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Nulty hoping Clarets can continue to follow his lead
IT was October 20 last season when Charlie Austin netted his 16th goal of the campaign to give Burnley a 1-0 home win against Blackpool. Then it was hard to imagine how the Clarets could possibly cope without him.
Fast forward a year and Burnley host Blackpool again this afternoon having not only coped but improved significantly without their star man, against all expectations.
The Clarets sat 15th in the table after that win over the Seasiders last year, during Terry Pashley’s brief spell as caretaker boss.
Now they are second and in with a real chance of promotion to the top flight.
For a group of former Clarets who gathered recently at a lodge near Blackpool to exchange memories of the good old days, Burnley’s story this season is not entirely unfamiliar.
Exchange 2013 for 1972, and Austin for Dave Thomas – a star attraction who seemed a major loss when he was sold, also to Second Division rivals QPR.
Thomas’ final goal for Burnley came in a 4-3 home win over Blackpool in September of the 1972/73 campaign.
Soon he was gone, but just as Danny Ings has shone in Austin’s absence, so did Geoff Nulty after coming into the team when Thomas left.
Unaffected by the loss of such a talented wide man, the Clarets were promoted back to the First Division as champions. QPR also went up, but in second place.
“A few weeks ago some of us from that promotion team met up for a weekend at a lodge near Blackpool,” says Nulty, now 64.
“Fletch (Paul Fletcher) organised it. There was Frank Casper, Mick Docherty, Jim Thomson, myself and Steve Kindon, who wasn’t actually part of that team.
“When you have success there is a real spirit and a real bond between you. Forty years on it’s still great to see them and talk about how good we were!
“I’ve been writing my Christmas card list and there’s quite a few of that team on it.
“Dave Thomas was a really good player, he was equally good with either foot. You couldn’t tell which was his best foot.
“I think he wanted to go because he wanted to play in the middle, and he was playing wide for us – although in the end he played wide at QPR and then wide at Everton.
“When someone like that goes you think we’ve got to be more compact and well organised as a team to compensate for losing someone so talented. Then eventually if you’re getting results, you slowly forget about that player.
“I wasn’t exactly the same type of player as Dave. He would beat a man and maybe score from 25 yards, whereas I was more about getting into the box and scoring from six yards.
“But I saw him leaving as my opportunity. You are motivated anyway as a footballer but there’s that extra edge because you want to show you can do well and not end up back in the reserve team, down with the dead men.”
Nulty still visits Turf Moor for home matches, and saw the Clarets beat QPR 2-0 at the end of October.
He hopes the current side will have good reason for their own reunion in the years to come.
“I must admit I have been surprised by how well they’ve done,” said the former midfielder, who firmly established himself in that 1972/73 season and went on to make 130 appearances for Burnley before moving to Newcastle and then Everton.
“I thought they probably wouldn’t do as well when Charlie Austin left, because he was a goalscorer and you need players like that.
“But they seem to have a conveyor belt of goalscorers there – Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin and now Danny Ings. I don’t know if it’s the training or what it is, but if you’re looking for a striker the place to go seems to be Burnley.
“They seem to have a real bond between them like we did, and the manager Sean Dyche has done really well.”
Dyche’s level-headed approach reminds Nulty of his boss in 1972, Jimmy Adamson.
“It’s just about not panicking now if they lose a couple of games,” Nulty said.
“Jimmy Adamson never panicked with us. He was calm and he had Brian Miller there as well who was the same.
“I know Sean Dyche was saying the other week that they’d had a sticky patch but they were still second so there was no reason to be concerned, and that’s the approach you need.
“They could lose the next five games and still be in contention.
“I wish them well because it would be brilliant if they could do it. I’d fear for them in the Premier League because they haven’t spent money and they would have the lowest attendance in the league.
“But even if they finished bottom that would still be an achievement.
“Just get there and worry about the rest later.”
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