I want the job says Mullen
On 12th January this year I saw Burnley beat MK 5-0 on what was my 64th birthday. I’ll forever be thankful to Burnley Football Club for securing the biggest away win since 1947 on that particular date.
I’d seen us win away from home by four clear goals but this was the first time I’d seen a win by as many as five goals on my travels, unless you want to include the FA Cup trip to Penrith in 1984, although I have, on four occasions, seen us win by four goals.
The earliest of them was a 4-0 win against Cambridge in 1985. Kevin Hird, Peter Devine, Alan Taylor and Derrick Parker scored the goals, all of them coming in the first half and all past former Burnley goalkeeper Roger Hansbury. Ashley Hoskin made his first Burnley start that day and Neil Edwards, who came on as a substitute, held the record of the shortest first team career at Burnley for years until Shay McCartan made a late appearance at Doncaster in 2012.
More recently, and in the away game prior to the one at Doncaster in 2012, Charlie Austin came on as a substitute during the second half at Portsmouth and bagged a hat trick in a 5-1 win on the day Danny Ings scored his first Burnley goal.
But the most memorable of the four goal wins was surely the one that was played 25 years ago today at Wrexham, at a time when Burnley were searching for a new manager following the resignation of Frank Casper. This was the day the search ended.
Casper’s assistant Jimmy Mullen had been placed in temporary charge and we’d already beaten Carlisle at home when we made the trip to the Racecourse Ground at Wrexham on 12th October 1991 to face a side managed by Brian Flynn who had already been installed as one of the favourites to replace his former team mate at Turf Moor.
Mullen was without two of his strikers. John Francis was suspended having been sent off at Hereford and Mike Conroy was out with a groin injury. A back injury kept David Hamilton out while Ian Measham was ruled out with a knee problem.
Back up strikers Roger Eli and Graham Lancashire had both been rated doubtful but thankfully both played as Burnley lined up in an all blue kit.
It all started well for Wrexham. With under two minutes gone we were behind. A Colin Marshall cross from the right was met by Micky Thomas. His shot beat Andy Marriott with Gordon DAVIES scoring from close range.
The Burnley fans, who had seen us lost at Hereford and Scarborough in the previous two away games, showed their displeasure at another bad start but, incredibly, by the fourth minute we had not only equalised but gone in front.
John Deary and Eli linked up well down the left for Deary go through and shoot. It was a good effort from the midfielder that goalkeeper Vince O’Keefe parried, but there was LANCASHIRE to get on the rebound to finish. That was three in three for Lancashire since coming into the team. He did awfully well to keep his balance. The keeper did well with the save but that’s the poacher’s instinct.
Wrexham moved forward from the restart but Ian Bray won the ball and played it down the line for Eli who stormed forward. He loved to run at defences and he had a man over to his right in Harper. He played it across and in two minutes it had gone from 1-0 down to 2-1 up for Burnley. Steve HARPER took his time and it was through the legs of the goalkeeper.
Two goals in two minutes and we repeated that just before the half hour. A right wing corner taken by Joe Jakub was hoisted beyond the far post for Steve Davis. His header back in was headed back to him. This time he took on the defender before crossing for LANCASHIRE to head home from almost on the line. It was getting easier for Lancashire and easier for Burnley. It was 3-1 now.
Almost immediately a free kick from defence found Eli whose flicked header reached LANCASHIRE just outside the penalty box. He eyed it up and placed his shot brilliantly into the top corner. What a way to get a hat trick.
Wrexham pulled one back though a few minutes before half time. Neat play down the right from Andy Thackery and Steve Watkin set up Andy PREECE to make it 4-2 but what a superb half it had been for Burnley.
A brief flurry from the home side early in the second half came to nothing and from then on we dominated the game. DAVIS made it 5-2 when he headed in Jakub’s free kick from the right and then, with just over a minute remaining, ELI got the goal his performance so richly deserved. He was played in superbly by Paul France. Did Eli use his hand? No he didn’t, and that was six for Burnley as he finished expertly.
Jimmy Mullen strode to the touchline at the final whistle to salute his players. He was also sending the message to the directors – I want the job.
“We’d worked hard all week for what we were going to do today,” Mullen said. “That work has paid dividends and it was a great performance from everyone.”
Burnley had moved up to eighth in the table and this was Mullen’s last game as caretaker manager. Five days later came the news that he had been appointed as the full time manager of Burnley Football Club. “I know the directors’ ambition and I know what the fans expect,” said the new boss. “This club has magnificent support and I am still very much aware that I need to get Burnley out of the Fourth Division.”
Despite the big win, the decision was not universally popular with the Burnley fans and Mullen was certainly not respected by the players as Casper had been. However, it proved to be the correct decision and the catalyst that finally took us out of that basement division.
The teams were;
Wrexham: Vince O’Keefe, Andy Thackery, Phil Hardy, Nigel Beaumont, Micky Thomas, Joey Jones, Gordon Davies (Lee Jones 65), Gareth Owen, Colin Marshall, Steve Watkin, Andy Preece. Sub not used: Jim Kelly.
Burnley: Andy Marriott, Paul France, Steve Davis, John Pender, Ian Bray, Steve Harper, John Deary, Andy Farrell, Joe Jakub, Graham Lancashire (Mark Monington 80), Roger Eli. Sub not used: Mark Yates.
Referee: Paul Vanes (Warley).