Times Change

Last updated : 23 March 2007 By Gary Chadwick
It read: "As you may be aware we are planning to develop the room between the two tiers of the Jimmy Mcllroy stand. This will involve relocating the rear three rows of season ticket seats in the lower tier of the stand. Unfortunately, your seat will be one of those affected"

Recently Carly (my partner) and I have been debating about a move to the Longside, for the reason that we didn't want moving here and there because of the work on the cricket field end. The message in the letter finally sealed this decision - for the first time in my life I will become a season ticket holder in the Longside.

Paul Weller wins the game agains Wilmbledon in the first home game of the 2000/01 season

My first term as a season ticket holder began in 2000/2001 when we were promoted to the first division. You may call me a 'glory' supporter because of that and you may well be right. I moved from Burnley to Blackpool when I was 6 years old and as such I needed my dad to drive me to the Turf if we were ever going to go. Apart from this, my family wasn't the richest around; therefore it took something as joyous as a promotion to wrestle the money from my dad's hands.

While I am still a season ticket holder today, my dad unfortunately isn't. We have now entered a world of mid table mediocrity, thus it is not enough to get him to make the journey from Cleveleys to the Turf. I would bet that if we were doing well he would be down to the Turf any game, any time. But instead he says he can't make a Tuesday night game 'because of the traffic' and he can't make Friday games because he has a 'darts team he can't let down'. My dad will not be renewing for the following season either, but I won't forget or lose appreciation of the money he spent to get me down the Turf every fortnight or so.

In 2000/2001 my dad, my sister and me were going to see Burnley week in and week out. We were originally in the Jimmy Mac upper tier and I can remember from that season when we played three derbies in a row. These were against Bolton, Blackburn and Preston and we lost them all. It was an exciting time though; there were all these bigger teams, the away end was often full and loud. But it was all so new to me. I didn't have any expectations whatsoever, only that I wished we didn't go down. Of course, we did far better than that, eventually finishing 7th, with a nice finish against Watford on a lovely, sunny day. Will Graham Taylor ever give that trophy back?

2001/2002 came and once again I didn't have any real expectations, only that I didn't want us to be relegated. My dad and myself were joined by Carly and what a season to join us! We moved down to the Jimmy Mac Lower to get more 'into' the game, to see elation and anguish right in front of us. We won handily on the first day, beating Wimbledon. We even beat Sheffield Utd, albeit at home - what I would give for us to do that now!

Then of course we reached the top of the league. Oh how I was spoilt rotten!

Paul Gascoigne during that last game of the season against Coventry

In some ways, this season marked the end of my football adolescence. Defeats like Wolves at home, West Brom and Sheffield Wednesday were stakes in the heart. I listened to the radio all the time for interviews with Stan, players, the kit man, anybody. I was obsessed. I was naive enough to believe a manager's protestation that we would get into the playoffs, a playoff that we surely wouldn't miss out on.

If there was anything that helped me to wake up to the reality of being a Burnley fan, the signing of Paul Gascoigne had a big hand in it. I was convinced he would be able to change our fortunes round and he really, really didn't do that. Spectacularly. Seeing one of your idols playing for your team is one thing, but seeing him lumber around clumsily is quite something else.

I was right at the back of the goals when Gascoigne launched the two free kicks. Like most people, I still don't know how Hedman saved them. I was absolutely gutted when we were driving back home, inconsolable.

Life goes on though and I can remember us all renewing the season after, there was no question of it. I can remember Carly receiving a text message saying that around 7 players were to be released from the club. I was still not clued up enough on the clubs finances because I can remember thinking 'right, we can make a fresh new start and wipe the slate clean'. I didn't realise that we were clearly not going to be capable of replacing quality with quality.

If any 'fairytale' element about football lived inside me, it was blown away on the first day of the season when Brighton beat us 3-1. The game was a defensive abomination and the beginning of a new era watching Burnley. This was an era where my obsession for information sharpened. I still sought solace from Stan when defeat struck - he said he 'would get them sorted' and I believed him. But as the defeats rolled in over the next two seasons, his excuses and tough talk started to wear thin.

We were in the same seats for two further seasons where games were more a series of moments here and there rather than a sustained campaign. Robbie Blake's free kick against Preston was a particular highlight, as well as the various cup battles we were in. But then there were the brutal thrashings we received at the hands of Sheffield Wed, Rotherham, Reading and Watford. I remember the Watford game well; my dad couldn't go due to this commitment or another - it was obvious that the Turf's grip was beginning to slip. He hasn't been ensnared since, lured to the world of the armchair fan. I really do miss him; football is what we can relate about. But I can understand his reasons for not going.

Burnley on the attack in an early game under Steve Cotterill

When Steve Cotterill took charge we moved to the very back row of the lower tier, slightly left of the goals. Once again, there have been highlights but nothing quite as sustained as the first two seasons. It was also the first time I have made friends at the Turf with other fans sat around me, which has certainly added a lot to the day. My obsession has certainly gone further, reading certain message boards has contributed to that, but I must say that I have definitely become more downbeat about the club and more negative about football as a whole. I guess I have realised that football is a tough game and the weak do not do very well at it, nor are they cared for. In fact the horrid people tend to do very well, see Billy Davies for one.

Certainly the game against Preston where we won 3-2 will live long in the memory and is probably my favourite game in the Jimmy Mac end. I just can't say that this has been my favourite season here though; it will take something special to replace the excitement of those first two years. I have had some great times in the Jimmy Mac, but in some ways it seems the right time to move to the end 'where they all sing', as my dad used to say to me when I first started going.

When I think back to when I first started as a season ticket holder and who I am now, I think I've changed an awful lot in my views on football and in life generally. I would say that the Internet and the message board have shaped my views on Burnley FC and football a great deal. Oh to be the Gary of 17/18 years old who didn't have to read the message board after every game. It would save me a lot of stress!

So what will I miss? Certainly the sight of the Longside filling up as the clock moves closer to three. Certainly the people I have met who will all be displaced by the work going on. I think I'll miss being so close to the action, although it will be nice not to worry about a ball hitting me in the face when the players practice their shooting before the game.

Whatever happens between now and the end of the campaign, I will mark the new season by becoming a longsider. I can only wish I have as many memories as I have done while residing in the Jimmy Mac.