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Following the final day win against Plymouth that had secured our place in Division Two of the Football League, it had been a busy few days at Burnley with news on the takeover, a climb down on closing part of the ground, players released and contract talks for others.

That all dropped very much into the background when, after less than a year at the club, manager Chris Waddle, whose arrival had given us all much hope, sensationally quit.

Chris Waddle, pictured with his assistant Glenn Roeder on the day he was appointed

We’ll get to this big news shortly but to cover the other areas, it’s best to start with the Peter Shackleton takeover. Just days after the final game, the board, led by Frank Teasdale, were still awaiting the final piece of the jigsaw to complete the £12 million takeover.

It was reported that Shackleton’s backers were as frustrated as anyone with the delays but it was all apparently down to technical delays out of their hands due to money having to be transferred from various countries.

Teasdale was anxious. The club had committed to spending £200,000 on the Turf Moor pitch and expected this to come from the new money coming in. He said he expected the money to arrive within days.

Such was the state of things at the time, the club announced they were closing the lower tier of the Longside but a host of complaints forced them into a U-turn on this one. Secretary John Haworth, speaking on 8th May, confirmed: “We listened to what the supporters had to say and we reversed the decision. Our supporters are our bread and butter and we need to keep them happy. I was bombarded with telephone calls yesterday about the decision so we held meetings and decided to rescind the plan.” Ground director Clive Holt confirmed that we had just 230 season ticket holders in the stand and the original decision to close it was a financial one with it costing the club around £2,000 per game to keep it open.

There were no shocks with the retained list which saw departures for Nigel Gleghorn, Ian Helliwell and Vince Overson. Gleghorn confirmed he would be taking on a player/coach role at Altrincham but it was make or break for Overson who was still battling injury. He’d not featured at all in his second season back at the club and left hugely disappointed.

Manager Waddle reported that he was in talks with Gerry Harrison, Jamie Hoyland, Damian Matthew, Chris Vinnicombe, Paul Weller, Mark Winstanley and Chris Woods who were all out of contract. All of them had been offered new deals with the manager saying: “I think the offers made to them are very good offers and if the lads accept them I will be delighted but if not we won’t be held to ransom. The object is to get them signed up but we have got values for players and we won’t exceed that. There will be a lot of players available.” He added: “It’s early stages. I have put my point of view that I do want to keep a lot of them. I have said that I want them to stay because I see the makings of a decent team.”

He also confirmed that he would push to bring back John Mullin from Sunderland on a permanent deal and that he saw Glen Little as a key player for the 1998/99 season although it appeared the player’s agent was looking to get him a move to Sunderland. Little was not out of contract although the offer of a new deal was on the table. Waddle said: “We have offered him a contract and whether he accepts or not, he will still be here next season. He has shown good form and I would like to see him here with the likes of Andy Cooke, Paul Weller and Paul Smith because we want to build a team round them.”

So far, so good. Now we need to move next door. On Sunday, 10th May, Burnley played Lowerhouse in the first round of the Worsley Cup. Because of the weather, the game couldn’t be completed and two days later everyone returned to finish the game.

For someone brought up not that far from Turf Moor, my allegiance was always Burnley but I must report that it was Lowerhouse who went through, winning the game by 46 runs. As we left the ground, someone shouted out that Waddle had resigned. I’m not sure anyone believed it, it seemed we were moving into calmer waters following the end of the season.

Believe it or not, he had gone. Captain Neil Moore was on his way back from a trip to Spain with seven other members of the squad. When he heard the news, he said: “It’s a shock more than anything. To have such a good trip and then come back to find out what’s happened has left me gobsmacked. It’s very sad but obviously he has got his reasons. It’s very disappointing and just at a bit of a weird time.” Coach Gordon Cowans said he would be seeking talks with the chairman to clarify his own position and a concerned Damian Matthew reported that he was close to agreeing a new deal but said: “I was hoping to get it sorted out and then enjoy my summer break. Now it’s going to drag on.” Matthew said that Waddle had reminded him of Glenn Hoddle who he had played for at Chelsea. “He was very stand offish at first but as the season went on things got better. He might have disappointed the fans and the media sometimes but that was only to be expected. I think if he had gone on and done well next season that would have been forgotten.”

It all led to director Bernard Rothwell hitting out at Radio Lancashire presenter Gary Hickson who had dared to suggest that chairman elect Shackleton had been involved. “Disgraceful and totally irresponsible,” Rothwell said of Hickson. Rothwell, who months later would himself be targeted by former directors at the club’s AGM, added: “If Gary Hickson says something it is considered to be authoritative. He said that Peter Shackleton was involved in this decision, that he had already chosen the manager and defied Peter Shackleton to deny that on his programme.” He confirmed: “Until there is a change of ownership the directors will continue to make the decisions. The directors will choose the next manager. I think it was outrageous – it stinks.”

Trying to clear up the situation, Rothwell said: “Chris has already said that he enjoyed the football side and that was not a problem, but I do think Chris had some difficulty with the other side of management. He was responsible to the shareholders and they are represented by the directors. There are certain things all managers are expected to do and I think Chris had problems accepting that. It’s a sensible arrangement and one that’s agreeable to both parties.”

He added: “We were criticised for not telling the fans earlier in the day. It was not completed until 6:15 p.m. and the chairman rang Clubcall at 6:30 p.m. We had a full meeting and there was no indication that he wanted to leave until after that meeting. The board is just as upset about the situation as the fans but neither the chairman nor the directors pick the team or train the lads.”

Chairman Teasdale eventually spoke. He said: “It was done very amicably. It could have been lots of things at the club. I always got on very well with him. I honestly don’t believe there is a story.”

Teasdale confirmed he would take over the contract talks with players with the club again searching for a new manager. They indicated that it would need to be someone more experienced after the difficulties experienced. Early indications suggested they were looking at Sam Allardyce, then Notts County manager, Neil Warnock, who had just left Oldham, and a trio of former Burnley players in Wrexham boss Brian Flynn, Dave Merrington, who was heading the scouting at Wolves, and Stan Ternent, who had just won two promotions with Bury.

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