Burnley, “little Burnley”. The dark, satanic north-west as captured by Andreas Andrews.
Also, a force in English football in the early 1960s, but a narrow escape from relegation from the Football League in the 1980s. Burnley fans have known thin times and only the older ones can have first-hand memories of a more glorious era. Tony Scholes, editor of the Clarets Mad fan site, is old enough to recall the last promotion to the top flight: clinched with a 2-0 victory over Sunderland just before we won the FA Cup final in 1973. Buoyed by home wins against Man Utd and Everton, he’s confident of seeing us off on Saturday lunchtime …
Salut! Sunderland: The playoff final: best day of your life or just the best day as a fan?
Tony: It was certainly up there with my best days as a Burnley fan, no doubt about that. It was an amazing day right from the moment we set off from Burnley early that morning. I’ve seen us win at the old Wembley but this one was far more important and frankly for a team the size of Burnley to reach the Premier League is something very special.
It was just a simply incredible day and like most Burnley fans I’ve not got my feet back on the ground just yet. It’s the second time I’ve seen Burnley win promotion to the top division. The last time we did it was as champions and the promotion clincher was a 2-0 home win against Sunderland in April 1973. Our current chief exec Paul Fletcher scored both goals that night.
And what do you make of the widespread predictions that you’ll go straight down again, especially after your decent start?
We were always going to be the favourites for relegation with the pundits and the bookies. Little Burnley are still odds on. We were tipped for relegation a year ago and look what happened, so I’m not taking much notice of it to be honest. We’ll just keep getting points when we can and get as far from the bottom as we can.
Sunderland and Burnley used to be regarded as very similar clubs, and Burnley had a habit of finding young talent right under the noses of North-eastern sides. How do you regard us these days?
And we were so good at finding that talent weren’t we. We had five north east players in the side that won the championship in 1960 including captain Jimmy Adamson who went on to manage both clubs. One of my very best friends is a Sunderland season ticket holder so I keep more than a passing interest. I know you’ll be enjoying the current plight of another club in the North East who are now a division below and will be enjoying life a division above them. I suspect you won’t be in the bottom group fighting relegation this time but I’m not so sure you will be in a position to challenge for a European place.
What, realistically, can you achieve this season and where do you see us finishing?
We can avoid the drop and that would be a success. I think we will but if someone offered me 17th now I’m sure I’d take it. As for Sunderland, probably somewhere in mid-table.
Who are best – and worst – players you have seen in the Burnley colours?
The best players were those I first saw play for Burnley in the early 1960s – the team that won the league. Jimmy McIlroy was undoubtedly the jewel in that crown but there were other class players right across the team. In the second half of the 1980s we were awful and were almost relegated from the Football League. You don’t have to wander too far from that period to find the worst ever Burnley players.
Who will be this season’s top four, in order? If Man City are not in your list, why not?
Manchester City are not on my list, although they will be pushing hard to get into that top four but I think it will be same again. Chelsea were awesome against us and I wouldn’t back against them winning it. Right now I’d go for Arsenal as runners up followed by Liverpool and then Manchester United who seem to be some way off the standards they’ve set.
And who will go down?
I’ll go for Portsmouth and Hull for two. Now I’d love the third to be Blackburn, but if not I don’t think Bolton will be too far away.
The Eduardo question: last game of the season, a Burnley player makes a blatant dive for the last-second penalty that keeps you up. You take it gladly, you take it with just a hint of guilt or you feel so ashamed of your club that you almost wish they’d gone down?
A few years ago we had a diver who had he been above a swimming pool would have been almost Olympic standard. That was Greek international Dimitrios Papadopoulos. I spoke out against him, but hand on heart you do take things when they come. It’s as likely to happen against us (already has this season with Tony Hibbert of Everton who cheated his way to a penalty).
Do you have memories or anecdotes concerning players or staff who have served both of our clubs?
I’ve already mentioned Jimmy Adamson and a few other Sunderland managers played for Burnley, including Alan Brown, Billy Elliott and Mick Buxton. I did get to know Kevin Ball when he was at Burnley, and I’m sure you won’t mind me paying some respect to an all time Wearside favourite. Bally’s a top man and I know that when he left there were people inside Turf Moor who were very disappointed to see him leave. We also had Nick Pickering, Paul Stewart and Lee Howey at Burnley – the less said, the better.
Will you be at the game? What will the score be?
Yes I’ll be there. That game I referred to in 1973 was the last time we beat Sunderland in a league game. I think it is time to put that right and I’ll go for a 1-0 home win to match the successes we had against Manchester United and Everton.
Now ask yourself the question I forgot.
I was asked a question a couple of weeks ago that I can fit in here. I was asked which game above all others would I like Burnley to win this season. It’s not a difficult one to answer to be honest, it’s just a choice of whether I want us to beat Blackburn at Ewood Park or Turf Moor. Both would be good.
* Tony Scholes on Tony Scholes:
I’m a Burnley fan who is just a few weeks short of reaching the 49th anniversary of my first game. I’ve watched us from 1st in English football down to 92nd and now on the way back up again. I think if you cut me I’d bleed claret and blue and I still get as much enjoyment today as I’ve ever done.