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Having suffered a disappointing end to the 1996/97 season, Burnley manager Adrian Heath dispensed with over half a million pounds worth of talent when he announced his retained list.

Heath opted to release four players previously signed by his predecessor Jimmy Mullen along with one young player whose family had held a long history with Burnley Football Club.

The four Mullen signings to go were Ian Helliwell, Liam Robinson, Wayne Russell and Steve Thompson. Striker Helliwell was Mullen’s final signing as Burnley manager; he cost £40,000 but made only four appearances for us and hadn’t featured at all during the season just ended. He’d made just one brief substitute appearance following the appointment of Heath.

Adrian Heath releases five players

Robinson had been with Burnley for three years. When signed in the summer of 1994 from Bristol City, he’d become our record signing at £350,000. During his time at Burnley, he’d scored twelve goals in 77 appearances. His release was no surprise either; he hadn’t played in the first team since the 3-1 win at Blackpool in February and he’d started only three league games all season.

Thompson had joined Burnley in a £200,000 transfer from Leicester early in 1995 on the same day we signed Kurt Nogan from Brighton. He’d had a run of eleven consecutive league starts between February and April of the season just ended having not previously had a start since August. It was known that he and Heath did not have a good relationship and his release was expected.

Russell, the second choice goalkeeper, was another whose relationship with the manager could be described as uneasy. He’d made a total of 27 appearances in three seasons as Marlon Beresford’s cover, two of them as a substitute when Beresford was sent off.

The one other player released was young midfielder Jamie Webster. His Burnley credentials as a Claret were through his family; Jamie was the grandson of Harry Potts no less. He’d come through the youth system at Burnley and earned a professional deal but didn’t make the first team. Jamie went on to become the chairman of Colne FC and then became a golf pro.

Others had been offered new deals. Both Mark Winstanley and Chris Vinnicombe, who like Robinson had been a record signing, were offered one years deals and it was thought both could reject them and look elsewhere for longer deals. Gary Parkinson, the Wembley hero of four years earlier, was offered a new deal as was young central defender Gareth West to give him time to prove himself after a difficult season brought about by injuries. Richard Huxford, who had joined the club in January on a short term deal was ready to speak to the manager about his future.

Given the players released and those only offered short term deals, the Burnley Express reported that the players signed by Jimmy Mullen to try and keep us in the First Division had now been considered not good enough to get us back there.

The manager said on announcing the list: “There aren’t really any shocks there. You can only deal with the players that are out of contract, although with Ian Helliwell being 35, we have let him go as he needs first team football at this stage of his career. It is part and parcel of the game for professionals. They are aware that these things happen and they will have alternative plans in the pipeline. It is far harder releasing the youngsters, but it is up to them to prove me wrong.”

He’d already started to look at players for the new season. Manchester United winger David Hilton, Manchester City defender Jim Bentley, Liverpool defender Sean Hessey and Millwall forward Shaun Stevens had all played in the reserves on trial. Heath said: “I have spoken to one or two players and I am thinking about bringing them back for pre-season training. We are trying to set up deals with a couple of players.”

Meanwhile, Thompson was attracting interest from Wigan and Russell looked set for a move to Torquay. Robinson was hoping that Barry Fry would be reawakening his interest and take him to Peterborough.

Early incoming speculation centred on Doncaster with Heath believed to be keen on their goalkeeper Dean Williams and their captain and central defender Darren Moore with a possible £400,000 bid able to secure their services.

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