one Jack Walker” were two of the chants being sung by unhappy Blackburn fans after the full-time whistle at Brentford.

Birmingham won 1-0 at Bristol City to survive, meaning its decision to hire Harry Redknapp with three games left in a last-ditch attempt to stave off relegation paid off. Under the 70-year-old Redknapp, Birmingham won its last two games.

“I’ll have a chat and see what their (Birmingham owners) ambitions are,” Redknapp said. “If they’re ambitious and want to have a go next year, then I’d be interested.”

Redknapp’s mobile phone rang during his post-match press conference.

“Someone’s ringing me now,” Redknapp said. “What’s that? Beijing in China? My God! Maybe there’s a job going in China? I’m off to China!”

Forest, the European champion in 1979 and ‘80, beat Ipswich 3-0 to stay in the Championship.

Newcastle will be promoted as champion after beating Barnsley 3-0 and Brighton, which started the day atop the standings, drew 1-1 at Aston Villa after conceding a late goal.

Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Fulham will contest the playoffs to become the third team promoted.


Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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