Adam Heap lets us know what it’s like to be a Claret in Australia in his first post for No Nay Never.
“Now McCann joins the party, it’s McCann for Burnley, Kilgallon – great challenge, Elliott… oh yes! A cracking Burnley goal! The play-off final comes to life, Wade Elliott for Burnley!”
At 12 minutes past ten in the evening on May 25th 2009, with adrenaline pumping through my veins and my eyes intently devoted to the action unfolding in front of me, the commentator shouted those words and changed my life forever.
Football saw a late introduction into my life. Although I enjoyed Phys Ed classes in high school and participated in a wide range of youth sports including football, Aussie Rules and cricket, I was never too interested in actually watching sports. I was only ever an average-to-good player and that probably carried over when it came to supporting a particular sport or team. Australia is no different to the world in that any school-aged kid worth his lunchbox knew the names of Manchester United and Liverpool, but at age 18 I could hardly tell you the difference between Wigan Athletic and the Dallas Cowboys.
That said, I could definitely tell you who Burnley Football Club were thanks to my father. As is the case with many people, my dad deserves all the credit for painting my blood claret and blue. Himself a third generation supporter and an Englishman through and through, I have fond memories of myself at ten years of age sitting on his bed on a Sunday morning, listening to some dreary old radio announcer read out the scores until finally we’d hear the words ‘Milwall nil, Burnley two’, which would elicit a nod and a smile from him (for the time being, anyway). I always had a soft spot for Burnley thanks to dad and was even the proud owner of a mid-90’s jersey, with the little ‘e’ in sponsor Endsleigh falling off. Looking back, I can definitely see the roots of my support for the Clarets in those moments.
Perth, Western Australia, is a lovely place, but as you might imagine it’s not exactly a hotbed for Championship football supporters. There’s no shortage of ex-pats in Australia but the vast majority who follow the beautiful game are supporters of teams in the ‘Big Four’ – United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Leeds and Everton also enjoy an Australian fanbase thanks to the prominence of Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill over the last decade or so. It’s rare to come by Derby or Ipswich fans for example and the same holds true for Burnley, although they do exist out here. Burnley’s current Head of Youth Australasia – Paul Wozny – is based in Perth and a number of West Australian Clarets – myself included – headed to Singapore on Burnley’s pre-season trip two years ago.
Singapore was not my first taste of the Clarets in live action. My dad’s occupation as an airline engineer at Qantas has always provided my family a fantastic opportunity to travel. I’ve been told that I visited Turf Moor as young as age five or so, but any such occasion has long since vanished from my memory. The earliest I can remember seeing Burnley was at the Turf at some time during Ade Akinbiyi’s first stint at the club and although my recollection of our opposition that day is non-existent, I do remember he scored a rocket of a goal. It piqued my interest but without the opportunity to watch live back at home, I couldn’t be converted to a full-time Claret.
I spent my gap year after high school participating in a volunteer drama program for schools with four friends, all girls. Football was practically irrelevant in my mind (and not because of the girls); I was enjoying my year too much. But things started to change as I entered 2009. I remember my dad was more and more interested as Burnley moved closer to the playoffs. My method of getting updates was just to ask him how the Clarets were doing. That season was the first time he seemed to think we could do it and when we finished fifth I was starting to get swept up. I barely remember us making it past Reading. The play-off final, however, I was determined to watch. I had friends who supported Premier League teams – how incredible would it be to be able to watch Burnley face off against the best of English football?
May 25th. Dad had bought Foxtel – the equivalent of Sky or cable TV – just for the occasion (thankfully it’s now a staple of the house). Mum had gone to bed and with the time difference at seven hours, I switched the TV to the game at around quarter to ten to watch the build-up. Dad sat alongside me on the first of two recliners in our living room. I could tell he was excited – this was a team he’d seen win the old First Division as a kid, a team who had once been the pinnacle of English football.
That excitement saw him head to his room one minute into the game. The stress was killing him. When he left, I was even more determined to watch the game for him. And 11 minutes after that, when Wade Elliott hammered the ball into the top corner at Wembley, I shouted in excitement. Was it possible? Dad emerged from his room, looked once at the screen.
He returned to his room and wouldn’t emerge again until two minutes before full time, when our late-night celebration – in order to let my mum and sister sleep – was a firm handshake. He didn’t need to act like a maniac. I knew what it meant to him. At the time, though, I don’t think he knew what it meant for me.
He had no idea that I was now a full-blown Claret.
Adam Heap, 22, is a university student living in Perth, Western Australia, whose duelling hobbies of football and writing led him to one logical conclusion – sports journalism. He has followed the Clarets for four seasons and intends to continue doing so through promotion and relegation alike.