The 33 Year Wait is Over
Fourteen years ago, Burnley beat Sheffield United to reach the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history, making back to the top flight some thirty-three years after suffering relegation from the old First Division.
Today, fourteen years on from that dramatic Wembley day, I am republishing my match report entitled The 33 Year Wait is Over.
We’d better start believing it, Burnley will be playing Premier League football next season after Wade Elliott’s stunning goal gave us a 1-0 win against Sheffield United at Wembley.
What a day, from the minute we left to the minute we got home although I’m not quite sure I’ve still taken in the enormity of it all. But when I see ‘Manchester United v Burnley’ on the fixtures where elsewhere you’ll be able to see ‘Scunthorpe v Newcastle’ or even ‘Exeter v League One Leeds’ then I’m sure it will sink in once and for all.
A trouble free journey down started to the strains of ‘Que Sera Sera’ and ‘We are Burnley’ getting us parked up at our chosen underground station of Hillingdon not much after 10:00 a.m. where there were already many Burnley fans turning the car park and platforms into a sea of claret and blue.
We tucked into our Oddie’s Ginger Pele biscuits; we’d had them at Reading so needed to keep to the same routine, and then we were finally off to Wembley.
Outside the stadium we saw a number of posters from the message board and also spotted one or two of our well known fans. There was Paul Fletcher who had scored the goals that clinched our last promotion to the top flight. Soon after we chatted to weather man John Kettley who confirmed everything would be fine.
Dermot Gallagher wouldn’t pose for photographs but we spotted a few ex-Clarets including Andy Farrell, Ashley Hoskin, David Eyres and Marlon Beresford, whilst there was even a political heavyweight who you are likely to see at more than a few Burnley games.
It was my first visit to the new stadium and I have to admit to being awestruck when I first moved into the seating area and saw the sheer size of the place. I looked down and saw Alex MacDonald and Alan Mahon warming up. It’s been a policy at Burnley for the last five years or so to include all the squad and it was fitting that they were all out on that Wembley pitch.
Rhys Williams, back at Middlesbrough, wasn’t but he did walk round the pitch perimeter to huge applause from the west end of the stadium.
There was a football match to play though, and a very important one at that. Burnley were playing in the richest game in world football. Here we were potentially ninety minutes away from the Premier League.
The team news came through and it was no real surprise. Owen Coyle stuck with the same eleven who had started at the Madejski against Reading and the same five substitutes and what a moment when those players finally came out ahead of the game behind the suited and booted (although not for long) Owen Coyle.
That long walk for the players from behind the goal is gone now sadly but there is still something very special about seeing your own players coming onto the pitch there.
I’d sort of been quite nervous up to this point but it was about to get a whole lot worse. For the opening ten minutes or so it wasn’t so bad other than Sheffield United had started the brighter of the two sides.
We were caught in possession too often for my liking and had they been able to create something in that period, and thankfully they didn’t, we could have been in for a very difficult afternoon.
Both Robbie Blake and Wade Elliott were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply and I said so, with probably just over twelve minutes gone. I’m sure players can hear me sometimes and go and shove my words right down my throat. Wade certainly did.
McCann’s was blocked by Matt Kilgallon but the ball fell nicely for Wade who just seemed to pass it into the net from fully 25-yards leaving Paddy Kenny (the Tyrone Dobbs look alike) absolutely helpless.
One half of Wembley just simply erupted. You couldn’t have scripted it better could you? In just the thirteenth minute we were a goal up to calm the nerves. Calm them did I say? I can only speak for myself, but I went worse, and looking around at some of the people sat with me I would suggest it had done little for their nerves either.
We couldn’t have known it then but Sheffield United had already enjoyed their best spell of the game right at the beginning. In truth they never really threatened to get back into the game and looking back now, slightly more relaxed than yesterday, we really were so far ahead of them on the day.
By half time, with any luck, we could have put the game to bed. Pato curled in a left footer that all but shaved the woodwork whilst Steven Thompson was wrongly pulled up for offside when clear and later headed narrowly wide almost on half time.
Between the goal and half time the only problems we had were an injury to Chris McCann, who was forced off and replaced by birthday boy Joey Gudjonsson, and a Sheffield United penalty claim against Graham Alexander. But the side that cries wolf so often got nothing from the referee they had so blatantly attempted to put under pressure.
It was just the same after the break. Thommo got a head to a Robbie corner and Michael Duff was almost able to turn it in at the far post. Then Joey played it out to Paterson whose first time cross was headed back in by Thommo. Joey had continued his run and he did well to turn it goalwards only for Nick Montgomery to clear off the line.
Another goal and it would surely be over and it should probably have come when Thommo got down the right. Robbie was screaming for it but there wasn’t just enough on the ball and the defender got back.
Robbie was soon forced off with an injury with Chris Eagles coming on and just a few minutes later Coyle played his last card with Jay Rodriguez replacing Thompson.
Sheffield United still had two substitutions up their sleeve but Jamie Ward, who had already come on, was hardly a success. He somehow thought that there had been a change of rules and deliberately handled the ball. He got a yellow card, so he went and did it again and got another.
They got the ball up towards our box at every opportunity. It seems as though just about every one of their players can throw a ball for miles. But when they did get it into the box they hardly threatened. Standing between them were Clarke Carlisle, my choice as man of the match, and his captain Steven Caldwell. To describe their performances as immense is well and truly understating it.
With a Sheffield United player down the board went up for an extra five minutes. Five more minutes of torture to endure. We counted them down and eventually that final whistle blew to kick off the biggest Burnley celebration in many a long year.
Referee Dean just had one final piece of action to deal with. Lee Hendrie decided to give him a mouth full for which he was rightly rewarded with a straight red card. Hardly a surprise from him was it really?
Most of us, including myself, missed it. We’d better things to do. Life as a Burnley fan had just suddenly become incredible, brilliant, superb, fantastic. Oh, just choose your own words.
As the red and white half of Wembley emptied we went crazy as our players went up to receive the trophy before returning to the pitch where we were treated to some wonderful dance action from Michael Duff, Robbie displaying his ‘Bad Beat Bobs’.
The directors joined the players and staff on the pitch and so they should. Barry Kilby and Sonya seemed to be lapping it up and with every right. They deserve it.
Wonderful, wonderful day. Tears aplenty, certainly from this reporter. I just simply couldn’t contain my emotion at the end.
Eventually we had to leave, one look back before the exit and the slow walk back to the underground station in the crowds. I told people there was no rush, the Premier League season doesn’t start as early as the Football League.
Yes Burnley fans – the 33 year wait is over.
The teams were;
Burnley: Brian Jensen, Michael Duff, Clarke Carlisle, Steven Caldwell, Christian Kalvenes, Graham Alexander, Martin Paterson, Wade Elliott, Chris McCann (Joey Gudjonsson 27), Robbie Blake (Chris Eagles 69), Steven Thompson (Jay Rodriguez 73). Subs not used: Diego Penny, Kevin McDonald.
Yellow Cards: Clarke Carlisle, Christian Kalvenes.
Sheffield United: Paddy Kenny, Kyle Walker, Chris Morgan, Matt Kilgallon, Kyle Naughton, David Cotterill (Jamie Ward 58), Brian Howard (Arturo Lupoli 82), Nick Montgomery, Stephen Quinn (Lee Hendrie 85), Greg Halford, Craig Beattie. Subs not used: Ian Bennett, Leigh Bromby.
Red Cards: Jamie Ward, Lee Hendrie.
Yellow Cards: Jamie Ward, Arturo Lupoli.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
Attendance: 80,518.Follow UpTheClarets:
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