Burnley legend Duff returns to Cheltenham

Michael Duff

Burnley Under 23 coach Michael Duff has returned to Cheltenham Town for his first senior managerial role.

Duff’s move back to the club where he started his career ends a 14-year stay with Burnley.

The defender made 383 appearances for the Clarets after signing from Cheltenham for just £30,000 in July, 2004 - described as “calculated risk” by his former Robins boss Steve Cotterill.

Duff shared in three promotion successes from the Championship and played in two top-flight campaigns as one of Burnley’s iconic figures of recent times.

The Belfast-born Northern Ireland international – capped 24 times by his country – retired from playing after helping Sean Dyche’s side win the Championship title in 2016.

He moved onto the Clarets’ Academy coaching staff, taking charge of the under-18s for one season as they finished second in their final season in the Football League’s North-West Youth Alliance.

Duff was then promoted to take charge of the under-23s following Burnley’s move into the Professional Development League after receiving Category Two status under the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan.

He helped the development squad find their feet in the league’s northern section last season before helping prepare a strengthened squad for this season’s campaign, which started with two wins from Duff’s final four games in charge.

His summer duties also included a spell with the senior set-up as the 40-year-old stood in for first-team coach Tony Loughlan during his recovery from hip surgery.

Highly regarded by first-team manager Dyche, Duff was heavily involved in the pre-season programme and before leaving Turf Moor saw 18-year-old winger Dwight McNeil – having played a key role in his development – make a full senior debut in both the Premier League and Europa League.

Duff returns to Cheltenham to take charge of the League Two side, who are currently 18th in the table.

He previously played 337 games for the Robins, helping the club rise from the Southern Premier League to the Football League – under future Burnley boss Cotterill – for the first time in 1999.

Duff, who replaces Gary Johnson as manager at Whaddon Road, was also in the Cheltenham team that won the FA Trophy at Wembley in 1998 and helped secure another promotion to League One in 2002.

More from Sport