End of an era as Marney departs
Burnley had been relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season. Our first ever season in the Premier League had seen us finish in 18th place, 11 points ahead of bottom club Portsmouth, thanks to their ten point deduction, and above Hull City on goal difference.
Manager Brian Laws wasted no time in building his squad for the new season in the Championship. The retained list was released within a couple of days of the final game with Stephen Jordan and Steven Caldwell both departing and there was a gap in midfield with Chris McCann having hardly featured due to injury and young Jack Cork, who had said he wanted to come back, returning to parent club Chelsea.
Laws wasted no time in plugging that midfield gap and just over two weeks after the final game of the season against Spurs came the capture of Dean Marney from fellow relegated club Hull in a transfer that was valued at £500,000.
The 26-year-old had started his career with Spurs during which time he had also played on loan for Swindon, QPR, Gillingham and Norwich. He had come to prominence with two goals in a 5-2 win for Spurs against Everton in 2005, one of them a spectacular strike from outside the box, but it was at Hull where he’d established himself with 125 league appearances in four seasons on Humberside.
With Premier League clubs reported to be interested in him, this looked something of a coup for Burnley, and at a very low price, but I think it is fair to say that it took him some time to win over the Burnley supporters. Whether that, as some would say, was because of the manager who signed him we will never know.
He was immediately a regular in the team, and that’s something he’s enjoyed for most of his Burnley career, other than when out injured and he scored his first Burnley goal in the 3-3 draw at Sheffield United, opening the scoring that day just over half time on a day when Matt Lowton scored his first ever Football League goal.
It was the only goal he scored for Laws but he added two more in our first two wins under Eddie Howe at Portsmouth and then at home against Norwich. At a question and answer evening later that season, Howe and Jason Tindall both told the audience that Marney had been the player who had impressed them the most. It wasn’t greeted with too much delight from those present.
Burnley weren’t pulling up any trees to be honest back in the Football League and in Marney’s first three seasons at Turf Moor we finished 8th, 13th and then 11th. By the end of that third season there wasn’t much confidence around. I don’t think Marney had really won over the fans at all and that despite having scored our winner at his old club Hull in that third season; he’d scored previously in that fixture for Hull six seasons earlier.
Then things changed, and how they changed. In his fourth season at Turf Moor he got himself a new midfield partner in David Jones. The pair fit together perfectly and were, in my view, the driving force behind a remarkable season that saw us return to the Premier League. It wasn’t just those two players, far from it, but they were very influential and the fans knew it. Suddenly, Marney was viewed in a different light. He became a fan favourite and finally he heard his name chanted. Despite injuries forcing long absences from the team, that’s never changed.
The first of those injuries came in the home game against West Brom in February 2015 when he suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury. Crucially for the club, it came in the first game after the transfer window had closed; crucially for Marney, it ruled him out for the next ten months.
By then we had been relegated but were just a few games away from kick starting the 23 game unbeaten run that saw us return to the Premier League. There was new competition in the midfield by now with Joey Barton alongside Jones, but Marney played his part, making twelve league appearances including that final day win against Charlton that saw us clinch the title.
New players arrived during that summer’s window including midfielders Steven Defour and Jeff Hendrick while Jones, who had been terrific for three years at Burnley, departed for Sheffield Wednesday and Barton opted for a move to Rangers.
Marney was the mainstay and when he lined up at Arsenal in January last year, he had started 21 of 22 Premier League games, missing only the game at Manchester City. That day at the Emirates, his Burnley career came to an abrupt halt again as did, ultimately, his Burnley career. With just around a quarter of an hour remaining, he went down injured in a challenge that saw referee Jon Moss yellow card him. He didn’t get up and was stretchered off with news coming just days later that he’d suffered the same cruciate ligament injury as he’d done two years previously.
From the club’s point of view, this time we’d already collected enough points and Barton had returned to plug that particular gap. Coming just before the window closed, we also added Ashley Westwood to the squad.
Given the number of midfield players at our disposal, it was a thought that he might not get back into this Burnley team. We were told the recovery would be longer this time and last summer Jack Cork, who had played alongside Marney for Burnley during the 2010/11 season while on loan from Chelsea, strengthened the midfield area even more when we signed him from Swansea.
Marney has returned to full fitness. He’s played in the under-23s on a few occasions and has also been on the bench for the first team. But there’s been no sign of a first team appearance and with his contract coming to an end in the summer it was a real possibility that he might move on.
Speculation grew when he was spotted last week with Nottingham Forest boss Aitor Karanka who then confirmed Marney was a player he was interested in.
We move on, that’s what happens in football, but there is sometimes a real sadness when a player leaves the club because of the service he’s given us and because he’s been a vital member of the team. Dean Marney very much fits that profile and in so many ways that meant yesterday was a very sad day.
He’s made 202 league appearances for us, with cup ties that total becomes 220. He’s been a very good player for us throughout his time at Turf Moor and I don’t think any of us will ever quite know why it took him so long to win over the Burnley fans. But he did, the fans loved him and the fans will miss him.
He’s 34 now and wherever he goes, it is likely to be his last club. Dean Marney has been fantastic for Burnley Football Club and I wish him all the very best wherever he plays his football next season with a real wish that he remains injury free.
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