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On the day he was appointed as Chris Waddle’s replacement, Burnley manager Stan Ternent said his first objective was to win the first game and his Burnley team did just that on the opening day of the 1998/99 season with a 2-1 victory against Bristol Rovers.

Workers had made a grisly discovery that week in town. Construction site engineers were at the site of the former St. James’s spire and were shocked to uncover human remains on the land. Police were called immediately while the incomplete skeleton was taken to the mortuary at Burnley General Hospital to aid identification.

Police Inspector Roy Butler explained: “The remains are obviously human. However, the site where the operation was taking place was formerly a graveyard.” The site hadn’t, however, been used as a burial site for over a century and it was believed that all the bodies were removed and re-buried at Burnley Cemetery in 1969. “We will be making as many enquiries as possible so the body can be identified and can again be laid to rest,” the Inspector added, confirming there were no suspicious circumstances.

There was something of a rumpus in the council chamber during a debate on the lowering of the age of homosexual consent. The motion to vote against was led by independent Councillor Harry Brooks who directed some very personal comments before claiming that this was just a start by gay militants. He said of the plans to lower the age of consent: “The gay lobby argues that they are ready to indulge in sexual activity with mature and predatory homosexuals.”

Councillor Stuart Caddy, leader of the council, told Brooks that he was “nothing but a bigot”, and Councillor Tony Harrison added that he was talking in “perverted obscenities.” Brooks, whose motion was overwhelmingly defeated, added: “Homosexuality is not normal. It is an aberration of nature.”

There was also a disagreement on the potential change of use for the historic Empire Theatre with a change of use to a café-bar having been approved. Councillors Gordon Birtwistle and Enid Tate were very much against, believing it should be restored to allow it once again to become a theatre, but Councillor John Greenwood explained: “As much as we would like to see this building as a theatre in the future, I think that is a long way down the road. The building is deteriorating and for that reason I would say the sooner someone is in using it the better chance we have to get it in the condition we want it in.”

Wheelie bins were being rolled out in Burnley but in the Trinity district it had caused security problems with the number of burglaries increasing on collection days due to residents being forced to leave gates open when police advice was to keep them locked. Bins remaining outside all day was also a clear indication that people were out at work. Council and police agreed to work together to resolve the situation.

Burnley had developed a reputation over the years for demolishing historic buildings and replacing them with poor alternatives, so it was good news in 1998 to hear that there were plans for Proctor’s Mill in Hammerton Street. Plans had been submitted to the council for the former ironworks which would include a hotel, nightclub and restaurant. The council were very much in favour of the listed building, which had been derelict for many years, to become part of the vibrant town centre.

There was some excitement, if it could be described as such, when Mr Barry Putson, director of an insurance company, confronted a man near his offices in Padiham Road after he’d threatened staff and demanded money. The man threatened to shoot Mr Putson who said he’d have to because he was going nowhere, so he did just that, he shot him in the face. Dog handlers and the police helicopter were brought in to search for the fleeing gun man but Mr Putson was, thankfully, back in work the following day after receiving hospital treatment somewhat pleased with his new found fame as a hero.

Two days before the big kick off, Ternent had some good news for Burnley fans; he’d added to his squad with the free transfer signing of Steve Morgan to add to Ronnie Jepson who had also joined on a free transfer. Ternent explained: “We desperately needed a left-back and Steve has done very well for us in the month he has been here. He deserved a deal and hopefully he will do a good job for us. He can play about the place, at left-back, in the centre or in midfield, and is another free transfer.”

Before transferring from one Turf Moor to the other, I have to report that it wasn’t Burnley Cricket Club’s day. Entertaining East Lancs, the home team were bowled out for just 57 with East Lancs’ pro Paul Ridgway taking 6 for 22. Despite the efforts of 16-year-old James Anderson, who took 1 for 11 in four overs, Burnley were beaten by six wickets. Lowerhouse too were involved in a low scoring game. They bowled out Rishton, and their former professional Corrie Jordaan, for 91 and lost just two wickets in reaching their target. Lowerhouse pro Matthew Mott, now the England white ball coach, was 46 not out.

Moving out of the Lancashire League, Padiham enjoyed away success at Settle where, after a good bowling performance from Gary Pethard, it was another Anderson, Jimmy’s Uncle Neil, who won the day with a half century.

Andy Payton scores our first goal of the season

Bristol Rovers and their player/manager Ian Holloway were at Burnley; it was their last day win against Brentford that had ensured we didn’t suffer relegation three months earlier. They were a strong team, particularly going forward and had added Jason Roberts from Wolves to compete with Jamie Cureton and Barry Hayles.

There was a big surprise for Burnley fans arriving at the ground. Just a few hours before kick off, we added to our squad with the loan signing of West Brom goalkeeper Paul Crichton who had joined for an initial month. He went straight into the team but if you wanted a hero it came at the other end with forward Andy Payton scoring both goals in a 2-1 win.

A year earlier, we’d failed to score in any of our opening six league games; our first goal came at York in the twelfth minute of the seventh game. This time it took us less than two minutes. Ian Holloway brought down Chris Brass on the half way line. Brass himself took the free kick which he hit into the penalty box. Robert Trees headed it clear for them but only as far as Glen Little who headed it back in for PAYTON to hook home.

It was just the start we needed, but it didn’t last long with Bristol Rovers equalising six minutes later. Michael Meaker played in Cureton whose shot left Crichton clutching at air only for it to smash against the bar. Meaker was back on the ball quickly and this time hit a low cross that CURETON converted from close range.

Little and Payton both went close to restoring the lead but midway through the first half there was bad news for Burnley when Mark Ford went in for a ball with Andy Cooke and Holloway. He went down and stayed down. He was stretchered off but was quickly back on his feet and came back on. Limping badly, it wasn’t for long before we were forced into a substitution with Carl Smith coming on.

The winning goal and a second for Payton

Undeterred, Burnley continued to go forward and just past the half hour, Little turned Holloway inside out and broke forward. He released PAYTON who moved forward, into the box and fired underneath advancing goalkeeper Lee Jones.

In front at half time, and the second half was an even affair although Bristol Rovers were aggrieved that one big decision went against them on the hour. Hayles broke clear but was checked by Lee Howey. A free kick was given and the whole ground knew we were going to be playing the final half hour with ten men. Inexplicably, referee John Kirby showed him only a yellow card. It was a poor decision from the referee.

We had some defending to do in the closing stages and there were a couple of moments that left the home fans feeling very nervous, but we saw it through and you can’t beat winning on the opening day.

Payton, who had been a doubt, was delighted with his goals and the win. “It’s the first time I’ve scored two on the first day,” he said, adding: “But the main thing is that we won. I’m delighted for the manager and it is good for everyone.”

There was just one sour note from the day with news that Ford’s injury was a serious one. He’d broken a bone in his ankle and would be ruled out for at least three months, a huge blow given how well he’d started the game.

The teams were;

Burnley: Paul Crichton, Chris Brass, Steve Blatherwick, Lee Howey (Neil Moore 88), Steve Morgan, Glen Little, Michael Williams, Mark Ford (Carl Smith 25), Paul Smith, Andy Cooke, Andy Payton (Ronnie Jepson 75).

Bristol Rovers: Lee Jones, Marcus Andreasson, Trevor Challis, Steve Foster, Lee Zabek, Robert Trees, Mike Meaker, Ian Holloway, Jamie Cureton (Guy Ipoua 73), Barry Hayles, Jason Roberts. Subs not used: Mark Smith, Luke Basford.

Referee: John Kirby (Sheffield).

Attendance: 11,781.

Elsewhere, north west rivals Manchester City and Preston were the biggest winners. Both won 3-0 at home as did Wrexham. Kurt Nogan scored for Preston. He was one of three former Clarets to get on the scoresheet on day one alongside Steve Davis and Paul Shaw for Luton and Millwall respectively. Joining them was Ian Cox, who would sign for Burnley in 2000; he netted for Bournemouth. Sean Farrell scored twice for Notts County, the only other player apart from Payton to score more than one goal.

Division Two Results

Saturday 8th August
Bournemouth 2 Lincoln 0
Burnley 2 Bristol Rovers 1
Colchester 1 Chesterfield 0
Gillingham 0 Walsall 1
Macclesfield 0 Fulham 1
Manchester City 3 Blackpool 0
Northampton 1 Stoke 3
Oldham 1 Notts County 3
Preston 3 York 0
Wigan 0 Millwall 1
Wrexham 3 Reading 0
Wycombe 0 Luton 1

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