Burnley super fan Dave Burnley comes to terms with missing first competitive Clarets games since 1974

His first book was called Got To Be There.

Monday, 1st June 2020, 6:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 11:30 am
Dave Burnley with Sean Dyche

But unfortunately for Burnley super fan Dave Burnley, due to the coronavirus pandemic, in all likelihood he won't be at the Etihad Stadium when his beloved Clarets resume their Premier League campaign at Manchester City.

With the 2019/20 season to be completed behind closed doors, it will be the first competitive game he has missed for over 46 years, since finding out two hours before kick-off that the match at Newcastle United, postponed six times, had been rescheduled.

That is the only game he has missed since Ipswich Town away in January 1969, and he is set to miss the last nine games of this season, unless his legendary creativity can get him a vantage point anywhere.

Based in Stoke on Trent, Dave - who changed his surname from Beeston to Burnley by deed poll in 1976 - doesn't drive, but has cycled, walked, hitch-hiked, and slept rough - catching pneumonia - to ensure he has watched the club all over the globe, including friendlies in Singapore, the United States, Italy, Germany, Austria and Norway - before the Europa League tour two years ago took in Scotland, Turkey and Greece.

Indeed, he once scored twice after coming on in a post-season game in Mallorca against a Magaluf Waiters XI!

He has accepted he will probably miss the rest of the season, but hasn't totally given up hope yet, saying: "I've come to terms with it in as much as they are closed doors games, and you shouldn't really be getting in - although I've got in a few closed doors friendlies!

"But I'm not taking it lying down, I have four plans, two are legal, and two illegal!

"They are in the pipeline, but I will be making an effort...I can't let it go!"

He once blagged his way into England's last 16 clash with Argentina in St Etienne at France 98, as he reminisced: "I did get in for the England-Argentina game, this Canadian girl had a ticket and I waved a pass on a lanyard that I'd found in the street after the Colombia game.

"I couldn't get in at the turnstile, but when Michael Owen scored the goal, a side door was opened - I still had my sleeping bag on my shoulder, and I just said 'bonjour mon ami, ok?' and this old bloke let me in.

"I tagged on the conga line celebrating the goal.

"It's just needs must, Sometimes it's outrageous to get in, and if we don't we make a nice holiday out of it!

"That's got to be my biggest blag, because of the occasion and price of tickets."

He has also managed to find a way in previous Burnley games when it appeared unlikely: "At Millwall in 2003, we got banned, they lifted it a few days before but I wasn't aware. I made my friend a member of the Millwall supporters' club.

"We played an FA Cup game on the Sunday against Fulham at QPR, and the day before I went to Millwall-Reading to get my ticket.

"I had my sheepskin on, like some Millwall fans wear, trying to blend in, I'd practiced my accent, and asked for a ticket for the stand, which was £20 the season before.

"The bloke said 'do you want this ticket or not? It's £22!' I just said I'd forgot, so I got my ticket.

"The other one was Torquay when fans were banned in 1987, Wolves had caused mayhem, and anybody from within 50 miles of the club they were playing was banned.

"You had to have a driving licence, I got my brother's, a few of us got them, and we were based at Exeter.

"I went in and put on my best posh voice, 'good morning, we're on a branch managers' seminar in Exeter and we've been informed there's a game on that we'd be interested in attending.'

"I told them we were from the Midlands, and showed our licences and got a ticket!

"Now this is far-more security concious, it's different now, so I've resigned myself, but it's not a public game, so my run will continue.

"But I would like to be there, so I'll be pulling out the stops!"

Dave is happy to see the return of football, with the first fixtures to be played just over three months since lockdown was called.

However, he feels the authorities could have waited another couple of weeks or so to be on the safe side, and potentially to allow a small percentage of supporters into games.

Television and radio presenter Colin Murray has suggested having a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style Golden Ticket competitition for a fan to attend games, but Dave said: "For me, personally, it's at least a week too early, I think they could have still got it all in if they started at the beginning of July.

"And I'm just thinking, if there's a situation, like with Mikel Arteta, where one or two test positive after the games, and you're back to square one.

"If it did start a couple of weeks later, I'm sure you could filter 10% of the attendance in there, which is basically how many are going to B&Q in a day!

"For Burnley, you could get 2,200 in, and, of course, it would be on a points system - and I'm not just saying that because I know I would get in, but that's how you allocate tickets for, say, 1,200 at Bournemouth.

"Personally, they should let some of the attendance in and use it as a test event for the future, and, incrementally admit more as it goes on and gets safer.

"It's safer than the supermarket, you're in the open air!

"Even if it means like in Turkey or South America where some fans get in four hours before a game, I'd accept that.

"You'd have to look at toilets etc, but there's a situation you can get around in every circumstance."

Finance appears to be a big factor, as well as the lift to morale among football fans, and he mused: "Let's face it, we probably play three night matches in the Premier League, in the EFL, it's Saturday-Tuesday on a relentless basis, we know that, so just have a few more night matches.

"There's a way round every situation.

"And during the war you couldn't do any of this, so if people could just bide their time a little more, and the figures drop below a hundred or so, and people will think it's safe.

"Come on, the number of cases we've had on a daily basis is more than the total Greece has had for the duration.

"That's why he's (Boris Johnson) got these five points and he seems to be going against those.

"I know there's a clamour to get back, but come on, you've got to do it on the correct basis, and I think we're jumping the gun a little bit.

"I'm sure in a couple of weeks, you'd get almost an all clear, and a lot of people still wouldn't want to go to matches, but why have we cancelled League 2? It's the same rules and regulations.

"If we waited until July, they could get crowds in. You'd get funding in for nine/10 games on a restricted basis...if they did 20%, Port Vale is just under 20,000 capacity, that's 4,000 - that's their average attendance.

"You'd have to socially distance, but there are ways around it.

"The reason they're doing it, as we all know, is finance."

The last time he missed a game was in the middle of another crisis, with the three-day week introduced to conserve electricity due to an oil crisis and subsequent industrial action from miners.

The date of that game is etched on his memory: "April 10th, Wednesday night, Newcastle away, rearranged six times, should have been December 1st...

"It was in the middle of three crises, I went to Norwich for an Anglo-Scottish Cup game, and there was a train strike. The train stopped outside Euston, and the ticket collector said there were 10 in front of us, so it would be a long time. I jumped off near Wembley and we went to Victoria and straight to Norwich, where I missed the first half an hour.

"There was also a miners strike, it was restricted when you could use electricity, and we played Norwich in an afternoon game at Turf.

"We also went up to Newcastle on a Wednesday afternoon.

"It was also one of the most severe winters for ages.

"So there were three factors, and a lack of communication. I'd been phoning up every day checking if the Newcastle game was on, and I was told the game wasn't being played the day before. Burnley had one line then."

He isn't far from attending 3,000 games since, including one where he actually came on and scored!: "I have it written down, but it's approaching 2,780 competitive games, and 200 friendlies as well.

"I went to Singapore via India, America twice, Norway 1974, Italy, Austria, Germany...I didn't get to Russia, Mauritius, Madeira - I got to Mallorca twice, once in 1979 when I came on for Leighton James and scored twice!

"It's not in the record books, but Harry Potts put me on. I'd been sleeping rough where they played the game at a disused aerodrome, and spent the rest of the time in a burnt out hotel.

"I kept going up to Paul Fletcher and Peter Noble and asking when the game was?

"They said if I turned up I'd probably get a game, as they were struggling to arrange a game as all the teams had left the island, their season had finished.

"They played a Waiters XI from Magaluf. Brian Miller was on a tourist trip and I asked if the game was on, and he gave me the address.

"I got off the bus, and Burnley were getting changed on this rec, two goal posts, no netting. I had a Burnley silk scarf on, and Paul Fletcher commented in a paper, saying nobody had worn a scarf in Mallorca since the cold snap in 1932!

"Fletch went in goal. I was in my silk scarf, and Leighton James came on, and they said 'Dave, you're on!'

"I said, 'don't be so daft!', I had claret and blue golf spats on, and the players waved me on. Stevie Kindon asked where I played, and I played centre forward for my Sunday morning side, so I went up front.

"They got a penalty within five minutes and they said 'let Dave take it!'

"I couldn't believe it, I was about to score for Burnley! I put the ball down, I'd never been as nervous, and I scuffed it towards the goalkeeper, and it bobbled and went through his legs.

"My first tackle, I ripped up this Spanish waiter and split my golf spats, and Stevie Kindon asked what size I was. I said '11', and he gave me his trainers, size 13. I scored another goal from a cross from Frank Casper,. my head went back like a viper and the 20-strong crowd erupted!

"Kindon jumped on me and nearly flattened me! I took his trainers back and he said I could keep them!

"The players heard I was sleeping rough and had a whip round for me as well, £25, which was quite a lot in those days! I had a great time from there on, Boy's Own stuff."