Twenty years on - Golden Boot winner Andy Payton on promotion, a big "turning point" in Burnley's modern history

Andy Payton's 27 goals earned the Padiham Predator the Golden Boot as Burnley were promoted as Second Division runners-up in 2000.

Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 7:00 am
Andy Payton in action at Scunthorpe in May 2000

His goals earned 29 points that season, 10 games won which would have been drawn, one won which would have been lost, and six draws which would have been defeats.

He hit two hat-tricks, one as the Clarets went top in mid-September, beating Colchester United 3-0 at home, before a treble at Turf Moor as Burnley beat Oxford 3-2 in the last game of the millennium.

However, Payton points to the strength of the squad that season, as Stan Ternent assembled a side built on defensive solidity, allied with midfield craft and a potent strikeforce.

Payton couldn't believe it is 20 years since his January 1998 move to his hometown club was vindicated: "I look beyond that really (points won with his goals), looking at the list of players we had, we had some good players.

"I know Burnley are a Premier League side now, but how many of those players, Steve Davis, Glen Little, Micky Mellon, Ian Cox - you can go on - how many would be in the squad now? I think a lot more than people might think.

"I think a lot could certainly hold their own in the Premier League, without a shadow of a doubt, Glen played there, I didn't - I got to the Premier League with Middlesbrough but went to Celtic.

"I still think I'd have scored goals in the Premier League because I scored goals everywhere. If you score goals, you score goals.

"But we had a good squad that Stan put together, experienced, leaders, and a good group of lads.

"We've had a couple of reunions and things like that, and they were good times, obviously, I can't believe it's 20 years ago, it's incredible."

The season before, Burnley had flirted with relegation, before ending the season - after the signing of Paul Cook and Tom Cowan - unbeaten in 11 games, after losing three at home on the spin, 5-0 against Gillingham 6-0 against Manchester City and 1-0 against Preston.

Ternent's job, in his first season, had been on the line, but, the arrival of Barry Kilby as chairman led to his squad taking shape, with the return of Davis, Graham Branch, Mellon and Lenny Johnrose, before the summer arrivals of Mitchell Thomas, Dean West, John Mullin and Alan Lee.

Cox and, of course, Ian Wright, would add to the momentum in February 2000.

Payton felt things were coming together: "Stan got players in, the squad got stronger, he got rid of players he didn't want, and it just clicked.

"You know how hard it is to get out of that division, and let's face it, the club has never looked back.

"You could see, I got 23 goals the season before, and I knew I would score goals.

"I was confident, and when you see better players coming through the door, you really do think you've got a chance.

"He obviously brought Wrighty in later on as well, which was a brilliant signing when you think about it, just because of what he brought, and he scored a couple of crucial goals."

Wright came in after Payton had picked up a three-match ban for a red card in a 1-0 win at home to Bristol Rovers, and proved the catalyst for promotion.

Payton admits he wasn't entirely happy to see his place in the side threatened at the time though: "That was him right at the end of his career, we know the Ian Wright at Palace and Arsenal was unbelievable.

"It was just a really good move, just his personality.

"I'll be honest, he didn't score in his first five games or something, Stan was playing him, and I'd reacted stupidly after getting head butted against Bristol Rovers, and got sent off - when Glen (Little) scored a world class goal.

"Wrighty came in and you have one eye on your place, obviously, and when I was available again, I was on the bench, Stan made it clear. But it was Ian Wright.

"I still wasn't happy, but I got a start at Wrexham and got the winner, my 200th goal, but it was about the team.

"The lads made the goals and my job was to score them, simple as that."

Payton and Andy Cooke would resume as the first choice pairing, with Wright a devastating impact substitute.

And Payton loved playing alongside the selfless Cooke: "He got seven, but he was a great foil for me, it was a great partnership, you know what his workrate was like.

"We hit it off straight away, he got 20 goals the season we stayed up in 1998, when he got two against Plymouth - good player, but they were all good players.

"I've looked through the squad, even down to the young lads, good player, good player, good player..."

Payton took a risk when signing the Burnley, the club who let him go as a youngster.

It was the lowest level he had played at in his career, the third tier of English football, and the side were in a relegation scrap under Chris Waddle.

But, the move paid off: "The promotion was better for me, because I'm a local lad, and knowing that when I signed, we were in dire straits.

"It justified the fact I came, because I'll be honest, I'd just got 19 goals for Huddersfield in the Championship, when I got the opportunity to come, and I had to think about it because we were struggling.

"I'd never played at that level, but it was Burnley, and it worked out, I'm so glad it did, because I was always going to take that chance.

"But we had a great set of lads, great atmosphere, and Stan deserves so much credit because he brought the right lads in and created a really good atmosphere.

"They were seasoned pros, you know when a dressing room is right, and they were just good lads.

"A lot of the players came in from Bury, who he'd had in the Championship, they were solid players.

"Then we had bits of class, Steve Davis, Glen Little, Paul Cook - I looked at all the goals from that season, Glen's against Bristol Rovers was the best all day long, but look at Cooky's with the outside of his left foot in the cup at Barnet...

"There were some great goals, it was just a really good season."

Burnley had gone into the final day at Scunthorpe in third place, behind champions Preston, knowing that, with the goal difference, they had to better Gillingham's result at Wrexham.

Most people expected Peter Taylor's side to roll over former Claret Brian Flynn's side, but Mark McGregor - who would join Burnley a year later - hit a winner for the Robins.

Burnley had to come from behind to win at Glanford Park, and Payton admits: "On the way to Scunthorpe, we all thought we were in the play-offs, that Gillingham would probably win against Wrexham.

"At Scunthorpe we went 1-0 down, and you look at the goals, Micky Mellon's is a great strike, and Glen's - when he hit that, it was coming straight at my head and I ducked, and it flew in the top corner.

"All the fans ran on, and everyone is thinking 'is the ref going to stop it?'

"They were spilling onto the pitch, and at the end they were alll on the touchline, it was mad.

"Then we had the five-minute wait...

"I remember waiting for the result there.

"We sat and waited while that game was still going on, and Stan came in and said it really calmly, 'Wrexham have won, so you've been promoted' - it was so calm, it was weird.

"I think Stan was crying, there were a few tears in there, but it was unexpected.

"We came back on the bus and everybody went in town, in our tracksuits, there were lads giving away their trackies and all sorts, it was brilliant.

"Then we got an open top bus ride, and that was great, it was heaving. Great times."

For Payton, nothing could top that season: "It was massive with it being Burnley, I'd had a promotion with Middlesbrough, the last game of the season at Wolves, to the Premier League, which was unbelievable.

"But for your hometown club, it can't get any more special than that.

"I won the golden boot as well, and was player of the year, so, from an individual point of view, it was great, but it was all about the team effort, that was massive.

"Strikers get the credit, I know the amount of times we won 1-0 and I got the goal, but the defence had been brilliant...it comes with the job.

"You also get the downside if you're clean through last minute and you miss...

"But it was just a brilliant time, a great time for the club, and if you look back, it was definitely a turning point.

"We had nearly gone down to the bottom division, and god knows what would have happened then."

Burnley had been in the Second Division since 1995, but lost only once in their first 10 league games to establish themselves as promotion candidates.

However, with five games to go, a 3-0 defeat at home to Gillingham looked to have condemned them to the play-offs: "It was a tough league to get out of, but once we got into our stride, we knew we were good enough, there was a lot of confidence in the dressing room, but it was just a case of getting over that line.

"We were always in the top six or so all the way through, even higher maybe, but it was just great to get over the line.

"We lost 3-0 at home to Gillingham, and I remember it was really quiet in the dressing room after that game, we just put in a poor performance.

"They sort of had a bit of the sign over us at that time, Gillingham, and I think we were thinking we might have blown it then.

"We played Millwall next when we were 4-0 up and we nearly chucked it away, it finished 4-3, but we got over the line, and once you're up, it's a case of staying up, and it's a fact, the club have never looked back."

Burnley would finish seventh in each of their first two seasons in the First Division, missing out on the play-offs by two points, and then just a goal: "Let's be honest, we were a fraction away from the play-offs for the Premier League for two seasons after that, Stan had got it right, we were one goal away in 2002.

"My career came to an end the year after, but it couldn't have turned out any better for me.

"When I signed, if someone would have said on that day, this is what's going to happen, you're going to get 81 goals, win a golden boot and get a promotion, I'd have said 'come on!'

"It was just a great time. When we meet up now and again with Vintage Clarets, they're great lads."

Payton scored 227 career goals, 81 for Burnley, and those 27 in the promotion season were critical.

His favourite came in the penultimate game that season, one of two at home to Cambridge: "I think I got three hat-tricks for Burnley, two that season against Colchester and Oxford, last game of the millennium, and one against Hartlepool in the cup after coming on at half-time.

"I got 10 in my career, for Celtic, Barnsley...

"My favourite goal that season was always the Cruyff turn against Cambridge in the last home game, I was so right footed, and it was with my left, but it was totally instinctive.

"I'm lucky I have all my goals on DVD, but it was pure instinct, if we had recreated that, I'd have struggled. When would I have ever done a Cruff turn and smashed it with my left foot?

"It just happened, it's weird.

"You know me, at the end of the day, if it was a penalty, a tap in, a goal is a goal. Once you get into wanting to score, wanting to be top scorer, you'll take anything.

"They were just great memories, it's incredible it's 20 years, crazy."

What promotion also meant, was reigniting a derby rivalry with Blackburn Rovers.

The sides had not met in competitive action since 1983, with Burnley going within a game of losing their Football League status altogether, while Rovers, of course, were crowned Premier League champions.

Burnley would lose both league games the following season, but the tables were turning, and the Clarets are currently 10 years unbeaten against the old enemy, having finished above them in the league every season since Rovers were relegated from the Premier League again in 2012.

Payton smiled: "It was a shame the season after, because the 2-0 at home, we know Bally (Kevin Ball) got sent off, but we didn't play that well and there wasn't much in it, and we gave away a really stupid goal right on half-time, (Jason) McAteer scored.

"Obviously the 5-0 was a nightmare, I came on as sub at 4-0 down, we were just poor that day.

"They were a good side, but we were better than that, we knew we'd let everyone down.

"But getting up, it was a big thing for the fans to play them again, it was a turning point for the club altogether.

"It justified everything Stan had tried to put together, the players he'd brought in, and it's a hard league to get out of, Sunderland are still down there, Sheffield United took a while to get out. Big clubs get stuck down there.

"Blackburn were there a couple of seasons ago."