"I shouldn't have been on the pitch at that level" - former Burnley goalkeeper Marlon Beresford on his last season with the club

Marlon Beresford looks back on his final season at Burnley as one of the lowest points of his career.
Marlon Beresford saves a penalty from Liverpool's Djibril Cisse while at LutonMarlon Beresford saves a penalty from Liverpool's Djibril Cisse while at Luton
Marlon Beresford saves a penalty from Liverpool's Djibril Cisse while at Luton

The 50-year-old built a fine reputation in six years at the club, turning down a move to Arsenal in 1994, after a season where he was a huge influence on the Clarets winning promotion via the play-offs - the club's only player in the PFA Second Division Team of the Year.

He went on to make a £450,000 switch to Middlesbrough in 1998, but returned on loan in 2001/02, as the Clarets just missed out on the First Division play-offs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, his third spell with the club in 2002/03 saw the side ship 89 goals - the third leakiest defence in the top four leagues.

Beresford's 35 league games saw him beaten 67 times, in a season where Stan Ternent's team "threw one in" on a number of occasions, losing 6-5 at Grimsby, 6-2 at home to Rotherham and 5-2 at home to Reading, before Burnley conceded seven in both of their last two games at Turf Moor to Watford and Sheffield Wednesday.

Beresford left that summer, and would rebuild his confidence, particularly in a four-year stay at Luton, but he looked back on a difficult time: "I think, individually, collectively, it was a real roller-coaster season.

"My back was playing its part as I was getting older, but I was just struggling with my form in general.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I think, during that season, the goals against was horrendous. It was off the scale.

"But we had the cup games where we beat Fulham and Spurs, played against United, got to the quarter-final of the cup.

"There was some good, bad and indifferent, but the goals were going in and I remember at the time my confidence was shot to bits.

"Looking back now, I wasn't playing particularly well, confidence was probably at an all-time low and I probably shouldn't have played.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"If you look back now, the right thing to do would have been to go to Stan and say 'look, don't play me, my confidence is so poor'.

"And in a way, they should have recognised that anyway, as a player, you're not going to say 'don't play me' because you always want to play.

"But it got to the point where you think 'I shouldn't be starting, I should be on the bench at least'."

He can now put that campaign into perspective in terms of his 356 games in total for the club: "Goals were going in, Reading was five, Watford was seven, Rotherham was six, and it was just an awful time for me personally.

"I wasn't playing well, I had to get away and reassess.

"It was one season too many back at the club.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Everyone holds you in this esteem, and that season it sort of fell apart a little bit - albeit when you look back, seven or eight seasons and I had one bad season.

"It was just at the level of how bad it was that was the disappointing aspect.

"It was the demise of me, but I left, went away and had a good few years after that.

"I got the confidence back."

Whereas now, there has been a growth in the awareness of players' well being, Beresford's confidence issues were not addressed: "In an age where there wasn't really the support, where you could go and speak about these issues, you were always dealing with it yourself, you were having to find your own way of working through your demons.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Nowadays there's a bit more help and support in a playing sense, and a lot more in a mental health sense.

"But I was never at that stage, it was more how to deal with a lack of confidence, because it manifested itself so deeply I shouldn't have played.

"I shouldn't have been on the pitch at that level.

"I'd always had this persona of a confident person, and I didn't know how to deal with it.

"At the time, I couldn't, and the goals were going in. Once you start thinking about what's going to happen in a game, you're not acting naturally, you're thinking 'I hope this cross doesn't come into the area, I hope they don't shoot'.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Once you start with these demons in your head, you've got a real crisis on your hands.

"I think that's what managers and coaches need to identify, Stan probably just thought I was the better of the two at the time, and was happy to go with me, but I should have knocked on the door and said 'leave me out, give me a rest' while I deal with these issues.

"As a coach, you use that to your benefit now to help other people and other goalkeepers."

Beresford has passed on his knowhow and experience in a number of coaching roles, with Barnet, the Irish Football Association, Motherwell and in Saudi Arabia with Al-Shabab and Al-Nassr, and is hoping to get back involved when the current pandemic is over: "I did 18 months in Saudi Arabia with Al-Shabab and Al-Nasr, who went on to win the league.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I joined them for eight months, so I had 18 months there and returned about a year ago.

"It was fantastic, really enjoyed it. I was at Motherwell with a good friend Steve Robinson, who's still there doing a fantastic job, and out of the blue, Mike Newell, who was my manager at Luton and I was still friends with, found his way over there, and pre-season was about to start and he had no goalkeeping coach.

"He phoned me and asked me to go over there, I spoke to Robbo and went over.

"I'm still actively looking, it never leaves you, it's my love, my passion - with the knowledge I have, hopefully I can pass that on to other goalkeepers, so I'm certainly looking to get back with a club at some point."