Survival name of the game for Burnley

Burnley return to the top-flight on Saturday after a 33-year absence and aim to mark the 50th anniversary of their last title triumph by retaining Premier League status.

When the Lancashire club won the old first division in 1959-60 it was with a well-established side brimming with internationals such as Northern Ireland midfielder Jimmy McIlroy.

There are echoes of the past in the modern Burnley team which is largely made up of British players and plays attractive football, often using old-fashioned wingers.

However, financial realities mean avoiding relegation is the only realistic goal.

Burnley have a rich tradition but for the younger generation of fans recent times have been spent struggling their way up from the fourth tier of English football, evading extinction and gradually establishing themselves in the second tier before last season's promotion via the playoffs.

In 1987 the Clarets needed to win the final game of the season against Leyton Orient to survive in the professional ranks and avoid almost certain bankruptcy and possible oblivion.

Those dark days are well behind Burnley now though and they enter the Premier League quietly assured of themselves after beating several top-flight opponents last year, including Arsenal and Chelsea, in a run to the League Cup semi-finals.

Confidence has been instilled by Owen Coyle who, after a modest career as a player and starting his managerial career with Scottish clubs St Johnstone and Falkirk, has transformed Burnley. Predecessor Steve Cotterill laid the foundations for the rise to the Premier League with solid mid-table finishes but Scot Coyle injected the flair and belief needed to make the leap in quality.

Smart acquisitions in the transfer market and a commitment to playing attractive passing football endeared him immediately to Burnley supporters and promotion, thanks to a win over Sheffield United at Wembley, crowned a memorable first full season in charge.

There is plenty of young talent in the squad, particularly former Manchester United winger Chris Eagles and midfielders Chris McCann and Wade Elliott.

Experience comes from Scottish internationals Steven Caldwell and 37-year-old Graham Alexander.


Burnley resisted the temptation to spend heavily in the close-season but forked out a club record three million pounds for Hibernian striker Steven Fletcher and showed imagination with the loan acquisition of 19-year-old Ecuador winger Fernando Guerrero.

The fixture list has handed Burnley a tough early test, after an opening-day trip to Stoke City on Saturday they face Manchester United and Everton at home before away games at Chelsea and Liverpool.

"I'm not daft and I know this year is going to be tough," said Coyle in a recent interview with the Guardian newspaper.

"The bookies already have us favourites to go down. But we can take a lot of hope out of the way we handled ourselves last year, not just the cup runs, but big-pressure matches in the Championship.

"Of course everyone knows there is a gulf between the Championship and the Premier League," said Coyle.

"I don't have the kind of money the big clubs have to splash out for the top players but I have a good board. When I've asked for support I've got it and we've brought in some good new players.

"We will give it a go, that's for sure. I think people will see this is a tough place to come to. This is a football town," addedthe Burnley manager.

The town has a population of just 73,500 but Turf Moor is expected to be full to its 22,546 capacity for most games as Burnley get a chance to prove they are not just a club with an illustrious past.