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With the 1996/97 season hardly finished, and the retained list dealt with, Adrian Heath was busy formulating his plans for the next season with Doncaster Rovers central defender Darren Moore looking very likely to become his first signing and former loan striker Paul Stewart believed to be not too far behind.

The signing of 23-year-old Moore definitely looked close and he’d already been training with us. For a player of his age, it was noticeable that he’d already made 179 Football League appearances for Torquay and Doncaster; he’d moved between the two clubs in the summer of 1995 for a £62,500 fee.

Darren Moore – set for Turf Moor move

Doncaster needed to balance the books and Heath was very confident that he would be his first summer signing. The Burnley manager said: “He’s a good kid and looks to have a great future in the game. He trained with us and made a big impression. He wears his heart on his sleeve and gives it everything.” Significantly, Heath added: “Now I will have to speak to Doncaster and find out what’s going on.”

This deal was expected to go through very quickly but we’d had a setback in trying to bring in goalkeeper Dean Williams, Moore’s team mate at Doncaster. The 25-year-old, who had previously played for Birmingham and Brentford, had broken two fingers which was expected to hold things up at best.

The manager, however, did dampen the speculation that we could be set to sign Ireland international defender Paul McGrath who was leaving Derby. Heath and the 37-year-old McGrath had become good friends during their time together at Aston Villa but the Burnley manager felt that McGrath still had something to offer the Premiership and believed he would get fixed up in the top flight. He wouldn’t rule out a move to Burnley and hinted that we would look to bring him in if McGrath couldn’t sort anything out in the top two divisions.

One of our targets hadn’t gone down particularly well with the fans; the plans to sign former loan striker Paul Stewart who had just left Sunderland. We are all aware now of Stewart’s issues at the time but his loan to Burnley in 1995 had come when he was also fighting back from an injury. His signing was a mistake by Mullen. Stewart did himself no favours with some performances that could be described as lacklustre at best with his time at Burnley ending with the red card he received at Barnsley. All Heath would say on the matter was: “I am aware of the suggestions that Paul Stewart wants to come back to the North West and I know there has been speculation about him coming back to Turf Moor.” Hinting that this was much more than press speculation, Heath added: “Paul didn’t do himself a lot of favours when he was here before, but he’s twice the player now.”

One task at the end of the season is to confirm the pre-season arrangements. Nothing had been confirmed in terms of the players going away but it was thought Heath was planning a return to Ireland. We’d played four games in Northern Ireland in 1996 and he wanted to extend that with further games in the Republic. He was able to confirm that Manchester City had agreed to come to Turf Moor and that was expected to be played on 2nd August, the Saturday before the league season kicked off.

There was good news for one of the players we’d released with newly promoted Wigan stepping up their plans to sign Steve Thompson. They’d just won the Division 3 title and manager John Deehan had been given a transfer fund of £3 million. He’d made it clear that Thompson was one of his major targets. Heath said he thought Wigan would be one of the promotion front runners in the new season, believing they could win a second successive promotion.

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