Derby County v Burnley, the day our fans were the talk of the cup
The report below was published on Monday 27th January 1992, two days after the Clarets had gone out of the FA Cup to Derby County in a 3rd round replay at the Baseball Ground.
I was inside that ground that day and I have never, before or since, witnessed anything quite like it. Going out of the FA Cup is one of the lower points of any season but the atmosphere in the away end that day at the Baseball Ground was just incredible.
Even when the final whistle blew, nobody moved at our end of the ground, the players applauded the fans and left the field but the chanting just kept on and on. Nobody was ready to leave. Eventually manager Jimmy Mullen brought his players back out to the sort of reception reserved for Cup winners and Champions, not for a side just gone out of the FA Cup.
I have discussed it with some of the players over the years and they still talk about it in almost amazement. It’s what’s being a Claret is all about.
This is what John Sadler had to say about it all.
Burnley Roar Out Warning to the Top Dogs
by John Sadler
Jimmy Mullen is due in court this morning to answer a drink-drive allegation. On Saturday, he watched his goalkeeper inexplicably drop the ball to present Derby with a decisive second goal that swept his team out of the F.A. Cup.
No, you couldn’t claim that these have been the happiest few days in the life of the manager of fourth division Burnley. And yet Mullen has found himself at the centre of a remarkable phenomenon, perhaps unique even in the grand history of football’s most romantic competition. I don’t care what kind of response former Burnley midfield man Brian Flynn received as manager of Wrexham on their latest day of glory at West Ham. It wouldn’t have been a patch on the acclaim given to the boss of the club where he began. I want to tell you about the most heartening, stimulating and optimistic football occasion I have experienced for many, many years.
Derby v Burnley was a match in a time warp. A third round replay played on fourth round day. But the real blast from the past came from far more distant days, when fans came only to back their beloved team, not fight their opposite numbers. When fences weren’t needed and policemen merely smiled in approval. Burnley took 4,000 Lancashire lads and lasses to the Midlands. And they were sensational.
Soon after goalkeeper Chris Pearce dropped his dreadful clanger they set up one of the loudest, sustained dins I’ve ever heard on a football ground anywhere in the world. “Jimmy Mullen’s claret-and-blue-army” was the chant from the terraces and double-decker stand that housed Burnley’s admiration society.
Over and over they chanted it. Clapping and stamping their feet and drumming the advertising boards in perfect rhythm. On and on for 20 minutes until the end of the match and another 15 minutes afterwards, until I urged the club’s chairman to get his manager and players to leave their dressing room, return to the pitch and wave their appreciation. The bedlam was almost deafening. It was a colourful and spectacular sight.
But it is something far more important than that. I wanted others to see and hear it. Big men, important men who are making decisions that could alienate the game from ordinary working folk. I wanted Graham Kelly to be there to prove to him that those who talk of Super Leagues should not underestimate the passion of the so-called little clubs. I wanted Sir John Quinton to be there so that the bank chairman chosen to preside over the elite could learn something of life at the other end of the scale. I wanted officials of Manchester United and Arsenal, Liverpool and the other fat cats behind the move to change the face of football to hear the voices of the people.
The bedlam of Burnley was not simply a cry of support for another of the F.A. Cup’s beaten teams. It was a roar of defiance. “Traditions,” said Arthur Cox, Derby’s manager whose time in north east football taught him all there is to know about fanaticism. “You heard the traditions of Burnley’s past out there today. A major club of 30 years ago, don’t forget.” Those who kept up that incessant, thunderous clatter were real fans. Genuine football people with a deep love of their club, no matter the result of a single game. They had nothing to do with the executive box brigade and corporate hospitality merchants to whom football is pandering in the modern era. They stood in the rain, sat in the cold and screamed their allegiance to a game which, at the highest level, continues to turn its back.
English football has no right to dismiss or take lightly the support of people like those who raised their voices so valiantly at the Baseball Ground. This, remember, was the support of a team who lost to a deflected free kick and a goal handed on a plate by a goalkeeper who couldn’t catch the ball. The frost that caused so many postponements had the managers and scouts flocking to Derby. Brian Clough, David Pleat, Neil Warnock, Ian Branfoot together with scouts from Villa, QPR, Norwich, Portsmouth, Leicester, West Ham, Leeds, Manchester United, Oldham, Coventry, Cambridge, Blackburn to name but a few. Some will report back about individual players or one side or the other. But all will first tell the story of those incredible Burnley supporters.
So at last the message will be cast far and wide. The cry from the Fourth Division will reach high places. “In all my 23 years in the game I’ve never witnessed anything like that,” Jimmy Mullen gasped. “It left my players feeling they were prepared to die for those people.”
It left Arthur Cox thinking out loud: “Burnley have had a reminder of how things could be. It was a demonstration of potential. They now have to try and make sure they get promotion and don’t let those people down.”
And that is a sobering thought.
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