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What a week it had been for Burnley in 1997. Manager Adrian Heath attended a Monday night board meeting believing he was going to get his plan for four more new players rubber stamped to add to the two signings of Marco Gentile from MVV Maastricht and Mark Patterson from Sheffield United.

Edward Lee, reporting for the Burnley Express, suggested that Heath’s mood had changed by Monday and now a club source claimed the manager left that board meeting bemused and angry.

The source said: “The manager went into that meeting fully expecting to hear that he had the cash to let him bring in three or four new players to complete his plans for next season. He believed the sum in question had been agreed and that he could go and get the players the next day. They were two First Division players, an experienced Dutch player and a Premiership striker.

“When he sat down he was told that he had misunderstood the financial situation. The manager is not a fool and that really angered him and, subsequently, he left the meeting very unhappy indeed. Somebody had moved the goalposts and the following day he had to telephone at least one manager to give him backword over a transfer. He was desperately disappointed with the situation and a little embarrassed.”

Who were those four players? The name of the Dutch player has never become public but he was a defender who was coming from the same club as Gentile. Two others were, like Patterson, joining from Sheffield United. They were full back Lee Sandford and central defender Chris Short. The Premiership striker was Bolton’s Mixu Paatelainen.

Sandford remained at Sheffield United until the end of his league career in 2002 while Short moved on to Stoke a year later. Bolton did sell Paatelainen that summer to Wolves where he spent one year before returning to Scotland.

Following that board meeting, Heath left for Everton and the club cancelled Patterson’s contract which meant the players were soon to return for pre-season training with just the one signing in Gentile and neither a manager nor assistant manager with Clive Middlemass expected to take training.

Heath was upset that fans might think he’d just walked out on us but he said: “The last thing I want is for people to think I just walked out on Burnley Football Club. I had a couple of sleepless nights and even on Friday morning I was not certain I was going to Everton.”

It was Friday when the move was confirmed but Heath went on to say that he would have seriously considered staying at Turf Moor had there been any contact from the board. “I sat and pondered on my decision to leave Burnley since Howard Kendall asked me to go to Everton,” he added, but then, pointing the fingers at the Burnley board, said: “The situation had rumbled on for nearly three days and yet I didn’t hear anything from Burnley. If a member of the Burnley board of directors had telephoned me and tried their best to get me to stay then I genuinely would have considered remaining as manager.

“If someone had spoken to me and said: ‘Is it money, contracts or are you unhappy about something?’ then we could have sat down and talked. Instead, Burnley did not contact me and that shocked me a little bit. That aspect, more than any other, contributed to my decision to leave Burnley for Everton. In the end I had to let my head rule my heart.”

It was always felt that his appointment fifteen months earlier was one that chairman Frank Teasdale made reluctantly and it was understood that he was not in any way disappointed with Heath’s departure. Teasdale, who by this time had been chairman for twelve years, passed away on 1st February 2016, but I think he’d have been more than a little surprised to hear what Heath had to say in May 2020 in an interview with the Burnley Express.

In that interview, Heath referred to the time he left and how his wife tried to persuade him to stay at Burnley. “She, to this day, reminds me she was adamant I shouldn’t do it. In hindsight, I’ve always been big enough to admit I made a mistake. The Everton I was joining with Howard was not the Everton of when I was there, and some of the things Howard was promised to go back weren’t delivered on.”

Then, astonishingly, he said: “I should have stayed. Frank was really upset and offered me a new deal and said: ‘Look, you’ve just started to build here, you’ve got good young players,’ and he said I should stay and see it through. He was right, I should have done, but at the same time you make them with your heart, not your head.”

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