WHEN is a legend not a legend?
There’s been some interesting on-line discussion as to what maketh a Burnley Football Club legend.
It arose after some of the fourth division championship winning side of 20 years ago were reunited and headed by Roger Eli to do the half time draw last Saturday.
To some, they have legendary status, to others the tag “cult hero” is deemed more appropriate, the more serious term being reserved for the likes of Jimmy McIlroy, Bob Kelly and Tommy Boyle.
Merely cult or not, the 1991-92 side definitely have a place in people’s hearts, 20 years since they secured promotion from the league’s bottom tier at York after seven years.
For anyone who started watching Burnley after 1982, it was the first success they had really known after several desperate years.
It was one of those rare seasons where quite frankly you expected Burnley to win, home or away, as Eli, John Francis, Mike Conroy and all carried all before them.
After the years of struggle it was more than relief, it was joyous as Jimmy Mullen, who had taken over from Frank Casper early in the campaign, galvanised a useful side, many of whom went on to acquit themselves well enough in the division above.
Some have remained on the staff at Turf Moor, with Andy Farrell and John Francis both having had roles, midfield utility man Farrell looking curiously unchanged as the years have gone by. Steve Harper, among those doing the draw had changed - he seemed, from where I am sat (although my eyes aren’t what they were), to have lost his permed mullet haircut, a hangover from the 1980s.
In those days you could by a T-shirt bearing the image of Roger Eli, front and back, with the slogan “Burnley’s secret weapon.” Injury followed and what happened after, when he seemed to vanish off Mullen’s radar, is tackled in Dave Thomas’s new book.
Every time needs its heroes, cult or otherwise, and maybe each time creates its own legends.
It’s true I think that Roger Eli is remembered every bit as fondly as the undoubted greats, and memories of watching that team play (forgetting the garish purple-and-blue Jackson Pollock style shirts!) make me smile any time.
It was good to see at least some of them again.