Chappy

I don’t remember much, if anything, of the game, except that at the start of the second half our hero gave the small group of Clarets fans assembled behind the goal at the Holte End a cheery wave as a spirited rendition of “Oh, Alan Alan, Alan Alan Alan Alan Stevenson” echoed into the Birmingham skies.

Back in those pre-punk days of long hair, loon pants, and interminable drum solos, Burnley, despite spending two years in the wilderness of the Second Division at the start of the Seventies, had been an established First Division side for the best part of thirty years. International appearances at one level or another, although not exactly profuse in number, were still a relatively regular event. Between 1970 and 1976 Ralph Coates and Martin Dobson were capped at full international level by England, Brian Flynn, Leighton James and Jeff Parton for Wales; Alan Stevenson, Paul Fletcher, Ray Hankin, Dave Thomas and Alan West chalked up a total of 27 England under-23 appearances between them, with Flynn, James and Parton acquiring 12 for the Welsh equivalent.


Even as the club entered the start of its steady decline the Northern Irish trio of Tommy Cassidy, Terry Cochrane and Billy Hamilton kept the Claret flag flying proudly on distant shores into the early 80s, with Flynn and James also maintaining the Welsh connection upon returning from their respective exiles in Leeds and Derby.


Of course, in more recent years we have seen a re-emergence of the International Claret. Phil Gray, Ian Cox, Dimitri Papadopoulos, and Gareth Taylor have all made full appearances, and of the current squad Micah Hyde, Michael Duff, Danny Coyne and loanee Richard Duffy have been called up this season by Jamaica, Northern Ireland and Wales.


So have we modern Clarets become blasé about the calling up of our players for international duties? It’s only a couple of seasons ago that many contributors to this site’s message board were bemoaning the fact that Papa would be missing yet another Burnley game as he jetted off to join the Greek camp. Perhaps, as with the apochryphal London buses, we’ve been waiting around for one to come along for so long only to see several to arrive all together.

There could be something to this argument, but with one major exception: during all this time, what of England? Well, apart from single caps at youth level for Micky Phelan (1981), Trevor Steven (1982) and Andy Kilner (1984), it’s been largely twenty-odd years of hurt.

Until, of course, the emergence of a certain Richard Chaplow.


Last Sunday, his appearance as a second half substitute for England under-20s marked his third, and most dramatic impact on the international scene. Much has been said and written about That Goal. I’m not ashamed to say that, now into my sixth decade I leapt from my seat and punched the air in joy as the ball sped into the bottom corner of the Dutch net. Looking across, I could see Barry Kilby shaking his head in bemused delight, with a smile as broad as the flooded fields of Gawthorpe on a wet, winter’s morn.


As the half progressed, and with Chappy, the dominant player on the field, even the normally taciturn locals were heard to mutter into their pies: “By, yon lad’s not bad!”

An England international, and a goalscorer too! The first since Paul Fletcher versus France under-23s in 1974 no less.


All this seems a far cry from one scorching Saturday afternoon in July 2001 when, eschewing the more exotic delights of the Isle of Man Fag Packet Trophy final versus Wrexham, I headed off to north Preston to cover the youth team’s friendly against Fulwood Amateurs for Clarets Mad. A glorious 1-0 victory, but as on Sunday, a second half substitution caught the eye, only this time it was a diminutive, somewhat gawkish figure, with knees like knots in cotton and wearing kit that was three sizes too big.

I wrote: The highlight of the game came in the 90th minute when Richard Chaplow, receiving the ball on the edge of the area with his back to goal, in one movement turned his marker and chipped the goalie, only to see the ball come back off the bar.


Since that day there have been many more highlights. And as sure as eggs is eggs there will be many more to come.

I’ve no doubt that Chappy will go on to represent England at full international level. He is, in my view, a better prospect than, for example, Jermaine Jenas, a player who may be said to occupy a similar role. Whether or not Richard will still be a Burnley player when that happens is open to debate. I fear that eventually we will have to accept the inevitable.

At the end of last Sunday’s game I was fortunate to be able to grab a quick word with Richard. As the next generation of gawkish, somewhat diminutive figures clamoured around him waving programmes for their hero to sign, I tried to express my feelings of pride, excitement and joy at what he had achieved for Burnley Football Club and its supporters, how this afternoon would go down in the Club’s history.

In the end, all that came out was some meaningless Jim Bowen-like babble which was something along the lines of “Greatsupermarvellousbrilliantchappyareyerallright?”


So, several days later, and hopefully in a slightly more coherent vein, I would just like to say this:

Congratulations, Chappy, and many thanks for giving us all one more reason, out of many, for being PROUD TO BE A CLARET!!