The Claret Life

With the new season in it’s infancy, Burnley find themselves back in the Football League after a very topsy-turvy campaign that nearly saw them stay up on the final day of the 21/22 Premier League Season. As host of the YouTube Channel (Turf Moorhouse TV) It seemed like a good idea at the time to co-host with our rivals for survival, Leeds United. I felt so confident that we would stay up but I was the one that ended up crying as relegation was confirmed.

I’ve loved every minute of being in the Premier League and watching my team scalp some of the big names with sneaky 1-0 win’s here and there. And I feel I must put on record my sincere thanks to Sean Dyche for all the great memories, matches and moments he gave us. Without doubt the best manager of my time as a supporter, although I did love the Stan Ternent days in the 90’s.

You can have your big clubs, mega rich tycoons and talented footballers but I enjoyed nothing more than a dogfight. Seeing my home town club battle against the likes of Oxford United, Darlington, Bury to just name a few. I’ll never get over the 5-0 loss to Gillingham, Grrr!

My passion for football started around 1996 to 97. I was only brought into the world in 1991, so I witnessed the back end of Jimmy Mullens Claret & Blue Armada, the Adrian Heath days, and not forgetting the dark Chris Waddle times as Burnley’s Player/Manager. In fact for that year alone I think we were named Burnley Nil due to the poor performances under his management.

My earliest memory of watching Burney was when they played Crewe at Turf Moor. We probably averaged around 9 to 11,000 fans a game at that point. I didn’t know much about the game of football itself at the time but I loved being there. We actually won 2-0 as well, if I remember correctly. I do remember Kurt Nogan got on the scoresheet and it evades me who got the second, from that point onwards, I was hooked.

You can’t mention Burnley without talking about the famous Orient Game. I wasn’t even a twinkle in my dad’s eye back then, but people in the family and generations of fans will tell you all about how we survived the cusp of not just going out of the Football League but potential liquidation. We have a lot to thank the late Ian Britton for.

Moving forward to around 1998 and Burnley appointed a new manager who would ultimately become one of the greatest managers of that era, Mr Francis Stanley Ternent. Stan started his football career with Burnley, only making five playing appearances, but it was as our manager that he would be remembered for. An era where managers would storm the pitch to chat to ref’s if they weren’t happy, smoking on the touchline, etc… Then I realised that was just Stan and Stan alone, not everyone did it!

We nearly dropped into the fourth division again but thanks to Super John Francis and a win against Plymouth in the 1997/98 season, we survived that scare. Two seasons later, we would be promoted to the second division or The Championship as its now known as we finished in 2nd place after securing a 2-1 win over Scunthorpe United with goals from Micky Mellon and Glen Little.

Early 2002 & the collapse of ITV Digital saw Burnley in dire financial trouble which brought the club extremely close to administration, & just 2 seasons later, Ternent was relieved of his duties at the end of the 2004 campaign despite just keeping us up, as the club wanted to go in another direction. However they still honoured his contract  to the end of the season where fans applauded and sang his name as he wept doing his final Turf Moor end of season Lap of Honour.

We appointed Steve Cotterill after that, and had mid table mediocrity for a good 3 years. A squad that boasted the likes of Frank Sinclair, Jon Harley, Micah Hyde, Brian Jensen, Andy Gray & who can forget Ade Akinbiyi’s 4 minute substitute appearance on his debut due to being sent off.

Memorable games that will stick with me include a 1-0 win over Wolves at Molineux. A free kick by Gareth O’Connor curled round the wall and into the bottom of the corner of the net. Then there was the 3-2 win over our rivals, Preston North End. From 1-0 up at half time we fell behind to two late North End goals in the 76th and 79th minute. which silenced the Turf Moor crowd but not for long as literally a minute later, an own goal from Preston saw Burnley back in the  game at 2-2 and with just 9 minutes of normal time left, I wondered could the Clarets nick it. ‘Hell yeah they could. I’ll never forget the commentary when I came to watch it back. “Steve Jones here, Lafferty in the Middle and its in….Andy Gray with the final touch, that sends Turf Moor into delirium.” 3-2 to the Clarets, Cue Umbaba and 3 points in the bag.

Writing this and thinking about those games puts into perspective how far Burnley have come on as a club. It’s funny to think that for such a small town team we’ve knocked around with the big boys.

That’s where Owen Coyle’s part of the story comes in. Now, it’s hard to not look back on his time as Burnley Manager without feeling betrayed at his ‘sideways’ move to Bolton Wanderers but I guess as a club, we have had the last laugh. When Coyle came in, he was an unknown quantity really. He had some success with St Johnstone in Scotland but nothing prepared him or us, the fans, for what was in store. His appointment came in November 2007 and we finished the championship season in 13th place.

In his first full season, nobody expected what we would do. I certainly didn’t see it coming and I’m telling you now, I don’t think a fortune teller could have predicted it either. Signing players with tremendous talent at the time in the mould of Chris Eagles from Manchester United. We signed Martin Paterson from Scunthorpe who was scoring goals for fun the season prior and a loan player who I wish would have joined us permanently in Rhys Williams from Middlesbrough. There were others but the less said about Remco Van Der Schaaf and Diego Penny, the better.

Our season started with a 4-1 drubbing to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, followed by a 3-0 bashing from Ipswich at Turf Moor. It couldn’t have started any worse than it did but better was to come. There was the usual Christmas blip which we had become accustomed too, as we lost 5 on the bounce from Boxing day 2008 to 27th Jan 2009. From then on we were a force to be reckoned with. Bristol City were our opponent’s on the final day and a win at Turf Moor would all but confirm our Play-Off hopes. Burnley 4,Bristol City 0, read the scoreboard and we were now just 2 games away from a Wembley Final.

That season wasn’t the only time the Clarets would come close to playing at the home of English football. In the midst of it all, Burnley had a league cup run. Capital punishment was dished out to Fulham, Chelsea, Arsenal and technically Spurs as well – The first time I cried at a football match.

The Play-Off semi’s put us up against Steve Coppells Reading. You could feel the nerves, anxiety and tension, oozing around the stadium. One moment of madness was all it took as Andre Bikey, who would later join Burnley in the Premier League, gave away a penalty & when you have Graham Alexander in your team, you are never in doubt and we went into the 2nd Leg with a one goal advantage. Two absolute worldies at Reading meant Burnley were going to Wembley to face Sheffield United, a team in which we did the double over that season so confidence going into the play off final game was high.

Winning at Wembley will stay with me for the rest of my life. What a fantastic day. The walk up to the stadium, the chanting, the game, the experience, in that moment I lived it!! A firecracker from Wade Elliott sent us up to the Premier League and Burnley were Play-Off winners.

We lost our opening day fixture away to Stoke but Turf Moor held its first top flight game in years the week after, when we hosted Man Utd and won 1-0 thanks to the most sublime goal from Robbie Blake on the volley. May I add, a penalty save from Brian Jensen also helped us win that game. The town was buzzing.

From Ecstasy to Disappointment, as in January, Coyle jumped ship to Bolton Wanderers who according to him were ’10yrs ahead of Burnley.’ Coyle went from a God to a Judas with those words but he did give us some amazing times as fans….still a Judas though!

Then came Brian Laws. Less said about that appointment the better. Cheap option that didn’t work and Burnley fans made that clear to the board.

Eddie Howe was chosen after Laws to come in and stayed with us for 80 odd games in management. With Eddie’s team it wasn’t so much about the defending but if you score 4, we will score 5, however family circumstances made Eddie want a Southern return and he left to return to Bournemouth with his family.

October 2012 saw Burnley appoint Sean Dyche the new manager. I’ll hold my hands up, similar to Laws, at first I thought, cheap option, no experience but by god, was I made to eat my words.

In his first full season, Dyche was named Championship manager of the month for September and led Burnley to their best start to a season since they were founded in 1882. The team broke numerous records and who can forget the season we went 23 games undefeated and end a hoodoo against the arch enemy, Blackburn Rovers. The man gave me memories that can’t be replaced.

We got Promoted and then came back down again but went back up and something quite remarkable occurred in the time that was to come.

Now, I’ve always thought I would never see Burnley playing in the Premier League in my lifetime, but to witness qualification for the Europa League for the first time in over half a century and see my team reach the heights of 7th was just something out of this world.

The job that Sean Dyche, Ian Woan, Tony Loughlan and Billy Mercer had done was beyond my wildest dreams. Following qualification for Europe, ‘The Princess Royal’ pub was renamed ‘The Royal Dyche’ in honour of the Burnley manager and even though the Dyche ship has now sailed….His name will linger on as for me, The Greatest Manager of my time as a Burnley Supporter.

And that brings us to date. Burnley have broken away from tradition, appointing their first ever foreign manager in former Manchester City Defender, Vincent Kompany. A new era is to get underway this season at the club as we look towards an exciting new dynamic, a new philosophy, entertaining football and a bright but talented, youthful team to bring us back to the top flight at the first time of asking…. I hope.

C’mon Burnley!!

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