A Burnley fan of 70 years who has never seen the Clarets play will fulfill a lifelong ambition when he watches his team face Everton at Turf Moor on his 85th birthday this Saturday.
John Dring, from Louth in Lincolnshire, first started following Burnley in 1948 as a 15-year-old but had never had the chance to see his team in the flesh. Until now.
“I got to this age and I never thought I’d see them live, but when I went to my daughter’s for Christmas, she said ‘I’ve got a present for you: we’re going to watch Burnley,’” said John. “I was over the moon.”
John sadly lost his wife, Hilda to dementia in December 2016, but will be attending the match with his daughter, Mandy Sharpe, who says her father is “Burnley through-and-through.”
“The main reason for the interest I took in Burnley was they were one of the best teams in English football for bringing young players through,” said John, whose earliest memory is of amateur left-winger, Peter Kippax, playing for the Clarets.
“Also, one of the lads I played with when I was 15 had lived in Burnley, and so I started following them,” he added.
A promising footballer himself, John had trials at Hull City where he was told told he was “good enough but not big enough,” before going on to enjoy a 19-year career with his hometown club Louth United in the Lincolnshire League.
“Growing up, he was always interested in Burnley, but I hadn’t realised the significance of it,” said Mandy. “He’s an absolute fanatic.”
“For what money they’ve got, this manager is doing a marvelous job - the whole club is,” said John, who is keen to see Burnley buck their recent run of poor form on the weekend. "The thing with this manager is that he finds a players weaknesses and strengths, he plays him in the position they want to be played in, and he sorts them out.
"Look at the goalkeeper Pope and how he's done since he's come to Burnley, it's marvelous," he added. "They’re punching far above their weight.”