Bring Jimmy Back

Last updated : 27 October 2006 By Richard Oldroyd
I too nearly fell off my chair when I read that. The idea that the welcome would be anything less than rapturous is unconceivable. And there is a thread on this site's messageboard, an ever-lengthening petition which should show Jimmy the truth.

It is true that Jimmy's time at Burnley did not end in the happiest of circumstances. Few reigns do. Stan almost managed it, going away with a standing ovation and affection cascading off the terraces - but on the back of a season spent flirting with relegation, and with his team in decline. Sir Alex Ferguson might manage it one day. But in general, managers rarely exit the stage at the pinnacle of their achievements. If they do, it is usually to a better offer, and the predictable condemnation as the incarnation of Judas Iscariot.

Jimmy ended with a run of defeats, his team in mid-table mediocrity, and some of the work of his first three years unravelling. It was time for him to go; there were problems on and off the pitch, and the boo-boys had Jimmy - and his family - in their sights. But Jimmy's time at Burnley was a love affair, and these more often than not end in disillusion and regret, anger and public shows of dissatisfaction. I remember Jimmy saying it himself in his final press interview: we were no longer travelling down that road we had once set out upon, together.

Yet it is the funny thing about a passionate affair now ended: as time passes those bad memories seem to drift way. I think it was Crewe we lost to, to spell the end, but I can't be sure and I haven't looked it up. The glorious wins, the smiles, laughs and the bursting pride in one another; they are the days I remember. Those last few weeks, even the last season and a half - they seem insignificant now, compared to the good days which went before.

Because those good days were so very good, so stunningly heady. I came to Burnley just before the Mullen era, in the Spring of '91, Casper's Burnley on the cusp of the play-offs only for it to end in disappointment. On reflection, that was probably a good early lesson. Yet what came afterwards seems like a dream now, such an unrealistic reflection of how supporting Burnley so often is: my first full season was one of driven performances from a team who knew where they were going, and who flew higher and higher, louder and louder, until we were top of the league, Champions at York, and the roar of emotion, relief, pride and passion became so deafening and so awe-inspiring that it swept us off our feet.

To hell with the Premiership, quality players and all that. We've watched some class acts in recent years, players like Glen and Robbie. We had no-one like that in the Barclays League Division Four, but we had fun. We won, won big, scored goals and made statements. Some fans came blinking back into the Turf Moor sunlight, others entered the arena for the first time. Many of those supporters who sustain us today sealed the deal with Burnley Football Club back then. And all, young and old alike, were energised by the belief that, yes, after all this time, we might be on the move.

I don't think we ever got that feeling again, that sense of destiny calling, that feel good factor, after Jimmy's time was up. Not under Stan, even, quite. Outdoing one legend with another is a pointless exercise, but we didn't ever convince under Stan as we did in the early days under Mullen: we didn't crush teams at home in the same manner, we were more pragmatic and less swashbuckling.

That was our time, and even if we didn't quite capitalise and take those final steps, it doesn't detract from the magic of those first few seasons. Thanks, Jimmy, for Derby, Cardiff, York and Wrexham; for Plymouth and Stockport at Wembley and a host of other thumping days out. For giving us Conroy, Eli, Francis; Heath, McMinn and Eyres.

It's time you came back, Jimmy, it's time Burnley honoured you. No regrets; that hurt has long since passed. But that wistful affection we have for you - we could do with letting it out, catching up, seeing you again for old times sake.

And this is an opportunity, Burnley Football Club, so take note. Never mind getting a decent reception, he'd bring the house down, and with a bit of notice so that we can all make the appropriate arrangements, he'd bring it down with rather more people inside than is common just now. Pick a date - say, the first home game of 2007, the 15th year since York and the Championship - and make an event of it. Get Jimmy on that pitch, and, if at all possible, get as many of those Championship winning lieutenants of his on there as well.

We treat our older heroes well at Burnley: remember the last time we had the class of 1960 back, for the last game of the millennium and the opening of the Jimmy Mac stand. And, in a funny way, there is as much affection and nostalgia for the boys of '92 as there is for those elder legends - less illustrious perhaps, but equally special, equally deserving of a debt of gratitude.

As 2000 dawned, we kicked on to our last promotion, and perhaps the spell of past feats brought people out of the closet, raised the gate, and raised the team to greater deeds. Jimmy Mullen would have the same effect, I'm absolutely sure. There are people not going on the Turf these days precisely because we haven't got the feel good factor about the club that we had almost fifteen years ago. They'd come back for Jimmy's big day, and then, especially if we're still in the leading pack and playing OK, they might come back again.

Once again, that might be the spur. We might be progressing down that old road once again. And if we are to, however dreamlike it might seem, it would be lovely to think that Jimmy had played a part in finishing what he undoubtedly started.

Visit the Messageboard to register your support for Jimmy's return or EMAIL the site. Alternatively, you can contact the Burnley Express with your message of support.