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The waiting is over for joyous Clarets
AS the final whistle blew, players sank to their knees in joy, as thousands of supporters raced across the pitch. After a week of waiting, the time had come.
Not since April 1973 had Burnley been able to celebrate promotion on their home patch.
They were the days of Bob Lord – if not the Bob Lord Stand, at a very different Turf Moor. The days of mullets, the days of cigarette smoke wafting across the terraces.
The days of Gilbert O’Sullivan at the top of the charts. The days when Sir Dobbo, Fletch, Taffy and the Ginger Pele – or Martin Dobson, Paul Fletcher, Leighton James and Billy Ingham as they may now be better known – took Burnley to the top of the table.
The Clarets won 2-0 that day in 1973 to clinch automatic promotion to the top flight, against a Sunderland side who would shock Leeds to win the FA Cup final a month later.
This time promotion was achieved against Wigan, the current FA Cup holders. After a season of hard work, Burnley made it look surprisingly easy.
As the sun glinted off the nearby houses, the players were welcomed on to the Turf Moor pitch for kick-off with the sort of roar normally only reserved for the East Lancashire derby against Blackburn, with all home tickets sold out.
Burnley would have sealed promotion on Friday night had Derby failed to win at Doncaster, but it was always going to be better to clinch it in front of their fans at Turf Moor – together, united, as they have been all season.
If the opening stages were quiet, save for both sets of fans sharing their mutual dislike of Owen Coyle, Burnley were just waiting for their moment to explode into life.
Then Trippier, Ings, Marney, Barnes, goal.
The Clarets may be respected for their spirit and organisation but be in no doubt, they can play a bit too.
Just before half time, any remaining tension was eased as Michael Kightly curled a free kick superbly into the far corner, greeted by a celebratory smoke bomb in the James Hargreaves Stand.
Down the pecking order at Stoke at the start of the season, Kightly is one of several players whose football careers seemed to be in uncertain territory when they joined Burnley.
Scott Arfield, David Jones, Tom Heaton, Sam Vokes, even captain Jason Shackell.
All were ultimately shown the door by their previous clubs – many for free, Shackell when Derby wanted to raise funds to buy other players.
But the brilliant Sean Dyche has moulded them into a consistent, ruthless winning machine.
Clarets legend Jimmy McIlroy, introduced to the crowd at half time, must have looked on this season and thoroughly approved.
“Now you’re going to believe us, the Clarets are going up!” sang the Burnley fans at the top of their voices in the closing minutes of the game.
For many, this story has been scarcely believable. All season people predicted that the Clarets’ momentum would fade. But it never happened.
They had one of the lowest budgets in the league, and they sold star man Charlie Austin to QPR on the eve of the new season without replacing him.
But just as in 1972/73, when Dave Thomas was sold to QPR early in that campaign, Burnley have gone from strength to strength ever since.
What they have achieved has been one of English football’s greatest miracles of recent years.
Now Jose Mourinho et al will be visitors to Turf Moor next term.
If this season is anything to go by, they will not find it easy.
As the celebrations continued on the pitch, Dyche was hoisted aloft by his squad.
The Clarets have made the most impossible of dreams come true.
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