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Manager vacancy: A history of caretakers

With Terry Pashley set to take control of Burnley for the first time tomorrow, Kevin Robinson casts his eye over our last four caretaker managers.

Stuart Gray (2011)

When Brian Laws was fired not a year into the job his first team coach Stuart Gray took the helm. Gray was far from short of first-team experience with over 160 games as manager behind him, including caretaker spells at Wolves and Aston Villa and full-time boss of Southampton and Northampton.

Burnley were hardly struggling when he was handed the reigns – we could have gone fourth had we beat Scunthorpe in Brian Laws’ final game.  But the football was bad, nobody looked confident in the ability of each other, the fans were restless.

In such conditions, what better way of kick-starting life post-Laws than a romping home win with four goals, one from each forward? Gray made four changes and two of his incomers, Chris Eagles and Chris Iwelumo, opened the scoring in a Turf Moor win over Sheffield United. Jay Rodriguez and Steven Thompson also netted to start life post-Laws with a 4-2 victory.

Two days later Gray suffered his only defeat at the helm, losing 2-1 at Reading, but it was back to winning ways at Turf Moor at the weekend, scoring four again to progress in the FA Cup at Port Vale’s expense. Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall were in the stand for Gray’s final Turf Moor game as Burnley boss, overseeing a thrill-less goal-less draw in the rain against QPR.

In 16 days he took charge of four games and did so well it was thought he was about to be given the job for the rest of the season – the players certainly gave his cause their backing. His team scored nine goals – by eight different scorers – in four games.

We’d previously gone on a remarkable run of winning a game, losing the next, winning the next, losing the next and so on – and while not managing to put two wins together Gray at least made a minor improvement on that form, turning one of the defeats into a draw.

Burnley 4-2 Sheffield United (Eagles, Iwelumo, Rodriguez, Thompson)
Reading 2-1 Burnley (Wallace)
Burnley 4-2 Port Vale (Carlisle, Cork, Eagles, Alexander)
Burnley 0-0 QPR

Played 4. Won 2. Drawn 1. Lost 1. Goal-difference +3.

Steve Davis (2008)

Our win at Leicester in 2008 was one of solidarity after the sacking of Steve Cotterill during the week. The parting was remarkably amicable, Cotterill even attending the press-conference with Barry Kilby and Brendan Flood – an enthusiastic director new to the board who was thought to have been instrumental in the decision to part ways by what was officially described as mutual consent.

It was so amicable that Cotterill actually discussed tactics and approach for the upcoming match at the Walkers Stadium with Steve Davis. The former Burnley captain was brought back to the club by Cotterill first as scout, then first team coach and towards the end of his reign, assistant manager. Davis stepped up as caretaker manager for the game, assisted on the touchline by the suspended David Unsworth.

Given Cotterill’s input it was of no surprise that there was little change in the setup, the only change seeing Jon Harley come in for Unsworth, while Stephen Jordan deputised in the middle. It was a very typical Cotterill performance – solid if unspectacular – and once Andy Gray opened the scoring early in the match there was only going to be one winner.

Davis said pre-match that this performance would be dedicated to Cotterill – he was a manager very close to his team and it showed, there was a certain passion and pride that had perhaps been absent in recent weeks. Such pride was never more evident than after the final whistle when the whole team, coaches, medical staff, kit man, the lot, made their way over to the traveling support (I don’t think a single Burnley fan had left the ground ten minutes after the final whistle).

The group huddle amidst chants of “Steve Davis’ Claret and Blue Army” is one of the iconic images of our Club’s recent history. Davis would only have one game as manager, but it was a special one.

Leicester City 0-1 Burnley (Gray)

Played 1. Won 1. Goal-difference +1.

Clive Middlemass (1996)

You have to go right back to 1996 to find our next caretaker, Adrian Heath, Chris Waddle and Stan Ternent all losing their jobs in the close-season.

Middlemass had been Jimmy Mullen’s assistant manager for three years and immediately championed himself as the man to take on the job full-time. His three-game spell was an unmitigated disaster though and any hopes he had of the top job vanished before his eyes with each of the seven goals we conceded.

His first game provided some encouragement at least. The performance might not have been all there, but a 3-3 draw ended a run of four straight defeats – but that was just about as good as it was going to get.

Next up was a visit to Boothferry Park and rock-bottom Hull City. Despite performing under expectations we still occupied a respectable mid-table position and mid-way through February our hosts had only won two games. That would soon be three wins, as they scored three to send Middlemass and his Clarets home embarrassed.

He lost his final game, too, this time a 1-0 reverse to local rivals Blackpool at Turf Moor.  He remained at the club as assistant manager to Adrian Heath, but unsurprisingly he never got that manager’s job he craved.

Burnley 3-3 York (Winstanley, Francis, Nolan)
Hull 3-0 Burnley
Burnley 0-1 Blackpool

Played 3. Drawn 1. Lost 2. Goal-difference -4.

Jimmy Mullen (1991)

Jimmy Mullen was the last man to step up from assistant to manager at Turf Moor following Frank Casper leaving the club early in the 1991/92 campaign.

Casper had lost three on the trot, to Hereford, Rochdale and Scarborough, when he tendered his resignation, though he claimed he was departing for personal reasons. “My decision to resign has nothing to do with football,” he said at the time. “I’m looking back on my life, for instance, two weeks holiday in two years.”

Mullen was put in temporary charge as chairman Frank Teasdale and his board of directors began the search for his replacement. Two games were enough to convince them that their man was already at the club and Mullen was given the job full-time, eventually leading the club to two promotions from the fourth/third division to the first.

The journey began against Carlisle, though, a 2-0 win at Turf Moor the perfect remedy for the poor form suffered in Casper’s final weeks. Far from a flash in the pan, the win was followed up by a spectacular 6-2 win against Wrexham. Graham Lancashire scored a hat-trick at the Racecourse Ground and after the match there was little doubt that Mullen had to be given the reigns full-time.

The highlights of that game are available on YouTube – check them out here.

He won his first nine games taking Burnley from 18th to fourth in the table and by the end of the season we were champions by a comfortable six points.

Burnley 2-0 Carlisle (Pender, Lancashire)
Wrexham 2-6 Burnley (Lancashire 3, Harper, Davis, Eli)

Played 2. Won 2. Goal-difference +6.

Will Terry Pashley be a roaring success like Mullen, a Middlemass-like disaster or just hold the fort steadily as Gray? Comment below.

  1. After the 3-3 York draw, the optimistic Mr M. Was quoted as saying,”Apart from the 3 goals, York did nothing to hurt us.

    Posted 2 years ago by Jack
    • Brilliant

      Posted 2 years ago by Kevin Robinson
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