1987 - 2009

The Rise

The transition from near relegation to the Vauxhall Conference to the cusp of the First Division exemplifies the cyclical nature of football. It's a sport where one season's despair can lay the groundwork for future success. Burnley's tale during these years was no different. Their meteoric rise and subsequent struggles painted a vivid picture of the highs and lows that come with the beautiful game.

Brian Miller's ability to rebuild and re-energize the Clarets after the near-death experience of 1987 was commendable. The Wembley appearance, despite the loss to Wolves, signalled a resurgence for Burnley, a beacon of hope that brighter days were on the horizon.

Yet, football is never just about the play on the field; it's about the narratives, the heartbreaks, and the memories. The tragic loss of young Ben Lee was a painful reminder of life's fragility, casting a shadow over what was a triumphant season. It was a poignant moment that united the Burnley community, reminding everyone that some things are bigger than football.

Under Jimmy Mullen, Burnley experienced an upturn in fortunes. Winning the Fourth Division championship and clinching promotion was a significant achievement, showcasing the resilience and spirit of the Clarets. Mike Conroy's goal-scoring prowess brought a touch of flair and excitement to a team that had worked hard to rebuild its reputation.

The rollercoaster journey continued with the playoff challenges. The win against Plymouth Argyle was a testament to Burnley's ability to defy odds, especially given their away form that season. Their victory at Wembley over Stockport, marred by on-pitch incidents, was a sweet moment of redemption, especially considering previous Wembley heartbreaks.

However, the relentless nature of English football soon caught up with Burnley. Their quick rise through the divisions meant they were often punching above their weight. The First Division proved a step too far for the squad, and relegation was a sobering reminder of the challenges ahead.

The appointment of Adrien Heath signalled another chapter in Burnley's storied journey. Player-managers, with their dual responsibilities, often brought a fresh perspective, being directly involved in the on-pitch action while also dictating strategy.

As the pages of Burnley's history continued to turn, it was evident that through every triumph and tribulation, the passion and dedication of the Clarets' faithful remained unwavering. Their journey was a testament to the indomitable spirit of football, where hope, resilience, and love for the badge can lead to unexpected heights, even after the darkest of days.

The appointment of Adrian Heath and his relatively calm tenure stabilized Burnley, but it was clear that to achieve their ambitions, the Clarets needed a spark, someone who could make a statement. The acquisition of Chris Waddle, with his decorated career at top-tier clubs and international pedigree, was meant to be that spark. However, football is an unpredictable beast, and Waddle's tenure proved tumultuous.

But it was Waddle's acquisition of Andy Payton, a Burnley native, which was his lasting legacy to the club. Football often romanticizes "local heroes," and Payton fit that bill, returning to his roots to contribute to the club he likely grew up idolizing.

In the unforgiving world of football management, clubs often operate on a short leash. A few bad results and the pressure mounts, often leading to hasty decisions and frequent managerial changes. Burnley was no different, and after Waddle's short stint, the club faced a pivotal moment. They needed a strong, assertive figure to steady the ship and lay the groundwork for future success.

Stan Ternent's arrival was a throwback, a nod to the club's history. As a former player, he understood the ethos of the club and its loyal fanbase. Ternent was also known for his no-nonsense approach. His public sacking of three first-team players showcased his willingness to make tough decisions for the betterment of the team. This kind of management often polarizes, but it can also yield results, especially if it serves as a wake-up call to underperforming players.

The change in leadership at the board level was equally transformative. Frank Teesdale's tenure had been marked by commendable stewardship, guiding the club through some of its most challenging times and overseeing infrastructural developments like the new stands. Barry Kilby's arrival promised financial firepower and ambition. These financial investments were evident in the club's transfer activities.

The return of Steve Davies for a club-record fee showcased Kilby's commitment, but the signing of Ian Wright was a masterstroke. Wright's experience, talent, and leadership had an immediate impact. The latter stages of the 1999-2000 season were nail-biting, but Burnley, with a rich tapestry of players young and old, local and international, clinched promotion in dramatic fashion. The club was on the upswing, with a rich history behind it and a promising future ahead.

The early 2000s was a tumultuous time for Burnley. The ebb and flow of emotions for fans during this period cannot be understated. The heights of successful re-entry into the First Division, followed by near-misses for promotion, presented a roller-coaster of emotions for the Clarets' faithful.

While the signing of legends like Ian Wright and Paul Gascoigne showcased the club's ambitions, their departures, especially the abrupt retirement of Wright, brought about a sense of unpredictability. Gascoigne's tenure was short-lived, and while the excitement was palpable, it didn't translate into the desired results.

ITV Digital's financial implosion presented a significant hurdle for many clubs in the Football League. Burnley, like several other smaller clubs, had banked on that revenue to level up their playing field, aiming for the Premier League's riches. The fallout from this financial disaster forced Burnley to take tough decisions. Key players were sold off to balance the books, and this, coupled with on-pitch struggles, made for trying times at Turf Moor.

Stan Ternent, the man who had guided them through some of their most challenging periods, saw his tenure end. But with every end comes a new beginning. Steve Cotterill's appointment was seen as a move towards the future. A relatively young manager with fresh ideas, Cotterill faced significant challenges during his tenure. The sale of key players like Robbie Blake and Ade Akinbiyi indicated the financial constraints he had to operate under. Even promising stars weren't spared, as was evident in the sale of Richard Chaplow.

The arrival of Brendan Flood as director signified a change in direction for the club. His decisions impacted both the managerial and playing staff. Cotterill's exit and the appointment of Owen Coyle marked a decisive shift in Burnley's trajectory. Coyle, who came in from St. Johnstone, brought with him a fresh perspective and new tactics. Despite the sale of key players like Andy Gray and Kyle Lafferty, reinvestments were made in the squad with signings such as Martin Paterson and Chris Eagles.

The reshaping of the team under Coyle's management would have significant implications for Burnley's future. But at this moment in 2004, with the memories of recent challenges still fresh, the Clarets' faithful could only hope that this new chapter would bring about the success they so ardently desired.

The 2008/09 season for Burnley was nothing short of a football fairy tale. Turf Moor, the stadium that had seen highs and lows, from the dire situations of the late 1980s to the steady climb back up the league ladder, was now witness to one of its most magical periods.

Starting off the season with lackluster results would have led many to write off Burnley's chances of any significant achievement that season. But football is often about momentum, and the Clarets' impressive Carling Cup run did more than just see them knock out Premier League giants. It instilled a newfound belief and confidence in the squad.

The play-off matches against Reading showcased grit, determination, and a quality of football that signaled Burnley's intent. Their path to the Premier League was by no means easy, but their victory against Sheffield United in the final was a culmination of years of hard work and perseverance.

The scenes at Wembley that day were emblematic of what football means to fans. The ecstasy, the tears, the sheer unbridled joy of seeing their beloved team reach the pinnacle of English football was a sight to behold. Wade Elliott's goal etched itself into Burnley folklore, a moment frozen in time that fans will reminisce about for generations.

But the promotion to the Premier League wasn't just a win for the players or the coaching staff; it was a triumph for the entire community. The civic reception, the parade, and the jubilation that followed was a testament to the bond between the club and its fans.

Owen Coyle, with his leadership and vision, managed to achieve what many had deemed impossible. His tenure at the club will always be remembered as a golden period, a time when Burnley not only returned to the top tier but did so with style and determination.

As the club prepared for the challenges of the Premier League, one thing was certain: Burnley's journey, from the brink of obscurity to the bright lights of the Premier League, was a testament to the resilience, passion, and undying spirit of everyone associated with the club. It was a reminder that with belief and determination, any dream, no matter how distant, can be realized.

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