The mouse that roared

Last updated : 29 January 2010 By Gerard Bradley
Harry Potts - forever loved by the town
Fast forward to 2009 and a tiny football club took on the economic might of the big clubs, gained promotion to the Premier League and began to win points. Reading the books by Dave Thomas, "Jimmy Mac Prince Of Inside Forwards" and Tim Quelch "Never Had It So Good", this Christmas, I was struck by the parallels to fifty years ago. Here were two teams that were a close band of brothers, defying the odds and led by a man who would be forever loved by the town for what he achieved.

We sentimentalists hoped against hope that the band of brothers who had performed the miracles of 2008/9 would get their personal reward of appearances in the Premier League and would show how a little club could survive there, without going into debt, and "standing toe to toe" with the likes of Arsenal. Realistically, we knew that the team needed strengthening for a long hard campaign. Hence, we were not dismayed to find Mears, Fletcher and Bikey added to the squad and welcomed them into the tightly knit fold.

Once again, like the Championship side of 50 years ago, the town, the supporters far and wide, the players, the chairman and directors and the management team combined to represent something special. The euphoria of Wembley (surely the best way to get promoted), was carried forward to home matches at Turf Moor and victories and points followed. Gradually, however, as the euphoria inevitably lessened with time, cracks began to appear, especially away from home. Robbie lost his sparkle - a player who needs to be loved to be inspired - and was dropped. The Beast lost his aura of invincibility and the skipper began to flounder at this level. The team appeared to lose its togetherness and the manager seemed at a loss to know what to do about it.

The recent great blow of betrayal has only been matched once in my lifetime and in the eyes of the town - and the other occasion was the sale of Jimmy Mac. Then the town was rocked and took a long time to recover - some would say it never did. In that harsh winter of 1963 few matches were played and funds began to run short and so we are led to believe that Jimmy Mac was sold. (There were other factors too). This time, the blow came at the hands of our manager, denying himself the opportunity to be as revered as Harry Potts by generations of Clarets everywhere.

Now we see the band of brothers weakened further by mercenaries, drafted in to bolster the ranks. Will they be enough to do so? Can the original spirit that carried us so far be revived? It is an enormous task for our new Claret manager. However, one factor is central - the continued support of the town, the fans and the exiles whose numbers never cease to amaze me. Beginning on Saturday against the league leaders we have to show by sheer volume of noise that we have faith, that we love this team, that we are willing them to succeed. The current motto of the club is "Together" and never has it been more truly needed than in the coming few weeks. So, for all us exiles in this country and abroad who will be there in spirit, cheer loudly you Clarets, do your best to be supportive and not negative and truly the mouse will roar again!