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It’s just over 29 years since Burnley travelled to Wembley in May 1994 to play Stockport County in the Division Two play-off final and we got a couple of firsts that day.

It was our fourth visit to the old Wembley and the previous three had all ended in defeat, against Charlton and Spurs in the FA Cup and six years earlier to the day we’d been beaten 2-0 by Wolves in the final of the Sherpa Van Trophy.

That Wolves game was, like this Stockport game, played on a Sunday. This visit to Wembley was only the sixth time we’d ever played on this particular day of the week, a day when it was prohibited for so many years.

There was a common theme in the previous five; we’d failed to score in all of them, suffering three league defeats to go alongside the Sherpa Van game. Two weeks before this game, we’d drawn 0-0 against Plymouth.

Having gone 1-0 down early in the game, we came back against a most undisciplined Stockport team with goals from David Eyres and Gary Parkinson, two players who had signed for the Clarets within the previous twelve months.

Today, we take a look at Eyres, the scorer of our first Sunday goal, who in just over four years at Burnley became a hugely popular player when the fans and the cries of ‘Ooooh David Eyres’ were often heard.

Eyres was at Blackpool when Clarets’ boss Jimmy Mullen made his move but it was a long drawn out affair in the summer of 1993. Eyres was out of contract but there was still a fee to pay back then and the two clubs could not agree. That meant a tribunal would sit to determine the figure which left Burnley with two options. One of those options was to take him and accept the tribunal figure; the alternative was to wait which would give us the option to back out should the fee be higher than we were willing to pay.

We took the second option and waited. The fee was set at £90,000 and on 23rd July 1993, Eyres became a Burnley player. He went straight into the team for the Lancashire Cup game against Blackpool at Turf Moor and scored in a 4-3 win.

This was no signing of a young up and coming player; Eyres was already 29 having spent much of his playing career in non-league football with Morecambe, Southport and Rhyl. It was Mullen, then at Blackpool, who had taken a gamble on him four years earlier. It had proved to be a successful gamble; Eyres had played over 200 games for the Seasiders before moving to Burnley.

Much to our displeasure, he’d often played well in our games against Blackpool but now he was in our side, on the left wing, and he soon became a vital member of the side. In that first season, a season that ended in triumph, he played in all but one league game in which he scored nineteen goals. He added a further nine goals too in twelve cup games and play-offs but undoubtedly the most important of those goals was that first he scored at Wembley with a shot from the edge of the box.

He’d been leading goalscorer for Blackpool in his final season and there and had now kicked on similarly at Burnley.  Now, for the first time, he was about to play in the second tier of English football. Unfortunately, the season didn’t really get going for him. Injured at Falkirk in a pre-season friendly, he played just twice in the opening eight games; one of those as a substitute. He came back in at West Brom and missed only one more game in a hugely disappointing season that saw us relegated. A couple of FA Cup goals had taken him into double figures with only the hardly prolific Liam Robinson having scored more. By then he’d found a new role in the centre rather than out of the wing but it hadn’t been a good season personally for Eyres.

Over the next two seasons he remained a first choice but his goalscoring was curtailed. New manager Adrian Heath dropped him into a left wing-back role and to a large extent the goals dried up although he was still very much a vital player.

When Heath left, he returned to the left wing under new manager Chris Waddle but all was not well. He attended a Clarets Independent Supporters Association meeting alongside the two local reporters and Radio Lancashire’s Gary Hickson. There was no disguising it; things were not as they should be. Was that the difficult start to the season or Waddle or the club in general.

Waddle had given him the captaincy so it was unlikely to be that and he was playing every game. He scored an early penalty at Plymouth in a game that ended 2-2 on 21st October; four days later he was in the team when we drew by the same score against Bournemouth at home. It proved to be his final game.

By the time we beat Walsall a week later, Eyres had been sold to Preston for a fee of £80,000. There were mixed views among fans. Eyres had been a key player for us and in his time at Burnley had played 214 games in which he’d scored 55 times. We were losing a good player.

The other side of the coin was telling us that here was a player who had now reached the age of 33 and we’d got only ten grand less for him than the fee we’d paid Blackpool in 1993. Personally, I was disappointed to see him go but at the age he was and the fee paid you couldn’t really argue. At the time, I thought he would play maybe a year or two at Preston before bowing out.

How wrong can you be at times. He played three years at Preston, where he added a further 130 appearances but at 36 he was not going to hang up his boots. In October 2000, he signed for Oldham where he went on to add another 240 games.

On 6th May 2006, he lined up for Oldham for the final time in a home League One game against Scunthorpe. He scored the opening goal too only for Scunthorpe to equalise two minutes from the end with a Billy Sharp goal. By then, David Eyres had been withdrawn to allow him to receive his final standing ovation.

It had been a remarkable career. Despite not moving into league football until the age of 25, he went on to make over 650 league appearances for the four North West clubs, scoring 129 goals. Include cup games and you can add another 130 appearances and 41 goals to that. By the time he played that final game he’d reached the age of 42.

There’s no loss of interest in the game either; he can often be seen at our under-18 and under-21 games and I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes in a few Everton games; he’s never made it a secret that he’s a supporter.

It’s arguable who he played his best football for but I’d suggest at Burnley given that’s where he played at the highest level other than five games for Preston following their promotion in 2000. I think it is fair to say he’ll be remembered with affection at all four clubs.

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