Nathan Collins the latest to make the move from Stoke to Burnley - will he be an Akinbiyi or a Cort?

They have been labelled the ‘new Stoke’ by some wags, due to their, at times, direct brand of football.

Saturday, 26th June 2021, 10:02 am
Ade Akinbiyi scores at Chelsea

But it is something of a back-handed compliment for Burnley.

As the Clarets prepare for a sixth-successive Premier League campaign, they would love to emulate the Potters, who enjoyed a decade at the top level before being relegated in 2018, having, like Burnley, enjoyed European football along the way.

The similarities, however, are more down to the remarkable number of players signed from Stoke over the last 15 years in particular.

Nathan Collins is the latest in a long line of players to make the relatively short trip up the M6, two years after the last - left back Erik Pieters, with Stephen Ward going the other way.

Pieters has proved an astute signing, his professionalism standing out, as he has done a job in a variety of roles for Burnley, at both left and right back, left and right midfield, and in the centre, scoring twice in 51 appearances.

Six months earlier than Pieters, Peter Crouch came to East Lancashire from the Potteries, after Sam Vokes made the reverse journey.

Crouch, however, would make only six substitute appearances before retiring at the end of that season, saying: “I felt like I was becoming the stereotype I always tried to avoid. I literally became a head on a stick. I felt I was a little better than that.”

In the summer of 2017, there were two arrivals from Stoke, in Jon Walters and Phil Bardsley.

Bardsley is still at the club - 36 on Monday, he has signed for another year, and although he only made eight appearances in all competitions, he has provided good competition for Matt Lowton at right back, making 68 appearances in total.

Walters, however, suffered bad luck with injuries, and made only six appearances - although he did play in Istanbul on Burnley’s European tour in 2018.

Three years prior to that pair’s arrival, Michael Kightly made his move from Stoke permanent after the best part of a season on loan, helping the Clarets win promotion to the Premier League for the first time under Sean Dyche in 2013/14.

He played 38 times in the promotion season, scoring five crucial goals, including a memorable winner at Blackpool, and a free kick on the day promotion was confirmed at home to Wigan.

Kightly would make only another 50 appearances in three seasons, however, before joining Southend United in 2017.

Back in January 2010, Brian Laws made Leon Cort his first money signing after replacing Bolton-bound Owen Coyle, the giant centre back arriving from Stoke as the Clarets tried, unsuccessfully, to stay in the Premier League.

Cory didn’t prove money well spent, however, his lack of pace exposed in the top flight, and again in the Championship, making only 20 appearances before being released in January 2012 after loan spells with Preston and Charlton.

And if you go back to Steve Cotterill’s reign at Turf Moor, there were a spate of players swapping the red and white stripes for claret and blue.

In the summer of 2005, Cotterill flew to Florida for one night to secure the signature of centre back Wayne Thomas, taking striker Gifton Noel-Williams on a free transfer as well.

Centre back Thomas’ first season was hindered by knee and then metatarsal injuries, but was made captain at the start of the 2006/07 season, although he struggled for form before being replaced as skipper by Steven Caldwell, and there were many eyebrows raised when Southampton paid £1.2m for his services in August 2007, after 54 Burnley appearances.

Noel-Williams made 56 appearances, scoring seven times, including a first professional hat-trick in a memorable comeback against Barnsley, before, in January 2007, joining Real Murcia in Spain for £50,000.

Their signings came just months after Cotterill landed Ade Akinbiyi from what was then the Britannia Stadium.

Despite being sent off seconds into his debut, Akinbiyi was a popular signing, scoring 18 goals in 43 appearances before a record move to Sheffield United in January 2006, returning on New Year’s Day 2007.

He was less prolific in his second spell, hitting 13 in 79 games, but scored the equaliser at Chelsea as Burnley won at Stamford Bridge on penalties on the way to reaching the semi-final of the League Cup, and while he had joined Houston Dynamo in the MLS before Burnley won promotion to the Premier League in May 2009, he was important in mentoring a rising young star by the name of Jay Rodriguez.

So the signings from Stoke have been somewhat hit and miss over the years, and Burnley will hope Collins is more an Akinbiyi or Pieters than a Cort!