Date and Place of Birth
12th February 1972 - LIVERPOOL
Transfers to and from Burnley
from STOCKPORT COUNTY - 1st January 1999
released - 8th May 2007
First and Last Burnley Games
WALSALL (h) - 2nd January 1999
replaced by Peter Swan
PRESTON NORTH END (a) - 17th March 2007
sub: replaced Steven Caldwell
TRANMERE ROVERS, BURY (loan),
WIGAN ATHLETIC (loan), STOCKPORT COUNTY
Burnley Career Stats
|Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Others||Total|
Profile by Tony Scholes
From target of the boo boys to cult figure in a short space of time. Not many players achieve that, but for one Graham Branch it turned things round for him at Burnley, particularly after a torrid time playing in the centre of defence when we gained a reputation for our ability to give goals away.
Branchy in the centre of defence? He certainly was, and that was something no one could have expected when he first joined the Clarets as a left winger desperate to get away from Stockport and the clutches of then manager Gary Megson.
He was one of a number of players to start their careers with Tranmere who at one time or another played for the Clarets in recent years. Born in Liverpool, his allegiance was to the red half of the city, and he must have enjoyed his early football watching days as his side lifted the European Cup on no fewer than four occasions by the time he was twelve years old.
But when a football career beckoned, it was the other side of the tunnel and Tranmere Rovers, taken on after leaving school by manager John King who was to be in charge of the club for much of his ten years there.
He made his first team debut for the Birkenhead club during the 1991/92 season, making four league appearances as they won promotion to the Second Division, or what is now called the Championship. There was a short loan spell at Bury in the following season where the assistant manager at the time was Stan Ternent, but it wasn't until the 1995/96 season that he established himself in the Tranmere side.
His best season, in terms of appearances, was the 1996/97 season, but in the following season things turned sour. He had disagreements with new manager John Aldridge, was loaned out to Wigan, and at the end of the season he moved on to Stockport County.
Things didn't work out, he fell out with Megson (and I'm sure he was neither the first nor the last to do that) and just a few months into his Stockport career he was placed on the transfer list. Meanwhile, things were changing at Turf Moor with new director Barry Kilby on board, and given some money to invest Ternent made Branch one of his first signings, getting him on a free transfer.
His debut was hardly noticed by the Burnley fans. He lined up in a 0-0 draw against promotion chasing Walsall, but the prodigal son had returned in the shape of Steve Davis and it was the former defender who grabbed all the attention. Branch scored his first Burnley goal in the following game at Bristol Rovers, but even that was overshadowed. Davis scored too, in a game that we won 4-3 as Micky Mellon starred on his debut.
Branch struggled to gain popularity with the Turf Moor crowd but in his first two and a half years at Turf Moor he was a regular in the side. He missed playing in only two games during the promotion season and following on from promotion was played alongside Andy Payton up front for a while, as we hoisted our way up the table, only the signings of Ian Moore and Gareth Taylor ultimately ending that partnership.
Injury brought that season to a premature end and it wasn't until the following November that he featured in the side again, and then he only played a bit part as we missed out on the play offs by just one goal.
Going back to the injury in 2001, Branchy was playing at left back that day. We always suspected that Stan was thinking of playing him there on a regular basis, and he did just that in the 2002/03 season. It was not his best position, and for one of the least popular players at the club it meant more stick from the stands. Whatever Branchy is or isn't, he's not a defender, and as the Clarets conceded goals for fun he was once more targeted.
Back in October during that season we farcically lost a game 6-5 at Grimsby. That was the day Arthur Gnohere was accused of having an injury between the ears and who was moved into the centre of defence when Arthur was substituted? Yes that's right, Graham Branch.
Incredibly for the 2003/04 season he was in that central defensive position alongside Arthur when the season kicked off, and even when David May was signed he retained the position with Arthur left out. He played far too many games that season in a position he was hardly equipped to play in, and we all but suffered the consequences.
But - cometh the hour, cometh the man, and as the Clarets stared relegation in the face he became the unlikely hero. We had two home games in four days, and basically we really needed to win them both. The first of them was the easiest home game of the season against rock bottom Franchise. We needed a goal to settle the nerves, and Branchy provided it midway through the first half. A second right on half time, courtesy of a Harry Ntinbam-Zeh own goal, was enough to see us over the first hurdle.
Derby were the visitors on the Saturday in what was just about a must win game. I can still see Branchy getting down the left hand side towards the Jimmy Mac Stand just before half time and hitting a shot across goalkeeper Lee Grant. I know the goalkeeper should have done better but who cares, he'd done it again, and this time he'd scored the winning goal. Suddenly, the much maligned Branch was becoming a hero. The abuse, and at times it really had been abuse, was turning to cheers and the 'Graham Di Branchio' chant was born.
He had a year left on his contract and was now set to work for a new manager in Steve Cotterill, and twice the new manager went on to give him further one year deals. For the first two years under Cotterill he played in no fewer than 80 of the 92 league games and he contributed a further five goals.
He was in the starting line up as we brought the 2005/06 season to an end with a 1-1 home draw against Luton but with another year to look forward to it proved to be his last start for the Clarets. He featured only as a substitute throughout the 2006/07 season and almost went out in a blaze of glory.
In mid-March, at Preston, he came on just after half time for the injured Steven Caldwell with the Clarets trailing 1-0. We lost 2-0 but Branchy came so close to equalising with a stunning right foot volley from just outside the box that crashed against the bar. He played well in that second half but he wasn't to see any more action as we comfortably moved away from the relegation zone.
His final day was his testimonial, granted despite him being a Claret for a year and a half short of ten years. When he came out for the game on Monday 7th May with 'La Donna e Mobile (Graham Di Branchio)' playing he became the first Burnley player to have a testimonial game since Alan Stevenson in 1982.
It brought to an end an eventful time at Burnley, but a time that ended with him more popular than he could have ever dared hope after the problems of the first few years, but he left with glowing tributes from his two former gaffers Stan Ternent and Steve Cotterill.
We waited to see where he would be playing his football next season. His old club Tranmere had been mentioned, as had Stockport, whilst Accrington Stanley had been considered outsiders. However on 10th July 2007 he signed a one year deal with Accrington.
Branchy started well for Accrington but by the turn of the year he was featuring less often in the first team and on 6th May 2008 was released at the end of his one year deal.
On 18th August 2008 it was confirmed that Branch had signed a deal with Unibond Premier League new boys Cammell Laird in his home town of Birkenhead.