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The psychology of being a Burnley fan 

Is it really less than a fortnight since we were seven points clear at the top and the bookies had us 8/1 on to go up?

Watching the events of recent days unfold via satellite from the other side of the world (Busselton in Western Australia to be exact) as the lead diminished, disappeared and then became replaced by the fear that come 3pm Saturday we could be out of the automatic promotion places altogether, I confess that I’ve got nervous. At the same time this process has made me think about the way I think about Burnley. What do my thought processes say about my belief systems and  my cognitive processes when it comes to fate and the future of Burnley Football Club?

My team. My Club

For over 50 years I’ve been a Burnley supporter, like my dad and his dad before him. Like my mum and her dad and like all the many Townsend and Pollard uncles aunts and cousins that have inhabited Rose Grove, Princes Street, Hargher and Coalclough  Lanes for  a hundred years or more. Apparently a Dr Wright delivered 3 generations of Pollards in Burnley in various front parlours. Family legend has it that there was a Pollard in Burnley in the Doomsday (Domesday) Book in 1087. So it would appear that we didn’t really get out much until this generation.

I was five when I learnt I was a Burnley fan. It was 1966 when I was told this, long before I was aware of the overwhelming genetic prevalence and inevitability of the character trait being expressed. I remember the moment well (though the date is hazy). For reasons unknown I was allowed to stay up and watch the Cup Winners Cup Final on a Wednesday night. I sat in tears as I watched Borussia parade proudly around Anfield (I thought) with the Cup. It’s etched in my memory that they won 2-1 after extra time. The image is very clear even today. They wore white shirts and black shorts and Liverpool were in all grey. Well what do you expect me to remember? It was bloody 1966 and it was a black and white telly! Plus the history books say it was at Hampden Park.

Anyhow, I am on the floor in tears when my father comes home from work. He asked me why I was upset. I replied it was because Liverpool had lost. But why are you crying he persisted ‘because I support Liverpool’ I said. Dad walked off to get his dinner with the words

“No you’re not son, you’re a Burnley fan”.

This is my first conscious memory of my father talking to me at all! In an instant I was saved from a lifetime of wanting to nick cars (well anything really) claiming the dole or public liability for a pavement stubbed toe and a constant sense of balance produced by having a chip on both shoulders. Instead my genetic destiny was confirmed. I didn’t really understand it until I attended my first match at the Turf sometime later that year (the family had moved to London-Watford in fact) Stood on the side where the Bob Lord stand now sits, surrounded by brothers, dad, grandad, 2 uncles and 3 cousins I watched enraptured and filled with wonderment as Burnley demolished Spurs 5-1, with Ralph Coates scoring two. That was it. Hooked for life.

Supporting the clarets through good and bad has been an incredible journey. So where has this journey left me psychologically? Traumatised by the decline from the fantastic football of the Adamson Clarets of the mid-70’s to the near oblivion of the Orient game? Elated by the rise of the Phoenix to reach the Premier League?

And how has it affected you and how you feel on this day, facing the uncertainty of the run-in to seasons end?

What sort of Claret are you?

wineglassIs the glass half empty-or is it half full?

Here’s the test. Which of the two following scenario’s best reflects how you feel?

Glass half empty kind of guy

I knew it when Wolves equalised that it was going to come home to haunt us.

When have we ever got the rub of the refereeing green. That ball was 12 inches over the line and Brighton pip us to the second promotion spot on goal difference as a result.

Jones is looking knackered and we’re getting overwhelmed in midfield, running out of steam.

Birmingham are a banana skin.

Preston are going to do the double over us.

God is punishing me personally by letting Brighton score in the 91st minute.

Hang on-a Boro winner 90+4- you are taking the p@ss ,now God- right?

Oh God. The play-offs. We’ll be too disappointed and knackered to win them.

Even if we do win the semi  I just know Hull will beat us at Wembley.

Typical Burnley!

Glass half full kinda guy

It’s all in our hands. Our destiny to control.

Brighton and Boro have used up their good fortune. They have to continue to perform.

Dyche knows what he’s doing.

This group are solid, united and determined. They will deliver.

Boro go down a week Tuesday.

Vokesy scores the winner.

It’s written in the stars and karma-Barnes scores the goal that takes us up.

We are resilient and we will prevail.

So what rings true for you?

Are you a glass already half empty of a dodgy Spanish red?


A fine mature Burgundy already being enjoyed by the fire with a way to go

For me it really doesn’t matter.

If all goes to plan we will go up and that will be a truly remarkable feat for our club. It will reflect hard work and belief. It will reward the fruits of nearly 30 years of graft made by many determined folk to take us from the edge of extinction to the promise of a healthy and sustainable future. It will evidence the beating heart and the determination of a town battered by the tides of economic tempest and social dislocation to defiantly prevail against all odds, to keep its head up and spit in the eye of those who doubt. Particularly  those B@studs 12 miles down the road.

If we don’t go up then all of the above remains true. We support the guys, come rain or shine and for better or for worse. That’s what makes us different from the fly by nighters whose clubs are fed by the whims of the wealthy buying their expensive toys to bask in the reflected glory and who sulk like spoilt kids when they don’t win everything, every year. They cant cope with adversity when the bounteous feast reduces to chicken feed (anyone brought to mind?) We have learnt to “meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same” and that’s just what we will do, whatever the next three weeks brings.

I’m proud to be a Claret .I feel blessed. We have a manager who exudes dignity and honesty.  A man that you would feel happy to have next to you in the trenches (Grandad taught me that there is no higher praise than that) and deserves and gives respect. A team that reflects his persona, strong in will and character and determined to the end. So all that said – going up or staying down?. Well it’s a brave man that looks SD in the eye and bets against his team. I know where my money is!

At the end of the day whether the glass is half empty or half full isn’t the point. Not when you’re a Claret. There’s still more in the bottle and plenty left in the Cellar.


Best wishes to you all from Oz-regards John

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