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Burnley fans had told the local press that Joe Royle was the man they wanted to replace Adrian Heath as the new manager as the search intensified ahead of the 1997/98 season.

Royle came out on top against other candidates who included Peter Beardsley, Ray Wilkins, Ian Rush, Bruce Rioch, Dave Merrington, Billy Hamilton, John Ward and Stan Ternent, while Brian Flynn continued to refuse to rule himself out.

Rumours had circulated that Bury manager and former Claret Ternent had been offered the job but that he’d opted not to take it. Ternent himself rubbished it. “I would like to make it clear to the fans that under no circumstances would I ever snub Burnley Football Club,” he said, adding: “I have not spoken to any section of the media about the Burnley job so I don’t know where these stories have come from. It is very difficult to snub anyone when you have not even been approached by them.”

Pre-season training underway with Clive Middlemass

There might not have been a manager in place but the players, other than Chris Brass who had just had surgery for appendicitis, returned for pre-season training with chief scout Clive Middlemass in charge. The former assistant said: “It’s business as usual, myself and the players can’t wait to get started and get back on the pitch with a football.”

With reports locally that the club was in crisis, Middlemass added: “I don’t see a crisis here, this sort of thing happens to clubs all over. I see a crisis at places like Middlesbrough when you have paid all that money for players and been relegated. Adrian leaving was just one of those things. We have just got to carry on regardless, starting with pre-season training.”

Middlemass was set to throw his name into the hat for the manager’s job. “I am on a par with anyone else for the job and have as much chance as anyone,” he declared. “But it’s not up to me who the new manager will be. I am a professional and I have been here quite a while now. I have been through the mill as coach, assistant manager, chief scout and even caretaker manager. I am capable of taking the job and doing what people want, but I will do whatever job I am asked to do at the club.”

There was one potential candidate prepared to publicly put his name forward and that was former Everton, Aston Villa and Wolves defender Derek Mountfield. He’d just been released by Walsall and was ready to take his first steps into management. “Yes, I have applied for the job,” he said when asked about the vacancy at Burnley. “I have sent my CV off to the club and I am waiting for them to look at it and get back to me.” Mountfield was also keen to continue playing and added: “At the moment, I haven’t got a club, but I aim to get into the managerial side of things if possible, although I am still fit enough to play.”

Others believed to be interested were Frank Stapleton, Gordon Cowans, Willie Donachie and Graeme Sharp.

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