Burnley look to revive past glories
MANCHESTER, England, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Burnley, one of the most famous names in English football, are on the march again and promising to bring the glory days back to Turf Moor.
Twenty five years since their last appearance in the semi-finals of a major competition, the Clarets have reached the last four of the League Cup after a remarkable run in which they knocked out Premier League sides Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Burnley, managed for just over a year by inspirational Scot Owen Coyle, are also challenging for promotion from the Championship (division two) as they look to end a 32-year absence from the top flight.
"To be talking about a semi-final shows how far we have come as a club, but we've still got a long way to go," said Coyle.
"I really believe we are a work in progress. Realistically we probably shouldn't be where we are, given the finance and everything involved with the Championship with other clubs and the size of their supports, but we are there...on merit."
Founder members of the Football League, Burnley were one of the country's big clubs for the best part of a decade from the late 1950s onwards.
With Jimmy Adamson and Jimmy McIlroy their outstanding players under the management of Harry Potts, the Lancashire club won the English title in 1960 and were runners-up in the league and the FA Cup two years later.
Turf Moor hosted European football in 1960/61 and again in 1966/67 when Burnley reached the quarter-finals of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, precursor to the UEFA Cup.
By the end of the 1960s, however, Burnley struggled to hold their own among the elite as their golden generation of players reached the end of their careers and the abolishment of the minimum wage meant greater player movement.
By 1980, they had slipped to the third division and in 1987 they were only one match from dropping out of the League altogether before a win over Leyton Orient spared them the humiliation of relegation into non-League football.
It has not always been a smooth road back but since 2000 the Clarets have played at Championship level.
Not since 2002 have they seriously challenged for promotion but that could be about to change under Coyle, who has quickly woven himself into the fabric of Burnley since moving down from Scotland, where he made an eye-catching start to his managerial career at St Johnstone.
"I was aware of Burnley from my time (as a player) at Bolton and coming into it and embracing the history and tradition of the club, it is a fantastic club," said the 42-year-old, whose passion for the game still extends to occasional appearances for the reserve team.
Coyle has galvanised a squad that had stagnated before his arrival and in the off-season added young talent including midfielder Kevin McDonald, whose two goals against Arsenal in a 2-0 win in midweek epitomised Burnley's resurgence.
Turf Moor was almost full to its 21,000 capacity for the game against the Gunners and throughout its recent, chequered past and the demise of the town's major industries, Burnley supporters have remained loyal.
"I really believe you should support your home town team and to have come down here and see nothing but a Burnley shirt in the area is absolutely fantastic," Coyle said.
"We are not a rich town so it's important we can be seen to be winning games. There are people who can't afford to come to games but Burnley is still their team and it gives them something to talk about." (Editing by Rex Gowar)