WHEN Steve Davis first joined Burnley on loan in 1989 he was given a book on the club's history to immerse himself in the past of the Clarets.

The Hexham-born centre back knew he was joining a 'traditional club with a great history' on a temporary basis, but little can he have envisaged how he would write his own name into that folklore over the next three decades.

Few players have had such a close view of the Clarets' rise from the depths of the Football League to the Premier League as Davis, who won promotion from the fourth tier to the third in his first full season in 1991/92, then twice from the third tier to the second, before completing the collection on the coaching staff in 2009/10 as top flight football was secured for the first time in 34 years.

That promotion to the Premier League in 2008/09 was the first of three in eight seasons, with Sean Dyche keeping the Clarets amongst the elite for the first time in the campaign just gone.

"It’s fantastic to see," said Davis, now 48. "I’m proud of the part I played in it.

"To think I was in the Fourth Division when I came and when I left I’d had a hand in the promotion to the Premier League as well on the coaching side, which I’m very proud of."

As a player in 396 appearances for the club over two spells Davis was adored by the Turf Moor faithful, and the feeling was mutual.

When he first left for Luton Town in 1995 he was regularly given a heroes welcome on his return. He knew the esteem he was held in by the fans, and the feeling was reciprocated.

"I did and it was a two-way thing," Davis said when asked if he knew how highly regarded he was as a player in his early years at the club.

"I held them in very high esteem as well. I really enjoyed my time at Burnley.

"We’d gone from the Fourth Division, which they’d been trying to do for a number of years, then stayed up and got promoted the season after at Wembley through the play-offs. We made good progress in my first four years.

"It was nice to come back (with Luton) but I didn’t enjoy playing at Turf Moor when I left, I always found it a difficult experience and one I didn’t particularly enjoy.

"I had a great relationship with the supporters and it was a special part of my career."

That relationship came close to destruction in January 2010.

Having returned to the club in a scouting role in 2005 Davis was on the coaching staff a year later and in November 2007 was caretaker manager for one game, a win at Leicester earning him a 100 per cent record, after Steve Cotterill's departure.

Many Clarets would have been happy for Davis to take the job on a permanent basis, but instead Owen Coyle came in and Davis reverted to first team coach, with Sandy Stewart assistant.

That promotion via the play-offs at Wembley in 2008/09 was a day to remember, but within eight months Coyle and Stewart had left Turf Moor for Bolton, leaving Davis in an extremely difficult position.

He was back as caretaker manager, but before taking charge of a game he had followed Coyle and Stewart to Bolton.

Davis is reluctant to go too far over old ground, but admits the decision was not an easy one.

"It was a difficult time," he remembers. "It wasn’t a case of ‘right, that’s it, I’m away’. There was a lot of soul searching, it was a difficult time for me and my family.

"I’ve said before that there were things I wasn’t too pleased with from a club point of view but I’m sure they could say the same thing about me, but it’s water under the bridge."

Seven years have passed since Davis' service to the Clarets ended, but he isn't sure whether time has been a healer for the Turf faithful.

Emotions were running high when the management team left for Wanderers, as evidenced by the hostile reception they received first at the Reebok soon after making the move, then back at Turf Moor in a League Cup tie in September 2010.

"I don’t know to be honest. I’m not sure whether it has or hasn’t," Davis said when asked if the relationship from the fans had cooled over time.

"I know everyone was upset when we all left to go there and that was voiced the time we came back with Bolton in the League Cup.

"It was a very difficult time. In hindsight looking back I would have made a different decision now. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, there was no guarantees."

It was the way nobody wanted Davis' relationship with the Clarets to end, 21 years after he had first laid eyes on Turf Moor on loan from Southampton.

"I enjoyed my loan spell at the club (in 1989)," he said. "(In 1991) At Southampton Chris Nicholl had been sacked, he’d been there the whole time I was at Southampton, and Ian Branfoot came in and I didn’t figure at all.

"The whole squad went on a pre-season trip bar me and another couple of lads who trained with the youth team so the writing was on the wall pretty clearly.

"Frank Casper was the manager at Burnley when I came on loan and he was still there when I signed permanently so I was more than happy to make the trip back.

"When I first made the loan spell, and throughout Burnley history, there had been a lot of lads from the north east.

"Before that loan spell my dad got me a book on the history of Burnley and said ‘this is what you’re going into, it’s a massive and traditional club with a great history’.

"So I knew all about the club when I went on loan and I really enjoyed it."

It was to be the beginning of a glorious, and ultimately tumultuous, relationship.

  • Next Saturday Steve Davis gives his take on Burnley's 1991/92 Division Four title win in the latest part of the Lancashire Telegraph's lookback at that campaign