The day the circus came to Turf Moor with clowns, stilt walkers and a parachutist who failed to hit the centre spot / Dave Thomas column

I’m working on two books at the moment and have to be careful not to get the names and stories mixed up and put them in the wrong book.

By Dave Thomas
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 12:30 pm

Anyway, for one of them I came across the memorable tale of the parachutist that landed on the stand roof at the cricket field end of the football ground. It was August 2008, and the first home game of the season and director Brendan Flood thought it would be a great idea to have a bit of razzmatazz at the ground, to liven up the matchday experience and hopefully to get a few more hundreds on the gate.

If memory serves me right there were clowns romping up and down Harry Potts Way and blokes on stilts all dressed up and, as the prelude to the game, five parachutists would come down from the skies and land with precision in the centre circle. The attendance was a mere 11,000 so if Bren was hoping for

better than that, he was sadly disappointed.

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The previous Saturday Burnley had lost 4-1 away at Sheffield Wednesday, Owen Coyle was the manager and prior to this, there were high hopes that this might be the season that we would reach the Premier League. We actually did that season, but after the Sheffield defeat, and then the parachute debacle and the 3-0 loss at home to Ipswich that same afternoon, promotion was the last thing on our minds.

The club had spent a shedload of money (by their standards) on new players, new staff (Paul Fletcher and Martin Dobson), wages had gone up to £8million and the clown, stilt walkers and parachutists were part of the new-look Burnley.

Anyway: we all heard the drone of a ‘plane far above and paras 1, 2, 3 and 4 all made it safely onto the hallowed turf. Might even have hit the centre spot but I can’t actually remember how accurate they were. Alas, number 5 did not hit the spot. He hit the stand roof. In truth this, I suppose, was far more exciting than merely landing properly.

His explanation was that he had experienced a bit of wind, and this had blown him off course, although whether this was weather-related, or intestinal, he never actually said.

The start of the game was delayed and the players sat cooped up in the dressing rooms while the fire brigade and ladders were summoned to get him down. Forty minutes later the announcer told us he was down and the game could start. “Oh no he isn’t,” laughed the crowd. He was still up there.

“Booked for descent,” said Jeff Stelling on SKY Sports.

Believe it or not, the bloke’s name was Cannon. But he wasn’t fired, he was sent on leave for two weeks!

Two days later the board of directors had an inquest and the decision was made never to do anything like this again. Pity, Chico and the Smarty Pants Dog Troupe was nowhere near as good.