2004/05 Review Part One – Steady start for new look Clarets

Steve Cotterill - appointed as the new Burnley manager
Stan had held the job for six years up and, with a couple of late home wins against Franchise and Derby, had just about kept us up to leave us a division higher than he found us.

The search started with Ronnie Moore as the clear favourite but as names came and names went there was always one that remained even if not right at the front of the queue – that was former Cheltenham and Stoke boss Steve Cotterill.

He was finally appointed on 3rd June and wasted no time in trying to put his new squad together. John McGreal was at the Turf for talks within 24 hours but it was backroom changes first with Mick Docherty and Ronnie Jepson leaving the club and a new physio in Andy Mitchell coming in alongside Cliff Roberts who returned as Chief Scout.

Two weeks after his appointment Cotterill made his first signing, it was John McGreal, and on the same day unveiled Dave Kevan and Mark Yates as his first team and reserve team coaches.

Pre-season training got underway with no further signings but by the time we took off for Austria in the last week of July there were four new players in the squad in Michael Duff, Micah Hyde, Danny Coyne and Frank Sinclair whilst Robbie Blake was appointed captain.

This was nothing like the Isle of Man and the hills were very much alive with ‘Stevie Cotterill’s Claret & Blue Army’ as we took on two German clubs SV Wacker Burghausen and TSV München 1860 in our last two pre-season fixtures.

We kicked off the league season with basically a squad of thirteen players, and that included two goalkeepers. The two players who missed out on the opening day were Brian Jensen and Lee Roche as we earned a point with a 1-1 home draw against Sheffield United.

Micah Hyde put us in front against the club he came close to joining but we were hanging on in the second half after the Blades pulled level. “We rode our luck at times,” said Cotterill but it was the best start for three years.

Ian Moore - got the goal in our first win of the season at Watford
Two clean sheets on the road followed in the next week, that showed things were changing at Burnley FC. The first was in a disappointing 0-0 draw at Rotherham, we didn’t know just how bad they were going to be, but the second came on a hot day down at Watford as Ian Moore scored to give us our first win of the season, heading home the rebound following a superb shot from Robbie Blake.

It was Wolves the following week and not many teams have a better record against us at our own ground. We fell behind too when Frank Sinclair got a back pass horribly wrong but just like the first home game this one ended 1-1 and what an equaliser.

It was for me the goal of the season as Robbie weaved his way past defenders in the box before slipping the ball past the keeper, sheer class and the first goal for him since getting the captaincy.

He didn’t have long to wait for his second but it came in what turned out to be a very tricky first round tie in the Carling Cup at Bury. We’d conceded just two goals in four league games but the League Two side equalled that in the first eighteen minutes.

Dwayne Mattis was credited with the first of them, it was really scored by Dave Nugent, but he’d gifted us an equaliser with an own goal by the time their second went in. It was Robbie though who turned it round, with a little bit of help from Mo Camara.

He first converted a penalty awarded after Mo was brought down and then finished superbly as he turned in a cross from the full back. It took us through and it was going to be Wolves again at the Turf.

The season had started well but the August Bank Holiday weekend brought it all back down to earth as we lost twice in three days. The first of these came at West Ham but it was a fortunate win for the home side, the only goal of the game a fluke coming from Adam Nowland with his only goal for the club.

We needed to recover quickly and Gillingham at home on Bank Holiday Monday looked to be the idea opportunity. We didn’t bargain on referee Richard Beeby who became the central character for much of the afternoon.

We fell behind early to a Iwan Roberts goal but it was after half an hour that the fun started. John McGreal was kicked right in front of the assistant referee, sending him flying off the pitch over the corner flag.

Micah Hyde - sent off against Gillingham
Incredibly Beeby and his assistant gave nothing, Steve Cotterill was not happy and had words with the fourth official. Eventually Beeby was called over and for the second season in succession the Burnley manager was sent to the stands in the home game against Gillingham who of course just got on with their nasty way of playing football.

We didn’t play well and never looked likely to pull it back and with twenty minutes to go fell further behind. Then the fun started again. We conceded a penalty and although not involved in the incident Micah Hyde got himself sent off for throwing the ball at Darren Byfield.

John Hills had been involved in a lot of the unpleasantness again and there was at least some justice when Danny Coyne saved his spot kick. Take it again said the referee and Hills saw his second attempt saved.

This seemed to lift the ten man Clarets and we pulled one back through Moore and had a clear penalty turned down before it came to an end with the referee requiring a police escort from the pitch.

That took us into the first international break of the season in 14th place in the league – Sunderland were below us whilst Gillingham were above us. As we had our first rest of the season the manager was left knowing that with Micah’s suspension he was going to have to make his first team change of the season when we resumed against Crewe.