Feature by Tony Scholes
Updated Wednesday, 16th January 2013
Date and Place of Birth
11th September 1965 - BRADFORD
Transfers to and from Burnley
from BURY - July 1989
released - June 1994
First and Last Burnley Games
ROCHDALE (a) - 19th August 1989
replaced by John Deary
MANSFIELD TOWN (a) 23rd January 1993
replaced by Robbie Painter
LEEDS UNITED, WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS,
CAMBRIDGE UNITED, CREWE ALEXANDRA, YORK CITY, BURY
Burnley Career Stats
|Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Others||Total|
Profile by Tony Scholes
Some players become popular with the fans, others not quite so much and then there are players who are very unpopular, even disliked. But there are a small group of players who, for one reason or another, become very much cult figures.
There's no doubt that Roger Eli falls into the 'cult figure' category and yet for the first few months of his Burnley career you wouldn't have suspected it.
He signed for the Clarets in the summer of 1989, the first summer with Frank Casper at the helm. He'd started his career with Leeds and such had been his impact on the game that he'd moved on to Wolves, Cambridge, Crewe and Bury as well as appearing in non-league football for Pontefract and Northwich Victoria. He'd played in just about 60 Football League games.
He was in the side at the start of the season, in a midfield role, but he also played at centre half and at right back for us as we made a solid if unspectacular start to the season. I suppose the best thing about it was that he was adaptable and could play in a number of different defensive positions.
We beat Stockport in the 1st round of the FA Cup in that 1989/90 season and drew Scunthorpe away in the next round. We earned ourselves a creditable 2-2 draw at Glanford Park when Peter Mumby was the outstanding player.
Such was Mumby's performance that three days later in the replay Scunthorpe took him out of the game after targeting him. Casper's only option was to bring on Eli as a substitute and play him up front as a straight swap.
He gave us the lead in a game that ended 1-1 after extra time, but he also turned in a performance that suggested he'd played up front all his life. Six days later in the second replay he scored twice more as we romped home 5-0.
There was no going back for Eli and although he was in and out of the side over the remainder of the season as Ron Futcher and John Francis formed our striker partnership when he did play it was as a striker.
He didn't score another goal that season but in the two seasons that followed he proved to be a very valuable goalscorer. Despite starting only fifteen league games in the 1990/91 season he netted ten goals as we reached the play offs, but it was in the following season where he came into his own.
As the Clarets finally escaped the basement division in a remarkable season he scored another ten league goals as well as adding seven more in the cup competitions. The chant of 'Eli-Eli-Eli-Eli' was a regular one at Turf Moor as he turned in some top performances.
I worked with a number of Blackpool fans at the time and they dreaded playing us when he was in the side. They thought he was the key man, and he certainly was in that promotion encounter that season when he gave us the lead. He went on, and on, and on, and in, as he scored at the Bee Hole End.
Earlier that season he claimed a hat trick in a comprehensive 3-0 win over Chesterfield. He was a bit fortunate in that the third came from a John Francis shot that got a slight deflection off him, but he claimed it you know.
Despite all the league goals, perhaps his unbelievable header against Derby in the cup is the one that most remember. To beat Peter Shilton needed something special, and it was something special. That late equaliser led to that very special day for Burnley fans at the Baseball Ground.
Sadly he picked up and injury and missed the last five games of the season as the championship was won and he was never to recover sufficiently to get the chance of playing at the higher level. In our first season after promotion he started just two league games and was substituted in both.
In 1993/94 season, as we clinched another promotion via the play off win at Wembley, he didn't feature at all and at the end of that season was released.
He played two more games as a substitute for Scunthorpe but eventually had to call time on his career whilst still in his 20s. Injury had robbed him of the chance to establish himself in the Burnley side as we started to finally progress after those long years at the bottom.
Now a successful businessman in Bradford, and one who still loves to talk about his time at Burnley, he's still very much remembered by those Burnley fans of the late 80s and early 90s. He's still a very popular visitor to Turf Moor and the chant of 'Eli-Eli-Eli-Eli' will reverberate around Turf Moor again when he makes the half time draw.
There have been better players worn the claret and blue shirt of Burnley, and in all fairness there have been far worse too. But there are not many who stand quite so high in the affections of the fans as does Roger Eli.