CHRIS McCann’s Premier League dream ended at the Reebok Stadium three years ago, and the midfielder hopes for a happier outcome tomorrow after admitting he does not want to spend the rest of his career outside of the top flight.
Burnley travel to Bolton in a Lancashire derby with McCann returning to the ground where a comeback from a knee injury went horribly wrong, leaving him on the sidelines for 15 months and bringing a premature halt to the only top flight campaign of his career so far.
The 25-year-old has since returned to be a regular in the Clarets line-up, helping the club to seventh in the Championship table ahead of tomorrow’s game.
But he still remembers all too well that night in January 2010.
All the focus was on Owen Coyle’s first game against Burnley, just weeks after the manager had controversially made the switch from Turf Moor.
Bolton won the game 1-0 thanks to a Lee Chung-Yong goal but for McCann the memory was limping off after only 13 minutes, and theproblems that followed. McCann had just come back from a four-month injury absence and had played just one match – an FA Cup defeat at Reading – prior to the Bolton game.
“That was a difficult night for me,” he recalled of his only previous appearance at the Reebok Stadium.
“I’d come back and it was the first night I’d got a start (in the league), but I didn’t last very long.
“I think I just came down awkwardly. I never had surgery on it but it was just one of those things, I went up and fell awkwardly and the rest is history. I was out for the rest of the season.
“Hopefully, touch wood, nothing like that happens again, and I can go there and have a positive game this time.
“But I think that just makes me want to achieve more as a person in my career, something like that just spurs you on a little bit more.
“The last time I played there was in the Premier League and that’s where I aspire to be.
“I don’t want to be playing in the Championship for the rest of my career.”
The Clarets currently sit four points behind Middlesbrough, the occupants of the final play-off place, and McCann believes promotion is more than possible this season.
Although Coyle’s departure from Bolton has now taken some of the spice out of tomorrow’s game, the Irishman still appreciates how important victory in a derby could be.
Burnley are unbeaten in Lancashire derby games this season, having beaten Coyle’s Bolton on the opening day of the season and then defeated Blackpool before drawing with fiercest rivals Blackburn Rovers.
Sean Dyche’s side are also expected to be cheered on by 3,500 travelling fans tomorrow.
“Bolton is a big game,” McCann said. “It’s stepping stone to getting into the play-offs at the end of the season hopefully and getting back into the Premier League.
“That’s very realistic if you look at where we are in the league. We’ve played everybody once now, we know there’s nothing to be fearful of. It’s another of these big derbies.
“The fans build the rivalry up, if Owen Coyle hadn’t gone there it probably wouldn’t have been as big a rivalry.
“But it’s still a Lancashire derby, there’s a lot at stake and I think we’re unbeaten in derbies this season so we want to keep it that way.
“You saw with the Blackburn game how ecstatic people were in the stadium when we scored and in these games there’s that little bit more pride and passion for us to go out there and win, especially for the fans to give them something to smile about.”
Tyrone Mears did not feature in Bolton’s last game but fellow Clarets old boy Chris Eagles is likely to start.
“I still keep in touch and I’ve seen Chris a couple of times since he’s left,” McCann said of facing his former team-mate.
“We’ll be aware of the danger he poses and I’m sure we’ll have him well documented on Friday in training.
“But we’re not just going to concentrate on him, they’re a good side.”
Michael Duff is a major doubt for the Clarets tomorrow with a calf problem, while Ben Mee is not yet ready to return after two months out with a knee injury.
“Duffo is unlikely,” said Dyche, who helped Chesterfield to a memorable FA Cup win at Bolton in 1997 – when current Wanderers striker Kevin Davies scored a hat-trick for the Spireites.
“We think it’s a bit of a calf strain, it’s settling down well but we think it’s unlikely he will play, we’ve just got to wait until we can have a closer look.
“Ben maybe back in training next week but because of the time he’s had out he will need the minimum of training and a reserve game, so he’s obviously still another few weeks away.”