Super-fan Dave Burnley: From playing for the Clarets in Mallorca to Europa League dreams
"It was Easter Monday and Liverpool were playing Tottenham and whoever won that game went top," says Clarets super-fan Dave. "My friend, a notorious glory-hunter, was going to support the team that went top - Liverpool won and he asked me who I supported. There'd been a picture of Bob Lord of the Daily Express so I said 'I support Burnley'."
Dave hasn't missed a Clarets game since Newcastle away on April 10th, a grim Wednesday night fixture in 1974 which had to be rearranged six times. Despite phoning the Burnley ticket office non-stop on his dinner breaks, Dave only found out about the half-seven kick off two hours prior.
"In my desperation I tried to scramble a helicopter," said Dave, who is known as Ralphie after former Burnley player Ralphie Coates. "I would pay £100 a minute at least to have gone to that game."
Two years after missing that fateful match, Dave changed his name to Dave Burnley. It cost him £7.50.
- - -
Supporting the Clarets for over half a century is no one's idea of glory-hunting.
Dave has seen eight relegations and eight promotions; he's seen everything from a nervy 2-1 home win against Leyton Orient in 1987 to save Burnley from relegation to the Conference and possible dissolution, to a Robbie Blake winner against champions Manchester United in the club's first home game in the top flight for 33 years in 2009. He's seen it all.
He's even played for Burnley. In 1979, he followed the Clarets to Mallorca in Spain on their pre-season tour. Sleeping rough in an aerodrome, Dave was spotted by Burnley players Paul Fletcher and Peter Noble who, surprised to actually see a claret and blue-clad fan there to watch them, joked that if he turned up he'd probably get a game.
And he did. Borrowing a pair of Steve Kindon's big size 14s, Dave was subbed on by manager Harry Potts for Leighton James and even claims he managed a couple of goals.
"I like supporting the underdogs," says Dave simply. "We're the smallest town in the Premier League and the whole thesis of Burnley is giving bigger teams a bloody nose. When we went down to Arsenal, we were singing 'We've only spent ten quid' as opposed to their millions, but I would like us to push on and become an established Premier League side. We're getting that way but first and foremost is safety: it's a blessing when you stay up.
"We've had some absolutely gut-churning moments and we've had some absolute fabulous moments: after the Orient game in '87 I was sick of everything, but we've turned it around," added Dave, who is not married but who has a daughter called Clarette. "Look at the likes of the Rochdales, the Oldhams, the Burys, the Boltons: we are truly blessed."
Regardless of whether it's the third division or the Europa League, that feeling of pride in watching the Clarets has never changed for Dave. "Seeing Burnley in Europe was hectic and cost top-dollar to get there, but it was a fantastic experience," he explained. "It was another thing off the bucket list."
Unsurprisingly, Dave is a huge fan of a certain Sean Dyche.
"With this manager in charge, we can accomplish almost anything," he said. "This anti-football thing which goes around... alright, the fans revel in it, but it's about setting out your stall with what you've got up against you. We have played pretty football - some of our goals have been sensational - but I believe Dyche sets his stall out to absorb, feel the pace of the game, and then decide what he can and can't do.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic we're hanging on to Dyche," Dave, author of 'Got To Be There!' and 'Still There!', added. "I've met him and after all these years, I know a manager when I see one: he's a top man who I tip for the very top."